I was not pleased with the first period in San Jose last night, these Oilers don’t look sharp after those mandated days off. By the middle frame the club found their legs and started pushing and only bad luck (seeing eye single Talbot never saw) left Edmonton behind after the second period. A strong effort in the third period got the team back to even and then Milan Lucic added a second and a third goal. Cam Talbot stopped a penalty shot, grabbed win No. 41 and Oscar Klefbom posted four assists. It has truly been an outhouse to penthouse season for the Edmonton Oilers.
HELPLESS, 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: 9-3-1, goal differential +15
- Oilers in April 2016: 1-1-0, goal differential -1
- Oilers in April 2017: 2-1-0, goal differential +1
- Oilers after 80, 2015-16: 30-43-7, goal differential -47
- Oilers after 80, 2016-17: 45-26-9, goal differential +32
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM APRIL
- At home to:
Anaheim(Expected:1-0-0) (Actual: 1-0-0)
- On the road to:
Kings, Sharks, Canucks (Expected: 1-1-1) (Actual: 1-1-0)
- At home to Canucks (Expected: 1-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 3-1-1, seven points in five games
- Current results: 2-1-0, four points in three games
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Klefbom-Larsson were effective with the puck and worked hard without it. Strong pass and carry by Klefbom (and shooting, he had five shots and eight shot attempts) was one of the big stories of the game.
- Klefbom-Larsson went 16-12 in 13:31, including 9-7 with McDavid and 5-4 with Nuge. Went 7-5 against Donskoi-Marleau-Ward and 5-3 against Karlsson-Pavelski-Lebanc. A fine evening.
- Klefbom is now 80, 12-24-36 in his breakout season.
- Nurse-Benning had a far better game, but there were still costly moments. Benning was loose in coverage and chasing a lot. He also risked a turnover on what turned into a penalty against Marleau late. I do love his flair with the puck, but the rookie growing pains, not on display early this year, have broken out like a full case of the measles. Hold on! I still like him plenty. Nurse also had a better game, but coverage remains sketchy for this duo.
- Nurse-Benning went 6-6 in 9:39, including 5-1 with the Nuge line. Opponents included Donskoi-Marleau-Ward (pairing won that 6-1) and 1-2 against Haley-Tierney-Sorensen.
- Sekera-Russell had fumblitis right off the hop but recovered in time to be part of the solution (despite the possession number). As a pair, they had 15 blocked shots. Of concern: Six giveaways on the night. That’s not a winning formula.
- Sekera-Russell went 10-21 in 16:04 including 6-11 with Letestu and 3-7 with McDavid. This pairing faced Hertl-Boedker-Hansen (they were 3-6 against the Sharks’ trio) and 4-6 against Karlsson-Pavelski-Lebanc. They can defend well, and blocking shots is clearly a strength for Russell, but moving the puck north is the preferred method and at times both men were ineffective.
- Cam Talbot won No. 41 on the year and set a new Oilers record. That’s a fantastic achievement and he has earned the honor with fine play all year. Stopping a penalty shot in a close game should count for five. Stopped 13 of 15, .867.
- Numbers via NHL.com, NaturalStatTrick and HockeyStats.ca.
- McDavid could have had even more points, he’s dangerous from any spot on the ice when the puck is within four feet of his stick. I thought his linemates did some good things but also seemed to struggle with the tight checking. It was a playoff preview and we’ll see how this tandem performs in the postseason. Very important that both Maroon and Leon overcome the jam up jelly tight of the playoffs.
- Line went 12-14 against Vlasic-Braun in 13:46. That represents 79 percent of McDavid’s 5×5 icetime, that (imo) is a hard match. Despite the negative Corsi, I felt the line had several promising sorties and 97 alone had what seemed like a dozen handsome chances.
- Line had seven shots.
- If you don’t like the ‘big game players get up for big games’ idea, you’re going to hate the verbal today. Milan Lucic hammered a Shark, then fought Haley’s Comet, who learned about receiving over giving. I don’t believe in the big game/big player idea, but was damned frustrated when Mount Lucic exploded and have to admit it felt good to see the sequence.
- Lucic scored three goals and his season (80, 23-25-48) looks better by the boxcars. Make no mistake, he needs to be better at evens, but this is a nice way to wrap up the year.
- Nuge and Eberle played well to my eye, but both men seem to delay the offense until all options dry up. It’s kind of like watching Groundhog Day. Nuge did earn the third assist on Lucic goalmouth goal with a nice outlet pass.
