Following the Colorado Avalanche‘s 4-2 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, the Edmonton Oilers are one loss away from a sweep. After a six-goal outburst in Sport 1, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl & Co. have managed simply two mixed within the following two contests.
Will the Oilers clear up the Avalanche puzzle in Sport 4 to start out a serious turnaround? Or will Colorado shut issues out after which get one other prolonged break earlier than internet hosting Sport 1 of the Stanley Cup Ultimate? Our panel weighs the massive questions forward of Sport 4 (8 p.m. ET Monday, TNT).
What do the Oilers must do to get again into the sequence?
Victoria Matiash, NHL analyst: If these banged-up Oilers are to have any probability in any respect of extending this sequence past 4 video games, they should be flawless in their very own finish. Good. No determined, errant passes, no irresponsible wayward sticks, no misplays by the goaltender. There’s been an excessive amount of undisciplined play on behalf of Edmonton out entrance of Mike Smith to this point, and the Avalanche have taken benefit.
Additionally, the Oilers want to remain out of the penalty field. Applaud the penalty kill all you want, however McDavid & Co. have a significantly better probability of scoring after they’re not watching the kill from the bench. Altogether, Edmonton must play extra disciplined defensively, whereas nonetheless working to stifle Colorado in transition as a lot as attainable, to enhance their odds.
Arda Ocal, NHL host: I am not simply saying this due to the astronomical mountain a 3-0 sequence deficit is to climb (solely 9 groups have pressured a Sport 7 after being down 3-0, and solely 4 of these groups pulled off the reverse sweep), however the Avs simply seem like the higher staff, up and down the ice.
The simple reply can be manufacturing out of your superstars and from Mike Smith in web, however Cale Makar alone has made Connor McDavid look pedestrian in sure situations, and that is an extremely tall job for anybody to perform (given what number of occasions McDavid has made all 5 opponents on the ice seem like pylons on sure performs).
Kristen Shilton, NHL reporter: Overcoming a 3-0 sequence deficit just isn’t unattainable. It is extra like, impossible-adjacent.
There is a particular confluence of things required for Edmonton to be a type of uncommon groups that recovers from such an enormous gap. Fortuitously, the Oilers have a top-end secure of expertise surrounded by stable depth up entrance. Goaltender Mike Smith is pouring his coronary heart and soul into each save to offer his staff an opportunity. Maximizing these positives will go a great distance in figuring out whether or not there might be handshakes after Sport 4 or one other go to to the Mile Excessive Metropolis.
How do the Oilers clear up their mess? By channeling the opportunistic Avalanche. Colorado has accomplished extra with its possibilities on this sequence. The Avs have performed a extra aggressive sport. The urgency was there from Edmonton in Sport 3; it was there for Colorado in Sport 1. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can attempt strapping Edmonton to their backs and incomes their first win. However that components does not symbolize the Oilers at their finest.
Sure, McDavid and Draisaitl must drive the bus, however Edmonton’s defensive buy-in has to match its offensive contributions. The Oilers placed on a clinic within the impartial zone throughout their second-round sequence towards Calgary. They have nothing to lose now within the convention finals, so they need to be mucking it up in all three zones and flinging each puck attainable on Pavel Francouz. That is how the Oilers rattled Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom within the final spherical. In fact, the Avalanche have a deeper staff than Calgary, however Edmonton is deep, too. They simply aren’t exhibiting it typically sufficient.
Backside line: The Oilers must let their stars shine, however there’s a whole lot of work to be accomplished within the trenches by everybody in Sport 4 (and doubtlessly past). Making Colorado uncomfortable — if that is attainable — is their more than likely approach by way of.
Greg Wyshynski, NHL reporter: The very first thing the Oilers must do is rent a religion healer to fix Leon Draisaitl’s harm, which all of us assume is a bum ankle. He was clearly laboring in Sport 3. He hasn’t scored a purpose since Sport 2 of the sequence towards the Flames. He had two pictures on purpose and simply three complete shot makes an attempt in Sport 3 towards the Avalanche, who’re too deep offensively for the Oilers to have a 55-goal scorer like Draisaitl turn into a nonfactor, as he has been for the previous two video games.
