Player grades: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl hit major milestones, lead Edmonton Oilers to 4-3 win over Canucks

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Canucks 3, Oilers 4

Before the puck was dropped at Rogers Place for the late game on Hockey Night in Canada between Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers, a couple of important issues had been resolved. With their win over Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs clinched first place in the North Division; while with their loss to Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets ceded their final mathematical chance to overtake the Edmonton Oilers for second. Simply put, the Oil were locked into second place no matter what happened in their final four games of the season.

What they still had to play for, was each other. And they did just that, throwing caution to the winds for two periods as first Leon Draisaitl, then Connor McDavid scored milestone points. For Leon, the 500th of his fabulous NHL career, in just his 475th game. For Connor, the 100th of his extraordinary 2021 campaign, in Game #53.

The latter tally put Edmonton back in front, 4-3, at the end of a wide-open second period that saw the 2 clubs combine for 31 shots, 18 Grade A scoring chances (running count), and 6 goals. But with their offensive objectives accomplished, the Oilers put in a rock solid final frame that featured just 11 total shots, a single Grade A chance, and no goals at all as they nursed their 4-3 lead to the finish line. Hey, there’s no better way to celebrate milestones than in a win.

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This was another special teams triumph for the Oil, who lost the even strength game 3-2 but scored twice on 4 powerplays while holding the Canucks PP without a sniff on 5 opportunities.

Player grades

#6 Adam Larsson, 7. Another rock solid defensive effort from the sturdy Swede, who by our count wasn’t responsible for a single Grade A chance against. 4 hits, 2 blocked shots, and chipped in 3:35 of top-drawer penalty-killing in his 20 minutes of ice time. Did take a penalty of his own in the process. This was his 600th NHL game, and that experience shines through on a nightly basis.

#13 Jesse Puljujarvi, 8. Played an excellent two-way game on a highly-effective line with McDavid and Kahun. Buried his 15th goal of the season on an excellent one-timer that overpowered Thatcher Demko on its was to the top of the net. Oilers outshot the Canucks 17-3 during his 16 minutes of even strenth play, with 5 of those shots coming off J.P.’s stick.

#14 Devin Shore, 6. OK at even strength, solid on the penalty kill. 1 (dangerous) shot, 3 hits.

#15 Josh Archibald, 6. Ditto. Lost a battle on the second Canucks goal, but had a very strong game on the PK, leading the forwards with 3:03 SH TOi. 3 shots, 2 hits, 1 takeaway.

#16 Jujhar Khaira, 6. Centred the 14-15-16 Line between Shore and Archibald, and like both of his linemates did his best work on the penalty kill. Drew the penalty that led to a rare 5-on-3, and ultimately McDavid’s milestone point. 3 shot attempts, 2 hits, 2 blocked shots.

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#18 James Neal, 7. Set up one milestone goal with a terrific pass to Draisaitl for Point #500 and nearly set up another with a splendid backhand pass that sprang McLeod for his best chance yet at Goal #1.

#21 Dominik Kahun, 7. Nothing on the scoresheet but a well-deserved +1 on the Event Summary, earned when he drove the lane on the Puljujarvi tally. Also set up Puljujarvi for a great chance on the game’s opening shift. Otherwise played a smart, safe two-way game. During his 13 minutes at even strength the Oilers outshot Vancouver by a staggering 15-1 count.  3 shots, 2 blocks.

#22 Tyson Barrie, 7. Part of the 5-man unit that dominated play at 5v5, and also chipped in on the powerplay. Earned an assist on Puljujarvi’s goal, his 46th point of the season, just 1 behind Adam Fox for the league lead among rearguards. His 8 shot attempts and 3 shots on goal led the D corps.

#25 Darnell Nurse, 7. Played a mammoth 27:43 in all situations, from 5-on-3 to 5-on-6 to everything in between. Did make one major blunder in a 4-on-4 scenario when his hard pass across the full width of the blueline was picked off by Vancouver’s J.T. Miller for a clearcut breakaway and the goal that got the visitors back in the game. But far more good than bad, especially on the penalty kill where he contributed 5:40 of flawless work. Earned two assists including one on McDavid’s milestone point, which fittingly involved all three of the Oilers inner core players. 2 shot attempts, 2 takeaways, 2 blocks.

