McDavid takes over again as Oilers continue to own Hellebuyck, Jets

Connor McDavid had a hat trick by the end of the second period as the Edmonton Oilers went on to beat the Winnipeg Jets 6-1.

EDMONTON — It’s official: The Edmonton Oilers own Connor Hellebuyck and the Winnipeg Jets.

Their playoff paths have been converging for weeks now, and with a Round 1 series in mind, the Oilers flew to Winnipeg for the last two meetings of the regular season with a singular intention.

“You want to leave a mark,” said Leon Draisaitl.

A mark?

How about a crater? How about a roundhouse kick right in the confidence?

The Oilers had the Jets tapping out Monday, building up a 5-0 win en route to a 6-1 whitewash, their fifth straight dismantling of the men from Manitoba.

They’ll have one more meeting before their nearly-set-in-stone playoff series begins. But at this point, does it really matter what happens Wednesday night in Winnipeg?

“It’s good for our confidence, but the playoffs are a different animal,” said Connor McDavid, when asked about his team’s mastery of the Jets. “Our team just seems to play well against them. They have some of the best forwards around the league, and their goaltender is coming off of a Vezina season.

“Every time, we seem to play them hard.”

Oh yes, the Vezina goalie.

When you look at that position heading into a playoff matchup, 10 out of 10 prognosticators would give the edge to Winnipeg. The Jets have a 27-year-old Vezina winner in his prime, while Edmonton counters with a 39-year-old journeyman on a series of one-year deals with his fifth NHL team.

The problem is: Every time they face each other, Mike Smith is better. And in the last two meetings — 3-0 and 6-1 Oilers wins — it hasn’t been close.

In games where they both start, Smith is 4-0 against this season against Hellebuyck, whose numbers against the Oilers in 2020-21 are ghastly: a goals-against average of 4.29, a saves percentage of .870 and a 2-4 record.

But this is perhaps more alarming if you are Jets head coach Paul Maurice: Hellebuyck’s lifetime numbers against Edmonton are also brutal, with a 3.43 GAA, .891 saves percentage and a 9-9-1 record.

Hellebuyck did not give his team more than one or two big saves Monday, very early on, and found himself on the bench for the third period after McDavid torched him for three goals and four points before the second period was done. A couple of one-timers from Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse also left Hellebuyck little chance, and he waved at them both.

As he has on so many nights throughout his march toward the improbable goal of 100 points in a 56-game season, McDavid simply took over this game,

“There are a handful of players over the history of the game who are able to do that. Certainly Connor is in that group,” head coach Dave Tippett said. “His game… I’ve been around a long time, and there are very few people who can dominate a game like he can. And he does it in a lot of different aspects of the game.

“His speed is unbelievable, but his hands and his thinking are at another level also. He’s a driver on our team. Draisaitl is a big part of that also, but Connor, this year, has been just superb.”

In a game where Edmonton debuted two new players — trade deadline pick-up Dmitry Kulikov and call-up Ryan McLeod — we also saw the Jets struggle with McDavid and Draisaitl (goal and an assist) on separate lines. The way Jesse Puljujarvi is playing, McDavid has enough help on his line to unite Draisaitl with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto, a pretty decent trio.

If McLeod can become the third-line centre here, after winning three of his five faceoffs and playing 14:16 in his NHL debut, Edmonton might have something.

As it stands, the Oilers have been the best team in the North going back to Jan. 30, at 25-10-2. They may not end up in first place, but the playoffs are all about which team is playing its best hockey when the puck drops.

“We’ve got lots of confidence,” McDavid said. “We’ve played all types of games. Our series against Montreal was hard-nosed, hard-hitting hockey. Tonight we showed a bit of a different game. We’re confident moving forward.”

And the Jets? They’ve now lost four straight and five of seven.

If they want any hope of home-ice advantage in Round 1 they need to win Wednesday. Even then, the stats are ugly.

McDavid (19 points in eight games versus Winnipeg) and Draisaitl (11) do pretty much whatever they want against the Jets. So has Nurse, whose nine points are more than any Winnipeg player — forward or defenceman — has against Edmonton this year.

The Jets were without Adam Lowry and Nikolai Ehlers, but the matchup against McDavid’s line hasn’t worked well for Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, minus-12 and minus-14 respectively against Edmonton this season.

“Tonight it blew up on us,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice.

Not to be forgotten was Draisaitl surpassing Marco Sturm to become the highest-scoring German national ever to play in the NHL. This, at the ripe old age of 25.

“Originally, I just wanted to play in Germany. That was my first goal,” said Draisaitl, who has 488 points in 468 NHL games. “It means a lot to me to be at the top of that list.

“It’s a big honour.”

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