Today we’re going to talk about passing, and the importance of consistent passing and accepting a pass. Most every player in the NHL can send the puck tape to tape when there’s no pressure. The degree of difficulty increases with forechecking pressure, and that’s when the fun starts.
In two of the first three games this season, the Oilers haven’t been sharp at passing or taking a pass, and they haven’t dealt well with forechecking. That has to change. They’ll be better Monday, a rested Oilers team should have faster boots and problem solve more easily. If we see a repeat of Saturday night, we can assume at least one team in the Canadian division is better than Edmonton by some margin.
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.
- New Lowetide: Is this peak Connor McDavid?
- Lowetide: First impressions of Oilers after opener against the Canucks
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers opening night roster: A player-by-player breakdown
- Lowetide: Oilers risers and fallers and how they impact the opening night roster
- Lowetide: Will Ken Holland let it ride in goal for the Oilers this season?
- Lowetide: Oilers rookies with a chance to stick after one week of training camp
- Lowetide: 9 bold predictions for the Oilers’ season
- Lowetide: Early roster rumblings as Oilers open training camp
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers training camp: Forecasting the big roster battles
- Lowetide: Dylan Holloway’s world juniors work offers clues about Oilers future
- Lowetide: The Bakersfield Condors will be competitive in the coming AHL season
- Jonathan Willis: After a brilliant rookie Oilers season, how high is Ethan Bear’s ceiling?
- Lowetide: How secure is Zack Kassian’s role on Oilers’ top line?
- Lowetide: Why fans should expect an Oilers playoff berth in Canadian division
- Jonathan Willis: Dave Tippett has more options now thanks to versatile Oilers forwards
- Lowetide: What if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins doesn’t sign with the Oilers?
- Lowetide: Seattle Kraken expansion mock draft 5.0: Who could the Oilers lose?
- Lowetide: Why McDavid and Nuge together could be key to Oilers’ playoff success
OILERS IN MONTH NO. 1
- Oilers in October 2015: 0-3-0, goal differential -6
- Oilers in October 2016: 2-1-0, goal differential +1
- Oilers in October 2017: 1-2-0, goal differential -1
- Oilers in October 2018: 1-2-0, goal differential -5
- Oilers in October 2019: 3-0-0, goal differential +5
- Oilers in Month 1 2021: 1-2-0, goal differential -3
Through three games, the Oilers look like a club on the outside looking in. That’s a concern but not enough for high anxiety. The opener and last night felt like preseason, and the middle game looked like fire, so one hopes for the next game to resemble the Thursday edition of the Oilers. They’ll become more consistent, we know this. What we don’t know is if that will be good enough for the second season.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM MONTH NO. 1
- At home to: Vancouver, Vancouver (Expected: 1-1-0) (Actual 1-1-0)
- At home to: Montreal, Montreal (Expected: 1-1-0) (Actual 0-1-0)
- On the road to: Toronto, Toronto, Winnipeg, Winnipeg (Expected 1-2-1)
- At home to: Toronto, Toronto, Ottawa (Expected 2-1-0)
- Overall expected result: 5-5-1, 11 points in 11 games
- Current results: 1-2-0, 2 points after 3 games
Things are going about as expected, you’d like to see Edmonton win two in a row here some time during the month of January. There are some good signs, we’ll talk about them below. More urgency would be good.
LINES FROM LAST NIGHT
- Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto played 12:27 and was the best line for Edmonton. 8-6 shots, no goals, 2-1 HDSC, 14-7 Corsi for five on five. Draisaitl damn near scored on the power play, he was the one Oilers player who was making sharp passes. Yamamoto has been consistent at a high level all three games.
- Nuge-McDavid-Archibald posted better totals than the visual implied. Trio played 7:18 together, won the shot share 6-3, no goals, 2-1 HDSC and 10-6 Corsi for five on five. McDavid picked up an assist on the only goal, Nuge was effective (at times spectacular) defensively all night. Archibald looked quiet but had two HDCS’s on the night. All numbers Natural Stat Trick.
