Maybe Leon Draisaitl Should Just Never Leave The Ice
12:16 PM EDT on May 4, 2023
Goals aren't everything when it comes to evaluating a player, but in the postseason, they're the only thing that matters, and nobody has been involved with more than Leon Draisaitl. Per Natural Stat Trick, He's been on the ice for 23 of the 29 goals that Edmonton has scored so far in the playoffs and just 10 of their 26 goals against. At 5-on-5, it's 12 of 17 goals for and six of 15 goals against. Just on a purely individual level, Draisaitl blows away anyone else: He's scored 11 goals in seven games. And Game 1 in Vegas was his most monopolistic yet, a masterpiece of positioning and shooting that almost (almost) singlestickedly carried the Oilers.
Facing the top seed in the West, who looked the least frazzled of all 16 teams in the first round, the Oilers were rewarded an early power play and converted with their most tried and true of strategies. Put Connor McDavid on one side of the attacking zone, and Draisaitl on the other, and a four-man defense just physically will not be able to give them both the attention they demand. Draisaitl one-timed it in off a Connor pass.
And then the Knights took over. Less than a minute later, Ivan Barbashev tied it at 1-1 thanks to an ugly Oiler turnover. Michael Amadio grabbed the lead on a textbook breakout play. And Mark Stone, definitively healthy now, added another first-period blow with a deflection on the power play.
But Draisaitl kept the Oilers from entering the locker room with their heads down. Eleven seconds before the intermission, with the Knights protecting themselves as best they could, Draisaitl flipped in a weird shot that made Laurent Brossoit look like someone dropped a scorpion in his jersey.
The second period passed without incident, but Alex Pietrangelo took a roughing penalty after the horn. Big mistake. Draisaitl picked up his third goal with a power-play tap-in following chaos in front of the net.
But again Barbashev took advantage of the fact that the Oilers sometimes have to send out non-Draisaitl players. He needed just 61 seconds to win back a Knights advantage, and before Edmonton knew what hit 'em, Chandler Stephenson exploited a lackluster line change and the vulnerability of Stuart Skinner to make it 5-3.
Draisaitl didn't get discouraged. With over eleven minutes remaining, the Knights overcommitted on a rush, then got thrown by a change of possession and then turned into scrambled eggs by the Connor/Leon combo. Four goals for Draisaitl!
They weren't enough. The only other goal of the game was Vegas's empty netter, which handed the Oilers yet another Game 1 defeat. Afterward, the man himself wouldn't talk up his personal accomplishment in the wake of collective disappointment, but the other team had no such compunction.
"Leon Draisaitl with his 11th goal of the playoffs. Does that sound funny to you? Eleven goals. We're in the first game of the second round. I mean, it's unbelievable," said Bruce Cassidy, head coach of, yes, the Golden Knights.
It's funny, yes, in the way that seeing a magic trick that warps your perception of reality usually makes you feel a little silly, but it's also a bit tragic that even with a modern day Gretzky and Messier the Oilers still struggle to recreate their glory days. The dynamism of McDavid, and the intelligent consistency of Draisaitl, is such an overpowered Andre 3000/Big Boi pairing that teams almost have to accept that they'll be good for a few goals every game. But because the Oilers haven't yet proven they can get results without those two making plays, the Knights can focus their efforts on creating dead spots where the Oilers don't shoot and seizing those moments when the underwhelming Edmonton defense is twisting in the wind. In the 25:15 of 5-on-5 in Game 1 where both Draisaitl and McDavid were absent, the Knights outshot the Oilers 13 to six and outscored them two-zip. That's the difference between a win and a loss, and until those German engineers figure out how to clone Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers will be eminently beatable.
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