“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity,” Albert Einstein.
Connor McDavid’s quad injury, which will keep him out two to three weeks according to Oilers GM Ken Holland, is a big blow to the Edmonton Oilers. But the other players can’t use it as an excuse to wilt or feel sorry for themselves.
They are in the middle of a heated playoff race, and with McDavid likely to miss at least the next seven games, they can’t afford many losses. They aren’t the first team to endure a major injury, and if they are in need of inspiration they can watch video of the Pittsburgh Penguins who played very well for 28 games without Sidney Crosby earlier this season.
The Penguins started the season 10-6-1 with Sidney Crosby in the lineup, then went 18-6-4 without him before he returned to the lineup on January 14th. I don’t think anyone would think the Penguins were better off without Crosby in the lineup, but they performed that way.
Keep in mind: Evgeni Malkin only played six of the first 17 games with Crosby in the lineup. They have been ravaged by injuries all season. Crosby missed 28 games, Malkin 13, Bryan Rust 14, Jake Guentzel 15, and Kris Letang missed eight.
Those are their five top-scorers, but they’ve remained competitive.
It won’t be easy, but McDavid’s injury presents huge opportunities for some players on the Oilers and now is their chance to grab it.
At his media avail after the morning skate, Dave Tippett wouldn’t divulge his lineup for tonight. He will unveil it tonight, and said he would try a few different things.
Those were the lines yesterday at practice, and I’d start that way. I’d keep the top line together, as they have been excellent in 2020. Tippett has last change, so he can work matchups more than he normally would if need be. I’d rather start with proven offence, instead of moving Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the second line and hope they find some offence.
Without question losing McDavid hurts. Leon Draisaitl, who leads the NHL with 85 points said this about his captain.
“It is a big deal. It’s the best player in the world,” said Draisaitl. “If he’s missing on any team, it hurts. We’re not gonna find a way around that, but we have to come in with the right mindset and make sure we find our own game without him. It’s gonna be a tight-checking group that’s gonna defend like crazy and try to win games that way. I think we have the guys in here to do it. I’m very confident in this group.”
Draisaitl has been very good this year, even with a bumpy December, and he is a very proud player. I suspect he will look at this as a huge challenge. I’m very curious to see how he performs.
The biggest offensive opportunity for someone will come on the powerplay to fill McDavid’s spot. I asked Tippett who he plans on trying there and he said Kailer Yamamoto and Sam Gagner will get a look. He also mentioned Gaetan Haas will get more opportunities at EV and possibly on the second PP unit.
The Hawks PP is 28th at 15%, which isn’t a major surprise considering since the start of the 2015/2016 to now the Hawks cumulative PP is 21st at 18.6% and they’ve scored the 21st most goals with 215. Patrick Kane leads the Hawks with 448 points in those four-plus seasons. Jonathan Toews is next with 294 points followed by Duncan Keith at 194, Alex Debrincat at 164. Artemi Panarin scored 151 points in 162 games.
Kane is tied for the second most points in the NHL in that span with Nikita Kucherov, trailing only McDavid who has 453, and Kane has the most EV points in NHL since 2015/2016 with 317 followed by McDavid at 314 and Panarin at 295. Kane has been incredibly productive without having a consistent running mate.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: They need to win some games without McDavid and with games against Boston (first in NHL), Tampa (second), Carolina (10th) and Florida (14th) coming up tonight is their best chance. Draisaitl has a dominant performance and they win 4-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Patrick Kane and Draisaitl each pick up two points.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: It isn’t an eight-point performance, but Sam Gagner scores a key goal this evening.
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