EDMONTON — If the ball is in Edmonton’s court now to have their best players come out and win a game the way San Jose’s leaders did in Game 4, then Drake Caggiula will bear that responsibility ahead of Patrick Maroon. The rookie will be replacing Maroon for Game 5 as Connor McDavid’s left winger.
“You embrace the challenge,” said Caggiula when asked about the move. “It’s a situation you want to be in. You just have to make sure you go out and play your game. You can’t overthink it. I’ve talked to them and they just want me to play my game. I don’t have to do anything special.”
Where Maroon’s size is helpful, especially down low, Caggiula is quicker and has a lethal wrist shot. The North Dakota grad can score from further out than Maroon.
“He’s kind of like a Swiss Army knife,” McDavid said. “He’s played up and down the lineup on the power play, penalty kill… He plays all over the place. He’s a real good skater, very competitive, real good with the puck, someone I like playing with.”
After a breakout 27-goal season, Maroon’s stretch run and post-season have been a disaster. He scored in only one of the team’s final nine regular season games, and has almost as many penalty minutes (eight) as shots (10) in this series. He is pointless thus far.
That lack of production prompted Todd McLellan to make a move heading into this crucial Game 5.
“(A) 7-0 (loss) is probably better than 1-0 because it forced us to look at some things that we’ll do differently,” McLellan said. “Patty’s size, Leon’s size, that’s been a very useful tool throughout the year. But we haven’t gotten to the puck where we can actually use it in their end that much.”
Whoever his linemates are, the consensus here in Edmonton is that we will see McDavid’s most concerted effort of these playoffs so far.
“I see Connor being our captain and being one of the top two or three players in the world. He rises to the occasion often,” said McLellan. “He’s playing in his first playoff series. He’s playing against the same team night in and night out. He’s up against one of the top defensive pairs and individuals in Marc-Edouard Vlasic. And when (Vlasic) is not on the ice, he faces some pretty good, veteran checkers up front. I view him having 19 other players around him that have to help him.”
Lights, Camera, Action
For the record, the Oilers did not respond to San Jose’s “gamesmanship” at Edmonton’s morning skates. Everything was normal for the Sharks skate at Rogers Place, with two nets and the lights turned on well before practice time.
The Sharks were on seven or eight minutes early, and a couple of players joked that the freshly flooded ice was a tad wet, as if it were a ploy.
We’ll see come Game 6 if the Sharks continue their practice of withholding the nets and dimming the lights until the moment Oilers practice is supposed to begin in San Jose. Or if they grow up and conduct themselves in the usual classy manner that organization holds itself to.
Leon (The Pitchfork) Draisaitl
For Leon Draisaitl, it was a momentary loss of character.
After compiling just 20 penalty minutes in 82 games this season — all minors — Draisaitl pitch-forked Chris Tierney in Game 4, receiving a spearing major and a game misconduct. Draisaitl avoided a suspension and got away with a fine from the Department of Player Safety.
"It was a stupid play," said Draisaitl Thursday. “It’s not me. Not how I want to be seen as a player. I think everyone knows I am the last guy who wants to hurt anyone, or play that type of game. I know it was a bad play by me.”
Draisaitl has been an enigma in this series. The NHL’s eighth-highest scorer this season with 77 points he has been a ghost in Round 1 with zero points and one shot on goal.
He looks pale and was coughing during his first press availability of the post-season before Game 5. From this vantage point, he looks like he’s getting over something — which would also explain why he hasn’t even been seen around the dressing room until today.
“Are you hurt?” he was asked.
“Ya, I am fine.”
“Why are you not practicing?”
“My decision. Trying to get some rest.”
The Oilers need more from their second highest scorer. That much everyone would agree on.
Frustration Setting In?
With just one goal to show for in their trip to San Jose, are the Oilers getting frustrated? If they are, said centre Mark Letestu, they’re doing exactly what the San Jose Sharks would like them to do.
“Frustration is a useless emotion,” Letestu was saying Thursday. “There is nothing to gain from frustration. It tends to breed throughout the locker room once it’s personified on the bench, whether it’s slamming water bottles, or sticks, or doors, or yelling, or taking penalties. You have to bite your tongue. Work through it.”
We asked him what has to happen for the Oilers to score some goals. Is it up to their leading scorer to become that again in the playoffs?
“There are other guys on this team who have to score,” said Letestu. “There’s going to be attention paid to Connor for the rest of his career. If we want to be successful, we have to find ways — Leon and Connor included. They can’t ‘accept’ being checked. That comes with experience. They’re only four games into their playoff careers. They’re going to find ways and be effective players for us.”