Give us Ryan Nugent Hopkins and Jesse Polgojarvi

The Edmonton Oilers had a chance to dominate their series with the Los Angeles Kings Sunday night but unfortunately the home side had other plans. With that said, we get to the point where Jay Woodcroft has no choice but to make an adjustment to his third streak. The decision should be easy and give us a consistent diet from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi alongside.

Despite losing 4-0 in the fourth game, all of the Oilers’ goals came mainly from their top seven strikers. That’s how this group’s offense works and that’s totally fine. However, the problem is still a not very good third streak and in order to have any hope of getting deeper into the Stanley Cup playoffs, having three legitimate streaks is essential.

With Derek Ryan injured late in the third game, Woodcroft needed to turn things around with his lineup and the direction he took didn’t work out. Derek Brassard didn’t do well in his first playoffs, and while Josh Archibald was able to skate and hit guys, he was pretty bad and shouldn’t rise to any player other than the fourth lineman in any lineup.

On the other side of the equation, if not for a few bouts late in trash time, Bolgoiretti was on track to get under ten minutes of icy time for the second time in four games. Add to that, right or wrong, the head coach constantly wants to overtake him as the right winger in the first team, and a shift in philosophy has to happen sooner rather than later…which is actually pretty easy.

In order to have Puljujarvi, the child needs to find his own confidence and you will not help him in this. In my opinion, giving the talented Finn a role and leaving him there is the way to go. Right now, the coaching staff is clearly not sold off for being that guy at the same time as Conor McDavid and Evander Kane, so take the step and let him find his way down the lineup.

At this point in his career, Nugent-Hopkins wasn’t good enough to lead a third line with players who had a limited skill set. Like it or not, it’s the reality of the situation. By giving him Puljujarvi, he will not only get a skill upgrade but also a defensively responsible man and as many have pointed out on numerous occasions, makes every line he plays better.

I’m not sure about all of you but for me, putting these two on a line with Warren Foegele can create a fairly effective trio. While neither would be confused as a standout player, both Puljujarvi and Foegele can attack offensively, and both help drive play and make life difficult for opposing players in the forward check and course. In other words, whatever you want from the third line.

As an added bonus, it can easily be incorporated into the existing mix of players used by Woodcroft. With a setting of 12 and 6, a fourth line from Brassard (or Ryan Slim), Archibald and Zack Kassian can see limited minutes, hit some bodies and hope to generate some power. By doing so, Ryan McLeod rises to the Leon Drysittle wing and Keeler Yamamoto becomes the upper right wing.

The other option is to leave the top six as is and move McLeod to the Nugent-Hopkins line but there are two problems with that. It’s not the driver with the Bolgojarvi as powerful, and the aforementioned use of the 24-year-old driver should stop on the McDavid line. Again, it either represents the first right wing or puts it somewhere else and allows it to work things out.

Despite what many of the Oilers fan base believe, the Kings are not going to give up and play dead after being defeated in back-to-back matches. Edmonton still has some work to do to get past LA and that can’t be ignored. Nor can the fact that Third Line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and two bombers aren’t good enough to get this group where they hope to get.

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