The Tape: What the Canucks can learn from the Kings’ sole victory against the Oilers in round one

Vancouver Canucks Edmonton Oilers
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
1 month ago
The second round begins today for the Vancouver Canucks, as they kick off their highly-anticipated all-Canadian series against the Edmonton Oilers. The positive thing for all Canadians is that at least one Canadian team will be in the final four of the Stanley Cup playoffs. 
Vancouver finished off their series with Nashville in Game 6 on a final 1:30 goal from Pius Suter. It was only a matter of time before Suter found the back of the net, as he was held without a goal for the entire series despite leading the team in expected goals for. 
Death, taxes, and the Edmonton Oilers defeating the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs — it just seems to be getting easier and easier for the Connor McDavid-led squad, as they’ve beaten them in one less game over the last three seasons.
However, they hit a slight speed bump on their way to a 4-1 series win, losing Game 2, 5-4 in overtime. With just one hiccup this playoffs, I thought we would look into where they struggled and how the Canucks can exploit their wrongdoings. 

Game 2 Tape

First Period

We saw our first blunder by this Oilers defence corps early in the first period. 
After a long pass from their defensive end, the Kings enter the zone but can’t maintain possession, and Evan Bouchard retains the puck. Off a strong forecheck from Adrian Kempe, Bouchard tosses a muffin trying to clear the zone, where Anze Kopitar steps up and holds the zone. From there, it’s essentially a 2-on-1 with Cody Ceci having eyes on the bench for a change. Kopitar and Kempe have too much chemistry to miss on this Grade-A opportunity and give the Kings the lead on their first shot of the game. 
Okay, a couple of things on this play.
Right off the start, the Oilers’ positioning can be taken advantage of. Kempe hits Ekholm into the boards on the forecheck, and the puck pops out to Quinton Byfield along the boards. Once Byfield gets the puck, look where Leon Draisaitl and Bouchard’s skates are… They’re almost along the goal line.
If Byfield doesn’t rip the puck toward the net and takes a second to find Kopitar, he has a high-danger one-time opportunity in the slot all alone. 
Once the play is behind the net, Draisaitl and Bouchard go behind the net to try to clear the zone, but Ekholm gets caught puck-watching and leaves Kempe on an island by himself in the slot area. This is only a problem if Kopitar intercepts the pass behind the net — which he did, but lucky for the Oilers, no damage is done. 
The Kings’ penalty kill was a problem in this series. They only killed off 11 of 20 penalties, but this was one of them. 
It will be nearly impossible to stop this powerplay with how much they’re constantly moving around and showing the opposition different looks. All you can do is do your best to slow them down, and that is exactly what Vladislav Gavrikov did on this play.
Not once, but twice, he got his stick in the lane of a pass to Draisaitl. The Oilers have set plays they like to run, which allows them to move around as frequently as they do. Gavrikov read those plays with two look-backs to keep aware of Draisaitl’s positioning to help interrupt the passes. 
This play was an exceptional defensive effort to minimize the high-flying McDavid line. Their play starts and ends with the cycle game. When all three forwards are down there battling for the puck, you must box them out, wait for them to re-enter the scrum and make the safe play to the F3, who’s waiting for an outlet pass. They managed to play this perfectly, clearing the zone and not giving the McDavid line anything to work with. 
Throughout the first period, they continued to keep the play to the outside. The Kings always had a defender pressuring the puck carrier and rarely allowed them to get to the inside. While this is important to do against any team you face, it’s just that much more valuable to do this speedy Oilers team. 
Watch Kings defender Matt Roy do precisely that on this play against Warren Foegele. He does allow Foegele on the inside, but he is stuck on him like glue, which leads to a very low danger chance.
The great play from Roy led to Kempe’s second goal of the game off the rush. Now, there wasn’t much the Oilers could do better off this flukey deflection goal; it helps prove my point later on. 
Here is another example of how the Kings kept the play to the outside, except this time it was against McDavid. 
Oh, look, the Oilers are playing out of position again! Brett Kulak gets caught up along the boards with a Kings forward. The puck squeaks by, and Viktor Arvidsson beats Vincent Desharnais to it. With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins caught puck-watching, he misses the streaming Doughty, who is left all alone on a breakaway, where he makes no mistake at extending the Kings’ lead back to two heading into the second period. 

