The Edmonton Oilers rolled into their bye week with back-to-back road wins in Arizona and Vegas. Tonight, in their first game back, they’ll face the Vancouver Canucks, who are also riding a two-game winning streak out of their bye week, on Hockey Night in Canada.
1. The Oilers and Canucks haven’t played each other since Oct. 7. That seems, uh, weird, but the schedule has been tilted to having a heavy amount of inter-division games in the second half of the season. It was Edmonton’s second game of the season and Vancouver’s season opener. The Canucks edged out a 3-2 win despite being outshot 35-26.
2. As I mentioned above, the Canucks are on a two-game winning streak. They beat the Blue Jackets and the Wild before going on their break, giving them their first back-to-back win streak since they won three in a row in early December. The third win of that streak was a 3-0 win over the Hurricanes in which Bo Horvat suffered a fractured ankle. In the time he’s been injured, the Canucks have gone 4-11-2, plummeting them down the standings. Horvat has been cleared medically to practice with the team and will be back in the lineup soon.
3. Sticking with injuries, the Oilers received bad news on Friday that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be out of the lineup for five-to-six weeks with cracked ribs. The injury occurred in Saturday’s win over Vegas and it was assumed at the time that Nugent-Hopkins would only be for a short period of time and that the bye week would give him enough time to recover. That ultimately wasn’t the case and Edmonton will be without one of their top forwards until around the trade deadline. We’ll see if Ryan Strome can step up in his absence.
4. Strome will occupy the third line centre role, which is one he’s bounced in and out of all season. At times, he’s Leon Draisaitl’s right winger, and other times, he’s the third line centre. In neither role has he been particularly good thus far. Through 46 games, Strome has seven goals and 10 assists and three of those 17 points have come on the power play. Draisaitl also has to step up in RNH’s absence and anchor his own line. He started the season as Connor McDavid’s right winger and, like Strome, has bounced back and forth from centre to wing as Todd McLellan searches for the ideal line combinations. Without McDavid, Draisaitl has a 66.7 Goals For percentage at even strength. But without McDavid? Just a 44.0 Goals For percentage.
5. 2016-17 has been a completely different animal than 2017-18 in regards to injuries for the Oilers. Last season, the Oilers navigated the season largely unscathed. Their top-six forwards missed just one game due to injury and their top-three defencemen missed just five games due to injury. This season, the Oilers have only had one-and-a-half games at full health. That was the game against Arizona and half of the game against Vegas before Nugent-Hopkins left after Brayden McNabb’s big hit.
6. The Canucks rank 26th in the league with 119 goals and 25th in the league with 147 goals against. That makes a lot of sense given they rank 26th in the league with a 47.6 even strength shot attempt percentage. The one thing the Canucks do very well is score on the power play. They rank eighth in the league with a 21.1 power play percentage. That isn’t all that surprising considering the Canucks have some potent power play talent in the Sedins, Sam Gagner, and Brock Boeser on their roster.
7. A good power play doesn’t bode well for the Oilers. Edmonton, as we’ve all heard a billion times, has a horrendous penalty kill. Overall, they kill just 72.8 per cent of the other team’s power play opportunities. But, for whatever reason, at home, they’re even worse. The Oilers kill just 55.4 per cent of the other team’s power play opportunities at Rogers Place, which is a whopping 15 per cent lower than the 30th ranked Senators. The difference between 31st Edmonton and 30th Ottawa is about the same difference in home PK% between first ranked Colorado and 27th ranked Calgary. I hate beating a dead horse, but it’s a truly remarkable statistic.
8. The Oilers, along with their horrid penalty kill, aren’t too hot on the power play. They rank 27th in the league with a 15.45 power play percentage, which is pretty shocking given some of the offensive firepower the team has. Another interesting note in regards to Edmonton’s power play is how few opportunities they get. As of right now, the Oilers have had just 118 power play opportunities, which ranks dead last in the league. When a team has strong possession numbers like the Oilers do, they tend to draw penalties, but that hasn’t been the case in 2017-18.
9. The Canucks and Oilers are similar in that they do well when they manage to get an early lead. If the Canucks come out of the first period with the lead, they’re 7-0-1, and if the Oilers come out of the first period with a lead, they’re 9-1-0. You can either look at that as impressive play with the lead or a frustrating inability to get leads early on in games.
10. The Canucks are an interesting team to follow because they’re bad, yet they won’t actively say they’re in a rebuild. As of right now, they sit fifth-last in the league, which is slightly better than the second-last they finished last season. Still, after their poor 2016-17 year, they went out and added Sam Gagner and Michael Del Zotto in a faint attempt to remain competitive. They have a handful of players, including the Sedins, set to hit free agency this summer, and really should sell at the trade deadline. But a couple years ago, they were in the same boat with Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata, the deadline passed, both stuck, and then both walked in free agency.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 01/20/2018 – 12:30pm MST