Evan Bouchard dropped his stick and his mark dropped the Oilers into an ocean of misery in the first period last night. The young blue also lost his mark on the second goal and tipped a backhand shot that found its way to the net later in the first. Growing pains. You’d like your goalie to stop one of them, but blaming the goalie when you don’t get anything done at the other end doesn’t capture the event completely.
Focus on the important things. In this case, Bouchard is far too talented to sit for 10 games, so he’ll be out there again soon and one day, not long from now, he’ll be playing the big minutes in the biggest games. Consider also Kailer Yamamoto, who brilliantly played keep-away with the puck for an extended period down low against a strong and forceful blue. Last night was game No. 77 for Yamamoto, game No. 330 for William Nylander. It takes time. Or Jesse Puljujarvi, whose back check when down 3-0 saved a sure goal. It was game No. 162 for the big Finn.
This is still a young team in lots of important places. That’s some of what we saw last night. Some day, not so very long from now, Bouchard, Yamamoto and Puljujarvi will be playing big minutes in big games together. I don’t think the current goalies will he here, though.
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: February report cards for the Oilers
- New Lowetide: Difficult season for trio of Oilers prospects playing in the AHL
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi must be on the Oilers expansion protected list after breakout
- Jonathan Willis: The Oilers’ 2020 trade deadline splash: What we learned, a year later
- Lowetide: Revisiting our preseason predictions for the Oilers after 20 games
- Lowetide: Oilers begin to separate from prairie teams in Scotia North
- 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: 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: Is this peak Connor McDavid?
OILERS AFTER 24 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 8-14-2, 18 points; goal differential -13
- Oilers in 2016-17: 12-10-2, 26 points; goal differential +7
- Oilers in 2017-18: 9-13-2, 20 points; goal differential -14
- Oilers in 2018-19: 11-11-2, 24 points; goal differential -11
- Oilers in 2019-20: 14-7-3, 31 points; goal differential +11
- Oilers in 2020-21: 14-10-0, 28 points; goal differential +6
We know this team is in the good part of the McDavid cluster, both the 2016-17 and 2019-20 clubs getting post-season games. This is a different year, so we’re not absolutely sure this pace (65 points in 56 games after last night’s loss) will be enough for the postseason. How many times do they have to play the Leafs?
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM MARCH
- At home to: Toronto, Toronto, Calgary (Expected: 1-1-1) (Actual 0-1-0)
- At home to: Ottawa, Ottawa, Ottawa (Expected: 2-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Vancouver, Calgary, Calgary (Expected: 2-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to Winnipeg, Winnipeg (Expected: 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Montreal, Montreal, Montreal (Expected 2-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Toronto, Toronto (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 9-6-1, 19 points in 16 games
- Current results: 0-1-0, 0 points in one game
I think we’ll see a better effort from Edmonton on Wednesday but it’s clear there’s a gap between these two teams. That’s not a bad thing you know, Toronto represents the best in the division and therefore the best available test for this Oilers team this season. Edmonton is 2-4-0 against the TML, that is not a tragedy. Honest.
LINES LAST NIGHT
There were a pile of lines last night, so I’m going to list the stats and make general comments. All numbers five on five, NST.
- Ennis-Khaira-Archibald: 8:13, 2-0 shots, 1-0 HDSC, 2-3 Corsi
- Nuge-McDavid-Yamamoto: 6:13, 6-1 shots, 5-1 HDSC, 9-2 Corsi
- Nuge-McDavid-Puljujarvi: 5:15, 1-0 shots, 5-1 Corsi
- P Russell-Haas-Chiasson: 4:43. 4-2 shots, 0-1 HDSC, 5-3 Corsi
- Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto: 4:40, 4-4 shots, 3-4 HDSC, 6-5 Corsi
- Kahun-Draisaitl-Puljujarvi: 3:45. 4-1 shots, 2-0 HDSC, 5-1 Corsi
Tyler Ennis is fantastic in his current role. Honestly he’s such a fun player when he’s up against mid-level talent. Yamamoto performed very well with Nuge and McDavid, put them together Wednesday and I bet they score. I feel the same way about Puljujarvi with Draisaitl and Kahun, by the way.
These are impact centers, they’ll score often with reasonably talented wingers (and Edmonton has more than that) over time. If you’re mad about the forwards, calm your tits. You can give a stern lecture on silly penalties and backpasses to nowhere, but beyond that this is a fine group.
Oilers forwards have scored 66 goals this season in 24 games this year, 69 a year ago. The big difference is last year’s top three scorers after 24 games (McDavid and Draisaitl 16, Neal 13) totaled 45 of the 69 (65 percent) of the goals. This year’s top three (McDavid 14, Draisaitl 10, Nuge 9) totaled 33 of the 66, or 50 percent. Edmonton is getting more balanced scoring, not increased scoring.
PAIRINGS AND GOALIES LAST NIGHT
- Nurse-Barrie: 13:49, 9-4 shots, 2-3 HDSC, 14-9 Corsi
- Jones-Larsson: 13:34, 7-2 shots, 3-0 HDSC, 9-7 Corsi
- Bouchard-Bear: 8:13, 6-2 shots, 0-2 goals, 0-1 HDSC, 13-2 Corsi
- Nurse-Bear: 2:43, 0-2 shots, 0-1 HDSC, 1-2 Corsi
- Nurse-Larsson: 2:25, 1-1 shots, 3-0 HDSC, 4-1 Corsi
- Nurse-Bouchard: 1:49, 2-0 shots, 4-1 Corsi
- Nurse-Jones: 0:55, 0-1 Corsi
Have a look at Bouchard-Bear. 13-2 Corsi and we’ll never see them together again because 0-2 goals. Oh well. I liked Jones-Larsson a lot, Nurse-Barrie was good. I’m not sure where Tippett will go from here.
Mikko Koskinen stopped seven of 10 and got pulled, I think it’s a tell that he got pulled and Smith didn’t in a recent similar situation. I’m not calling bias, I’m calling trust. Koskinen isn’t going to be on this team next year. I still think he’s the better goalie.
Mike Smith stopped all 13 shots and looks solid to spectacular. His save percentage is now .938. He’ll play Wednesday.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a good team, and their general manager Kyle Dubas has made a series of excellent bets since taking over as GM. Jake Muzzin is a rock solid blue, as an example. Several bets made by Lou when he was the manager (Justin Holl, Frederik Andersen) are paying off now.
It takes time. Bouchard, Yamamoto and Puljujarvi, added to McDavid, Draisaitl, Nurse and others are not yet at their peak, are not yet where Toronto is today.
Ken Holland needs to find a goaltender, and a solution needs to emerge (internally or externally) as No. 3 center. I’d love to see a scoring winger or two pop up from the prospect list.
Mostly it’s about time. When will Bouchard be established enough to use his complete arsenal? You can’t go fast enough to get there early when it comes to developing players. He’s arriving now, and he’ll push soon.
Until then, the Oilers will compete most nights and lose to those who are closer to reaching their peak as a a team. That’s Toronto now, today.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN 1260, we will drill down on last night’s game and examine tweaks we could see by coach Dave Tippett. We’ll also talk with Kaitlyn McGrath from The Athletic about the Toronto Blue Jays. Early spring training news, Vladdy and the rotation will be the topics of discussion. At 11, it’s my extreme pleasure to welcome back Simon Boisvert, the prospect insider who has given TSN1260 listeners such great insight over the last several years. We’ll talk Evan Bouchard, Dylan Holloway, Raphael Lavoie and others, your text questions welcome at 10-1260 or @Lowetide. Talk soon!