With the lottery just two days away from the draft, the Oilers-Golden Knights series reminds us how far from trivial the 2015 lottery result was.
Brother Mathias Brunet spoke on Friday of the sad look of the general manager of the Buffalo Sabers at the time, Tim Murray, after he lost the draw that would have allowed him to draft Connor McDavid. The same long faces that could be seen on the Golden Knights bench Saturday night in Vegas during Game 2 of the series, a 5-1 victory by the Oilers. The series is tied 1-1.
Without appeal because it was 4-0 after 20 minutes, thanks in particular to you-know-who and his brother in arms who endorses the number 29, a certain Leon Draisaitl.
McDavid again recalled, during this game, how he plays in his own league. His line set the tone from the first minute by orchestrating an offensive push that led to the game’s first penalty. The Oilers took advantage of their outnumbering to score, because their power play results since the start of the playoffs are as predictable as the llamas Tintin meets in The Temple of the Sun.
When it was the Edmontonians’ turn to play rough, it was McDavid himself who took charge, dropping the puck to Shea Theodore on the blue line to break away and touch the target.
Meanwhile, Jack Eichel, justly the “consolation prize” of the 2015 lottery, was well obliterated in the first half, while this game was still within reach for Vegas. It must be said that the Knights’ three penalties in the first period forced him to watch a good part of the period from the bench. But in the second period, he himself was chased twice.
Eichel remains an excellent player, perfectly adequate for a second overall pick. Only, he is not exceptional like the 97 of the Oilers, and some nights, it shows more than others.
Since it’s about the lottery, McDavid’s performances should also be a reminder that these once-in-10-year standout talents can also take time to develop. The Ontarian revealed himself as a great playoff player last year, seven years after his draft. He is showing this spring that his 2022 series are his new standard.
Has there ever been another under-reported 83-point scorer than Zach Hyman this season? Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also amassed his 104 points in the shadow of the two titans. In depth players, Klim Kostin looks like a real ball of enthusiasm for his teammates, who he lifted by blocking shots late in the game. Veteran Derek Ryan also does a lot to energize his people.
In defense, Evan Bouchard will be the revelation of the 2023 playoffs if the Oilers stay up late. The more we see him play, the more we understand why he had his place in the top 10 of the 2018 draft. Mattias Ekholm shows why he was so coveted at the trade deadline.
This series now moves to Edmonton, and it will be interesting to watch the Golden Knights’ goalie situation. We can indeed wonder if they have not finished living their Laurent Brossoit moment.
It’s obviously not his fault that his teammates were beleaguered for the first 20 minutes. But against the NHL’s best offense of the season, technical fouls like the one on McDavid’s second goal are hard to forgive.
The other options aren’t sexy, though. Adin Hill, who came on as third-period relief, was seeing playoff action for the first time in his career. And Jonathan Quick, in the stands, is no longer exactly the goalkeeper of old.
Having a problem is one thing, not having a solution is another. Vegas will have to help its keepers collectively, as it doesn’t seem to be hiding there from 2019 vintage Jordan Binnington.
The winger finished the game with three assists, but he could very well have scored three times, so many quality shots did he get.
We understand that he likes to play the agitator, but is it really necessary to do so when the other team does not show up? His punches to Keegan Kolesar’s ribs weren’t fancy either.
Leon Draisaitl scored his 12th and 13th goals of the playoffs. We recall that the best counters of the 2022 series, Nathan MacKinnon and Evander Kane, had finished the tournament with… 13 goals.