During the Playoffs, there is no shortage of game action. So, as we wait for a favorite team to emerge in the Conference Finals we’re going to pick one game to highlight each night for stellar game action, electrify goals, or absolute annihilation. Feel free to play along and join us live on Twitter!
While the Edmonton Oilers might be leaning a little ahead of their story arc this season, they certainly didn’t look like they were out of place last night in Anaheim.
Sure the ice was tilted in Anaheim’s favor early as they were outshooting the Oilers and winning faceoffs like it’s their job giving them the better looks early. Okay, It is their job, but I’m burying the lead here. The Ducks are the experienced playoff veterans and they have the defensive depth, and the faceoff specialist (Antoine Vermette) to consistently tilt the ice in their favor as Ryan Kesler does his dirtbag destruction act in an effort to neutralize Connor McDavid. And that may work for a little while. Or, it did.
#DraisaitlDestruction and #LethalLetestu
What they failed to realize is that the Oilers have heart, and more under the radar talent that is willing to gut out wins as needed. It doesn’t have to be McDavid every night because there are other options like Leon Draisaitl who tore it up with his four-point contribution (1 goal, 3 assists). It’s safe to say Draisaitl (who scored 29 goals behind McDavid this season) won’t be flying under anyone’s radar for the rest of these playoffs.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 27, 2017
Mark Letestu also picked up two critical power play goals when it seemed like Vermette was going to set up shop on the faceoff dot and dominate.
Incidentally, Letestu has three goals thus far in the postseason, all of them came on the power play.
Vermette’s prominence on the dot (67 percent on the night with 12-18 total and 3-5 in the defensive zone) could have turned the momentum in the Ducks favor with little effort. But, Letestu who grabbed 11 power play goals (16 total goals) on the season (tied for sixth in the league) deftly turned the tables tying the game as he flipped a John Gibson rebound from McDavid right to the back of the net at the 6:22 mark in the second.
Letestu wasn’t finished as he played a little Groundhog’s Day prank on the Ducks at 6:23 in the third slapping a very similar rebound past Gibson from virtually the same location on the ice (it was a theme on this night: note the time on his first goal in the middle frame). Less than two minutes later, at 8:03 into the third, Adam Larsson netted his first of two. Bang bang to the big, bad Ducks.
Draisaitl, Letestu, and Larsson jumped on any and all scoring opportunities making sure they continuously closed the door every time the Ducks surged.
And surge they did!
The game was still far from over as the Ducks would pull even with goals from Patrick Eaves and Jakob Silfverberg in the middle of the third frame, but Larsson and Draisaitl still had one more goal (each) in the tank. So, while the Ducks attempted to pen their first Western Conference Semifinal victory of 2017 on the back of a strong night at the dot, the Oilers had some revisions that showed up in the only column that matters on the score sheet at the end of the night.
Five of them to the Ducks three.
Duck, Duck, Duck on the Dot, Dot, Dot
Vermette stole 67 percent of his faceoffs as the team held down a 57 percent average through three periods ( a number that steadily declined as the game wore on with 75 percent in the first, 57 percent in the second, and an average showing at 43 percent in the third). This is certainly an area that the Oilers would like to clean up for Game 2, but if they can keep being the opportunistic force on the loose change, the face-offs may not be as much of a storyline after all.
This series should have no shortage of goals and the Ducks will almost certainly make their mark on this series and on the Oilers themselves who will leave this series with an array of colorful bruises no doubt. But, if the Oilers continue to play as they did on night one, there is a good chance they will get the league’s best medicine for aching bones. A spot in the Western Conference Final and a chance to stay alive for the big dance. The one that ends with a Stanley Cup hoisted over someone’s head.
For McDavid and this young Oilers team, they don’t care if they’re ahead of schedule. And that old saying about good things coming to those who wait, ask any hockey player who retired without one about waiting for your turn with the Cup.