It is rare you get to watch three of the league’s top-five scorers in the same game, but tomorrow night in Edmonton we will get to watch Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the same sheet of ice. That Phil Kessel guy, currently 12th in scoring, isn’t bad either.
Toss in Leon Draisaitl, tied for 26th in scoring, and hopefully we see an offensive explosion.
Thursday Thoughts and Observations:
- I keep hearing a lot about Crosby versus McDavid, which makes sense because both are great, but I’m surprised how often we overlook Malkin. Since he entered the league in 2006/2007, he’s produced the fourth most points and has the second best points-per-game. He has scored 830 points in 702 games, good for 1.18 points per game. Only Crosby’s 1.32 is better. Only Alex Ovechkin (915), Crosby (906) and Joe Thornton (836) have more points. Malkin has won the Art Ross Trophy (scoring title) twice, the Hart (MVP) once, the Calder (rookie) and the Conn Smythe (Playoff MVP).Crosby has won the Art Ross and Hart twice, the Conn Smythe once and the Maurice Richard (most goals) once.I won’t argue Crosby is better, but when we talk superstars Malkin seems to get overlooked. The fact he wasn’t in the top-100 recently hammers home the point he gets overlooked a lot because of Crosby.
- I also loved seeing Malkin own up to his cheap shot of Blake Wheeler earlier this year and drop the gloves last night. He owned it and admitted after the game the hit was bad and he felt it was the right thing to do to oblige Wheeler and fight. It is nice to see a star player not want special treatment or get one of his teammates to fight his battles. His teammates loved him for doing it.
- Over the past nine seasons Crosby has played 8073 EV minutes. His most common forward linemates have been: Chris Kunitz (3980), Pascal Dupuis (2330), Malkin (1324), Patrik Hornqvist (1195), Bill Guerin (783) and David Perron (573). Kris Letang was his most frequent D-man (2672). Kunitz flanked Crosby almost 50% of the time, while Dupuis was over 28%, but then there is a big drop. I mention it because if you look at McDavid’s first 111 games he’s had similar frequency of linemates as Crosby has.
- McDavid has played 1686 EV minutes and Jordan Eberle (754), Patrick Maroon (665), Leon Draisaitl (458) and Milan Lucic (430) and Benoit Pouliot (320) have played the most with him. McDavid has success regardless of who he plays with, and while it would be great for him to find an equivalent to Jari Kurri, it is rare to find. Jesse Puljujarvi will likely get a long look on the right side in the future, and he has potential to be a good fit, because he has a good shot, but it is difficult to find players who can see the ice and think the game as well as Crosby or McDavid.
- Benoit Pouliot will return to the lineup tomorrow. He’ll play with David Desharnais and Zack Kassian. According to Desharnais he and Pouliot played on the same line for about 20 games when they were in Montreal. He feels their games complement each other well and McLellan is hoping two biggers wingers will work well with Desharnais.
- Pouliot will also see some time on the PK. The Oilers’ PK is 30th in the NHL since January 1st, and Pouliot’s speed and reach should be an asset. McLellan mentioned he liked Pouliot on the PK earlier this season and he’ll use him there tomorrow. Pouliot also took Drake Caggiula’s spot on the second PP unit, but Desharnais has been getting reps there as well and McLellan said he expects to slot him in on the second unit soon. However, a lack of PP opportunities has made it difficult for him to get comfortable on the PP.
- Pouliot hasn’t scored since December 8th. And today he didn’t shy away from his slump. “They gave me every opportunity to produce and I didn’t. It is on me to play better.” He hasn’t played since February 11th, so there might be some rust, but the Oilers could really benefit if Pouliot wakes up and produces a few goals down the stretch.
- Kris Russell will also return to the lineup and McLellan wouldn’t say whether Eric Gryba or Matt Benning will come out.
- Iiro Pakarinen will play on the fourth line with Letestu and Hendricks. Jujhar Khaira didn’t do much the past few games. Part of that could be due to him playing the right side. He looked a bit lost over there, but the concern is that it’s just another dip from him. In the past he has played well for a stretch, but then his play fell off. Was his recent play a continuation of that, or did he look lost because he was playing out of position?
- The Oilers have three AHL recalls left to use before the end of the season. Khaira was sent down and recalled on traded deadline day, so he counts as one. If they sent him down to get some playing time, and recalled him again, it would count as their second recall. He’d only count if he was recalled again, so they could send him down and let him play because they have two other extra forwards, Caggiula and Slepyshev. I’d send him down and let him play. You can recall him after the regular season, or if you run into some injury concerns, but it makes little sense to me to have three young forwards sitting in the pressbox.
- Jesse Puljujarvi is playing well and the scouting report is that he isn’t circling as much. Too often he would have his momentum stopped in the offensive zone and he’d stop, where in the defensive zone he would be curling. Ideally you’d like that reversed. You want him to keep his momentum going in the offensive zone when he is stopped or slowed down, while in the D zone you want more stopping, less circling. He is improving in these areas, and the points are coming, but I don’t see him being recalled right away. I could see it in April, but not right away.
- Today between 2-6 p.m. on my show on TSN1260 we are auctioning off a pair of seats in the Sportsnet Club for the Oilers/Penguins game, and a dinner and wine before at the new downtown Vivo Ristorante, as well as post-game pizza and beer. And you can park for free at Vivo. 100% of money will go to charity. You can bid by calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260.
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