As Western Conference Final becomes Best of 5 margins between Oilers and Stars narrow: 9 Things

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The Oilers are 7 wins away from winning the Stanley Cup.

It is imminently do-able. It is merely playing .580 hockey the rest of the way. They were .634 in the regular season.

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Of course, the main difference from then to now is the quality of competition and that is substantial.

But judging by the results from the first 2 games of the Dallas series, the margins are stunningly thin.

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That and more on in this edition of…

9 Things

9. The Edmonton Oilers have won 22 of 25 playoff series in NHL franchise history when they have been victorious in Game 1.

8. Of course, a 2-0 lead coming home to Edmonton would have been preferable. But to have earned a split thus negating (for the time being, at least) the Stars’ home ice advantage is no small feat to accomplish. Now, to take advantage of that.

7. Kris Knoblauch finished fifth in the running for the Jack Adams Award for NHL Coach of the Year in 2023-24. Rick Tocchet won and deservedly so. Knoblauch received 3 first place votes, 12 second place ballots and the support of 13 third place voters. More on Knoblauch in a minute…

6. The Edmonton Oilers have become the dominant Canadian NHL franchise since 2006. Only they and the Montreal Canadians have reached the Conference Final three times in the past twenty years. Montreal did it in 2010, 2014 and 2021. Edmonton has now done it in 2006, 2022 and 2024.

5. Connor McDavid’s double-OT winner on Thursday night left him on a brief list of iconic Oilers in playoff history who have done the same: Jarret Stoll (2006, Detroit), Ryan Smyth (1997, Dallas), Esa Tikkanen (1991, L.A) and Petr Klima (1991, L.A.). Is there another chapter to be written in this rather exclusive book club in 2024?

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4. If the Oilers were to go on and win the Stanley Cup in 2024 Leon Draisaitl would get my vote for the Conn Smyth. His 25 points in 14 games leads the league in playoff scoring. And his 13-game point streak (snapped Saturday night) had only been accomplished previously by Bryan Trottier, Bobby Orr, Mark Messier, and Nathan MacKinnon.

3. In my pre-series predictions at The Cult of Hockey I chose Edmonton in 7 games. Among my reasons were the Oilers special teams. That is an edge for Edmonton in the Conference Finals against the Stars. Of course, any success in that area is predicated on the assumption that the Oilers will get any power plays. There has been a grand-total of 3 for Edmonton over the opening two games. Perhaps Dallas is exercising exceptional restraint. But with my Oilers-shaded lenses off, the Stars were also the least penalized club during the regular season. Kris Knoblauch’s post-game comment after Game 2: “We would like the same standard”. Amen.

2. I do not blame Kris Knoblauch for running the exact same lineup in Game 2 from the one he deployed in Game 1. But the narrow loss in Game 2 gives him broad license to switch things up at home for Game 3. And unless his health takes a sudden step back, I would put Adam Henrique back in the lineup in a heartbeat. Henrique is a legit Top-6, 2-way performer. He only makes you better. The question becomes: Who do you take out? Derek Ryan, who has been excellent of late but who had a challenging Game 2 (5v5 CF 3-10, 23%). Sam Carrick has been dependable but is a depth player. Warren Foegele was noticeable in Game 2 and had an assist. Now…I have nothing but time for young Ryan McLeod, but he has struggled. 5v5 Scoring Chances were 3-7 on Saturday. And he has been ice-cold in the post-season with the puck. Hmmm. I frankly have not had many complaints with Lines 1, 2 or 4. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are littered with difficult decisions.

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1.As mentioned, the margins in this series so far are razor thin. What follows is admittedly a lot of numbers. But the statistical story of this series so far is a compelling one:

Wins/Losses: 1-1
Goals For/Against: 5-4 (DAL)
Shots: 67-47 (EDM)
AS: 49-37 (EDM)
PP: 0-3 (EDM), 0-7 (DAL)
SV%: .940 (DAL), .930 (EDM)
Hits: 71-54 (DAL)
BS: 47-33 (DAL)
TA’s: 19-17 (DAL)
FO’s: 71-63 (DAL)
GA’s: 21-14 (EDM)
5v5 xGF: 3.35-2.50 (EDM)
5v5 HDSC: 28-21 (EDM)

What tale do the numbers tell? That for Edmonton to eventually prevail, they will probably need to capitalize more on their chances and manage the puck a little better.

That means that ultimately? It will come down to Edmonton’s best players being better than the Stars’ best players.

And when the chips are down, isn’t that almost always the way?

Now on Threads @kleavins. Also, find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins, Instagram at LeavinsOnHockey, and Mastodon at [email protected]. This article is not AI generated.

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