Cult of Hockey Player Grades: Strong 4-1 Edmonton Oilers win over L.A in possible 1st round preview

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The Edmonton Oilers won a big divisional battle on Thursday, a 4-1 victory over the Kings creating a 5-point spread between Edmonton and L.A. in the Pacific. Vegas slides into 3rd place but is 4 back of the Oil.

Edmonton won both ends of the specialty teams battle (PP ½, PK 2/2) and the goaltending showdown (Skinner over Talbot).

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L.A. had 33 shots on net…but they are volume shooters. Overall, a sound defensive performance by the home club.

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Here is the tale of the tape…

Edmonton Oilers Player Grades

STUART SKINNER. 8. Steady 1st from Skinner but without a lot of serious work. But he had to be very sharp early in the 2nd as the Kings pressed with 7 unanswered shots, making solid saves off Moore (2-on-1) and Lewis. Stuffed Kempe a few shifts later. With the game still 1-0 Skinner stoned Kempe and then Kopitar in tight. Those were tide-turning saves as just shifts later his mates scored the 2-0. Precious little chance on the 3-1, it was a bang-bang play after a turnover. Big glove save off a Roy point shot. Then helped close it out late in the 3rd with big stops on Dubois and a 1-timer off Kempe’s stick. Stopped 32 of 33. Named the game’s 2nd Star. Looked to be in playoff form.

CONNOR McDAVID. 9. Hit the 120-point mark for the 3rd consecutive season with the 1-0 in the first, knocking down a Mattias Ekholm point shot then back-handing it home for a 4v4 goal. Levelled a hard check on Lizotte late in the 1st frame. No call from the Zebras when he was dropped while cutting hard across the slot. Wins the faceoff after a bad icing by L.A. and ends up with the secondary assist on the 2-0. Earned the primary assist on Bouchard’s 3-0 goal with a pass from behind the goal line. A rare turnover in his zone with possession and the net empty at the other end but eventually cleared the zone on that series. Fought relentlessly through the Kings withering trap. Ended up +3. Named 1st Star.

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RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS. 6. Fine defensive performance. An excellent clear on the 1st Period PK. Blocked shot and then a steal and clear on the same 3rd Period PK. Hard battle and clear of his own zone in the 3rd. Superb back-check forced an L.A. off-side.

ZACH HYMAN. 6. Good backhand chance from a 3-way passing play with Bouchard and McDavid. Could not convert a sneaky inside pass from Ekholm late in the 1st. Called for a 3rd Period Interference infraction. But then drew a slashing call leading to the 3-0. 5 shots.

DARNELL NURSE. 7. A tower of strength. High Dangers 6-2 5v5 on Darnell Nurse’s stingy watch. Delivered 7 hits to lead the squad. His elite-level speed was a definite edge over a team like the Kings with average boots by comparison. Both sides of this 1st pairing (tonight) were excellent.

CODY CECI. 7. His best effort in a long time. Ceci got a shot on net off a lovely Draisaitl pass in the 1st. The two teamed up in a similar fashion early in the 2nd. Showed particularly good patience deep in his own end and the net empty, found a lane, and drained a 193-foot shot right up the gut for the 4-1. High Dangers 5v5 5-2.

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LEON DRAISAITL. 8. Smart stick to end an L.A. sortie early in the 1st. Erased a pending Oilers PP with the tiniest slash on an L.A. player but it was ‘right’ in front of the referee. Just missed potting a bounce off the back boards on a shot-pass by Bouchard. Thumped Roy with hard hit mid-way through the 1st. A terrific pass to Ceci for a chance. Found Ceci again in the 2nd for a point-bank chance. Dangerous shot through a screen. A hard, power move behind the net leads to a pass throw at Henrique in front for the 2-0. Won the faceoff on the 3-0 and ultimately earned the secondary assist. Hard backcheck on Kempe. A spectacular backhand pass set up Henrique in the high slot. Had a rough night in the faceoff circle until it really mattered. Then, won 3 D-zine faceoffs with the Kings net empty, earning a primary assist on the 4-1 with his 3rd win. 3 assists, +3. 3rd Star.

