Everyone moves the clock ahead one hour Sunday morning. Connor McDavid is already there. McDavid seems to enjoy playing the Minnesota Wild. Music! His goal last night was the usual majesty, fast as lightning and an intelligent decision (I think he changed the shooting angle to miss the outstretched stick of the defender) and that’s all she wrote. Hockey’s Houdini is pure joy.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) March 11, 2016
EUREKA! 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: 4-5-2
- Oilers in February 2015: 5-6-1
- Oilers in February 2016: 4-8-2
- Oilers in March 2015: 5-6-3
- Oilers in March 2016: 4-2-0
- Oilers after 70 in 2014-15: 19-39-12, 50 points (-74 GD)
- Oilers after 70 in 2015-16: 27-36-7, 61 points (-36 GD)
Oilers are one point away from equaling last season’s point totals and there are a dozen games to play. I have to tell you that last night was a pretty encouraging evening based on just how little the team had going on defensively.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Oesterle—Pardy were a solid pairing, moving the puck well (forwards were offering nicer passing lanes too) and defending effectively. I am not a big shot-blocking proponent, but Pardy was stuffing a lot to my eye and had four blocks. Oesterle has impressed me in these games, far more than a year ago when there was a lot more chaos. I like him and his fast boots.
- Sekera—Fayne had another solid night, although Sekera took a puck over glass and Fayne got walked a time or two. Another assist for Sekera, he is finding a way to hit the scoreboard more in the second half of the year. I like Fayne, hope he is back next year.
- Reinhart—Clendening had a time, and a lot of it was their own fault. Late in the game, Reinhart rammed it around the boards to a waiting Wildman, something I have seen so often in that barn it makes me physically ill. A more veteran GR will take a look. Clendening picked up an assist on the first goal, had three hits and blocked a shot. I thought he was better of the two men on this pairing by quite a bit.
- Cam Talbot continues his fabulous run, at the end of the season we will count up the reason for the improved Goddams—and Talbot will be high in the rockies. His .921 even-strength save percentage for the year ranks No. 28 among goalies with 25 or more appearances, and his .920 SP overall has him No. 14 in the NHL.
- The RE series I do every summer projected the Oilers for 230 goals, they are on pace for 198 (matching 2014-15). I am going to blame injuries and the power play when we get back to the RE in April. The goaltending from RE projected to allow 224 goals, Edmonton is on pace to allow 231 goals—just seven more than predicted here. My projections are (currently) off by 39 goals, but the goalies (Talbot) have delivered on their end of the bargain.
INDIVIDUAL HIGH-DANGER SCORING CHANCES
- Two: Jordan Eberle, Lauri Korpikoski
- One: Connor McDavid, Taylor Hall, Leon Draisaitl, Patrick Maroon, Andrej Sekera, Adam Pardy, Mark Letestu
CENTERS, LAST NIGHT
- Leon Draisaitl had some real jump last night, thought he could have cashed a couple of times. Got owned in the dot (18 percent) and finished -1, but I thought he was far better than the paper suggests.
- Mark Letestu was 33 percent in the FO circle, but I like him and his line more than any game since the All-Star break. Picked up an even-strength assist, worked hard.
- Connor McDavid didn’t score on his SH breakaway and then did score on a far less promising chance. Honestly, he is such a wonderful player, I don’t think any of us can put it into words. I have seen the play he scored on played out hundreds of times, and it goes in so seldom the mind’s eye disregards it as a non-event. He scored. Lordy.
- Matt Hendricks got into very little of this game and the Oilers missed him badly.
WINGERS, LAST NIGHT
- Maroon—Eberle were part of the Leon train, fabulous possession numbers and four high-danger scoring chances. It was effective, nine shots on goal total, but no points. I would like to see them again on Saturday, but the Nuge is coming!
- Korpikoski—Yakupov had a good night to my eye, they faced some tough opposition and narrowly won the possession battle. Korpikoski is a frustrating player, but it is difficult to be critical on a night when the Corsi battle was won, he scored a goal and filled in on faceoffs.
