The Edmonton Oilers are 2-1-0 so far of Week 1 in hell without Connor McDavid, and finding out about themselves. I’m going to stop short of calling this a blessing, but there’s a chance the captain returns to a team that feels able to carry more of the load. Today, the club is in Raleigh to play the Hurricanes. It’s a schedule loss. If this Oilers team grabs even one point? Music!
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 Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Stepping out and up, Leon Draisaitl puts himself in the Hart Trophy mix in Connor McDavid’s absence
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Despite ‘transformation’ with Oilers, Zack Kassian’s on-ice actions come under scrutiny again
- Jonathan Willis: Why the Oilers are playing their best 5-on-5 hockey of the season
- Lowetide: Making sense of the Oilers defensive depth chart for the stretch run and the summer
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘It was reactionary’: Oilers’ Zack Kassian addresses alleged kick; Lightning depth strikes; and Kailer Yamamoto’s big game
- Jonathan Willis: 10 overlooked trade targets for the Oilers before the 2020 deadline
- Lowetide: Why Connor McDavid’s injury is unlikely to alter Ken Holland’s trade deadline plan for the Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘We want to take it as a challenge’: Oilers survive first game without McDavid as room for improvement remains
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Trying to make sense of Connor McDavid’s injury and Darnell Nurse’s new contract with Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: Faced with uncertainty, Oilers hedge their bet on Darnell Nurse
- Lowetide: Oilers sign Darnell Nurse
- Lowetide: The Oilers trading their first-round pick is a bad idea
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: 15 potential trade targets for the Oilers before the 2020 deadline
- Lowetide: Drilling down on right-handed centres for the Oilers to target before the trade deadline
- Lowetide: If fast is the new big, the Oilers are trending in a very good direction
- Lowetide: Why the Oilers are more likely to trade Adam Larsson than Kris Russell
- Lowetide: Oilers prospects Evan Bouchard and Tyler Benson deliver best minor league performances in 20 years
- Jonathan Willis: An updated list of which Oilers are most likely to be traded in 2019-20
OILERS AFTER 59 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 22-31-6, 50 points; goal differential -30
- Oilers in 2016-17: 32-19-8, 72 points; goal differential +14
- Oilers in 2017-18: 24-31-4, 52 points; goal differential -34
- Oilers in 2018-19: 24-29-6, 54 points; goal differential -25
- Oilers in 2019-20: 31-21-6, 68 points; goal differential +4
Yesterday’s victory gives the team a little room to breathe, and the template for today’s game. I don’t imagine these players will have the legs from yesterday, but manic forechecking, contesting every puck and blocking lanes sure works well for this group.
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
- Fifth 10 games: 6-2-2
- Current 10 games: 5-3-0
The fifth win in this segment ensures the team will grab a point per game, finishing against Carolina and Boston made yesterday’s result even more important.
THE OILERS IN FEBRUARY
- Oilers in February 2016: 2-6-0, four points; goal differential -17
- Oilers in February 2017: 4-4-0, eight points; goal differential -1
- Oilers in February 2018: 1-6-1, three points; goal differential -5
- Oilers in February 2019: 1-5-2, four points; goal differential -12
- Oilers in February 2020: 4-3-0, eight points; goal differential +2
The two playoff teams (well, the one playoff team and this year) have long since separated from the rest, and if anything this year’s team has been stronger in the goal differential. Encouraging.
The top line is playing at an elite level, absolutely breathtaking on the forecheck. There’s no air between the faceoff circles and the end boards at the opposition end when the trio gets their motor running. Sounds crazy to say Yamamoto is the key but his quickness allows him to be (practically) in two places at one time. All numbers five on five, via NaturalStatTrick.
LINE 1 Nuge-Leon Draisaitl-Kailer Yamamoto played 14:46, going 18-7 Corsi, 8-4 shots, 2-0 goals and 3-1 HDSC. At five on five this line played more than the second and third line combined.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been in the NHL for nine years and this might be the best we’ve seen him. My oh my what an effective player. Two assists, three shots, one HDSC, on the right side of the puck, great vision. Effective on PK. Leon Draisaitl had a goal (plus an assist but not at five on five) along with three shots, a HDSC, and won 11 of 26 in the faceoff circle. His long pass to Yamamoto in the first period was stunning. Yamamoto had two assists, an EN goal, three shots, HDSC, GV, TK, and the Panthers defensemen will be having nightmares about him for a week. Wow.
LINE 2 Tyler Benson-Riley Sheahan-Josh Archibald played 7:28, going 9-7 Corsi, 4-6 shots, no goals and 0-1 HDSC.
