rewrite this title Pressure mounting for Oilers’ McDavid, Draisaitl as dynamic duo slumps

SUNRISE, Fla. — At 103rd in scoring and on Page 3 of the NHL’s scoring race, Connor McDavid is in the biggest slump of his NHL career. His shooting percentage has plummeted from 18.2 per cent last season to 9.1 per cent this.

He is fifth in scoring, on his own team. 

A few stalls over in the visiting dressing room here in Sunrise, Leon Draisaitl sits with six goals. He’s missed more open net one-timers than that this season, and his overall game seems lost at sea as the Oilers languish near the bottom of the NHL standings.

His shooting percentage fell from 21.1 per cent to 11.5 per cent, and that doesn’t count the empty net chances that have sailed wide. 

Oh, and then there’s this: 

Neither guy can lean on the other to get out of the glue, because they’re both knee-deep in it. 

“We were saying that the other day,” said Draisaitl. “This has never happened, that both of us have felt this way. 

“It’s a bad time.” 

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But before we get started on this rarest of columns — I’ve covered both players since their draft day and cannot ever recall when their collective poor play was the talk of the town — you should know this: 

“We are believin’ this is going to come,” McDavid said, like it was something he needed the doubters to hear. Something he had to get on the record. 

“Listen, we’ve done it for a long, long stretch of time. And we’ll get back there again,” McDavid promised. “We don’t stop believing, even though everyone else might. We believe, not only in ourselves but in each other. In our group.” 

In three of the last four seasons, McDavid and Draisaitl have finished one-two (or two-one) in NHL scoring. You can go back 10 seasons, sum up every NHLer’s production since 2014-15, and you’ll see McDavid at No. 1 and Draisaitl at No. 2. 

They are this generation’s Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, but with that comes a legion of video coaches whose job it is to find the cracks in their game.

What are their tendencies? What side of the ice do they like to come up? Where does Draisaitl most often stop and turn to protect a puck? How can you defend that McDavid spin move that has broken ankles for the past nine seasons?

Is that part of this slump? Is hockey catching up to this Dynamic Duo?

“I definitely think so, which is a big compliment,” said Draisaitl. “Teams play us hard, play us tight — but that hasn’t changed over the last four or five years. Teams have always played us hard, they’ve always played us tight.

“With all due respect, it’s more us than anybody else. So we’re working hard, and continuing to work at mostly freeing up the mind a little bit, to just go out and play.”

The pressure is mounting. On the team, on its top two players. 

Forget about pending contracts — Draisaitl has one year left after this one, McDavid two. They’re worried about the rest of November — about a season that needs to be rescued here — not a free-agent deadline that is months or years away. 

On Saturday in Tampa, Lightning superstars Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos piled up three goals and five points, while Draisaitl and McDavid went pointless. It was the fourth consecutive goose egg on the road for McDavid, the first time in his career he’s gone so long without a point on the road. 

Usually in a game like that, the Oilers would just beat the other guys to seven and win 8-5 on an empty netter. But without any production from the winners of the last four Art Ross trophies, the Bolts won 6-4. 

“People think we’re trying to get to seven,” McDavid said. “We’re trying to win a hockey game, any way we can. (In Tampa) if the power play could pitch one in, it might have been a different game. Power play hasn’t been very good.” 

Last year’s power play operated at 32.4 per cent. This year’s unit stumbles along at 22.8 per cent, and you can chicken or egg it over whether that is what’s wrong with the big boys’ production, or if their production is what’s wrong with the Oilers’ power play. 

Draisaitl, who has six goals in 16 games this year, after seasons of 55 and 52 goals, missed the net on two power-play one-timers. He scores those for fun — just not right now.  

Where is his game? 

“Certainly not to our standard,” he said. “Things are seemingly a little harder right now than they normally are, and that spirals a little bit. You know, we’re human beings, and we care a lot. I’m working at finding my game as soon as possible.

“(The one-timers) are not going in, and that’s frustrating. But for me, it’s the rest of my game that bothers me more. I like to score and I want to put those in every time, of course. But it’s the rest of my game: how I feel when I have the puck, how much I have the puck, that I’d like to change.”

Here’s another issue, when it comes to critiquing the games of these two elite players. You cannot tell when either are injured.

Remember how Draisaitl hobbled through that playoff season on one leg? Well, McDavid came back from injury well before expected this season, and to our eye he lacks his customary explosiveness — especially as games wear on. 

But both play hurt, as proper leaders should. And the collective malaise of this hockey team dictates that neither take a night off to recuperate. 

You can call them less than productive, to which they both will ruefully agree. But don’t say they don’t care.

The possibility that this is a wasted season is killing McDavid. This is his team, and he wears its troubles like a mask.

And Draisaitl?

Like big, rangy skilled guys who came before him — Lemieux and Ryan Getzlaf come to mind — when he’s off he can look slow, even lazy. It’s a bit of a trope, really.

He’ll miss a pass, sure. Make a bad read, or even stop moving his feet now and again.

But tell him he doesn’t care and Draisaitl will take you on.

“I think that I’m very misunderstood that way, at times. Obviously I wear my emotions on my sleeve. There’s no secret about that,” he said. 

“I think that’s maybe one part about me that’s very misunderstood.” 

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