Player grades: Edmonton Oilers beat Dallas Stars in bewildering fashion, advance to Stanley Cup finals

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Edmonton doesn’t have the goaltending, they said.

The Oilers don’t have the depth, they said.

They can’t hold a lead for the life of them, they said.

Dallas is going to drink Edmonton’s milkshake, boasted long-time Dallas broadcast Daryl “Razor” Reaugh before the series began, a movie reference to the total domination and humiliation of one party over another.

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The consensus of 80 per cent of the experts who predicted the outcome of the Western Conference final was that Dallas had already knocked off the two past Stanley Cup champions this playoff season and was going to do the same to the Oilers.

But it didn’t happen. Instead, the Oilers won the series in bewildering fashion, beating Dallas 2-1 in Game 6 to advance to the Stanley Cup finals against the Florida Panthers.

The shots in the game were 35 to 10 for Dallas. The ten shots were the fewest for any winning team in NHL history, said Sportsnet’s Ron MacLean.

The Oilers did it with goaltending and depth, by cutting down on ugly mental errors on defence, and with a bit of Connor McDavid magic.

“It feels like a dream honestly,” McDavid said at the closing whistle on going to the Stanley Cup finals. “It was a crazy one tonight, not our best effort, but we hung in there… Just hung in there.”

Edmonton’s power play and penalty kill were excellent and decisive in Games 5 and 6. But just as brilliant was Edmonton goalie Stuart Skinner, who out-duelled star Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger repeatedly in games, including this one.

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Skinner stopped 13 out of 14 Grade A shots, while Oettinger let in two goals on just three Grade A shots.

Skinner stopped nine shots from Dallas sniper Jason Robertson alone.

Edmonton’s depth players also got it done with suffocating checking both at even strength and on the penalty kill.

“They actually defended fairly well,” said Sportsnet’s Kevin Bieksa of the Oilers, high praise from him, as he’s been justifiably skeptical of the Oil’s defensive play.

Bieksa praised Skinner for stealing the win.

In total, the Grade A shots were three for the Oilers, 14 for Dallas, with the subset of 5-alarm shots six for the Stars, two for the Oilers.

Cult of Hockey game grades player grades

Connor McDavid, 9. The Oil’s best position player in their biggest game in years. Kicked the game off with a majestic power play move, deking Sam Steel to the outside, then executing a split second toe-drag to his backhand to beat Miro Heiskanen, before lashing a backhander over Jake Oettinger’s shoulder, snapping it top shelf where Momma keeps the cookies. He jumped on the ice too early a moment later to take a bench minor penalty. Great forecheck and takeaway on sore-footed Chris Tanev to keep in the puck on a first period power play. Next he drew two players to him to set up Hyman’s goal, the Oil’s second of the game. Almost scored again early in the second, hitting the post on a slot feed from Holloway. Contributions to Grade A Shots (GAS): Even Strength (ES) +2/-2; Special Teams (ST) +2/-0

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Zach Hyman, 7. Exceptional early on. He drove hard to the net to draw a penalty from sore-footed Tanev. Fine pass to send in Janmark on a first period breakaway. Ended the first working a give-and-go with McDavid, then sniping in a wrister from the high slot, not exactly his wheelhouse for a goal, but most welcome, correct? Dallas fans will be losing it over Oettinger not stopping that one. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +1/-0

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 7. His turnover led to a post shot by Hinz in the second. Part of a big checking effort at even strength and short-handed. GAS: ES +0/-1; ST +0/-0

Leon Draisaitl, 6. Super quiet first half to the game but showed some life breaking up a Dallas attack late in the second and advancing the puck. He was held back by two struggling linemates in Perry and McLeod. But he had his own woes, making  turnovers of his own and taking a penalty shooting the puck over the boards in the third, a dangerous mistake. But got the job done as a checker and face-off man down the stretch. GAS: ES +0/-2; ST +0/-0

Corey Perry, 4. He’s not getting much done on the ice, though he makes few mistakes. He lost a key board battle in the same sequence that Draisaitl got his third period penalty. GAS: ES +0/-2; ST +0/-0

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Ryan McLeod, 4. Not his best game either. He looked bewildered in the first two periods, failing to move his feet and contributing to some major Dallas zone time. But he launched a pass to help send in Janmark on his early breakaway. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0

Adam Henrique, 6. He made a hustling dive to stab out the puck of Edmonton’s end on the first Dallas power play. Some solid shifts down the stretch. GAS: ES +1/-0; ST +0/-0

