The Edmonton Oilers are currently one of the most over achieving teams of the year, but it’s not going to be a team game that wins tonight. Individuals are going to have to really prove themselves in order to have any shot at walking out of the Paint Can with any points.
That’s because the Pittsburgh Penguins defence continues to pass test after test as a group. There are some individuals who might not be the greatest but much like some songs aren’t meant to be singles, they fit right in to the flow of the album overall.
The Pens are too organized as a 5 man unit and too comfortable with each other for the Oilers to capitalize on sustained offensive zone pressure. It’s the transition that’ll be the key for both teams.
If our Penguins D men can hold the space between the blueline and the red line long enough for the forwards to recover, we’re fine.
If the Oilers keep trying the stretch pass to spring McDavid at the far blueline, we’re fine.
BUT if Benoit Pouliot, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and obviously Connor McDavid, are willing to get possession before the red line, attack by selfishly skating with the puck through the neutral zone and isolating the Pens D-men into high speed open ice one on ones, it may be an eye opener.
We’ve proved we can handle sustained muscle and board battles. We’ve proved we’re well coached and hold the defensive zone 5 man systems very well.
I’m going to say practicing against Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Hagelin and company has given the guys some reps with high speed pivoting and gap control, but this will probably be the biggest test in a game situation as individuals against individuals.
IF the Oilers can get out of their own end that is.