Playoff Game Day Seven: Oilers vs Kings
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We do not know how far Evander Kane might help drive the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs.
Indeed, Saturday night’s game might be Edmonton’s last of the 2022 playoff season if the Oilers lose to the Los Angeles Kings in Game Seven.
But make no mistake, without Kane the Oilers would not have made it this far against Los Angeles, and might even have failed to make the playoffs at all.
Kane provides the Oilers with the goal scoring, confidence and toughness that Edmonton has for years lacked on the wing. Not only that, in this is crucial in the playoffs, Kane brings some of the swagger that the Oilers last had when Chris Pronger was on the team.
Kane comes across as a ferocious competitor, and while I can’t read anyone’s mind, he appears to put some fear into the opposition. He’s got a nasty streak on the ice, so much so that few opposing players mess with him, and those who do almost always get the worst of it. As for his teammates, they seem to skate two inches taller and add 20 pounds of muscle heavier when they line up with Kane.
Before Kane arrived, Edmonton was out of a playoff spot, 19th overall in the NHL standings, behind such teams as Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles and Vegas.
With Kane, Edmonton shot past each one of those rivals in the standings.
In the playoffs, Kane hasn’t been the only stellar Oiler.
Connor McDavid has raised his game to a new level.
Mike Smith has continued with his strong play of the final month of the season.
Zack Kassian and Josh Archibald have provided strong physical player, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Derek Ryan have played their best hockey of the season.
Brett Kulak, Cody Ceci, Evan Bouchard and Tyson Barrie have all stepped up on defence, with Darnell Nurse, coming off an injury, also having his moments.
But outside of McDavid, who just now seems to be willing the Oilers to win games, it’s been Kane who has most stood out.
He’s in the middle of countless scrums. He tracks opponents down and hits them hard. He’s chipping in on Grade A shots at a rate second only to McDavid on the Oilers. He attacks the net with ferocity and uses his deft hands to score goal after goal. He’s got seven now, as many as any other player in the NHL playoffs this year.
As for Kane’s future in Edmonton, who knows? It’s as up in the air as the result of Saturday night’s game. But as much doubt as there was in Edmonton and around the NHL about Ken Holland bringing in Kane — some of that doubt around his various off-ice legal controversies, but much of it around a perceived negative impact on his teammates — Kane has performed at a level beyond anyone’s expectations, save perhaps his own.
He’s raised up the Oilers, not been any kind of downer.
He’s giving the Oilers what they desperately needed, a ferocious and highly skilled winger to play with McDavid.
And when it comes to the two Oilers I expect to come up big in Game Seven, it is those two.
Game Day Seven
This in from TSN’s Ryan Rishaug:
Don’t read into any of this. It’s a mess.
Leon Draisaitl was not on the ice, nor was Brett Kulak.
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At the Cult
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McCURDY: Reuniting the “nuclear option” for Game 6
STAPLES: Nurse gets 1 game for head butt