I’ve watched Mike Smith for years, he’s an interesting goaltender. A gigantic human, he’s also very active (most nervous energy athlete I’ve ever seen: Steve Rogers) and tends to be involved, even overinvolved if that’s a word.
Oilers fans don’t care on this crisp Thursday morning. Mike Smith is suddenly wildly popular in good old our town. All he had to do is stop a mountain of rubber and grab a handsome dollop of good luck.
As for Leon Draisaitl, the big German train ran on time, ran over the Canucks, ran the show and leads the NHL in scoring. Hockey is back, and the Oilers best players appear to be better than ever.
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 Athletic, we are celebrating our 2-year anniversary this week. To mark the occasion, you can get 40% off subscriptions here.
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: No need to temper expectations after Connor McDavid’s season debut for Oilers
- Lowetide: Ken Holland has a plan for the Oilers’ top prospects.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: At home with Ken Holland: Packing away the championship memories and preparing for a new challenge
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Q&A: Oscar Klefbom on being a mentor, his strategy for staying healthy and saying goodbye to a friend.
- Daniel and Jon: Ten bold (and not so bold) predictions for the Oilers this season
- Lowetide: The Oilers are poised to break a 25-year-old franchise record this season
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi’s fast start leads the way for Oilers prospects as 2019-20 gets underway
- Lowetide: Joakim Nygard and Gaetan Haas bid for final Oilers spots during a strange game in Calgary
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: An educated guess at the Oilers’ opening-night roster
- Lowetide: Jay Woodcroft’s Bakersfield Condors might be bound for glory
- Jonathan Willis: Ethan Bear, Tomas Jurco outshine the competition in second-to-last Oilers preseason game
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Joakim Nygard managing his anger as he eyes spot on Oilers.
- Jonathan Willis: Assessing the Oilers’ roster as the final positional battles are sorted out
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers cut Evan Bouchard and Shane Starrett. Is Ethan Bear on the cusp of making the team?
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Connor McDavid’s nearing return and four other things we’ve learned from Oilers camp
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: How five months in Kelowna changed Leon Draisaitl’s hockey career
- Lowetide: Matt Benning may be vulnerable to a trade as Ken Holland works to tweak Oilers roster
- Corey Pronman: Oilers No. 9 farm system.
- Lowetide: Oilers top 20 prospects summer 2019.
Oilers in October
- Oilers in October 2015: 0-1-0, goal differential -2
- Oilers in October 2016: 1-0-0, goal differential +3
- Oilers in October 2017: 1-0-0, goal differential +3
- Oilers in October 2018: 0-1-0, goal differential -3
- Oilers in October 2019: 1-0-0, goal differential +1
Too soon to know, but wins are better than losses (hey, you come here for the truth) and there were some positives from last night.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM OCTOBER
- At home to: Vancouver, Los Angeles (Expected: 1-1-0) (Actual: 1-0-0)
- On the road to: NYI, NJD, NYR, CHI (Expected 2-1-1)
- At home to: Philadelphia, Detroit (Expected 1-1-0)
- On the road to: Winnipeg, Minnesota (Expected 1-1-0)
- At home to: Washington, Florida (Expected 1-1-0)
- On the road to: Detroit, Columbus (Expected 1-1-0)
- Overall expected result: 7-6-1, 15 points in 14 games
- Current results: 1-0-0, 2 points after one game
I mentioned yesterday that six of the first 10 games were winnable, but I thought Vancouver would win last night. That’s a team on the rise. Edmonton has a chance to cash two more points against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
LAST NIGHT’S GAME
The healthy scratches were Tomas Jurco, Brendan Manning and Patrick Russell. NHL.com summary and Natural Stat Trick numbers are fascinating. Here we go, all numbers five-on-five unless otherwise specified.
LINE 1 Leon Draisaitl-Connor McDavid-Zack Kassian. Trio spent 6:45 together, 6-4 Corsi, 2-4 shots, 2-0 goals and 1-1 HDSC. Poor Dave Tippett. He tried to split up the caped crusaders but that lasted like a snowflake in a hot place. Six points for the three, all of them scored, nine shots in all disciplines.
Draisaitl won both four-on-five faceoffs he took shorthanded. He played 26 minutes all-in, was an absolute bull (if a bull had velvet hands). McDavid looked human for much of the night (the Nygard experiment wasn’t working) but his winning goal was the stuff of Gods. Holy crap what a burst. Kassian, and I mentioned this, is playing the best hockey of his life. In two crucial game moments it was Kassian (deft pass to Leon, rocket shelf to tie 2-2) who used his skill to win the day. Honestly, it looks like Kassian has opened up another chamber here.
LINE 2 Leon Draisaitl-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Zack Kassian played 6:45 together, 6-4 Corsi, 4-3 shots, 1-0 goals and 4-2 HDSC.
Nuge had a fine night, didn’t get any points and played a secondary role once placed on the Nygard-Neal line (1-1 in 1:40, 1-0 shots). Played 21:43, 2TK, 2GV, one high danger chance.
LINE 3 Jujhar Khaira-Colby Cave-Josh Archibald played 7:16, going 7-17 Corsi, 4-6 shots, 0-1 goals and 0-2 HDSC.
