Edmonton Oilers need to do better job of supporting Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid
Photo credit:Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing1 month ago
It’s no surprise that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl carry a heavy burden for the Edmonton Oilers.
If you look at the top of the NHL scoring leaderboards, you find their names right near the top year in and year out. After all, they are the Dynamic Duo.
But this season, they weren’t as alone as they usually are. They were joined by a few other Oilers who had tremendous seasons. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins finished the year with 37 goals, 67 assists and 104 points — all career highs. Zach Hyman did the same with 36 goals, 47 assists and 83 points.
Other top-six wingers were productive this season, too. Evander Kane had 16 goals and 28 points in 41 games twice having to work his way back from tough injuries. Kailer Yamamoto scored just 10 goals, but had 25 points in 58 games dealing with his own rash of injuries.
Once again in these playoffs, we’re seeing Draisaitl and McDavid be productive. The former is tied for the lead in points with six scoring three goals and as many assists, and McDavid himself has a respectable two goals and three points.
The only problem? Those other aforementioned four players have yet to really make their impact felt. In fact, just one of them has a goal through three games and that’s Kane, who scored on an empty net in game two. He’s also added another assist. Nugent-Hopkins has two assists, both on the powerplay, while Hyman has just a lone assist of his own, also coming on the powerplay. Yamamoto, meanwhile, hasn’t registered a point and has just three shots to his name.
After a regular season that saw the Oilers’ top-six dominate play, we’re not quite seeing it so far in these playoffs. It’s Connor and Leon who are the ones carrying all the weight on their shoulders. Sure, there are a few bottom-six goals from Derek Ryan and Klim Kostin, but before we talk about depth contributions, the Oilers are going to need their complementary top-six wingers to show up in this series. It’s something that could make or break this teams post-season.
The Kings are doing a damn fine job of slowing down McDavid. He’s had two of Philip Danault, Drew Doughty or Mikey Anderson attached at his hip virtually every time he’s out on the ice. They’ve figured out a way to keep McDavid to the outside and limit his ability to get inside, as Jason Gregor alluded to in his GDB ahead of game three. It’s a reason he’s not looked himself in the playoffs.
Draisaitl, meanwhile, has a softer matchup against the Anze Kopitar line and has run roughshod atop of them. No worries about this matchup. But what’s worrisome is the fact they look like they are having to do it all on their own. Their wingers aren’t winning puck battles. They aren’t hitting the net with their shots. They are creating very little havoc in front of the net. They look uninspired.
Maybe last night’s 3-2 loss in overtime was enough to wake them up, but the truth of the matter is that if they are unable to inject themselves into this series — and quick — that’s not a good sign for an Oilers team that is hoping to go on a deep run this spring.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at email@example.com.
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