The Edmonton Oilers have won four of their last six. They are starting to play better, but unless they plan on scoring four goals per game, this group needs to tighten up defensively and the goaltenders need to be better.
Laurent Brossoit will start his third consecutive game, for the first time in his NHL career, and he’s had two solid practices to ensure he eliminates the “weak” goal from his repertoire.
If he does that, and the penalty kill finds consistency, the Oilers have a chance to get back in the race, because their 5×5 scoring is among the best in the NHL.
1. The Oilers are 4-2 in their last six games due to their 5×5 scoring. They have zero PP goals on 13 attempts, and allowed six powerplay goals on 17 penalty kills, but they have outscored their opponents 25-12 at even strength. They are dominating at 5×5. All lines are contributing, and their fourth line has arguably been their second best line during this stretch.
2. Connor McDavid has 1-5-6 despite battling two separate illnesses. He looks like he has been on Survivor for two months. Yesterday in the dressing room it was clearly noticeable now much weight he has lost, yet he continues to play well. The fact the Oilers have scored as much as they have with him being ill shows this team’s scoring depth is better than many felt a month ago. McDavid said he is starting to feel better, and when he regains his strength he should be even more explosive than he has been the past six games.
3. The fourth line has been crushing it. Mark Letestu has 3-3-6, Zack Kassian has 2-4-6 and Jujhar Khaira has 2-2-4 in the past six games, and seven points in his last eight. That’s seven goals and 16 points from the fourth line. They have been the second best line most nights, and Khaira’s confidence with the puck in all three zones has been really impressive. The size and speed and Khaira and Kassian, combined with the smarts of Letestu, has made them a very formidable trio.
4. Milan Lucic has 1-5-6 in six games and eight points in his last eight games, and Jesse Puljujarvi has three goals in his last four games (he sat out two of the six). They rested him because they felt he was worn down, and since returning from a few games off he has looked good. He still hasn’t grown into his frame yet. When he adds some more strength, I think he will be really dangerous. He is only 19, and I expect him to work extensively on his legs this summer like Draisaitl did to add more strength. He his such a large man — arguably the biggest frame in the Oilers room — and I’m curious to see how dominant he will be once he is mature and has added some strength. He could be a force.
5. Every forward has at least two points in the past six games, except Anton Slepyshev, who has zero in three games played. The second and third lines have chipped in. Leon Draisaitl (1-2-3), Ryan Strome (1-2-3-) and Drake Caggiula (1-1-2) can be more consistent as a trio, while Patrick Maroon (3-0-3), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ( 2-0-2) and Mike Cammalleri (0-3-3) in five games have added five goals. You wonder how productive the top forwards could be once they figure out their powerplay woes. It is very disappointing to see both units goalless in six games.
6. On defence, Kris Russell and Darnell Nurse are leading the charge offensively. Russell has 1-4-5 in six games, while Nurse has 0-4-4. Those two have played very well. Nurse is +7 through this stretch, despite playing a lot of minutes against some tough competition. He has been the Oilers best defender all season. His combination of size, strength, aggressiveness and elite skating ability makes him a very unique defender. And he has only played 142 NHL games. He will still mature and his reading of the play will improve. He is a prime example of why you need to evaluate the entire situation when analyzing his rookie season. I was amazed how many in the analytics community questioned his ability due to some tough numbers. He was a rookie who played the most minutes, against tough competition, and was paired with Andrej Sekera on his off-side. The biggest improvement in his game has been his decision making with the puck in the offensive zone. He is much more calm with the puck, and his skating allows him to not hesitate to join the rush, because he has the speed to get back on defence if a play breaks down.
7. The Philadelphia Flyers won for the first time in eleven games in Calgary on Monday night. During their ten-game losing streak they were shutout three times and outscored 36-20. Their PK was as bad as the Oilers, allowing 11 goals on 39 kills (71.8%), and their PP was 3-for-28 (10.7%). They did lose four games in overtime and one in a shootout, so they were in games, but despite their win in Calgary, they are likely a bit fragile. The Oilers need to jump on them like they did the Calgary Flames on Saturday.
8. The Oilers have only scored first in nine of 27 games. They are 6-2-1 when they score first. The Flyers are 7-3-3 when they score first and 2-8-4 when they allow the first goal. Edmonton is 5-12-1 when allowing the first goal. The Oilers have allowed a league-high 31 first period goals. They have allowed the fourth most third period goals, 34. Often the long change is where we see more goals against, but the Oilers have allowed 25 in the middle frame. They’ve really struggled on home ice, allowing four or more goals seven times in 13 home games. Their defensive coverage has been porous and their home penalty kill is laughable. It is 57.8% at home, allowing 16 goals on 38 opportunities. It is mind boggling how much better they are on the road. They have allowed nine goals on 52 kills on the road (82.6%). Their system isn’t any different, but their focus and execution at home has been horrendous. If they can’t figure it out they won’t win much at home.
9. Odd stat of the day: The Vegas Golden Knights played their 10th game versus a Pacific Division opponent last night. They are 9-1 versus the Pacific and their only loss was 8-2 in Edmonton. In their other nine games they’ve outscored their Pacific opponents 35-20. They have defeated Arizona four times, outscoring them 14-7, but they’ve also defeated Anaheim twice, and Los Angeles, San Jose and Vancouver once each.
10. The Oilers have played five divisional games and they are 4-1. Tonight will be their 11th game versus the Metropolitan division. They are 3-5-2 thus far. It is also the Flyers 11th game versus the Pacific — they are 4-4-2 in their first ten. The Flyers have only played four divisional games (1-0-3). The NHL schedule has featured a lot of non-divisional games thus far, way more than usual, and from January to April all teams will play the majority of their games within the division.
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Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 11/28/2017 – 1:30pm MST