What has been hinted at for some time is now perfect: The Edmonton Oilers will meet the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL playoffs.
Whenever Marco Sturm talks about Leon Drysitl, the former National Ice Hockey Coach gets excited.
“I think Lyon is not only a great player, but he’s also a great guy. That’s why I’m a huge fan of him too,” the Los Angeles Kings assistant coach tells DPA. Then he pays: “But that’s been on hold for a few weeks now.”
Because the Kings are definitely eligible for NHL competitions – for the first time since Sturm switched from the German ice hockey association to the NHL after the Olympic sensation in 2018 with the silver medal in Pyeongchang – and Draisaitl and Edmonton will meet there in the first-round Oilers.
Oiled with home rights
It doesn’t matter what happens in the remaining matches of the main round through Friday. With a 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Oilers took second in the Pacific Division and a home advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Kings were able to sit back and watch from the Seattle hotel as the Vegas Golden Knights lost to the Dallas Stars on penalties and failed to make it to third place at the table. The Oilers’ duel with the Kings, Germany’s top ice hockey professional with his predecessor as the German record scorer in the National Hockey League, now on the opponent’s training bench, is perfect. It starts next week.
“The goal is to win the Stanley Cup. We’re happy to be here. The first step has been taken,” said Drysittle, immediately after qualifying at the weekend. It’s that one title he’s lost in North America, and one that pays him and means more to him than any award for his years of outstanding performance as a player. He was already the best player, the first German, and the top scorer in the league. The man from Cologne has already hit the 100-point mark this season. Only in qualifying did he not succeed at all with the Oilers. The Canadian national team did not go beyond the second round.
Storm with respect to the Oilers duo
“Leon is only 26 – if you haven’t won the Stanley Cup by then, that’s fine too. It would be worse if he was 33 or 34. Leon will make his way, whether in Edmonton or elsewhere,” Says the 43-year-old Storm. “There’s still time. He’s getting better and better. I don’t think he’s reached the end of his potential. I hope not this year, but next.”
The Kings’ biggest challenge in a seven-game max is not only keeping Draisaitl in check, but also his teammate Connor McDavid. “They have one, if not the best, players in the world on their team,” says Sturm. “It’s not going to be that easy.” McDavid is currently the league’s top scorer, while Draisaitl is fourth. “But we’ve always played hard against the Edmonton Oilers and know them well. We have respect, especially for them, but we’re not afraid.”
However, it is especially important to avoid outnumbering oilers. That’s when Draisaitl and McDavid, who run in different attack lines, stand together on the ice. “It would be very important for us not to allow ourselves any stupid punishments,” says Sturm. Then Draisaitl in particular would be more dangerous. “He’s better on his mind than almost all the other guys,” Sturm explains. “We know what his strengths are. But even if we do, he always manages to score a goal or provide an assist. That’s what makes him so special.”
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