The Edmonton Oilers are enjoying the first real winning streak of the season, and like a hard rain after months of drought, excitement is evident across the interior plains. The team has clearly decided to deliver heart attacks nightly during the 2017-18 season, won last night while causing vapors, fainting spells and non-stop pacing. Lord Almighty this team makes one a nervous norvous.
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- New Lowetide: Year-end taking stock
- Lowetide: Should the Oilers trade their 2018 first-round pick?
- Jonathan Willis: Rejuvenated Oilers set sights on post-season.
- Corey Pronman: Team Canada WJ preview.
- Lowetide: Connor McDavid: The Athletic’s Person of the Year!
- Lowetide: Anton Slepyshev
LONG DECEMBER, YEAR OVER YEAR
- December 2015: 6-3-0, goal differential -3 (12 points)
- December 2016: 4-2-3, goal differential 0 (11 points)
- December 2017: 6-3-0, goal differential +8 (12 points)
This year matches December 2015 (again), although the goal differential is far more handsome this time around. There is finally something resembling traction and just in time. Miles to go but the team has gathered points at a solid clip leading up to Christmas. Big game on Saturday.
AFTER 35, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers 15-16: 15-18-2, goal differential -17 (32 points)
- Oilers 16-17: 18-12-5, goal differential +9 (41 points)
- Oilers 17-18: 16-17-2, goal differential -7 (34 points)
Entering December, Edmonton was 10-14-2 and badly needed to get back to “fake .500” and, hopefully, beyond. The Oilers can reach the first outpost on Saturday with a win over the Habs. Although 36 points after 36 games doesn’t feel like a victory, it will surely be exactly that should it come to pass. Small victories are big steps.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM DECEMBER
- On the road to: Calgary (Expected: 0-0-1) (Actual: 1-0-0)
- At home to: Philadelphia (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual: 0-1-0)
- On the road to: Montreal, Toronto, Columbus (Expected 1-2-0) (Actual 2-1-0)
- At home to: Nashville (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-1-0)
- On the road to: Minnesota (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- At home to: San Jose, St. Louis, Montreal (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 2-0-0)
- On the road to: Winnipeg (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Chicago, Winnipeg (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 5-6-2, 12 points in 13 games
- Current results: 6-3-0, 12 points in nine games
The Oilers have reached my predicted point total with four games to spare. My only defense of this clear misstep is that the team didn’t look capable of winning six of nine games at the beginning of the month (when I made the predictions). Can Edmonton win three of the last four, to finish the month 9-4-0? That would be a fabulous rebound month.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Sekera-Benning went 13-11 in 11:42, 0-1 GF, 2-0 in HDSC’s. I really liked the pairing, mobile, getting the puck up ice and connecting on passes. Sekera took some hits and kept on ticking. Went 6-1 against Paajarvi-Sobotka-Berglund. I like this veteran-youngster duo, we’ll see if they get more playing time Saturday.
- Davidson-Larsson were 15-14 in 16:04, 0-1 GF, and 2-2 in HDSC’s. They had dozens of resets, seemed to be disconnects between blue and forwards, that’s my take anyway. Went 10-5 with the Nuge line. Davidson-Larsson faced the top unit (Jaskin-Schenn-Tarasenko) and were 11-10 in 12:22. That means this was the de facto top pairing in McLellan’s eyes (Taresenko faced Nurse 2:49 and Benning 1:16). Davidson!
- Nurse-Russell were 19-20 in 15:43, this was the second pairing by minutes and opposition. Went 2-0 in GF, 4-5 in HDSC’s, and were 11-11 with the McDavid unit. Faced Steen-Stastny-Thompson for nine minutes, going 15-12.
- I think it’s reasonable to suggest McLellan was fine with the Davidson-Larsson pairing against the top line based on usage. We’ll have another look at this new wrinkle on Saturday. To my eye, Nurse-Russell had been the top pairing previously, although no real surprise Larsson has moved up the depth chart now that he’s healthy. The surprise is the trust placed (early) in Brandon Davidson. What a fantastic stroke of luck to get him back on waivers. Music!
- Cam Talbot stopped 34 of 36, .944. He was flat out brilliant.
- NaturalStatTrick and NHL.com.