Tyler Benson had a good game. Dave Tippett mentioned his impressive showing in the post game. Two shots, one HDSC, won a faceoff and made several impressive passes. Went to the net with authority with seven minutes left, that’s a very good sign. Benson can play with skill because he sees things early. He is fast enough to reach the play, and given time, he sends the puck to a good place. Getting that extra time will be key, he’ll get there just needs the game to slow down for him. Riley Sheahan had a shot, giveaway, won just two of eight faceoffs. Did his best work on the PK. Josh Archibald had two shots, two takeaways and took a late penalty that was two but might have been four. He was all over the ice and is a positive contributor most every night. Sign the man. Great get in free agency.
LINE 3 Jujhar Khaira-Colby Cave-Patrick Russell played 7:33, going 4-8 Corsi, 3-3 shots, no goals and 0-1 HDSC. Seemed to be chasing quite a bit to my eye and scoring chances were 0-5 for the line.
Jujhar Khaira’s most notable moment came when he decided to fight Gigantor Josh Brown. He had one shot on goal and drew a penalty. Also took a minor but it was a silly call by the official. He had two great chances in the third, still can’t believe he didn’t cash on the Leon rebound. The Gods must be crazy. His game is coming around to my eye. Colby Cave had a takeaway and won two of three on the dot, he doesn’t do enough to justify the roster spot. Patrick Russell had two shots, a takeaway, blocked two shots and was a general pain in the ass.
LINE 4 Sam Gagner-Gaetan Haas-Alex Chiasson played 6:45, going 5-7 Corsi, 3-3 shots, no goals and 0-1 HDSC.
Sam Gagner had a clean slate in nine minutes five on five, he did make a few good passes (to Chiasson) but didn’t post any crooked numbers. Gaetan Haas won two of five on the dot and had one good look but couldn’t get all his arms and legs to go in the same direction. Alex Chiasson was the star of the line, he had two shots and two clear looks at the net but couldn’t cash. Oilers need him to score some goals.
PAIRING ONE Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson played 15:34, going 15-15 Corsi, 6-9 shots, no goals and 1-1 HDSC. Larsson scored his goal when paired with Darnell Nurse. Played 9:39 against Huberdeau, 8:22 against Barkov.
Oscar Klefbom had one shot, three shot blocks and sent the puck in a good direction. His attention to detail is the best on the club among defensemen. Adam Larsson scored his first goal of the season, played a physical game and held the line well.
PAIRING TWO Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear played 14:58, going 12-12 Corsi, 9-4 shots, 1-0 goals and 2-1 HDSC. Played 6:10 against Barkov, 4:13 against Huberdeau.
Darnell Nurse had a good game, scoring an EN goal, two shots at five on five, a takeaway and using his speed to advantage at both ends of the ice. He’s gotten into a bad icing habit. Ethan Bear continues to do terrific things. He was being harassed behind the net and out the right side by a giant Panthers forward, won the battle and got the puck to safety under control. Big league play. One shot, giveaway, effective passing and on defense.
PAIRING THREE Caleb Jones and Matt Benning played 8:15, going 6-8 Corsi, 4-4 shots, no goals and 1-1 HDSC. Played 45 seconds against Barkov, 31 seconds against Huberdeau. Oilers haven’t line matched this well since MacTavish.
Caleb Jones is seeing the game in easier mode now, you can see the game has slowed down for him. Sent a brilliant pass through the legs of a Panthers forward to Leon last night, which serves as an announcement of arrival. Jones had two giveaways, but played well in all areas. Matt Benning dealt a clean hit to Aleksandr Barkov and had to fight because of it, I worry about him. He played a quiet, effective game. This pairing may be forced to play more in Carolina.
GOALIE Mikko Koskinen had a strong game, stopping 33 of 34, .971. He has barely played since January, one hopes he gets some more game action in the weeks to come. Massive save on Huberdeau with 16 minutes left. That was 1971 Ken Dryden. Oh my.
It’s pretty dire now, most of the quality is in Edmonton. No organization wants to leave the farm team high and dry like this but we are here. It’s interesting to see who remains in the battle, a guy like Josh Currie seems to be thriving in this situation. Condors play again this afternoon.
What a player. On the Draisaitl goal, Yamamoto did something you can’t teach, and that’s finding a good spot near the action. You can say “it was a fluke that the rebound came to him” but man that’s the game. He went to a high danger area, got his stick on the puck and it ended well. And you know what? If he did that once a game you could say I’m cherry picking. Yamamoto does it every shift. He is exceeding every expectation created for him since draft day.
He found some traction yesterday. Had a chance to showcase his considerable passing skills, showed up in time for enough plays that we don’t worry as much about his skating. Had a look, one of these times he’ll cash. I don’t know what the ideal window for recall is on prospects, probably a different due date for each player. I think Benson’s been ready for some time, but he didn’t look it at home. This road trip, this opportunity, looks heaven sent from here. Best of all, he took advantage yesterday. Now, he needs to do it again.