The Edmonton Oilers got two goals from its No. 4 line last night, that’s going to be a win most nights. The first goal came before I could pour a ginger ale and it looked at times like Edmonton would run away with it. An awful power play in the first period gave Detroit some wheels, and the most pedestrian Red Wings team since Nick Libett, cashed to tie it up. It was the fourth line that came up big in this game, and that’s something we didn’t see much one year ago. Another good arrow for a team headed in a good direction lately. The usual suspects contributed but it was a night for the fourth line to shine. Now. About that third line….
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: Future Oilers bubbling under in Bakersfield may get a look sooner rather than later.
- New Lowetide: Oscar Klefbom takes a step forward for the Edmonton Oilers.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Forty years later, remembering the forgotten trade that brought Wayne Gretzky to Edmonton.
- Tyler Dellow: Isolating issues with the NHL’s slower paced power plays.
- Lowetide: Oilers reach a pressure point on defence and right wing
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Does Caggiula’s recent performance warrant another chance alongside McDavid?
- New Jonathan Willis: Predicting the impact Ethan Bear and Edmonton’s other top AHL prospects will make at the NHL level.
OILERS AFTER 13
- Oilers in October 2015: 5-8-0, 10 points; goal differential -5
- Oilers in October 2016: 9-3-1, 19 points; goal differential +8
- Oilers in October 2017: 4-8-1, nine points; goal differential -13
- Oilers in October 2018: 8-4-1, 17 points; goal differential +3
A nice start to the season now sees Edmonton edging toward five wins over .500 (this isn’t technically true but does represent an impressive line in the sand, and I like it as a talking point). The 2016-17 edition of this team finished 12 games over .500 (47-35-9) and that’s a solid goal for this year’s team. As I absolutely know some of you will balk at my Bettman math, the actual 2016-17 team finished 37-26-19 if you count overtime wins and losses as ties. This year’s team is 5-4-4 using the same model.
OILERS IN NOVEMBER
- Oilers in November 2015: 1-1-0, two points; goal differential +1
- Oilers in November 2016: 0-1-1, one point; goal differential -3
- Oilers in November 2017: 1-1-0, two points; goal differential +2
- Oilers in November 2018: 2-0-0, two points; goal differential +5
There are very few things (so far) this year’s team is doing better than the 2016 club, but November’s start in 2018 is the best of the Chiarelli-McLellan era. I know, big deal, but it is in fact a big deal. Remember how October began? Grabbing points now may save the month if the bottom falls out in the days ahead.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM NOVEMBER
- At home to: Chicago (Expected 1-0-0) Actual (1-0-0)
- On the road to: Detroit, Washington, Tampa Bay, Florida (Expected 2-2-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- At home to: Colorado, Montreal (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Calgary (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Vegas (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles (Expected 2-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Dallas, Los Angeles (Expected 1-0-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 8-5-1, 17 points in 14 games
- Current results: 2-0-0, 4 points in 2 games
It’s a fine start and so far this month things are going as expected. I have the Oilers dropping the next two games and then salvaging the Florida game. If Edmonton grabs a point in Washington or in Tampa, that should be considered beyond what we agreed (I know you didn’t agree but I’m framing you anyway) was reasonable at the beginning of the month.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Klefbom-Larsson were golden again, going 29-14 in 20:46 together, 17-12 shots, 3-1 goals and 8-3 HDSC. Went 12-4 in 8:46 with McDavid, 17-10 in 12 minutes without him. Todd McLellan saw them used against Helm-Larkin-Mantha most of the time (7:28, 9-3 Corsi for 5-on-5, 2-0 goals), I’m uncertain if that is the Wings’ No. 1 line. Detroit goal was scored by Brodziak’s guy, I didn’t fault the blue on that play (you can’t switch off in a Buffalo herd), your mileage may vary.
- Garrison-Benning were 9-6 in 10:21, they were low event and that’s good but a lot of that had to do with opposition. Were 0-2 in 5:51 against Rasmussen-de la Rose-Nyquist. Some of the Oilers played enormous minutes with very few Corsi events compared to the rest of the game. I think, when the team adds some wrinkles, these third pair and third line minutes are areas where the team can grow.
- Nurse-Russell went 16-13 in 18:15, 10-6 shots and 0-1 goals, 3-3 HDSC. They were pedestrian with the McDavid line (4-3 in 6:40) but not the disaster 1-13 Corsi event evening we saw from McDavid and Nurse a few nights ago. Nurse took an unnecessary penalty and was careless with the puck at other times, he could easily have finished dash three. He is far better than he is showing in recent games. Russell didn’t tie up de la Rose on the first goal, he needed to and it was available. Nurse took a slash on the third goal (batted out of the air by Bertuzzi) it was kind of a flukey item. The duo need to be better this week.