Evander Kane, 5. He blew up Alexander Petrovic with a hit in the first, but injured himself on the play. He played just 4:30 and we now wonder about his health. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0

Dylan Holloway, 5. Fine pass to set up McD’s 5-alarmer early in the second. He blasted Heiskanen with a hit late in the second. He lost a board battle leading to a Grade A shot and made an ill-advised icing in the third.  GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +0/-0

Derek Ryan, 5. Solid slot takeaway early on, doing his bit to calm a fumbling Oilers team. He made a fly-by his own net on the first Dallas goal, a mental error from the cagey vet. GAS: ES +0/-1; ST +0/-0

Connor Brown, 6. Hustled, hustled, hustled. GAS: ES +0/-2; ST +0/-1

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Mattias Janmark, 7. Failed to drain an early breakaway shot. Edmonton’s best checking forward made a crucial clearance early in Dallas’ third period power play. GAS: ES +0/-1; ST +0/-0

Evan Bouchard, 5. Solid game marred by a major error. His heads up stretch pass kicked off Edmonton’s second power play goal. But he was puck-watching on the first Dallas goal instead of taking out Mason Marchment, an easy play for the making. GAS: ES +0/-1; ST +1/-0

Mattias Ekholm, 5. Quiet, smart and solid game.  But he allowed the pass out on the first and only Dallas goal. GAS: ES +0/-3; ST +0/-0

Darnell Nurse, 6. A tough first period, some good, but more bad. He got caught up ice on a rush on his first shift, but managed to charge back to break-up the 2-on-1. Blasted Seguin with a nasty hit, but Edmonton’s early nervous play culminated in him bobbling the puck in the defensive slot, allowing Pavelski to launch a 5-alarm shot. He hammered Duchene with a huge hit, taking himself out of position, but again rushed back to break up a Dallas rush. But got beat in the slot a moment later by Mason Marchment on a 5-alarm slot backhander. As game went along, he found his groove, winning crease battles and blocking a nasty slot shot by Seguin in the third. GAS: ES +0/-2; ST +0/-1

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Brett Kulak, 4. Roughest game of his playoff season. He looked nervous, whiffing on a few passes early on and allowing a pass for a Grade A shot that Seguin put off the post. Lost his man behind the net on Marchment’s first period slot backhander. Never really settled down. GAS: ES +0/-4; ST +0/-1

Cody Ceci, 6. He lost the handle on an early breakaway chance due to a Dallas slash, drawing a penalty. He and Broberg were calm in the first on an Oil defence with a wicked case of the yips and jitters. He allowed Seguin to beat him to the net for a 5-alarmer early in the second. He lost a board battle leading to Stankhoven’s nasty third period shot. GAS: ES +0/-2; ST +0/-1

Philip Broberg, 8. The picture of poise this game. One of the few certain Edmonton d-men in the first, earning him some PK time late in the period. He kept a clean sheet, not one mistake on a Grade A shot against, the only Oilers d-man to do so. Did not play much down the stretch, as Coach Kris Knoblauch went with the vets. Every other Oilers d-man got pounded on shots for and against, but not Broberg, who was +3, eight for, five against at even strength. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0

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Stuart Skinner, 10. Huge game for Stuart Skinner. Massive! Monumental! Stupendous! Gargantuan! Thesaurus! He thwarted Stankhoven on an early Grade A, then came up huge after Nurse bobbled the puck, allowing a 5-alarm slot shot from Joe Pavelski. Next he thwarted Marchment’s backhander in tight. A moment later he lost track of the puck behind the net, but Duchene failed to find the wide open mesh. Early in the second he stopped Heiskanen’s pojnt shot, then a 5-alarm rebound to Seguin. He was solid on three more Grades As in the second, then another early in the third, a sneaky slot tip by Pavelski. He was caught out of position on the first Dallas goal, though, and failed to cut out the pass or make the stop. Huge save a moment later on Stankhoven’s tricky slot shot.

“Best game ever by Stuart Skinner,” said Sportsnet’s Kelly Hrudey. “It was good to see.”

Yes, it was and, yes, it was.

Brought a tear to my eye, I should say. How about you?

We all know how my Cult colleague Kurt Leavins is doing 🙂

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At the Cult of Hockey

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McCURDY: Cult of Hockey Game Grades from Game 4 win

LEAVINS: Cult of Hockey Game Grades from Game 3 loss

McCURDY: Cult of Hockey Game Grades from Game 2 loss

STAPLES: Cult of Hockey Game Grades from Game 1 win

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