The Edmonton Oilers grabbed a point from the best team in the league despite playing without several of its best players. It was a balls out effort and I give the entire team credit. My player of the game? Ethan Bear. Time and again, it’s the rookie who sends the puck to safety, tape-to-tape and under control. Such a fine player.
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: Oilers lack deadline flexibility due to injuries, few assets and bonuses
- New Lowetide: Making sense of the Oilers forward depth chart for the summer
- Lowetide: For Oilers’ Kailer Yamamoto and Leon Draisaitl, first impressions are long forgotten. Why not for Jesse Puljujarvi?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Next-night masters: How the Oilers beat the Hurricanes and improved to 6-0 in the 2nd half of back-to-backs
- Lowetide: Oilers reap benefits of Bakersfield Condors’ strong development process, even in a losing season
- 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
- Jonathan Willis: 10 overlooked trade targets for the Oilers before the 2020 deadline
- 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 60 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 22-32-6, 50 points; goal differential -31
- Oilers in 2016-17: 32-20-8, 72 points; goal differential +12
- Oilers in 2017-18: 25-31-4, 54 points; goal differential -33
- Oilers in 2018-19: 25-29-6, 56 points; goal differential -24
- Oilers in 2019-20: 32-21-7, 71 points; goal differential +4
A strong middle period was the key to getting the Bettman, along with special teams which are a damned dream for Oilers fans who have been watching for the last decade. A slender point behind the 2016-17 season after 60 games. Music!
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
- Sixth 10 games: 6-3-1
That’s a solid number and puts Edmonton in very good position for the stretch run. We’ll see if Ken Holland makes any moves but this team has earned the help.
OILERS IN FEBRUARY
- Oilers in February 2016: 2-7-0, four points; goal differential -18
- Oilers in February 2017: 5-4-0, 10 points; goal differential 0
- Oilers in February 2018: 2-6-1, five points; goal differential -4
- Oilers in February 2019: 1-5-3, five points; goal differential -12
- Oilers in February 2020: 5-3-1, 11 points; goal differential +2
Best February in the McDavid era, and a positive goal differential to boot. Oilers are 3-1-1 without 97, which would have been impossible before Tippett.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN FEBRUARY
- On the road to: CAL, ARI (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 1-1-0)
- At home to: SJS, NAS, CHI (Expected 2-1-0) (Actual 2-1-0)
- On the road to: TBY, FLA, CAR (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 2-1-0)
- At home to: BOS, MIN (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-1)
- On the road to: LAK, ANA, VEG (Expected 2-1-0)
- At home to: WPG (Expected 1-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 8-5-1, 17 points in 14 games
- Current results: 5-3-1, 11 points in nine games
Oilers need three wins from the final five games in the month to reach my expected results. I like this team’s chances, though Vegas and Winnipeg could be a challenge. Edmonton on pace to finish with 97 points.
Not much scoring so the numbers remain mostly untouched. Leon Draisaitl has a 14-point lead on Connor McDavid with 22 games left. McDavid won’t play in all of them. All numbers five on five unless noted and via Natural Stat Trick.
LINE 1 Nuge-Leon Draisaitl-Kailer Yamamoto played 10:55, going 10-6 Corsi, 8-2 shots, 0-1 goals, 5-2 HDSC. Draisaitl played 12 minutes against Chara-McAvoy but there was no hard match among the forwards.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had two shots, HDSC, played well and skated miles. Smart player. Had a power-play assist. Took a silly penalty, suspect he thought everyone was doing it so why not? But the stripes caught him. Leon Draisaitl had three shots, two HDSC, three giveaways, one takeaway, won 12 of 16 in the faceoff circle. My favourite play was a strong back check and interception in the Oilers slot and then jailbreak the other way for a good chance. Great discipline and attention to detail. Kailer Yamamoto spent the evening driving Zdeno Chara crazy. Yamamoto used Chara’s size against him brilliantly in a hummingbird versus 18-wheeler matchup. Best chance in OT. He lost his mark again on the first goal, that’s twice in a week. However, Sebastian Aho and Patrice Bergeron are damned good hockey players so let’s review.
LINE 2 Tyler Benson-Riley Sheahan-Josh Archibald played 6:27, going 2-6 Corsi, 0-2 shots no goals and 1-1 HDSC.
Tyler Benson had a quiet night, getting one or two good looks (great chance on the power play). He does get the puck to good places, that’s going to keep him in the lineup. Bruins were a load for Game No. 5 of his career. Riley Sheahan had a takeaway and won two of four on the dot. Josh Archibald had a HDSC, takeaway and played over six effective PK minutes (as did Sheahan). The special teams impacted this line’s five on five minutes. Important players in getting the Bettman.
LINE 3 Sam Gagner-Gaetan Haas-Alex Chiasson played 5:36, going 9-3 Corsi, 3-1 shots, no goals and 1-1 HDSC.
Sam Gagner scored the power-play goal, and at even strength he had two shots, HDSC and played well five on four. He was the most dangerous shooter on the Edmonton side, adding a crossbar ping to his deflection goal. Gaetan Haas had a shot, drew a penalty and won three of four faceoffs. He’s a player Tippett likes at five on five. Alex Chiasson was very physical and drew the attention of the Bruins a couple of times. One shot, drew a penalty and two giveaways. This line got some traction and Gagner scored the goal. I wonder if they get more time on Friday night.