The second factor the Oilers want is for Smith to drag a rabbit out of his hat. Like Draisaitl, he did not look 100% wholesome throughout Sport 3, but when there’s something we find out about Smith it is that he is a battler. We additionally know he is a goalie who makes adventurous saves look routine and turns routine saves into adventures. The Oilers cannot afford one other effort wherein Smith deflates their momentum by permitting a purpose on a stoppable shot, or else their postseason is over. The excellent news is that Smith can ship a magnificence whenever you least count on it.
The third factor they want is to buck probably the most dependable traits in Stanley Cup playoffs historical past. Heading into Sunday, groups that take a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven maintain an all-time sequence report of 198-4 (.980). Groups that take a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven sequence when beginning at house maintain an all-time sequence report of 144-3 (.980).
Like Kristen mentioned, “impossible-adjacent.” However principally unattainable.
Who’s the Avs’ MVP to date this postseason?
Victoria Matiash: Cale Makar is the right reply, however let’s give ahead Nazem Kadri his due for his efficiency at each ends of the ice all through this postseason. Sport 2 is a unique story if Kadri, an elite playmaker, does not contribute three assists in a span of below three minutes within the Avs’ 4-0 win. That is only a pattern of what this top-notch middle has managed to muscle out below an ugly shroud of racist social-media messages.
Colorado may very effectively win the Cup ultimately, and Kadri, regardless of probably lacking the remainder of the video games after taking a hit from behind in Game 3, will nonetheless be an enormous purpose why.
Arda Ocal: I might have chosen Makar, however within the curiosity of differentiating my reply I will go along with Pavel Francouz, who has posted a .920 save proportion and allowed 5 targets in two-plus video games towards the Oilers after relieving an injured Darcy Kuemper in Sport 1. And if nothing else, “Frankie, Frankie” chants from the Denver devoted have solidified him as an unlikely folks hero.
Kristen Shilton: Cale Makar. We knew Makar was dynamic, however he has been stunningly good towards two of the sport’s finest in McDavid and Draisaitl. On this sequence particularly, we have seen his skill to not solely defend at an elite degree, however create house to make performs and tilt the ice in Colorado’s favor. Makar is a main purpose Edmonton is within the place it’s. Colorado has proven inconsistencies, however Makar has been dependable all through.
You possibly can see on the opposite facet how troublesome it has been for the Oilers to handle an injured Darnell Nurse. A staff’s prime defender is extremely vital this time of yr. Each shift Makar takes, he is oozing confidence and is a real menace to dominate. It has been a deal with to observe.
Greg Wyshynski: I feel Makar has the within lane for the Conn Smythe Trophy if the Avalanche win the Cup, however there are two different names worthy of a shout out right here.
One is clearly Nathan MacKinnon, who’s tied with Makar at 17 factors and has 10 targets within the postseason, together with two on this sequence. He stays a driving drive on the ice whose singular focus off the ice — saying issues like, “We’re 0-0 heading into the subsequent sport,” and which means it — additionally drives the Avalanche.
The opposite is a little bit of a preemptive choose: J.T. Compher, who has 5 targets — all of them coming up to now 4 video games. With Nazem Kadri out for the sequence and doubtlessly past it, Compher could possibly be tasked with filling his position. He did it admirably in Sport 3, and he could possibly be an under-the-radar MVP candidate if that continues.
What’s your last rating prediction for Sport 4?
Victoria Matiash: 4-2 Oilers. The superior staff is beset with a contact of subliminal complacency, up 3-0 on the street. Connor McDavid wills his staff to seize one final style of glory at house.
Arda Ocal: 9-6 Avalanche. Alright, that is extra as a result of I need this to occur; Sport 1 was a ton of enjoyable, so why not hope for one more high-scoring sport? Both approach, my prediction is that the Avs full the sweep.
Kristen Shilton: 3-2 Oilers. Edmonton has been resilient on this postseason. The Oilers misplaced a heartbreaker in Sport 3, and doubtless deserved a greater end result. I will wager they get at the very least one earlier than it is over.
Greg Wyshynski: 5-3 Avalanche. Whereas I feel a gentleman’s sweep is not an outlandish prediction, we would have seen the Oilers’ finest effort in Sport 3 — and it nonetheless wasn’t sufficient. Colorado is on one other aircraft of postseason existence proper now. Count on them to play one other robust, environment friendly street sport. Or as MacKinnon framed it, one that’s “boring and gross.”