The Edmonton Oilers entertained the hometown fans with the best opener since Eberle’s magic fall 2010, but that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone. Tonight, the rubber hits the road, and a win is the most important thing. Right?
THE END OF THE WORLD, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0
- Oilers in October 2016: 1-0-0
The Edmonton Oilers entered this season with (I believe) five defensemen who could reasonably be counted on to play NHL hockey at par—depending on usage. Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera, Mark Fayne and Brandon Davidson—in my opinion—formed a reasonable group of five, and Darnell Nurse among others would provide depth. Edmonton added Kris Russell and Eric Gryba—hey, the more the merrier and I know the numbers on both men—and that looks better than one year ago. Right?
The Brandon Davidson injury is a bitter pill, because that third pairing is a real concern. I do think the top 4D has a chance to be much better than a year ago, but the road trip is going to expose that third pair. Nurse—Gryba? Or do the Oilers mess with Klefbom—Larsson, Sekera—Russell? That will be the heart of the conversation today.
DEFENSE, GAME 1
- Sekera—Russell and Klefbom—Larsson did well in the high danger category, and as we discussed yesterday morning those two pairs kept the puck moving in a (mostly) positive direction.
- This group also posted six assists, about one month’s worth (I kid, but barely) of assists for the entire group one year ago.
- The options to draw in for Davidson are Mark Fayne, Matt Benning and Eric Gryba. I think Gryba is the logical choice, but would like to see Mark Fayne in there. The problem? Nurse and Fayne are not a good combination, at least the evidence suggests as much (44 percent Corsi for 5×5 percentage, in less than 100 minutes), but I am uncertain about the other options. Woodguy suggested Eric Gryba, that may be the answer Todd McLellan settles on today.
- Darnell Nurse (or other) will no doubt want to have a conversation with Matt Tkachuk tonight, he of the outside the lines behavior (hit Russell from behind, what looked like a slew foot on Brandon Davidson and then a bizarre period where he apparently held the player down, and a hit late in the game on Adam Larsson). I know most of you will not agree, but for me the two points are the gold tonight, and once the game is put to bed other scores can be settled. As an additional point on this matter, probably a good idea to dress 7D if the goal is to announce your presence with authority—and dress all of your penalty killers.
- The Oilers are way short of good enough to be chasing retribution on the road while also pursuing two points. I will be disappointed if we see a five-minute power play for the Flames tonight while the game is in the balance. These two points matter, folks, you win tonight and then against Buffalo and it is 3-0-0 and the month is set up beautifully. Keep your eyes on the prize!
- The top two pairings are going to have to play 25 minutes each—and if the Oilers are in this game during the third period, I bet we see the bench shortened with extreme prejudice.
FORWARDS, GAME 1
- The McDavid line was fanbloodytastic. I know there are concerns with Milan Lucic, but we are one game into the season—and that trio posted 11 shots in Game 1. I have projected the McDavid line to score 82 goals this season, and the trio potted three in the first 60 minutes. So far, so good.
- Nuge line did not do well in Corsi for 5×5, but the high danger chances show a low event 2line. That is what you want from your checking line, so Nuge and Pouliot need to cash. I projected the Nuge line to score 52 (Pouliot—Nuge—??) but nothing rhymed in the first game. The line (Poo-Nuge-Slepy) had five shots on goal.
- The secondary scoring (Maroon, Pitlick, Kassian, Puljujarvi) was fabulous, but we should not expect four wingers from the bottom 6F to score one goal each every night—or any night ever again!
- The Draisaitl line had some good moments, and the Letestu line were very high event (and played quite a bit).
- At even strength, Connor McDavid lapped the field. We should expect more of that tonight.
- McDavid played almost seven more minutes at evens than the Nuge. Seven!
BATTLE OF ALBERTA!
Uh, yeah, no. Not yet, anyway. One indication (for me) that Oilers fans have forgotten about what it feels like to be in the playoff chase is the pure vitriol towards Matt Tkachuk. Look folks, the Oilers have come upon agitators and tomfoolery beyond what this young rookie did in the first game, but reading the comments section it seems to me people are willing to give up two points in order to chase an 18-year old around the barn. Good gracious, did we forget how the NHL keeps score? Win the game, then set the record. I am genuinely flummoxed by people’s reaction, including a 900-word email to me yesterday detailing why Milan Lucic has already failed the team. My goodness folks, even hyperbole is stepping back from the verbal on this one. This isn’t the Federal League and winning the blasted game is the job.
THE POWER PLAY
- Todd McLellan: “The power play was sloppy, we didn’t sense danger and when we gave up the puck it was somebody else’s problem. It should be five players’ problem, not one or two guys at the back. There are a lot of areas we have to improve on, but when you’re not playing best it’s nice to win a game.” Source
I do not think the Oilers have a grand chance of winning tonight (Elliott can’t possibly be as bad as he was in Edmonton), but the one area that could grab victory is the power play. Edmonton had three power-play shots in game one, with Puljujarvi scoring, that is in 11:11 with the man advantage. Room for improvement? Yes, I believe there is.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, we kick off the weekend right! TSN1260, scheduled to appear:
- Steve Lansky, BigMouthSports. Blue Jays, McDavid opens Rogers Place with a memorable game, Auston Matthews with a first game for the ages.
- Guy Flaming, Pipeline Show. Oil Kings off to an interesting start, and Tyler Benson is finding the range after returning to the Vancouver Giants.
- Matt Iwanyk, TSN1260. Today’s Point/CounterPoint involves the NLCS and ALCS, plus the Oilers and how to handle the Matt Tkachuk issue.
- Frank Seravalli, TSN. Frank was at the opener of Rogers Place, we will get his review, and we will chat about Auston Matthews and his fantastic debut.
- Paul Almeida, SSE. Jays, Oilers and what to expect tonight in Calgary.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Friday!