The confusion of youth is something we all experience, all young people fumble their way to success in one way or another. From the activities enjoyed in a used 1965 Chevy Bel Air Super Sport to that first big job interview, it’s desire over a pile of nerves on the way to maturation.
Related: Young NHL defensemen will break your heart, they just will. It’s been going on since Jim Dorey, I saw it happen. Based on my Dad’s description of Kent Douglas, it had been going on quite some time before Dorey, too.
Some of you are mad at Ethan Bear this morning, I’d suggest that’s a waste of time. By any measure, Bear’s adjustment to the NHL has been splendid. Last night’s third goal was a mistake. It happens. We move on, secure in the knowledge Bear will take that lesson and apply it to future tests. That’s how this works.
While Bear’s sins can be filed under ‘learning curve’, I’m less inclined to overlook Zack Kassian’s actions that led to a four-minute Calgary power play, or to Mikko Koskinen’s slow reaction at the net on the 3-3 goal (that was a big play). More in a minute.
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, less than two coffees a month offer here.
- New Jonathan Willis: Zack Kassian calls Matthew Tkachuk a ‘p****,’ says he’d go after him again despite Oilers’ loss
- Lowetide: Projecting William Lagesson’s future with the Edmonton Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: Kailer Yamamoto has impressed the Oilers and especially star linemate Leon Draisaitl
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: 10 bold predictions for the Edmonton Oilers in 2020
- Jonathan Willis: Mike Smith stars in Oilers victory, but others’ struggles could prompt changes
- Jonathan Willis: Inside a coach’s impact: How Dave Tippett gets the most out of the Oilers’ players
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Deciding what to do with Darnell Nurse, Mike Smith, Tyler Benson and Evan Bouchard
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s targets for his first trade deadline with the Oilers.
- Minnia Feng: Zamboni Ursula: What if Oilers fans could change something in the team’s past?
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s trade deadline options for the Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: ‘That’s the nicest goal I’ve ever seen’: Connor McDavid’s teammates amazed by his latest effort
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers notebook: James Neal’s resurgence, Matt Benning’s injury and the Tyler Benson recall temptation
- Lowetide: Oilers farmhands are pushing hard for NHL jobs
- Jonathan Willis: Zack Kassian’s breakout performance presents Oilers GM Ken Holland with a familiar dilemma
- Lowetide: Ken Holland, the Oilers amateur procurement department and the 2020 draft
- Lowetide: Complete Oilers top 20 prospects list, winter 2019
OILERS AFTER 47 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 19-23-5, 43 points; goal differential -22
- Oilers in 2016-17: 25-15-7, 57 points; goal differential +7
- Oilers in 2017-18: 21-23-3, 45 points; goal differential -24
- Oilers in 2018-19: 23-21-3, 49 points; goal differential -7
- Oilers in 2019-20: 24-18-5, 53 points; goal differential -3
A point or two last night would have been outstanding, but the club is over 50 points and the goal differential is improved coming off the road trip. Two big games before the break, need points in both.
ON THE TENS
- First 10 games: 7-2-1
- Second 10 games: 5-4-1
- Third 10 games: 5-4-1
- Fourth 10 games: 3-6-1
- Current 10 games: 4-2-1.
OILERS IN JANUARY
- Oilers in January 2016: 2-2-1, five points; goal differential -2
- Oilers in January 2017: 2-3-0, four points; goal differential -3
- Oilers in January 2018: 1-4-0, two points; goal differential -12
- Oilers in January 2019: 3-2-0, six points; goal differential -4
- Oilers in January 2020: 3-1-1, seven points; goal differential +3
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM JANUARY
- On the road to: BUF, BOS, TOR, MTL, CAL (Expected 2-2-1) (Actual 3-1-1)
- At home to: NAS, ARI, CAL, STL (Expected 1-2-1)
- Overall expected result: 3-4-2, eight points in nine games
- Current results: 3-1-1, seven points in five games
The Oilers remain ahead of my projection, and now enter an extended home stand that will carry them through the end of the month. Two games in the coming week, both (as always) vital.
THE GOALS AGAINST
All numbers five on five via NST unless noted. I want to begin with the goals against today.
FIRST GOAL Matt Tkachuk carries the puck into Edmonton’s zone and goes wide along the right wall, Klefbom marking him. Adam Larsson also has his man (Mangiapane). Tkachuk sends the puck through the slot, but Mangiapane can’t get it. Lindholm does secure the puck with McDavid, Neal and Kassian all around. Puck goes up in the air, mad scramble, Lindholm turns and fires. Some fluke to the goal, but there were chances to clear. Koskinen did not play the shot well, seemed a little unprepared for it. That’s my opinion.
SECOND GOAL Flames win a battle in the neutral zone, Gaudreau carries the puck in to the Edmonton zone. Looks for a quiet spot, passes Joakim Nygard and says hello, then sends a shot from distance to the net. It goes off Adam Larsson, and into the net. For me, it was soft play in the neutral zone combined with bad luck, but it’s close to the end of a period, Nygard needed to be a little more difficult to get around in my opinion.
