Connor McDavid’s defense an issue for Oilers coach

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It’s easy to forget that the Edmonton Oilers are, by and large, playoff newbies, because they dispatched the San Jose Sharks in Round 1 and took the first two games on the road against the Anaheim Ducks in Round 2.

“We’re learning lessons as we go,” said coach Todd McLellan.

It’s also easy to forget that Connor McDavid had a rather rough Game 3, because he scored one of the sickest goals of the season, regular or post-, against the Ducks on Sunday night. Otherwise, he was on the ice for three Ducks’ goals at even strength.

“He, like everyone else, is learning,” said McLellan.

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McDavid has a goal and an assist in three games against Anaheim, after scoring two goals and two assists in six games against San Jose. But in their 6-3 loss to the Ducks in Game 3, McDavid got away from the defensive fundamentals that helped fuel his Art Ross-winning offensive season, according to McLellan.

And he might have the defense of Ryan Kesler to blame for it.

“I think he did,” said McLellan, on whether McDavid let his defensive game lag.

“That’s a natural tendency for your go-to guy, when he’s being checked like that. One of the things he’s done a very good job of all season is understanding that without his offense on a given night, we still have the ability to win. When he checks and he puts himself in a position to defend, he ends up with more chances.”

From Bruce McCurdy of Cult of Hockey, in evaluating McDavid’s Game 3:

McDavid’s troubles came in the first and third periods when his defensive breakdowns were part of the sequence of pain on three (3) Anaheim goals, leaving him a deserved -2 on the night. Never saw the ice again after the last of them made the score 6-3 with 9:22 still to play. Whether McLellan was resting his star or sending him a message is a matter of interpretation, but it’s not much of a stretch to guess that it will get his attention.

McLellan said he planned on breaking down tape with McDavid about what went right and wrong in Game 3.

“We’ll sit with him. We’ll show him some video that he’ll be able to tell me about before I even get to it, because he’s that sharp,” he said.

As for the Oilers, they find themselves up 2-1 after three games for the second straight round. “We’re in the exact same spot, even if it feels like there’s a little more doom and gloom,” said McLellan.

That’s because the Oilers win Game 3 on the road, 1-0, against the Sharks, but were blown out by the Ducks in Game 3 at home: Allowing the first three goals of the game, roaring back with three of their own, and then watching the Ducks score three more on Cam Talbot, who gave up six goals for the first time since Oct. 16, 2016.

“We have to recover here, just like we did in the San Jose series,” said McLellan.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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