There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear. I’ve watched the Oilers for so long it’s possible to see patterns forming. This year’s pattern was win an extra game a month, with an additional overtime loss every second month, and get about 12 points for every 10 games.
On the weekend, Edmonton did something unusual, defeating the Calgary Flames home and away in two different fashions. The Friday night game was especially interesting, as the club played a button-down style. That’s a great game if your team can manage it. Next night, freewheelin’ Connor McDavid blew the doors off. There was a time, not so long ago, when the McDavid method was the only bullet in the chamber for the Oilers.
Last night? Dig a hole, climb out with 45 minutes of desperate hockey, win late running four lines. Edmonton is finding more ways to win than in the past. Good sign.
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: Revisiting our preseason predictions for the Oilers after 20 games
- New Lowetide: Oilers begin to separate from prairie teams in Scotia North
- 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 21 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 7-13-1, 15 points; goal differential -9
- Oilers in 2016-17: 12-8-1, 25 points; goal differential +10
- Oilers in 2017-18: 7-12-2, 16 points; goal differential -18
- Oilers in 2018-19: 10-10-1, 21 points; goal differential -8
- Oilers in 2019-20: 13-6-2, 28 points; goal differential +13
- Oilers in 2020-21: 13-8-0, 26 points; goal differential +11
This team overcame a 3-6-0 start and is on a 10-2-0 heater. We’re coming up on the halfway point of the season, it’s seven games away. I think 66 points gets a team in the postseason. If that’s true, Edmonton would need 40 points from the final 35 games. That seems possible, as the team is well ahead of that pace currently.
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 1-0-0)
- 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: 8-2-0, 16 points in 10 games
Edmonton has recovered from the January start and are now pushing past what would have been a productive month (my prediction was aggressive). Two more games to play, this team could grab 20 points in 12 games, a pace that would result in 93 points in 56 games. That trajectory is extreme, but it does show how much the team is getting done in February that will benefit in later months.
LINES, LAST NIGHT
- Nuge-McDavid-Puljujarvi played 13:42, 9-11 shots, 0-1 goals, 5-4 HDSC and 19-17 Corsi five on five. The line played well, although the goals came from other trios or in different game states. Nuge had an effective night as a two-way winger (2 HDSC), plus came to JP’s rescue when Antoine Rousel lost his head. McDavid was incredible all night (his goal came after some fantastic passing), one HD chance and about one dozen out of this world passes for chances. Jesse Puljujarvi was on the receiving end of a few of those passes, two HDSC , 7 shot attempts, five hits and a live witness video of Roussel’s rage and lack of hockey.
- Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto played 11:31, 7-8 shots, 2-1 goals, 5-2 HDSC and 12-13 Corsi five on five. A strong night for this line, best one in some time. Kahun scored twice, including the enormous goal early in the third that put a charge in the Oilers, and led the team with three HDSC chances. Draisaitl had three assists, his giant paddle the world’s largest magic wand. Yamamoto picked up an assist, blocked a couple shots, drew a penalty and was around the puck all night. Three quality performances.
- Ennis-Khaira-Archibald played 9:13, 4-4 shots, 1-1 goals, 2-2 HDSC and 10-8 Corsi five on five. Another solid game by this line, Ennis scored the GWG (making up for his earlier tip that helped a GA), Khaira had an assist and played a physical game and Archibald was most visible on the PK. This is a useful line.
- Patrick Russell-Haas-Chiasson played 6:01, 4-2 shots, no goals, no HDSC and 6-5 Corsi five on five. Russell is exactly as I remember, never out of position and always working. Haas had a solid game even if he wasn’t rewarded with a point, he’s going to take minutes away from veteran NHL players this year. Chiasson picked up an assist and had another great chance.
PAIRINGS AND GOALIE
- Russell-Larsson played 17:28, going 2-9 shots, 1-2 goals, 1-2 HDSC and 13-19 HDSC. Russell had a takeaway and three blocked shots, Larsson had an assist on the GWG after hammering the puck at the net. He also blocked 8 shots and played 3 minutes on the PK with no GA. I chuckled at how much this pairing played, I think it shows how Tippett wanted to play the game (in terms of style).
- Nurse-Barrie played 15:48, going 11-12 shots, 2-1 goals, 7-3 HDSC and 20-21 Corsi five on five. Nurse played a strong, physical game and didn’t take the bait when Roussel started running around. Effective coverage. Barrie had an assist, three good looks and eluded forecheckers like walking in the park.
- Jones-Bouchard played 10:28, 7-2 shots, 0-0 goals, 2-1 HDSC and 12-2 Corsi five on five. Jones was calm, didn’t wander out of position and played it safe. Bouchard had four shots on goal and passed well, showed good mobility. The Oilers have two quality defensemen here, who could sustain the team with fine play for a decade.
- Mike Smith stopped 30 of 33, .909. He won that game after a start that was three days past miserable. The ref looked like he interfered in the first GA (I think it was an illusion but it didn’t help) and then Tyler Ennis raced to the blue line to get his stick down in time to create a perfect arc on a Tyler Myers deflection. Finally, Elias Pettersson showed superhuman hand-eye on the third goal. But Smith stoned Vancouver from that moment forward. Impressive.
Julien had a fairly significant role in the Oilers organization around the turn of the century. He graduated Jason Chimera, Jarret Stoll, Fernando Pisani and others to the NHL before going on to coach the Habs, Bruins (Stanley) and then Montreal again. Habs fired him this morning. I don’t believe this was a wise move, although teams changing out coaches during a season get a lift often.
OILERS ROSTER FIVE ON FIVE PER 60
This is a impressive scoring team at five on five, and not just the top two lines. Kahun got healthy in a hurry and the two young skill RW’s are hanging around in the 1.60-1.90 range. Lots of offense from the defense. Goalie numbers are five on five save percentage. Mike Smith has made a difference, don’t let anyone tell you different.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN 1260, we have a busy and fun show for you. Bruce McCurdy from the Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal will break down last night’s game. I have a feeling that Antoine Rousel is in for a real dressing down. Joe Oborne from OddsShark talks NHL value bets, NBA teams that offer value and an early look at the MLB season. Joey Alfieri from TSN 690 in Montreal pops in at 11:25 to help us make sense of the Claude Julien firing in Montreal. Plus details of a brand new contest you’ll want to win! 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!