On a night where stifling defense was celebrated across the sports spectrum thanks to Celtics David Copperfield playing the Warriors in the 4th quarter, Nazem Kadri saw on the other playoff action of the night what a force he can be if he doesn’t let his brains out. dripping from his ear.
In Game 1 of the Oilers-Avalanche series, Edmonton’s head coach/mobile clown-mouth ride through the ordering station Jay Woodcroft kept Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid on the same page, seeing how the combination of Nathan MacKinnon’s line paired with Devon Toews kept its greatest weapons for mostly muzzled. The change in Game 2, while still on his way and not getting the final change, caused Woodcroft to split Draisaitl and McDavid, giving the German a line to play with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto. The thinking was that maybe Draisaitl would get away from Toews and Cale Makar, give the Oilers threats from more than one place.
Except that the Avs were built for exactly this sort of thing and were only too happy to have Kadri follow Draisaitl’s line at every opportunity. Not only did Kadri clear every threat from the Oilers’ second-leading scorer, but he turned them around in their own zone with three assists while his line delivered three goals. The Avs had 57 percent of the attempts and 71 percent of the expected goals when Kadri was out against Draisaitl. The most impressive thing about those indications of a TKO is that Kadri made no shifts in the attack zone. He just kept flipping the ice.
The caveat here is that Draisaitl has played the entire playoffs with a high ankle sprain, and can appear as mobile as a DMV at times. But that didn’t stop him from racking up two points per game in the 14 playoffs the Oilers have played. He is still quite a challenge.
This is what Kadri does when he’s not too busy beheading someone, as his multiple play-off suspensions attest. He’s constantly in the ass of everyone his coach sends him against, furiously chasing the puck and using his quick hands to generate turnovers and set up plays. Not only can he do that, but he can also give offense. This was his final blow.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t an element of hockey HOCKEYING last night, as Pavel Francouz came out of the cold in the net for the Avs and of course shutout. When you think the game is going to zigzag, it almost always faces you. Who the Avs have in target may not matter in this series if Kadri and MacKinnon McDavid and Draisaitl continue to park the entire series in a box marked “To Timbuktu”.
With McDavid enthralled by the sight of perhaps the only opponent who can surround him with four or five players fast enough to cut him off at the blue line thanks to the speed of the counter pressure and Toews and Makar’s confidence to their holes shut up, the Oilers ran out of answers in a 4-0 Game 2 loss as they were at the end of Game 1. They can change this anywhere in Edmonton when Woodcroft gets the last change, and the obvious solution is to re-match Draisaitl and McDavid and knock them out against Jack Johnson on every single and Josh Manson chance they get. That, of course, ignores the fact that the Oilers aren’t equipped with anyone other than McDavid who has any hope of being in the same zip code as MacKinnon. Maybe it’s just a matter of letting the intruder into your home while you break into theirs and just see who has the most stuff.
Warriors turned to stone
As for the Warriors who got Medusa’d in 4th by the Celtics last night, this is about it:
Um, maybe one more for funsies: