It was time to mix things up.
The Edmonton Oilers came into Dallas on Wednesday night having lost three games in a row. The McDrai duo wasn’t dominating and the other three lines looked largely anemic so Jay Woodcroft pulled out a strategy that we haven’t seen often this season.
Connor McDavid centered a line with Zach Hyman and Jesse Puljujarvi, Leon Draisaitl moved down to play with Klim Kostin and Mattias Janmark, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins played with Warren Foegele and Kailer Yamamoto on his wings.
The result? Edmonton exploded for six goals against the Stars and 11 different players got in on the action with at least one point.
“As much as people want us to play towards a script, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way,” Woodcroft said. “What I liked was, when the other team did something, we found a way to score a goal. We responded.”
During their losing skid, the Oilers looked like they were standing around and waiting for McDavid and Draisaitl to make some magic happen. In the win against Dallas, the lines were rolling and everybody was involved. RNH’s line scored twice, the McDavid and Draisaitl lines scored once each, and the rookie line with Dylan Holloway and James Hamblin didn’t score but they outshot their opposition.
You can stack up your two Hart Trophy winners late in the game when you badly need a goal, but splitting your best players up to create the deepest lineup possible is the best way to avoid being in that situation in the first place.
THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY
- The biggest benefactor when the Oilers split up their top three pivots is Nugent-Hopkins. The Stars put their focus on shutting down McDavid and Draisaitl so the Nugent-Hopkins line was hardly ever on the ice against Miro Heiskanen and Esa Lindell, Dallas’ top defenders. The third trio capitalized and led the way with three of Edmonton’s six goals, all at even strength.
- Through 34 games this season, Nugent-Hopkins now has 18 goals and 41 points. He’s already well beyond the 11 goals he scored last season and he’s only nine point shy of matching the 50 points he recorded in 2021-22. There’s a lot of time for RNH to shatter his career-highs of 28 goals and 69 points set back in 2018-19.
- Speaking of career-highs, Connor McDavid has 29 goals on the season and we haven’t even reached the halfway point. Last season, McDavid had 17 goals through 29 games at the Christmas break. Reaching the 50-goal plateau for the first time appears inevitable barring injury, and the 60-goal mark really isn’t out of the question at all. It seems McDavid really wants to add a Rocket Richard Trophy to his collection.
- The scoring outburst was the big story in Edmonton’s win over Dallas but another thing that deserves some attention is how they closed the door. The Stars only managed 11 shot attempts and two high-danger chances in the third period.
- Edmonton’s final game before the Christmas break will come against the Vancouver Canucks, who have dropped back-to-back games by scores of 5-1 to the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues. The Canucks will play the Kraken on Thursday night in Seattle and then they’ll travel to Edmonton for their game with the Oilers on Friday.