Khaira had a shot, blocked shot and plenty of PK time. Puck got caught in his skates early and he couldn’t locate (Pettersson got a chance) and he was indecisive in his own zone a couple of times. Cave played well, he got 11:10 at evens that’s a lot of time. Archibald had two giveaways, the second of which resulted in the go-ahead goal for Vancouver. Mistakes happen but that can’t occur often for the checking line.
LINE 4 Markus Granlund-Gaetan Haas-Alex Chiasson played 2:01, 0-2 Corsi and didn’t get a lot done. Coach Tippett didn’t call on them often.
I swear I’m going to rewatch the game and specifically look for Granlund, he’s a ghost at five-on-five. Haas played just 2:11, he did drive to the net on a pass through to the slot, it looked dangerous but didn’t cash. Chiasson played 10:41 total, had two shots, whiffed on a dandy pass in the slot from Leon and was so close on a PP goalmouth chance.
Joakim Nygard had one great chance, a fine pass from James Neal sent him away. He had two shots, two hits (one rattled the boards) and needs to skate in straight lines. Neal was quality to my eye, physical, good passes, interrupted sorties. Had two shots (one nice chance via a Nuge pass) but his passing is what I noticed.
PAIRING ONE Darnell Nurse and Adam Larsson played 15:19, going 7-25 Corsi, 4-12 shots, no goals and 1-1 HDSC. Had a helluva time with the Miller-Horvat-Pearson trio (1-12 Corsi against Horvat) and were not sharp on breakouts. Although they weren’t alone in trying to hit the clock with alley oop passes, it got old in a hurry.
Nurse had an assist, played 26 minutes and that included 3:20 PK and 1:19 PP. Larsson blocked a shot late and it looked painful as hell, played almost 22 minutes with plenty of PK time. He could help himself with better passing. This pairing needs to get the puck going north, it’s a miracle no one scored on them last night. Nurse went 2-9 against Pettersson, but the Oilers scored when the two men were on the ice together.
PAIRING TWO Oscar Klefbom and Ethan Bear played 11:37 and went 10-8 Corsi, 7-3 shots, no goals and 3-1 HDSC. Both men finished -1 but were not together for their GA (Kris Russell both times).
Oscar Klefbom had six shot attempts, played 23:46 and spent over seven minutes against the Pettersson-Ferland-Boeser line. Exceptional passing, calm feet, rocking chair. I liked Bear’s game, although it appeared the second goal was tipped by his mark (Bear didn’t tie up his stick). Bear’s outlet passing was on display and hopefully represents the future of Oilers defense.
PAIRING THREE Kris Russell and Matt Benning played 9:29, going 9-9 Corsi, 5-2 shots and 1-0 goals, 1-2 HDSC.
Kris Russell had two giveaways, two blocked shots and spent most of the night without the puck. Structure took the bus when he was out there, and he screened the goalie on the first goal. Matt Benning had a solid game to my eye, two assists, +3, moved the puck well and showed offensive flair.
Mike Smith was splendid in goal, outstanding saves in waves. Dave Tippett is a better man than I am, so he’ll probably run Koskinen out there on Saturday. I’d go with Smith. Stopped 31 of 33, .969 save percentage. Stopped seven of eight HDSC’s. Man. That was a helluva game by the big man. Fantastic saves off Pettersson, Ferland, Miller.
I wanted to look at how Tippett handled the minutes against Pettersson, and it is fascinating. Here are Pettersson’s minutes at five-on-five against Edmonton’s defensemen:
- Darnell Nurse 6:51, 9-2 Corsi, 0-1 goals
- Ethan Bear 5:24, 5-4 Corsi, 0-0 goals
- Adam Larsson 5:07, 9-2 Corsi, 0-0 goals
- Oscar Klefbom 4:46, 5-5 Corsi, 0-0 goals
- Kris Russell 3:55, 4-3 Corsi, 0-0 goals
- Matt Benning 2:52, 4-4 Corsi, 0-1 goals
And now the centers:
- Colby Cave 5:01, 11-3 Corsi, 0-0 goals
- Connor McDavid 4:43, 3-2 Corsi, 0-1 goals
- Nuge 4:21, 2-5 Corsi, 0-0 goals
- Gaetan Haas 0:24, 2-0 Corsi, 0-0 goals
So, my take is that Tippett was content to run either of the top two pairs against Pettersson, and really Russell, too. Travis Green appears to have been trying to get his best player out against Colby Cave, and Cave got caved, but it didn’t result in any goals. I think Pettersson-Cave is the only thing resembling a hard match, and it’s stretching it to suggest it was a real effort (more like preference). Tippett obliged, it looks like he wasn’t so much worried about matching than playing the hell out of his best players. He won. Needs 45 more. I know he’s planning on using his star players less, but McLellan and Hitchcock had plans, too.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun morning, TSN1260, with two of my favourite guests. We get underway at 10, with Jeff Krushell from Krush Performance stopping in at 10:20. We’ll talk mlb playoffs and the inevitably of the Astros. Frank Seravalli from TSN chimes in at 11, we’ll talk about the opening night NHL action and what to expect this coming season. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!