LINE 4 Jujhar Khaira-Colby Cave-Patrick Russell played 3:04, going 3-1 Corsi, 1-1 shots, no goals and no HDSC.
Jujhar Khaira played 4:34 at five on five and 4:19 on the four on five, had a shot on the PK but nothing shaking elsewhere. Colby Cave blocked a shot and won two of four faceoffs. Doesn’t get PK time, meaning he didn’t play much. Patrick Russell had a shot on net.
PAIRING ONE Caleb Jones and Adam Larsson played 13:25, going 17-8 Corsi, 9-3 shots, no goals and 5-2 HDSC. Pairing spent just one minute against Bergeron line.
Caleb Jones had a giveaway and a takeaway, and confidently moved the puck. That included some smooth moves past forecheckers and taking good risks. I thought he looked right at home in the top-four defense. Adam Larsson also had a solid game, two shots, a giveaway, took a penalty and played 5:21 on the PK. Took a shot off the back (neck? shoulder?) later in the game and seemed dulled for a moment.
PAIRING TWO Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear played 11:16, going 4-16 Corsi, 0-8 shots, 0-1 goals and 2-8 HDSC. They were supported (7:15) by the Draisaitl line and faced (6:28) the Bergeron line for basically the entirety of that trio’s five on five time.
Darnell Nurse had one HDSC and a giveaway on an enormous night’s work. Including both special teams he played 29:58. Defended Marchand’s progress into the Oilers zone but couldn’t stop the pass to Bergeron (who had a step on Yamamoto) on the first goal. In overtime, he stumbled as he drove to the net, then fell, his mark (Pastrnak) scoring the winner. Took a penalty on the PP when he didn’t feel pressure and turned the puck over in a bad spot. I’ll give him credit, he answered the bell. I’m not inclined to bury a guy for doing his best when injuries force the coach to stretch him to impossible levels. I’ll stand by Darnell Nurse this morning, just as I did for Shawn Horcoff when he had to carry giant boulders up a hill under sniper fire. Context, people. Ethan Bear had a fine night, I want to scream because people apparently don’t notice his cherry passes. Jesus, Mary and Joseph if you haven’t witnessed these pay close attention to how much danger is avoided by Bear’s outlets. Had the assist on the PP goal, I think we may see him more (PP is not Nurse’s strength) as the days go down. Took a penalty, drew a penalty, pissed off Marchand, had a takeaway.
PAIRING THREE William Lagesson and Matt Benning played 6:31, going 5-5 Corsi, 4-2 shots and no threats.
William Lagesson had a good game, you can see why the Oilers like him. Drew a penalty, made some good decisions defensively and received substantial PK time (4:40). That’s a tell, ladies and germs. Coach trusts you against the best team in the league on the PK in your fourth NHL game, coach trusts you. Matt Benning had two shots, took a penalty, drew a penalty, takeaway. I think this pairing may get more minutes moving forward, solid evening’s work.
GOALIE Mike Smith stopped 32 of 34, .941 and both goals against were high danger. I don’t think anyone can blame the goalie this morning. One minor note: He is so aggressive on breakaways, not sure it’s wise to be that consistently aggressive. Shooters wait until he makes his move. Supposed to be the other way.
NURSE AND THE POWER PLAY
One of the things we’ll see in the days to come is an adjustment in power-play usage among defensemen. In the 2019-20 season, lefties have been deployed for 288 minutes (2-19-21, 4.38 points per 60) and righties for 48 minutes (1-1-2, 2.49 points per 60).
Next season, maybe sooner, Evan Bouchard and Ethan Bear are going to change the dynamic. Maybe Edmonton runs two defensemen on each PP or maybe Nurse is dropped and Bear is added (until Bouchard gets used to the rigors of five on five).
Either way, Dave Tippett’s opinion is the one that matters, and he had Nurse out on the power play and in extra time. We know that Nurse, who has a great shot, doesn’t have the passing and offensive instincts of Klefbom. His decision not to reset (but rather drive to the net) is being mentioned online as a mistake, but I’d suggest it was the right call but wrong player. Tippett would rather have had Klefbom there, he’s unavailable. Coach has given his veteran a shot in that spot, maybe we see a different look next time. Perhaps Bear and Benning in extra time.
I’m a little flummoxed this morning by people burying Nurse for giving his best last night. It’s Horcoff all over again. Edmonton booed Paul Coffey, so in a way Nurse should take this as a compliment. I’m wondering why we can’t acknowledge shortcomings without being vicious about it, but then again this is the internet. You know folks, all five men out against Bergeron’s line last night made mistakes. Maybe we can reflect on that for a time.
May I respectfully suggest your concerns are better expressed at the coaching level? I think a more interesting discussion today would involve how long it takes Tippett to move Bear on to the 1PP and Nurse off the 1PP. He’s a damned smart coach, that’s a move he could make today.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, we’ll hit the ground running with plenty to talk about. Sounds like a Holland avail will be part of the proceedings, we’ll carry it if available. Frank Seravalli will also join us to chat about trade deadline heating up, Jeff Krushell from Krush Performance will chat Blue Jays and MLB.