The Edmonton Oilers needed a win last night, and they got it. It took until the shootout, but the point for this team in 2015-16 is to chase the second season, push away from the second division, and hopefully find themselves in a new place, in a brand new day. Yes. Last night was important.
MACHINE HEAD, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2014: 4-5-1
- Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0
- Oilers in November 2014: 2-9-3
- Oilers in November 2015: 4-7-2
- Oilers in December 2014: 2-8-4
- Oilers in December 2015: 7-6-1
- Oilers in January 2015: 5-7-1
- Oilers in January 2016: 1-0-0
- Oilers after 40 in 2014-15: 9-22-9, 27 points (-52 GD)
- Oilers after 40 in 2015-16: 16-21-3, 35 points (-22 GD)
The long December gave us reason to believe, maybe this year will be better than the last. It started well but faded, but most of the difference in this team’s record year over year comes from the twelfth month. Oilers are on pace for 72 points now, that would represent a 10-point increase, and the best season since Tom Renney’s second campaign in Edmonton. Chiarelli and McLellan both talked about pain in their opening media avails, this is us.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Some very nice performances in the game yesterday afternoon. Overall, the defense gave up three goals, but the deployment by Todd McLellan appeared solid.
- Nurse—Scultz played together and saw (mostly) either the Richardson or Vermette line. Nurse was 3-8 against Boedker and 5-6 against the Richardson line, with the duo dominating the Domi line. Schultz was 4-9 against Boedker and 4-1 against Richardson. Schultz had a great chance in OT but couldn’t cash, Nurse had his best moment point blank against Boedker, his worst on the first GA when he was neither fish nor foul. You have to defend or be aggressive, but you can’t be neither. I think McLellan is wise to give the rookie a lesser role.
- If Nurse—Schultz was the third pairing, I would be fine with it. Seriously. This was the first game since returning from injury that Schultz appeared to be on target with his passes. It is a big deal.
- Hunt—Gryba were the third pairing and saw the Richardson line a lot. One weird item: In terms of TOI with the Leon-Hall line, this duo received over half (Hunt was on for 8:08 of Hall’s total EV TOI). Someone mentioned it in the GDT and it appears to be true. Something to follow—this would be an extension of the Klefbom-Schultz pairing of a year ago—in that McLellan appears to be actively seeking offensive situations for Hunt.
- Sekera—Davidson saw the top line more than anyone (Sekera saw Boedker 8:43, Davidson 8:20, Schultz saw him 4:55) so their deficit at 5×5 comes from tough opposition (AS 8-12 v Boedker). I liked the pairing overall, both have excellent cover and recover skills—hope we see them again. Sekera’s passing wasn’t at normal levels and Davidson made a dog whistle pinch that cost a goal, but good lord the shot was perfect so I am not upset enough to suggest this pairing should be broken off.
- OEL saw D the following TOI at evens: Sekera 8:09; Schultz 8:08; Davidson 7:43; Nurse 7:16; Hunt 4:45; Gryba 4:03.
- There is no doubt in my mind the Oilers have been feeding minutes to Nurse in an effort to get him indoctrinated, but the young man is having some tough moments. No matter how good he is, Nurse can’t go fast enough to get there early. Defense is a tough position to play well. If he sees Bakersfield again, don’t panic.
CENTERS, LAST NIGHT
- Leon Draisaitl and his line once again got a bit of a matchup break (Richardson 6:44; Tikhnov 3:36; Vermette 2:15, Chipchura 1:16) on the forward group, but saw OEL more than the Nuge line (7:01 to 5:31), so pick your poison. His trio cashed on a fantastic goal to tie it 1-1, and that pass for the goal was sublime. Wonderful player, opposition are starting to take some shots, though. Took a vicious (uncalled) elbow.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to my eye had a fine game. Great pass to Eberle on the tying goal (with major credit to the goal scorer) and his group saw the Vermette line for 6:03 (7-6). I think this line was far more engaged on the evening (they grabbed five points). Looks to me as though everyone is back to do health-wise, that is probably part of the performance we saw in this game.
