Stress mounting for Oilers’ McDavid, Draisaitl as dynamic duo slumps

SUNRISE, Fla. — At 103rd in scoring and on Web page 3 of the NHL’s scoring race, Connor McDavid is within the greatest stoop of his NHL profession. His capturing proportion has plummeted from 18.2 per cent final season to 9.1 per cent this.

He’s fifth in scoring, on his personal group. 

A couple of stalls over within the visiting dressing room right here in Dawn, Leon Draisaitl sits with six targets. He’s missed extra open web one-timers than that this season, and his total recreation appears misplaced at sea because the Oilers languish close to the underside of the NHL standings.

His capturing proportion fell from 21.1 per cent to 11.5 per cent, and that doesn’t rely the empty web possibilities which have sailed large. 

Oh, after which there’s this: 

Neither man can lean on the opposite to get out of the glue, as a result of they’re each knee-deep in it. 

“We had been saying that the opposite day,” stated Draisaitl. “This has by no means occurred, that each of us have felt this manner. 

“It’s a nasty time.” 

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However earlier than we get began on this rarest of columns — I’ve coated each gamers since their draft day and can’t ever recall when their collective poor play was the speak of the city — it’s best to know this: 

“We’re believin’ that is going to come back,” McDavid stated, prefer it was one thing he wanted the doubters to listen to. One thing he needed to get on the report. 

“Pay attention, we’ve performed it for an extended, lengthy stretch of time. And we’ll get again there once more,” McDavid promised. “We don’t cease believing, although everybody else would possibly. We consider, not solely in ourselves however in one another. In our group.” 

In three of the final 4 seasons, McDavid and Draisaitl have completed one-two (or two-one) in NHL scoring. You possibly can return 10 seasons, sum up each NHLer’s manufacturing since 2014-15, and also you’ll see McDavid at No. 1 and Draisaitl at No. 2. 

They’re this technology’s Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, however with that comes a legion of video coaches whose job it’s to search out the cracks of their recreation.

What are their tendencies? What facet of the ice do they like to come back up? The place does Draisaitl most frequently cease and switch to guard a puck? How will you defend that McDavid spin transfer that has damaged ankles for the previous 9 seasons?

Is that a part of this stoop? Is hockey catching as much as this Dynamic Duo?

“I undoubtedly assume so, which is an enormous praise,” stated Draisaitl. “Groups play us laborious, play us tight — however that hasn’t modified during the last 4 or 5 years. Groups have at all times performed us laborious, they’ve at all times performed us tight.

“With all due respect, it’s extra us than anyone else. So we’re working laborious, and persevering with to work at largely liberating up the thoughts slightly bit, to only exit and play.”

The stress is mounting. On the group, on its prime two gamers. 

Neglect about pending contracts — Draisaitl has one yr left after this one, McDavid two. They’re nervous about the remainder of November — a few season that must be rescued right here — not a free-agent deadline that’s months or years away. 

On Saturday in Tampa, Lightning superstars Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos piled up three targets and 5 factors, whereas Draisaitl and McDavid went pointless. It was the fourth consecutive goose egg on the street for McDavid, the primary time in his profession he’s gone so lengthy with no level on the street. 

Often in a recreation like that, the Oilers would simply beat the opposite guys to seven and win 8-5 on an empty netter. However with none manufacturing from the winners of the final 4 Artwork Ross trophies, the Bolts gained 6-4. 

“Individuals assume we’re attempting to get to seven,” McDavid stated. “We’re attempting to win a hockey recreation, any means we will. (In Tampa) if the facility play might pitch one in, it might need been a special recreation. Energy play hasn’t been superb.” 

Final yr’s energy play operated at 32.4 per cent. This yr’s unit stumbles alongside at 22.8 per cent, and you’ll hen or egg it over whether or not that’s what’s improper with the large boys’ manufacturing, or if their manufacturing is what’s improper with the Oilers’ energy play. 

Draisaitl, who has six targets in 16 video games this yr, after seasons of 55 and 52 targets, missed the online on two power-play one-timers. He scores these for enjoyable — simply not proper now.  

The place is his recreation? 

“Definitely to not our customary,” he stated. “Issues are seemingly slightly tougher proper now than they usually are, and that spirals slightly bit. , we’re human beings, and we care lots. I’m working at discovering my recreation as quickly as doable.

“(The one-timers) will not be getting into, and that’s irritating. However for me, it’s the remainder of my recreation that bothers me extra. I like to attain and I need to put these in each time, after all. Nevertheless it’s the remainder of my recreation: how I really feel when I’ve the puck, how a lot I’ve the puck, that I’d like to alter.”

Right here’s one other problem, in relation to critiquing the video games of those two elite gamers. You can not inform when both are injured.

Keep in mind how Draisaitl hobbled by that playoff season on one leg? Nicely, McDavid got here again from damage nicely earlier than anticipated this season, and to our eye he lacks his customary explosiveness — particularly as video games put on on. 

However each play damage, as correct leaders ought to. And the collective malaise of this hockey group dictates that neither take an evening off to recuperate. 

You possibly can name them lower than productive, to which they each will ruefully agree. However don’t say they don’t care.

The likelihood that it is a wasted season is killing McDavid. That is his group, and he wears its troubles like a masks.

And Draisaitl?

Like huge, rangy expert guys who got here earlier than him — Lemieux and Ryan Getzlaf come to thoughts — when he’s off he can look sluggish, even lazy. It’s a little bit of a trope, actually.

He’ll miss a go, positive. Make a nasty learn, and even cease shifting his toes every so often.

However inform him he doesn’t care and Draisaitl will take you on.

“I believe that I’m very misunderstood that means, at instances. Clearly I put on my feelings on my sleeve. There’s no secret about that,” he stated. 

“I believe that’s perhaps one half about me that’s very misunderstood.” 

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