How Oilers’ McDavid, Draisaitl fare in elimination games

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid talks to the media about his team sticking to their style of game despite the pressure of elimination looming over them.

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were uncharacteristically quiet in the Edmonton Oilers’ loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. Two of the most prolific point producers in NHL post-season history combined for one assist in a pivotal game. 

The Oilers’ backs are against the wall Saturday, and their chances of saving their season without big-time performances from McDavid and Draisaitl are low. They have rebounded from a 3-2 series deficit once with McDavid and Draisaitl on the roster, winning Games 6 and 7 against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round in 2022.

Edmonton is 3-5 in elimination games in the McDavid-Draisaitl era, but the superstars have produced impressive numbers in those eight games. Draisaitl has three goals and 13 points, while McDavid has five goals and 12 points. 

“You see a lot of good hockey players not be able to perform when the pressure’s higher, the game’s tighter and there’s not as much room for those offensive players,” Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch told reporters Friday. “They’ve always performed well (in those situations). That’s quite remarkable.” 

Draisaitl’s average of 1.63 points per game when facing elimination is the highest in NHL history among players who have played in at least five such games. McDavid (1.5 points per elimination game) is tied for third all-time with Buffalo Sabres great Gilbert Perreault. 

“That’s what we get paid to do — to step up in big moments,” said Draisaitl, who has points in all 10 playoff games. “We’ll look to do that again (Saturday).”

In a do-or-die situation, Knoblauch could consider putting McDavid and Draisaitl back on the same line, which he did in Games 2 and 3. Edmonton has out-chanced Vancouver 26-11 at 5-on-5 in the series when McDavid and Draisaitl are on the ice together, but the Oilers have been outscored 3-2 in those minutes, including 2-0 on Thursday. 

McDavid (25:43 per game) and Draisaitl (23:24 per game) have played an eye-popping amount of minutes in the series. By comparison, McDavid and Draisaitl played 21:03 and 20:16 per game, respectively, in five first-round games against the Kings. 

Knoblauch, McDavid and Draisaitl are not concerned about the players’ stamina, especially with their season on the line. 

“There’s not much to manage here,” Draisaitl said when asked about his ice time. “We’re one loss away from going home. (We’ve got to) get ready for (Saturday) and lay everything on the line that we have.”

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