Connor McDavid Right to Call Out Oilers’ Defensive Play vs. Kings

Connor McDavid spoke out after the Edmonton Oilers’ Game 5 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. The Kings now lead the series 3-2 as Game 6 returns to LA. A number of factors have contributed to the Oilers trailing the series, but McDavid pointed out a couple of key areas.

McDavid Calls Out Team Defence

After another loss in which the Oilers allowed at least four goals, McDavid spoke freely about playoff hockey in general and why the Oilers should be winning more games. He said, “We found ways to produce offence. We scored four tonight. That needs to be enough in a playoff game. Obviously, it’s not. We’ve got to keep the puck out of our net.”

Alex Edler Los Angeles Kings Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers is watched by Alexander Edler of the Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

In all three losses to the Kings, the Oilers have allowed four or more goals. Only once has their offence not produced, and that was a 4-0 loss in Game 4. In the other four games, the Oilers have scored a combined 21 goals but only won two games. However, some may have thought they went a bit overkill, scoring 14 goals in those two games, but can they trust their team’s defence and goaltending not to collapse in close games?

Having the momentum would make it difficult for LA to get anything going offensively. The Game 5 overtime loss was a perfect example of that. The Oilers tied up the game with two goals in the final eight minutes of the game and were still pushing, but as soon as overtime started, the Kings took over and ended the game in just over a minute. Edmonton was also in a position to take a stranglehold on the series after winning back-to-back games by six goals, but they came out flat for the next five periods, losing the series advantage despite being the better team on paper.

McDavid spoke about their special teams, saying that they have been good, considering the Oilers scored two power-play goals and a shorthanded goal in Game 5. “We have to figure out our five-on-five game obviously, so it’s tough to blame penalties there,” McDavid said. The Kings have scored just two power-play goals in the series on 20 attempts, which means the Kings are outworking and outplaying the Oilers in this series at even strength.

Leon Draisaitl Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Special teams have helped the Oilers throughout the series. In the middle of the season, they could have blamed the penalty kill for a loss, but they have been lights out in the playoffs. It’s their five-on-five play that is killing them, both their forwards and defensemen. Duncan Keith and Evan Bouchard have to take most of the blame on this end. They have been on the ice together for four goals against at even strength and only helped produce two goals.

They are both a minus-3 while the second line of Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, and Kailer Yamamoto has done the Oilers no favours either and are all minus-3 as well. This is unacceptable considering all three of them kill penalties and are more than equipped to play well defensively. Head coach Jay Woodcroft will have to take a good look at who he’s matching his lines against because they have been unable to handle the Kings’ second line. Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci have also been on the ice for four goals against, but have done more good offensively by being on the ice for eight goals for.

Oilers’ Trending Down in Postseason

When the Oilers allowed less than four goals, they won both games. Even though they scored six or more in those games, fewer would have been enough. That hasn’t just been a theme in these playoffs. The Oilers fell to the Winnipeg Jets in four games in the first round of the 2021 Pplayoffs by allowing four goals a game in three games. In the 2020 playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks scored four or more in two of their three wins against the Oilers as well.

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In only 28 percent of the games since Woodcroft took over, have the Oilers allowed four or more goals. Their record: 3-7-1. The other 27 games: 23-2-2. They were much better defensively as a team when their defencemen keep players and shots to the outside while the forwards backcheck hard. Goaltenders Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen also benefited greatly from this, and it gave the Oilers confidence that they could grab an early lead in Game 1.

In the last two seasons, the Oilers didn’t have the depth they do now. Unfortunately, the depth has gone dark for most of the games other than the outbursts in Games 2 and 3. They are 7/15 on the power play and have scored 14 goals to the Kings’ 13 at even strength. But, as I stated, 11 of those even-strength goals came in just two games, and the top line has put in a lot of that work. Yamamoto has scored both of his points on the power play, while two goals and four points have come from all the bottom-six players not named Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who the Oilers also need more from.

Related: 3 Oilers’ Depth Players Who Could Help Swing the Series in Their Favour

The Oilers failed to bounce back when they needed to and have failed to hold any momentum. McDavid isn’t the problem, though as he has been on for only one goal against at five-on-five and has countered that by contributing on five Oilers goals. The offence hasn’t been the problem, it’s the defence. Woodcroft needs to get his team back on the right track and play the game we grew accustomed to seeing at the end of the regular season or time on the season will run out.

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