Now it’s all about one game: Game 7 on Saturday night in Edmonton. The Oilers were close to one of the all-around favorites heading into the first round series against the Kings. at Athletic Surveying an executive, a scout, and a coach before the playoffs began, the three chose Edmonton. Scouts captured the Oilers in seven matches.
The day before Game 7, we reached out to an NHL assistant coach to hear his unfiltered impressions of the series. Not surprisingly, he has a lot to say about the first six games and the implications for Game 7.
First, how wrong did Kings Victor Arvidson get?
I think more than any of them would allow. You have a guy who scored 30 legitimate goals and he’s the opportunist type. And when you don’t have that guy in your top six, someone has to take over that role, and that changes everything.
It’s a big hole that needs to be filled. It changes the structure of power play. alters their line combinations. Changes players minutes. It really has a negative effect.
If anything, it gives (Karl) Grundstrom a chance to rise and shine. He scored some big goals for them. Maybe he wasn’t playing as much or maybe he wasn’t even in the squad. So, it’s hard not to have them (Arvidson) but that’s how the playoffs go. When they’re usually screwed up, that’s an important thing. I think it is a huge loss for them.
In the series, four of the Kings’ backstops made their first National Hockey League game against the Oilers. In your opinion, how have the Youth Defense Forces coped with the pressures so far?
I’ve always loved Shawn Dorzy. To be honest with you, it exceeded my expectations. You can see him do a play from nothing in Ontario – he can make a cross pass, from bar to bar, to man for one timer. People look away. He makes a play.
My concern was that he wouldn’t be able… He’s not a great skater. But it didn’t seem to affect him. The truth was that he was able to coordinate his magic into a power game. Maybe it was because (Sean) Walker was gone, and when (Matt) Roy was out and (Drew) Dottie wasn’t – maybe he didn’t get that chance. So he makes the most of it.
They all go there – nothing is expected of them. So they don’t feel any kind of pressure, right? “No one thinks we get along. We miss Doughty.”
It took a little of that pressure off them. The fact that going into that, the Kings weren’t the favourites, it’s easier to play in the first round like this when you’re the underdog. I think it’s easier when you open up the road. It helped these young people adapt.
And the attackers did a good job of helping isolate these men. They’ve been doing a good job coming back, supporting and doing a good job of giving them the opportunity. It’s about the concept of the team they started with, well (Jonathan) was very good quick when he needed to. Looks old fast.
You talk about the return of the attackers. This is where Anze Kopitar does the heavy lifting. Do you think part of his game has been overlooked to this day?
He seemed to be feeling a lot of sadness. But with (Philip) Danault being there, I didn’t have to rely on him to do everything. She talks to our players after the games and she says, “Holy smokes, Kopitar.”
Again, he may not have hit the score sheet, but that’s what he does to you – by facing up or just leaning on you, protecting the puck. He didn’t lose it at all. They could say he slowed down a step or two. Guys like these are usually more brain-brained and learn “I probably can’t catch this guy, but I can take that angle doing an effective job.” This is the Kopitar for you.
Let’s move on to Mickey Anderson. Some of us were joking saying it was “Minnesota Nice” with a bit of a snarl. Did you think he would become an effective advocate for lockdown so quickly?
This is only through hard work on his part. He has always been a smart kid. Now he’s playing with an advantage and that has made him more effective and harder to play against. At first, it wasn’t very big and it wasn’t very strong. He’s out of college and it’s a whole different game. You are now playing 82 games in the NHL. Now he can hold on there and can fight the men who might have pushed him aside before.
Now I think he’s enjoying the fact that he can irritate the opponent and take them out of their game. You could be the annoying son of a gun and (Zach) Cassian won’t come for the engagement.
The only guy who would do that, would be Evander Kane because those are the only types of guys he picks. He (Ken) chooses men who will not resist. Also Durzi was not shy about the darn thing. Both men (Anderson and Dorzy) stick out their chests. They removed their chins. They say, “Hey, I may not be the toughest guy. But as a team, we are very strong.”
In conclusion, what is the approach when you face players of a generation like Conor McDavid and Leon Drysittel entering Game 7, knowing their abilities?
They (the Kings) have done a good job of containing them and that’s all you can do. Like I said, it could explode at any time. There isn’t much you can do about it. It’s just good. The key is to be assertive or aggressive to McDavid, you can see him now engaging in these things. It kind of takes him out of his game. I saw Draisaitl limp a bit. It is exploding.
Sometimes, not always, sometimes these guys just have had enough and don’t want to keep fighting through it. I hope this is where you got it. But you know what – that game of power – it’s killer. If they get into it with Edmonton, this power game could prove to be deadly.
Well, that wasn’t the last topic. We’ve already talked about Quick a bit, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on Mike Smith.
I think the (Oilers) biggest weakness is the goalkeeper and if the Kings can spot it, it’s their best chance. There aren’t many (chance) high risk, but he (Smith) likes to do a lot with the Wand disc once he does a rescue or even dump.
Size approach (snapshot)? No problem at all. You will create something else for them.
He is prone to bad goals. If you keep shooting pucks at him, he has to make savings, control the rebound or he will try to deal with him to make a pass or something. He’s obviously a good footballer for a goalkeeper, but he’s trying to do a lot. I think he’s thinking more – as the disc approaches – “Where am I going to play this next”, rather than stopping him. For me, it’s always been like that, just save up and we’ll worry about it then.
(Photo: Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)