The Oilers power play got a much-needed breakout performance, while Edmonton downed St. Louis 6-4 Wednesday night. That was the team’s first win against St. Louis at Rexall Place since October 30, 2011. Here are five things to take from the win.
1. POWER PLAY BREAKS OUT
The Oilers needed a night like Wednesday to shake the demons on their power play. Scoreless in five straight and 13 of their last 14 games on the man advantage heading into Wednesday against St. Louis, it was about time some pucks started crossing the red line for the Oil.
“It was really important to us 10 players (on the power-play units),” said Leon Draisaitl. “We wanted to get out of it. Obviously, we know as well as you guys it has been struggling. It’s nice to have a really good game.”
Not only did the Oilers have a good game on the power play, they shredded the number two penalty kill in the league, going 4-for-6.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins potted two on the PP, while Mark Letestu and Draisaitl added a goal each. Their previous four power-play goals were spread out over 46 opportunities and 17 games before Wednesday. The last time Edmonton scored four in a game was January 28, 2013 in a 4-1 win over Colorado.
“We were getting drilled and quizzed about the power play and then we get hot all of a sudden and it goes in the net,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “I thought the power play had an all-time high, as far as urgency went, and it outworked the penalty kill. Simple as that. We weren’t cute, we weren’t fancy, we shot, we got the puck back, we scored on rebounds. Nothing fancy about it.”
2. McDAVID LEADS
Saying Connor McDavid had a good game isn’t out of the norm this season. The Oilers rookie centre continues to not only produce points, but take a leadership role on the team as well.
McDavid’s jump was immediately evident as he had a breakaway less than seven minutes into the first, then followed up with a second solo effort later in the frame. McDavid finished the game tied for the team high in shots with four, and added three takeaways and two assists. He also led all forwards with 21:19 TOI.
“Wow. He was good. No, he was great,” said McLellan. “He was really dominant. He had the puck on a string and that’s not an easy team to play against with the way they defend and their size and their strength. But he was hitting the holes at the right time, he was getting the puck at the right time, his speed was really effective, he stripped pucks, and he got good body position. He was very good tonight. He took the team and he said ‘follow me’ and everybody did.”
McDavid was used by McLellan to exploit matchups with the Blues defencemen as the coach deployed the centre in various situations. McDavid finished the game with 5:43 of power-play time and 1:20 shorthanded. He now has four points in his last four games and has 38 points (14-24-38) in 36 games this season. He’s played over 21 minutes each of the last two games.
3. THE NUGE IS HUGE
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hasn’t been back long, but the Oilers are sure glad he has returned. After missing nearly two months with a hand injury, the forward had his first points since January 18 Wednesday against the Blues. RNH scored twice on four shots, playing 17:19.
Having Nugent-Hopkins back is giving the Oilers some evaluation time, using three elite-offensive centres in their lineup.
“He’s a key player to our team and it’s nice that he can contribute offensively,” said Draisaitl. “He does a lot of little things that a lot of people don’t see. He’s a really valuable guy and it’s nice to have him back.”
4. DYNAMIC DUO
Griffin Reinhart led all Oilers in hits against the Blues, asserting himself more as he gets more comfortable at the NHL level. His play since his most recent recall has caught the eyes of the coaching staff. While Reinhart deserves credit, his linemate has helped as well. Jordan Oesterle continues to draw praise and recognition.
Oesterle played the second-most minutes of any Oilers skater against the Blues (22:52) and chipped in two assists.
“I think Griff has been pretty solid since he’s been back,” said Todd McLellan. “Couple things. One, he knows he’s going to be in the lineup, and that’s important to a player. You feel a little more confident. You look around and you don’t see many defencemen there and you know you’re going to play, and when you know you’re going to play you feel a little more comfortable automatically. Even if you make a mistake you know you’re going to play again. I think that helps Griff. I think he’s played well since he’s been back here. We see him being more aggressive, more assertive, making good outlet passes. I also think he has a real good partner right now. That partner is helping him out a lot. They’re a good pair.”
5. DRAISAITL'S 100TH
It seems like yesterday the Oilers were taking big German centre Leon Draisaitl third overall in the 2014 NHL Draft. A lot has happened to Draisaitl since that day, including 37 NHL games his rookie season, a WHL Championship with Kelowna, a Memorial Cup MVP, an assignment to the American Hockey League out of 2015-16 training camp and a resurgent return to the NHL.
In his sophomore season, Draisaitl has 48 points, including 18 goals. He scored lucky number 18 in his 100th NHL game on Wednesday.
If not for a coach’s challenge ruling a goal offside, Draisaitl would have given Edmonton a 4-2 lead against St. Louis at 14:29 of the second. Fortunately for him, he promptly scored at 15:05 to ensure he wouldn’t be kept off the score sheet in game number 100.