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The Wraparound: A fresh McDavid could push Oilers far in playoffs

The Wraparound: A fresh McDavid could push Oilers far in playoffs

EDMONTON, AB - MAY 4: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers skates with the puck while being pursued by Andreas Athanasiou #22 of the Los Angeles Kings during Game Two of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 4, 2022 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television information.

• Be sure to check out all of Saturday’s Stanley Cup Playoff action in the Rink Wrap right here.

• Could there be another key goalie injury? Darcy Kuemper left Game 3 for the Avalanche after taking a stick up high.

• Gary Bettman insists that the Senators are not for sale, are “not unstable,” and “there are no problems.” Such statements always inspire the utmost confidence that there are no problems. Does Bettman use the same phrasing for the Arizona Coyotes?

• Speaking of that, here are the details about the Coyotes’ confirmed ASU arena situation, which will definitely having everyone say “there are no problems.” A capacity of 4,700 fans just makes it cozier!

Last season, Connor McDavid incredibly reached 100-plus points in just 53 games, accomplishing something people thought was unreasonable in a 56-game season.

Instead of resting McDavid with little to play for (as some recommended), the Oilers still trotted him out for three largely irrelevant regular season games. Is it possible that a fresher Connor McDavid could’ve helped the Oilers win a series against the Jets, or at least avoid being swept? That’s something we can really only speculate about.

[Last year, Jets pulled off painful, rare “close sweep” vs. McDavid and Oilers]

Now, plenty of teams -- even smarter ones -- shrug their shoulders at the idea of strategically resting players. With the Oilers, it’s tough to shake the feeling that it’s a piece of a larger puzzle. Despite being gifted with Connor McDavid and other bits of lottery luck, this team often squanders that talent in part by leaning on dusty, old ideas.

Yet, under Jay Woodcroft, there are signs of possible breakthroughs. Sometimes it’s subtle, but in a league like the NHL, you can really start cooking if you keep stacking smart decision after smart decision.

Again, not every decision is a galaxy brain moment. Plenty of coaches would’ve rested McDavid and Draisaitl during the final game of the regular season, but not all of them (see: Darryl Sutter).

A lot of factors influence whether a team makes a deep playoff run, and luck is a huge one. But the Oilers have a chance to “make their own luck” if they can keep McDavid and Draisaitl fresher than the competition.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 First Round schedule, TV info]

Part of that’s about picking your spots.

When the Oilers were in a Game 1 slugfest with the Kings, McDavid logged 25:33 time on ice, the sort of minutes you ask from a star defenseman. Yet, in the past two blowouts, McDavid didn’t reach 17 minutes in either contest.

Perhaps the lure of greater rest can inspire the Oilers against the Kings in Game 4, and beyond?

It’s plausible that these most immediate factors could really help Edmonton:

  1. Perhaps the Kings simply are overmatched, and the Oilers could win Games 4 and 5 to wrap things up?
  2. Elsewhere in the Pacific Division bracket, the Stars are pushing the Flames. Every game has been a grinding affair with little room for error. Would anyone be shocked if the Stars and Flames went six or seven games?

McDavid deserves a lot of credit for improving his defensive game, including adjusting to Woodcroft’s tweaks. Nonetheless, blinding, terrifying speed is what separates McDavid from other similarly skilled superstars.

Now imagine McDavid not only having faster legs than his opponents, but fresher ones. You could start to dream big from there.

Naturally, less fatigue could mean a lot to 40-year-old goalie Mike Smith, too. Still, the prospect of McDavid being as close to full-speed as you can get during the playoffs would be a scary one for any opponent.

Of course, to gain that edge, the Oilers must be efficient against the Kings, which is far from guaranteed.


Game 4: Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes, 12:30 p.m. ET -- ESPN (CAR leads 2-1): To get back in this First Round series, the Bruins held the Hurricanes to a low-event game at even-strength, and dominated on special teams. Boston’s big guns stepped up, in general. We’ll see if they can thread that needle to tie this series.

Game 4: St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild, 4:30 p.m. ET -- TBS (MIN leads 2-1): Will we get a close contest in Game 4? After the Blues won Game 1 by a score of 4-0, the Wild took the last two contests by a bloated combined score of 11-3. That’s three straight games decided by four goals. Heading in, this series looked closely matched; will that just mean they keep trading lopsided wins?

Game 4: Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7 p.m. ET -- TBS (TOR leads 2-1): During their repeat Stanley Cup wins, the Lightning have responded impeccably to losses. As much as people joke about the Maple Leafs squandering 3-1 series leads (and 4-1 leads in games), the Lightning’s hopes of a three-peat could very well ride on winning Game 4. (Even if the Maple Leafs tragically squander a hypothetical 3-1 series lead to the Lightning, going a full seven games would take a lot out of a Bolts squad that’s already piling up serious mileage.)


Game 4: Florida Panthers at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. ET -- TBS (WSH leads 2-1) Game 4: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers, 7 p.m. ET -- ESPN (PIT leads 2-1) Game 4: Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators, 9:30 p.m. ET -- ESPN (COL leads 3-0) Game 4: Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars, 9:30 p.m. ET -- TBS (DAL leads 2-1)

PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews Maple Leafs vs. Lightning Hurricanes vs. Bruins Penguins vs. Rangers Panthers vs. Capitals Blues vs. Wild Avalanche vs. Predators Oilers vs. Kings Flames vs. Stars

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