Years ago I got on the wrong bus from Red Deer to Edmonton. My car had finally died and I was catching the Saturday afternoon bus up to Edmonton for a few days off. There’s an express (or there was) from Red Deer that gets you to the south side stop (just off 99 street). I’d taken the bus before, it was about two hours and a little. On this particular day I accidentally took the ‘local’ bus, commonly (and not fondly) referred to as the milk run. That’s the Oilers this week. You’d love to catch the express to the playoffs, but the milk run is the bus you’re on and so might as well win some games. First stop: Success.
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: Ideal Edmonton Oilers lines and pairings for the 2021 NHL playoffs
- DNB and Jonathan Willis: ‘It’s kind of Gretzky-like’: Oilers star Connor McDavid’s 100-point season puts him in rarified air
- Lowetide: What will Tyler Benson’s role be for the 2021-22 Oilers?
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers’ Mike Smith is putting himself in the all-time old-guy goalie conversation with a stunning season at 38
- Lowetide: Oilers’ Adam Larsson playing his best hockey with playoffs on horizon
- Lowetide: What should the Oilers do to get Kailer Yamamoto back on track?
- DNB: How Jesse Puljujarvi 2.0 is making an impact
- DNB: What are the Oilers’ pressing questions ahead of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft?
- Lowetide: Oilers complete April report card
- DNB: A 2nd Hart Trophy is firmly in Connor McDavid’s grasp
- Jonathan Willis: Which Oilers need to step up down the stretch?
- 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
OILERS AFTER 54 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 21-28-5, 47 points; goal differential -30
- Oilers in 2016-17: 28-18-8, 64 points; goal differential +10
- Oilers in 2017-18: 23-27-4, 50 points; goal differential -26
- Oilers in 2018-19: 24-25-5, 53 points; goal differential -17
- Oilers in 2019-20: 28-20-6, 62 points; goal differential 0
- Oilers in 2020-21: 34-18-2, 70 points; goal differential +22
This year’s team and the 2017 club are the class of the group and the 2019-20 crew comes in third. After that, who cares? McDavid’s Oilers have made the postseason three times in six seasons, with one series win. A strong playoff showing this year would cure a lot of ills in the fan base.
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 2-0-0)
- At home to: Vancouver, Vancouver (Expected 1-0-1) (Actual 1-1-0)
- On the road to: Montreal, Montreal (Expected 0-1-1) (Actual 1-0-0)
- 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: 5-1-0, 10 points in 6 games
I’ve misjudged the home stretch but in fairness to me these other teams haven’t brought as much as I thought they would in the May games. Montreal didn’t play with the kind of desperation I thought they would, the fourth line aside. The playoffs secure, I assume tomorrow night’s game (with the chance to finish third and face Edmonton) will be a stronger effort for the Habs.
LINES LAST NIGHT
- Nuge-Draisaitl-Yamamoto played 12:46, going 6-4 shots, 1-0 goals, 3-1 HDSC and 9-9 Corsi five on five. Nuge had a five on five goal, his first since March 17 (17 games) and his seventh on the season. Draisaitl was impressive, with a five on five assist (plus the one in overtime) and has 123 goals in his most recent 207 NHL games. That’s 48.9 goals per 82 games. Yamamoto flubbed a shot and picked up an assist and sometimes that’s the beginning of a hot streak. I liked this line on the evening.
- Shore-Khaira-Archibald played 12:19, went 3-7 shots, no goals, 0-3 HDSC and 8-12 Corsi five on five. Shore had some looks, was solid on the PK and had the slowest jailbreak in history. Seniors were playing through! Khaira had a great chance five on five and was excellent on the penalty kill. Louie mentioned Archibald’s skating last night, the veteran does seem to have an extra step. That might come in handy during the postseason.
