The Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens played the best game of the year last night at Rogers. The refs put the whistles away for much of the game and the Habs scored a working goal early in the second period to set up the thrilling final period.
Connor McDavid set his jaw, Dave Tippett moved Ethan Bear on to the Nurse pairing, and the Oilers flattened the Canadiens in a dizzying 3+ minutes in the final frame. I’ll remember that game for a long time. It was fantastic entertainment.
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 DNB: McDavid’s latest goal shows why he’s in a class of his own
- Lowetide: Why Oilers fans shouldn’t worry about Philip Broberg’s SHL season
- Lowetide: Let’s make a final call on the Oilers’ 2016 draft class
- DNB: Re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Free-agency targets? Oilers mailbag
- DNB: Oilers sign Dylan Holloway to ELC
- Jonathan Willis: Should the Oilers re-sign pending unrestricted free agent Tyson Barrie?
- Lowetide: Five Oilers prospects who deserve NHL tryouts now that the trade deadline has passed
- Lowetide: What are the Oilers’ ideal defensive pairings after picking up Dmitry Kulikov at the trade deadline
- DNB: Ken Holland’s quiet NHL trade deadline sets up Oilers for big moves later
- Jonathan Willis: What the Oilers are getting in trade deadline pickup Dmitry Kulikov: A cheap solution to a nagging problem
- Lowetide: What would the Oilers sacrifice if they traded their 2021 first-round pick?
- DNB: To play them together or not? 97 and 29
- Lowetide: Are the 2020-21 Oilers better than the 2016-17 team?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ top 20 prospects, trade deadline edition
OILERS AFTER 44 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 17-23-4, 38 points; goal differential -26
- Oilers in 2016-17: 22-15-7, 51 points; goal differential +4
- Oilers in 2017-18: 18-23-3, 39 points; goal differential -25
- Oilers in 2018-19: 21-20-3, 45 points; goal differential -11
- Oilers in 2019-20: 22-17-5, 49 points; goal differential -6
- Oilers in 2020-21: 27-15-2, 56 points; goal differential +15
This Oilers team has the best record of the McDavid era and is miles better than all but the 2016-17 group based on goal differential. I’m not sure how to balance this year’s record against the competition and the previous seasons, but these are blinding heights compared to 2017-18.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM APRIL
- At home to: Calgary (Expected: 1-0-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- On the road to: Montreal, Ottawa, Ottawa, Calgary (Expected: 3-1-0) (Actual 2-1-1)
- On the road to: Winnipeg (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- At home to: Montreal, Montreal (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- On the road to: Winnipeg, Winnipeg (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Calgary (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Expected April record: 7-4-0, 14 points in 11 games
- Actual April record: 5-1-1, 11 points in 7 games
Edmonton is approaching my projected point total with four games left in the month, there is the potential for the Oilers to hit 60 points by the end of April. There are 8 May games. Remember when we agreed 62-64 points would be the playoff line? Oilers could pass that total with five games left in the year. The team is also just one point behind Winnipeg with a game in hand.
SQUEEZING OUT SPARKS
I’m not going to do the usual because Jujhar Khaira’s injury and a shift in pairings gave us little of value. Here are the major observations:
- Mike Smith is good. His only GA was on a shot headed miles wide until it hit a skate blade. He owns a .923 SP, that ranks him No. 6 among NHL starters. At even strength, his .925 has him in a tie for No. 11 overall.
- I had these observations after the second period:
- Midway through the game, Dave Tippett moved Ethan Bear (who had his best game of the year) to the top pairing with Darnell Nurse. The duo clicked immediately, playing 9:28, going 12-2 shots, 2-0 goals and 7-0 HDSC.
- Once Jujhar Khaira went down, Tippett shuffled the lines like a Vegas blackjack dealer and came up with an interesting trio: Archibald-McDavid-Puljujarvi. Lord knows how long it lasts, or if we see it again, but in 5:33 they went 8-0 shots, 3-0 goals, 6-0 HDSC and 13-2 Corsi for five on five. That’s a stunning stat set. Archibald had three HDSC.
- Ethan Bear had a goal and played very well, his passing is such an effective weapon. He needs to be on the ice with skill forwards, as he was tonight, and the magic happens.
- Caleb Jones is coming on, too, he was taking over more minutes but an elbow to his head from Paul Byron got him out of sync for a time. He’s a fine young player.
- McDavid put his stamp on the game and it was over the minute he found Bear with the pass. Shortly after he found the puck at his own blue line (Jesse Puljujarvi made a brilliant play on Tomas Tatar to the turnover) Captain Fantastic flew up the ice, split the seam, sent the puck shelf and cooled the jets in time to remain intact. We’ve seen variations of that play dozens of times, but it never gets tiresome. He’s a joy to watch play the game.
- Puljujarvi had a great game, scoring a goal, adding an assist and making the Tatar takeout seconds before the 97 goal.
- I’ve said this before but to me Barrie looks less effective than earlier in the year. That often means injury. For the season, Nurse-Barrie have played 558 minutes, with a 37-27 goal differential five on five. Shot differential 49 percent, expected goals 48.6 percent. Since March 29, the duo is 1-5 goals in six games, 36 percent shot share. Without Nurse in those games, Barrie is 0-2; vice versa, Nurse is 1-0. Something is happening.
BOB MCKENZIE’S LIST
I’ll have USA, Sweden, Russia, Finland and the Hinterlands in the coming days, looking to get this done by the end of the month and will publish my top 120 June 1 (as I do every year). Will tell you the more I drill down on this draft (McKenzie list is here) the more I like Zachary L’Heureux.
JP now ranks in a tie for No. 2 on the Oilers roster in goals-60 at five on five. Connor McDavid (1.04) leads the pack, Draisaitl is tied with young Puljujarvi, Dominik Kahun is .81 and Kailer Yamamoto is .70. That’s an extremely young group and the big winger is having success in a key area. I’m glad for him.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning on TSN 1260, we’ll drill down on one of the most memorable games in the last couple of years. Andrew Peard, Edmonton Oil Kings play-by-play broadcaster will pop in at 10:40 to talk about the Oil Kings on McKenzie’s list and how well they’re playing. Kenny Ducey from Draft Kings will pop in at 11 and we’ll go around the horn on MLB’s season so far. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!