Plot twists? Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars coaches have big decisions heading into Game 2

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Edmonton Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch and Dallas Stars coach Pete DeBoer have big decisions to make heading into Game 2, both centered around centers Edmonton’s Adam Henrique and Dallas’ Roope Hintz.

Henrique suffered what appeared to be an ankle/knee/foot injury in the closing minutes of Game 5 against Los Angeles. He played one game early in the Vancouver series, but failed to keep up with the game. He has been in rehab on the sidelines since then. Knoblauch now says Henrique is 98 percent ready to play, but he will be 100 percent with a few more days of rest.

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“A player like Adam would be a big boost for our team and that’s something we have to decide,” Knoblauch told the media today.

Hintz had missed three games since injuring his hand/wrist against Colorado. DeBoer told reporters that Hintz was skating and that he may play in Game 2.

The decision to return injured players before they are fully ready is a complicated one. For example, in the only game (Game 2 on May 10 more than two weeks ago) Henrique played against Vancouver, he was slow to get to a cross-court pass on an Edmonton penalty, freeing up Elias Pettersson to take the pass. and punctuation.

If Henrique had been healthy, or if a replacement player in his place on the PK had been healthy, would he have cut off that pass? Possibly. Likely.

Hintz is the Stars’ number one center and leads centers in ice time during the regular season with 17:14 per game. At 6 feet, 3 inches and 212 pounds, he’s a quick, big and skilled forward, Dallas’ version of Leon Draisaitl. Dallas will be eager to have him back, but they can’t rule out him losing some key battles because he’s still banged up. Another example of this is Chris Tanev playing hurt for the Calgary Flames in their 2022 playoff loss to the Oilers. He was beaten on several goals that a healthy Tanev would have thwarted.

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As for Knoblauch, this current version of the Oilers has won three straight games, all with outstanding team-wide efforts. For the first time this year, the Oilers have four lines playing solid two-way hockey. This type of depth is critical against Dallas, which has solid players at all 12 front positions. The Oilers can’t afford to have even a passenger (to use Rick Tocchet’s favorite word) if they want to beat Dallas.

Not one.

You might think that having an underperforming forward is no big deal, but that baseline forward will change against Dallas forwards who can take advantage of any moment and score a big goal. Given how close the games are, each one is just as likely to be lost to questionable plays by underdogs as it is to be won by superstars who make brilliant games. Hockey is a weak link game. The weakest link can and will drag down the entire team.

It’s also the case that the penalty kill has been decisive for Edmonton, meaning it’s probably unwise to trade any of their key components up front: Derek Ryan, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Connor Brown, Mattias Janmark, Warren Foegele or Ryan McLeod.

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All of those players have struggled on equal terms, although RNH and Brown are improving rapidly, and Ryan, Janmark, Foegele and McLeod, give or take some brutal changes, are getting the job done. That would leave Henrique replacing fourth-line center Sam Carrick as the best option, but Carrick was one of the few Oilers centers to have success at the faceoff spot in Game 1 against Dallas.

Leon Draisaitl won only eight of 29 faceoffs, Connor McDavid six of 16, but Ryan won six of eight and Carrick seven of 11. When the team needs a big faceoff win, Carrick would be helpful. or Ryan out there, right?

At the same time, Henrique is a smart and effective forward who can play the PK and help the Oilers score just as hard. He will arrive soon and help the Oilers win when he does.

If Henrique moved to the third line with McLeod and Foegele, with Ryan replacing Carrick on the fourth line and Carrick out, that could very well work. No one should be too upset if Knoblauch decides to go in this direction. It’s a valid pick and he could shake up the Oilers enough to give them a boost in Game 2.

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One argument for making a change is that after beating Vancouver in Games 6 and 7 with this lineup, the Oilers were slightly outscored by the Stars overall, with Dallas getting 17 Grade A shots to the Oilers’ 15 in the Game. 1.

But if you break the game down into the first and second periods, then the third period and overtime, the Stars had 13 Grade A shots to five for the Oilers in the first half, but Edmonton had 10 Grade A shots to four for the Stars. In the second half. In other words, Edmonton adapted to the Stars and began to get the best out of them with this existing lineup.

I suspect that until the Oilers lose, Knoblauch will stick with his winning lineup. If he ain’t broke, don’t fix him.

Oilers Games Grade A 13

As for the Stars, whether Hintz plays or not, they will be a different team for Game 2. They came into the series with the victory of having eliminated the last two Stanley Cup champions, and 80 percent of analysts in the NHL predicted they would beat the Oilers. Now they have been defeated at home.

This is something they are used to as they have lost seven straight first games in playoff series, but it puts them in a tough spot. They have to do some research, but they are aware of it, as DeBoer told the media. “At the end of the day, and looking at it again (Game 1), I think one team came into the game with a 7-day game mentality, they, and we came in with a 5-day rest mentality. “They are very narrow margins and we have to solve it.”

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This Dallas team will be a bear in game two. And some days, the bear will eat you. How do the Oilers avoid that? How do they take advantage of their advantage? How do you avoid the mental errors that cause open shots against you?

The Oilers have a solid lineup capable of doing that, even as Dallas got 17 Grade A shots, the same total Vancouver got in its last two games against the Oilers, nine in Game 6, just eight in Game 7.

Dallas has already shown they can attack well enough to beat the Oilers. The second game will be a daunting task for Knoblauch and his team.

In the cult of hockey

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McCURDY: Statistics and greasers take different paths to reach the same destination

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