Connor McDavid had one of those games last night, where one runs out of adjectives by sundown. His second goal of the night, the unassisted one, will be running all around my brain for a long time. Never looked, did not telegraph, just sent the shot on net where it found top dead center. Did he use The Force? Is this fair? What’s next?
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: If Dylan Holloway turns pro this spring, will it be with the Oilers?
- Jonathan Willis: Could an Ethan Bear trade improve the Oilers?
- 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: 12-8-0, 24 points; goal differential +10
This year’s team ranks No. 2 among the McDavid winters, slightly ahead of 2016-17 and just behind 2019-20. Good company. Getting 12 wins in the first 20 games is a tidy piece of business, as I believe a 30-win season should get a team into the playoffs. Also, remember yesterday when I said the goal differential wasn’t a match for the record? Well, that was fixed last night at Rogers Place.
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 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 1-0-0)
- 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: 7-2-0, 14 points in 9 games
It’s difficult to believe this is the same team that began 3-6-0 at the start of the year. If you look (as we are about to) at the current roster and who is playing where, there have been significant tweaks on this roster (and more to come, with a couple of injuries last night). Dave Tippett has everyone pulling on the rope and believing in the little things. Did you see Leon freight train on the back check last night? McDavid turning over pucks? I will tell you that the Oilers of a year ago would have turned that 5-1 lead into 5-3 by the early stages of the third period. The roster is maturing.
LINES, LAST NIGHT
- Ennis-Khaira-Archibald played 7:25, going 2-5 shots, no goals, 0-2 HDSC and 3-10 Corsi five on five. Ennis had two shots and four hits, Khaira picked up an assist on McDavid’s third goal in a row. Khaira got a nice feed and ripped a shot just before Milan Lucic bowled a spare and sent shooter and checker into the boards. Archibald scored a lovely goal on a pass from Kahun via Draisaitl after Yamamoto was injured. Archibald is a funky player and you have to really drill down on what he does, but he’s a valuable player.
- Neal-Haas-Chiasson played 7:07, 2-4 shots, no goals, 2-2 HDSC and 4-8 Corsi five on five. Neal had a power-play assist (Nuge goal), a 10-bell chance at even strength and had the puck going in a good direction. Haas had one HDSC, drew a penalty and hit everything that moved. I find him to be a fun and unique player. He is also effective on the PK, with his anticipation a key asset. Chiasson’s sticks stopped offing themselves long enough to finally cash a goal-mouth chance on the power play, and was a physical presence on every shift.
- Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto played 6:55, going 4-7, no goals, 2-6 HDSC and 7-8 Corsi Five on Five. Kahun continues to be useful, grabbing an assist on Archibald with a strong pass. His patented ‘go behind the net without shooting, then stop and go back to try and score’ move need not be patented. Draisaitl had two assists, shoveled coal all night on the double to make sure no Flames’ player got a clean look. Yamamaoto was hammered into the boards by Buddy Robinson and did not return. An injury to Yamamoto, should it be a long-term issue, could have a major impact on the roster.
- Nuge-McDavid-Puljujarvi played 5:58, 3-2 shots and 2-0 goals, 2-2 HDSC and 8-5 Corsi five on five. Nuge had a big night scoring twice and adding an assist. McDavid was 3-2-5 on a night where he proved that he’s the thinking man’s superstar. I’ll never get over that no-look goal. JP played an effective forechecking game, had a couple of looks and now has a dog. That’s a good day.
PAIRINGS AND GOALIE
- Darnell Nurse played 33:38, had a couple of assists and played extensively with usual partner Tyson Barrie (10:49, 1-0 goals) and Adam Larsson (7:37, going 0-7 shots). Nurse was vital to the first Nuge goal (tying up the defender without taking a penalty) and picked up an assist from a nice pass on the second Nuge tally. Calm feet, improved passing, outstanding mobility, mean streak, tireless. If this is peak Nurse, that’s an extremely valuable player.
- Russell-Larsson played 7:49, going 4-7 shots, 2-0 goals, 4-5 HDSC and 6-10 shots. This pairing has been rock solid together. It isn’t a duo you think would work but we are here. Larsson hit 10 people and went swimming on the Calgary PP goal. He was ‘eternal damnation’ brought to life for Calgary forwards, Matt Tkachuk went through the Larsson sawmill several times and was not the better for it. Russell got an assist on McDavid’s third goal.
- Koekkoek-Bouchard played 13 seconds before Koekkoeke was injury.
- Bouchard-Russell went 3-6 Corsi five on five in 9:07, 3-6 shots, no goals, 0-4 HDSC and 4-11 Corsi five on five. Russell’s performances this weekend will get zero credit from a certain segment of the Oilers fan base, but if we’re fair Russell delivered exactly what his coach asked of him in a tough series against a bitter rival. That’s a contributor. Bouchard was mostly good, he can eat minutes playing rocking chair hockey with Russell but I’d like to see the dynamic Bouchard more often.
- Mikko Koskinen stopped 41 of 42, .976 and now owns a .901 SP for the season. Quality performance.
I’ll give this a full look tomorrow, but the last couple of games have been explosive for the Bakersfield Condors. Cooper Marody (7, 3-2-5) and Joe Gambardella (7, 1-4-5) lead the way offensively, with Tyler Benson (5, 1-3-4) impacting the weekend in a big way.
On defense, Theodor Lennstrom (7, 2-1-3) and Markus Niemelainen (7, 1-2-3) have been noticeable in the games I’ve watched so far.
Perhaps most encouraging has been the play of Stuart Skinner, a rock this weekend and now the proud owner of a .916 save percentage. He stopped 44 of 45 shots on the weekend. Oilers’ brass believes in the player, a strong AHL season would be welcome.