Second Period

The Kings started out the second period in a “protect the lead” mode. Philip Danault and Trevor Moore hindered McDavid, Ekholm and Hyman almost as soon as they touched the puck and caused a turnover. 
After this, it was pretty back-and-forth hockey, but not in a good way. It was just back-and-forth dump-ins and clearances, which I think the Kings were happy to do, being up two goals. 
The long stretch passes seem to work against these Oilers defenders. The Kings’ speedy wingers like Kempe, Byfield, Arvidsson and Moore had no problems sneaking past the top four defencemen. Here are the top-speed comparables with data provided by NHL Edge.
The Canucks should be able to open up the ice with these long stretch passes to their speedy wingers against these slower Oilers defenders.
Here is what the Kings didn’t do right on the penalty kill.
As I mentioned above, it’s important to maintain proper positioning on the penalty kill. With all the movement on this Oilers powerplay, it’s easy to lose your man.
Hyman starts off in the net-front. After McDavid and Draisaitl switch positions, Hyman gets lost in their coverage.
Now, Gavrikov pressures Draisaitl; Kempe stays on McDavid, with Kopitar and Roy both covering Nugent-Hopkins in front of the net. All that’s left is for Draisaitl to sauce the pass to Hyman in an open lane to an open net.
This will be encouraging for Canucks fans. In a powerplay opportunity late in the second period, the Kings had two rushes where the defenceman dropped the puck back to a forward gaining speed from their own zone – the patented Canucks powerplay break-in attempt. 
Both times the Kings tried this method, they gained the zone. Both times the defenceman carried the puck through the neutral zone and passed it off, they failed to enter the zone. So maybe this is a tell that the Canucks powerplay will have more success entering the zone in round two? 
McDavid’s speed is no joke. It’s so threatening that the Kings had to surround him with three players as he flies through the neutral zone. However, this works because you know with his speed, he won’t be able to pass it off and stay onside. So, having three players on the inside of the faceoff dot and keeping McDavid on the outside really limits his options for coming into the zone. 
Look at this line of Kings just waiting for McDavid to cut in somewhere.
But of course, McDavid does his magic, even after taking a hit from Arvidsson. Dylan Holloway takes the McDavid pass in the high slot for a shot on Cam Talbot. 

Third Period

The Kings start the third period like the first period, with a quick goal. But this one was lucky.
Honestly, the Oilers were playing in the proper position, so it’s hard to blame them for this one. McDavid gave Fiala virtually no room to fire this slap shot, but it somehow found the back of the net for the Kings to take the lead. 
This was exhilarating playoff hockey as the play went back and forth to each end. Cody Ceci decided to pinch with an injured Sam Carrick down on the ice, leading to a Kings 2-on-1 the other way. After that save, Drew Doughty got caught pinching. Alex Laferierre stayed back to cover him, which ended up being costly, as the Oilers will make you pay when given an odd-man rush. 
I may sound like a broken record, but I’m sure noticing a trend. The Kings continue to keep McDavid to the outside, and it continues to work! He was a non-factor at 5-on-5 this game, with zero points and just two individual scoring chances. McDavid is still going to be near impossible to stop completely, but if you’re the Canucks, you can tactically slow the game down by keeping him along the outside. 
But when the Oilers do find the middle of the ice, swarm that area like the Kings did here for a seamless clearance.
With just the dying minutes remaining, the Kings went for more of a man-on-man defence strategy. Which, honestly, worked very well. Every defender had their man and followed them around like a lost puppy. This is a pretty effective strategy that I wouldn’t mind the Canucks trying out if it’s late in a tie game.


Well, the final frame didn’t last long.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed a theme in all these goals, but this is what I mentioned I’d point out earlier. Four of the five goals (except the Fiala) were on the rush. This bodes well for the Canucks, as they have five players in the top 90 of the entire league with the most rush chances this season. To put that into perspective, Los Angeles only had one player in the top 90, and look how often they got behind Edmonton.
Whether it’s a defender pinching that creates an odd-man rush or a long stretch pass from the defensive zone that opens up the ice, it’s Michael’s Secret Sauce to getting past this Oilers team. 
The biggest hurdle the Canucks will have to climb is stopping the revolving door in and out of the penalty box. Vancouver took 22 penalties in the first round, and while their penalty kill converted at a 91% clip, you can’t expect to do that against this Edmonton powerplay. The Oilers converted nine of their 20 powerplay opportunities for a 45% success rate. That’s ridiculous.
However, their series against the Kings was much closer at 5-on-5, with both teams scoring 12 goals. The Oilers can undoubtedly get it done at 5-on-5, but their powerplay is something they heavily rely on, so cutting the head off that snake will make this a much easier series for Vancouver.
So what do you think Canucks fans? What can Vancouver learn from the Los Angeles Kings’ sole win over the Edmonton Oilers in round one?

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