The Edmonton Oilers won Game 6 on Thursday evening and will send their first-round series with the Los Angeles Kings back to Edmonton and Rogers Place for a pivotal Game 7.
The Oilers have the momentum, the fans, a returning Darnell Nurse, and an apparent game plan. But, is there friction brewing between two of the key players, and is one of the biggest stars of the team dealing with an injury?
Draisaitl is Dealing With Something
Leon Draisaitl missed a bit of action towards the end of the regular season and in Game 6, went down awkwardly during a scrum. He left the ice area twice but also returned twice and battled through to finish the game. He wound up playing more than 18 minutes in total, but it was a lot less than his linemate Connor McDavid, who ended the game at 24:02. Draisaitl was 11-4 in faceoffs and he got the primary assist on Tyson Barrie’s game-winning goal.
It is believed he’s dealing with a nagging injury and prior to Thursday’s game, there were some who wondered if he was at 100%. It’s not an issue that is expected to keep him out of the lineup, but the Oilers might have to find the right times to get him out on the ice and sit him when they can, just to keep him fresh.
Friction Between McDavid and Kane?
Former Oiler and host of the Spittin’ Chickelts podcast, Ryan Whitney thinks there might be some friction between McDavid and Evander Kane. Kane scored two goals in Game 6, the second of which was an empty-net goal to put the game away. He held up seven fingers to the crowd, indicating the series was headed to Game 7. Whitney thought the gesture might have irked McDavid, something Whitney tried back up by showing video footage of an upset McDavid on the bench. It’s not clear why McDavid was upset.
The photo of Kane has gone viral and it’s on the Oilers’ homepage of their website, but Whitney wrote, “Kane was foolish to have the 7 fingers up after the Oilers sealed the game last night. I don’t know if he meant Game 7 or that it was his 7th goal of the series. Either way, I think you can see here McDavid was bull— about it and I don’t blame him one bit.”
Some say it was merely Kane responding to Adrian Kempe, who did something similar in Game 5. Many believe it was great that Kane was showing emotion and he simply got caught up in the moment. He didn’t shy away from questions about it in the post-game media avail so it’s likely not an issue. Would McDavid rather Kane not rub it in? Maybe. Does McDavid have an issue with Kane? Probably not. Was McDavid upset with the officials who missed an interference call in the third? Most likely.
Mike Smith’s Spear on Athanasiou
There’s been no report that Mike Smith is going to face any supplementary discipline when it comes to the spear he gave to Andreas Athanasiou during Game 6. After Darnell Nurse was suspended for a head-butt, what the Oilers didn’t need was another suspension. Losing Smith, who has played well in this series, would have been a big loss.
There aren’t many people defending the move by Smith, but most are saying it wasn’t a blatant spear. It was simply a bad penalty to take.
Did Oilers Figure Out Something On Quick?
Outside of coming out with a much better start and outshooting the Kings in the first period on Thursday, Sportsnet color commentator Louie DeBrusk noted during Game 6 that the Oilers were making a concerted effort to wrap the puck around the net on goaltender Jonathan Quick.
McDavid scored the first goal of the game on Quick that way and Josh Archibald hit the net on another attempt. There were more tries to slide it past Quick that way and DeBrusk believed that maybe the Oilers did some scouting and determined this might have been a weakness they could exploit. It will be interesting to see if the Oilers do that more in Game 7.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”