Yesterday the Edmonton Oilers played the team’s most satisfying game of the year. No passengers, outstanding performances up and down the lineup, and an easy win against a good hockey team expected to push into the playoffs. Ken Hitchcock was clearly pleased, and he is absolutely looking for a run. Hitch: “We have the most home games of anybody when we come back, which is substantial. We’re five points out and we’re in a really good spot mentally.”
The Athletic Edmonton features a fabulous cluster of stories (some linked below, some on the site). Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. Proud to be part of the group. Outstanding offer is here.
- New Lowetide: The career destination for Oilers phenom Jesse Puljujarvi remains unknown.
- New Jonathan Willis: Learning from a flawed argument I made about Leon Draisaitl in 2016.
- Black Dog Pat: How the Oilers can emerge from the Bob Pulford-like era they’re stuck in.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Oilers given harsh lesson by Leafs as playoff hopes on life support.
- Lowetide: The Oilers’ deadline decisions inform what may come in spring and summer
- Jonathan Willis: From Mikko Koskinen to Bakersfield, the next two months will reveal a lot about the Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: After bringing in Sam Gagner and shipping out Cam Talbot, Oilers stand pat on deadline day.
- Jonathan Willis: Jesse Puljujarvi needs a fresh start, but there’s no reason it can’t be in Edmonton
- Lowetide: The Edmonton Oilers and the OHL.
- Lowetide: Are the 2018-19 Bakersfield Condors the best Edmonton Oilers affiliate ever?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘One of the best hockey games ever’: An oral history of the 2014 women’s Olympic gold-medal game.
- Lowetide: How can the Oilers successfully sell the new regime to a fan base that is openly angry?
- Jonathan Willis: Edmonton’s trade for Sam Gagner is a gamble well worth making.
- Jonathan Willis: Inside the success of the Bakersfield Condors, and what it means for Edmonton
- Lowetide: The Oilers sure have a lot of problems, but there is a simple solution.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Q&A: Keith Gretzky on the Oilers trade deadline plan, Andrej Sekera’s return and Jesse Puljujarvi’s season
- Lowetide: Oilers’ potential roster upheaval might set a record for summer activity
- Lowetide: It’s time for Oilers owner Daryl Katz to stand and deliver a winning organization.
- Jonathan Willis: An Oilers blueprint for the 2019 NHL free agency period
- Lowetide: Edmonton’s 2019 entry draft plans may change with new GM but needs are clear
- Lowetide: Complete Oilers top 20 prospects, Winter 2018
OILERS AFTER 65
- Oilers in 2015: 24-34-7, 55 points; goal differential -32
- Oilers in 2016: 35-22-8, 78 points; goal differential +13
- Oilers in 2017: 27-34-4, 58 points; goal differential -38
- Oilers in 2018: 28-30-7, 63 points; goal differential -22
Edmonton is 4-1-2 in its last seven games, a duplication in the next seven games could get this team within four points of a playoff position with 10 games left in the campaign. Insane. Miles to go, but the small chance remains.
OILERS IN MARCH
- Oilers in March 2016: 1-0-0, two points; goal differential +1
- Oilers in March 2017: 1-0-0, two points; goal differential +1
- Oilers in March 2018: 0-1-0, zero points; goal differential -2
- Oilers in March 2019: 1-0-0, two points; goal differential +4
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM MARCH
- On the road to: Columbus, Buffalo (Expected 0-1-1) (Actual 1-0-0)
- At home to: Vancouver, Toronto, NY Rangers, Minnesota (Expected 2-1-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Arizona, Vegas, St. Louis (Expected: 0-2-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Columbus, Ottawa, Los Angeles, Dallas, Anaheim (Expected: 3-1-1) (Actual)
- Overall expected result: 5-5-4, 14 points in 14 games
- Current results: 1-0-0, two points in one game
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Sekera-Benning were 5-6 in 12:49, 5-2 shots, no goals and 2-1 HDSC. I like this pairing very much, keep wondering when Hitch will give them some more of the Nurse-Russell minutes. Faced Dzingel-Duchene-Bjorkstrand, going 4-4 in 6:36. Solid.
- Klefbom-Larsson went 17-24 in 20:27, a massive amount of icetime. Were 10-13 shots, 1-0 goals and 2-2 HDSC. Were 12-6 in 8:19 against Panarin-Dubois-Atkinson, but 5-10 in 5:28 against Foligno-Jenner-Anderson. Jackets have depth.
- Nurse-Russell were 8-20 in 17:37, 5-10 shots, 2-0 goals and 2-0 HDSC. Nurse had a couple of splendid backchecks on 10-bell chances, textbook defending without taking a penalty. Impressive. Were 2-5 in 5:39 against Dzingel-Duchene-Bjorkstrand.
- McDavid played most with the Sekera pair (9:40), followed by Nurse pair (six minutes) and then Klef duo (4:22).
- Mikko Koskinen stopped all 30 shots, now owns a .911 save percentage.
- NaturalStatTrick and NHL.com.
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Draisaitl-McDavid-Kassian were 11-11 in 15:42, 6-7 shots, 1-0 goals and 3-1 HDSC. 29-97 basically scored with four different wingers in tow, freaky how it all turned out. Leon was a force, from his cherry passes to the goal, and then his breakway shorthanded where he basically skated past everyone. McDavid’s creativity was on display all day, just a ridiculous talent.
- Lucic-Nuge-Chiasson went 9-9 in 12:12, 6-4 shots, no goals and 0-3 HDSC. You’d like a little more skill on this line, but they sawed off the opposition and CBJ is a good team.
- Rieder-Cave-Currie were 5-11 in 8:30, 3-6 shots no goals or HDSC. Two guys who are just underway in the NHL form a No. 3 line on the day and deliver reasonable results (remember, score effects would have been in play for basically half the game).
- Gagner-Brodziak-Rattie went 1-7 in 5:52, 1-4 shots, no goals or HDSC. Again, you’d like better offense. Brodziak was 5-6 in the dot.
- Darryl Sutter: “The big thing in today’s game is you have to be able forecheck and backcheck, and you have to have the puck. You can’t give the puck up. We don’t play in our zone, so there’s not much defending. I’ve coached in three decades now and this stuff where they said Marian had to play in Jacques’s system is a bunch of bull-crap. The game’s changed. They think there’s defending in today’s game. Nah, it’s how much you have the puck. Teams that play around in their own zone think they’re defending but they’re generally getting scored on or taking face-offs and they need a goalie to stand on his head if that’s the way they play.”
“The Shift” included a turnover at the CBJ blueline, a downed soldier (Kassian) that allowed the eventual goal scorer on the ice, and passing that ranged from deft to brilliant. Over 90 seconds according to my friend Bruce McCurdy, concluding with two of the best passes you’re ever going to see plus a nice finish by Josh Currie.
Mikko Koskinen showing up in a positive place. I’m not defending the contract but he has had success in the NHL this season. He has a .926 save percentage 5-on-5 in his last 10 games.
Won again last night, the train keeps rolling. I’ll have an article up today at The Athletic about the best goal-scoring Condors and which of the current forwards may eventually find NHL work on a regular basis.