By the Numbers: Stars shining for Leafs, Oilers in first round
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers each find themselves one win away from advancing in their first-round series thanks in no small part to the play of their star players.
The cliché of "your best players need to be your best players" has held true for both teams, who have a combined seven of the 12 players with seven or more points in the postseason.
For Toronto, winger Mitch Marner leads the team with 10 points through four games in their first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The 25-year-old, who has two goals and eight assists, has yet to be held off the scoresheet in the series which Toronto leads 3-1. Marner had six points in the first four games against Tampa Bay in last year's first-round series before finishing with two goals and eight points in seven games.
His strong start to this year's postseason has raised his average to a point-per-game pace in the playoffs, with 43 points in 43 career games.
Centre Auston Matthews, who led the team's stunning comeback with two third-period goals in Game 4, has three goals and seven points in four games. He posted four goals and nine points in seven games last spring.
Winger William Nylander also has seven points for the Maple Leafs after being held to seven points in seven games by Tampa Bay last year.
Trade deadline addition and 2019 Conn Smythe winner Ryan O'Reilly is the third member of the team with seven points to date in the series. O'Reilly was acquired in February along with Noel Acciari from the St, Louis Blues, with Toronto parting with four draft picks, including their 2023 first-rounder to complete the deal.
The 32-year-old centre, who has two goals and five assists, scored with one-minute remaining in Game 3 to force overtime before assisting on Morgan Rielly's game-winner.
Rielly is tied for third among defencemen with six points in the postseason. He's equalled his tally of two goals and four points in seven games last year through four games this spring.
Leafs captain John Tavares, who owns the team's second largest cap hit at $11 million behind Matthews ($11.6 million) and just ahead of Marner ($10.9 million), has three goals and one assist in the first round so far. The 32-year-old forward was held with a point in two games in Tampa Bay after leading the Leafs to their blowout win in Game 2 with a hat trick. Tavares had three goals and six points in seven games against Tampa Bay last year.
Bouchard keeping pace with Draisaitl, McDavid
As it was in the regular season, the Edmonton Oilers continue to be paced by stars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, but the two superstars have been joined atop the scoring list by defenceman Evan Bouchard.
The Oilers lead their first-round series 3-2 against the Los Angeles Kings, with Draisaitl posting a team-high six goals and 10 points through five games. Bouchard is equal with McDavid at two goals and eight points in the first-round series to lead all defencemen.
The 23-year-old had eight goals and 40 points in 82 games during the season, his second full year in the NHL. He's posted at least a point in every game in Edmonton's first-round series, highlighted by a three-point performance in the team's come-from-behind Game 4 victory.
"I think anyone that spends any time around our group and sees him every day knows what a player he is," McDavid said earlier this week. "You knew it was only a matter of time for Bouch before he kind of stepped into that role. Obviously, he's had a really good run here coming into the playoffs and this series and he's been great."
"I did not know much about him coming here at all. I just got the chance to play with him and I can see the talent," veteran blueliner Mattias Ekholm added. "I mean, he's such a raw offensive talent and he just sees the ice really well. It's great to see because I saw in the first couple of games how he was scratching the surface of something that could be a tremendous superstar in this league."
After finishing second in the NHL points race behind McDavid's stunning 153-point tally, Draisaitl, who had 128 points, holds the slight lead in this year's postseason. He also owns the career advantage in playoff points over McDavid with 69 points (24 goals, 45 assists) to McDavid's 63 (23 goals and 40 assists) with both players having 42 career postseason games.
The 27-year-old is tied with Marner for second in points this postseason behind only Roope Hintz of the Dallas Stars. who has four goals and 11 points in five games.
Neal Pionk of the Winnipeg Jets sits between Bouchard and Rielly for second in points among defencemen this postseason.
Pionk, 27, has seven assists through four games against the Vegas Golden Knights after posting 10 goals and 33 points in 82 games this season.
The Jets are on the brink of elimination, trailing their first-round series 3-1 entering Game 5 on Thursday.