I’ve read enough about baseball and hockey to know that many coaches and managers are drinking men. Watching last night’s game as a fan or observer, one can understand why a person would resort to the drink after those 60 minutes. You work your tail off all night and the overwhelming force in the game was blind damned luck. Not your impact generational centers (although they were heard from) and not a spectacular individual play. How do you game plan sheer luck? Incredible.
The two key Oilers goals were scored at the same end, pucks hitting skates and bouncing gleefully in the Oilers favor. “Old man yells at cloud” has many applications in the real world, and over 100 seasons of this crazy league there’s been a few hundred old men yelling while pouring a wee dram. Or ten.
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: Oilers Kailer Yamamoto is the real deal.
- New Jonathan Willis: Oilers risers and fallers: Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones among those stumbling early
- Lowetide: Oilers goaltending depth in a state of flux.
- Lowetide: Oilers’ No. 3 line has been a source of anxiety early this season
- 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
OILERS IN MONTH NO. 1
- Oilers in October 2015: 1-4-0, goal differential -5
- Oilers in October 2016: 4-1-0, goal differential +4
- Oilers in October 2017: 1-4-0, goal differential -8
- Oilers in October 2018: 3-2-0, goal differential -3
- Oilers in October 2019: 5-0-0, goal differential +8
- Oilers in Month 1 2021: 2-3-0, goal differential -4
The win last night changes the look of the Oilers in January. Just a win, but falling to 1-4-0 is not an attractive beginning for a team with its sights on the playoffs. A 2-3-0 start keeps the team within reach of the rest of the division. More important coach Dave Tippett has created a successful formula (skate like it’s your last shift, take your man out of the play physically, give up real estate grudgingly) that can be repeated.
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 0-2-0)
- On the road to: Toronto, Toronto, Winnipeg, Winnipeg (Expected 1-2-1) (Actual 1-0-0)
- At home to: Toronto, Toronto, Ottawa (Expected 2-1-0)
- Overall expected result: 5-5-1, 11 points in 11 games
- Current results: 2-3-0, 4 points after five games
The win last night sets up the road trip nicely. A second win in Toronto is a big ask, but grabbing one more win should be expected, maybe an OT loss or (gasp) three road wins. The big question for you today: Can this team win two games in a row against the team predicted to win the division? It’s possible. I don’t believe it’s likely. Toronto has great talent and are well coached. Jack Campbell may pose more of a challenge than Frederik Andersen.
LINES LAST NIGHT
- Nuge-McDavid-Kassian played 12:49 together, 4-7 shots, 0-1 goals, 6-9 HDSC. It looks dire, but the McDavid line played straight up against the Matthews line and Reilly-Brodie pairing. In 12:04 against the Mattews trio, shots (4-6) and HDSC (1-1) were fairly even. The goal against (Matthews) was a lapse by Kassian, who rang iron later on a gorgeous pass from the captain. Lots of hammering re: Nuge after the game, he had a takeaway, was in good position and had one good look five on five. He also made a key play on the power-play goal, garnering an assist. McDavid had three HDSC’s (two at five on five) but the puck was jumping on everyone.
- Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto played 9:40, 4-1 shots, 1-0 goals, 2-1 HDSC and 8-4 Corsi for five on five. Line scored the early goal, it was lucky but involved a lot of hard work. Kahun could have had an assist on that goal, drew a penalty and had a high-danger chance. Draisaitl scored the winner (power play), plus two high-danger scoring chances. Yamamoto scored the first goal, four blocks, and two high danger chances of his own. A valuable player.
- Archibald-Shore-Chiasson played 6:42, 3-0 shots, no goals, 1-0 HDSC and 6-4 Corsi for five on five. Archibald scored an empty net goal about five minutes after I announced to no one specifically that he would never score again. Shore is stealing Turris’ job, man he looks good. Chiasson is losing his PP job (Puljujarvi got an assist on the Draisaitl goal) but I thought he forechecked effectively on this line. This group went up against the Tavares line for over five minutes, shots 1-1 and no goals. Shore. Stealing jobs.
- Nygard-Turris-Puljujarvi played 6:40, 3-1 shots, no goals, 0-1 HDSC and 3-2 Corsi for five on five. Nygard had a quiet night but he did it in a hurry. Turris won seven of 10 faceoffs but isn’t impacting the game. Puljujarvi is the opposite, he got an assist and sent Mitch Marner flying. I’m really liking JP, but he’s not going to be a star with Turris as his center. Saw 34 seconds with the captain and he is getting power-play time. Could that change when Neal returns? We wait.
PAIRINGS AND GOAL
- Nurse-Bear played 15:58, going 5-7 shots, 0-1 goals, 1-0 HDSC and 8-12 Corsi five on five. The goal was a turnover, Bear was a little tentative but that wasn’t a good goal against for the goaltender. Bear was also a little tentative passing early but settled in and then made some nifty outlets. Nurse had an assist, took and drew a penalty. This pairing played well.
- Russell-Barrie played 14:16, going 6-4 shots, no goals, 4-0 HDSC and 11-10 Corsi for five on five. Played 7:28 against the Tavares line (1-1 shots) and did a fine job. Played most often with the Draisaitl line. Russell was effective in his own zone, moving the puck out of danger. Barrie is getting comfortable now, moving the puck, passing well, getting looks. He’s settling in.
- Koekkoek-Larsson played 14:10, going 7-4 shots, 1-0 goals, 1-4 HDSC and 9-14 Corsi for five on five. Struggled against the Matthews line (2-0 HDSC in six minutes for Toronto), bent but did not break. Effective against other lines. I think we’ll see this pairing many times this year unless they trade Larsson. This pairing blocked a lot of shots.
- Mikko Koskinen stopped 25 of 26, .962 and that includes seven HDSC’s, three at even strength. For the season, he has a .906 save percentage on 171 shots. His season started January 13. It is January 21. Five games. 171 shots. I think some people need to reassess their evaluation of this player.
LINES FIVE ON FIVE
- Nuge-McDavid-Kassian: 46:13, 27-28 shots, 1-3 goals, 55.73 expected goals
- Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto: 50:43, 31-30 shots, 3-1 goals, 51.33 expected goals
I think the Oilers have the top two lines surrounded, although Jesse on RW with 97 is something we can talk about this year. CMD-JP have played 7 minutes together five on five, expected goals 51.91 percent. All numbers Natural Stat Trick.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, we’ll talk about the win last night and the role luck plays in any game. Frank Seravalli from TSN will pop in and discuss the first week in the NHL, the Canadian division and what Ovie and his teammates were doing .We’ll also talk NFL weekend and preview Friday’s Oiler game in Toronto. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!