Player grades: Edmonton Oilers battle hard but fall short in Game 2, settle for split in Dallas

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Oilers 1, Stars 3

For a while, things looked good for the Edmonton Oilers. They dominated play in the first period, outshooting Dallas Stars 16-4 including a 9-3 advantage in Grade A shots, but could only produce a 1-1 saw-off in the all-important goals category. From there the Stars gradually took over, controlling play in the middle frame and finally scoring the go-ahead goal on a deflection early in the third. From there it was check, check, check, a stick in every passing lane, a body (or two) in every shooting lane, and precious little open ice in which to skate with the puck.

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Gradually the game flow changed from the Oilers being unable to convert their shots to being unable to create them. Edmonton’s shots on goal fell from 16 in the first period to 8 in the second and just 5 in the third; their Grade A shots from 9 to 3 to just 2; their expected goals from 2.3 to 0.7 to 0.5; and actual goals from 1 to 0 to 0. Ultimately, they were unable to find the scoresheet with the equalizer. Not for lack of effort, mind you; this was a pitched battle all over the sheet.

On the night, Grade A shots  were sawed off at 14 apiece, with Dallas holding a 6-4 edge in the subset of 5-alarm shots.

On balance, the split of the first two games in Dallas was a fair result for both clubs.

Player grades

Cult of Hockey game grades player grades

#2 Evan Bouchard, 6. As usual Edmonton dominated the flow of play when their ace rearguard was out there, producing 72% of shot attempts during his 23 minutes at 5v5, with 13 of those attempts coming off of Bouch’s own stick. Alas, 9 of those were blocked as Dallas clearly identified those shots as a focal point for their defensive efforts. Made a key defensive play to clear a dangerous rebound. Contributions to Grade A Shots (GAS): Even Strength +2/-2; Special Teams 0.

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#5 Cody Ceci, 5. Among those beaten on the first Dallas goal when he was unable to keep the puck in at the offensive blueline, though the real problems ensued in the coverage behind him. Helped to get that goal back on the very same shift, taking Foegele’s fine outlet pass, jumping into the rush, feeding the puck to Brown, and tipping the return pass on net to create the rebound which Brown cashed. GAS: ES +2/-1; ST 0.

#10 Derek Ryan, 3. His inability to clear the puck along the defensive boards was a big factor in the game-winner. To my eye he waited for soft outlet pass to reach him rather than skating towards and protecting the puck, and got quickly overwhelmed by a heavy check from Sam Steel that led directly to the point shot. Had nothing going offensively, with 0 shot attempts. Just 19 seconds on the penalty kill that featured just a single powerplay each way until after the empty net goal that put it away. Pounded on shot shares with just 18% expected goals.  GAS: ES +0/-1; ST 0.

Edmonton Oilers

#13 Mattias Janmark, 7. Played an energized, intense game on an effective fourth line. Skated miles, helped create a couple of excellent chances, gave up nothing. GAS: ES +2/-0; ST 0.

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#14 Mattias Ekholm, 6. Came the closest of any Oiler to producing the tying goal when he took a splendid Draisaitl feed into the slot and tested Jake Oettinger with a shot high stick side, forcing an outstanding save. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST 0.

#18 Zach Hyman, 6. Absolutely robbed by Oettinger on a first period jam shot at the edge of the crease. 7 shot attempts, though just 2 on goal. GAS: +1/-0; ST 0.

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#25 Darnell Nurse, 5. Lots of solid plays, a couple of coverage issues. Took a penalty along the way, though video evidence (above) suggests it was a soft call. His biggest issue was a terrible line change on the sequence that led directly to the empty net goal that sealed it. GAS: ES +2/-4; ST 0.

#27 Brett Kulak, 3. Unable to snuff the rush on the first Dallas goal, though in fairness he was outnumbered. Spent way too much time in his own end (shot attempts were +8/-17 during his 15 even strength minutes. Delivered 4 of Edmonton’s 9 shot blocks on the night, but was victimized on several scoring chances while contributing to none at the good end. Expected goals of 21% stood out in a bad way. GAS: ES +0/-4; ST +0/-1.

