EDMONTON – “I knew he was good. But honestly, he gave us better hockey than I expected in the regular season and he’s been even more dominant since the start of the playoffs. He again played a key role in our victory this evening. †
This quote Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake gave me as he left Rogers Place 45 minutes after his team took a 5-4 win, just 72 seconds into extra time.
A win that propels its kings to a place in the second round. A spot that will be fully deserved as this team that saw no one in the playoffs last fall and didn’t give many chances to beat the Edmonton Oilers in the first round.
Who exactly was Rob Blake talking about?
From Adrian Kempe who scored two goals in addition to an assist, including the winner, and who rightfully took the first star of the game?
Rob Blake mentioned Phillip Danault to whom he offered a $33 million contract over six seasons to lure him to Los Angeles.
From Phillip Danault, who took center stage in all three regular periods and set the tone for extra time that quickly turned in the Kings’ favor.
It was through the efforts of Danault and his linemates – Carl Grundstrom on the left and Trevor Moore on the right – that Adrian Kempe commented on the winning goal.
“We took advantage of the Oilers guys hot on their tail after being pressured by the trio of” Philo from the start of extra time,” said the man who had just won his club.
As he did all night when he was on the ice with the Oilers front line, Danault won at the expense of Connor McDavid, Evander Kane and Zach Hyman who completed a game of musical chairs on the right flank of the first trio. Danault and his “boys” annoyed the big Oilers-area trio who set the table for Kempe, Anze Kopitar and Alex Iafallo, who went on to take advantage.
It should come as no surprise that Danault is effective in all defense phases of the game.
That Danault won 56% of the face-offs he played in Game 5 – 14 or 25, including several “wins” in crucial face-offs in the defensive zone – should come as no surprise to anyone.
But that he added a third goal since the start of the playoffs to confirm an impressive offensive awakening is surprising to many. Starting with the big boss of the Kings, Rob Blake.
“I’m on 30 goals this year if you add up the 27 I’ve scored in the regular season,” Phillip Danault pointed out to me during a brief chat at the locker room door of his new team.
Danault scored this third goal of the playoffs in a massive attack. Because Yes! In Los Angeles, Phillip Danault not only fulfills defensive mandates, but he also acquires special missions during power play.
Sometimes far from the boards, sometimes in the corner of the rink, sometimes even in the middle of the action in front of the opponent’s net, Phillip Danault looks for ways to increase his chances of scoring during massive attacks.
It was by skillfully fending off a puck while discreetly to the left of Oilers goalkeeper Mike Smith that Phillip Danault scored his 30.and goal of the season. A goal that restored a two-goal lead over his Kings with just under nine minutes left in the final third.
In this match, Danault demonstrated the quality of his attacking touch. A touch he couldn’t show in Montreal with the Canadiens, but a touch he always had.
That said, when we saw Danault poke his nose that he was rubbed a few times as he settled into the groove in front of the Oilers goal, you could have sworn he was trying to emulate Brendan Gallagher with whom he had his best moments. spent with the Habs.
“Gally is a good player and it is true that he knew how to handle these situations, but I also got some good advice from some of my new team-mates. Starting with Dustin Brown, who taught me how to take advantage of the rebounds awarded by the opposing goalkeepers. I’m not doing this alone. I have good teammates who help me and I also got the support of my coaches who also show me a lot of confidence in the attacking facets of the game,” Danault continued.
Frustration grips the Oilers
Of all the ways to analyze the quality of the work of a center qualified as defensive and notice the signs of frustration of its opponents.
By rushing Danault several times, including from the face-off that kicked off the mid-term, Evander Kane showed that the Oilers’ frustration towards central Quebec is about to explode.
And all the better for Danault, who admits he tried to match the quality of defensive work, which allowed him to hold on to Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner of the Maple Leafs in the first round, and the Jets attackers he faced in the part of the Habs. ‘ four-game sweep and the best elements of the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the West Final.
Once against the Lightning, in the grand finale, the challenge became almost insurmountable. Why? Because unlike Sheldon Keefe in the first round, Paul Maurice in the second and Pete DeBoer in the Western Finals, “Bolts” head coach Jon Cooper decided to split his forces on offense to complicate Danault’s job.
The Oilers split McDavid and Draisaitl for the same reason. The problem for Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft is that after he started the game with Kailer Yamamoto on the right side of the front line, he had to replace him with Jesse Puljujarvi as Danault and his linemates controlled the game. It wasn’t much better with Puljujarvi . So much so that Zach Kassian was relieved.
In 23 min 20 s of use – the highest total among attackers from the two teams – Danault was Imperial. Nothing less. It has peaked in usage time since the start of the series. In fact, the three games in which Danault played more than 20 minutes were won by his Kings.
With two goals up and under nine minutes to go, the Oilers have reunited their two-headed monster. McDavid and Draisaitl took the opportunity to equalize the chances and send the game into extra time. Draisaitl scored both goals: one shorthanded and the other while Phil Danault served a minor penalty.
“You can play as well as you can without stopping such guys from scoring just because they are so good. But I learned a lot in series last year. I have learned a lot this season and am still learning. It is the only way to get better,” Danault hammered home.
Getting better will be the message that head coach Todd McLellan will give to Danault and his other Kings players for the next game. “As good as we were tonight, it won’t be enough for the next game because our opponents will have to be better too,” the Kings coach noted.
Kings who were able to surprise in the first round by knocking out the Oilers and depriving hockey fans in Calgary and Edmonton a possible blow to Alberta.
Not bad for a team that had to settle for a place in the play-offs.
“Making the play-offs is never enough. Once in the play-offs you want to win and we take the means to win. I learned that last year too,” Danault concluded before retiring to the locker room.
between the lines
- The Kings spent the night in Edmonton and won’t fly to California until Wednesday for Game 6 on Thursday…
- Like the Maple Leafs, Blues and Hurricanes, the Kings now have close to an 80% chance of advancing to the next round based on NHL data tied to Game 5 wins in a series tied 2-2 …
- With two goals on three attempts, the Oilers have hit the back of the net seven times with 17 kills (41.2% efficiency) and have six goals on 11 kills (54.5% efficiency) in their three games. Edmonton were played…
- Conversely, the Kings struggle with numerical superiority. Limited to one goal in five attempts on Tuesday, the Kings have only two goals in 20 chances (10% efficiency) and one goal in 13 attempts at Rogers Place (7.7% efficiency)…