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Photo Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Oil Change: 20 Minutes of Fire

What a third period by the Edmonton Oilers. They erased a three-goal deficit and then Darnell Nurse went end-to-end in OT to win it. That was a gutsy effort by the Oilers. Two bad defensive breakdowns in the first period put them in a hole early, but they kept battling. When the Jets took a 4-1 lead 1:02 into the second frame I thought the game was over. I’m guessing you did as well.

But the Oilers didn’t wilt. They tightened up defensively, and then in the third they attacked. An early goal from Ty Rattie got them going and then Connor McDavid did what he does and produced two more points to give him four on the night, and a new NHL record as he was in on the first nine Oilers goals of the season. ” It’s whatever. I’m not overly proud of it. I don’t think it’s a stat I should be proud of either,” he said about the record. He wants to win, and he is the undisputed leader of the team, and while they need more guys to score, the team did compete hard for the majority of the game and outside of a few tough shifts I thought they were pretty good defensively, especially against the Jets more skilled players.

Jason Garrison had a tough first period and was directly involved in the two goals against.

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He didn’t go after Adam Lowry down low, and I understand his partial hesitation to not leave the man open in front, but you can’t let the guy walk cleanly out of the corner.

He wasn’t the only culprit. Leon Draisaitl lost a battle to Lowry and then got caught up as Matt Benning was battling Chris Tanev.

On the second goal Garrison had complete control of the puck, but made a terrible pass. The Jets intercepted it, Garrison couldn’t recover and Lowry scored again.

It was an ugly start for Garrison and the Oilers, but the team didn’t fold. They kept pushing, and even their penalty kill came up huge, killing off two consecutive penalties including an absolute garbage charging call on Milan Lucic. Watch the replay.

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Lucic didn’t take a stride from the top of the circles. The referee only put his hand up because Ben Chiarot got up slowly. I don’t care what anyone says, that penalty was a direct result from the Elias Pettersson injury. There was no call on the Michael Matheson hit, it should have been a roughing call, but the subsequent suspension now has referees looking to make calls when a guy might be injured. That was textbook body contact from Lucic. Didn’t take an extra stride, arms in, no contact to the head. A perfectly clean body check.

But the Jets PP did nothing. That might have been the best penalty kill of the season for the Oilers. They were aggressive and attacked the Jets and never let them get set up.

The Oilers played quite well, excluding the rough few shifts in the first period, at 5×5 all game. They out shot the Jets 30-25, had a better FF-FA 44-31 and a better team Corsi 55-44.

Obviously they need lines two, three and four to score a goal without McDavid on the ice at 5×5, but they didn’t get outworked and I thought they actually played quite well for the majority of the game.

GAME THOUGHTS…

—That comeback reminded me of the perseverance we saw from the Oilers in 2016/2017. They had the fourth most comebacks in the NHL that year when trailing after 40 minutes. Considering last night was the Oilers first of seven consecutive games against teams with 100+ points last year, I don’t think we can underestimate how big that victory was. If the Oilers finish October 5-5-1 I’d say that was a very good month considering their travel and the quality of competition. If they manage six wins this month Oilersnation would have to be satisfied, I would think.

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—For the past three games the powerplay has set up and run off of the left side, but it has been with Nugent-Hopkins not McDavid. And the Oilers PP is clicking. They are 5th in the NHL at 33.3% with four goals on 12 opportunities. The reason for this is they want McDavid shooting more. He has four PP shots in four games, all at 5×4 and three goals. Last season he had 34 powerplay shots and five goals. In 2017 he had three goals and 32 shots. He is shooting way more on the PP and he is scoring more. A scary combination for opposing teams. But the five lefty powerplay is working very well as they run it off the left wall. They just have RNH there as the distributor, who is also able to take a shot as he did v. Boston and hammered it off the goal post, and McDavid is on the right side in the shooter position. He scored from the right side in the third period.

—We will see Lucic-Draisaitl-Puljujarvi as the second line in practice tomorrow? Drake Caggiula played with Draisaitl and Puljujarvi for the second period, but then Milan Lucic was back there late in the third. Lucic skated very well last night. His puckhandling is still an adventure at times, but watching him get in the forecheck on numerous occasions should put a stop to the narrative his skating is an issue. It isn’t his skating, it is his decisions at times with the puck. But his effort was very good last night and 27-29-98 would be a big, strong line with the potential to produce some points. Or Todd keeps 91-29-98 because he liked how they played prior to Caggiula getting banged up.

