Connor McDavid makes it look so easy and he carries along his linemates like the giant Acme magnet that proved to be the demise of Wile E. Coyote in the famous ‘Compressed Hare’ episode.
Credit where due, Jesse Puljujarvi, Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie are tremendous talents all on their own. However, playing with 97 (and 29) elevates what God gave them and the result is one big damn improvement year over year. Music!
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: What are the Oilers’ pressing questions ahead of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft?
- New Lowetide: Why Raphael Lavoie could be a perfect fit for the Oilers in 2021-22
- 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: An early look at ideal Oilers’ free-agent targets for the offseason
- DNB: Re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Free-agency targets? Oilers mailbag
- Jonathan Willis: Should the Oilers re-sign pending unrestricted free agent Tyson Barrie?
- Lowetide: Are the 2020-21 Oilers better than the 2016-17 team?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ top 20 prospects, trade deadline edition
OILERS AFTER 51 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 20-26-5, 45 points; goal differential -24
- Oilers in 2016-17: 28-15-8, 64 points; goal differential +16
- Oilers in 2017-18: 23-24-4, 50 points; goal differential -23
- Oilers in 2018-19: 23-24-4, 50 points; goal differential -14
- Oilers in 2019-20: 27-18-6, 59 points; goal differential +1
- Oilers in 2020-21: 31-17-2, 64 points; goal differential +20
Wonderful record, over 10 games above .500 even including the Bettman. In a baseball season when a team hits 10 games over .500 the next step is to drive to 20. That’s 91-71, and in a normal year you’re in pennant contention. Edmonton won’t win the division title, but they could win the North pennant and make the final four. They will not be the favourite and the Montreal Canadiens are a substantial opponent compared to the current Winnipeg Jets.
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 1-0-0)
- 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: 2-0-0, 4 points in 2 games
This is the part of the schedule I wasn’t sure about and frankly it’s anyone’s guess what we’ll see. Does Evan Bouchard play? Slater Koekkoek? Mike Smith? Do Adam Larsson rest? We’ll have to wait and see.
LINES LAST NIGHT
- Draisaitl-McDavid-Puljujarvi played 14:37, going 8-5 shots, 3-0 goals, 2-2 HDSC and 19-12 Corsi five on five. An electric evening for this line, Draisaitl going 0-1-1 with a takeaway and a second even-strength assist. Strong on the fore and backcheck, sent a 10-mile backhand blind that hit Puljujarvi’s tape and was all-world in battles. McDavid was 1-2-3 five on five (2-2-4 overall) and was beyond brilliant. He had the puck on a string and fed chances everywhere. Amazing. Puljujarvi scored a great goal early, picked up an assist later (should be two) and uncovered pucks in the neutral zone with incredible regularity. He’s a freaking menace for the opposition.
- Kahun-Nuge-Yamamoto played 13:49, going 9-3 shots, 1-0 goals, 4-1 HDSC and 17-9 Corsi five on five. Kahun scored his seventh goal of the year, four shots and six attempts. That’s impressive volume. Nuge had an assist and nine shot attempts, he was quality all over the ice and posted one of his strongest games. It reminded me of Mike Peca late in the 2005-06 season when he seemed to figure out what his line needed. Yamamoto played the Puljujarvi role, turning over pucks and sending errant passes from Oilers defensemen to safety. He didn’t get an assist on the Kahun goal but was key to the play.
- Neal-Khaira-Chiasson played only 5:43, going 4-4 shots, 0-1 goals, 0-1 HDSC and 4-5 Corsi five on five. Neal had a takeaway and a HDSC, he seems to be crawling from the wreckage of a frustrating season. Tippett liked him in bubble hockey. Khaira made a mistake that led to the first goal against and looked rusty for a time, but by the end of the game had an assist at even strength and a later takeaway. Chiasson had three shots on goal but was quiet overall.
- Ennis-McLeod-Archibald played 5:16, 3-2 shots, 0-1 goals, 3-2 HDSC and 9-4 Corsi five on five. Loved this line, led by Ennis who had two shots, two takeaways and a HDSC. It was an impressive game, he’d been away from hockey for so long. McLeod had four shots and some rookie coverage on a Canucks goal (JT Miller), but his speed gets him out of the Oilers zone and through the neutral zone before the Romulans notice him. Archibald took a penalty, blank sheet (unusual) otherwise.
PAIRINGS AND GOALIE
- Nurse-Barrie played 17:22, going 13-8 shots, 3-1 goals, 5-4 HDSC and 26-18 Corsi. Nurse had 8 shot attempts, six blocked shots and went 3-1 on-ice goal differential a five on five. Barrie had a goal, six shot attempts and skated miles.
- Kulikov-Larsson played 17:22, going 10-5 shots, 1-0 goals, 2-4 HDSC and 18-10 Corsi five on five. Kulikov had an assist, three blocked shots and two hits. Larsson led the team with 24 minutes, played a strong game and was moving as well as I can ever remember.
- Jones-Bear played 12:06, going 4-5 shots, 0-1 goals, 2-1 HDSC and 8-9 Corsi. Jones skated miles, but screened Koskinen on the first goal and had coverage issues in the second period. Bear had a shot, a reasonable chance, a giveaway, an errant pass through Edmonton’s slot that Yamamoto intercepted and iced the puck. He has had sharper games.
- Mikko Koskinen stopped 20 of 23, .870 and now has a save percentage on the season of .905 and a record of 12-11-0 for the season. Stuart Skinner is 1-0-0 and Mike Smith 18-6-2 for the campaign.
I watched most of last night’s game and am convinced Tyler Benson will make the NHL in the fall as a bottom-six forward and move his way up to a skill line. If the Kraken are watching, Benson could be the guy. Also, Max Gildon is going to play in the NHL.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN 1260, the joint will be rocking. We’ll review the Oilers win last night, preview the game tonight and I’ll have five questions for Tyler Yaremchuk. Derek Taylor from The Sports Cage CKRM Regina will talk CFL draft and the season to come. At 11, Harman Dayal from The Athletic Vancouver will discuss the most difficult season in the history of the Canucks. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!