@Leon Draisaitl is not himself right now. The injury he’s playing through is clearly hindering his ability to contribute at the level he was during the regular season and while you can’t argue with the fact he’s still making a positive impact on the game, the Oilers need some other players in their lineup to start playing better in order to make up the difference. One player in particular who should be feeling the pressure to bring their game to another level is @Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Tonight will be Nugent-Hopkins 30th career playoff game and the Oilers will need it to be miles better than his 29th career postseason game. His inability to control the puck in his own end early in Game 1 more or less directly led to the Flame’s second goal of the game and he was just a few strides away from @Blake Coleman on the Flame’s fourth goal. For a player who’s paid to be reliable in his own end, he was in frame for two important goals in that hockey game.
Not only do they need Nugent-Hopkins to be solid in the defensive zone, but they’ll also need him to start producing offence as well. The Oilers will not be able to win this series on the back of Connor McDavid alone, they’ll need secondary sources of offence. Leon Draisaitl is not going to be able to drive his own line so someone else will need to carry the load when McDavid isn’t on the ice. That player needs to be Nugent-Hopkins.
Now, this certainly isn’t all on the player. Jay Woodcroft needs to change how he’s using #93.
The trio of @Josh Archibald, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and @Derek Ryan should never see the ice together again. They’re continually getting caved at 5v5 and I don’t think it will magically get better.
According to Natural Stattrick, the trio has played 41 minutes together at 5v5 during the playoffs and while the score is 1-1 when they’re on the ice, the shots are 21-13 for the opposition and the scoring chances are 29-9.
In short: they’re lucky that they haven’t been outscored by a lot.
When Nugent-Hopkins has been on the ice WITHOUT those two wingers, the Oilers have outscored the other team 2-0, outshot them 29-11, and the scoring chances are 21-15. Nugent-Hopkins can help the Oilers make a positive impact, he just needs to be surrounded with skill, not with fourth-line grinders.
So who should Nuge play with? While some say @Jesse Puljujarvi would be a good choice, I’m not sold. The numbers are good, but Puljujarvi doesn’t look like himself and has been whiffing on pretty much every chance he’s been getting in the offensive zone. I wouldn’t be against putting him with Nugent-Hopkins, but I’m not sure if it’s the best move.
Instead, I would look to load up a second line with @Evander Kane and @Zach Hyman playing next to Nugent-Hopkins. That trio has only seen about six minutes of 5v5 ice time together in the playoffs but they’ve managed to outshoot the opposition 11-1 in that span and they have a goal.
Furthermore, Nugent-Hopkins’ numbers with just one of those two players on the ice are solid.
Nugent-Hopkins & Hyman
Nugent-Hopkins & Kane
Kane & Hyman