5 THINGS: Edmonton Oilers set for Game 7 showdown vs. Canucks

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Don’t muck this up. Everyone’s watching.

And it’s anyone’s game at this point.

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After putting together their best effort of the playoffs, and finally looking every bit like their stacked roster oozing elite offensive talent backed by solid defence and reliable goaltending suggests,

the Edmonton Oilers forced a Game 7 showdown

against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday.

The winner moves on to face the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference final, while the loser packs up their stalls and leaves the rink lamenting the one that got away and trying to avoid thinking, “There’s always next year.”

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Here are five factors to consider going into the big game:

1. A series of swings

Saturday’s game was the first in the series that wasn’t separated by a single goal.

The Oilers displayed a dominance they had been lacking since jumping out to a 4-1 lead midway through the opening game — one they somehow ended up losing 5-4 after surrendering four unanswered goals.

After that, it’s been back and forth, with Edmonton keeping pace with the Canucks in back-and-forth fashion, and both teams doing just enough to win their piece of the pattern. Right up until Game 6, that is.

The 5-1 score was the Oilers’ biggest margin of victory since defeating the Los Angeles Kings 6-1 in Game 3 of their first-round series on April 26, which also happens to be the last time Edmonton won by more than a goal until Saturday’s game.

Just as long as they didn’t use up all their offence in that one.

2. Skinner back in there

If you were looking for a redemption game by Stuart Skinner, you got one.

Sure, he faced only 15 shots. But it’s not like he could do anything about that, other than make 14 saves for a .933 save percentage.

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And that’s barrels more than the .793 percentage he limped off the ice with after allowing 12 goals on 58 shots in his first three starts of the series, before being replaced by backup Calvin Pickard.

And just like the Oilers did when Pickard came in, Skinner’s return to duty provided a much needed spark for the ones playing in front of him, leading to a win in both games the starting goaltender was changed.

If nothing else, Skinner’s playoff performances here in his first two NHL seasons have shown he can’t simply be ridden the entire race, and is at his best with some built-in rest.

It’s how the Oilers went on their incredible 16-game win streak to salvage a horrendous start to the season, and will be the way to go if they want to make it 16 more here in the playoffs. But first things first, they need to get win No. 8 on Monday.

3. Solving Silovs

At the other end of the ice, the Oilers may have come up with the blueprint on how to beat Arturs Silovs.

The 23-year-old Latvian netminder has been doing the yeoman’s work in the playoffs for the Canucks since being called up from the farm in the wake of injuries to Thatcher Demko and Casey DeSmith.

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This round, his legs have proven tough to beat, as he gets up and down and side to side with an efficiency belying any lack of experience.

And while the Oilers have managed to find the five hole from time to time, it was the glove that let him down most on Saturday.

4. Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots …

Evan Bouchard has stood out in this series unlike any other. And on a roster boasting the league’s top-two scoring leaders in the playoffs, Leon Draisaitl (eight goals, 15 assists) and Connor McDavid (two goals, 19 assists), that’s not always the easiest thing to do.

The thing is, Bouchard is doing it. The defenceman is keeping pace with the potent pair, offensively, coming in at third overall with 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 11 games.

He’s scored two game-winners so far in the series, both on blasts from the blue line, and earned another with a nail in the proverbial coffin to go ahead 3-1 midway through Game 6.

What he’s been doing is putting shots on net, and the rest of the team is starting to follow suit, abandoning constant attempts at perfect passes around the net and carefully crafted set plays, in favour of just putting pucks on. The strategy is proving as sound as it is simple. Why abandon it now?

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5. Enjoy this one

In sports, winning and losing are two sides of the same coin. And it’s the price of being a fan. The good times for some must come at the expense of others.

But instead of just flipping coin after coin and recording whether it comes up heads or tails, it’s important at a time like this to pause for a moment and consider how this one comes down to the final two Canadian clubs in contention for the Stanley Cup, which hasn’t made its way north in over 30 years.

But let’s face it, the short-term bragging rights for one city are every bit as important as anything right now.

E-mail: [email protected]On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

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