Where's Leon? Edmonton Oilers' Draisaitl can no longer find stat sheet

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Where’s Leon?

You would have better luck finding Waldo on an Edmonton Oilers stats sheet here in the Stanley Cup Final than Leon Draisaitl’s name.

The Edmonton Oilers forward might as well be wearing red and white stripes out on the ice for as much as his goal-scoring ability has vanished lately. Not that he’s the first NHL player to hit a slump, playoffs or not.

The Florida Panthers defence has done one heck of a job quieting the Oilers’ deadliest weapons, just ask Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman, who have both been held to a single goal in this series, but have at least been able to get off the schneid.

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The thing is, Draisaitl’s disappearance is so utterly noticeable precisely because of the fact he appeared atop the NHL playoff points leaderboard for a significant spell, before Connor McDavid retook the lead on May 31.

Draisaitl started out with five goals and 10 points in five games against the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round.

Then kept up his two-points-per-game pace with 14 more, including three goals, in seven games against the Vancouver Canucks in Round 2.

Against the Dallas Stars in Round 3, however, his productivity began waning, with two goals and four points in six games.

And so far against the Panthers, he has registered just a pair of assists over the first five games, while going pointless in four of them.

So, we will pose the question again, where’s Leon?

This time to Kris Knoblauch.

“You look at the points and the goals-for, and so often you just look at the stat line and think he’s not playing well. Whether it’s the regular season or the playoffs … the numbers don’t usually add up. It doesn’t tell the whole picture.

“You can play a game where, and I’ve seen it, guys are terrible but just everything lined up, whether there was bad mistakes by the opposition, the goalie was out of position or your linemate did all the work and all you had to do was tap a puck in two feet. I’ve seen players get hat tricks, just career games, where the rest of it wasn’t very good. But you look at the stat line and it’s really good.”

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Like Draisaitl’s were over the first half of the playoffs.

But in a series where the opposition jumped to a quick 3-0 lead, all but apparently sealing the deal in Draisaitl’s first kick at the Stanley Cup can, it’s been hard to miss how much Draisaitl’s been lacking in the points department.

He is, after all, a playoff performer like no other over the course of his career. And almost like no other in the history of the league, in fact.

Draisaitl sits among the top five all-time with 1.49 playoff points per game. That’s significantly up from his career 1.18 points per game in the regular season.

And it’s not just this year.

Draisaitl scored a league-high 13 playoff goals in just 12 games in 2022-23, and finished second overall in playoff scoring, one point behind McDavid’s 33 in 2021-22.

This year, his 10 goals and 20 assists have him third behind teammates McDavid (42 points) and Evan Bouchard (32 points), despite the late-stage drought.

So, if this is indeed a blip on Draisaitl’s impressive post-season radar, it’s a rather blatant blip.

Then again, there is a reason Knoblauch is in the position he’s in, guiding the Oilers to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 2006. His coaching eye sees things differently from the rest of us simple stat-line scanners.

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“I think of Leon’s game and right now, he’s been playing well,” Knoblauch said. “Has it been where it sometimes is, what it was in the L.A. series or other times during the playoffs? Maybe not quite, but it’s still been pretty good.

“He’s doing a lot of things for our team, and just missing the goals and assists. And (with) that, a lot has to do with the luck factor.”

Then again, Knoblauch isn’t interested in individual stats or luck, rather in motivating his team to play the best it possibly can as it takes on both the Panthers and NHL history at the same time, looking to be just the second team to ever come back from being down 0-3 in the finals.

And you can bet he’d like nothing more than to have Draisaitl put up big numbers Friday (6 p.m., CBC, Sportsnet) to force a deciding Game 7.

Or McDavid, or Hyman or Nugent-Hopkins. Or anyone else, for that matter, as long as it leads to the necessary result.

E-mail: [email protected]

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

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