Oilers beat Hawks 5-4 in contest of dynamic duos
Connor McDavid's first year in the NHL was the 2015-16 season. In 45 games with the Edmonton Oilers, he put up 48 points (16 goals, 32 assists). Leon Draisaitl joined the team a year prior, but in 2015, he put up 51 points (19 goals, 32 assists) in 72 games. A burgeoning powerful duo they were seven years ago.
In the same year, Patrick Kane led all skaters with 108 points, and Jonathan Toews backed him up with 58. Just coming off their third Stanley Cup in three years, they were the one of the leading one-two punches in the NHL.
Since then, the Blackhawks' movie-esque Stanley Cup script has been flipped. The Oilers have yet to win one with McDavid and Draisaitl, but the caliber of talent needed to win one is there -- and it has been there for eight seasons now. Since 2015 and coming into Wednesday's action, McDavid led the NHL with 736 points, and Leon Draisitl was second with 640.
Wednesday night, the old and the new(er) faced off against each other, this time both duos on the top line of their respective teams. Patrick Kane still leads his team in points and is third behind McDavid and Draisaitl in points since 2015, but it's clear that the two Oilers are the premier talents in the league today.
Still, Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson was undaunted going into the matchup.
"We need to bump them all game long, get in front of them, slow them down, even when they don't have the puck," Richardson said after Wednesday's morning skate. "It's hard to do, but if you can do it earlier before they get going, it's a lot easier, and they get pissed off, really. I've seen it before."
"They're human," he says. I wouldn't buy that.
Draisaitl scored 2 goals and had 1 assist and McDavid scored a goal and an assist -- a slightly above-average night considering McDavid and Draisaitl are averaging 3.27 points per game between the two of them -- and the Oilers were able to squeak out a 5-4 win despite a third-period charge by the Blackhawks.
The score was tied for a third of the game, but it felt like the Oilers were winning the whole time -- McDavid was weaving in and out of the Blackhawks' defense, three players at a time, and was banging pucks off the pipes. Shots on net were 14-6 in favor of Edmonton after one period (7 power play shots to Chicago's zero), 25-13 after two, and 41-25 after three. Two late goals by Max Domi and 1 from MacKenzie Entwistle after an early Boris Katchouk goal kept it a competition -- one that the Blackhawks could not win, however, due to a late Draisaitl goal assisted, of course, by McDavid.
In just 23 games, McDavid has an otherworldly 41 points, and Draisaitl has 36. When these two teams squared up against each other just over a month ago, McDavid scored a hat trick and an assist and Draisaitl scored 1 goal and 2 assists. Seven points. Two players. One game.
When asked if this is a special matchup between the two top lines, Toews chuckled. "I mean, it's pretty hard to slow those two guys down, so we'll go out there and give it our best shot."
In an attempt to try something different amid the lull of a seven-game losing streak, Richardson had Toews and Kane playing together on the first line against the Oilers, which isn't the first time it's been tried, but it is the first time it's been tried by Richardson.
The streak is now at eight.