The jury’s still out on the Adam Larsson-for-Taylor Hall trade, and if it’s not universally popular in Edmonton, that’s because Hall’s contributions show up on the scoresheet where Larsson’s don’t. But the Oilers dealt from a position of strength—a glut of scoring forwards—to address a specific need—a dependable stay-at-home defenseman—and certainly haven’t suffered much on offense for it. (It may actually be the rare trade that benefits both teams.) But it’s fair to say that no one expected Larsson to be a playoff hero.
Larsson scored twice and added an assist in Edmonton’s wild 5-3 Game 1 win over Anaheim yesterday, and Oilers fans are relearning a lesson they haven’t had demonstrated for them in a long, long time: In the postseason, you don’t win without those unexpected heroes. Already they’ve gotten huge plays from the likes of David Desharnais, Zack Kassian, and Anton Slepyshev. So why not Larsson?
In the midst of a six-goal third period, Larsson stepped up into the slot to rifle a wrister past John Gibson and give the Oilers a two-goal lead. Larsson doesn’t typically come up like that, but if the Ducks are going to give him that much space, he’s going to take it.
After Anaheim quickly came back to tie the game, Larsson carried the puck in all the way behind the net—again, more aggressive than we’re used to seeing from him—and benefited from a lucky bank shot off defenseman Josh Manson.
An empty-netter from Leon Draisaitl, who had four points on the night, and that was it for Game 1.
Larsson tried to downplay his awareness of the season-long debate over the Hall trade.
“Since Day 1, I haven’t thought about that. Obviously, there was a lot of talk about that in the media but I can’t do anything about that. It was out of my reach. Obviously, there are always going to be comparisons about that but since Day 1, I felt real welcome in the room and that helped me.”
In a vacuum, I’d still probably take Hall. But this isn’t a vacuum. The Oilers did one thing really well—score—and desperately needed to get better in other areas to ice a team well-rounded enough to make, and win in, the playoffs. Workmanlike goaltending from Cam Talbot has been a big part of it; so has Larsson’s steadying influence alongside the more offensively minded Oscar Klefbom. And would you look at that: Larsson now has two more career playoff goals as an Oiler than Taylor Hall.