Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl scored goals in an elimination game on Saturday night, as you expect superstars to do in big moments. And yet, it’s not even their goals that were talked about. It was evident throughout the first round that the Edmonton Oilers no longer fit the one- or two-man team narrative they’ve been painted with for the last few seasons. McDavid even said as much in his post-game presser after Game 6. Kailer Yamamoto couldn’t have picked a better time to toss that monkey off his back and score his first of these Playoffs. He went from being invisible for most of the L.A. series to ending L.A.’s Playoffs, as well as making up for Stuart Skinner’s third period blunder that we can all have an innocent laugh about now. Klim Kostin came up huge again with his pair of goals, and the rest of the bottom six did their jobs. The third and fourth lines will also get another boost with Mattias Janmark coming back from his injury in Round 1.
The defense wasn’t perfect, but Brett Kulak was playing some of his best hockey against the Kings. Evan Bouchard continues to blossom as a promising young defenseman with 10 points through Round 1 to lead all defensemen in the Playoffs. Jack Campbell’s nightmare regular season doesn’t matter anymore after his Game 4 heroics. Evander Kane and Zach Hyman picked it up as the series went on. We still have not truly seen Playoff McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins still needs to put some pucks in the net, but that’s okay. Because the depth of the Oilers is finally contributing to the overall team’s success, it’s what Oilers fans have been screaming for throughout the entirety of the McDavid era. It will have to continue that way if we want to see more Playoff hockey beyond the second round again. The Game 7s we watched on Sunday night are just another reminder that postseason hockey is 100% unpredictable. However much a team does prior to the months of April, May, and June becomes irrelevant. The EDM vs. LA rematch was fun, but the job is still far from done. So let’s keep it going against the Pacific Division leaders, the Vegas Golden Knights. The keys to Round 2 are…
Walking On Two Drai Legs
I touched on this a little bit in Round 1 Game previews, but Draisaitl played through Rounds 2 and 3 of last year’s Playoffs with a high ankle sprain and was still second in Playoff scoring. I’d say he was Edmonton’s MVP against L.A., and a healthier Leon will be more exciting to watch for the remainder of the Oilers postseason. Even if you manage to contain 97, containing 29 becomes another chore altogether.
For the second year in a row, the Oilers dealt with the defensive prowess of Anze Kopitar and Philip Danault down the middle for the Kings. For my money, Mark Stone is the best two-way winger in the NHL. You want to talk about limiting giveaways? Stone has 762 takeaways in his regular season career and 92 in the Playoffs. A team that likes to play with speed and skill will have to attack with caution when he’s on the ice for Vegas.
A Familiar Face In Net?
With Logan Thompson being sidelined with an injury, former Oilers goalie Laurent Brossoit played solid hockey between the pipes in the first round with a .915 SV% and 2.42 GAA. Current Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner played well enough to clinch his first Playoff series win but had some rough moments compared to Joonas Korpisalo before Edmonton found the latter’s weak spots. Even if Thompson is close to coming back, or unless they wanna give Stanley Cup veteran Jonathan Quick a try, you’d have to think the Golden Knights will keep riding the hot hand instead. In all of the games he’s started this season, Game 1 against the Jets was his only regulation loss. The Oilers haven’t lost a game in regulation since March 11th. Will we possibly see more OT games in this series as opposed to Round 1?
The Return Of McEichel
When Jack Eichel was still with the Sabres, you couldn’t really label his draft connection with McDavid a rivalry because they weren’t in the same conference. Eight seasons since the 2015 NHL Draft, the first and second overall picks are in the same division and are now facing each other in a Playoff series. Both of them will give the professional answers and say, “It’s a team game” (of course it is). But you know that deep down, Eichel has been craving a moment like this. Now looking more like the All-Star and “consolation prize of consolation prizes” that he was expected to be, he still hates being the guy drafted after a generational superstar and will relish every point he can put up against Connor’s team. With McDavid not completely showing his Playoff form yet, he’s bound to explode in this matchup.