ADAAM HENRIQUE. 7. “Go to the net, kids”. Henrique was rewarded for doing just that, on the ice with sparse seconds remaining in the 2nd after a bad Kings icing. A Draisaitl pass deflected off Henrique’s shoulder right at the top of the crease and in, sending dejected L.A. to the room with a 2-0 deficit after 2. Could not drain a hi-light reel pass from Draisaitl in front. 6 hits.

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WARREN FOEGELE. 5. Hard 2nd Period hit on Doughty. Worked hard on the fore check, responsible without the puck. Just did not have a lot of numbers to illustrate a good effort.

MATTIAS EKHOLM. 5. Earned the primary assist on the 1-0 with a point shot that McDavid converted. A fine pass up the middle for Hyman late in the 1st. A glaring giveaway behind his own goal line, leading to the 3-1. A rare night on the bad end of High Dangers 5v5 (4-6).

EVAN BOUCHARD. 8. He was excellent. Secondary assist on the 1-0. Sifted a hard pass off the back wall which Draisaitl nearly swept home for the 2-0. Excellent stick check of Kempe in front. A sweet pass up the middle to spring McDavid and Hyman on a break. Played a 2nd Period 2-on-1 expertly. Part of the sequence on the 2-0. Hammered home the 3-0, a one-timer high glove off a McDavid feed. It was his first since a goal versus L.A. back on February 26th. Involved in the 3-1 against but I had no problem with Bouchard’s decision to pinch in the neutral zone.

RYAN McLEOD. 5. Fine pass by Ryan McLeod led to a break between Kane and Perry. But his best work was without the puck. Very responsible. Sawed off in 5v5 CF. His speed in between Kane and Perry seems to work well.

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EVANDER KANE. 6. Set the tone for the game by thumping Drew Doughty with a heavy check in the first, whistled for a questionable trip on the play. Delivered another heavy hit on Englund when he returned. Crisp pass across to perry on a good chance on a 2-on-1. Kane finished up with 6 hits and a string North-South game.

COREY PERRY. 5. Career NHL game number 1,300. Good feed to McLeod in the 2nd who must missed. Tried to deke Talbot 5-hole on a 2-on-1 with Kane. 3rd Period blocked shot.

BRETT KULAK. 5. The far superior member of the Oilers 3rd pairing tonight. Bailed out his D-partner on a bad pinch as Kulak swept the puck away from the gaping Edmonton net. Sawed off on High Dangers 5v5.

VINCENT DESHARNAIS. 3. Struggled. Drew a 2nd Period slash. 2nd Period turnover with a soft pass behind his own net, a harbinger of bad things to come. Yet another giveaway led to point-blank shots by Kempe and Kopitar. Ill-timed pinch led directly to a Grade A chance against.

DEREK RYAN. 5. This line decidedly lost the shot-shares battle but all 3 were so solid defensively they still receiving passing grades. Good anticipation for an interception high in his own zone in the 2nd.

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MATTIAS JANMARK. 5. Hard play along the wall to earn a zone clear on the PK in the 1st. Clever deflection on a 3rd Period shorthanded chance. 4 hits. Coach trusted him out on the ice late to protect the lead.

CONNOR BROWN. 5. Nice zone clear on a 1st Period PK. Set up Janmark for a dangerous chance shorthanded.

Edmonton’s record now sits at 44-23-4, 92 points. They remain 2nd in the Pacific, opening up a 5-point gap between them and L.A., 4 points up on Vegas. And the Oilers have 2 games on hand on the Golden Knights, 1 on the Kings.

Prior to the game, Official Kyle Rehman was recognized for his 1,000th NHL game. We do not pull punches here when it comes to officiating. We also recognize meaningful accomplishments.

Find me on Threads @kleavins, on Instagram at LeavinsOnHockey, Mastodon at [email protected], and X @KurtLeavins.

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