As a kid, I loved westerns. Movies, books, television shows. Books were tough for the young Lowetide to bear, people bled and died, innocent people abused, there was sorrow, loneliness and a distinct lack of happy endings. Movies had those elements, but there was also a gigantic dollop of humor in most. Television? I loved every damn television western because people died during the commercial breaks and received a small mention when the show returned. Humor was everywhere! Guys shooting at each other all damned day, not a one of them ever got shot. Ol’ Doc on Gunsmoke would save the good guys. The bad guys never pulled through, but they always lived until the commercial. Last night, Oilers versus Penguins, it sure wasn’t television westerns. Blood everywhere.
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- New Lowetide: Todd McLellan finds a suitable spot in the order for Milan Lucic.
- New Jonathan Willis: Four reasons why the Oilers should return Evan Bouchard to junior.
- Lowetide: Drake Caggiula might be hearing footsteps as the Oilers look for offence to replace injured Ty Rattie.
- Lowetide: Kirill Maksimov is tearing up the OHL, three Condors fly high.
- Lowetide: Peter Chiarelli’s race against time.
- 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.
- 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
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Gravel-Bouchard went 9-5 in 5:37, 3-2 shots and no goals at 5-on-5. Gravel did take a minus during 1:37 with Kris Russell, who showed up a lot in the GA after having a reasonable run over the last few games. If you’re going to play your first-round blue less than seven minutes 5-on-5, then send him back to junior. Today. Gravel showed well to my eye, I absolutely believe he’s more substantial than Jason Garrison at this time.
- Nurse-Russell were 23-22 in 17:10, 19-9 shots and 2-2 goals at 5-on-5. Todd McLellan asked the duo to defend Hagelin-Malkin-Kessel, and the pairing went 11-8 in 8:04, 1-1 in goals. The numbers look better than the video, but single events can have enormous impact while also being single events. For me, a lot of the blame goes in lack of roster balance. The top two pairings were asked to play a mammoth percentage of the 5-on-5 time against some of the most skilled men on the planet. That’s not balance!
- Klefbom-Larsson went 15-21 in 19:01, 11-8 shots and 1-1 goals. I really like this pairing, and I think Oscar has returned to 2016-17 levels. He was not healthy last year, people. This year is better. Went 9-12 in 9:52 against Guentzel-Crosby-Rust, 7-4 shots and no goals. I think that was a success. Klefbom isn’t Larsson down low in the scoring area, but he’s more physical this year and can keep up with anyone in coverage. Larsson surprised the hell out of me. After about 20 lobs to the score clock from deep in his own zone to get the puck out (Oilers need to do less of that, but it’s better than icing it), he sent another dart to Chiasson for a jailbreak and a goal. Music!
- Cam Talbot stopped 25 of 31, .806. I counted two goals that you’d want your goalie to stop, plus at least one rebound that was ghastly and eventually a goal, your mileage may vary. People are going to rage in the cage about playing the goalie too much, McLellan doesn’t trust the backup.
- NaturalStatTrick and NHL.com.
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Lucic-Strome-Marody had a very strong game, going 14-7 in 11:15, 7-3 shots, 7-1 high dangers. This line performed well together and in opportunities up and down the lineup. Line went 6-5 in 6:33 against Johnson-Riikola. I hope to see this line again Thursday. Strome’s play on the OT winner is going to have legs as a GIF, but he’s playing very well now despite the lack of offense. Lucic had his best game of the year, delivering five individual high-danger chances and five hits (one of which was a public flattening). Marody impressed the hell out of me with his puck poise, that’s a phrase I never use (got beaten to death at hfboards) but it describes the rookie perfectly. In his first NHL game, Marody played exactly 58 seconds more than Jesse Puljujarvi.
- Nuge-McDavid-Yamamoto were 16-18 in 15:52, shots 16-4 and no 5-on-5 goals. Were 13-15 in 13:51 against Dumoulin-Letang, 10-19 against the Crosby trio. McDavid played eight more minutes than Crosby, one of the reasons McLellan had to pull 97 off the ice during a late power play. McDavid is the most talented hockey player I’ve seen in my life. Nuge made dozens of smart plays, like passing, being in the right place, curling to reset and be in the play. A wonderful player. Yamamoto drew two penalties and delivered an intelligent shot, but he should have drilled the puck from the slot in the game’s opening moments. He’ll get there.
