Two dominant combos will faceoff tonight. Since becoming linemates in the 2013, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have produced the third and fifth most points of any players in the NHL. They’ve become the most dominant duo in the NHL. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisailt combined for 177 points last year, the most in the NHL among teammates/linemates, and we could see these four go head-to-head tonight.
It should be exciting.
1. This morning Seguin said, “If we were at home we’d want to go head-to-head (versus McDavid line) and hopefully we get that tonight.” The best players love the challenge of battling against the best. McLellan has shown he isn’t afraid to play McDavid against any line, and I’m hoping we see it tonight.
2. “I’ve been a bit more mindful of going for that separation bump when going into the boards, and more going for getting under the stick and going for the puck,” former Oilers Tyler Pitlick told me this morning. “The way I got injured last year was unnecessary. I went for a little bump, he bumped me back and I twisted and that was it. When I’m in a situation where we (opposing player) are both skating towards the boards I’m going for sticks more and being a bit smarter and careful,” he said.
He won’t stop being aggressive, he just wants to be smarter in certain situations. He has 2-2-4 in nine games with the Stars, and including last season he has ten goals in his last 40 NHL games. That is excellent production for a bottom six winger. If he remains healthy he will be a great value signing for the Stars.
3. Being a new father, and getting some stability (a three-year deal), was a main reason Pitlick left Edmonton. “Absolutely. Not many teams were willing to do that. Going into free agency I was just hoping to get a one way (smiles), and then they offered three years and it was a no-brainer with the other moves they made, the city and just getting a fresh start,” said Pitlick. In my job I don’t cheer for any team, but you hope the best for certain players and Pitlick was always one of those guys for me. He was always very easy to deal with, but last summer after signing a one-year deal with the Oilers he came on my show and was incredibly honest. He said he laid an egg at the 2015 training camp and didn’t make excuses. He just wasn’t good enough, but he vowed he would earn a spot in 2016. He did that, and he produced more than anyone expected. It is good to see him healthy and happy with a new child and three-year deal.
4. McLellan on Jussi Jokinen. “We want Jussi to play a little faster. He’s been in the right spot a number of times for scoring opportunities, but the release and decision to get the puck off has to be quicker.” Jokinen has always been a smart player, and has the points to prove it. We’ll see if a stint in the pressbox can ignite him. The Oilers could use his offence.
5. McLellan on Slepyshev. “Anton is a player who has to take another step in this league. He has been counted on before, and he’s got a tool kit that matches anyone on our team, but something has to get done when he is on the ice.” McLellan clearly wants more from him and feels he is capable of bringing it. Like Jokinen, he should be fired up to show the coach he received the message (being sat out) and will be better tonight.
6. The Oilers have scored three goals in the first period, four in the second and seven in the third. They’ve allowed eleven first period goals, four in the second and eight in the third. They are 1-1 in OT. But slow starts have killed them. They need the first goal, especially tonight with the majority of the team struggling to score. A good start will be huge for momentum.
7. “I’m slowly getting better every game, similar to our team. I see more fluidity in our overall game and once we bury some chances we’ll be fine. I need to finish off some plays. I’ve had a few really good chances,” said Ryan Strome.
Strome also talked about the importance of momentum, whether it comes from feeding off the top line if they have a good shift or, more importantly, getting the powerplay going. “We’ve talked about the powerplay being better. If we can control the puck for two minutes we will get four or five scoring chances. They will be tired and on their heels and you can get a lot of momentum from that. It lifts the bench. If we can build some momentum the goals will come.”
8. After allowing seven goals on their first 22 penalty killing situations, the Oilers PK has stopped the bleeding. They killed off nine of ten penalties on the road trip. Going 90% in three games, their PK has improved from 68% to 75%. It is still only 28th, and after such a bad start it will take them a long time to get over 80%, but their PK has been much better the past three games.
9. Benn (335 points) and Seguin (316) have the most points among linemates since becoming teammates in 2013/2014. Their 651 points are first ahead of Nicklas Backstrom (325) and Alex Ovechkin (311), who have 636, while Joe Pavelski (300) and Joe Thornton (279) have combined for 579. Alexander Radulov has four points in nine games on their line this year and has yet to find his rhythm with those two.
10. Dallas was 12-24-5 on the road last year and they are 1-3 already this season. Edmonton can’t afford another loss right now, especially at home to one of the worst road teams in the NHL. This is a bordering on must-win territory for a team desperate for a positive result.
11. How bad are the Oilers struggling offensively? Just look at the sv% of the opposing goalies through eight games.
Mike Smith stopped 42 of 44, .954sv%. Oilers won 3-0.
Jacob Markstrom stopped 33 of 35, .942sv%. Oilers lost 3-2.
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 37 of 39, .948sv%. Oilers lost 5-2.
Mike Condon stopped 36 of 37, .972sv%. Oilers lost 6-1.
Cam Ward stopped 48 of 51, .941sv%. Oilers lost 5-3
Anton Forsberg stopped 40 of 42, .952sv%. Oilers won 2-1 in OT.
Brian Elliott stopped 23 of 24, .958sv%. Oilers lost 2-1.
Matt Murray stopped 29 of 30, .967sv%. Oilers lost 2-1 in OT.
Opposing goalies have a .960sv% against the Oilers. They have stopped 290 of the 302 shots.
Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 10/26/2017, 1:15pm