War of Attrition Setting In as Oilers Drop Massive Game 2

Oilers vs Panthers Game 2 Stanley Cup Finals

The Edmonton Oilers fell 4-1 to the Panthers on Monday night, and head back to Alberta down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals.

In Game 1 the Oilers were the better team, but Sergei Bobrovsky made sure the Panthers finished the game with a win. On Monday, however, nobody seemed to have real control after 40 minutes.

With the contest tied 1-1 heading into the third period, the Oilers seemed to unravel. The game got chippy, and undisciplined, and ultimately cost them the game and the split.

Game 3 goes on Thursday night at 8:00 pm EST.

Oilers Shot Production Takes a Nose Dive

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In the first two periods, the Oilers had only seven shots on goal, but it didn’t feel that way. They weren’t being outplayed, and neither team was dominating.

To go back to Game 1, they had a shoot-first mentality all night long. On this night, however, it felt like they were trying to manufacture the perfect opportunity to solve the problem of Sergei Bobrovsky.

Halfway into the first period Bobrovsky allowed his first five-hole goal of the postseason on a perfect shot by Mattias Ekholm, which happened to be Edmonton’s first shot of the game.

After that, aware that Bob might be a little shaky back there, the Panthers completely shut down the middle of their defensive zone and the Oilers had trouble generating anything else for the rest of the night.

That approach forced the Oilers to be way more patient than in Game 1, and patience in this situation ended up not being a good thing.

Edmonton had only six shots by forwards, and all of those came from McDavid, Draisaitl, and Hyman. No disrespect to defenseman Brett Kulak, but when he has only one shot less than all four offensive lines, something went wrong.

Special Teams Showing Cracks at Worst Time

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The Oilers have the best special team units in the playoffs, and it’s not that close. At least, not until this series, that is.

At the start of the Finals, the Oilers had a dazzling 37% powerplay. It has since dropped down to 32.8%. In the context of the last two months, that’s still very good. But in the context of this series, that means they have still yet to score with the man advantage.

With the majority of their scoring coming from four players, they need their power play to produce for them or it takes away a massive reason why the Oilers have made it this far.

Their penalty kill in the playoffs is still number one at 93%. A big reason why that percentage is so high is because they had not allowed a PP goal against for 34 straight penalty kills.

That streak came to an end on Rodrigues‘ second goal of the night, to give the Panthers a 3-1 lead with seven minutes left in the game.

Injuries, Ejection, Cripple Oilers

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Two specific storylines were garnering a lot of attention heading into Game 2. Evander Kane’s health and the Nurse-Ceci pairing being far less than average.

Kane hasn’t practiced or participated in morning skates for the majority of the spring, and he logged only 10:33 of ice time on Monday while posting a -3 goal differential.

As for Nurse and Ceci, Ceci was replaced by Vincent Desharnais, and Darnell Nurse only played four minutes due to an injury he suffered in the first period.

With the defensive unit down to five skaters, Warren Foegele was ejected after a knee-on-knee with Luostarinen after playing just over one minute in the game.

It is hard to say if he will be suspended for that infraction, but it is more than likely that the league will take a look. In a series where depth is already an obvious problem for the Oilers, they can’t afford to lose him for too long, and they definitely couldn’t afford to lose him in Game 2.

What’s the Solution?

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There are no moral victories in the Stanley Cup Final. A win is a win and a loss is a loss. However, the Oilers could have and probably should have won Game 1, and through 40 minutes, they felt like they gave themselves a chance to win Game 2.

On Thursday night that Edmonton crowd is going to be insane, and they have to hope they feed off that energy for the entire 60 minutes.

Florida deserves a ton of credit for how they’ve played and approached the Oilers defensively, but there are other articles on Total Apex Sports for that.

For the Oilers, they have to find a way to de-clog the middle of the ice in front of Bobrovsky. On Monday night they created very few high-quality chances, and it seemed fairly easy for Bobrovsky to settle into the game after that first goal.

This is super simplistic, I get it, but Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Zach Hyman have to be better. Truth be told, this is probably the best McDavid has looked in a few weeks. Yet, he has zero points in this series, and as a group, they have to find a way.

The war of attrition may be finally catching up with the Oilers. Much like it did for Florida last year. However, they have the pieces and the structure to get the job done, and only time will tell if they ultimately can.

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About The Author

Marc Sautter is a self-proclaimed sports addict, with the NHL being his specialty. After being a sports fan from afar, Marc made a career change in his 30s to cover sports through journalism and podcasting. His daily NHL preview and betting show “Pucks Across Borders” airs every weekday morning. In addition to hockey, you can read his work on the Canadian Football League all summer on  Total Apex Sports.

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