If Dave Tippett can get his Edmonton Oilers to play that tight every night, his team is going to have playoff success. While many fans raved on about how boring the game turned out to be, the maligned Oilers defense gave up just 21 shots. NST had Calgary with 10 high danger chances, that looked high from here. Either way, both teams play tonight and the Flames are under pressure (add in the grand bassline).
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 Jonathan Willis: Could an Ethan Bear trade improve the Oilers?
- New Lowetide: Is Oilers centre Kyle Turris playing himself out of the NHL?
- Lowetide: Tinkering with the Oilers’ top six — what are the best line combinations?
- 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 20 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 7-12-1, 15 points; goal differential -8
- Oilers in 2016-17: 11-8-1, 23 points; goal differential +7
- Oilers in 2017-18: 7-11-2, 16 points; goal differential -13
- Oilers in 2018-19: 9-10-1, 19 points; goal differential -9
- Oilers in 2019-20: 12-6-2, 26 points; goal differential +9
- Oilers in 2020-21: 11-8-0, 22 points; goal differential +4
This year’s Oilers are hanging with the playoff and postseason teams, although the goal differential is lagging. Fairly certain the 2020-21 team is on a playoff trajectory, as they would finish with 65 points.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 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 1-1-0)
- On the road to: Calgary (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- 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: 6-2-0, 12 points in 8 games
January’s record (5-6-0) included two wins at the end of the month, meaning the Oilers have been hot for three full weeks now. Calgary will be bringing everything they have tonight, and there are about 15 guys in red looking for redemption. Oilers played a calm game for much of last night, put a sleeper hold on the Flames and ran out the clock. Damned effective. Does this team have it in them to sweep a desperate Calgary team? Expect a strong test of Mikko Koskinen in the first 10 minutes tonight, that may well tell the story of Saturday night.
LINES, LAST NIGHT
- Nuge-McDavid-Puljujarvi played 12:21 together, 3-5 shots, 1-0 goals, 2-3 HDSC and 7-18 Corsi five on five. Nuge made smart plays all over the ballyard, a couple of takeaways, several passes out of the zone to relieve pressure and effective coverage. McDavid was a standout offensively, two HD scoring chances and Edmonton had just 7 all night according to NST (all numbers five on five). Puljujarvi scored a great goal, he was in good position, offered a target, released the puck quickly and didn’t shoot it into the goalie’s crest. He’s more qualified than several dozen Oilers forwards who have spent time in the slot over the years. He has scored 5-1-6 in the last seven games. Won several battles for pucks, he’s a big man and a completely different obstacle for opponents than he was as a teenager. I love seeing a “who’s that guy?” look on the faces of players JP lost battles to a couple of years ago. How the turns have tabled.
- Ennis-Draisaitl-Yamamoto played 10:52, 3-5 shots, no goals, 1-2 HDSC and 5-7 Corsi five on five. Ennis had two giveaways, some good moments forechecking but his passes were off target. Draisaitl had one HDSC, just two shots and seemed to be missing an extra gear at times. Yamamoto was aggressive on the forecheck (took a penalty because of it) and work tirelessly, but Calgary checked him well.
- Neal-Haas-Chiasson played 8:19, going 8-2 shots, 1-0 goals, 1-1 HDSC and 12-6 Corsi five on five. This line was the most effective on the evening, Haas and his speed an even better match than Khaira for the grumpy old men on the wing. Neal had an assist, a couple of good looks and created a rebound. Chiasson also picked up an assist, he’s 2-2-4 in his last five games.
- Kahun-Khaira-Archibald played 7:46, going 5-2 shots, 0-1 goals, 2-1 HDSC and 7-4 Corsi five on five. I thought the line played well, scramble on the GA but against the flow of play. Kahun had two shots and a high danger scoring chance he created stealthily by following his offensive guard until he say daylight. He’s a sneaky good player. Khaira had one decent look, was in the photo on the GA (it was a difficult play, complete jailbreak) and won six of 10 in the dot.
DEFENSE AND GOALIE
- Nurse-Barrie played 20:07 (it’s too much!) together, 6-9 shots, 1-1 goals, 3-5 HDSC and 12-22 Corsi five on five. Nurse had an assist, a couple of good looks and two shot blocks. He is playing the best hockey of his career, partly because his passing is so much better. Touch passes, tape to tape, short and long, he’s making the puck do the work and it’s fun to see. Barrie had a great assist (impressive pass to JP after driving down the wall) and made a good block on a late Matt Tkachuk chance.
- Russell-Larsson played 18:03 (it’s too much!) together, 8-2 shots, no goals, 2-1 HDSC and 14-10 Corsi five on five. Russell had three shots and three shot blocks, Larsson engaged a couple of times and went walkabout in the Calgary end with no harm to either side. They played well, I know that will make many of you unhappy, but there it is.
- Koekkoek-Bouchard played 6:31 (not enough), 4-4 shots, no goals, 0-1 HDSC and 7-5 Corsi five on five. Bouchard made one stunningly poor outlet pass that got turned over but played well otherwise. Koekkoek played one of his best games of late, calm feet, turning pucks over. This pairing could have played more, and will have to (or their replacements will) be on the ice more tonight. The top pairs shouldered a heavy load.
- Mike Smith had another fine game, stopping 20 of 21, .952. He has now played in five games, won four of them, has a .940 save percentage and a 1.83 goals-against average. We know he’ll regress, but it’s also true this is a fantastic run from the big man. Respect.
OILERS PROCURED VIA THE DRAFT
If we can agree that the vital positions are the top two lines, top two pairs, starting goalie and No. 3 center, the draft and development department has potentially taken care of nine of these requirements. What’s more if JP, KY and EB continue to develop, the last failed first-round selection will be from 2012. Numbers are five on five pts-60 (forwards), shot differential (defense) and save percentage (goalies).
PROCURED BEFORE HOLLAND
There aren’t many left who were part of the organization on Holland’s arrival (spring 2019). The old bulls are having some success though, Larsson has been playing well during this stretch and Russell’s numbers have improved alongside 6. Chiasson delivered a productive 10 days when he needed it, credit where due. Kassian remains injured, I think it might have helped the Oilers remain disciplined last night. Nothing against Kassian, he brings some things when healthy, but the Oilers weren’t heading to the box often last night and stayed with the gameplan.
PROCURED BY HOLLAND
If we were being fair, Jesse Puljujarvi’s name would be front and center. However, these are the names brought in by Holland as first-time Oilers.
Smith has been outstanding, full stop. Barrie is improving and has delivered 3-10-13 and played 20:42 a night over his most recent 11 games (+3). Ennis and Kahun had helped on LW, and Neal has had a couple of solid games (including last night). Haas has made a difference in a very shot time span. Archibald is an unusual player, he is difficult to describe. Example: His five on five points per 60 (0.97) is the least impressive among regular Oilers. However, his even-strength pts-60 is 1.56, No. 8 among Oilers forwards with over 100 minutes in the discipline.
What’s my point? No matter what Holland does in free agency, no matter the trades, the Holland tunnel to success will go through the draft. His only major contribution to the drafted names above is getting Puljujarvi back in the fold.
That’s one thing. It’s a big one.