Wayne Gretzky was on Hockey Central yesterday and he spoke about the big game one victory, the Oilers’ defence, and how Cam Talbot has emerged as one of the league’s best goaltenders. Gretzky made a few interesting points that I wanted to touch on before tonight’s matchup.
ON CONNOR MCDAVID
When asked what advice he would give Connor McDavid about handling Ryan Kesler:
“Kesler is probably one of the best checkers he’s ever played against to this point in his career. As Connor would tell you, it’s part of the game and you can’t worry about it.”
Yeah, that’s all good but I need to know what he can do to get around Kesler’s shift-by-shift muggings.
“You have to utilize your assets. For Connor, his assets are obviously his hockey sense and his speed and his teammates and linemates. Right now, Draisaitl is playing as well as anyone in the National Hockey League and everybody is contributing in a positive way.”
When asked if Connor should take a shot at Kesler even if he gets a penalty just to clear himself some space, Gretzky said:
“Kesler is pretty tough and he plays the game hard… that’s not going to get you anywhere. The only way to get under a guy’s skin is to capitalize on your opportunities.”
And what is he going to do? Throw his stick at him like a javelin.
ON GAME 1
When asked for his thoughts on winning the first game of the series, Gretzky was pumped.
“It’s a pretty resilient group. First of all, I’m impressed by how prepared the team is as a team.”
As Confucius said, success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation, there is sure to be failure. Got it. What else did Wayne say?
“It seems to be a bit chippier and more physical but you could tell that the team was extremely well prepared for game one. There was no panic.”
I agree with Wayne and it was beautiful to see the Oilers with ice in their blood. In past years, the Oilers would have folded up like a cheap hooker when the Ducks came back to tie the game but that’s not what happened.
“(It) was one of the best games that our team played, not necessarily as far as perfection goes, but to still hang on after giving up a two-goal lead to be able to score a late goal and win on the road. That says a lot about the maturity of the hockey club.”
Are we becoming best friends? Because I agree once again.
“Every night is a learning experience for this group of kids because they are still relatively young.”
ON THE DEFENCE
One of the biggest highlights from Wednesday’s win over the Ducks was Adam Larsson’s unexpected offensive outburst. When asked about it, Gretzky gave the big Swede a glowing review.
“It was good to see Larsson offensively contribute because, game in game out and watching the team play, he’s been such a workhorse defensively for that team. I’m sure everybody in the locker room was extremely excited for him.”
Wayne spent a good chunk of the interview talking about how well the defence has played down the stretch and into the playoffs and into the second round.
“I’m amazed at the whole defensive corps.”
Yeah, Wayne, I am too but I’m going to need something here.
“If you look at the four older veteran players, our defence with Klefbom, Sekera, Larsson, and Kris Russell, I mean those four guys are just workhorses.”
Personally, I can’t get over how good Larsson and Klefbom have been as a pair and the fact that both of them are signed with some term is a miracle.
“The six or seven guys have really done an outstanding job over the last month of the season. They’re just getting stronger and stronger as a group.”
A lot of people had the Oilers’ lack of experience on the back end as a potential knock against them but that rag-tag crew seems to be getting the job done.
“They’re a good corps of kids that just love to play, and block shots, and don’t cheat the game, and they’re unselfish for each other.”
ON CAM TALBOT
I don’t know if you guys know this or not but Dadbot has been a Gord-damned rockstar all season long.
“I’m so impressed by Cam Talbot.”
WAYNE! STOP AGREEING WITH ME! Tell me what it is about Cam that you like.
“He’s extremely unselfish. You never see him point a finger at a guy, you never see him get upset at a defenceman if somebody misses the defensive coverage. He just grabs the pucks and throws it back out and says let’s go.”
It’s actually amazing that Talbot hasn’t been visibly pissed off at any of his defencemen considering how bad last season went.
“It starts in net, I think, and he’s definitely the right guy for this team and he deserves all the credit and accolades he’s getting right now.”
The fact that Talbot wasn’t even nominated for the Vezina nor did he make the All-Star game is ridiculous in my biased opinion. Dadbot has been a rock for the Oilers this year and I hope he can use the Great One’s appreciation to keeping powering him to excellence.