- Mikko Koskinen is now 3-0. He stopped 23 of 26 shots, .884. He is one of the better stories coming out of the first five weeks of this Oilers season.
- NaturalStatTrick and NHL.com.
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Nuge-McDavid-Caggiula scored in the opening seconds and continued a nice run. On this night, the possession numbers were strong. Went 16-5 in 14:58, 7-2 shots, 1-0 goals and 6-1 HDSC. According to NaturalStatTrick, McDavid spent no time with the third pairing 5-on-5. I think that’s impossible without trying. McDavid went 16-4 against Trevor Daley, Nick Jensen 10-4, DeKeyser 6-2. I don’t know who the top pairing is on the Red Wings. That isn’t good. Caggiula played well, he is scoring at a nice rate 5-on-5 (1.75/60) that represents the first productive total of his young career. His possession numbers are also improved. I wrote recently about him at The Athletic, suggesting he needs 40 games healthy and in the same spot on the roster in order to show what he can bring. His utility (and health) may be barriers to success, as he moves around a lot.
- Lucic-Strome-Puljujarvi must feel really left out now, they are drier than the fourth line offensively. Went 8-6 in 11:19, 5-2 shots and 2-0 HDSC (one each for Lucic and Puljujarvi). I think this trio may need a tweak, no one is scoring on them but this group should be moving the needle considering the qual comp. Strome and Lucic are the gang that couldn’t shoot straight and Puljujarvi has seen his individual high-danger scoring rate (per 60) dip from 3.68 a year ago to 1.77 this time.
- Khaira-Brodziak-Kassian had a big night, two points each for Khaira and Brodziak. Went 17-12 in 10:22, 11-11 shots, 2-2 goals and 2-3 HDSC. Interesting to see how much more high event the fourth line is compared to the third line. Went 9-6 against Cholowski-DeKeyser, 2-1 in goals. I think we’ll see this group for several more weeks. The two goals were cashed by Brodziak, who seems to be acclimated now to the team and his role. The key to the goals (in my opinion) were smart passes from Khaira in both cases. That’s three in two games now (he sent a lovely dish to Caggiula for the shortie last game) and indicates our man is finding his offensive touch after a slow start.
- Rieder-Draisaitl-Chiasson went 15-10 in 13:19, 12-4 shots and 2-2 HDSC. The line hummed as usual, just couldn’t cash (Chiasson’s goal came with McDavid). No blame from this quarter, the trio has been actual fire recently. Impressive recovery for Leon’s line from a dreadful start, I think that’s an underrated story this year. Chiasson scored another damned goal, holy hell he’s on a roll. Nice pass from 97, that left to right pass for the one-timer might catch on across the league now. Not here, but, you know, other places.
5-on-5 points per 60 (FORWARDS)
- Alex Chiasson 3.45
- Connor McDavid 2.54
- Tobias Rieder 2.10
- Leon Draisaitl 2.01
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 1.83
- Ty Rattie 1.80
- Drake Caggiula 1.75
- Jujhar Khaira 1.65
- Kyle Brodziak 1.19
- Zack Kassian 0.66
- Jesse Puljujarvi 0.59
- Kailer Yamamoto 0.43
- Milan Lucic 0.40
- Ryan Strome 0.00
- Cooper Marody 0.00
I wanted to run these numbers today in order to point out Khaira’s success. It’s easy to look at these totals and suggest he is delivering at around third-line expectations, but if you compare his linemates to (say) Caggiula, then the offense is even more outstanding.
Caggiula’s five main linemates this season are Ryan Strome (57:46), Milan Lucic (34:39), Connor McDavid (32:46), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (31:31) and Jesse Puljujarvi (26:52). He has also played nine minutes with Leon Draisaitl.
Jujhar Khaira? Kyle Brodziak (77:28), Zack Kassian (61:09), Tobias Rieder (23:28), Jesse Puljujarvi (16:07), Ryan Strome (14:33). Two minutes with McDavid, four with Draisaitl. All via NaturalStatTrick.
— Mark I Williams M.D. (@CameraGuyBakoCA) November 4, 2018
The Condors won last night, and the kids once again played a substantial part in the team’s success. Cameron Hebig scored the winner, assists came from Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones and Tyler Benson. Evan Polei, one of my favourite AHL contracts, went 1-1-2. I’ll be writing about the Condors (among other things) today at The Athletic for my Sunday prospect update.