PIKES PEAK

This is the moment that changed it all. The exact second fate stepped in and blessed the Edmonton Oilers and its fans. A lot has happened since, and the climb is not over. This morning, we know the feeling of joy combined with relief. This used to be home. It will be again.

  • Todd McLellan: “They’ve been there for 10 years, the rink’s been sold out. They stuck with us.”

Playoffs, bitches! How many of us can see straight? Is that fog or did I have too much to dream last night? (Primal scream here).

RIP THIS JOINT! YEAR OVER YEAR

  • Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0, goal differential -7
  • Oilers in October 2016: 7-2-0, goal differential +10
  • Oilers in November 2015: 4-7-2, goal differential -6
  • Oilers in November 2016: 5-8-2 goal differential -3
  • Oilers in December 2015: 7-6-1, goal differential -9
  • Oilers in December 2016: 7-2-5, goal differential +3
  • Oilers in January 2016: 4-5-2, goal differential -5
  • Oilers in January 2017: 9-4-1, goal differential +8
  • Oilers in February 2016: 3-8-2, goal differential -18
  • Oilers in February 2017: 6-6-0, goal differential -2
  • Oilers in March 2016: 8-8-0, goal differential +5
  • Oilers in March 2017: 8-3-1, goal differential +14
  • Oilers after 76, 2015-16: 29-40-7, goal differential -41
  • Oilers after 76, 2016-17: 42-25-9, goal differential +30
Last night’s game was done in under three hours and felt like an eternity. This is fact. Can’t blame the Oilers though, they scored four goals but only two counted because because because. We’ve got all summer to suss out the reasons, but we know about the McDavid, we know how important Talbot has been and Leon Draisaitl blossomed into a fine offensive player. That GD (+71 year over year) is a stunner, has to be one of the best turnarounds in recent history.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM MARCH

  • At home to: Detroit, NY Islanders, Pittsburgh, Montreal (Expected: 2-2-0) (Actual 1-2-1)
  • At home to: Dallas, Boston, Vancouver, Los Angeles (Expected: 3-1-0) (Actual 4-0-0)
  • On the road to: Anaheim, Colorado (Expected: 1-1-0) (Actual: 1-1-0)
  • At home to: Colorado, Los Angeles, San Jose (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual: 2-0-0)
  • Overall expected result: 7-5-1, 15 points in 13 games
  • Current results: 8-3-1, 17 points in 12 games
The Oilers secured a playoff spot last night, capitalizing on a month that (we agreed) looked easier compared to February. It’s one thing to say it, another to deliver. This is a big day.

DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT 

  • Sekera-Russell went 12-11 in 12:03, including a dandy 8-3 with the McDavid line that featured several fabulous chances. Went 4-3 against Lewis-Jeff Carter-Toffoli in almost five minutes. That’s an excellent number. Went 6-6 against Kempe-Brodzinski-Dustin Brown and 6-3 against Pearson-Kopitar-Iginla. A good night.
  • Nurse-Gryba combined for a goal! It was a fluke but they all count and I thought Nurse looked impressive when he pulled out to pass. Kind of cool that Gryba scored the playoff clincher, love those defensive defensemen and there are fewer every year.
  • Pairing went 9-7 in 13:04, including 2-2 in about five minutes with the Desharnais line. That’s good, five low-event minutes from this group of five is rock solid. Went 5-4 against Kempe-Brodzinski-Dustin Brown and 4-1 against Pearson-Kopitar-Iginla. Good night for this pairing, too, and looks like Todd McLellan wasn’t afraid of running anyone against Kopitar.
  • Klefbom-Larsson went 9-23 in 18:10 together, I thought most of the night featured Pearson trying (and sometimes succeeding) in getting past Larsson. That’s a thing now, or at least has been for a few games (maybe three or four). Went 3-13 with Nuge. Pairing went 7-12 against Pearson-Kopitar-Iginla and 4-4 against Lewis-Jeff Carter-Toffoli. I liked their game save for those flights past Larsson by the LW.
  • Cam Talbot was fabulous, stopping 34 of 35, .971.
  • Numbers via NaturalStatTrick, HockeyStats.ca and NHL.com.

