With or without Leon Draisaitl the Oilers are in big trouble

Whether or not Leon Draisaitl receives further discipline for his controversial hit on Aleksander Barkov the Oilers need a minor miracle to win the Stanley Cup.
2024 Stanley Cup Final - Game Two
2024 Stanley Cup Final - Game Two / Elsa/GettyImages

We appreciate the Florida Panthers were favourites entering the Stanley Cup Final. However, there's still something shocking about them winning 4-1 on Monday night and taking a 2-0 series lead over the Edmonton Oilers.

Yes, the factors the experts said would help the Panthers win it all, have so far proven to be correct. And yet, a major part of the shock probably comes from the Oilers -- the top scoring team in these playoffs -- only managing one goal in the opening two games.

Now, we will see the ultimate test of the Oilers' ability to bounce back from adversity and show the mental fortitude so readily on display during the past couple of months. Since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format for the Stanley Cup Final way back in 1938-39, only five teams have recovered from a 2-0 deficit to win it all.

Not helping the situation, is the chance that the Oilers could well be without one of their main hopes for game three on Thursday night, back at Rogers Place in Edmonton. More specifically, Leon Draisaitl.

There was the usual chatter from fans (and media) of the losing team, that the referees were being biased towards the opposition. Certainly, when even the usually calm and composed Kris Knoblauch is reacting angrily to a call, then you know something is up.

A controversial hit by Draisaitl

At the same time however, you can't blame the refs for the call they made against Draisaitl, after his controversial hit on Aleksander Barkov. He was given a two minute minor for roughing, and the Panthers made the Oilers pay with the subsequent power play, making it 3-1 with 7:34 remaining to effectively clinch the game.

The hit by Draisaitl along the boards was so bad -- with him appearing to using his elbow high -- that Barkov had to be helped to the locker room and did not return. Now, there's a chance the 2013 second overall draft pick will miss at least one game, although the Panthers had not provided an update at the time of writing.

Understandably, the Panthers and everyone involved is angry about this potential outcome. The only potential solace for them, is that Draisaitl could also miss at least one game.

It is standard for the NHL Department of Player Safety to review every controversial hit. As a result, the Oilers' five-time All-Star could well receive additional discipline which, objectively speaking, he does probably deserve.

Unsurprisingly, Draisaitl had a different perspective on what happened, claiming the hit wasn't that bad. As per The Athletic's Daniel Nugent-Bowman, he said: "I don’t think that’s frustration. It was just a hit. I don’t think there’s anything dirty about it. Maybe I got him a little high. Certainly not with intent to injure, though, or anything like that."

Knoblauch backed up his player, in respect of stating he did not believe there was any malicious intent or frustration. Speaking to the media postgame, he said: "I think he went in there to hit, (his) hands got up a little bit high. He was trying to knock him off the puck, and that led to the penalty."

The Panthers took a different tact with what happened, either offering no comment or saying they didn't see the hit properly. However, you know they were not happy, with Panthers coach Paul Maurice alluding to this by simply saying his feelings on the hit didn't matter.

Other potential absences for the Oilers

Aside from the potential loss of Draisaitl through a supplemental punishment, a simple fate could befall Warren Foegele. The young forward received a five-minute major during the first period for kneeing Eetu Luostarinen, and this will also be reviewed by the NHL Department of Player Safety.

While Foegele's hit didn't seem quite as bad as Draisaitl's -- even allowing for getting more minutes in the penalty box than his teammate -- it's still a concerning time for the Oilers. Throw in the potential for Evander Kane and Darnell Nurse to miss playing time through injury, and Knoblauch's team could well be significantly undermanned for game three on Thursday night.

Next. Panthers keep home-ice advantage after game 2 win over Oilers. Panthers keep home-ice advantage after game 2 win over Oilers. dark

We won't go as far as claiming the Oilers have no chance of getting back into this series; the next two games are at home and they still have the best player in the game today. However, it's clear they are in big trouble and it will take a remarkable turnaround to come back and win the Stanley Cup from this point on.

Recent Posts