When the Oilers needed him the most, Connor McDavid played the two best playoff games of his career in must-win games six and seven v. the Los Angeles Kings. He was all over the ice and made an impact in all three zones. “He is the best player in the world and he showed that in the last two games,” said Leon Draisaitl. “It’s not skill..there is lots of skill with him, that’s a given, but it was the will. There was no way he, us, were going to be denied. He was amazing.”
McDavid’s brilliance has been on display since he arrived in the NHL in October of 2015, but he has continued to improve each season, and entering this season’s playoffs McDavid wanted to make a statement. In his previous playoff appearances, he never dominated as he did v. the Kings. His play, specifically at 5×5, was at a level higher than anything he’s played at. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes it up another notch v. the Flames. As Draisaitl said, the skill is there, but McDavid’s determination and explosiveness seemed to reach new heights in round one.
We’ve seen it from the greats of the greats before. Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Sidney Crosby and others have, at times, carried their teams. Even when they had Hall of Fame teammates, these players played at an even higher level. McDavid did that in round one, and I expect it to continue when the puck drops in game one of the first Battle of Alberta in 31 years on Wednesday night.
McDavid’s excellence gives the Oilers a legitimate chance against the Flames. McDavid will need to be all-world again, especially with his running mate, Leon Draisaitl clearly battling through an ankle injury. Edmonton will need McDavid to be great again, but they will also need the rest of the forward group to continue to outscore and outshoot the opposition when McDavid and Draisaitl are off the ice.
|Player 1||Player 2||TOI||GF||GA||GF%||xGF||xGA||xGF%|
|w/o McDavid||w/o Draisaitl||146:52||4||2||66.67||6.57||5.78||53.18|
Against the Kings, the Oilers’ depth forwards outscored the Kings 4-2, outshot them 82-74 and posted a 53.1xGF%. When McDavid was on the ice the Oilers crushed the Kings 11-4. When Draisaitl was on without McDavid, they were outscored 3-0 in game five and 6-1 overall. He entered the playoffs with an undisclosed injury, and then suffered an ankle injury early in game six when Mikey Anderson took him down.
In the regular season, Draisaitl and McDavid played 292 minutes together, but Draisaitl played 992 without him. And in those minutes he outscored the opposition 50-43. Him being outscored 6-1 in the series shows he is clearly banged up. That isn’t going to change right away. Frank Seravalli reported Draisaitl has a high ankle sprain, and those rarely heal quickly.
But McDavid dominating and carrying the team doesn’t mean the team is bad. Through one round the Oilers forwards’ production without McDavid and Draisaitl was better than depth production of the 2009 Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
|Player 1||Player 2||TOI||GF||GA||GF%||xGF||xGA||xGF%|
|w/o Crosby||w/o Malkin||472:15||12||17||41.3||12.7||17.03||42.71|
When they won the Cup, with Crosby on the ice they outscored teams 21-12 at 5×5. Without him they were 29-33. Malkin was 17-16.
So far the Oilers have outscored the opposition 11-4 with McDavid on the ice and have been outscored 5-8.
But without Crosby and Malkin the Penguins were 12-17, while the Oilers, so far, are 4-2. If that continues against Calgary the Oilers should be very competitive in the series, as I doubt McDavid will get outscored. And with Draisaitl playing banged up, he likely will remain on McDavid’s wing for much of his ice time. Draisaitl played 16:30 of his 18:21 of 5×5 TOI with McDavid in game seven.
In the 29:31 at 5×5 without McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice, the Oilers were quite good.
They posted a 55.5FF% (20-16), 59.2SF% (16-11) and 70.2xGF% via Natural Stat Trick. Calgary is a more talented team than Los Angeles, so the Oilers’ depth will need to do better, but it was quite good in round one v. LA. Evander Kane and Zach Hyman will need to keep scoring, while the other forwards have to chip in here and there, and most importantly, remain sound defensively.
I still don’t understand the angst towards Mike Smith. He has been quite good the past two seasons.
Among the 39 goalies who started at least 50 games the past two seasons, Smith had the sixth-best Sv% at .919. Mikko Koskinen was 33rd at .902.
In the 2021 and 2022 playoffs, 24 goalies have played at least six games. Smith has the fourth-best Sv% at .929. Eight goalies have played 10+ games and he has the highest Sv% among them. When he has played he’s been very good.
Smith and Jacob Markstrom were equally impressive in round one, but Smith faced significantly more shots.
Markstrom posted a .943Sv%. He stopped 181 of 192 shots in 431 minutes.
Smith posted a .938Sv% stopping 244 of 260 shots in 419 minutes.
The Oilers will need to generate more chances than Dallas did in round one. And the Flames will need to score more.
They scored 15 goals in their seven games v. Dallas. McDavid had 14 points himself v. the Kings.
This should be a great series.
Finally, Alberta hockey fans get to experience a playoff Battle of Alberta. It is going to be awesome.
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