1LINE, LAST NIGHT

  • I love watching Connor McDavid play hockey. One of the most exhilarating experiences I have had as a fan. Warp speed, no fear, puck on a string, pure adrenaline. They’ll sell you the whole seat but you’ll only need the edge.
  • The line went 7-5 against Lewis-Jeff Carter-Toffoli, and that was (for me) the No. 1 line. I should mention it was a blender late so some of this might be a little off in terms of wingers but the C’s are accurate against each other.
  • McDavid won the Doughty battle, 6-3 in 9:30. The fact that they went head-to-head for 9:30 tells us Sutter wanted that match and McLellan wasn’t forced to move away from it.
  • McDavid was 6-2 against Iginla.

2LINE

  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a good game to my eye, important because this team badly needs him.
  • Nuge went 2-10 with Klefbom and 3-13 with Adam Larsson, line was solid all other places. Some of it was bad luck (a quick break on the GA came after a nice sequence by the line), but that was not a strong combination on the night.
  • Nuge went 9-12 against Pearson-Kopitar-Iginla and the Oilers line had good moments inside that matchup. It was a physical game, partly because this line (and others) were doing a very good job of being where they were supposed to be at the right time. The Oilers frustrated the Kings at times last night. That element of the game has been so long away.

3LINE

  • I thought this was one of the best games we have seen from this line. BP is starting to trust himself now, meaning this line features two wingers who can forecheck, hammer the defensemen and skillyfully move the puck. They are a load.
  • The line went 4-2 against Clifford-Dowd-Nolan and 3-0 against Kempe-Brodzinski-Dustin Brown. You’d have to give that a passing grade.
  • Kassian scored but they didn’t count it. Important business, Kassian is going to be looking for a contract this summer, so 10-20-30 would have real value. He is 7-16-23 so far this year, these disallowed goals are costing actual money on his next deal.
  • Pouliot had a great look late but couldn’t cash. DD is getting all kinds of chances most nights.

4LINE

  • The line lost the possession battle badly, running 4-12 against Kempe-Brodzinski-Dustin Brown. That line had 10 shots, including a fabulous chance by Brown (who should have been called for holding the stick against Eric Gryba).
  • Caggiula looks like he is starting to see the game at pace, and that has translated (recently) into a more urgent and effective game.
  • Slepyshev had a quiet offensive game, but for me he used his body well to get in the way, hit the opponent and generally make life difficult for LAK.

STANDINGS

Everyone held serve, and now the Oilers have just one game left in March, tomorrow night against San Jose. Safe to say a win against the Sharks would make it very difficult for Calgary to catch the Oilers (three points up and five to play). Massive week.

Lambert is a very smart guy and I trust him and his numbers. This is an interesting signing on all kinds of  levels, including player-type. Gambardella appears to be an aggressive puck hound who scores a lot of his goals by driving to the net. His NHLE is 82, 13-25-38 and I like the way Lambert described this player and his line.

The game Lowell brings to the table every season is hard forechecking and cycling, but few lines have done it to the level of perfection Gambardella, Smith, and Edwardh brought this year. They create so many own-zone turnovers that end up in the back of the net, and leave opposing coaches shaking their heads. Coaches tend to categorize these things as uncharacteristic mistakes, and to some extent that’s true. But the mistakes are very characteristic of what happens when you play the River Hawks.

50-MAN LIST

 

  • UFA: David Desharnais, Matt Hendricks, Tyler Pitlick, Kris Russell, Eric Gryba, Jonas Gustavsson, Justin Fontaine, Jordan Oesterle, Mark Fraser
  • RFA and not listed: Anton Lander, Henrik Samuelsson, Bogdan Yakimov, Jere Sallinen, Zach Pochiro, Eetu Laurikainen, David Musil.

Photo by Mark Williams, all rights reserved

  • The Oilers have miles of room at this point, I expect we will see more college and CHL grad signings (although some may be AHL contracts).
  • One deal that we could see among former draft picks is Ziyat Paigin, who could join Jones, Bear and Mantha on a young but promising blue in Bakersfield.
  • I think Mark Fayne gets bought out and Griffin Reinhart wins 7D job, meaning Gryba is unlikely to return.
  • Among UFA’s, I think the most likely to return is Tyler Pitlick. Jordan Oesterle? I imagine he and his agent will want to shop around and see if there is a depth chart that can place him high enough to make an NHL team. Vegas? You never know.
  • I don’t think there’s an RFA listed we can consider a lock to return, I have all of the keepers already on my 50-man.

LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE

  • Darcy McLeod, Because Oilers. Playoffs! Playoffs! Playoffs! Plus best opponent in Round 1, possession lagging and Benning v. Gryba.
  • Ryan Lambert, Puck Daddy! Lambert knows about Mr. Gambardella’s game, we’ll chat about expectations.
  • Scott Cullen, TSN. What a spring for Canadian hockey! Oilers, Leafs, Senators, Habs, plus another team I can never remember! Plus Jays.