- Pakarinen—Cracknell ended up playing all over because of the injury to Hendricks. I noticed them mostly on the PK, and late when the team was protecting the lead. Cracknell is a player I would never have appreciated in a thousand years if he hadn’t come to the Oilers. He is safe in a good way, and carried the puck out of danger a couple of times with the game in the balance. Cracknell, and Korpikoski, played center last night for a time.
- Hall—Kassian didn’t get as much done as one would hope, but Kassian sent McDavid away and Hall had some nice moments but nothing rhymed. The line (with McDavid) had two scoring chances, but the kid cashed.
AMATEUR FREE AGENTS
The Oilers are currently at 49 contracts, meaning they have one to burn (if they choose) on a college free agent who is willing to sign and go right to the pro’s. The advantage of offering a player the chance to burn a year of their entry-level deal is obvious and Peter Chiarelli may well take advantage for the right name. We are beginning to see CHL and college free agents sign:
- Dryden Hunt has signed with the Florida Panthers. He ripped it up as an overager for the Moose Jaw Warriors, I had him on my overagers list for the 2015 draft.
- Andrew Poturalski signed with the Carolina Hurricanes. He is an undersized offensive forward.
- Nick Lappin signed with the New Jersey Devils out of Brown University. One of the first players ever drafted to the NHL was Curt Bennett, also out of Brown.
- Daniel Renouf signed with the Detroit Red Wings. He is a mobile defender with some size.
Awhile back, I gave you my list of players Edmonton might be looking at based on the Chiarelli regime and skill sets (here):
LW Dryden Hunt, Moose Jaw Warriors.
- C Reid Gardiner, Prince Albert Raiders. This is a pretty good player, surprised he wasn’t drafted last summer. He is 5.11, 195.
- F Drake Caggiula, University of North Dakota. Another terrific scorer, he has good speed and a range of skills. 5.10, 180.
- D Troy Stecher, University of North Dakota. Righthanded blue with all kinds of offense, and he is an excellent skater. 5.10, 190.
- R Nick Betz, Erie Otters. This player comes via Brock Otten and his excellent OHL Prospects site, and Betz is a big power winger with average speed. What makes him interesting is size (6.04, 220) and offense that appears to be attached to net-front presence. Source
I hope they at least consider signing Josh Winquist, but that can wait until season’s end, and that final spot (No. 50) could go soon to a college man. Chris Dilks from SB Nation has a terrific article up on some of the best college kids available.
David Musil and his skating issues have him at a crossroads with the Edmonton Oilers. The big club used their last recall on the faster Jordan Oesterle this week, and of course Griffin Reinhart (and others) block him moving forward. Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan have had to make some callup choices in the last while, and if we look at the blue line RFAs for this summer, it is fairly easy to see the pecking order:
- D Adam Clendening: Waiver pickup, has stayed with the team since (11, 0-3-3).
- D Jordan Oesterle: Speed is his big edge, and he looked solid last night (5, 0-1-1).
- D David Musil: Hasn’t received a call since the new regime took over, he is 4, 0-2-2 for his NHL career.
I expect we see Musil exit via trade over the summer, he may join former Edmonton Oil Kings who the Oilers drafted (although not necessarily from the OK) in what is becoming a large pile of prospects who didn’t make the grade. Among that group are Travis Ewanyk and Martin Gernat, who have been sent away in packages over the years. Musil and two OKs acquired via trade (Griffin Reinhart, Laurent Brossoit) represented the ‘best hope’ for this Oil-King-to-Oiler template, but with the (likely) decision on Musil coming this summer, it remains an expensive and so far unproductive enterprise. Not quite at the level of the Coke Machine era, but then again the investments have been very dear on Oil Kings.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy, fun show today. Begins 10 this morning, TSN 1260:
- Steve Lansky, Big Mouth Sports. How insanely good is Connor McDavid, and how many times are Leafs fans playing that lottery game?
- Corey Graham, Oil Kings PBP. The current OKs are an impressive crew, they will not be caught without a fight. We will talk to Corey about the playoffs and this unusual season.
- Matt Iwanyk, TSN1260. Introducing a new feature today, Matt and I will discuss various topics, and I will present the rational view. Matt will follow with the crazy and hilarity will ensue. That is the plan, anyway.
- Paul Almeida, SSE. Paul and I will discuss the rest of this season and the wisdom of trading the draft pick for help on defense.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!