No Draisaitl? No problem. At least, no problem in San Jose.
Leon Draisaitl is not on the ice for warm-up. Will not play tonight.— Tony Brar (@TonyBrarOTV) April 6, 2022
Mike Smith leads the Oilers onto the ice here in San Jose. Gets the start. #Oilers
Your gut drops when you read that Leon Draisaitl is out. The Oilers going with Mike Smith on a night that Leon Draisaitl is out of the lineup makes for some extra worry heading into a game against a beatable opponent. With Leon, you’ve got the team leader in goals. With Mike Smith, you’ll get a good game and then three question marks.
For Smith, it wasn’t like that in San Jose.
Mike Smith was near perfect last night, and it was he who played the puck to a streaking Connor McDavid just thirty seconds into overtime. McDavid took the groceries to the house, and the Oilers ran away with two points in San Jose.
I’ve been critical of Mike Smith’s play all year. He’s been through a couple injuries and missed some significant time due to a lower body injury and a partially torn tendon in his hand. Last night’s game was a memorable performance for the 40-year old Smith, and for all of the right reasons. Smith stopped all but one of San Jose’s 32 shots en route to Edmonton’s biggest win of the season so far.
In a game that could have easily been a four or a five goal night for San Jose, Smith played his best game of the season. His primary assist on Connor McDavid’s OT winner was just out of reach for Sharks defenceman Brent Burns. McDavid took Smith’s pass to the bank, parking the OT winner behind a sprawling James Reimer. Oilers win 2-1. Just like they had it drawn up. The win is Smith’s tenth of the season, his season save percentage vaults over the .900 mark for the first time in a long time.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins kicked off the scoring for the Oilers with a shorthanded goal. It didn’t come until the third period, but Nuge’s 10th of the season brought the Oilers to a 1-1 tie on a night where it didn’t look like the Oilers would score any goals at all. Zach Hyman had a heads up play in front of James Reimer after Darnell Nurse started things off from his own end. Nugent-Hopkins assumed second line duties after Leon Draisaitl was held from the lineup.
The Oilers win. It’s their fifth win in a row. They did it on a night without Leon Draisaitl, and they got Very Good Mike Smith in the process. They are alone in second place in the Pacific Division, a spot they’ve been jockeying alongside the LA Kings for some time. The Oilers and the Kings will meet once again on Thursday in what is likely to be the biggest game of the regular season for both clubs.
- Keep an eye out on Leon Draisaitl. Leon missed his first game in years after suffering a lower body injury in the first period of Sunday’s game versus Anaheim, even though he ended up playing through it. He was on the ice for the gameday skate on Tuesday, but he was held out of the game. Draisaitl said he was “alright” after Edmonton’s win on Sunday, so there’s some good reason to believe he’ll be back in the lineup prior to Thursday’s game versus LA.
- It’s good that RNH could step back onto the second line with Draisaitl absent from the lineup, but the drop off is steep in the bottom six. Brassard - Shore - Kassian is a fall from the pier with Nugent-Hopkins playing up the lineup. No player on the bottom six reached ten minutes of ice in last night’s win.
- The Sharks were all over the Oilers for the second period. The Oilers were out-chanced, but not outscored. Fun to steal two points, not a recipe for long term success.
- The Oilers are in second place in the Pacific by one point, they have a game in hand as well. I don’t think it’s too late to forget first place here, but the Flames hold two games and are up by four points. With eleven games remaining in the regular season, the Oilers would probably need to win 7 or 8 more to have a puncher’s chance at the top spot. Unless the wheels just pop off for Calgary, they’re going to be a hundred point club. The Oilers might be one as well.
Big game tomorrow. Hold on to your hats.