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Cammalleri-Letestu-Kassian went 8-8 together in nine minutes, 1-0 GF and 1-2 HDSC’s. This fourth line has performed well for some time now, when Khaira was part of it and now with others. Played more than usual at 5×5 this night and scored an important goal. Kassian is a valuable player on this line, Letestu too.
- Lucic-McDavid-Puljujarvi went 16-16 (Lucic-97) and 12-15 (Pulju-97) on the night. McDavid also played with Caggiula (4-0), Draisaitl (1-1) and Maroon (1-0) during portions of the game. Great three-way goal, Lucic with the stretch, McDavid catching, touch pass by Leon, patience by 97, goal. Beautiful. Oilers fans are lucky (again) to have a talent who can score when a goal is so badly needed. Jesse Puljujarvi is starting to lose his thoughts on sorties, needs to have some success to get the swagger back. CMD turned the puck over early, dangerous play, he’s going through a bit of a slump in that area to my eye (sent a dangerous back pass late in the Sharks game seconds before Strome’s EN goal). He’ll need to tighten that up, and I’m sure he will (great players always do).
- Maroon-Nuge-Caggiula went 15-17, 1-0 GF and 4-1 HDSC’s. I thought they were good the entire night, each man seemingly faster than my memory of them. The goal was a little lucky, but the Oilers had drilled iron five times so let’s review.
- Khaira-Draisaitl-Strome were 7-8, 0-2 GF and 1-1 HDSC’s. The line had some looks but the second St. Louis goal was aided by a late arrival (two forwards deep when the puck went south and they never caught up, although I thought Leon coasted when he could have made a difference; that’s my opinion). This line needs to be better.
My friend Bruce McCurdy (Cult of Hockey, Edmonton Journal) was on the Lowdown yesterday and I asked him about Drake Caggiula.
- McCurdy on Caggiula: “I see speed and I see fearlessness. I’m sure the coach loves that. He flies around and not afraid to get in the middle of the action. He takes the body, makes stuff happen. I see a still young professional player, he’s 23 years old, but in professional terms he’s just in his second year. What I see is a very versatile player, who has played center, left wing, right wing, penalty kill, power play. For such a young player it’s quite remarkable the breadth of his resume. I won’t pretend that he’s succeeded in all of those roles, I don’t think he’s been good at center and I don’t think he’s been good on the penalty kill, but if you’re developing a utility infielder, that’s a useful player.” Source
Caggiula was in the mix for employment this season, but there was (and is) enough competition to send him to the pressbox if necessary. Coach Todd McLellan has played him in 24 of 35 games, and the youngster has delivered 5-4-9 boxcars. He appears to be emerging as someone the Oilers find useful, as described by Bruce above. How is he doing compared to my RE?
- Jujhar Khara RE 45, 3-2-5 (22, 5-5-10, on pace for 69, 16-16-32)
- Drake Caggiula RE 70, 12-10-22 (24, 5-4-9, on pace for 71, 15-12-27)
- Jesse Puljujarvi RE 14-14-28 (18, 6-2-8, on pace for 65, 22-7-29)
- Anton Slepyshev RE 70, 12-13-25 (15, 1-2-3, on pace for 62, 4-8-12)
- RE Source
The big success story among the young hopefuls is Jujhar Khaira, who has emerged as a bonafide NHL regular. Jesse Puljujarvi’s goals are eye catching, but his projected point total is in the range. Anton Slepyshev is the only pure disappointment in the group, I think that injury hobbled him and allowed others opportunities they cashed. Caggiula is nicely ahead of expectations and he too may be emerging as an NHL regular. Massive goal last night didn’t hurt.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy Friday, last Lowdown before Christmas! Best of the season to everyone, no matter what church your car drives to each week. In a world that has strangely soured on kindness, I know all of you reading this hold dear the idea that being kind reflects goodness, not weakness. Bless you, drive safe, be well, laugh and cry and make memories. Scheduled to appear, TSN1260 beginning at 10 this morning:
- Steve Lansky, BigMouth Sports. Christmas at Lansky’s, Oilers big win, WJ’s.
- Joey Alfieri, The Athletic. Habs in town tomorrow night, what’s going on?
- Matt Iwanyk, TSN1260. Let’s go bowling, can the Oilers rip it up and make the playoffs?
- Frank Seravalli, TSN. Oilers turning north, will they add? Christmas at Frank’s.