— Puljujarvi and Caggiula played well and got promoted beside Draisaitl and then Puljujarvi continued to play well. Good for him. My twitter feed was full of “I told you JP was good.” I never said Puljujarvi wasn’t good, but I did say he hadn’t looked comfortable, and most of that I blamed on the organization for not having him develop outside the NHL the past two seasons. Most people wanted him promoted to the second line over Yamamoto, a very fair ask, but he scored playing with McDavid.  I don’t see him playing there. Ty Rattie started the comeback with a great shot of his own, and if he can chip in one goal every four games on the top line (20-goal season) and Puljujarvi can score 15 plus on the second line, the Oilers have some hope. It was a positive game for many Oilers, and now the challenge will be if they can build on it. Puljujarvi should get a big boost from his performance. His goal notwithstanding, I thought he was good in a lot of other areas, before he was put with Draisaitl, and hopefully he can build on it. The key was the third line built on a strong past few games and continued it tonight. Caggiula and Puljujarvi got rewarded for playing well again. The key for them is to continue it. Consistency is the most difficult skill to obtain in the NHL.

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— From the first day of training camp I felt it would be best for Kailer Yamamoto to start the season in the AHL. Not because he isn’t good, but because the NHL is extremely difficult and while he has NHL hockey smarts I think the lack of strength would be a factor. But the main reason I wanted him in the AHL was because he has the most skill of any young Oilers prospect who wasn’t a regular in the NHL last year. It is better to develop those players and bring them to the NHL when they are ready to contribute offensively. It is a hard to league to score in, even for veterans. Four regular season games hasn’t changed my mind on Yamamoto. I believe he will a helpful contributor in the future, but I will stick with my stance from September 15th.

—Nurse’s goal in OT is exactly what he worked on this summer. Not necessarily dangling a guy at the blueline, but making a positive play when he enters the offensive zone. He looked very poised and confident when he crossed the bluelines. At the start of training camp, he said, “I want to improve my play in the offensive zone. A lot of it starts with believing you can make the plays,” he said. Well, he sure looked confident on this rush. Very quietly Nurse has three points in the first four games and he has looked better every game.

Look at the jubilation from the entire team. That goal was huge for them.

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YOUR CALL

Garrison wasn’t a regular NHL D-man last year for Vegas and I don’t see him being one this year. But the challenge for the coaching staff is right now Kris Russell is their best option to play second pair RD, but that leaves Matt Benning and Evan Bouchard to play in the third pair, and one of them would have to play the left side. Not ideal.

With four games at home the Oilers have last change, and could get more favourable matchups for their blueline if they wanted.

So maybe they just stick with the same pairings and look for matchups. I could see that. Or what do you think about these duos?

Nurse-Larsson
Klefbom-Bouchard
Russell-Benning

Nurse and Larsson could play against the red-hot Patrice Bergeron line on Thursday, and then you give Klefbom-Bouchard a lot of offensive zone starts while Russell and Benning would have more defensive zone starts. It isn’t ideal because they are changing up the top pairing, but I’ve noticed Trent Yawney has played Nurse and Larsson coming off of powerplays and other situations.

What pairs would you use Thursday?

Recently by Jason Gregor:


    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      I would rather have Bear over Benning. Benning is just not going to change how long have we seen Benning make the same errors over the last 3 seasons and no changes at all, lots it is a consistent thing with him when he is on the ice.

      I would waive Benning or trade him for a puck, bank that cash and eliminate a contract, Benning is just not worth hanging onto. Benning shouldn’t even be out of the pressbox yet, he needed to stay there for 4 or 5 games and let him see the ice from above because his view from on ice is horrid, situational awareness is seriously lacking. While I blame Benning for his play, the Oilers coaches deserve a smack on the hand for continually allowing Beiing to play badly and not working with him on fixing the issues in his play. So either Bening isnt teachable, or he doesnt get it or he will always be a tire fire. Either way he is a liability when he is on the ice. The guy has been on for 5 goals in 2 games

    • Jason Gregor

      Benning wasn’t the problem last night. Yes, he can play better, but risking losing players for nothing when you don’t a lot of defensive depth isn’t a wise move IMO. Bear should be here, but at the expense of Alex Chiasson, not Benning. Chiasson was only signed to maximize LTI space, and I question if they will use all if it anyways.

