It was not the most promising of starts. Already aware of Andrej Sekera’s absence from the defense, Oilers fans found out shortly before game time that Oscar Klefbom would also be unavailable to play in the game. Griffin Reinhart and Eric Gryba drew into the lineup, Reinhart to play his first NHL game (regular or playoff) all year. Pour me a whisky and keep them coming!
What came after the anthems could best be described as shock and awe. Holy Leon Draisaitl! I have written chapter and verse all year questioning Leon’s ability to push the river, wondering if he can do it. Excuse me while I delete 1,000 posts! What a memorable performance! In a series that can best be described as careening toward ecstasy and agony, last night was pure soup for the soul. The Oilers have chosen Orange Crush! as their rallying cry this spring, I think Holy Crap! might be more accurate.
THE STORY, LAST NIGHT
- First 20: 5-0 EDM, 16-8 EDM shots, 21-13 EDM CF5x5
- Second 20: 2-1 EDM, 13-10 ANA shots, 21- 19 ANA CF5x5.
- Final 20: 0-0 tie, 14-9 ANA shots, 24-13 ANA CF 5×5.
- Overall: 7-1 EDM, 35-35 tie in shots, 58-47 ANA CF5x5.
The first period put it all to rest, there are miles of score effects contained from the second period through end of game. I wonder if those older Ducks couldn’t get their legs moving in that first period. Absolutely dominant 20 minutes by Edmonton. Never saw it coming.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Nurse-Larsson went 20-17 in 16:19, the pairing looked good to my eye. Larsson passed the puck well and was solid in coverage. Nurse was effective, mobile and showed an ability to break off sorties for safety first. Pairing went 12-18 against Rakell-Getzlaf-Perry.
- Reinhart-Gryba went 14-17 in 11:27 together, the duo was very physical and Anaheim paid a price. Gryba accidentally elbowed Cogliano and made a mess, while Reinhart irritated the hell out of Josh Manson and that counts double. Went 8-14 against Ritchie-Vermette-Wagner.
- Russell-Benning went 12-20 in 14:15, I was impressed by them despite the Corsi’s (remember we are talking bunches and bunches of score effects). Went 7-6 against Cogliano-Kesler-Silfverberg, that’s no easy task. I like Russell more on LH side, and Benning’s passing and mobility showed in a big way.
- Kris Russell was signed after the Oilers established Griffin Reinhart wasn’t ready. Since his arrival, Russell has been able to do what he did last night: Fill a vital role on a team that has been one (or two or three) defensemen short for a decade. His performance last night was reflective of his season with the team. I don’t think the Oilers have the money to sign him, but they may be willing to make room.
- Cam Talbot stopped 32 of 33 shots, .970.
- Numbers via NaturalStatTrick, NHL.com and HockeyStats.ca.
- McDavid played less than 10 minutes at evens, that isn’t going to happen a lot during his career. I thought he could have had several points, just one of those nights.
- Maroon had fast boots and made a fabulous pass on the Slepyshev goal. The big man has been inconsistent during the postseason but you can see his value.
- Drake Caggiula rang the puck off the post and then had a sure goal when a McDavid pass jumped over his stick at the point of impact.
- Line went 11-6 against the Kesler line and 5-8 against Hampus Lindholm.
- Leon Draisaitl can push the river! I’ve written many articles over the winter wondering about it, but man he was splendid last night. The sky rained hats after his third goal, it looked like the Teddy Bear toss. Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan don’t need me to tell them Leon is a center, but Leon is a center!!! It has been written!
- Milan Lucic had jump last night too, and was effective in the offensive zone. He also brought a physical element to the game and made life miserable for the opposition. Effective.
- Anton Slepyshev has been chipping in goals this spring and at this point is probably a lock for the fall roster.
- Line went 9-20 against the Getzlaf line, much of that total coming long after the game had been decided.
- The misfits can’t buy a thrill but man they are storming the wall these days. I liked their effort if not the results.
- Nuge was skating well and checking like a demon, plus he had some looks (mostly on the power play).
- Pouliot had another strong game, and he had another 10-bell chance (one a game now) in what is now the longest scoring slump of his career (basically all season long).
- Eberle played well, lots of comments on his inability to play a physical game but if you don’t know him by now, you’ll never ever ever ever know him. He was fine.
- Mark Letestu is a steamroller baby, he’s gonna roll all over you. Shocking number of shot attempts and insane production from you No. 8 hitter.
- David Desharnais took on giants without fear and played a lot in garbage time. I like him a lot, although I know he won’t stay.
