Tonight is the beginning of what could be the most important twelve days of the Edmonton Oilers’ season. They play seven games (five on the road) during this span and they need to get some wins to stay within striking distance of the third place Vancouver Canucks in the Pacific division.
Vancouver ended Florida’s 12-game winning streak last night and are now seven points ahead of the Oilers, with a game in hand. The goal for the Oilers was to play meaningful games down the stretch, but if they don’t win some games before the All-Star break they could be 10+ points out of the race by the end of the month.
The Oilers’ defence wasn’t their downfall in losses to Tampa and Florida, their lack of scoring was, and both the offence and defence will need to be sharp against Arizona this evening.
Peter Chiarelli will need to upgrade his defence in the summer, but the last two games they were quite solid, excluding Darnell Nurse’s giveaway at the blueline. In their own zone, they were fairly composed and tonight they will have to get to the puck quickly and then move it up the ice. The Coyotes have a very aggressive forecheck, and Dave Tippett is one of the best at scheming against weak D corps.
Even without an overly talented roster, his Coyotes are second in the Pacific and only six teams have more regulation wins than the Coyotes’ 21, and only Toronto and San Jose have played fewer games.
This year’s Coyotes are much different from what we’ve seen in the past. They are not a great defensive team. They are 28th in GAA/game at 3.02, but they are seventh in offence, averaging 2.83 goals/game. To compare, the Blackhawks are sixth at 2.84.
Many don’t view the Coyotes as a dangerous offensive team like the Blackhawks, but they have been thus far. They don’t have a top scorer like Patrick Kane or Taylor Hall, but they have seven players with 22+ points and everyone finds a way to contribute.
Their D corps has 27 goals, second most in the NHL behind Nashville’s 32, and 20 of those goals have come at EV. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is the most dangerous, but all seven of their regular D-men have at least two goals.
The Oilers’ defence has 15 goals, which is tied for 17th, but they are dead last in defence assists with 36.
Matt Hendricks was given a three-game suspension for his hit on Aaron Ekblad on Sunday, and he will return to the lineup next Monday in Florida. Rob Klinkhammer will take his spot on the third line, and the Oilers will dress seven D-men.
Brad Hunt draws in and Anders Nilsson gets his first start since December 27th.
- I could understand if the Blackhawks or Kings dominated the Oilers, but for Arizona to be 16-0-4 in their last 20 games in stunning. The Coyotes aren’t that good, but they own the Oilers. The Oilers last regulation win came in Phoenix on January 25th, 2011 when Dustin Penner scored with 22 seconds remaining in a 4-3 win.
- The Oilers last three victories over the Desert Dogs have come in the shootout, and the last time they won playing hockey was when Nail Yakupov scored the OT winner on January 13th, 2013. Yakupov will not play tonight, but he could draw in Thursday in San Jose after missing 22 games with a high ankle sprain.
- Not a good sign for Luke Gazdic when the coach elects to dress seven D-men instead of 12 forwards. Gazdic’s issue has been his willingness to be to respectful on the ice. He doesn’t intimidate the other team physically or verbally. It is hard to knock a player for being respectful, and while Gazdic is not shy to do the toughest job in hockey and fight, he hasn’t been able to make an impact with his gloves on. When — or if — he gets back in the lineup, he needs to show McLellan he can be good defensively, but also make an impact in the game without fighting. When Connor McDavid returns Gazdic might get one last chance to show the coaches he can play a smart, aggressive game.
- It likely won’t surprise anyone that the Oilers’ blueline has produced the fewest assists in the NHL and is tied for fewest points, but when you see how little offence they create compared to other teams it illustrates how ridiculously good Hall and Draisailt have been to score as many points as they have. They aren’t getting much help from the backend.
When you compare Hall’s D corps and their 36 assists to Kane, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Johnny Gaudreau, fans should appreciate even more the offence he is able to produce without much puck movement from the backend. Dallas’ blueliners have 83 assists, while Chicago has 72 and Calgary 71.
- The craziest stat from the blueline scoring is Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson has as many assists (36) as the entire Oilers D corps.
- Justin Schultz has five points this season. Only one D-men who plays 20+min/game has fewer points — Radko Gudas has 0-3-3 in 34 games for Philly playing 20:47/game.
Schultz (2-3-5, 20:21/game in 29 GP) is tied for second fewest points with:
Matt Hunwick (0-5-5, 22:26/game in 39 GP)
Zach Bogosian (1-4-5, 21:39/game in 25GP)
Jonas Brodin (1-4-5, 20:47/game in 41 GP)
The Oilers would love it if he could produce close to the 33 and 31 points he scored in the previous two seasons. He is on pace for 12 points this year. He needs to find some offensive confidence
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
After hanging around in the Pacific for a few months, the Edmonton Oilers are reverting back to their usual selves. The defense is as porous as ever, and Connor McDavid is not expected back until after the All-Star Break. Despite a myriad of talented forwards like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Jordan Eberle, Edmonton is still struggling to score.
Equally problematic is the play of both Cam Talbot and Anders Nilsson. Both netminders have conceded 61 goals this season for identical .908 save percentages. The Oilers are getting consistent play in net, but the problem is that play is below average.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Yotes continue their dominance defeating the Oilers 3-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Coyotes score a PP goal and a D-man picks up a point on the goal.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Klinkhammer scores.
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