Since he arrived in the NHL in the fall of 2015, Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers have made the postseason twice in five years and it will soon grow to three times in six tries. In those same six seasons, Calgary has made it three times, Vancouver made it just one time but is the only Canadian Pacific Division team to make it to the third round in that span.
Edmonton should be the dominant Canadian team until McDavid and Draisaitl’s contracts (current plus any that follow) are exhausted. The first real hint of that possibility came in 2017, and it’s starting to look like it again. Miles to go.
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: Oilers complete April report card
- DNB and Murat Ates: Edmonton vs. Winnipeg: Five things the season series taught us about how they match up
- Lowetide: What Kris Russell does well and how the Oilers deploy him
- DNB: A 2nd Hart Trophy is firmly in Connor McDavid’s grasp
- Jonathan Willis: Which Oilers need to step up down the stretch?
- DNB: Get ready for Ryan McLeod
- Lowetide: A look at the best value contracts on the 2021 Oilers
- Lowetide: Dominik Kahun’s season of struggle with the Oilers has a silver lining
- Lowetide: An early look at ideal Oilers’ free-agent targets for the offseason
- 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: Are the 2020-21 Oilers better than the 2016-17 team?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ top 20 prospects, trade deadline edition
OILERS AFTER 49 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 19-25-5, 43 points; goal differential -26
- Oilers in 2016-17: 26-15-8, 60 points; goal differential +10
- Oilers in 2017-18: 22-24-3, 47 points; goal differential -26
- Oilers in 2018-19: 23-23-3, 49 points; goal differential -12
- Oilers in 2019-20: 26-18-5, 57 points; goal differential 0
- Oilers in 2020-21: 30-17-2, 62 points; goal differential +19
A team that can repeat a formula has a good chance of success and coach Dave Tippett has settled on the team he’ll go to war with this playoff season. He’ll count on two lines to push five on five, run two pairings ragged and count on Mike Smith to stop more shots than the other guy. It sounds like the 2016-17 formula, except the special teams are an extreme strength this time around.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN MAY
- 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: Vancouver, Vancouver (Expected 1-0-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Montreal, Montreal (Expected 0-1-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Vancouver (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Expected May record: 4-2-2, 10 points in 8 games
- Actual May record: 1-0-0, 2 points in 1 game
Edmonton has but two opponents left and suddenly those Montreal games could be important. The Habs have caught the Jets and could emerge as the Oilers first-round opponent. So those two games against the Sam Pollock Jazz Trio on the Île de Montréal loom large this morning.
LINES LAST NIGHT
- Draisaitl-McDavid-Yamamoto played 12:43, going 8-5 shots, 1-0 goals, 2-0 HDSC and 10-9 Corsi five on five. Draisaitl had an assist five on five (and three others in other game states) plus a HDSC, strong back checking and won some battles. He looked tired in Calgary but had boundless energy in this game. McDavid went 1-2-3 overall (one assist five on five on the Bear goal) had two takeaways, a couple of hits and one jab at Lucic. Yamamoto had one HDSC and one shot but doesn’t look dangerous with the puck. Speed looks fine I wonder if he has something going on (hand injury?) that makes him less able to make the puck dance. Could be lack of confidence too, he’s still a young player. Edmonton needs him.
- Nuge-McLeod-Puljujarvi played 9:12, going 7-1 shots, 3-1 HDSC and 9-6 Corsi five on five. A tremendous debut for this trio, each man with a story to tell. Nuge had four shots, two HDSC and a takeaway (all of these are five on five numbers unless noted) and was involved in all areas. Skated, transported, passed, all well. McLeod made some nice passes (set Nuge up from behind the net) had a decent look and helped the puck stay a long way from Edmonton’s net. Puljujarvi had two shots, one HDSC, drew a penalty, pissed off the Calgary defense no end (Gio had to lay down he got so frustrated) and generally played a brilliant game. I flat out love this line. Dave Tippett has had some good ideas this season, the line is one of them.
- Kahun-Haas-Archibald played 6:58, going 2-5 shots, 0-1 goals, 1-4 HDSC and 3-7 Corsi five on five. Kahun had one great chance, Haas did not but made a fantastic stick check on Buddy Robinson that was absolute textbook, was 5-2 on the dot at five on five and spent 2:21 clean on the PK. Archibald played 3:03 strong on the PK and scored an EN goal.
- Neal-Shore-Chiasson played 4:28, going 0-4 shots and 2-10 Corsi five on five. Neal had one shift in the third period where he made two or three solid little contributions but was pedestrian otherwise. Shore had a takeaway and went seven of nine on the dot at five on five plus played well (and got hit high) on the PK. Won 8 of 10 faceoffs. Chiasson did very little five on five but had three HDSC on the PP. I don’t know how he didn’t score.
PAIRINGS AND GOALIE
- Nurse-Barrie played 13:49, going 5-6 shots, no goals, 1-1 HDSC and 7-10 Corsi five on five. Played the Gaudreau-Lindholm-Tkachuk line to a stand still in nine minutes five on five. Nurse played a steady game, had an EN goal (No. 15, he is now the third-leading goal scorer on the club) and was engaged physically. Barrie had an assist (No. 35), drew a penalty, had one reasonable chance and was effective in coverage (there were a ton of sorties down the left wing last night).
- Kulikov-Larsson played 12:55 going 8-5 shots, no goals, 4-0 HDSC and 11-12 Corsi five on five. A wildly effective evening spent mostly with the McLeod trio, very effective against the Ryan line. Kulikov had two shots, two hits and two blocked shots. He has ice in his veins when turning over the puck, he just goes and gets it like you and I would after dropping a spoon or a jar of pickles. Kind of reminds me of Igor Ulanov in this way. Larsson was an absolute tiger, six hits, four blocks and textbook defending. He’s so good at defense it’s kind of thrilling. Larsson did play a frantic 4:40 with Nurse late when the Flames were pushing, a couple of true quality chances but no goals for the road team.
- Jones-Bear played 6:37, going 4-5 shots, 1-1 goals, 1-2 HDSC and 6-5 Corsi five on five. Jones can’t let Tkachuk behind him and certainly can’t let the puck get by. When coaches HS young defensemen in playoff games, that’s why. Saying that, Jones is easily the best choice for third pair LH side and young blue struggle so you live with the mistakes. Bear scored a gorgeous goal, had three shots and a blocked shot. He’s playing his best hockey of the season by several miles. Bear played four effective minutes with Nurse, that pairing is the best available for Tippett.
- Mike Smith had another quality start, stopping 29 of 30, .967. He now has an 18-6-2 record for the season and a .924 SP plus 2.30 GAA. Quality.
Some in my timeline took the line shuffle as a demotion for JP, but I think Tippett wanted to give Yamamoto a push. It makes sense if you look at the last 10 games for each man at five on five:
- Puljujarvi: 2-3-5, 13 shots (2.09 pts-60)
- Yamamoto: 0-0-0, 10 shots (0.00 pts-60)
So, if you’re Dave Tippett, and just a couple of weeks from the postseason, how would you unlock Yamamoto? In 150 minutes over the last two seasons, these three men together have outscored opponents 12-3. I don’t know what the issue is with Yamamoto but imo the movement of JP wasn’t related to poor play. The guy is the team’s third best forward at this point in time.
Yamamoto? Probably just a slump and dealing with the rigors of the game. He’s in a spot of bother offensively, good on the coach for looking at possible solutions.