Oilers survive late push from Canucks to win Game 7, advance to Western Conference Final

Written by on May 21, 2024

The Edmonton Oilers survived a late push from the Vancouver Canucks to win Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals, 3-2. The Oilers will now advance to the Western Conference Final for the second time in four years.

By the time the puck dropped in Game 7, Rogers Arena was a hornet’s nest, but that atmosphere didn’t last long. Edmonton controlled play in the first 20 minutes even if they couldn’t get a goal.

In the second period, the dam named Arturs Silovs finally broke. Just 1:16 into the middle frame, Cody Ceci cranked a missile through traffic that beat Silovs over the shoulder to open the scoring.

That was only Ceci’s fourth career playoff goal, and it sparked a surge from the Oilers.

Just 4:34 after that, Zach Hyman got his 11th goal of the postseason when he tipped home an Evan Bouchard point shot. Later in the second period, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins cashed in on the power play, picking up a rebound off the end boards and flinging it past a diving Silovs.

The Oilers appeared to have a comfortable Game 7 win in the bag, but some third-period mistakes gave the Canucks life. Vancouver got a pair of late goals, but it just ran out of magic and couldn’t find the equalizer before the final buzzer.

Frankly, the Canucks have to be thankful that they were even within striking distance by the time the third period started. Silovs tried to rob Edmonton of a win, and he did everything but walk out of the bank with a sack full of cash.

The 23-year-old Latvian goaltender just didn’t get enough run support from the team in front of him. The Canucks didn’t really put much pressure on Oilers netminder Stuart Skinner until it was too late. They had 12 shots on goal through the first two periods, and that won’t cut it against an offensive juggernaut like Edmonton.

The Oilers will open the Western Conference Final on the road Thursday against the Dallas Stars.

Winning without McDavid

If you told me that Connor McDavid would be held to one shot on goal and zero points in Game 7, I would have assumed that the Canucks were meeting the Stars in the conference finals. Instead, other players stepped up and manufactured offense in the biggest game of the season, and that is what’s different about this Oilers team.

In past years, Edmonton probably loses this game because it was overly reliant on McDavid to get the job done. The Canucks did an excellent job of neutralizing the best player on the planet, but it simply didn’t matter.

Ceci had a goal. Evan Bouchard notched two points. Nugent-Hopkins tallied a goal and an assist. Hyman and Evander Kane combined for eight shots on goal.

Defensively, it was all hands on deck for the Oilers. Three of their most skilled offensive players — McDavid, Hyman and Nugent-Hopkins — combined for nine blocked shots. Darnell Nurse, sometimes derided for his defensive game, led the team with four blocks.

The Oilers are a complete team, and they are capable of winning games even when McDavid isn’t playing like the second coming of Wayne Gretzky. In fact, McDavid was held without a point in three games this series, and Edmonton still found a way to advance.

The Oilers are deep, and their defense is good enough to win a Stanley Cup. Now just imagine what they’ll look like if McDavid gets rolling again.

Not-so-special teams sink Canucks

In a seven-game series, the small margins are what make the difference. This matchup between the Oilers and Canucks couldn’t have been much closer, which is why Vancouver has to be kicking itself for a putrid special teams performance.

The Canucks’ power play struggled all postseason, and that deficiency was their fatal flaw in the second round. Vancouver converted on just three of its 23 power play opportunities against Edmonton, good for a minuscule 13.0% conversion rate. That includes a four-minute power play in Game 7 that generated next to nothing in the way of shots and scoring chances.

That’s not good against any opponent, but it’s downright disastrous against an Oilers team with the most deadly power play unit ever to step on the ice. While the Canucks struggled to get anything going on the man advantage, the Oilers were, yes, a well-oiled machine, converting on six of their 19 power plays.

It was only fitting that the series-deciding goal was a power play tally for Edmonton.

The Canucks’ penalty kill probably shouldn’t be discouraged about not solving the Oilers’ power play, which has cashed in on 36.8% of its chances in the postseason. What was discouraging was the lack of production from highly skilled players on the team’s power play.

Most notably, Elias Pettersson had a rough playoff run. Pettersson had one goal in 13 games, and he recorded just two points on the power play. His struggles had a lot to do with Vancouver’s anemic man advantage, and that isn’t what you want to say about a player making $11.6 million per year.

Goaltending conundrum remains in Edmonton

Stuart Skinner got the Game 7 start, and he played well enough to deliver a win for the Oilers, but I don’t think the goaltending discussion is over in Edmonton. If the team is going to get past the Stars and compete for a Stanley Cup, it will need more reliable play between the pipes.

Skinner was rather pedestrian through the first three games, allowing 11 goals on just 64 shots against. In Games 5 and 6, Skinner was replaced by Calvin Pickard, who was serviceable but allowed three goals in a Game 5 loss.

Those two have combined for a team save percentage of 88.8% and allowed 4.49 goals above expected, per Natural Stat Trick. If there is an Achilles heel on this Edmonton roster, it’s in the crease.

I have to imagine Skinner will get the nod for Game 1 against the Stars, but how long is his leash? Just one bad game might be enough to send Edmonton home.

The Oilers won’t have the luxury of facing a third-string goalie against the Stars either. Jake Oettinger is a bona fide No. 1, and he has been spectacular in these playoffs. Oettinger gives Dallas a clear edge in goal, and if Edmonton doesn’t get improved play from its own goalies, it will be going home before the Stanley Cup Final.

The post Oilers survive late push from Canucks to win Game 7, advance to Western Conference Final first appeared on CBS Sports.

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