- Kahun-McDavid-Puljujarvi played 10:37, going 6-6 shots, 1-2 goals, 2-2 HDSC and 10-10 Corsi five on five. High, high event on the night. Kahun had a goal, 2 HDSC and his goals-60 at five on five (0.85) is now in the range of his career totals. McDavid was 1-1-2, his goal in overtime. Had a HDSC and four takeaways five on five. The line had a helluva time against Montreal’s fourth line, if the two teams meet in the postseason Tippett’s going to have to MacGyver the problem. Puljujarvi had a quiet night.
- Neal-McLeod-Chiasson played 8:22, going 9-3 shots, 1-0 goals, 2-0 HDSC and 11-6 Corsi five on five. James Neal scored, several good looks and contributed to a line Dave Tippett mentioned in the postgame as being solid. McLeod picked up his first NHL assist on the goal, was 6-2 in the dot and 1:39 clean on the PK. Chiasson had an assist, and is now 100-100-200 in 562 career games. Head over to hockeydb and stare at it. A real rarity.
PAIRINGS AND GOALIE
- Kulikov-Larsson played 16:52, going 13-10 shots, 2-0 goals, 3-5 HDSC and 19-16 Corsi five on five. Kulikov had two shots, two giveaways and a HDSC that was brilliant right to the end. Larsson practiced for his upcoming movie “Curb Stomp” and was mobile and engaged. Hammered one shot on net.
- Nurse-Barrie played 16:36, going 11-7 shots, 1-1 goals, 2-4 HDSC and 15-16 Corsi five on five. Nurse had two shots on goal, skated miles, blocked two shots and played 2:46 on the PK. Barrie pinched on the first GA and was slow getting back, those two things have happened a lot lately. I think he’s hurt.
- Jones-Bear played 14:27, going 7-5 shots, no goals, 2-1 HDSC and 10-12 Corsi five on five. Jones had an assist, HDSC and four giveaways and THAT’S what young defensemen do. Bear had five shots, two giveaways and some good moments defending. He is neither big nor a burner, so defensively Bear has to be in good position and keep his feet moving.
- Mikko Koskinen stopped 25 of 28, .893. For the season, his .899 save percentage ranks No. 38 out of 46 goalies who have played in 20 or more games this season. Mike Smith, with a .924 save percentage ranks No. 7 in the category. Tippett won’t need to spend much time deciding on his starting goalie for the postseason.
- The Jake Evans goal: Kahun loses a race for the puck down low, and Tyson Barrie pinches but Paul Byron makes a great pass to Evans and suddenly all three forwards and Barrie are trapped. That’s a helluva pass, but I’m thinking Barrie’s pinch is the real problem on the play. Evans does a give and go with Lehkonen in the neutral zone, Nurse tracks back, gets there, but Evans makes a nice move, great shot, goal. I count Barrie’s pinch, McDavid’s inability to both interrupt the pass and stay with Evans as the items worth mentioning.
- The Paul Byron goal: Jake Evans (bring back Staal!) makes a great deke on Leon Draisaitl at center ice along the RH side, making it a three-on-two with speed. Evans sends it to Lehkonen on LW, Bear closes the gap. He can’t stop Lehkonen’s pass to the middle, but Nurse has excellent position on Evans. No one has Byron, my opinion is that it should have been Draisaitl’s man because McDavid was the forechecker (and was over one minute into his shift when the puck passed him). Puljujarvi was F1 into the defensive zone but had just come on to the ice and was covering the backpass. Your mileage may vary. I love Leon but he never impacted the play at any time and realistically the only forward who could have thwarted Byron.
- Artturi Lehkonen goal: A shot from distance Koskinen should handle 10 times out of 10. You can quibble with Jones getting his stick in the way but he didn’t change the trajectory and it was from miles away. That’s on the goalie.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, we review last night’s game and ask if the Winnipeg Jets can win tonight and put the first-round matchups to bed. Mike Murphy from Blueshirt Banter will join us at 10:40 to talk about the wild summer anticipated in Manhattan with the New York Rangers under new management. At 11, Michael Hurley from WBZ Boston talks Taylor Hall and the Bruins playoff hopes just ahead of the postseason. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!