#28 Connor Brown, 7. Finally delivered that “big goal” everyone has been predicting when he fed Ceci in front of the net, then pounced on the rebound to stuff it home to stablilize the score at 1-1 not 5 minutes in. Showed his plus speed on a couple of other rushes. Reliable defensively as usual, even as he did lose one battle inside the Edmonton blueline in the build-up to a dangerous chance. GAS: ES +3/-1; ST 0.

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#29 Leon Draisaitl, 6. His 13-game point streak finally came to an end, but not for lack of opportunity. Set up his wingers for a number of good chances, and fed Ekholm for Edmonton’s best late chance. Bounced back hard from his dismal 8/29 performance on the faceoff dot in Game 1, winning 13/21=62% including a perfect 8/8 in his own end. Just 2 shots on net though. GAS: ES +5/-3; ST 0. 

#37 Warren Foegele, 6. Finally found the scoresheet for the first time in 12 games with a secondary assist on the Brown goal, a very nice backhand pass that sprang the rush. Had a couple of shots on net and led the Oilers with 3 hits. GAS: ES +4/-0; ST 0.

#39 Sam Carrick, 5. Solid grinding effort. Set up Brown for a half-decent slot shot, though with both linemates driving to the net he might have been better served to shoot the puck. 0 shot attempts all night long, about 9 minutes in his case. 2 hits, 4/7=57% on the dot. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST 0.

#55 Dylan Holloway, 4. Played about 90% of a pretty good game, but made critical mistakes on the first and third Dallas goals. On the former he was in good position backing up Ceci just outside the offensive zone, but not moving his feet and caught flat-footed on the odd-man rush that resulted. On the last, he too was part of a botched line change that effectively turned a would-be 6-on-5 into a 4-on-5 and instant disaster. Got crushed when fed a suicide pass by Kane, but bounced back to his feet and carried on undeterred. 2 hits of his own, 2 shots, but 2 giveaways. GAS: ES +2/-1; ST 0.

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#71 Ryan McLeod, 4. Some good, some bad, some ugly. His shift in the last minute of the first period, shown above, can be categorized as the latter. Was unable to contain the outside shot that was deflected home for the game winner. He’s trying to be more involved physically, and surreptitiously has logged 15 hits in the last 6 games. But his offensive game is in hibernation with 0 points in the playoffs. Excellent shot shares but nothing to show for it. GAS: ES +1/-2; ST 0.

#73 Vincent Desharnais, 3. Fought a few fires in his own end with important help from Skinner on occasion. Was unable to tie up Marchment on the critical 2-1 goal and on this night, that was she wrote. GAS: +0/-5; ST 0.


#74 Stuart Skinner, 7. His night had a tough start when he was beaten by Jamie Benn’s searing wrist shot on the first shot he faced. Bounced back hard and delivered a number of outstanding saves to keep his team in the game at 1-1. Got lucky on a couple of mad scrambles around the crease, but decidedly unlucky on the game-winner which was deflected, took a hard bounce off the ice, and find a tiny crack between his arm and body. 24 shots, 22 saves, .917 save percentage.

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#91 Evander Kane, 7. Was driving hard all night, but couldn’t buy a bounce around the net. Led Oilers forwards with 9 shot attempts, and all skaters on both teams with 5 shots on net. A couple of hits in a very engaged 18 minutes of action. GAS: ES +5/-0; ST 0.

#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 4. After 3 consecutive outstanding games he had nothing going on offensively, with 0 shots or contributions to high-end chances. Found himself at 2C down the stretch. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-1.

#97 Connor McDavid, 6. His first shift was a harbinger. He led the rush at speed, made a bad pass that produced a jailbreak the other way, came flying back to make a great defensive play and break up the chance, before mashing Chris Tanev with a solid hit on his way to the bench. That set the stage for a night of top-notch effort but little joy. Just 1 shot on net, a first period wraparound. GAS: ES +3/-2; ST 0. 

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