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#29 Leon Draisaitl, 8. Delivered his fifth consecutive multi-point game and third straight multi-goal game, pounding home a pair of second-period powerplay goals with his trademark lethal one-timer from the right circle. The first marked the 500th point of his outstanding career; the second, the finishing nail in McDavid’s 100th of the season. Interesting to compare his reaction to the two goals; typical Leon cool at his own milestone, but unfettered excitement at McDavid’s feat. Didn’t get a lot done at even strength, but played a key role on both special teams, taking 6 faceoffs on the PK and bursting away on a 2-on-1 on that unit. 11/23=48% on the dot. 6 shots, 2 hits, including a beauty on Tanner Pearson that was direct payback for a hard hit he had received from the same player earlier in the shift. Became just the fourth NHLer to reach the 30-goal plateau in 2021, and is 12 points clear of any player not named Connor McDavid. Now leads the NHL in powerplay goals with 14.

#39 Alex Chiasson, 5. Took a pair of penalties, one an o-zone hold, the other a jarring reverse hit which was deemed roughing. Helped set up McLeod’s great chance with a fine play along the wall in his own zone at even strength, then had two great chances of his own  from close range on the powerplay.

#41 Mike Smith, 7. Had his issues in the second period when he was beaten 4 times (though 1 was disallowed after an offside challenge) and also absorbed a heavy hit from Bo Horvat which drew a penalty. A couple of adventures handling the puck, but also completed a couple of long bombs. By the third period he was locked in and his ability to field and distribute the puck played a major role in Edmonton’s ability to frustrate Vancouver down the stretch. His terrific pad save off Nils Hoglander was his best of a solid third period. 25 shots, 22 saves, .880 save percentage, and his 20th win of the season.

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#56 Kailer Yamamoto, 5. His usual hard-working effort, but part of the reason his line struggled at even strength. Seems to have developed the yips around the net, bobbling the puck in tight a couple of times while getting exactly 0 official shots on net. Burned on 3 scoring chances against. But did chip in 2½ minutes on the pristine PK and ended one of them early when he drew a penalty of his own.

#71 Ryan McLeod, 5. Came oh so close to opening his NHL account when he took Neal’s fine feed alone in front, went for the deke but was unable to solve Demko, who made an excellent save. Later was part of the problem on the 3-3 goal when he lost a battle in the neutral zone. 3/6=50% on the dot.

#74 Ethan Bear, 6. Earned an assist with a nice pass to McDavid on the game’s first goal. Had his issues at the defensive end, including one awful clearing pass that led to chaos. Screened Smith on the 3-3 tally. But delivered 4:22 on the penalty kill that was a decisive factor. It was his play that forced Horvat over the blueline prematurely and eventually resulted in a successful offside challenge by Dave Tippett.

#82 Caleb Jones, 4. By our evaluation he was among those responsible for 5 Canucks Grade A scoring chances, including the 3-3 goal. Some flashes of good play, but nothing resulting in major chances at the good end or any shots on net. Took a penalty.

#84 William Lagesson, 5. All three young defenders had their struggles at even strength, and Lagesson was no exception, getting ripped for 3 Grade A chances against including the second Vancouver goal. Did chip in nearly 3 minutes on the PK, and won a few battles in the process.

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#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 6. Struggled at even strength but chipped in on both special teams. Made a stretch pass in the build-up to Draisaitl’s first goal, while contributing 2:35 to the successful PK group.

#97 Connor McDavid, 10. Completed his remarkable run to 100 points in the shortened 2021 season with 3 games to spare, reaching the century before any other NHLer got to 80 (and only Draisaitl will achieve that lower mark). Scored himself in the game’s first minute, then was central to setting up the other 3 Edmonton goals. Made a splendid rush through the neutral zone on Puljujarvi’s goal, answering Quinn Hughes’ challenge at centre ice and coming out the other side with the puck. Part of a splendid three-way passing play on Draisaitl’s first goal, then made the inch-perfect feed to the German sniper for his second for his milestone 100th point, fittingly on the game winner. Drew a penalty leading to an Oilers goal, later took one of his own that his mates killed off. A key contributor on 12 Edmonton Grade A scoring chances, of which the team had 15 on the night. Terrific on the dot (11/16=69%) and also found time to block 3 opponents’ shots, leading his team in that department as well. Bigger picture, in the rush to 100 he has earned a point on 36 of Edmonton’s last 47 goals over the last 14 games, more than the combined opposition (32) in leading his team on the 10-4-0 run that locked down second spot. Now has passed Bobby Orr and ranks fourth all-time in points-per-game behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Mike Bossy, all of whom played in hockey’s highest scoring era. An absolute treasure of a hockey player.

Recently at the Cult of Hockey

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LEAVINS: Player grades as Oilers clinch a playoff spot with win over Canucks

Follow me on Twitter @BruceMcCurdy

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