5 THINGS: What the Edmonton Oilers need to do to stave off elimination

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This is it.

Do or die.

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Make or break.

It’s now or never.

The Edmonton Oilers are down to one last chance to avoid the end of their season. And if they’re lucky, they’ll have another last chance after that.

A 3-2 loss at Rogers Arena in Game 5 of their Western Conference second-round series against the Vancouver Canucks puts the Oilers’ collective back up against the proverbial wall as the series moves to Rogers Place for Game 6 on Saturday (6 p.m., Sportsnet, CBC).

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The Canucks have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and are one win away from eliminating an Oilers team that boasts the top three scoring leaders of the playoffs.

That puts Edmonton in the unenviable position of having to do something neither team has accomplished yet this series — win back-to-back games — if they hope to avoid elimination and toss away yet another prime year of Connor McDavid.

So, what has to happen in order for them to make it happen? Here’s a look at five factors, for starters:

1. McPULL YOUR HEAD OUT, ALREADY

And not just you, Connor, but Zach Hyman too. How on Earth have the Canucks managed to so effectively negate both Edmonton’s top points leader and top goal scorer of the regular season?

McDavid has a goal and five assists in five games. The problem with a point-per-game player lies in the fact the team that’s built around him being used to the fact he’s a 1.5 point-per-game player on his career. And that extra fraction can add up to a big difference in a series where every game so far has been decided by a single goal. He has one assist to show for his past three games.

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And, speaking of goals, Hyman has two of them, along with an assist in five games against the Canucks. After scoring 54 of them in 80 games this season, the math suggests he should have another goal already. And in a series where every single one has made a difference, Hyman has been held pointless for three games in a row now.

If the rest of Edmonton’s big guns don’t join playoff scoring leader Leon Draisaitl in firing again, the season will go up in smoke.

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2. BE MORE EVEN, LESS EVAN

There is no denying the offensive impact defenceman Evan Bouchard has had on the Oilers all season, let alone this series. But if the yin to his game-winning-goal yang results in him coughing up a puck in his own zone that ends up in the back of Edmonton’s net, then he might as well go ahead and sit the rest of it out.

He couldn’t have picked better spots for two of his three goals in the series than the game-winners he came up with in overtime in Game 2 and in the dying seconds of Game 4.

Of course, the flip side was the entirely avoidable turnover so lackadaisically pulled off in the second period of Game 5 that allowed the Canucks back in it with the tying goal. Good luck trying to pull back any sort of momentum after that one.

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So, maybe let’s try to not be so offensively minded that it blows up in your face on defence from now on, yes? Keep up the good work, though.

3. PICK IT UP FOR PICKARD

Calvin Pickard could very well have salvaged the series after being brought in to replace a struggling Stuart Skinner in Games 3 and 4.

The 10-year veteran has looked anything but the journeyman handle that has accompanied his career up to this point, sparking the Oilers back into gear with performances that have only proven head coach Kris Knoblauch’s faith in the backup goaltender.

But Pickard can hardly do it all on his own and needs every little piece of run support his offence can muster. Or at the very least, have his teammates in front of him show a bit more zest when it comes to clearing pucks out of the zone.

4. DROP THE DUMP AND CHASE

The strategy — if you can even call it that — of flipping the puck into the offensive zone and going after it might have worked against the 1-3-1 neutral-zone-clogging formation of the Los Angeles Kings a series ago.

But all it has led to for the majority of the Vancouver series is a host of one-and-done entries that have appeared little more than nuisances to the retrieving Canucks defenders. Typically, it only leads to shots from the perimeter. And not always shots on net, either.

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If that’s the only answer the Oilers can come up with to counter the Canucks’ momentum-grabbing play style, then what a waste of incredible offensive talent. Give Rick Tocchet a raise.

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5. STOP TRYING TO MAKE IT LOOK PRETTY

For the love of all things hockey, you don’t need to try and pass a perfect Picasso when a regular ol’ stickman will do.

Better yet, maybe slow down on the passing altogether and go for more shots on net.

It’s not that much of a stretch to say McDavid has put more effort into spinning 360s with the puck than he has in shooting it this season.

The Oilers are 5-2 when outshooting the opposition in these playoffs, including both wins against the Canucks so far.

While it’s no guarantee (hello, outshooting them 45-18 in a Game 3 loss!), it’s still the best formula for success.

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

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