The playoff race is heating up, and the Edmonton Oilers find themselves in the thick of it. With only 15 games remaining, the pressure is mounting and every point is critical. With that in mind, when it comes to the Oilers, there will be some certainties down the stretch — like Connor McDavid leading the team in points, their power play clicking at impressive rates, and Evander Kane never shying away from a confrontation. However, below are four questions Edmonton is faced with, with the postseason just around the corner.
Will Vincent Desharnais Be Able to Handle More Minutes?
Oilers’ defenceman Vincent Desharnais has been a pleasant surprise since making his debut with the team in January. Since then, he’s played in 22 games, tallying four assists, and has a plus-8 rating while averaging 12:08 of time on ice. Moreover, the 6-foot-6 and 215-pound behemoth has brought a physical and nasty dimension that’s been a welcomed addition to the blue line.
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Head coach Jay Woodcroft often ran his 11 forwards and seven defencemen format, but in the last three games, he’s gone to the traditional 12 forwards and six defencemen route, which increased Desharnais’ minutes per game. The 26-year-old played a career-high 16:10 against the Buffalo Sabres on March 6 and 14:54 against the Boston Bruins three nights later. However, he only played 11:41 against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 11, and the reduction of playing time was likely due to a costly mistake. In the second period, teammate Ryan McLeod gave the puck away to Mitch Marner, who buried it all alone on Stuart Skinner. Less than two minutes later, Desharnais attempted to make a diagonal pass up the middle, which was intercepted by Marner again and led to the game-tying goal. Rookie mistakes will happen, but it’s a lesson he’ll have to try and learn not to make again.
On a different note, according to Natural Stat Trick, in the four games prior to seeing an increase in ice time, Desharnais had a combined eight high-danger chances for (HDCF) and seven high-danger chances against, but in his last three games going with six defencemen, he’s had eight HDCF and only two against. Additionally, in just under seven minutes playing on the penalty kill in the last three games, the Oilers have only let in one goal while he’s been on the ice.
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