We don’t know how far Evander Kane can help lead the Edmonton Oilers through the playoffs.
In fact, Saturday night’s game could be Edmonton’s last game of the 2022 playoff season if the Oilers lose to the Los Angeles Kings in game seven.
But make no mistake, without Kane, the Oilers would not have made it this far against Los Angeles, and may even have failed to make the playoffs.
Kane provides the Oilers with the goal scoring, confidence and stamina that Edmonton hasn’t had in years on the wing. Not only that, this is crucial in the playoffs, Kane brings some of the swagger the Oilers last had when Chris Pronger was on the team.
Kane comes across as a fierce competitor, and while I can’t read anyone’s mind, he seems to put some fear into the opposition. He has a nasty side on the ice, so much so that few opposing players mess with him, and those who do almost always get the worst of it. As for his teammates, they seem to skate two inches taller and add 20 pounds of heavier muscle when they line up with Kane.
Before Kane arrived, Edmonton was out of a playoff spot, 19th in the NHL overall standings, behind the likes of Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles and Vegas.
With Kane, Edmonton passed each of these rivals in the standings.
In the playoffs, Kane wasn’t the only stellar Oiler.
Connor McDavid has taken his game to a new level.
Mike Smith continued his strong game from the last month of the season.
Zack Kassian and Josh Archibald provided strong physical players, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Derek Ryan played their best hockey of the season.
Brett Kulak, Cody Ceci, Evan Bouchard and Tyson Barrie all increased in defence, with Darnell Nurse, coming off an injury, also having his moments.
But outside of McDavid, who now appears to be wanting the Oilers to win games, it was Kane who stood out the most.
He is in the midst of countless scrums. It tracks opponents and hits them hard. He is participating in Grade A shooting at a rate second only to McDavid in the Oilers. He attacks the net with ferocity and uses his deft hands to score goal after goal. He has seven now, as many as any other player in the NHL playoffs this year.
As for Kane’s future in Edmonton, who knows? It’s on the air as a result of Saturday night’s game. But as many doubts as there were in Edmonton and around the NHL about Ken Holland bringing in Kane — some of those doubts around his various off-ice legal controversies, but a lot of them around a perceived negative impact on his teammates — Kane became performed on a level beyond anyone’s expectations, except perhaps their own.
He raised the Oilers, it wasn’t any kind of misfortune.
He’s giving the Oilers what they desperately needed, a fierce and highly skilled winger to play McDavid.
And when it comes to the two Oilers, I hope to be big in Game Seven, it’s those two.
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