10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!

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233 Responses to "PIKES PEAK"

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  1. striatic says:

    Chachi:
    Enjoy this folks. It is top notch.

    https://soundcloud.com/cadenceweapon/connor-mcdavid-produced-by-gibbs-and-cadence-weapon

    Cadence Weapon killing it. Hope the HNIC crew finds this and makes a playoff pre-game montage to it.

  2. OF17 says:

    The Original JDI: That’s definitely up there, or down…

    And the exact phrase was ‘reasonably comfortable’.

    True. “Happy” was me editorializing, perhaps too much.

    What’s your nadir’s nadir?

  3. The Original JDI says:

    OF17: What’s your nadir’s nadir?

    I’m actually having trouble making up my mind, but so far I think it’s Lowe of the Rings.

  4. Bag of Pucks says:

    Skook:
    HI all, daily reader, very occasional poster.

    I’m thrilled that the Oilers have made the playoffs, but not in the least surprised, as I’ve known in my bones that the team would make it this year since before the season even started. In fact, I was so confident that I’m in for 101 points in Hunter’s lottery!

    Here’s why – my buddy Jayme has long been part of my Oilers fandom, we partied on Jasper Avenue after the glory year victories, even got to drink out of the Stanley Cup when some of the players brought it to the Sidetrack one night.

    We both moved to Vancouver in the late eighties and followed the team from here for the next quarter of a century. This was made considerably easier by the fact that Jayme’s wife worked for company that ran all the food services for the Canucks, so he often managed to wrangle us some free tickets and complimentary refreshments when the Oilers were in town. In the playoffs, back when the playoffs used to involve the Oilers, we would always try to get together to watch the games on TV, even though he lived in Maple Ridge and I lived downtown (for those unfamiliar with the area, that’s about 60 km through godawful city traffic). Our playoff ritual, for some reason, involved overly strong Caesars and dry roasted peanuts.

    A year ago December, the formerly benign tumour in Jayme’s throat became cancerous. It was already at stage 4when they found out, with no way to operate and an estimate of six months. We did manage to attend one last game together, watching the Oilers close out another disappointing season last April. Oilers lost. Again.

    Undeterred, Jayme went ahead and got the Oilers tattoo he had always wanted, striking that item off his bucket list.

    He lived a little longer than expected, passing away about a week before the start of this season. And I knew, because life just works this way sometimes, that this would be the turnaround year, because, man, Jayme would have loved to see this. Of course, there is no real connection between these events, but I “knew” that the Oilers would finally get it right, now that it was too late.

    So I’m stocking up on the Planters and Clamato, because some rituals need to be kept alive. Keep the faith, gentlemen!

    Amazing post. Thanks for sharing.

  5. v4ance says:

    The NHL is still basically a league where teams win 3-2. The reason why you want players over 50% corsi and why you want players who drive individual lines is because of incremental advantages that add up to sustained success.

    Luck and goaltending play a huge factor in the results of actual individual games but if your team can be on the positive side of possesion (ie. over 50% corsi), then over the longer term of a number of games, you should score and win more often than teams with worse possession rates.

    On a line by line basis, if you can drive possession, you should outscore your opposing lines but again, individual games are highly subject to luck. But if your first line with McDavid gets shut out despite dominating possession, and you have a play driver on the second line, like Hall or maybe Draisaitl, then your second line should outscore the opponents’ 2nd lines over time. You do this up and down the lineup on all 4 lines and all 3 defence pairings, you set up the ingredients to gain incremental advantages no matter which line you put on the ice. Incremental advantages lead to outscoring and winning.

    Once Draisaitl proves capable of driving another line, we win matchups over 60% of the game since McDavid will play ~20 mins and Drai another ~15-20 mins. Winning that possession battle for 60% of each game increases our odds of winning that game.

    ******

    Going on a tangent, the reason why some analytics types are down on Russell is because he looks bad based on the some of the numbers

    Corsi correlates to zone time and possession of the puck. So if you have Russell on the ice with McDavid and they tend to spend 48% of the time in the offensive zone and 52% defending versus Klefbom on the ice with MdDavid spending 52% in the offensive zone and 48% in the defensive zone, which would you choose? Logically, looking at the numbers we should choose Klefbom.