- Rieder-Draisaitl-Puljujarvi/Chiasson were 9-11 in 10:03 (Rieder), 7-6 in 6:37 (Pulju) and 3-4 in 2:33 (Chiasson). Leon was 6-11 in 6:43 against Dumoulin-Letang, he was 2-0 against Jack Johnson. Rieder had an extra foot on his skating last night, seems to have gotten comfortable with his surroundings. A deft pass to Chiasson for his first goal, he also forechecked well. Draisaitl had the game we were hoping for, he looked determined and ready to wheel even late in shifts. A lot of pressure on this young man, he delivered last night. Puljujarvi forechecked like a demon but seemed to exit puck battles before they were over, I wonder if the words of the coach are ringing in his ears. He was the de facto No. 4 right winger by the end of the game, with disastrous results. Would McLellan sit the Finn? Yes.
- Chiasson-Brodziak-Kassian were 6-9 in 6:21, 1-3 in goals. Puljujarvi spent less than a minute with Brodziak and was 0-2 5-on-5 with him. Lordy. That’s going to leave a mark. Chiasson had one of those games that gets you a trip up the depth chart in a quick hurry, I imagine he’ll be playing with the two German forwards on Thursday night. Where does that put Pulju? If you have to ask the question. Kassian’s stat line is the kind that gets you the pressbox, Brodziak would be sitting alongside if they had enough centers.
OILERS IN OCTOBER
- Oilers in October 2015: 3-4-0, goal differential -2
- Oilers in October 2016: 6-1-0, goal differential +10
- Oilers in October 2017: 2-5-0, goal differential -8
- Oilers in October 2018: 3-3-1, goal differential -7
The OT loss last night keeps this year’s model in second place among these four campaigns, behind only the playoff season of 2016-17. The goal differential is alarming, and you’d like Edmonton to be closer to 10 points. That said, strength of schedule this fall is a monster Denver Boot for the Oilers.
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 1-1-1)
- 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: 3-3-1, 7 points after seven games
If you agreed with my projection for this month at the beginning of the crazy, then McLellan’s Oilers have delivered a successful opening. It’s the only rational conclusion available. If you’re arguing the other side after agreeing with me early, you’re moving the chains. I know they’re overplaying McDavid and his line and it’s going to impact his effectiveness. The Oilers should be resting Talbot and that’s a fact. The third pairing last night didn’t have a lot of trust from the coach. After several solid games the second pairing found chaos. All of that is true. They have seven points in seven games against some of the toughest teams in the league. If you’re still not impressed, after agreeing with my estimates, you’re moving the chains. That says more about you than it does about the Edmonton Oilers.
In October of 2013, coach Dallas Eakins ran Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for 28:12 in a 5-4 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils. The team proceeded to lose five in a row afterward, on its way to a 29-win campaign. I remember the conversation at the time: WHY did they play the Nuge so much? followed by a series of expletives.
I understand the rage, but what exactly do you want the coach to do? He’s buying time, hoping to get Leon right and Strome posting some offense and and figuring out what’s up with Kyle. I can’t argue against the plan, since it is the only one in town.
As for McDavid, at some point the club is going to need to give him some 15-minute games during a laugher. Perhaps November.
Do you have kids? I have two of them. What you learn, with two children, is that they flourish in some things, struggle in others and as a parent you are mostly helpless in the outcome. You can support, push, pull, prod, love, cajole, help, but at some point you’re on the sideline living and dying with each event.
For fans of Jesse Puljujarvi, it’s another year of cheering and worry. Many many fans blame Todd McLellan and maybe that’s right, but the coach has a job on the line and last night Yamamoto, Chiasson and Marody all played more and were productive.
We’re on the sideline, living and dying with each event. Heartbreaking, this.
I wrote an item at The Athletic this morning on Lucic and his new home on the No. 3 line. Remember when we talked about the laundry list of things that needed to be accomplished this year? Right wing scoring, No. 2 RHD, backup goalie, et cetera? One of those items was a ‘peace in the valley’ slot for Lucic, where he could deliver offense and be productive. The article looks at McLellan’s handling of his winger and what is happening with Lucic in real time.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun morning with brilliant guests, beginning at 10 on TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal. We’ll get expert analysis of last night’s game and get a good look at that right wing depth chart in the clear light of day.
- James Herbert, CBS Sports. The NBA season is underway, the balance of power leaning even more westerly than in previous seasons. Who will emerge as the eastern giant among Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto?
- Jon Campbell, Oddsshark.com. We’ll chat odds on the World Series, the big Florida-Georgia college football game on the weekend and the coming storm that is college basketball (go Gonzaga!)
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!