Is talking about kryptonite still a thing? If so, here’s a question: Are the LA Kings Connor McDavid’s kryptonite? He had to be wondering it himself in advance of Sunday night’s 6pm contest in LA. Why else would he not have taken over the teams’ first-round series that coming into Sunday night saw the Edmonton team down by a game? They could have used his help.
Don’t give me the old “it was the referees” thing, either, for making the series what it was to that point. Rather, the problem was that we weren’t seeing what we were expecting to see. We’ve been inundated with McDavid highlights on every NHL Network show all year, and we’ve heard over and over the magical words, “153 points,” and after all, that’s two points a game, give or take (actually 1.865), and so now that he’s here, live, right in front of us, we expect a miracle in every game. Maybe on every play.
How have his numbers been thus far in the playoffs? He had three points in three games on two goals coming into Sunday. Based on his season’s average, you would expect him to have about 5.59756 points already. I mean in approximate, round, numbers. Still, it’s clear he’s trailing behind his own expectations.
So what happened? He kept getting Korpisalo’d. Joonas, that is. Shut out by the Kings’ goalie, who seemed to have the Oilers’ numbers. This was true, until it wasn’t. When did the magic run of saves stop and the magic run of points for McD begin? As period one gave way to period two Sunday night, in game four of their first-round playoff series.
Before that, nothing was going in for the Oilers. Just a couple of fer-instances from game four, period uno: on a three-on-two, Cody Ceci got the puck right side, laced a shot, and saw an arm save. McDavid next spotted Draisaitl as the former crossed over the slot. He passed, faster than you’d think a goalie would have time to react. Not this goalie. He got over for a spectacular save. Later Warren Foegele stole a puck and whipped it at the net. Shoulder save.
In the meantime, the Kings scored three goals of their own, including the most spectacular spin move on the part of Viktor Arvidsson that I’ve seen live. He picked up a puck on a pass, and literally spun 360 degrees past the defenseman guarding him, in about six inches of space, at full speed. He then rifled a puck low off Stuart Skinner’s blocker and in.
Well, that was period one. Period two would be different. The Kings took an ill-advised tripping penalty and Draisaitl shot a dangerous one-timer. That didn’t score, but Evan Bouchard eventually did from the point after Draisaitl and McDavid played around with the puck from side to side in the LA zone. So it was 3-1, and McDavid had a point. No lead is safe, right? Well, indeed. The Oilers benefited from an uncalled trip on Doughty behind their net, and the puck ended up in front with nobody anywhere close to Draisaitl, who buried it. McDavid and Hyman got assists. Where was the LA first-period dominance going?
The difference, in short, was this: The Kings slowed down. The Oilers played a game where they looked what you can call “big in the zone.” That is, they ran around the Kings’ end, holding the puck, snapping off passes that went on the diagonal, and generally acting like they were the team in the lead. The period would end tied, believe it or not, after Fiala took a tripping penalty that looked more like a step on the stick situation than a trip. For some reason, too, the refs allowed play to go on after Fiala had recovered the puck and worked it down the ice almost to Jack Campbell.
Jack Campbell? Oh, sorry—I forgot to inform you that he had replaced Stuart Skinner to start the second period. Coach Jay Woodcroft would say after the game that he had debated pulling Skinner earlier, when goal number three went in, but decided to let him finish out the period.
Anyway, still in period two, on the PP, the puck came to Draisaitl in front of the net from Nugent-Hopkins and Bouchard. Korpisalo looked awkward and off balance as he tried to set for the shot. He was still standing up, but kind of splay-legged when it went past him low to his right.
So the energy and the control the Kings had displayed after scoring three first-period goals was all but eroded as the final 11 seconds wound off the clock in P2. And maybe a new ranger was in town—Draisaitl had three points, figuring in on all the goals to this point and scoring the latter two.
But look what happened: The Kings went ahead 4-3 in period three. The Oilers tied it late. It was McDavid getting his third assist, putting his points total at six for the playoffs, in other words, rounding him into place to be near season’s average.
McWonderful didn’t figure into the OT winner, a snipe from Zack Hymen that went through Korpisalo, but three assists isn’t too bad a night. His other stats were so-so. He had just two shots on goal (game one it was five, game two, six, and game three, seven). He had two giveaways and no takeaways. He was visible but not spectacularly so except in a couple of flashes.
In short, had Edmonton lost, and despite his three-point night, McDavid would be the focus of some criticism. Why isn’t he doing more? The answer to that is simple: he can’t do everything, and on this night, there were others who stepped up when Superman’s cape got a bit tangled in the wind.