    I get that Russell is a hard working player who sacrifices his body on desperation plays game in and game out. I just wish he was a better player who was a better driver of possession.

  6. Chachi says:

    striatic: Cadence Weapon killing it. Hope the HNIC crew finds this and makes a playoff pre-game montage to it.

    Grandson of Rollie Miles. His Edmonton sports bona fides runs deep.

  7. The Original JDI says:

    OF17: editorializing

    Sorry for correcting you, but that phrase has been burned into my soul. It’s as if MacT didn’t even believe it.

  8. commonfan14 says:

    Pouzar: Woodguy v2.0: Don’t you hate pants?
    Guess what I’m wearing now…..

    The very pants you were returning?

  9. N64 says:

    striatic: Cadence Weapon killing it. Hope the HNIC crew finds this and makes a playoff pre-game montage to it.

    Link did not work on my phone.
    This does:

    http://exclaim.ca/music/article/cadence_weapon-connor_mcdavid

  10. N64 says:

    Todd Macallan:
    Anyone know of any Expos fans on this site?

    http://www.tsn.ca/report-montreal-baseball-investors-meet-mlb-conditions-1.709703

    There was a fellow here who mentioned the Gary Carter trade once maybe.

  11. ashley says:

    Larsson is not slow. I disagree with this sentiment. He can get walked just like any other Dman from time to time.

    What was that about single moments being important while still just being single moments?

  12. Wolfpack says:

    striatic: Cadence Weapon killing it. Hope the HNIC crew finds this and makes a playoff pre-game montage to it.

    “You know I had to do this first.
    At the clubs girls calling me Darnell Nurse.”

    Awesome.

    Only thing missing was some Hall and Oates sampled in there somewhere.

  13. treevojo says:

    I don’t know what everybody is so excited about.

    This was expected.

    Fly the signal when Chiarelli wins multiple cups.

    Signed

    THEORIGINALBATMAN

  14. Chachi says:

    striatic: Cadence Weapon killing it. Hope the HNIC crew finds this and makes a playoff pre-game montage to it.

    The Oilers in game DJ “liked” it on Sound Cloud. It will be used in-game at the arena for sure.

  15. striatic says:

    Chachi: Grandson of Rollie Miles. His Edmonton sports bona fides runs deep.

    He can be forgiven for not including Draisaitl on the track, while listing Eberle as Connor’s RW.

    My 3 year old loves the track which is what matters most for indoctrination purposes.

  16. Chachi says:

    striatic: He can be forgiven for not including Draisaitl on the track, while listing Eberle as Connor’s RW.

    My 3 year old loves the track which is what matters most for indoctrination purposes.

    I think he is waiting for evidence that Draisaitl can drive his own line before he works him into the song. 🙂

  17. square_wheels says:

    Lowetide,

    Great work today, we all needed this. Northern Albertan’s, us rural folks that make up this forgotten corner of North America will always feel like it’s us vs the world because in all honesty, it is.

    I will always defend my oil sands industry, my family farm, my hunting lifestyle, access to public lands and my beloved Oilers.

    This team will feed off of us, so keep throwing stones from Toronto or any other jealous part of Bettman’s universe, we’ve been the red-headed step-child for 37+ years.

    Bring it NHL, we’re not going anywhere.

  18. frjohnk says:

    For Jaxon

    (((Corey Pronman))) Retweeted
    Ken Schott‏ @slapschotts 5m5 minutes ago

    #UnionHockey announces that Spencer Foo will forgo senior season. Won’t sign with #NHL team until the summer. #ECACHockey

  19. GMB3 says:

    For those here who are Expo’s fans I actually once was in a Sportsnet documentary, itwas shown after Jays games, called Scouts Honour about former scout Mel Didier. I got to pretend to be Kirk Gibson for a day..

    And I got to fake whiff on a pitch from Arizona Diamondback 4th round pick Curtis Taylor. It was actually a terrifying sequence. That dude throws gas, they wanted it to look realistic, and there was a cameraman laying on the ground in front of my to my right and another behind CT. Was nervous about making accidental contact and drilling one of the camera guys.

  20. Truth says:

    A lot of Twitterers seem ecstatic the NHL has decided to release the names of players protected for the upcoming expansion draft. Can someone explain to me why that is apparently such good news?

    I don’t understand the benefit. If I was an owner I’d prefer that a player like Eberle did not find out he was available to be picked up for nothing. Especially when it appears to be at the expense of the only benefit being giving the media some content for a week or so.