      • ed from edmonton

        Or how about Kassian on waivers?? He is deservedly in the press box and getting rid of his bloated contract would be a good thing. I don’t think Chaisson would be any less effective than Kassian.

        • crabman

          Matt Benning has had a tough start. I don’t think anyone would argue otherwise. But to be ready to cast him off and lose him for nothing is ludicrous. He is only 24 and has played less than 200 games. Until this year he has been a + player. Last year on a very bad Oiler team he was one of the better players. +5 and 21pts. He isn’t ready to play in the top4 but he is a more than capable bottom pair defender who is still learning the game. He might never get any better than he is today, even then he is an NHL defender, but to think he can’t improve after playing only 138 games just doesn’t make any sense to me. If anyone is to blame for his performance this season so far it is Chiarelli for not getting a better top4 D in the offseason and leaving Benning in the position he has been successful in up to this point of his young career as a bottom pairing defender.
          That said I thought Russell looked good in the 3rd period in that 2RD spot and going forward I think it will be his spot to lose.

          • Big Nuggets

            Benning is the perfect candidate to be sacrificed to the trade gods. Try to swap or package the young guy for a steadier presence. Not sure who that is but with Bear and Bouchard knocking on the RD door he has become expendable.

        • ed from edmonton

          Although Benning has not played NHL quality minutes this season, the Oil are so thin on D, I don’t think they can risk losing any D on the waiver wire.

        • Kepler62c

          What? 7th/8th Dman, career AHLer? Are you sure you’re qualified to make that statement. Benning is easily an NHL Dman, not a top 4, maybe he’s a 7th on deep deep team, but on this team he deserves to be in the top 6 more often than not. He probably could have used some AHL time at the start of his career, but at this point he’s beyond that league.

      • Towers-of-dub

        what does it mean to “maximize LTIR space”? What difference does it make if they signed Chiasson or not? Wouldn’t maximizing the LTIR space be accomplished by signing or trading for a serviceable NHL defenseman to a 1 yr $5.5MM contract? How does signing Chiasson maximize the LTIR space? He’s only making $650k

    • Daryl Katz

      Benning isn’t going anywhere because he’s Chia’s pet….meaning he was drafted by Boston when Chia was there and Chia considers him to be some great find for the Oilers from his Boston days.

  • OilersBro

    Mentioning the urgency on the penalty kill – that’s a team who wants to kill off a penalty for the guy in the box. BS call and the Oilers weren’t gonna let Looch pay for it.

  • CMG30

    No question, it was a stunning comeback last night. I really hope that they can build off it. But somehow they have got to find a way to come out the same way they went out last night. It’s just not sustainable to sleepwalk through 2 periods, put yourself down 3 then try to make it up in the final 20.

    RNH is and has always been a witch on the PP. Why they didn’t think to have him feeding someone like McDavid before is just a headscratcher. Maybe fresh eyes have paid off…

      • Redbird62

        I think even the Oilers knew the Hopkins would play well with McDavid, the problem has been how Draisaitl plays without McDavid, except for 3 games against Ducks in the playoffs. With Drai at center, his line is still getting out chanced and outscored 5 on 5. And you can say all you want about his wingers, he is still making poor defensive coverage decisions in his own end. Maybe trial by fire now is the way he will improve in this. And since the Oilers started Nuge with McDavid at the beginning of March last season (and probably would have done so sooner if Nuge hadn’t been injured), then are you saying you were advocating this in March of 2017? Pretty hard to fault Todd for his deployment that season taking a previous non-playoff team to within one game of the Conference finals.

        • Glencontrolurstik

          Maybe Draisaitl could benefit with RNH on the left? I think I would try maybe Yamamoto, Khaira or even Lucic back up on the first line in his place. So,…. second line would look like this: RNH – Draisaitl – Pullijarvi.
          I think at this point the 2nd line is more important than the 1st, as that will take care of itself. Reider also is not out of the question in RNH’s spot beside McDavid… He’s got speed…