Ahead of Sunday’s Game 4, the Edmonton Oilers are in a position they didn’t want to be in. While the series is not over and a patient club is saying all the right things, the Oilers now face a scenario where a Game 4 loss means they go down 3-1 in the series and face elimination needing multiple wins in a row. Needless to say, evening the series feels like a must.
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The Oilers have liked their game, but they’ve not liked the way they’ve missed chances to finish or tried to close out the Kings. The first game was an overtime loss that should have never gone to overtime because of the team taking too many penalties. The third game was a loss because they left the contest up to the officials to decide. After storming back to take a 2-1 lead in the game, Leon Draisaitl’s penalty allowed the Kings to tie the contest. A questionable high-sticking call in overtime was the deciding factor.
Draisaitl Frustrated By Lack Of Consistency
The Oilers haven’t said much about the officiating, but Leon Draisaitl did mention that he’s a bit annoyed that he can’t tell what the standard is. Draisaitl took a slashing penalty on what many deemed a weak call that allowed the Kings to even up the score in Game 3. Many wondered if that would have even been called a penalty in the regular season and Draisaitl wondered why that would get called when so many other infractions have been ignored.
He noted after the game, “You don’t call a clear knee on knee right in front of you, and then you call a slashing penalty… just don’t really know what the standard is right now.” It doesn’t negate the fact that Draisaitl should have maintained better control of his emotions and not left it up to chance that the official might make a call.
The Oilers Need to Stop Kicking Themselves in the Foot
Whether the losses can be rightfully attributed to the bad officiating in the series, the fact the Oilers are down a game in the best-of-seven is on them. The team hasn’t played hockey in the same manner in which they closed out the regular season and while their 5-v-5 play has been good, Edmonton hasn’t buried their chances or created a scenario where one or two bad calls puts them in a position where they could lose.
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If the team really feels like there’s something off with the officiating, the best thing the Oilers can do is take the game out of the hands of the officials. Get up 3-1, and then 4-1, and keep pushing. “We’re trying to crack through,” defenceman Mattias Ekholm said. “We’ve done a good job. We just haven’t been able to find the back of the net.” Break through. A team this talented should be able to do so.
Oilers Need to Continue to Play Their Game
As per Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic, the Oilers don’t plan to change much; they like their game. They just need to finish better and catch a couple of breaks to run up the score. He quoted Darnell Nurse who said:
“Our game right now is giving us a lot of opportunities to try and find the back of the net. If you get frustrated and try and deviate from the game plan, you open up other areas of your game. If we can continue to play the same way in some of the areas that we’ve been successful, hopefully that dam will break.”source – ‘Nugent-Bowman: Oilers need secondary scoring to get back into series’ – Daniel Nugent-Bowman – The Athletic – 04/23/2023
Jay Woodcroft added, “If you look at the scoring chances, it’s not close,” coach Jay Woodcroft said. “Can we bear down in certain situations? Yeah, we can.” This isn’t a series in which the Oilers are being out-played. They know it and the Oilers still feel good about their chances in the series. All that said, something has to give.
The High Stick That McDavid Saw
Connor McDavid swears he saw the high stick that even Gabriel Villardi says he wasn’t sure he touched. It’s all in the past and the Oilers have to move on. However, there’s some debate on social media about a player like McDavid raising his hand in the air while the play was ongoing and that he should be focused on the game and not helping the officials make the calls. To me, that’s a strange argument to make.
We see players, especially goaltenders, do this sort of thing all the time. When there’s an icing, the netminder often raises his hand to signal to the rest of the team. Whether that’s to help in a race to the puck, it’s tradition and training, or the goaltender just wants the official to know they see it too, it’s the norm for a number of goalies in the NHL.
So too, when the defenseman sends the puck over the glass and out of play from their own zone, it’s almost laughable how many hands go in the air to help tell the official it should be a delay of game penalty. You can never have too many extra referees.
If a player can not only signal what they see while the play is ongoing and perhaps persuade a call, why not do it? And, perhaps no one can multi-task like McDavid.