- Zack Kassian scored a ridiculous goal to send Gibson to the showers early. He then poked and prodded the Ducks with those mammoth Elvis sideburns. Kassian is going to look the villain anywhere he goes (even church. Seriously) and seems to have upped his agitating verbal for the postseason.
The womenfolk at my house got the vapors something fierce just before game time, lighting candles and kicking up a helluva storm worrying about Oscar. I’m trying not to take this personally, but holy lord no one worries about me like that when I’m down for the count. Any road, Todd McLellan says he’ll be ready in California.
Todd McLellan is having an excellent playoffs to my eye, and last night may have been his best performance. We all know how things turned out now, but let’s get real here. McLellan went to war with Darnell Nurse on the top pair, a rookie playing alongside Kris Russell on second pair, and Griffin Reinhart with Eric Gryba third pair. He made it work, partly (I think) but simplifying the game. I saw Nurse, Larsson, Russell, hell the whole damned bunch of them, pinch off driving into the offensive zone for safety purposes. I expect that was orders from headquarters and it improved Darnell’s game markedly to my eye. It helps to have a rocking chair blue like Larsson (rocking chair blue make everything look so easy, pucks moving out as they come in, like a rhythm or a dance). McLellan doesn’t get a lot of credit on this blog because that isn’t the focus (we spend more time on the general managing), but McLellan is pushing the right buttons and pulling the correct levers this spring.
It was a good night for Peter Chiarelli, although fans and observers did point out that Brandon Davidson may have come in handy last night. As it was, Griffin Reinhart stepped in and played well, as did Eric Gryba.
The job of general manager in Edmonton is somewhat unique in that there are perhaps one million fans thinking along with you. And not just any fans, people who are knowledgeable and spend countless hours (don’t we have jobs?) examining cap and farm teams and drafting record. We’re a blessing and a curse, pretty sure.
Peter Chiarelli, as a general manager, has the balls of a pirate. That’s good, because the Cam Talbot trade looks like pure thievery. Patrick Maroon, Zack Kassian, the Kris Russell signing too have helped this team.
However, fans remember the Reinhart trade and the Larsson trade and the trade deadline when he did not load up.
Peter Chiarelli had a great night last night. At 10 to 5, when we found out Klefbom was down, the fact Larsson was on the roster counted for a lot. Griffin Reinhart drew in from Laredo (in game No. 94 on the season, if you are playing your first game, the organization wanted to send a message) and performed well. Chiarelli’s free-agent signings (Mark Letestu, Andrej Sekera, Milan Lucic, Kris Russell, Matt Benning, Drake Caggiula) have had an impact on this season and spring.
It was a very good night for Peter Chiarelli.
Leon Draisaitl can push the river. Full stop. I began the season’s coverage last summer with the idea he would miss Taylor Hall enough to lose some of his 2015-16 offense. In the RE series, I wrote:
- I think this could be a challenging year for Draisaitl, depending on where he lands. His last three seasons are marked by wild swings in performance and deployment, so the margin for error is vast. Source
I also suggested in that article that Peter Chiarelli may have been better off trading Leon (and Darnell Nurse) and keeping Taylor Hall. Even this spring, when I did the RE postseason, there was some hesitancy on my part with regard to Leon leading a successful scoring line:
- Beginning this fall, Leon will probably make more than Hall does now. I agree having him under control for McDavid’s second contract is wise, but remain uncertain if Draisaitl can push the river. Edmonton is going to pay full price before knowing if the big man can drive a line all by his lonesome. Source
My Dad always taught me that when you are wrong, you have to man up. Leon Draisaitl can drive a line, he can push the river clear to the ocean. Beginning now and through the 12 months, Leon Draisaitl should be given a full year at center with his own line. He was an impact center last night, away from McDavid. In watching that game, it was abundantly clear the Anaheim Ducks were in absolute peril. It was thrilling to watch an enemy NHL coach with furrowed brow. Randy Carlyle looked down the bench and had no answer. Music! Some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard. Shut down Connor McDavid, Leon steamrolls you. Shutdown Leon, your ass is grass.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Scott Burnside. The Oilers push the Ducks to G7, Nashville is through and we are about to find out in the Eastern Conference.
- Chris O’Leary, CFL.ca. The CFL draft offered many surprises.
- Jason Gregor, TSN1260. Can the Oilers win on Wednesday?
- Sunil Agnihotri, Copper & Blue/The SuperFan. Leon as a fulltime center makes for interesting discussion.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!