Evan Bouchard turned 19 on Saturday, celebrated by playing almost 15 minutes in the world’s best hockey league. Todd McLellan ran him a little on the No. 1 power play and the youngster got his shot through and there were some good looks. Perhaps we see more of it in the days to come.
The Athletic Edmonton is going to bring it all season long. Proud to be part of a lineup that is ready to cover the coming year. Outstanding coverage from a large group, including Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis, Lowetide, Minnia Feng and Pat McLean. If you haven’t subscribed yet, now’s your chance. Special offer is here, less than $3.50 a month!
- New Lowetide: Kirill Maksimov is tearing up the OHL, three Condors fly high.
- New Lowetide: Peter Chiarelli’s race against time.
- New Daniel Nugent-Hopkins: Asking McDavid to take on Bergeron line at home shows what Oilers are missing.
- New Daniel Nugent-Hopkins: Remembering Ron Chipperfield’s brief and hellish time as captain of the Edmonton Oilers.
- Eric Duhatschek: Oilers finally getting a goal without Connor McDavid’s help and Edmonton captain couldn’t be happier.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Q&A: Grant Fuhr talks about his journey, drug use and the state of goaltending.
- Lowetide: Math offers a surprising option for Leon Draisaitl’s struggling No. 2 line
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Patience preached as Jesse Puljujarvi attempts to carve out his spot in the Oilers lineup.
- Corey Pronman: Around the farm. Prospects having early success (Oilers item).
- Lowetide: College and AHL prospect update.
- Lowetide: Panic storm on the horizon as Oilers remain a one-man show
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Garrison-Bouchard were solid in 5:58, 7-3 in Corsi for 5-on-5 and 6-1 in shots. Bouchard made some rookie mistakes but I’m impressed with how quickly he is picking up the game. On the power play, he looked in control and made good things happen. Garrison is probably playing his final NHL games. It gives me no pleasure to say it, but he had to take a penalty because he couldn’t keep up. I expect Gravel will be in the lineup Tuesday.
- Nurse-Russell went 11-11 in 13:12 together, 6-5 shots and no goals. One thing that has happened during this stronger week is the second pair emerging. Credit to Russell, he settled things down there. Nurse needs to be a little more responsible and consistent but he is playing a ton for McLellan. Duo had 7 offensive and 6 defensive zone starts. Went 4-12 in 8:22 against Fiala-Turris-Smith.
- Klefbom-Larsson were 16-16 in 15:13, shots 11-8. I love this pairing. Oscar is healthy you can see it everywhere. Went 12-11 in 10:39 against Arvidsson-Johansen-Forsberg. McLellan knows what he has in Klefbom right now, he played monster minutes in all three disciplines.
- Cam Talbot stopped 25 of 27 (.926) overall and 19 of 20 (.950) at 5-on-5. The first goal was a great shot, the second one was a little less certain. He kept Edmonton in the game against a superior opponent, and the team didn’t score a goal. Hard for me to fault the goalie.
- NaturalStatTrick and NHL.com.
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Khaira-Brodziak-Kassian went 3-4 in 4:22, 2-1 in shots. Khaira had the only good chance, but he also turned over the puck that led to the first goal. Brodziak seemed more in the play and Kassian had his boots going so we more involved as well. This group was adequate for a fourth line, you’d like some offense during a six game period though.
- Rieder-Draisaitl-Puljujarvi went 5-7 in 8:28, 4-2 in shots. I’m liking the Rieder-Draisaitl combination and JP had a nice chance high slot that would rank inside the top five looks all night. Leon didn’t allow a goal on his shifts, I thought he was more engaged overall. Went 3-6 against Ekholm-Subban in 4:57.
- Lucic-Strome-Chiasson went 4-7 in 6:52 on the night. I liked the line. They were 1-2 in HDSC against the Preds and you know that’s not bad on a night when not a lot rhymed. Chiasson earned another look, Lucic on the third line seems about right.
- Nuge-McDavid-Yamamoto were 14-14 in 14:43 (Nuge) and 9-9 in 9:37 (Yamamoto) on the night. Line was 1-2 in HDSC, the Preds were effective against McDavid as one would expect. McDavid went 11-11 against Josi-Ellis, and faced the Johansen line most of the night. You’re going to get games like this, sometimes you have to give the other man his due. This is such a night.
OILERS IN OCTOBER
- Oilers in October 2015: 2-4-0, goal differential -4
- Oilers in October 2016: 5-1-0, goal differential +7
- Oilers in October 2017: 2-4-0, goal differential -7
- Oilers in October 2018: 3-3-0, goal differential -6
The record is fine (if you have panic today, you need to think about this some more) but the goal differential is a real concern now. I get that there are three EN goals but most of the roster can’t piss a drop offensively. This needs to change. The Bouchard elevation to the power play is an interesting wrinkle.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM OCTOBER
- On the road to: Sweden to play NJD (Expected: 0-0-1) (Actual: 0-1-0)
- On the road to: Boston, NYR, Winnipeg (Expected 1-2-0) (Actual 2-1-0)
- At home to: Boston, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Washington (Expected 1-3-0) (Actual 1-1-0)
- On the road to: Nashville, Chicago (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Minnesota (Expected 0-0-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 3-6-2, 8 points in 11 games
- Current results: 3-3-0, 6 points after six games
This is an excellent month based on the original expectations and the team is most of the way through the “Shawshank crawl” the opening month of the season represents for Edmonton. You should be encouraged this morning. Seriously.
WHY SHOULD YOU BE ENCOURAGED?
The Oilers are going to play most of its games this season as the de facto underdog. In the first six games of the year, Edmonton was the superior team exactly once (NYR). They won. Wins against the Jets and Bruins were pleasant surprises, the NJD loss was the only genuine disappointment so far this year (and that has a lot to do with perception of the Devils as opposed to reality).
You should be encouraged because the general manager hasn’t traded Jesse Puljujarvi for a more certain option yet, the second pair seems to have settled things down, Kailer Yamamoto is finding ways to be useful.
We have a tendency to believe everything needs to be pumping in time in order for all to be well. I have news for you: This team will never be well. It isn’t balanced! When Leon finally figures things out, it’ll be Nuge with the flu or Koskinen can’t see and no one gave him an eye test.
The question you should be asking today: Why can’t this thing improve more rapidly? That’s a fair query. The question you can’t ask today: Why can’t this team be better than 3-3-0? You already know the answer. They are a 3-3-0 team. That’s what they are, even with Connor McDavid. If the Oilers leave Yamamoto, Puljujarvi and others to learn and to battle, this club should have a bigger arsenal when the spring arrives. This is how teams build. We are seeing progress, it’s in that 3-3-0 record this morning, it’s in the Yamamoto goal and the Puljujarvi goal and that shot Evan Bouchard got through on the power play last night.
This is the struggle. This is us. I wish you enjoyed it more, because for me the fun is to watch these kids build something. Gretzky, Messier and the crew did it, Weight, Joseph and that crew did it too. McDavid, Draisaitl and the current hopefuls can’t snap their fingers but they can work like buggers and figure it out on NHL ice. You can’t trade your way to 23 actual NHL players, that’s the portion of the build when you’re tweaking to address weakness. Edmonton is still building, procuring for talent they will use, we’re miles from trading talent for the finishing touches.
Last night, the Edmonton Oilers lost to a superior team much closer to winning the Stanley Cup. The kids got a close look at what it takes and how they have to improve their game. I see little point in being critical of anyone on the ice last night in Oilers’ silks. They lost to a better team.