LOS ANGELES – There’s a saying that’s been said inside hockey rinks through the ages. Something about how your best players have to be your best players if you’re going to win games like the one the Edmonton Oilers won Thursday night in Los Angeles.
They’re not a perfect team, by any means, these oilers. We’re not even sure they’re a second-round team, just yet.
But when your best players are of the caliber of Conor McDavid, Leon Drystle and now Evander Kane, well, when those guys give you everything they have at the same time, losing simply isn’t an option.
McDavid grabbed his team of nameplates Thursday night and took them on the back on a three-point night. Draisaitl barely missed a change despite an ankle injury that left him in one leg, yet he managed to set up the winner with 5:10 to play in the 2-2 match.
And Ken? bfft.
All he did was return the goal 2-0, score another conceded goal, and score again – the empty net that won 4-2 in Game 6, where Edmonton lives to play again on what must have been amazing. Saturday night at The Big E.
“It’s going to be very interesting,” said Kane, who threw a seven-fingered salute to the Crypto.com Arena audience in celebration of the pending Game 7, not to mention the seventh in the series. “That would be exciting!”
Only Wayne Gretzky and Marc Messier (eight each) scored more than ever in the first six games of a playoff series in Oilers history, but despite Kane’s production, the Oilers sat down – a 2-2 draw after Los Angeles scored just 29 seconds in the final frame.
How was Jay Woodcroft’s seat at that moment, their progress and their season at stake?
“Calm, author,” said Woodcroft. “We knew we had the horses on the bench to get the job done.”
The main horse, as always, was McDavid. The fastest Clydesdale I’ve ever seen, he scored an ice-breaking goal of just 1:40 a game, and added a pair of assists.
Look, McDavid has done a lot of crazy things in the National Hockey League circuit in his career, and he probably got us out of the seats once or two another night. But given the context of the win-or-go-home game, the weight of the organization that lost so much and were poised for another surprise loss in the first round, and the fact that the Darnell Nurse was suspended and Draisaitl was at about 50 percent for two terms, this was probably the best performance of McDavid’s career. .
He was like Messier, frankly, flipping between boards and turning after shifts and leading the game, changing momentum, and simply dragging his teammates into battle.
“You can see his fight level. He’s in every fight, above every check,” exclaimed Tyson Barry, the trailer who got a Draisaitl pass and fired it away from Jonathan Quick for the win. “He does everything right, and you can tell how much he likes it.
“We are so lucky to have him by our side. We have to get another one for him here.”
Woodcroft echoed his play… “He was a leader in us doing what we had to do in the early part of the first period.”
His team sank into a frenzy of bad starts, and Woodcroft turned McDavid for five bouts in the first 8:29 of the game, ensuring that the Oilers got this off on their toes, and the Kings in their wake. McDavid played as a possessed man, and his 24:02 icy time was the highest of either team – including the defensive men.
The biggest difference is that, today, he uses his video game foot speed not only to attack but to defend as well, engaging physically every inch of the way. He’s 25, and that’s the height of Conor McDavid, you guys.
We’ve seen a lot of leaders lead a lot of teams over the 35 years in this league, from Gretzky to Nick Lidstrom, Jonathan Toews, Joe Sakic, Henrik Seiden and the great Patrice Bergeron. This is what they all looked like.
Hockey can only be so lucky to see what McDavid will do in the Stanley Cup Final one day, or the gold medal match at the Olympics.
Then there was Draisaitl, who bent his ankle when Mikey Anderson appeared to butcher him with a foot late in the first period. Draisaitl could barely push the rest of the game, but he gave his team 18:25 of his best, and saved his best work to help out Barrie’s goal.
“I mean, that’s what he does. He’s a talented guy and one of the best passers-by I’ve ever seen,” Barry said.
“He’s a warrior,” Woodcroft said. “I don’t worry about him. He ended up making play on the winning goal.”
Woodcroft will get a nurse back for Game 7, but may be worried about what the doctor says when he looks at Draisaitl’s ankle on Friday morning. This 7 game is not going to be a place for wheelchairs, even when they are out of Drattle.
So, it’s up to Edmonton for another game, Saturday Night’s back-end game of 7 triathlon that has to be epic.
It’s fair to ask if these mods can excel in their work in Game 6.
But who said the playoffs in the National Hockey League are fair?