Ryan S. ClarkNHL reporter5 minute read
LAS VEGAS — Leon Draisaitl’s two goals on Saturday did more than just help pace the Edmonton Oilers’ 5-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals .
Draisaitl’s performance was a big reason the Oilers left the wilderness with a tied streak — and momentum — going into Game 3 Monday at Rogers Place in Edmonton. Those two goals are also responsible for starting a conversation about how the Oilers superstar center could be in a position to own one of the most historic individual playoff efforts in NHL history.
The conversation in question? Could Draisaitl break the record for most goals in a single post-season? The brand is shared by Reggie Leach and Hall of Fame forward Jari Kurri.
Leach scored 19 goals in 16 games for the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1975-76 playoffs, while Kurri tied the record with 19 goals in 18 games for the Oilers in the 1984-85 playoffs.
As for Draisaitl, the 2020 Hart Memorial Trophy winner already has 13 goals in eight games.
“You just prepared for the next one,” Draisaitl said when asked about the record. “I think it’s a cliché and everyone will say it, but that’s how it is. That’s how we work. That’s how every player in this league works. You do your part and try to do it as well as you can every night. You move on and get ready for Game 3.”
Draisaitl’s run began when he scored seven goals in a six-game first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings. He followed that up by scoring all four goals for the Oilers in a 6-4 loss to the Golden Knights in Game 1 on Wednesday.
The way he scored twice on Saturday was a representation of the Oilers’ strategy to even the series. It was also a contrast to what happened in Game 1, in which the Golden Knights used an aggressive forecheck to limit scoring chances in part by taking up time and space.
Edmonton was immediately aggressive in the first period with what would be its first of six power-play chances, which Draisaitl converted for a 1-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. Less than five minutes later, defenseman Evan Bouchard scored another power play goal to double the lead.
Vegas was on the power play when Oilers superstar Connor McDavid created a turnover, grabbed possession and held off a defender with one arm before using the other to push the puck past Golden Knights goaltender Laurent Brossoit for a shorthanded goal and a 3-0 lead.
Draisaitl cemented the Oilers’ first period with another goal with less than four minutes left in the first for a 4-0 lead.
“At this point, nothing surprises me about what he’s doing,” Bouchard said of Draisaitl’s two-goal game. “He had two more tonight. What’s that? 13, right? In eight games, that’s something that doesn’t happen very often.”
What the Oilers did in the first period is another reminder of what they did in the regular season and the first round of the playoffs: convert on the power play and, when possible, control possession. They finished the regular season leading the NHL with a 32.4% success rate on the power play while their shot sharing allowed them to possess possession 52.27% of the time in 5-on-5 play, according to Natural Stat Trick.
The Oilers finished the first period with a shooting share of over 69% in addition to converting 50% of their chances to the power play. Coming to the playoffs, the Oilers are now fourth in shot-sharing percentage at 52.35% while their power play continues to leave opponents searching for answers as they lead the league in shot-sharing rate. 56% pass rate.
“They had the puck, they kept it and they were strong,” Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said. “The cuts, you name it. The [offensive] area support over the goal line, all those things. Things we didn’t do well enough to tip the game in our favor. We weren’t hard on the puck. »
A three-time scorer of 50 goals, Draisaitl netted 52 in the regular season to further cement his place among the game’s best players and most dangerous scorers.
Last year he scored seven playoff goals but was still second in the NHL with 32 points in 16 games. These contributions helped the Oilers advance to the Western Conference Finals, where they were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.
What Draisaitl did a year ago has created hope that he could be in line for another big playoff push this year.
He finished Saturday leading the Stanley Cup Playoffs in goals, points, points per game, even-strength goals and power-play goals. His 13 goals also means Draisaitl is now two goals away from matching the number of goals the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets each scored before being eliminated in the first round.
Then there’s that bit of context: Draisaitl is six goals away from scoring more playoff goals than he had in his previous playoffs combined.
“Obviously he’s playing on another level,” McDavid said. “I don’t know why anyone would be surprised at this point because he’s the best player in the world on many nights. He shows that regularly. As he talked about, we’re here for a lot more than just scoring goals and scoring points. That’s not what it’s about at all. That’s not what we’re doing here. It’s just part of the play.”