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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Game Day Quick Hits: Oilers vs. Flyers

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.

QUICK HITS BROUGHT TO YOU BY ATB FINANCIAL

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Source:  Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 11/28/2017 – 1:30pm MST

  • Klef abs

    They’ve won 4 of last 6 but only 4 of last 9 also. They aren’t really playing better. They’re playing worse teams that they should beat easily. Still a long way to go.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Yes, & is it just me? But I am noticing, (I listen to most games, as I am out of market) that those scoring on us are often obscure? Jack Micheals will say something like… “And that’s his first goal in 27 games” or “That’s his first goal since he was called up from the AHL 32 games ago”… ??? Is it just me noticing that, I don’t hear much mention of it, but it seems alot of goals are scored on us by players that really aren’t “top-tier”… Could be just me?

      • Soundwave

        They’ve been giving opposing rookies their first NHL points and busting opposing goalless droughts since ‘09. This isn’t exactly a recent occurance….

  • Winterkush

    Kris Russel the unsung hero, is that before or after he scores on his own team or looks like a beached whale lying on the ice.
    I wonder what bonehead move he will do tonight.

  • Hemmercules

    How on earth can the PP be that bad and nothing has been done but juggling the lines a bit? If it isn’t working after 2 solid months maybe the guy designing it needs to go??

  • Winterkush

    Reality check
    Oilers are 9 points out of a wildcard spot.
    The teams ahead the oilers are
    ANA, CGY, CHI, COL, DAL, MIN, SJS.
    These are more complete teams than the Oilers except for COL.
    The Oilers are so bad this year that even the Canucks and Golden Knights are making the playoffs and these two teams where expected to be where the Oilers are now.
    What’s worse these teams don’t even have McDavid, Leon, Nuge or Talbot.
    Oilers fans are delusional if they think the oilers are making the playoffs. It’s not happening this year.

  • Chris Prongers Rake

    Watched the Flames and Flyers games, that was boring by the way, not sure how Flames fans watch that 82 times a year but that’s another point. If the Oilers come out with any kind of jump tonight they should be able to get up on the Flyers, use there speed, hit, and put as many pucks on Elliot as they can.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      The key here is “jump”. You know a fragile “bus team” will play the trap & try to lull us to sleep…
      Oilers have to come out aggressive & take the game to them, get behind their defence for 60 minutes, like they have done against Calgary, Vegas and half of that Leaf game… If they do that, we win, I’ll guarantee it….

  • The Whispererer

    IMHO the Central division with 2 of Dallas, Chicago and Minnesota would be a favorite to capture both wildcard spots again. The Oilers best shot at the playoffs ( despite being farther behind ) is 3rd spot in the Pacific. That gives them a more reasonable expectation which is to catch Vegas, Vancouver and Calgary plus 1 of the California teams.

  • Mcjesus97

    I think our problem with the pp is not the players the coaching staff keep putting a terrible combination of players together. Maybe they should try having 98 on the top unit in the slot opposite of mcdavid instead of letestu I’m sure he’ll do some damage there

  • DJ Petrin

    The stubborn decision to keep Letestu on the top unit power play is extremely frustrating to me. I get it they found lightning in the bottle last year and it worked. But that is simply not the case anymore.