Remember yesterday, when I said “Oilers fans don’t hate Winnipeg, but they will by the end of the season”? Last night’s game was a rock solid first serving by the Jets, with an aggressive, physical and skilled team from Portage and Main at least a step ahead of the home team all night long.
Edmonton’s defense lost William Lagesson early, and that made things more difficult. Edmonton’s decisions (“Hi, I’m Kyle Turris, allow me to show you to the slot, where goals are scored. I’ll get you that puck here shortly”) and executing (Dear Mr. Kahun, you are going the wrong way!) cost them the game. NHL hockey is hard. There’s another game tomorrow.
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.
- Lowetide: Philip Broberg and the Oilers’ Leftorium
- Lowetide: Jujhar Khaira, a waiver reset and the Oilers’ future at No. 3 centre
- 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: 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: Oilers Kailer Yamamoto is the real deal.
- Lowetide: Is this peak Connor McDavid?
OILERS AFTER 17 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 6-11-0, 12 points; goal differential -10
- Oilers in 2016-17: 9-7-1, 19 points; goal differential +1
- Oilers in 2017-18: 6-9-2, 14 points; goal differential -13
- Oilers in 2018-19: 8-8-1, 17 points; goal differential -8
- Oilers in 2019-20: 10-5-2, 22 points; goal differential +4
- Oilers in 2020-21: 9-8-0, 18 points; goal differential +2
Oilers in the top three of McDavid seasons here, one point behind the 2016-17 team. The club is looking for answers and may have found a few (more later), and they worked damn hard to get back in the contest before losing on another mistake.
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 0-1-0)
- 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: 4-2-0, 8 points in 6 games
Edmonton remains just a hair in front of my projections, that’s a good thing. If you’re mad about last night’s game, maybe re-watch it. There’s miles of skill there, the Oilers could have won it last night. They do need a better goalie, but that’s an off-season thing. Edmonton needs stronger defense and they certainly need a reset on the top two pairs. If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, you should prepare for the return of Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear in the coming days. My top recommendation would be moving Barrie down the depth chart.
LINES, LAST NIGHT
- Nuge-McDavid-Puljujarvi played 13:42, going 13-7 shots, 1-1 goals, 4-2 HDSC, 21-12 Corsi five on five. The trio got 19 shots overall, Nuge two goals, McDavid two assists, Puljujarvi with a flat out gorgeous assist on Nuge’s late tying goal. This line has some real explosiveness, but has been slow to convert its potential into goals.
- Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto played 8:04, going 6-2 shots, 0-1 goals, 0-1 HDSC but 9-4 Corsi five on five. Kahun’s mistake on the winning goal (crossing outside the zone with everyone going north and then re-entering the zone under pressure) could be enough to get him a trip to another line, although that seems drastic. Draisaitl had a lot of try but was checked into submission (including a rocking hit by Neal Pionk), one of the less impressive games we’ve seen from the big man. Damn near got his pocket picked late in the game by Kyle Connor, reflecting his slower pace on the evening. Kailer Yamamoto scored a nice goal on a tip, it was his first in some time. He has played 70 NHL games in his career now, coming in at 17-23-40. Yamamoto failed to get the puck out mere seconds before Scheifele scored his first period PP goal.
- Ennis-Khaira-Archibald played 6:57. 4-2 shots, no goals, 1-1 HDSC and 5-5 Corsi five on five. This line sparked the turnaround with a fantastic shift in the middle of the game. Ennis picked up an assist on the second Chiasson goal, Khaira played aggressively but was on the ice for the Connor goal. Archibald was a active physically and had a couple good looks.
- Turris-Shore-Chiasson had an interesting evening, playing 5:28, going 2-5 shots, 1-2 goals, 1-1 HDSC and 3-10 Corsi five on five. Shore’s pass to Chiasson on his first goal was quality, and Chiasson scored twice on a pretty wild night for the fourth line. If I live to be 100, Turris movements on the Ehlers goal will never make sense.
- Draisaitl-McDavid-Yamamoto played 4:49 together later in the game, 6-0 shots, 1-0 goals, 1-0 HDSC and 8-0 Corsi five on five. This line held sway for about five minutes while there was complete chaos everywhere. A sign of things to come? I did see a Nuge -Puljujarvi-Ennis trio in there somewhere for a spin or two as well.
DEFENSE AND GOALIES
- Nurse-Barrie played 21:55 together, an enormous total. 14-9 shots, 2-1 goals, 5-2 HDSC and 23-18 Corsi five on five. Nurse had an assist, Barrie had two, great totals but they were forced to play too much. Nurse overplayed Scheiffele on the Appleton goal and Barrie brings chaos to the top pair. I miss Ethan Bear on this pairing but suspect the coach may keep Nurse-Barrie together.
- Larsson-Bouchard played 9:55, going 10-5 shots, 0-1 goals, 3-2 HDSC and 19-6 Corsi five on five. Bouchard’s passing was terrific and his shot was booming all over the yard. Larsson was 0-2 goals overall, Ehlers and Wheeler markers on his watch and some wobble on the Ehlers goal (Wheeler tally was on Kahun). Obviously young Lagesson’s injury made this paring necessary. Bouchard was not effective on blocking out Wheeler on the GWG.
- Koekkoek-Bouchard played 8:31, 6-3 shots, no goals, 0-1 HDSC, 8-6 Corsi five on five. Bouchard had eight shots on goal. Koekkoek gave up possession to Ehlers easily on the Connor goal, lots of staring from his teammates but he has to feel that pressure and make a quicker play. Koekkoek was also slow to react to clear danger on the Appleton goal.
- Mike Smith stopped seven of 11 shots, .636 save percentage. Now .935 for the year. He had no chance on the Scheifele power-play goal, the Kyle Connor snipe was by him before he had a chance to react, Appleton was allowed to get into prime scoring position so that’s a shot you can’t blame the goalie on (although goalies do stop shots from there). Ehlers was from a little farther out, you’d like your goalie to stop that one but it was a nice shot. You’d also like Turris to be more than an impersonation of a waiter seating diners on that play.
- Mikko Koskinen stops 11 of 13, .846 and is now .894 for the year. No fault on either goal against, both fine tip jobs.
Winnipeg had a strong game and the Oilers were down a defenseman early in this one. Edmonton had the clear edge in possession, Jets had the better goalie. Luck, in my opinion, favoured the road team. You’d like Smith to stop one of those shots, but each was its own hornet’s nest. Sometimes you have to give the other man his due, and cut down on your own mistakes. Jones and Bear should be in the lineup Wednesday and Haas should replace Turris for a couple of weeks.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy morning on the Lowdown, as we all get back to work. At 10, on TSN1260, we hit the ground running. At 10:20, Murat Ates from The Athletic tells us what he saw last night and explains the Jets impressive desperation intensity last night. At 11, George Richards from Florida Hockey Now offers insight into a grand start by the Panthers. At 11:25, Vivek Jacob from CBC Toronto will talk about a Raptors team that is building some momentum after a slow start. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!