The Edmonton Oilers face a tough test tonight, as the high-flying Washington Capitals come to town with goals on their minds. I saw them early last season at Rexall, and it was barely fair. I hope we see a better game tonight, keep this season positive. That said, credit where due—this team has delivered wins in a part of the season when it was expected. A soft part of the schedule has not resulted in multiple wins during this long period of losing, small victories are big steps.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2015: 2-4-0, goal differential -4
- Oilers in October 2016: 5-1-0, goal differential +7
Edmonton won Game 7 last fall, over the Detroit Red Wings by a 3-1 score. Cam Talbot was solid in net, Connor McDavid, Mark Letestu and Teddy Purcell scored for the home team. The Pouliot—McDavid—Yakupov line was making good time during this period, and the club had recovered nicely from the 0-4-0 start.
OILERS BLUE, 2016-17
- Oscar Klefbom is from Karlstad, Sweden and Adam Larsson hails from Skelleftea. I don’t know much about Sweden, beyond everyone appears to be fantastically handsome, but one thing I thought I knew was that it was a small country geographically. According to the Al Gore, it is an 11-hour drive between the two locales. Huh. That is a longer drive than Edmonton to Spokane—something I have done (and a very long day). No wonder the Swedes make great stretch passes.
- Klefbom—Larsson are playing the tough opposition. NaturalStatTrick tells us the names of forwards who have faced Oscar Klefbom for more than nine minutes this season at 5×5: Kris Versteeg, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Alexander Steen, Jaden Schwartz, Michael Frolik. Adam Larsson has pretty much the same list. The price for Larsson was savage, some say it was mercury poisoning. Six games in, he also appears to be a capable NHL defenseman. Lose the battle, win the war? I don’t think we can say that at this point.
- Andrej Sekera’s most common forward opponents so far? Robby Fabbri, Paul Stastny, Johnny Gaudreau, Kris Versteeg and Sean Monahan. Kris Russell has basically the same list. I am struck by the similarities between the top pairing and second pairing in terms of top opposition. Do we have strong evidence that Todd McLellan is line matching? The Flames have been an opponent twice—home and road—so maybe there was a hard match at home and the opposite happened on the road.
- Darnell Nurse has a list we associate with a depth pair, including Matt Tkachuk, Troy Brouwer, Sam Bennett, Marcus Foligno, Johan Larsson, Patrik Berglund, Nail Yakupov. Eric Gryba has a similar list, interesting to see Dustin Byfuglien playing so much, I think that is a reflection of Winnipeg running the living hell out of him.
OILERS FORWARDS, 2016-17
- The McDavid line is among the league’s best in possession and have combined for nine of the team’s 24 goals.
- The Nuge line has had some success with Zack Kassian but remains shy of expectations in the boxcars. I am a big believer in Benoit Pouliot as a strong option, and believe Mr. McLellan may have to move him up to the McDavid line (and Lucic to the Leon line, Maroon to Nuge) in order to make this thing go.
- The Leon line (Maroon-JP) has combined for four goals, more expected based on opposition.
The Oilers remain one of the few teams with players dispersed through all four quadrants. pic.twitter.com/1bivgkDwAa
— Sean Tierney (@SeanTierneyTss) October 26, 2016
Tierney does great work, if you don’t follow him you are in for a treat when you do. Among the things that are of interest here—Nuge—Pouliot need to get going here. Also, Slepyshev is more effective than Puljujarvi in these early days and that may well be the result of this early season audition. Exceptional talent gets extra time, though, so we probably won’t have an answer for some time. The Leon group needs to have success though, especially considering the quality of opposition.
- McDavid line opposition: Giordano—Brodie, Bouwmeester—Pietrangelo, Toby Enstrom—Tyler Myers. Source
- Nuge line opposition: Morrissey—Byfuglien, Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie, Dmitri Kulikov, Deryk Engelland. Source
- Leon line opposition: Gorges—Ristolainen, Engelland, Hamilton, Noah Hanifin, Jakub Nakladal. Source
Oilers are 5-1-0, but the soft parade is not being hammered by the Leon line—yet. Is the best option Jesse Puljujarvi? Anton Slepyshev? Or will the team move Leon to the Nuge line when Drake Caggiula returns? Folks, this is why we talk about balance every blasted summer—the coach needs more viable options.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10, TSN1260, we roll with a fun and informative show. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. We will check BM’s excitement level after six games. Also, his excellent interview with Tyler Benson.
- Andrew Stoeten, BlueJaysNation. Cleveland wins Game 1, but this series has a long way to go. The Cubs bats will no doubt wake up tonight. Plays, Jays winter.
- Jason Rogers, Japers’ Rink. Jason covers one of the most enjoyable teams in the NHL, so we will discuss the Capitals and what we should be looking for in terms of tweaks and changes from a year ago.
- Jeff Krushell, Krush Performance. A couple of WS moments to talk about, including cramping (!!!) in October and a starting pitcher with a rising pitch count because he is striking out everyone who comes to the plate.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon.