Shawn Belle: Vincent Desharnais needs to simplify his game

Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Liam Horrobin
1 year ago
It is no secret that Vincent Desharnais struggles to adapt to the style of play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Through seven games in the postseason, the Edmonton Oilers have yet to see the defenceman that surprised everyone in the regular season as a 26-year-old rookie.
Descharnais played in 36 regular season games for the Oilers after being called up from the Bakersfield Condors. He was reliable on the blueline through that time, picking up five points, all assists, and going +15. He was never in the lineup for his offensive abilities but instead for the uniqueness he provided.
He used his 6’6″ frame to his advantage, along with the length of his reach and kept the game incredibly simple.
The former 7th rounder also became a staple on the Oilers penalty kill and helped climb in a positive direction. Occasionally, he strayed away from his game, overworking a play; however, it was only for short periods. After moving Tyson Barrie in the Mattias Ekholm trade, the organization appreciated his game so much that they never acquired an additional right-handed defenceman at the deadline.
Unfortunately, Desharnais’ game has lost its fashion in the playoff. It began on night one for the Edmonton Oilers when he lost his balance and tripped Blake Lizotte in what resulted in the Los Angeles Kings scoring an overtime winner, taking game one at Rogers Place. Errors have continued to plague his game, and Wednesday night was another example of that. Descharnais was on the ice for the first three goals against, two at 5-on-5, in game one versus Vegas.
On Oilersnation Everyday with Tyler Yaremchuk, Tyler asked former NHLer Shawn Belle about Desharnais’ recent play, specifically in game one versus the Vegas Golden Knight.
“I am on the fence. I do think he does some good things. At the same time, you (Edmonton Oilers) just go up 1-0 and you have some momentum and then the next shift you can’t turn around and give up that play. You have the ability to rim the puck around the wall and get it to your forward then you are probably out (of the zone), and it is not tied 1-1. You try to get out of your comfort zone trying to make that pass between his legs and then you rifle it off a shin pad. Next thing, the puck is in the back of your net. All of a sudden, as a player that is fighting it, you start to get inside your head saying here we go ago I am having another terrible game. I fully agree with the comment that he maybe needs to take a seat and sit out for a game because I think he needs to get out of his head. He needs to get back to what he did when he first got here, which was to play simple hockey, use his size, and stick.”
After the mistakes on Wednesday, Desharnais saw his ice drop again, playing 8:19 on 13 shifts, his second-lowest time on ice these playoffs. His minutes have dropped drastically since the postseason starting with almost 20 minutes played in game one against the Kings. 
He has been on the ice for ten goals allowed, three on the penalty kill, which is the most by a defenceman. Additionally, his goals against per 60 are 5.34, with the next closest defenceman at 2.66 in Darnell Nurse. 
The stat that stands out the most comes courtesy of Woodguy on Twitter. With Desharnais on the ice, Stuart Skinner has a 0.774 save percentage at 5-on-5. However, with him off the ice at 5-on-5, Skinner’s numbers elevate massively to a 0.949 save percentage. Those numbers speak volumes. 
Desharnais is a defenceman still learning his way in the NHL, and mistakes happen; however, they cost the Oilers games at the most crucial time of year. Of course, Desharnais is one of many issues; some players’ scoring output must also pick up drastically. That said, the Oilers still scored four goals the other night.
Jay Woodcroft needs to decide for game two. Do you go with Desharnais and stay loyal to a player that proved good minutes in the regular season, or do you revert to a 12 and 6 approach and possibly give Dylan Holloway a chance? A decision on a defenceman playing sixth-man minutes should be relatively easy. 

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