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Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl may reach an even higher level in Round 2 against the Canucks

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Sean Panganiban
1 month ago
The Edmonton Oilers are set to face the Vancouver Canucks in an all-Canadian team matchup in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The two franchises have only met three times in the postseason, and this will be the first time they’ve played each other since 1992.
The Canucks won all four games against the Oilers this season, outscoring them 21-7 in that span. However, it’s worth noting that three games were won before the Oilers started turning their season around in late November. Also, Vancouver’s latest victory over Edmonton came near the end of the regular season on April 13th, and one could argue that the Oilers were saving their energy for the playoffs in that particular game.
That said, back in February, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were interviewed on the ‘32 Thoughts‘ podcast, where Jeff Marek asked the dynamic duo to complete a sentence: “Finish this sentence, the team I most like to beat is___?”
The Oilers’ captain responded with the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings, whom they just defeated in five games, and Draisaitl gave an interesting response, as he said:
“L.A, [and] Vancouver, because they slapped us around a little bit a couple of times this year, so, yeah, I’d like to get some redemption there.”
At the time of the interview, the Oilers had already lost three games to the Canucks, and as we know, they would end up losing another. Yet, if Draisaitl had a desire to beat Vancouver before, his motivation has probably spiked, given that their Western Conference rivals, just a province over, are now standing in the way of their Stanley Cup aspirations.
Judging by Draisaitl’s performance in the opening round, he’s already playing highly motivated, which may not bode well for the Canucks. Yet, overall, he’s consistently shown he can find another level when the stakes are higher. In 54 playoff games, the centerman has scored 36 goals and added 51 assists. Additionally, when it comes to the all-time leaders in points-per-game in NHL playoff history, the top four are as follows: Wayne Gretzky (1.83), Draisaitl (1.61), McDavid (1.61) and Mario Lemieux (1.60).
While we’re on the topic of incredible feats, Draisaitl also became the fastest player in league history to score 20 playoff road goals, with the tally he scored in Game 3 against the Kings. Setting that record on the road shows that he’s not fazed by the boos and jeers from the opposition’s fans, and quite frankly, it seems, at times, he enjoys it. On top of that, as NHL_Sid wrote recently, since 1997, out of all players with a minimum of 25 games played in the playoffs, no NHLer has recorded more even-strength points per hour than Draisaitl. Talk about delivering under pressure.

Draisaitl Has Played a Mature Game in the Playoffs

Draisaitl recorded 10 points in five games against the Kings. Also, as Jason Gregor mentioned, he took his game to a new level in the first round. One thing that stood out, aside from his usual goal-scoring, was the complete game he displayed. Gregor mentioned that the centerman took the fourth most defensive draws in the NHL, winning 62% of them.
Additionally, his backtracking was exceptional, among the best I can recall from the Oiler. On several occasions in the series, Draisaitl picked the pocket of the Kings on the back check, instantly turned on his jets and immediately transitioned onto the attack.
By and large, the 28-year-old made great defensive plays all series, but some notable ones were in the final minutes of games. In Game 4 against the Kings, Draisaitl dropped down to one knee with three seconds left to block an Adrian Kempe shot. In Game 5, he was once again trusted to defend the one-goal lead with a minute remaining, and his anticipation allowed him to pick up the loose puck after a big hit from Derek Ryan freed it. He found that extra gear to skate it out of danger to avoid the risk of icing it, which ultimately led to a penalty on him, essentially sealing the series win for the Oilers.
Collectively, Edmonton showed in the first round that they’ve taken a step towards maturity as a group by winning close games and staying composed when things got heated. As a leader on the team, Draisaitl set an example with his commitment to playing a complete game. That said, it’s almost mind-boggling to think that he can reach an even higher level against the Canucks, but as mentioned, his publicly stated desire to beat them, before knowing they’d be a roadblock in his Stanley Cup dreams, suggests he’s prepared to dig even deeper.

Draisaitl May Take Advantage of Silovs’ Potential Weak Point

It remains to be seen which goaltender the Oilers will face in the series versus the Canucks, but Vancouver might go with the hot hand in the inexperienced Arturs Silovs who has posted a .938 save percentage (SV%) in his three playoff appearances so far. If so, the Oilers will be crossing their fingers that he doesn’t go on a miraculous hot streak.
In any case, an intriguing stat is that in this postseason, Silovs has the fifth worst high-danger unblocked shot save percentage (.660) among goaltenders in the playoffs, according to Money Puck. In the regular season, he had the ninth worst save percentage (.671) in that category out of 88 goalies that played the same amount of games as him or more. Granted, these are very small sample sizes, but it’s something to keep an eye on in the upcoming games.
That said, the Oilers’ power play is currently ranked first in the NHL, and a big part of that is due to Draisaitl, with seven power-play points against the Kings, and from the looks of his five tallies against them, his shot is looking at its finest. Considering Edmonton may face a goaltender who perhaps struggles with unblocked high-danger shots, and with Draisaitl’s shot looking the sharpest it’s ever been, especially in high-danger spots, it’s a recipe that may heavily favour the three-time 50-goal scorer, especially in his “office” area on the man advantage.
All in all, the idea of Draisaitl reaching another level in the playoffs may seem unfathomable. However, the last time that he faced a Canadian club in the postseason, he tallied an absurd 17 points in five games against the Calgary Flames. If history repeats itself of him elevating his play against a Canadian rival, the Pacific Division-winning Canucks might be in for a big surprise.
With that in mind, what are your expectations or point predictions for Draisaitl in the upcoming series against the Canucks?

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