Jesse Puljujarvi and Zack Kassian switched spots on Sunday night, and both provided a scoring spark to their new lines. On a night when Edmonton badly needed two points, the performances of both men were key to success. We might look back on Game 7 in 2020-21 as a turning point in the season, similar to Kailer Yamamoto’s recall after Christmas 2019. Suddenly, things have gotten interesting.
Coach Dave Tippett’s growing reputation for finding ways for young players to establish themselves in the world’s toughest league has another check mark today. So far in Edmonton, Ethan Bear, Kailer Yamamoto, Caleb Jones and now (it appears) Puljujarvi have found their way. While we celebrate the success of these youngsters, we also remember the young men (Nail Yakupov chief among them) who arrived in this city during a time of great confusion and shortsightedness. Successfully developing youth is the oxygen of an NHL team. It appears to formula under coach Tippett works.
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: Jesse Puljujarvi is ready for his No. 1 line audition
- Lowetide: Oilers’ scoring wing prospects having an impact.
- Lowetide: Oilers Kailer Yamamoto is the real deal.
- 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: 3-4-0, goal differential -2
- Oilers in October 2016: 6-1-0, goal differential +10
- Oilers in October 2017: 2-5-0, goal differential -8
- Oilers in October 2018: 3-3-1, goal differential -7
- Oilers in October 2019: 6-1-0, goal differential +9
- Oilers in Month 1 2021: 3-4-0, goal differential -4
The Oilers are in fourth place this morning, that’s a playoff spot. Now, if you factor in winning percentage, we’re talking a different set of standings. That was an important victory for the team.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 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 2-1-0)
- At home to: Toronto, Toronto, Ottawa (Expected 2-1-0)
- Overall expected result: 5-5-1, 11 points in 11 games
- Current results: 3-4-0, 6 points after seven games
My projection for the team to this point (2-4-1) is slightly behind where the team currently sits, but I have the club finishing the month 3-1-0 and honestly the Oilers have more holes (and severe problems) than I thought possible.
LINES LAST NIGHT
- Nuge-McDavid-Puljujarvi played 13:34, going 12-8 shots, 1-0 goals, 8-3 HDSC and 20-12 Corsi for five on five. It was a great night for the Finn, five shots at five on five, an assist, four individual scoring chances and damned near a late goal. He was impressive, turned over pucks and forechecked well. He had incredible chances, notably an early goalmouth chance from a McDavid pass (Yamamoto would score later on the same play) and a brilliant individual rush late in the game where the big man almost nudged the puck into the net while falling. Passed well. What a night!
- Nuge scored, five shots and two HDSC’s five on five. McDavid had three assists, more clean air than he’s seen in some time and is tied for the league lead in points (4-6-10 in 7 games). Trio was 83.8 expected goal percentage which is actual fire. The 2016 No. 4 overall pick looked like the 2016 No. 4 overall pick last night.
- Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto played 12:22, 6-11 shots, no goals, 3-5 HDSC and 13-22 Corsi for five on five. Draisaitl was 1-1-2, scoring what might be the biggest goal of the season for the Oilers with mere milliseconds left. Yamamoto is in a zone now, he’s just impossible on the forecheck, as good as anyone I’ve ever seen in turning over pucks. In a zone. Yamamoto also scored, both Leon and KY goals came when with 97. Kahun is playing well, hopefully the offense will come. This line is getting fed because Nurse-Bear is the only pairing that has formed a solid.
- Ennis-Turris-Kassian played 4:19, 2-6 shots, 0-1 goals and 0-3 HDSC, 2-7 Corsi for five on five. The goal against came after an icing and then a lost faceoff plus coverage issues. It would cause a small shuffle on the line, Ennis out and Neal in.
- Neal-Turris-Kassian played 2:43, 2-3 shots, 1-0 goals, 1-0 HDSC and 3-3 Corsi for five on five. The goal was gorgeous, strong passing between the three forwards. I thought they played well together, Neal and Kassian on the same line give the trio a lot of grit. Kassian failed to hit center and iced the puck, the following sequence leading to Winnipeg’s first goal. He made amends with a lovely pass on the Turris goal. Don’t bet against Kassian climbing back up the depth chart at some point, he’s done it before many rimes.
- Neal-Shore-Archibald played 3:19, 2-3 shots, no goals, 1-0 HDSC and 3-2 Corsi. Shore didn’t play for an extended period in the first, and the line was quiet in their limited five on five time (that’s a good thing). Neal didn’t get noticed until the line change.
PAIRINGS AND GOALIE LAST NIGHT
- Nurse-Bear played 16:46, went 18-8 shots, 2-0 goals, 13-3 HDCS and 28-14 Corsi for five on five. Most of this (14 minutes) came with the McDavid line and against the Connor-Schiefele-Wheeler line, I thought Nurse was going to start a fight with Wheeler on the pitchfork play. Nurse made some excellent on the fly outlet passes, he’s improved in that area this season. He was obvious in a good way all night. Bear had a solid game, his puck decisions are excellent. Fans remain angry that Tippett HS’d him, but the results have been outstanding. When the coach uses playing time as a hammer on a young regular, he better be right. In this case, Tippett appears to have used the right occasion for a wake-up call.
- Russell-Barrie played 15:22, went 9-14 shots, 0-1 goals, 1-6 HDSC and 12-21 Corsi for five on five. I don’t think this is an effective pairing, but the goal against saw Ehlers in the high slot and his mark not able to get to him (Kahun). I’m not sure it was his fault, believe Kahun came right off the bench and couldn’t get there in time. Barrie is becoming more comfortable but hasn’t yet accomplished anything. Give him time, he’ll help at some point. Russell is not a good partner for him. By the way, the five on five goal against Russell last night was the first of the season. He’s wildly unpopular in some parts of Oilers nation, but every year he’s been here the GA/60 at five on five shows he is effective in goal suppression. Haters gonna hate, coaches keep playing him.
- Koekkoeke-Larsson played 11:58, going 3-12 shots, 0-1 goals, 2-3 HDSC and 7-23 Corsi for five on five. This duo was on for the first goal against, I think both blue were ineffective and they were joined by Kyle Turris who was late to catch up to the goal scorer. I expect we’re going to see Larsson sit here soon, he looks off. I remain a fan of the player but his positioning has been off this year and his puck moving has digressed markedly. Is he hurt? Don’t know. He’s vulnerable now, even as the coach clearly values his shutdown blue.
- Mkko Koskinen was sharp all night, stopping 35 of 38, .921. His SP for the season is .907, that’s solid considering the workload.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
It’s always fun after an Oilers victory, especially an exciting one like last night. We hit the air at 10 this morning on the Lowdown and will drill down on a game with at least five strong storylines, plus the NFL weekend. Scott Wheeler joins us at 10:40 to talk about the new Oilers prospect pool rankings (he counts 11 real prospects, that’s an excellent number). At 11, Jason Gregor pops in to talk about last night’s Oilers game and Dave Tippett’s handling of Edmonton’s youth.