- Line went 8-0 against Donskoi-Marleau-Ward and 6-4 against Martin-Burns. A good night.
- Line had seven shots.
- The wingers spend a couple of minutes a night on the PK, along with what is becoming 8-10 minutes a night for this trio. Desharnais is not helping to my eye, his coverage is poor and there aren’t that many offensive moments to mention.
- Pouliot and Kassian had a two-on-one early, Pouliot sent an errant pass to 44 and nothing rhymed. I generally liked their game and Desharnais had a couple of moments where he was disruptive to the Sharks down low. We’re still looking for consistency and we will see.
- The wingers go well together.
- Line went 5-3 against Dillon-Schlemko.
- Line had one shot.
- Line went 9-12 on the evening and 7-12 against Dillon-Schlemko.
- Line had six shots.
- Caggiula had one really nice chance and Letestu produced an assist on the power play. Pakarinen, in my opinion, is a lesser player than Slepyshev and not playing the Russian is galling. You have an impressive youngster, play him and sit down the others. I think this audition is over, no?
GOD’S FLASHLIGHT, NHL EDITION
As of this morning, Connor McDavid leads the entire NHL in 5×5/60 scoring. This is my favorite offensive stat, no way to talk your way out of this number. Here are the Oilers forwards who have played 1,000 or more 5×5 minutes and their NHL rank:
- No. 1: Connor McDavid 2.85 (No. 2 a year ago behind Jagr)
- No. 35: Leon Draisaitl 2.04
- No. 52: Patrick Maroon 1.84
- No. 80: Jordan Eberle 1.63
- No. 107: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 1.37
- No. 127: Milan Lucic 1.14
You can make a strong (the strongest) case for Connor McDavid to win the Art Ross, Hart and Lindsay, but would caution that these things can go a little wonky at times. We can agree that McDavid has done everything required to win the Hart, now it’s just a matter of the voters getting it right.
SCOTT CULLEN POWER RANKINGS
- Scott Cullen: Oilers No. 8/30 teams: 9-2 in the past 11 games, the Oilers are back in the playoffs! They’re probably a little top-heavy – such are the perils of having the league’s leading scorer – but the Oilers have legit playoff credentials, and could take the Pacific Division title with a strong finish. Source
Cullen’s article is worth reading every week, but specifically this one because he addresses the Hall-Larsson discussion earlier in the week. Many of you have asked my opinion on this, and I did express it on the Lowdown yesterday, but will chime in on the blog this morning.
Cullen’s main point is this: Taylor Hall has done more of the things we know have value this season than Adam Larsson. There is no real argument against this, as No. 4 has delivered what we would expect him to anywhere, anytime. He pushes the river, he increases 5×5 offense and he helps a team do things that contribute to wins.
I value Larsson highly as a defenseman, and do think WoodMoney reflects his play nicely. He plays tough minutes and is among the most effective Oilers defensemen with and without Connor McDavid. His contributions to defense are pretty clear, last night being another example. Larsson also seems to be on the ice for more offense than we might have expected (his GF/60 in ice is 3.04, No. 1 among Oilers defensemen), but that could be a one year anomaly.
My feeling on the deal has not changed in the months since it occurred. It was a bad trade, an extreme loss of talent for return, and I remain pissed off that the Jeff Petry trade so unbalanced the roster as to make this deal possible. Peter Chiarelli lost the trade, but he won the war. If this team had been No. 28 in the standings, he might have lost his job. Seriously. As it is, the bet he made on Adam Larsson (and Matt Benning and Kris Russell) has given this team something called balance, or at least close to it, on defense. The word passenger doesn’t fit the Adam Larsson I have seen this season, but there are math people wiser than me who perhaps can prove it. As for Cullen, I think the world wide web is a fantastic thing, but there is no nuance key. I have no need to defend Scott Cullen, because his body of work speaks for itself. I agree with his general point, and my takeaway from this moment in time is that words flat on a page can be lifted, turned around and aimed the other way in the right hands. Twitter discovery is a wild ride, I am finding.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
Final day at Northlands for the Ford Men’s Worlds, it all starts at 10 this morning on TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Steve Lansky, BigMouthSports. Oilers talk, curling talk, Northlands talk.
- Michael Laderoute. Michael is from the World Men’s host committee, we’ll talk about the week, the volunteers and the incredible action on the ice.
- Matt Iwanyk, TSN1260. Todd McLellan: Coach of the year?
- Mark Zecchino, Golf Talk Canada. Live from the Masters: Wind!
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!