A Saturday afternoon game between the Oilers and Coyotes! Oh boy!
1. The Oilers are on their longest losing streak of the season. Since that big win over the Tampa Bay Lightning last Monday, Edmonton has dropped five games in a row. That Tampa win with the subsequent road trip through California seemed like a great opportunity for the Oilers to make a run up the standings. That wasn’t certainly overly optimistic. Not only has the team dropped five in a row, but they’ve also look completely dejected over the stretch. Meanwhile, on the other side, the Coyotes have won three games in regulation in a row for the first time all year. They’ve been out of it since October, but the Coyotes are playing their best hockey of the season right now, for what that’s worth.
2. The Oilers and Coyotes have played twice this season. The first meeting was in Edmonton back on Nov. 28 in which the Oilers edged out a 3-2 win in overtime. This was the game where the Oilers were thoroughly outplayed in the first and finally started putting in any kind of effort in the third period. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored a beautiful overtime goal to seal the win. The second meeting was on Jan. 12 in Arizona. It was the first half of a back-to-back right before the team went on their bye-week. They went down 2-0 in the first period and battled back with four unanswered for the win.
3. It’s been an ugly season in the desert. The Coyotes made a couple big moves over the summer bringing in Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta from the Rangers and Niklas Hjalmarsson from the Blackhawks and it was expected they would help the team’s young core take a step forward. That hasn’t happened. Stepan has been solid as the team’s top centre and Raanta has been good in net, but Hjalmarsson has struggled on the blueline. A lot of young players on the Coyotes have struggled, too. Anthony Duclair was ultimately dealt to Chicago, Max Domi is apparently being shopped and only has four goals, and Dylan Strome is playing in the AHL.
4. But not everything has been a complete disaster for Arizona. There are some bright spots. The biggest one is Clayton Keller. The 2016 first-round pick leads the team in goals with 17 and points with 44. Also, Brendan Perlini, a first-rounder from 2014, is second on the team with 16 goals and 2015 second-round pick Christian Fischer has 15 goals. There’s a lot of good, young talent on this roster and in the system, but as we know all to well, it isn’t that simple. Having talent is one thing, developing into a true NHL player is another.
5. Otherwise? There aren’t many bright spots when it comes to the Coyotes. They’re 30th in the league in goals for, they’re 30th in the league in goals against, they’re 26th in shot attempt differential, they’re 23rd in power play, and they’re 22nd in penalty kill. How about those Oilers? We know about the putrid special teams and we know about the ugly goaltending and we know about the lack of depth. At this point, it’s a dead horse to beat.
6. Milan Lucic hasn’t scored a goal since Dec. 23. That’s 20 games without a goal. Mike Cammalleri also hasn’t scored a goal since Dec. 23. That’s 18 games without a goal for him. Mark Letestu hasn’t scored a goal since Dec. 21. That’s 21 games without a goal. Ryan Strome hasn’t scored a goal since Dec. 23. That’s 20 games without a goal for him. You simply aren’t going to be successful when so many players aren’t producing. Going a month-and-a-half without a goal is one thing, having four players, all of whom are expected to produce offence, do it at the same time is another.
7. Since we’re talking about the Coyotes, it’s worthwhile to mention Oliver Ekman-Larsson. According to Jim Matheson, the Oilers covet the Swedish defender to be their top offensive option from the blueline. OEL has a hilariously bad -37 +/- rating, but his shot attempt numbers are very good. I’m not a fan of +/- as many times in the past we’ve seen mediocre players (Jeff Schultz comes to mind) stack a good rating because of situational usage. The Coyotes are terrible and OEL plays a lot of minutes. Most of these young forwards can’t play a lick in the defensive zone. That’s going to haemorrhage his +/-. John Chayka has said they want to keep OEL around, but he’s only signed for one more year after this one. That said, having him, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, and Rasmus Dahlin (haha see what I did there?!?!) would give the Oilers a very interesting group of Swedes on the blueline. I would certainly go for it because I like OEL, though I’m not sure what they have that would interest the Coyotes and I’m terrified at the idea of Peter Chiarelli ever being able to make a trade again.
8. The Coyotes are last in the league, three points clear of Buffalo. But if they finish last, they only have an 18 per cent chance at choosing first overall. I did the lottery simulator 10 times and only got them twice. The math adds up. I got Chicago three times. That would be awful. I didn’t get the Oilers once.
9. I’m pretty much out of stuff to talk about. These teams are both bad and this game doesn’t matter. Wow, it’s depressing saying that in February. What year is it? We think we have it rough, let’s take a look at Arizona sports right now. The Coyotes, as we know, as junk. The Phoenix Suns are maybe even worse, sitting at 18-41. The Arizona Cardinals went 8-8 which wasn’t terrible but they’re perennially mediocre. The best of the bunch is the Arizona Diamondbacks, who won the NL Wild Card game to earn the right to get stomped by the L.A. Dodgers in the NLDS, but their cheap owners won’t pony up any cash to keep around free agent slugger J.D. Martinez.
10. If you don’t want to watch tomorrow’s matinee game between Edmonton and Arizona, I won’t blame you. This is an ugly matchup and afternoon games are weird. The Oilers are very bad in them, too. The Oilers have played in eight afternoon games this season and they’ve only won two of them. They have another afternoon game tomorrow in Colorado. Instead, you can watch some Olympics action. There’s Alpine Skiing, Biathlon, Bobsleigh, Figure Skating, Curling, and Team Canada’s Mens hockey team plays in the evening. Do you think Team Canada could beat the Oilers? Is Derek Roy better than Ryan Strome? Would Ben Scrivens push Cam Talbot? Are we living in a simulated version of hell?
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 02/17/2018 – 8:00am MST