The Edmonton Oilers have a huge game with the Calgary Flames tonight. The Oilers have a four-point lead over Calgary, with the southern club holding one game in hand. A win gives the home team a six-point gap, still having played one more game. The alternative? What would amount to a tie in the Canadian division.
Thing is, I’m not certain we know what kind of effort we’ll get from either team. Last I checked, Edmonton is the favourite but this game has a weird feel to it. It feels ‘unusual’. Like either Puljujarvi scores a hat trick or Andrew Mangiapane does. Or one of the goalies stops 50 and wins. In a year where momentum is a phantom, these two teams badly need a consistent 10-game run. I have no idea who comes out of this game victorious. Mystery meed riddle meet Saturday night BOA.
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: Why are some Oilers fans hesitant to give Darnell Nurse his due?
- Jonathan Willis: Can Oilers improve enough to beat TML it in May?
- Lowetide: Top trade targets for the Oilers at the 2021 deadline
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers 2021 trade value rankings
- Lowetide: February report cards for the Oilers
- 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: Is this peak Connor McDavid?
OILERS AFTER 26 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 9-15-2, 20 points; goal differential -14
- Oilers in 2016-17: 14-10-2, 30 points; goal differential +8
- Oilers in 2017-18: 10-14-2, 22 points; goal differential -14
- Oilers in 2018-19: 13-11-2, 28 points; goal differential -4
- Oilers in 2019-20: 16-7-3, 35 points; goal differential +13
- Oilers in 2020-21: 14-11-0, 28 points; goal differential +1
Two of the six McDavid seasons (15-16, 17-18) are in the trail position and this year’s club will either match 2016-17 (win) or 2018-19 (loss) later tonight. A week ago we saw some clearance, but the Oilers are now back in the nightmare pool of three teams (Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary) fighting for two playoff spots. Two of those three teams have fired their coach, and the other coach spent time yelling at his team Friday. Don’t you just love the Canadian division?
WHAT TO EXPECT IN NOVEMBER
- At home to: Toronto, Toronto, Calgary (Expected: 1-1-1) (Actual 0-2-0)
- 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: 0-2-0, 0 points in two games
The Oilers should get healthy in the coming week, but in the last 10 games the Edmonton record (6-4-0) is just slightly better than Ottawa (5-5-0) and Calgary (4-5-1). It’s a close division for everyone but Toronto.
I have Edmonton going 2-1-0 in the next three games, that would bring the team to the halfway point with a record of 16-12-0, 32 points after 28 games. Is 64 points a playoff team? I think it is.
This is five on five points-per-60 (forwards); five on five shot differential (defense) and five on five save percentage (goalies).
This represents practice lines and pairings from yesterday. I’m a little baffled by the extremely short run given Nuge-Draisaitl-Yamamoto, who scored in their only game together.
The argument for keeping Nuge on the McDavid line surrounds a defensive conscience and someone who pulls the chute on the offence before the jailbreak. That should show up in the five on five numbers (percentage):
- Nuge with McDavid 2020-21: 60.9 expected goals; 59.9 scoring chances
- Nuge w/o McDavid 2020-21: 53.7 expected goals; 58.1 scoring chances
- McDavid w/o Nuge 2020-21: 54.0 expected goals; 48.9 scoring chances
There’s a significant dip in scoring chances without Nuge, the duo has delivered strong totals together. The weird thing is the five on five goal differential: together the duo is 14-15, McDavid apart is 7-5, Nuge apart is 5-2. Small sample alert.
On defense, looks like Bear sits, Jones too. Bear is a favourite of mine but he posted a haggard effort the other night and I can’t reasonably argue against a healthy scratch. Long term, I’d keep him with Nurse.
Bakersfield plays today, I’ve been watching most of the games and there are some good stories. Cooper Marody, Tyler Benson and Ryan McLeod are enjoying some chem, Markus Niemelainen has been a revelation, and Stuart Skinner is finally finding the range in the AHL. Some of those AHL signings like Yanni Kaldis and Janis Jaks are working out well. And Ostap Safin made an appearance and showed well. I’ll have a few notes in tomorrow’s post on the game.
Also, I’m writing a “pre-deadline” Top 20 prospects for The Athletic, it should be published later today or tomorrow.
It’s a big damn day for this franchise.