The Oilers will go into tonight’s key game against the Ducks without Connor McDavid. Let’s see how they respond with their captain having to watch from the sideline due to his two-game suspension. Here are your game day notes.
1. I’ll talk briefly about McDavid’s suspension before getting into everything else. Personally, I don’t think two games is terrible for this hit in an isolated circumstance. Sure, you want to set an example and protect players from head injuries. Fair enough. But what makes this two-game suspension in the greater context of the league today so agitating is the lack of consistency. We’ve seen so many similar hits go completely unpunished and then, suddenly, a clean player like McDavid throws a headshot, and the book gets slammed down. Why now? Why not this elbow by Drew Doughty on McDavid? It’s so random that it’s infuriating.
2. If you aren’t agitated enough by McDavid’s suspension, watch this video of all the times he’s hooked, slashed, interfered with, cross-checked, elbowed, and the whole nine yards while the refs turn a blind eye. It’s shocking how little the NHL cares to protect their best player. Again, I can live with two games for hitting a guy in the head, it’s the hypocrisy and lack of consistency that makes me shake my head.
3. The Oilers have been without McDavid twice now this season. He missed a game back in early December due to the flu and he missed a game earlier this week to Arizona due to spending an entire day at West Edmonton Mall. The Oilers lost both games, though the more recent one against Arizona featured a dominant third period with a gutsy comeback in the dying seconds to force overtime.
4. With McDavid not in the lineup, Leon Draisaitl has an opportunity to shine and prove his doubters wrong. A narrative has been twirled around Draisaitl that suggests he’s a byproduct of McDavid and he isn’t good enough to drive his own quality line. I mean, there’s some merit to that given Draisaitl’s mediocre numbers without McDavid, but, to be fair to him, when he’s centring his own line, he isn’t exactly playing with high-quality wingers.
5. In the two games McDavid has missed, Draisaitl has been very good. In the Dallas game, he was on the ice for 26 shot attempts for and only nine against. In the Coyotes game, Draisaitl was on the ice for half of Edmonton’s high danger chances, and he picked up assists on both of the goals the Oilers scored.
6. This game is definitely a must-win for the Oilers. Anaheim is ahead of them in the standings and Minnesota won last night, so Edmonton needs to win to jump the Ducks in the standings and get back within six points of the Wild. The Oilers have played well their last few games. They’ve earned three of four points on this current homestand with some gutsy efforts, and, despite losing all three games on their Eastern Swing, the team played hard.
7. The Ducks have gone 3-2 since firing head coach Randy Carlyle. Bob Murray, oddly enough, decided to step behind the bench to replace Carlyle despite the fact he had never coached before. It was an odd decision, but it’ll give him a very clear indication of which players he wants to keep around and which ones should go.
8. It’s incredible that the Ducks are still in the playoff mix given the fact they’ve had two different seven-game losing streaks and a 12-game losing streak this season. They’re the worst team in the league offensively, as they’ve scored just 138 goals 61 games. The Ducks are so bad offensively that Pontus Aberg, who was traded over a month ago, still ranks tied for third on the team in goals. Their leading goal scorer is Jakob Silfverberg with 14 goals, and their leader in points is Ryan Getzlaf with 39.
The only thing keeping them even sort of afloat is goaltending. John Gibson, who is currently on the Injured Reserve, has been excellent this year, as has backup Ryan Miller. With Gibson sidelined, undrafted NCAA free agent Kevin Boyle has been given a chance with the Ducks. Through three games, he’s stopped 85 of 89 shots.
9. The Ducks have been absolutely decimated by injuries this season. Adam Henrique and Brandon Montour are the only players on the team who have played in all 61 games. Cam Fowler, Rickard Rakell, Ryan Kesler, Ondrej Kase, and Corey Perry have all missed significant time due to different injuries. The only key players the Ducks have on the shelf right now are Gibson and Kase, meaning they’re close to their ideal lineup as they have been all season.
10. Edmonton and Anaheim have met twice so far this season. The Ducks won the first one on American Thanksgiving 2-1 in overtime after scoring a late goal to tie things up in the third. The Oilers slammed them 4-0 in their second meeting back in early January.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 2/23/2019 – 7:00 am MT