The Edmonton Oilers have three 5×5 goals, one powerplay goal and one empty net goal through two games. They’ve scored five goals on 80 shots. They had 45 shots versus Calgary and 35 against Vancouver. Their 40 shots/game is fourth best in the NHL, but they are tied for 16th with six other teams, including tonight’s opposition, with five goals scored.
It is VERY early. I wouldn’t hammer the panic button just yet, but clearly they’d like to score more, especially with the amount of shots they’re getting.
The good news is that tonight they host one of the worst defensive teams in the league: the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets allowed the fourth most goals in the NHL last season, 255, and they’ve surrendered 13 in their first two games. The Oilers have allowed three.
Many point to goaltending as the main culprit. No doubt Steve Mason could have made a few more stops in the first two games, but the Jets team defence in front of him has been bad for over a year. I was stunned when the Jets announced they’d signed Maurice to a contract extension this summer. He had one year remaining on his deal. I saw no reason to sign him before the season, mainly because his system, or lack thereof, has been just as porous as the goaltending.
If the players aren’t playing the system the way he wants, then he’s guilty of not holding them accountable and benching players who refuse to listen. Either way, the Jets are off to a bad start defensively and the Oilers must take advantage of a fragile team.
Connor Hellebuyck gets his first start of the season in goal, although he did play the third period last Wednesday versus Toronto and allowed two goals on eleven shots.
The Oilers offence hasn’t been able to finish. They’ve created a decent amount of chances, but they haven’t finished off enough plays.
They also need more traffic in front of the goal and to get some sticks on shots from the points. Oscar Klefbom has 11 shots, Darnell Nurse has eight while Adam Larsson and Kris Russell each have five. That is 29 shots from four defenders, which is the most in the NHL. Pittsburgh also has 29 shots from four defenders, but they’ve played three games.
It is great to get shots through from the point, but the Oilers need more traffic in front, more deflections, and they have to be better at pouncing on rebounds. They haven’t been able to take advantage of their high shot totals thus far. However, early-season trends can change quickly, and I don’t sense the Oilers are overly frustrated with their play in the offensive zone. They simply need to bury more of their chances.
Drake Caggiula is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. Anton Slepyshev played Friday in the AHL, and he’ll make his season debut tonight after missing all of the pre-season with an ankle injury. Jujhar Khaira will watch from the pressbox tonight. He hasn’t been as noticeable in the regular season as he was in preseason. He definitely looks quicker, but his challenge thus far in his career has been battling inconsistency. He can look really good for a few games, but then his play falls off. Finding consistency is the most difficult thing for any player. Matt Benning only has one shot on goal in two games. It is very early, but with more ice time, including on the PP, they would like him to be more assertive in the offensive zone. He doesn’t have a cannon of a shot, but his is accurate and he is good at getting it through traffic. Look for him to try to be more engaged in the offensive zone.
Even though the Jets struggled defensively last year, their offence was great. They finished sixth in goals scored with 246 and were the only team with four 60+ point players. Schiefele, Laine, Wheeler and Ehlers are very dangerous, and the Oilers can’t give them too many quality chances.
On paper, the Jets have enough skill to be a playoff team, but their structure, or lack of willingness to play within a system has been their demise for the past 12 months. The Oilers need to attack early and put the Jets are on their heels and force them to play defence. If Edmonton can get consistent offensive zone time, they should produce enough chances to win, because the Jets have proven their defensive zone coverage will break down.
Lineups (subject to change) are courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Game two of the Winnipeg Jets Western Canada road trip sees a stop in Edmonton tonight as they will play the Oilers.
If it’s not bad enough that the Jets have given up 13 goals in the first two games of the season and are racing to figure out how to stem that tide, the club will also have to contend with what will probably be an ornery Oilers club that got stung for a loss in Vancouver on Saturday night. Oiler fans and media alike are considering the loss “a wake up call” of sorts for the team.
Just what the Jets need right now.. An extra motivated Oilers club with a Connor McDavid probably annoyed that he isn’t leading the league in everything yet.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Jets allow the fewest goals in game this season while the Oilers have their most productive offensive output. Edmonton wins 4-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Mark Letestu scores a goal.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Slepyshev picks up a point against a team in the back half (N-Z) of the alphabet. All his NHL regular-season points have come against teams starting with an A-D, except one assist against Minnesota. He realizes it is okay to produce against the back-half of the alphabet and picks up a point in his first game of the season.
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Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 10/09/2017, 11:30am MST