  21. Ducey says:

    frjohnk:
    For Jaxon

    (((Corey Pronman))) Retweeted
    Ken Schott‏ @slapschotts 5m5 minutes ago

    #UnionHockey announces that Spencer Foo will forgo senior season. Won’t sign with #NHL team until the summer. #ECACHockey

    Fooey.

    He likely will shop around?

  22. The Original JDI says:

    Truth: I’d prefer that a player like Eberle did not find out he was available

    Hmm…

    If this comment is a disguised troll:

    Maybe because the player who is 21st in RW scoring as we speak, will not be available?

    If not:

    Firstly because NHL players realize that, just like trades, it’s a business first and foremost, and they know that their team can’t protect all their players. And because just like the entry draft, fans love to get involved with the decisions and play arm-chair GM.

  23. Chachi says:

    The Original JDI: And because just like the entry draft, fans love to get involved with the decisions and play arm-chair GM.

    I am going to put on my tracksuit and pretend to make fan favourite hockey players available in the expansion draft for no explicable reason just to imagine what the reaction would be.

  24. Truth says:

    The Original JDI: Hmm…

    If this comment is a disguised troll:

    Maybe because the player who is 21st in RW scoring as we speak, will not be available?

    If not:

    Firstly because NHL players realize that, just like trades, it’s a business first and foremost, and they know that their team can’t protect all their players. And because just like the entry draft, fans love to get involved with the decisions and play arm-chair GM.

    I mentioned Eberle only because I know it is a possibility, albeit a very controversial one. There will be decisions that make fans angry.

    I understand the armchair GM thing and that every player knows it’s a business, I just found it odd that all the rejoicing about a list becoming public doesn’t actually affect anyone but the players who know they were placed on the list. I feel that if it was me I’d be a lot more confident in my standing with the team they valued me enough to protect me.

  25. The Original JDI says:

    Chachi: tracksuit

    Don’t forget to grow a tier II cookie duster!

  26. Chachi says:

    The Original JDI: Don’t forget to grow a tier II cookie duster!

    Just like my uncle Gino!

  27. The Original JDI says:

    Truth: I mentioned Eberle only because I know it is a possibility

    Is that an unknown known, or a known unknown?

    Truth: I feel that if it was me I’d be a lot more confident in my standing with the team

    Sure, but it’s something that every player without a NMC has to deal with every trade deadline. It happens.

  28. russ99 says:

    The Original JDI: As was Tambi’s grin when talking about the trade.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6UvqC1EbP0&t=37m45s

    Open it in a new tab or window, and it’ll start at the right spot.

    Ahh, the most ditheredly moment of all time, and the brilliant waffelly star turn of Morey Gare.

    Those were dark times.

    Thank goodness it’s over.

  29. N64 says:

    Truth: If I was an owner I’d prefer that a player like EBERLE did not find out he was available to be picked up for nothing.

    FTFY

  30. Jaxon says:

    frjohnk:
    For Jaxon

    (((Corey Pronman))) Retweeted
    Ken Schott‏ @slapschotts 5m5 minutes ago

    #UnionHockey announces that Spencer Foo will forgo senior season. Won’t sign with #NHL team until the summer. #ECACHockey

    Thanks for this. I wonder if that’s so he can see what the prospect/pro/NHL depth charts look like after the draft and the first few days of free agency. I still have to believe Edmonton is at the top of his list. Oiler fan from Edmonton who is a right shot right winger, which is somewhat an area of need for the OIlers. McDavid. New Arena. Playoffs. He played Bantam and Midget AAA with MacT’s son. They better be inviting him to watch playoff games in the best seat in the house (maybe with MacT and his son?). Although, if they draft someone like Nikita Popugayev (right shot winger), maybe he reconsiders. Dunno.

  31. who says:

    Woodguy v2.0: Thornton has scored 1391pts in 1443 games.

    Kinda setting the bar high, no?

    They year Crosby and Ovechkin joined the league, Joe already had 421 pts in 7 seasons (after a 7 point rookie year)

    Since then, here’s the top 5 scorers:

    Alex Ovechkin1032
    Sidney Crosby1020
    Joe Thornton970
    Henrik Sedin869
    Evgeni Malkin832

    Comparing him to Hank Sedin or Malkin would have been setting the bar lower.

    Heh.

    What’s your point.
    I have no idea whether Drai can maintain his scoring for the next 20 years like Thornton did. What I do know is he shows me the same skills Thornton had as a younger player.
    Name one thing that Thornton did better at 21 than Leon does right now.

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