4 Edmonton Oilers who must elevate their game for a deeper Stanley Cup playoff push

Edmonton Oilers v St Louis Blues
Edmonton Oilers v St Louis Blues / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages
4 of 5
Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) / Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Make the money be worth Nurse

As the Edmonton Oilers prepare for the rigors of playoff hockey, the focus naturally falls on the team's offensive firepower and goaltending prowess. However, amidst the spotlight on scoring goals and making game-changing saves, the importance of a solid defensive foundation cannot be overstated. For the Oilers, this means relying on the collective efforts of their blue line, with defenseman Darnell Nurse standing at the forefront.

While the top defensive pairing of Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm has garnered attention for their steady play, the success of the Oilers in the playoffs will depend heavily on the performance of their entire defensive corps. This places added pressure on Darnell Nurse, who not only carries the responsibility of anchoring the blue line but also shoulders the weight of his hefty $9.25 million salary.

Nurse, a cornerstone of the Oilers' defense, is no stranger to high-stakes hockey. With his imposing physical presence, defensive awareness, and ability to chip in offensively, he has established himself as a linchpin of the team's back end. However, as the playoffs loom large, Nurse must elevate his game to new heights and lead by example on the ice.

One area where Nurse's impact will be crucial is in shutting down opposing forwards and limiting scoring opportunities. His physicality and willingness to engage in battles along the boards and in front of the net can disrupt the rhythm of even the most potent offensive units. Additionally, Nurse's ability to read the play and make timely defensive plays will be instrumental in stifling opposing attacks and turning defense into offense.

However, with great responsibility comes great scrutiny, and Nurse's hefty salary only serves to magnify the expectations placed upon him. As one of the highest-paid defensemen on the team, he must deliver consistent performances and justify his salary with impactful play on both ends of the ice.