G3 Game Notes: Draisaitl Driving the Bus
Photo credit:Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
By Jason Gregor1 month ago
Leon Draisaitl is one of the rare players who is elite in the regular season, yet still finds another level of greatness in the playoffs. The LA Kings haven’t had an answer for Draisaitl through two games, and if they don’t find one the Oilers will win this series.
— Draisaitl has been the best player, on either team, through two games. He has three goals, five points, and nine shots in two games. He’s 57.8% in the faceoff dot and he’s outscored the Kings 4-2 at 5×5. He’s gone head-to-head vs. the Kings top line of Anze Kopitar and Adrien Kempe and controlled the play.
— It isn’t just two great playoff games for Draisaitl. He’s been a force in the post-season his entire career. In game one on Monday, his 38th playoff game, he became the third fastest player to 60 career playoff points behind Mario Lemieux (34) and Wayne Gretzky (26). He’s averaged over one point/game every year he’s been in the postseason. He had 16 points in 13 games in 2017, six in four games in 2020, five in four in 2021 and he produced 32 points in 16 games last year.
— His 1.64 points/game through 39 career games is the second highest in playoff history behind Gretzky (minimum 35 games played). He’d still be second among players with at least 10 games played.
It will be difficult to remain above Lemieux through 100 games played, but even if he battles McDavid for third it illustrates how dominant he’s been in the playoffs. He’s a gamer and through two games the Kings haven’t had an answer for him.
— Draisaitl is having a great time. He was smiling post game and even cracked a joke when asked how different he feels this year compared to battling through his ankle injury during last year’s playoffs. “I feel a lot better,” he said, laughing, “especially my leg. It’s nice to feel this way. I’m feeling good. I’m feeling healthy. Knock on wood, hopefully, it stays that way.”
— Mattias Ekholm played against Draisaitl for many years and in the past few he has had a front row seat watching Draisaitl crush the Predators with 20 goals and 30 points in 12 games since 2018-19. “He’s not just out there playing. He’s a presence,” said Ekholm. “He’s not happy just to play. He’s emotionally involved. He’s such a hard player to play against not only because of his skill and his offensive mindset, but it’s his physicality, too. He’s a heavy guy and strong. He makes his presence known out there.”
Ekholm also noted how being Draisaitl’s teammate has given him a new appreciation about how fiery he is. He’s seen the “Grumpy German,” as I like to call him, up close and he’s a big fan. “Sometimes he goes overboard and takes a penalty, but he came right back after and made a huge play to Derek (Ryan),” said Ekholm referring to Draisaitl’s early slashing penalty. Teammates will live with the odd emotional penalty from a teammate, as long as they are channeling their emotions in positive ways more than negative. Draisaitl has done that this series, and his entire career. In an era with fewer fights, I’d argue Draisaitl is one of the elite power forwards in the game. He doesn’t shy away from contact, in fact, he welcomes it.
—Darnell Nurse had another outstanding game 5×5. He’s played the most minutes at 5×5 for Edmonton through two games (40:27) and hasn’t been on for a goal against. Edmonton has four goals with him on the ice. He leads them in blocked shots, and he has played the most minutes v. Kopitar and Kempe and has limited their chances.
— In game two Stuart Skinner joined Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog as the only rookie goalies to win a playoff game in Oilers history. Moog swept the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 in round one in 1981 before losing in six games to the Islanders in round two. Fuhr lost in five games to the Kings in the 1982 Miracle on Manchester series, which included the Kings overcoming a 5-0 deficit in the third period to win 6-5 in OT in game three. If Skinner wins this series, he will be the first Oilers rookie goalie to win a seven-game series and could surpass Moog for most wins in a playoff year. Moog was 5-4.
— I spoke to Skinner about the Gabe Vilardi goal, where he snuck it just inside the post. “Not to take anything from him, he made a great play, but it was a bit of a lucky bounce I would say,” said Skinner. “At the same time, he got me to bite on his forehand and went back to the backhand and I didn’t have a lot of time to put my toe bridge on the post. Either way, I have to put my foot down and get the blade a bit farther down and hopefully that prevents the goal. I’m happy he did it, because now I know what to do.”
I appreciated his explanation of the goal and what he saw. The last line illustrates how he always looks to find positives in situations. He believes every goal or shot can be a learning experience.
— I don’t think it is possible for the Oilers to have a better start than what we witnessed in game two. The Kings needed 17:58 to get their first shot on goal. And they had a power play during the shotless streak. Edmonton led 2-0 and only allowed three shots in the period. You can’t ask for a better start. The Oilers record for fewest shots in a playoff period is actually zero. The three shots against tied for 11th all-time but didn’t crack the top-10.
In game one of the 1998 second round series v. Dallas, the Oilers outshot the Stars 9-2 in the third period of but were outscored 1-0. They lost the game 3-1 despite outshooting Dallas 32-14. In game two they limited Dallas to 15 shots, including none in the second period, and won 2-0.
— While researching fewest shots against in a period and game, I was stunned to learn the Oilers’ record for fewest shots against in a playoff game occurred in 1988. In game one of the Stanley Cup Final vs. Boston the Oilers allowed only 14 shots, which is second fewest all time. In game two the Bruins only had 12 shots on goal. Boston was a very good team with Cam Neely, Ray Bourque and others, but the Oilers completely smothered them in games one and two. The Cup winning Oilers knew how to lock it down when needed in the playoffs.
— The Oilers are 56.9% in the faceoff dot in the series. Only Connor McDavid is under 50%.
Draisaitl, Nick Bjugstad and Ryan McLeod are a combined 70% (55-31). McDavid’s overall numbers aren’t great, but he is 5-13 in the neutral zone, which is the least important area. He is 6-6 in the offensive and defensive zones combined.
— The Kings’ top two faceoff men, Anze Kopitar and Philip Danault, were 55.9% and 54.4% in the regular season, but they are well below those numbers thus far.
Kopitar is 49.1% while Danault is 50%. LA is only 42.5% in the offensive zone. A main reason the Oilers aren’t spending much time in their D-zone is because they are winning draws and controlling the puck right away.
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