THIRD GOAL Bear has the puck behind the Edmonton net, Oilers forwards are zipping around like mosquitoes at the picnic. Bear sends a dart to Gaetan Haas, puck goes off his foot and straight back toward the Edmonton net. Derek Ryan creates havoc, Koskinen doesn’t secure the puck, and Dillon Dube marches in and buries it. Bear gets two down arrows here, one for having too much pace on the pass, another for hesitating with the puck so close to danger. I love this kid’s game, and personally it’s forgotten. I hope fans feel the same way. He’s such a revelation.
FOURTH GOAL Lindholm gets the puck on the right side with plenty of ice to drive toward the Edmonton net (this is on the PP). Kris Russell stops, drops and rolls, leaving Matt Tkachuk to screen Koskinen and score the winning goal. Lots of teachable moments in that goal, beginning with what Russell was trying to accomplish on the goal.
Kids, that’s why Gordie Howe would famously take a number. Kassian’s response to Matt Tkachuk’s dangerous hit (not that one, the other one, although the second one was charging in the old days) was in some ways understandable. If the refs aren’t going to call the penalties (the first one was a head hit) then Tkachuk has special license and someone has to respond. I get that, makes sense to me and Kassian didn’t let up once he committed so message sent.
Here’s the thing: You can’t do it. You can’t put your team down for four minutes in an important game like that one. You can’t. Coach Dave Tippett said (via Jermain Franklin TSN) “it was a hit and a reaction and we had to kill the penalty and we didn’t; Kas, I would like to see him get a number. It’s a tight game, 3-3, get a number and deal with it later.”
That’s exactly how I feel. I get it, understand it. Bad timing.
LINE 1 Ryan Nugent Hopkins-Leon Draisaitl-Kailer Yamamoto played 15:04, going 19-16 Corsi, 11-8 shots, 2-0 goals and 2-5 HDSC.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice, four shots, three takeaways. He was splendid and reaches game 41 with some handsome boxcars. Leon Draisaitl had an assist and two shots, he was credited with one HDSC but I thought he was more dynamic. Kailer Yamamoto had two assists, one high danger scoring chance and drew a penalty. The young man has exceeded expectations through five games.
LINE 2 James Neal-Connor McDavid-Zack Kassian played 10:55, going 7-9 Corsi, 5-4 shots, 1-1 goals and 3-1 HDSC.
James Neal had a stunning chance that was turned away by Cam Talbot, that goal goes in Edmonton wins the game. Connor McDavid scored another incredible goal, we’ve used up all the words under heaven and he isn’t yet five years in. He also had two more terrific chances and passed out several more. Zack Kassian had a HDSC and played well imo save for the item above.
LINE 3 Joakim Nygard-Riley Sheahan-Josh Archibald played 8:49, going 4-6 Corsi, 0-3 shots, no goals and 0-1 HDSC. Low event, that’s what this line is supposed to do.
Joakim Nygard had two takeaways and used his speed to advantage, the only down arrow was his fly by on Gaudreau with the clock running down. A little interference there would have been timely. Riley Sheahan won five of 10 faceoffs and worked hard but nothing to show for it. Josh Archibald had one good look and a takeaway, plus 1:51 at five on five with 97.
LINE 4 Sam Gagner-Gaetan Haas-Alex Chiasson played 5:33, going 7-9 Corsi, 4-3 shots, 0-1 goals and 1-3 HDSC.
Sam Gagner had one shot (another nice pass from 97) and a takeaway, he didn’t get to enough plays. Gaetan Haas had two shots, won four of six on the dot. Alex Chiasson had two shots, both HDSC’s and was the most noticeable of the trio (partly because he spent 1:10 with McDavid).
PAIRING ONE Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear played 20:18, going 18-28 Corsi, 12-12 shots, 1-1 goals and 2-6 HDSC.
Darnell Nurse had one shot on goal and was defending most of the time. The Flames are a combination of quick and heavy, Nurse had a tough time (and was not alone). Ethan Bear had an assist, two shots, but also a giveaway and some vapor lock. This pairing needed to be better.
PAIRING TWO Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson played 18:43, going 19-20 Corsi, 10-12 shots, 1-2 goals and 4-5 HDSC.
Oscar Klefbom had two shots, a giveaway and a takeaway. I thought he was Edmonton’s best defenseman on the night, if only because he could both keep pace with Calgary’s forwards and win battles. Adam Larsson got hit early and often, that seemed to get him off his game a little. He was barely in photo early on a breakaway, that’s not Larsson when he’s on.
PAIRING THREE Kris Russell and Caleb Jones played 9:45, going 2-7 Corsi, 2-4 shots, no goals and 0-1 HDSC. Those are the kind of low event numbers Dave Tippett would be looking for from this pairing.
Kris Russell had an unusual approach to the fourth goal, he must have believed it was the right play but it effectively took him out of the biggest play of the night. Caleb Jones had a takeaway and played well to my eye against a talented group of Calgary forwards.
GOALIE Mikko Koskinen was not sharp at all. Stopped 28 of 32, .875. First goal and third goal he needed to be sharper.
That was a terrific road trip. I know Oilers fans will be unhappy but the Flames were the better team, had the better goalie and kept their heads far better in an important game. It’s one game, there are more to follow. Need more discipline, from the goalie out.
Tyler Benson and Evan Bouchard continue to punish AHL goaltenders in recent days. In Benson’s most recent nine games, he is 1-12-13. For Bouchard, No. 2 two in rookie scoring by a defenceman, he is 1-4-5 in his last three games.