It was a win the Edmonton Oilers needed. Not only because it was the first game after the announcement of Connor McDavid’s injury, but because the Oilers got some much-needed help in the Pacific Division as the Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights lost to non-Pacific Division opponents.
Before the game, the conversation was about who might step up. Questions were whether or not Leon Draisaitl could be better than he already was. Leading the NHL in scoring, Draisaitl answered that question with a resounding ‘Yes’ as he scored a goal and had three assists. It was like he was playing in Connor’s honor.
He wasn’t the only one on that line who stepped up. That line combined for eight points.
Yamamoto Is Seizing His Opportunity
Kailer Yamamoto — who has been nothing short of a revelation since being called up from Bakersfield — was on fire with two goals of his own. He now as seven goals and 14 points in 15 games.
When asked if he thought about getting a hat trick, Yamamoto said, “I mean, I thought about it, but I’ll take the two goals.” When asked about playing with his linemates, he said, “It’s easy. All I have to do is work.”
And work he does. Yamamoto was relentless all night and, given the opportunity on the power player in McDavid’s absence, he made the most of it. Tippett said, “He keeps plays alive, he’s on pucks, he’s relentless.” Tippett added that it was great to see him get rewarded.
The debate was whether or not the Oilers should split up Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl to spread out the scoring. Head coach Dave Tippett decided not to do so and it was the right call. With a goal and an assist, Nugent-Hopkins might have been among the most well-rounded of Oilers forwards and was key in stopping the Blackhawks from getting more than three goals on the night.
One Down, About Eight More to Go
Speculation is that McDavid will be out two-to-three weeks. Perhaps the Oilers were aiming to over-estimate and hopefully surprise fans with an early return. Still, if the timeline is even remotely accurate, that’s about eight or nine games McDavid will miss and the Oilers need to build upon this win and keep it going.
The Oilers will now head out on a road trip with games Tampa Bay, Florida and Carolina before coming back home to face Boston. Head coach Dave Tippett said after the game, “I thought our guys competed hard.” He added, “We’ve got ourselves in a good mindset…. We’ve found a way to win this game, let’s find a way to win that game against Tampa.”
That’s the reality here. Edmonton is going to need to find ways to win without their captain. Maybe next time it will be the fourth line as Tippett said that line set the attitude and tempo tonight. “They’ll be a real valuable line for us moving forward.”