As a fan of the Boston Bruins in my formative years, I learned to expect very little from a road game in Montreal. A win? Rare. A shutout? Get the hell out of here. In shutting out the Canadiens last night, the Oilers accomplished something I never contemplated, as a child, or now. A win and a shutout against the Habs. Helluva night.
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: What to do with the Oilers defence now that the rookies have arrived
- Lowetide: Mike Smith’s return calms the Oilers goalie hysteria — for now
- Lowetide: Bakersfield Condors are back, but true NHL prospects a roster rarity
- Lowetide: Dylan Holloway caps strong NCAA season with Hobey Baker nomination
- Lowetide: Oilers rookie Evan Bouchard’s 2021 NHL debut — a shift-by-shift review
- Lowetide: Edmonton Oilers report card for January
- Lowetide: Oilers’ line chemistry finally coming into view
- Lowetide: Some of the Oilers’ Russian prospects less than a year from the NHL
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers need misfiring elements to come together — and fast
- Lowetide: 3 auditioning Oilers who should be given time to find their groove
- 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: Is this peak Connor McDavid?
- Lowetide: Will Ken Holland let it ride in goal for the Oilers this season?
OILERS AFTER 16 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 6-10-0, 12 points; goal differential -7
- Oilers in 2016-17: 9-6-1, 19 points; goal differential +4
- Oilers in 2017-18: 6-9-1, 13 points; goal differential -13
- Oilers in 2018-19: 8-7-1, 17 points; goal differential -5
- Oilers in 2019-20: 10-4-2, 22 points; goal differential +5
- Oilers in 2020-21: 9-7-0, 18 points; goal differential +3
This current hot streak is exactly what the 3-6-0 Oilers needed; now sitting pretty after a 6-1-0 run, the team gets a few days off and then four games in six days against the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames. Those two teams are likely to be direct competition for the final playoff spots at the end of the season. Notice how closely this year’s model resembles the 2016-17 outfit.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM FEBRUARY
- At home to: Ottawa (Expected: 1-0-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- On the road to: Calgary, Ottawa, Ottawa, Montreal (Expected: 2-1-1) (Actual 3-1-0)
- At home to: Winnipeg, Winnipeg (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Calgary (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Calgary (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Vancouver, Vancouver (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Toronto (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 7-4-1, 15 points in 12 games
- Current results: 4-1-0, 8 points in 5 games
Yesterday I talked about falling behind my predicted pace for the month, but the Oilers are now ahead of my projection. Full value too, that was a team effort and the club didn’t rely on two or three guys. As you’ll see below, the skill guys hauled ass last night, too. A fine game by Edmonton.
LINES, LAST NIGHT
- Nuge-McDavid-Neal played 12:12, going 8-7 shots, 1-0 goals, 3-3 HDSC and 14-14 Corsi five on five according to NST (all numbers five on five unless stated, offer expires Valentine’s Day, void where prohibited). McDavid had the only point by the line (assist) and the trio delivered 12 shots on goal (including seven by McDavid). Line faced Chairot-Weber pairing and the Suzuki and Danault lines on the evening. Excellent game, McDavid had three HDSC’s, two on the power play. Neal was a day late and a dollar short on most of the sorties, hopefully Jesse Puljujarvi is back at base by Monday night.
- Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto played 11:07, going 4-3 shots, no goals, 0-2 HDCS and 9-9 Corsi five on five. A fun line played compelling hockey with just enough mistakes to add to the excitement. Kahun turned it over twice on the same shift late, Draisaitl was a punishing physical presence who also got caught by the other guy a couple of times. Yamamoto made a fine play on the PK, getting the puck out after a hard day’s night on one of Montreal’s power play. I’d say it saved a goal. Only two shots by the line, who were engaged defensively and cut ice like crazy getting back on anything close to a jailbreak. I appreciate this trio. They are not currently threatening offensively like they were before. Draisaitl’s assist came on the power play.
- Ennis-Khaira-Archibald played 11:03, going 5-8 shots, 1-0 goals, 1-3 HDSC and 9-14 Corsi five on five. Khaira scored early and continues to deliver a fantastic run (2-3-5 in his last five games) offensively while playing a strong defensive game. Ennis picked up an assist on the Khaira goal. He’s a smart player. Archibald sent the pass to Khaira that resulted in the game’s first goal, and skated miles while also helping (as usual) on the penalty kill. This line played almost as much as the Draisaitl line at five on five.
- Shore-Turris-Chiasson played 9:55, going 1-9 shots, no goals, 2-2 HDSC and 6-14 Corsi five on five. This line won faceoffs and chased the game during their ice time, but the Habs didn’t have enough going on to take advantage of the mistakes. Both Turris and Chiasson received a minute of PP time on the night, Tippett really tries to get everyone involved and having success. Perhaps another day.
