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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Oilers/Kings Series Recap

Happy Monday, Nation, and welcome to a brand new Mailbag to help you get your week started and make sense of all things Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re looking at the first round wrap against the Kings, Connor McDavid’s brilliance, and a whole lot more. If you’ve got got a question you’d like to ask, email it to me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.

May 14, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates after scoring against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period in game seven of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

1) Steph asks – Game seven was an emotional roller coaster. What’s the biggest reason the Oilers won this series after falling behind two separate times?

Jason Gregor:

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They were the more talented team. Their top-end talent was better and it showed up more often. Also, Edmonton’s overall defensive game in games six and seven were excellent.

Robin Brownlee:

Connor McDavid willed that it be so.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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Connor McDavid. He put the team on his back in the final two games and was simply sensational. The guy was on the ice for every goal the Oilers scored in games six and seven plus he set the tone physically and was solid in his own end.

Zach Laing:

The Oilers wanted it more. Connor McDavid was a massive, massive part of it, but I really thought the team rallied behind him to do a tremendous job controlling play, too.

Baggedmilk:

Connor McDavid was not going to be denied. Not this time. No chance. Also, Mike Smith was solid between the pipes and gave the team the foundation they needed to get the job done.

May 14, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates after scoring against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period in game seven of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) Marc asks – Simple question for the panel: who is your first-round MVP for the Oilers and Kings and why?

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Jason Gregor:

Connor McDavid for Edmonton. He scored 14 points, but he was so determined in all facets of his game. Many other Oilers played well and made key contributions in games, but McDavid was the most consistently dangerous.

I’d probably go with Jonathan Quick. He was very good in their wins, and he kept them in games six and seven when the Oilers could have blown them out.

Robin Brownlee:

Trick question? McDavid. Six multiple-point games, 14 points and Game 7 alone is enough, no?

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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McDavid. See my previous answer. He was the best player in the two most important games and it wasn’t even close.

Zach Laing: 

Connor McDavid for the Oilers, easily. From the Kings, I got lots of time of for both Philip Danault and Trevor Moore. They were thorns in the Oilers’ side at times through the series.

Baggedmilk:

McDavid for the Oilers for sure. Quick for the Kings. He was solid for LA.

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May 14, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal by defensemen Cody Ceci (5) against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period in game seven of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3) Trent asks – A lot of us were surprised to see this series go to seven games since the Kings were missing key players and I’d like to know what everyone thinks about having it go the distance?

Jason Gregor:

Good learning experience. Edmonton can’t have off nights. When they lost, I felt they didn’t really play well, or made a major gaffe. To go deep you need to force the other team to beat you, not beat yourself.

Robin Brownlee:

That’s playoff hockey. Five, six or seven games, doesn’t matter even a little to me. There is no negative here.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

It wasn’t ideal. The Oilers should have finished off a team like the Kings in five or six games. At the same time, I think the team learned some important lessons over the last two weeks and that could honestly help them in the second round. They’re battle-tested now.

Zach Laing:

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching virtually every playoff game so far this year, it’s that any preconceived notions of teams can be thrown out the window. A lot of people discounted the Kings, the Stars and the Capitals, and they all took their opposing foes deep into their series’. Like Gregor mentioned above, this was a tremendous learning experience for this team.

Baggedmilk:

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I’d say that the two of the games the Oilers lost came as a result of them not being ready to play. Ultimately, they got the job done but it shows what happens if you’re not ready to play.

May 12, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) moves the puck against the defense of Los Angeles Kings defenseman Mikey Anderson (44) during the third period in game six of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

4) Oilers fan in Van asks – It’s clear that Draisaitl was playing hurt throughout the series but managed to gut it out anyway. Do you think his lower-body issues will keep him on McDavid’s wing to reduce the amount of skating he has to do?

Jason Gregor:

He played 22 minutes in game seven. I don’t think his skating was reduced much. Kane and Hyman are legit second line wingers, so that allows Woodcroft to load up his top line if he likes and I could see that continuing. I think it will depend on how the next series goes.

Robin Brownlee:

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Good question. I’m not sure. Let’s see how he looks after a couple of days off. He had no power or jump in his stride in Saturday’s game and the team isn’t saying exactly what the injury is.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think that’s a very real possibility. Obviously, I don’t know anything about his health, but if it is something like a high-ankle sprain and he’s going to try to play through it, they’ll really need to be careful with his usage. Giving him offensive zone shifts next to McDavid and powerplay time might be a good way to allow him to still make an impact without putting him at risk of really making it worse.

Zach Laing: 

I actually thought Draisaitl looked really good by the end of the game. He was labouring in the first, but once he got warm he seemed to improve. Kevin Bieksa mentioned during the first intermission of game seven about how once he would get moving, his ankle could improve. The Oilers still could run a similar 11/7 as they did in games six and seven.

Baggedmilk:

I’m worried about how he’s feeling, but even though he was banged up, he still played a bunch of minutes. The guy is a machine and you’d have to think it’s going to take something insane to keep him out of the lineup.

May 4, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) makes a save on a shot by Los Angeles Kings forward Andreas Athanssiou (22) during the second period in game two of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

5) Taylor asks – Many Oilers fans were doubting Mike Smith after his gaffe in game one but I’d love to know what everyone thinks of the performance he put in against the Kings?

Jason Gregor:

Smith has been good for two years. I think the fact he was injured this year and then when he returned he was rusty, and re-aggravated an injury so five games over a seven-week stretch made things look worse than it was. Over the past two regular seasons, 39 goalies started at least 50 games and Smith had the 6th best Sv%.

In the 2021 and 2022 NHL playoffs, there have been 24 goalies play in six games. Smith has the 4th best Sv%, and of the eight goalies who have played 10 playoff games, he has the highest Sv% at .929.

When you look at his regular season and playoff numbers and the fact he has a cap hit of $2m he’s been a bargain. I find the loudest critics of Smith, really show up when he has a poor game, or makes an error like in game one, and they hammer that error or game, but they avoid the big picture which shows he’s been quite good.

Robin Brownlee:

Stellar. Look at his numbers. 2.29 GAA, .938 with two shutouts. Through seven games, that’s the epitome of SIUTBOHC.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

He was sensational. I said the people freaking out after game one were overreacting (I have the receipts to prove it) and I was right. He was one of the best goalies in the NHL since March 1st and he finished the first round at a .938 save percentage in round one. I doubted him a lot during the regular season, but I’m done with it now.

Zach Laing: 

Somehow, Smith has once again found the fountain of youth and has been playing some of the best hockey in his career. Beyond the regular boxcars he posted as mentioned above by Brownlee, Smith saved 6.76 goals above expected, according to Natural Stat Trick. That’s second to only Jake Oettinger’s 9.08 heading into Sunday’s games.

Baggedmilk:

Smith made a mistake in game one, he owned it and rebounded nicely through the rest of the series. You’ve gotta respect that.

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