The Day After 77.0: No Connor McDavid? No problem for the Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton Oilers Dylan Holloway
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
24 days ago
Of course, the Oilers will always want Connor McDavid in the lineup.
He’s the best player in the world doing things few in the history of the game have done.
But sometimes, it’s nice to have a little wake-up call, and that’s what the Oilers received this week with word of him dealing with a lower-body injury. Suffered in last Saturday’s game against the Calgary Flames, McDavid was out of the lineup for Wednesday night’s game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights.
No sweat, though, as the Oilers were able to cruise to a 5-1 laydown that should leave the team with a nice high to carry into the postseason.
The Oilers were hot out of the gate from the first shift of the game, playing the physical, agressive and fast game we’ve seen from them when they’re at their best this season. It came with shutdown defence, too, as the Oilers allowed just 18 shots against the whole night to a team that averaged 31 per game on the season.
Cody Ceci would kick off the scoring for the Oilers 9:37 into the game, before another defenceman in the red hot Mattias Ekholm would extend it to 2-0 5:38 into the second period. Zach Hyman, Leon Draisaitl and the recently recalled Dylan Holloway would add markers of their own, lifting the Oilers to victory.
“You look at the score and you think it was pretty lopsided all in our favour,” said Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch after the game. “I believe we were the better team tonight, but I don’t believe it was as lopsided as it was. Stu made some key saves. We got some lucky bounces.
“Overall, I did like how we defended in not giving up much for chances, but also being able to check as well as we did without going to the penalty box.”
A big reason the Oilers were able to make the score as lopsided as it was came on the backs of another excellent performance from the Oilers’ third line. Ryan McLeod centred Corey Perry and Holloway on that line, and their work helped to set up Ceci and Ekholm’s goals, as well as Holloway’s.
And when it came to Holloway, he wasn’t shy to admit there were some emotions tied with his assignemnt to the American Hockey League ahead of the trade deadline. Sent down with the ask of working on his defensive game, and his ability to protect the puck offensively, he was recalled in the wake of McDavid’s injury.
Boy, did he make the most of it. From his first shift when he laid a big hit on the forecheck to his goal, where he snatched a puck Vegas netminder Adin Hill left behind the net for a free wraparound, he was all over the ice.
“There was definitely some emotion when I got sent down,” he said. “I tried to use it as an opportunity to just focus on my game, get as good as I can, focus on the little things they want me to work on, and then when I got called up, I was pretty excited. (I want to) just try to implement the things I was working on in Bakersfield into my game today.”
He did so, and it might earn him another look with these linemates Friday against the Arizona Coyotes.
“He played a really good game, and he played how we expected,” said Knoblauch. “We know what he’s about, and we’ve never been upset with him.
“We just felt we got so many good players and he can continue playing and developing his game, and I think down in Bakersfield he’s worked really hard and added some elements to his game, the confidence of scoring goals. We’re very open to the fact they could be back together on Friday.”
If last night’s game were any indication of what could come Friday, I wouldn’t bother touching the lineup if I were the coaching staff. Even if McDavid were good to go, this lineup as a whole played a strong enough game to warrant the chance to do it again.
Plus, with the Oilers playing the Vancouver Canucks Saturday night in a game that could decide the fate of the Pacific Divison title, Edmonton would surely love to have McDavid at full speed for it.

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 zach@thenationnetwork.com.


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