The Edmonton Oilers defeated the ghost of the Vancouver Canucks last night, and the truth is that the win was a lot tougher than it should have been. Part of it was Ryan Miller—the Oilers had all kinds of chances and it could have been 5-0—but Edmonton had some wobble that didn’t cost them last night. Remember that old line about winning games you should be losing right at the end of a good streak? Yeah. I think that is what we are seeing now. Sunday should be interesting.
CATCH THE RAINBOW, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2015: 3-5-0, goal differential -5
- Oilers in October 2016: 7-1-0, goal differential +12
Edmonton is stretching out the goal differential now, we have talked about shooting percentage, save percentage and PDO and those things will regress to the meat at some point in time. What is this team’s real ability? The answer lies in another question: Is Connor McDavid on the ice? High-Danger Scoring Chances last night were 9-7 Oilers.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Nurse—Gryba had a fine night, I saw several giving the veteran the lion’s share of the credit but young Nurse had a fine game, too. I am thinking of his clearing of a goal mouth puck during the heart of the game. Both men were rugged along the wall and battled well. They were up against the Granlund—Sutter—Hansen line most often according to NaturalStatTrick.
- I have mentioned previously that Nurse appears to be taking forward steps, the game seems to be slowing down for him. Last night, on an evening where the Oilers were not especially sharp offensively as a group, I thought he battled through it and made good choices. He is close to 50 percent in Corsi (ranks No. 2 on the team) and has a very good Rel at this time. Now, he is not playing the Klefbom or Sekera minutes, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. That said, progress is being made.
- Klefbom—Larsson had a strong night again to my eye, both men passing with aplomb (and each getting an assist). I think this pairing really sets up the rest of the defense, and their TOI last night shows how much Todd McLellan thinks of them. Played a lot (over eight minutes) against Eriksson and the Piss Cutters, and with the Nuge line. That is a long, tall order and they managed it (with help from Cam Talbot). Well done. Only 74 to go.
- Russell—Sekera got caved by the Corgis (but were even on high-danger scoring chances) and were under pressure for much of the night. The pairing faced Baertschi—Horvat—Virtanen most often, and were out against the pairing of Edler—Stecher and were playing most often with the Leon line. They should have done better, no? I think so. How much of this was score effects? Well, Edmonton didn’t win the possession battle in the third period (or the first), so I think we can assume this duo has had better days. HD SC were 2-2.
- Cam Talbot was outstanding again, this is becoming a major story in this early run. He made one save that will be on the end of season reel, just a fabulous glove save. His .938 EV save percentage ranks him No. 4 in the NHL among goalies who have appeared in five or more games. He is also No. 4 overall among the same goalie group, sitting at .934.
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Pouliot—Nuge—Kassian line had a great evening, I mean they were checking all over and making themselves difficult to play against. This is the first night I felt this line might have a 20-game run, that’s how well they played. Pretty excited about the idea of an internal solution. Played a ton with Klefbom—Larsson and played over 11 minutes against the Sedin line. I am so pleased with this line.
- Maroon—Draisaitl—Puljujarvi had a good night by the numbers and were a bit unlucky on the chances. JP didn’t have much in his jet boots on a breakaway (was he gassed? he cannot be that slow) but rang iron later in the game. Leon had a nifty shot that could have been tapped in but no one was home. LD’s brilliant checking play on what would surely have been a goal was fantastic, very strong play by the big man. Played most against the Horvat line and split time with Sekera—Russell and the third pairing. I liked their game, need a little more speed and finnish.
- Lucic—McDavid—Eberle scored both goals, had seven shots and made some nice defensive plays. Eberle twice interfered with substantial moments for Vancouver, and Milan Lucic used positioning to upset a sortie. The big man’s pass to send away McDavid for the winning goal was very smooth and reflects his strength as an offensive player. Eberle had a quiet night, but I thought he was effective and worked hard on the back check. I am liking his game more and more.
- Lander—Letestu—Pitlick are like Borg parts these days, up and down the lineup as required. Lander got an assist by taking the faceoff on the McDavid goal, and Letestu went hither and yawn in pursuit of excellence as well. Letestu played over one minute with Lander (7), Pitlick (6), Leon, Maroon, Nuge, Kassian.
Average shot distance:
VAN 41 ft
EDM 29 ft
No, that's not a typo.
— Oilers Nerd Alert (@OilersNerdAlert) October 29, 2016
This is a large gap. Over at his site, G also had this to say about the game:
- The gameflow chart shows a huge divergence between the ‘raw’ and the ‘danger’ curves in the third. That’s where that third period ‘keep it to the outside’ really showed. Not to mention the breakaways for! Source
The Oilers do seem to be playing a wiser game, more like the Finnish national style (everything forced to the outside, from the center line in) and it does seem to fit the roster. I also believe we are seeing the benefit of keeping a veteran coach around for more than one season. Remember the improvement we saw year over year with Renney? Perhaps the current boost is partly because of McLellan having a chance to impact the roster for more than one season. The team is still giving up the same number of shots as one year ago (30.5), but if the distance is less severe, well things may be improving for this team defensively.