- Anton Lander may end up with a great possession number, but he seems to be also in photo on any offensive opportunities this year. I am in full fret mode over his Oilers future. Had one individual scoring chance according to War-on-Ice, I scooped the information from them again.
- Mark Letestu was -2 on the night, but picked up an assist on a PP goal. I think he might end up as a utility player on this team when they’re good. Weird skill set, kind of opposite Zack Smith (who I wanted for this role). I wish he had more creativity at 5×5.
WINGERS, LAST NIGHT
- Hall—Purcell were effective to my eye, felt Hall was a going concern all game, seven shots and pushed the river. I feel sorry for people who don’t get how special he is as a player. Purcell got a point, sent the puck in a smart direction and is textbook consistency.
- Pouliot—Eberle were high event and I think we are about to see this line take off in a good way. Too many penalties from Pouliot, but I like his physical play and he was involved. Eberle is ridiculous.
- Khaira—Klinkhammer had one or two moments, Khaira seems to have a decent idea about getting the puck to the net and is a good passer. He had two shot attempts, one scoring chance in 6:41, doubt he will be in the NHL when everyone is back but this was a nice first look. Klinkhammer is dogged on the fore and backcheck, that is kind of his deal. Is it enough?
- Korpikoski—Hendricks didn’t have much going on the night to my eye, but I do like the effort of this line. They show up every night.
I thought the goalie had a good game, the EV SP is a little low but one of the goals was a perfect shot (seriously, look at that damn thing) and the first goal involved some spectators from his side. Talbot has a nice opportunity here and I liked his overall play and the rebounds didn’t seem to be sponsored by Kevlar (to my eye, far from an expert). Got two points, didn’t get run over by the Zamboni—that is a good night.
"We needed it." Coach McLellan on the #Oilers starting 2016 with an important divisional win and snapping their losing skid
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) January 3, 2016
It was an important win for the Oilers, and I think the fans deserve a nice winning streak as payment for a dull two weeks around Christmas. One of the things Edmonton appears to be doing a lot on defense is showcasing, and that may or may not involve all of Justin Schultz, Brad Hunt and Eric Gryba. The only keepers I see for Edmonton’s defense next year and beyond are Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Brandon Davidson and Griffin Reinhart.
Right now, Mathew Barzal > Griffin Reinhart. But yes I understand the #Oilers needed defencemen…
— Marcy THW (@marcyTHW) December 29, 2015
I think Marcy frames the issue well here, there are components to that trade that are important to make clear. In trading No. 16 and No. 33 for a defenseman currently in Bakersfield, Peter Chiarelli made a tactical error that is impacting his team. In not buying out Nikita Nikitin during the Justin Schultz window—followed by signing Cody Franson—he robbed this year’s team of badly needed defensive oxygen.
None of that has to do with Griffin Reinhart the player, who did not make the trade and can only impact the league he plays in. I saw him (and other Condors) last night for a couple periods, and here are my quick hits on some players:
- Laurent Brossoit was incredible, making great saves in waves. There was one in OT that defied logic and reason—breathtaking.
- Zack Kassian moved well, hit and got hit, missed an open net by a mile but he is one prospect in Bakersfield we know has NHL ability. He played a lot, suggesting the Oilers want him up to speed in a quick hurry.
- Griffin Reinhart played a steady game save for the spectacular defensive sortie late in the game where he impeded progress enough for a certain goal (might have been a penalty).
- Jordan Oesterle can fly. Holy hell.
- Joey Laleggia supplied offense on every shift and quarterbacked the power play effectively. A very creative offensive player.
- Anton Slepyshev was barely noticeable.
- Greg Chase had some nice moments, I think he is going to be one of the better AHL rookies down there this season.