Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
6 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers should have been rested, recharged and ready to roll after three days off in Los Angeles when the puck dropped for the first game of their second-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights Wednesday, but no. Not even close.
Instead, the Oilers were so disjointed and disengaged when the national anthems were finished that a four-goal game from Leon Draisaitl wasn’t enough to snap them out of vacation mode or get them a sniff in a 6-4 loss to the Golden Knights. Having dispatched the Kings in six games, the team we saw for the first 40 minutes in this one didn’t look much like that team in another Game 1 loss.
Connor McDavid did his best to push the pace and finished with two assists, but is he right physically? There is some doubt about that. Twice Draisaitl scored goals – to make it 1-0 and 3-3 – only to have the Golden Knights answer within a minute. Defensively, the Oilers were guilty of too many turnovers and lapses in coverage in front of Stuart Skinner, who wasn’t at his best. Vincent Desharnais had a tough night, but he wasn’t alone.
Then, there was the line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Evander Kane and Kailer Yamamoto. The trio didn’t get anything done in support of McDavid and Draisaitl — RNH hasn’t scored a goal through seven playoff games. Too often last night the Oilers simply didn’t match the energy and gusto of the Golden Knights, giving couch coaches lots of material on the call-in shows.
At least nobody woke up with a face tattoo – that we know of.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
WHAT THEY SAY
“I don’t think our team was anywhere near where it needed to be in order to walk away with a road win in the playoffs,” understated coach Jay Woodcroft. “Leon had a great effort. He’s been good all playoffs here, but our team can do things a lot better than we did tonight. That said, we stayed with it the whole game. We had a chance, but certainly, there are some things that we can do to clean up the goals against.”
After last night, Draisaitl has 11 goals and 15 points in these playoffs – he’s scored 29-45-74 in 44 career post-season games to put him at 1.68 PPG. That leaves him second to Wayne Gretzky (1.84 PPG) in career playoff scoring. That’s not a miss-print. The Oilers can’t ask any more from him than what he’s been giving.
“He typically raises his game at this time of the year,” Woodcroft said. “I think he’s one of the highest points-per-game players in the history of the game. His name is right up there with some of the top people in the history of the game. So, am I surprised, or have I seen anything different? No, I just think he raises his game and elevates his game at this time of year.”
For all their shortcomings in this one, including losing the first game of a playoff series for the seventh straight time dating back four post-seasons, this was the Oilers’ first loss in regulation time in their last 22 games. That’s not to give anybody a free pass for what wasn’t a good enough effort, it’s to provide context.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If I’m Woodcroft, it’s a tweak here or there with Draisaitl and McDavid, maybe something to get RNH going. I’d take a look at Desharnais and make a call as to whether he can play at the pace we’re seeing. That’s about it. No need to turn everything upside down. This group has earned a chance to bounce back, and I suspect they will. We’ll see about that Saturday.
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