• Oscar Klefbom’s unforeseen upside
• Connor McDavid passes too much… maybe?
• Oilers depth on D coming through
A 4-3 win in Florida, and the Edmonton Oilers have opened their toughest remaining road trip this season with a 2-1 record.
Score four on the road? Allow three and win in Florida?
They’ll take any points they can at the moment, as Edmonton moves to within three points of San Jose for the Pacific Division lead, keeping the wild-card wolves a distant 12 points away.
We watched this one on television, and here are some takeaways from a fun night out of Florida.
To be a good team, do you need at least a reasonable facsimile of No. 1 defenceman?
The Oilers, one could argue, don’t have a legit top-pairing defenceman in their lineup, though we’d allow that Adam Larsson (who didn’t play Wednesday with a lower-body injury) could be called a No. 2. And it should be noted, they got two goals from defencemen (Oscar Klefbom, then Kris Russell with the game-winner) in Sunrise Wednesday.
What Edmonton has missed forever is an alpha dog back there. A guy who has a bomb from the point and can quarterback a power play. But suddenly, Klefbom is tied for third among National Hockey League defencemen with 11 goals.
Klefbom possesses the kind of shot that can beat a goalie from a distance, or power through an attempted block and still have enough steam to find the back of the net, which is what happened on his first period goal Wednesday.
And this was only his 168th career game, so how can we really say what the 23-year-old Swede’s top end might be, until he’s played at least 100 more games?
He’s averaging nearly 25 minutes of ice time over the past six Oilers games, and it might be time to rethink how good this player could one day be.
The last time the Oilers had this kind of production from a defenceman?
Sheldon Souray had 23 goals in 2008-09, while Justin Schultz had 11 goals in 74 games in ’13-14.
Does McDavid pass too much?
Hey, you’ll have to go somewhere else if you’re looking for somebody to give out advice to Connor McDavid on how to play hockey. We can tell you his coach Todd McLellan sometimes thinks the same way — both that his captain could shoot more often, and that he’s not going to be the guy who tells McDavid what to do.
Sorry folks — if you don’t like the way McDavid plays the game, you tell him.
Speaking of McLellan, can the Oilers coach find a way NOT to play McDavid on a line with Leon Draisaitl and Pat Maroon?
Back together again, that trio was by far Edmonton’s best line Wednesday — exactly as they had been before McLellan split them up to get more offence. The biggest threat to that line, as Doug MacLean said between periods on Sportsnet, is a lack of production from Edmonton’s second line of Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Milan Lucic. They scored one Wednesday, but if the $18-million unit would crank it up a shade, breaking up the top line wouldn’t even be a conversation.
Injuries pile up on blue line
Larsson missed the Florida game with an injury, and Andrej Sekera left the game after being drilled with a point shot. It didn’t look great for Sekera. The good news is, Russell returned from injury on Tuesday, and Darnell Nurse is ready to play perhaps as soon as Friday in Washington after three months away with an ankle injury.
When’s the last time Edmonton had enough depth on defence to survive this many injuries, and still collect some points along the way? The answer: Our computer doesn’t go back that far.
Oilers, Panthers make for exciting hockey
We can’t quit typing without mentioning what a pleasure it was to watch the McDavid line own the puck while they were on the ice, then Aleksander Barkov’s line — with Jonathan Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr — be every bit as awesome when it was their turn for Florida.
It had the scent of a Stanley Cup matchup some many days down the road. And who knows?
Jagr might even still be around to enjoy it.