4 Keys to an Oilers’ Game 7 Win vs. Kings

The Edmonton Oilers visited the Los Angeles Kings for Game 6 and came out with a 4-2 win. The series is tied 3-3 and headed back to Edmonton where the Oilers have won one game and lost two to the Kings. Home ice advantage has to play a little effect considering how loud the fans and building are, especially for a Game 7. With the pressure on Edmonton to move on, here are four keys to ensure a victory.

Oilers Need a Quick Start & Continued Pressure

The Oilers started Game 6 the right way and got out to an early lead. They continued the pressure and took a 2-0 lead before allowing the game to be tied up. Up until that point, the Oilers were playing the game they wanted to and what they didn’t do the previous two games.

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In Game 2 and 3, the Oilers never let up, putting up 14 goals in those two games. Goals obviously won’t come easily to any team on a normal basis, even if you are one of the highest-scoring teams in the NHL. But continuing to get chances and shots while playing solid, hard defence works just as well.

Oilers’ Stars Keep Producing

The Oilers’ stars have been lights out for them this series and a big reason why they’re headed to Game 7. Connor McDavid leads the NHL in playoff points so far with 12 while Evander Kane is tied for the league lead in goals with seven. Not to be forgotten, Leon Draisaitl has scored five goals and eight points in six games and is playing injured.

Connor McDavid Evander Kane Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid and Evander Kane of the Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

These three players are the only forwards for the Oilers who showed up on the scoresheet in Game 6. McDavid scored just 1:40 into the game and added two assists later while Kane recorded two goals and an assist. He has scored the most goals in a series for the Oilers since Esa Tikkanen also scored seven in 1991. Draisaitl had one assist on the game-winning goal by Tyson Barrie.

Related: Connor McDavid Correctly Earns Hart Trophy Nomination

Only two other Oilers’ forwards have produced more than two points in this series. If Jay Woodcroft loads up the top line with McDavid, Draisaitl, and Kailer Yamamoto, the second line which would include Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman would hopefully get a boost again. The Oilers’ stars have played like it and need to do so for one more game.

Oilers’ Depth Steps Up

When I say the depth needs to step up, they haven’t produced much offence in this series but have been better than previous seasons. During the regular season, it was fine because the stars were producing and the depth was adding that extra boost. The Oilers’ depth doesn’t just have to score a bunch of goals to be relevant in Game 7, they can also shift energy and wear down the Kings.

A player like Josh Archibald has done just that. He has 27 hits in five games and they’re no small hits. He is throwing his full weight at high speeds at anyone near him who touches the puck. This both forces the Kings to make quick decisions which leads to turnovers, wear them down physically, and potentially bang them up. The other use of wearing the Kings down involves keeping the puck in the opposing end and making the Kings work and tire out. Nugent-Hopkins had a big game in Game 6, where he was actually throwing the body much more than he typically does and hemming the Kings in their own end chasing the puck. Throughout a 60-minute game, you can see the effect it has on teams.

The Oilers switched lines up a bit to account for Darnell Nurse missing Game 6. Even upon his return to the lineup, I could see Woodcroft going back to 11 forwards and seven defencemen just to more seamlessly give his stars up front more time on the ice with different players. On four Oilers goals in Game 6, only three forwards tallied at least a point – McDavid, Draisaitl, and Kane. So a little production offensively wouldn’t hurt since they were absent from the scoresheet in an elimination game. In any regard, the Oilers have to beat or match the Kings’ depth production all over the ice to have the advantage in their final game.

Mike Smith Closes Out Series With Another Great Performance

What isn’t being talked about enough is Mike Smith‘s play for the Oilers. We all saw what he did down the stretch posting ridiculous numbers, but playoffs are a different story. He had lost nine playoff games in a row heading into the series including four with the Oilers. He lost Game 1 with a very poor decision to throw the puck up the middle to a Kings’ player. But since then he has bounced back in a big way.

Mike Smith Edmonton Oilers
Mike Smith, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With a record of 3-3 and two of the wins coming in dominating fashion, his contribution to the Oilers has been swept under the rug. Smith posted a shutout in Game 2 regardless of how many goals the Oilers scored. His goals saved above expected is 4.7 in just six games which is very solid, while he is holding a .931 save percentage.

The defensive game of the Oilers faltered in Game 4 and 5, but those losses were not on Smith as even McDavid called out the team, pushing the message that scoring four goals should be enough to win games in the playoffs. The Oilers tightened up in front of Smith, but his play behind the players contributed to a big win in an elimination game. He’s been rock solid since his blunder, so the Oilers are going to need a big performance from him and to match Jonathan Quick’s performance over in the Kings’ net.

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