DEFENSE, GOALIES LAST NIGHT
- Nurse-Barrie played 18:13, going 10-14 shots, 1-0 goals, 3-3 HDSC and 15-21 Corsi five on five. Nurse is in a zone now, they’re going in from the moon. I still don’t know why McDavid and Nuge don’t get assists on the goal, Weber’s encounter with the puck was a glancing blow. This duo had five giveaways and Barrie does truly baffling things (backhand pass behind his net to no one in the third period) but as I mentioned in my article for The Athletic yesterday this is the only pairing that has worked for Barrie since he arrived. Both men over 20 minutes, Nurse is going to garner a lot of chatter if he continues to deliver this kind of offense (on pace for 21-21-42 in 56 games this season). Barrie hammered home his third of the year on the power play.
- Lagesson-Larsson played 14:46, going 4-5 shots (low event!), 1-0 goals, 2-2 HDSC and 11-13 Corsi five on five. Lagesson hammered the post so hard in the third period Charlie Watts woke up immediately and started playing Honky Tonk Women. He (Lagesson, not Watts) also got into a wrestling match with Josh Anderson, the veteran winger had a few things to work out and it cost him an extra penalty. Lagesson is a player I followed all down the line, mostly because Corey Pronman liked him early and then I was fascinated by his strong even-strength goal differentials. He really is a solid young player, another 44 seconds on the PK last night and Edmonton still hasn’t given up a goal in the discipline on his watch. He’s stealing Jones’ job. Larsson looks very good right now in my opinion. Maybe he’s just more comfortable played with Swedish blue.
- Koekkoek-Bouchard played 13:55, going 6-14 shots, 3-5 HDSC and 13-15 Corsi five on five. Bouchard had a high-danger chance and moved the puck well, he’s making subtle plays like holding on to the puck and allowing the opposition to retreat before coming out of his zone. I don’t think Koekkoek is the right partner for Bouchard.
- Mike Smith shutout the Habs, stopping all 38 shots. If he could have anticipated Larsson’s snipe, he would be on a helluva heater coming off the IR. He has a .985 SP for the season. This is the good Smith.
2018 DRAFT NHLE
- Evan Bouchard 32.8
- Ryan McLeod 28.3
- Mike Kesselring 10.7
Bouchard is in the NHL now (that isn’t an equivalency, it’s his 5, 1-1-2 extrapolated over 82 games) and McLeod will play in the league soon, possibly in 2021. The 2019 list boasts Philip Broberg (16.3) and three forwards who cleared 20 points NHLE (Raphael Lavoie, Matej Blumel and Maxim Denezhkin). The 2020 draft, the latest one, has Dylan Holloway (52.3) and Carter Savoie (30.0). Some good players on the way.
FIVE ON FIVE GD BY LINE
I do this once a week or so, want to track any improvement on the third or fourth line. It gets difficult during the year because there is overlap, what I do is award the top line and punish the lower ones. So, 97-29 goals all land with McDavid. The five on five goal differential this morning is 34-36 (huzzah!!) and here’s what it looks like:
- McDavid line: 14-14, even
- Draisaitl line: 11-5, +6
- Turris line: 4-11, -7
- Khaira line: 5-3, +2
- Shore line: 0-2, -2
- Haas line: 0-1, -1
- Total: 34-36, -2
The McDavid line is experiencing some terrible shooting luck at both ends (97.6 PDO), that should recover but Nuge has to start cashing chances here. Draisaitl line has cooled off lately, but the big man has had a big first quarter of the fiscal. Turris continues to bleed but Khaira’s recent emergence has been manna from heaven for Dave Tippett. Credit to him, he snapped that trio into a more prominent role the moment it began to click. That’s good coaching.
I spent a lot of time writing about the AHL trio of blue (Bear, Jones, Lagesson) beginning in 2017 when two of them arrived in Bakersfield. In my mind, two of the three succeeding was unlikely, while all three making it was impossible. The article I wrote for The Athletic (above) really brings the idea of having four (Bouchard is also here and ready) young blue emerge at the same time as being impossible.
Lagesson is eating Jones’ lunch. Jones has great speed and passing, but Lagesson is a better penalty killer, is aggressive and physical, and is strong like a bull. An NHL coach is going to endure rookie mistakes no matter the rookie he chooses, but there’s a limit on how many you can have in a single season. I believe.
If Jones is the odd man out, this is going to be a fantastic group of blue moving forward. I hope there’s a way to shoehorn him into the lineup. Could the Oilers run like this in 2021-22?
- Extra: Kris Russell
I think this might be the best path forward, but am fairly certain the organization will consider both Barrie and Larsson important additions. This is going to be a fascinating offseason.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
We kickstart the weekend at 10 this morning, TSN1260. Steve Lansky from Inside the Truck podcast will talk Oilers, Brian Burke leaving television and media in Canada. Hernan Salas from TSN 1260’s Don Wheaton Post-Game show will breakdown last night’s game and look forward to next week, plus some Edmonton Football Team talk. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!