It could only be McDavid and Draisaitl
Both forwards were the mainstays of the Edmonton Oilers’ 5-4 overtime win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday to win the second-round series in five games and reach the Conference Finals. West for the first time since 2006.
TO READ : McDavid extinguishes Flames in overtime
Draisaitl collected the puck near the boards to the right of the circle, created an opening and found McDavid at the right circle. The latter managed to advance into the crease before firing a shot that found the back of the net at 5:03 to put an end to the battle for Alberta.
McDavid rushed to the neutral zone, dropped to one knee and let out a mighty shout in celebration.
« It’s hard to put into words what this goal means to me, » McDavid said.
It’s been a long and arduous road for McDavid and Draisaitl, the two big chunks of a team that has had no shortage of legends over the years – Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier to name a few – and which has already won five Stanley Cups in the space of seven seasons (1983-90). But also a team that had fallen to the bottom of the NHL.
The Oilers picked Draisaitl with the third pick in the 2014 draft, then McDavid with the first-ever pick in the 2015 draft. Both have since won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer. Both, Draisaitl once, McDavid twice, won the Hart Trophy, given to the most valuable player to his team in the NHL.
But until this year, the Oilers had only won one round of the playoffs since their two big guns arrived in 2017 when they beat the San Jose Sharks. McDavid believes that all those failures made them hungrier, in addition to teaching them valuable lessons.
« As you know, we had some big disappointments, times when people were really tough on us and said we couldn’t win, » Draisaitl said. And we haven’t won anything yet. We’re only half done. But it feels good to take the next step. It feels good to see that we are growing as a team and as an organization. »
McDavid finished first in NHL scoring this season with 123 points in 80 games. Draisaitl finished fourth with 110 points in 80 games.
Video: EDM@CGY, #5: McDavid extinguishes the Flames in overtime
They are now tied for the league lead in playoff production, with 26 points in 12 games.
In this first battle for Alberta since 1991, McDavid had 12 points in five games. Thursday, he said he couldn’t feel his legs in what was the first game in eight outings where he didn’t have two or more points. And yet, it was he who scored the net that made the difference.
« He’s so important to us, » Draisaitl said. He’s our leader, the man for the job. It’s the one you want to see when you need someone to get up. He’s done it all this season. He has done everything in his career. »
Draisaitl was even more impressive against Calgary. He stopped the counter at 17 points in five games. The only other player in NHL history to have that many points in five games in a series is Rick Middleton, who did the same with the Boston Bruins against the Buffalo Sabers in 1983. Draisaitl had four assists Thursday, and he has had at least three points in his last five games, an NHL record.
“He was incredible. What else to say?, launched McDavid. It’s hard to describe such a performance, it’s so extraordinary, every night. Every game he dominated from start to finish, and it was nice to see him go tonight. »
What’s even more incredible is that the German striker has accomplished all of this while out with an ankle injury.
« He’s got this ability to hold the opponent out and make plays in tight spaces, and I think he’s the best passer in the National Hockey League – the best in the world – and it’s amazing to see the number of plays he manages to make for this team, » said head coach Jay Woodcroft. To do all this despite [sa blessure] demonstrates that he is a true warrior. »
McDavid and Draisaitl are not the only ones to put their shoulder to the wheel. Evander Kane is the playoff leading scorer with 12 goals. Zach Hyman has eight, including six against the Flames. He became the first Oilers player to find the back of the net in every game in a five-game series. Ryan Nugent Hopkins, the first pick of the 2011 draft and the longest-serving player in the blue-and-orange uniform, flashed the red light twice in Tuesday’s 5-3 Game 4 win. The list is long. Finally, McDavid and Draisaitl have the elements on their side to go far in the playoffs.
But in the end, it’s the two pillars that lead the charge. It made sense that they were the ones eliminating the Flames. They can enjoy the moment until they’re ready to face their next opponent, the series winner between the Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues.
« The Edmonton Oilers are a proud organization, » Woodcroft said. We are proud of our history. We are proud of the Hall of Fame members who have passed through this organization. We are proud of the long playoff runs this team has had over the years.
“The current team wants to have a say in that history, and our team wants to make its own mark. The emotions we have just experienced represent an important moment for our team. »