Edmonton Oilers unleash 10 keys to playoff success in victory over Montreal

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Maybe it was a mirage. Maybe it was a one-game thing.

But, suddenly, the Edmonton Oilers looked like a team that can win some in the playoffs in their thrilling 4-1 comeback win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.

Perhaps it will be back to the old good but not great Oilers in Wednesday night’s game.

But on Monday the Oilers unleashed ten key aspects to their game which could make this squad an extremely difficult opponent in the coming Stanley Cup playoffs.

Those ten keys?

1. Connor McDavid’s competitive fury. Maybe it was the embarrassment of flubbing the puck on a 2-on-0 breakaway. Maybe it was anger from Montreal hacking, hitting and bashing him once too often. But I can’t ever recall seeing a more furiously determined Connor McDavid than in the final period of that game. He came at the Habs with all the raw power and danger of sudden spring break-up on the North Saskatchewan and he crushed the Montreal defence. If McDavid brings that wild game in the playoffs, I pity his opponents.


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2. Mike Smith’s timely saves. This isn’t a newly unleashed thing, I know, but it was also there against the Habs, with Smith again being the best goalie on the ice. He made the big saves for the Oilers and broke the back of the Montreal forecheck with his sharp puck-moving.

3. Leon Draisaitl’s beast mode. Draisaitl first clicked into beast mode against Anaheim in the 2017 playoffs. He did so again versus the Habs, as seen by his sticking Josh Anderson and by his coming to the defence of Caleb Jones, after Jones got hammered with in an iffy blind side collision.

4. Darnell Nurse’s Larry Robinson impersonation. When Nurse charged up the ice to smash a Grade A shot on net in the third period, that was as close to a Larry Robinson rush as you’re going to see. More please.

5. Adam Larsson and Kris Russell’s shut down defence. They were out for only one Grade A chance against, which is the typical solid defensive game Edmonton has been getting from these two veterans. They’re Dave Tippett favourites for a reason: they are stone cold stoppers in the defensive slot.

6. Ethan Bear’s “A” game. Oilers fans have been waiting a long time to see this dashing, daring Bear. His defensive game has slowly come around, after he leaked chances against at an alarming rate earlier this season. On Monday, we also saw some of the offensive dynamism that marked his play in 2019-20.

7. Hitting and heart from the likes of Josh Archibald, Zack Kassian, Devin Shore and Alex Chiasson. If all four of these guys are hitting and playing smart defence, Edmonton looks like it might have the necessary foot soldiers to hang in with deep teams like Toronto and Winnipeg.


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8. A stifling PK. Edmonton and Winnipeg have the best PKs of the Top 4 teams in the Canadian. The Oilers haven’t been so chokingly brilliant on the PK as they were last year, but they’ve slowly been improving and had a strong effort against Montreal.

9. A one-two punch down the middle. Draisaitl and McDavid started the game together, but things changed after Jujhar Khaira got hurt. When Edmonton when on its 13-0 run on Grade A chances in the third period, their best period of the season, Draisaitl and McDavid were leading their own lines to success, something they’ll both need to do in the playoffs as well.

10. Puljujarvi Power. When he and McDavid botched that 2-on-0 breakaway that was a signifier of Pulujarvi’s struggles this year — he’s come close to being a top line player, but a lack of touch around the net has kept him from being in on more scoring plays. But he’s just 22, just finding his strength and confidence. Now and then it all comes together, as it did in the third period where he got an assist on Bear’s goal and scored his own on a laser shot breakaway. If he can find this same decisive game now and then in the playoffs, that will be huge for the Oilers.

At the Cult

McCURDY: How much with Bouchard and McLeod play down the stretch?

STAPLES: Game grades in Edmonton’s big win over Habs


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