- Ennis-Turris-Puljujarvi played 6:43, 3-5 shots, 0-1 goals and 1-1 HDSC. Corsi five on five 6-8. I thought the line showed well, especially when Turris had one dynamite chance early. JP to Ennis to Turris for a nice ripper, looked good. I’d like to see this line again.
- Nygard-Shore-Chiasson played 3:57, going 1-2 shots, no goals and 2-3 Corsi for five on five. It was a better trio than the previous fourth line.
- McDavid played with JP and Nuge for 3:07, 1-1 shots, 0-1 goals and 1-1 HDSC. 5-2 Corsi, and I saw them good but who knows if we’ll see them again.
LAST NIGHT’S PAIRINGS, GOALIE
- Nurse-Bear played 11:16 together, 7-7 shots, 0-1 goals, 2-2 HDSC and 11-11 Corsi five on five. Bear was late to the show on the Tatar (second) goal, he didn’t see the ice after that puck went in. Tippett: “The fifth one (goal against) is a poor, poor read by Ethan Bear.” The young blue was slow to recognize, but a pair of two minute shifts in the first period may have contributed to an “also in photo” moment. Bear’s read was not sharp, but his wheels weren’t turning at his usual pace on that play.
- For me, Nurse’s decision to go for the hit on what turned into the first Tatar goal is the kind of break down that is easily avoided by a disciplined approach to defense.
- Both men will be needed, both men are over 50 percent in five on five shot and goal differential after three games, so there are good things happening despite some moments in last night’s game.
- Jones-Larsson played 11:40 together, going 5-4 shots, no goals, 0-1 HDSC and 10-9 Corsi for five on five. People are getting on Jones now, but his on ice shooting percentage is less than five percent and his on ice save percentage is .762. Those numbers will regress to the meat over time. I’d stay with him. Larsson had calm feet and defended well. Played a disciplined game.
- Koekkoek-Barrie played 10:01, going 7-5 shots, 1-0 goals, 4-1 HDSC and 16-10 Corsi for five on five. I’m liking this duo more and more, although am pleased to see Tippett using them as one of the bottom pairings. Played over five minutes scoreless against the Tatar-Danault-Gallagher line as a pairing, that trio sliced Edmonton 3-0 goals at five on five (although Barrie was on the ice for one of the goals against).
- Mikko Koskinen stopped 31 of 36, .861 save percentage. I think he can be faulted a little for the Petry badminton goal and the Petry seeing eye single goal. Gave up a leaky rebound on the Evans goal but there was a lot going on there, too. Either way, he was not good enough to steal the game, and Price was better but so was his team.
OILERS CENTERS FIVE ON FIVE GOAL DIFFERENTIAL
- Connor McDavid 4-3
- Leon Draisaitl 3-1
- Kyle Turris 0-4
- Jujhar Khaira 0-2
- Devin Shore 0-0
Draisaitl is actually 5-1 but two of his five on five on ice goals came on the McDavid line. Either way, the goal of the offseason, making sure the third and fourth lines contributed more, isn’t working through three games. Top two lines are working, need to get the Turris line going. Ennis looked good there.
DEFENSE FIVE ON FIVE ON ICE GOAL DIFFERENTIAL
- Darnell Nurse 5-3
- Ethan Bear 5-3
- Slater Koekkoek 1-2
- Tyson Barrie 1-3
- Adam Larsson 1-4
- Caleb Jones 1-5
I’d stay the course with Jones. I’d stay the course with Nurse-Bear. I might play the Koekkoek-Barrie pairing a little more.
Oilers fans may not want to hear this, but that Anderson line, combined with a fine coach and a more substantial NHL defense, plus Carey Price, may mean the Habs are going to be well clear of the Oilers this season. That was an outstanding performance last night. Full stop.