After losing their first two road games of the season the Oilers have picked up victories in New York, Winnipeg, Nashville, Chicago and Detroit. They will try to extend that tonight against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.
They do so riding the hot stick of former Capital Alex Chiasson.
1. Chiasson has six goals in eight games with the Oilers, but it is not the best start he’s every had with a team. The Dallas Stars drafted him 38th overall in 2009. He spent three years at Boston University before turning pro in 2012/2013. He played 57 games for the Texas Stars in the AHL and was recalled for the final seven games of the season. He scored 6-1-7 in those seven games. He was in Dallas’ starting lineup on opening night for the 2013/2014 season and scored a goal in each of the first three games. In his first 10 NHL games Chiasson produced 9-1-10. Unreal. But it didn’t last. He scored 10 goals in the remaining 76 games that season and finished with a career high 13 goals.
2. “Things went pretty well my first ten games in Dallas,” said Chiasson when I asked him if he’d ever made such a great first impression. “I have learned a lot from that. I was young back then with no experience. I learned you have to still work on your stuff all the time. The NHL is a hard league to score in. I try to bring different attributes to my game now. I think I can score and help the team offensively. I believe in my shot, or creating rebounds and being good in front of the net. I am a much more consistent player now,” said Chiasson.
3. Last season was great for him, not only winning a Stanley Cup, but learning from one player in particular.
“I learned a lot from TJ Oshie. He is a guy who scores in a lot of different ways. Obviously, he is a super skilled player, but he creates offence in various ways. He helped me a lot with my game, not even by talking to me, just by watching him play in how he creates chances. Not everyone is going to score 50 like Ovie, and Connor (McDavid) is going to create his own chance because not a lot of guys have his speed and skill. A lot of guys score on the powerplay, but it is a hard league to score in five-on-five. The more tools you have in your toolbox the better you are going to be and I feel I know how to use my tools now.
4. Chiasson won a Stanley Cup. He just turned 28 in October, but no one signed him this summer. He signed a professional tryout (PTO) with the Oilers on September 10th. He had to earn a contract, and so far it is looking like the best off-season signing for the Oilers, and arguably across the NHL if you consider his value per point. He signed for $650,000 and already has six goals. Is he playing with a chip on his shoulder?
“I’m not sure it is a chip on my shoulder. Last year may have been a bit like that, but this year it is a little different with the experience I had last year, and I learned a lot from the playoffs in how to play the game. I’m trying to bring that experience into my game now. Getting the opportunity to play on the top two lines really helps. Sometimes the game might not go as well as you want, but you still get the opportunity to go back for offensive draws. A guy like Leon is going to create offence no matter what. He is one of the best players on our team and one of the top centres in the NHL. I’m just trying to grab the opportunity by the horns, and do the best I can and have fun with it.”
5. Chiasson is older and more experienced than the red-hot rookie he was in 2013. He knew how to make an impression once he got in the lineup on the fourth line, and his solid play earned him a promotion. He feels he is more prepared to take advantage of this great opportunity. “Every day I take pride in my work, whether it is on or off the ice, you will see my trying different things to play with, shooting from different angles…it is nice to get rewarded,” he said.
6. Chiasson leads the Oilers with six even strength goals, although the one in Detroit was a 6-on-5 delayed penalty, but his production at 5×5 has been outstanding. I’m sure many of you noticed him scoring off a one-timer from McDavid on the delayed penalty. The coaching staff gave Milan Lucic the opportunity to start the season on the powerplay. They wanted to get him going, but it is 13 games and Lucic, while being competitive at 5×5, has not helped the powerplay. They only had one PP in Detroit, but Lucic has to be near the end of the line to remain on the top unit. Chiasson can be the net front guy, and he shoots right, so he could slide out off the net and get in a spot for a one-timer now and then.
7. The fourth line has played really well the past three games. Jujhar Khaira was really fighting the puck Thursday v. Chicago, but then he made a great pass to Drake Caggiula shorthanded, and it seemed to relax him. He was excellent in Detroit, picking up assists on both of Kyle Brodziak’s goals.
8. It took the Oilers 23 games to reach eight wins last year. This season they are 8-4-1 in 13 games. Same wins in ten fewer games is a nice bounce back start for the Oilers. In 2016/2017 the Oilers needed 12 games to reach eight wins, 8-3-1, stretched it to 9-3-1, then lost five in a row. They were 9-8-1 in their first 18 games, but proceeded to go 38-18-8 in their final 64 games.
9. Listening to Chiasson talk about working on his game reminds me that Milan Lucic should be doing the same with his. When they are practicing at home I haven’t seen him out early, before practice, doing shooting and scoring drills with the coaches. You need to work your way out of a funk, and it is up to Lucic to take control of his career. Put the work in at practice usually leads to success in games. It is something I’ll be monitoring.
10. Jesse Puljujarvi has played the past two games, but he doesn’t look overly comfortable. With Ty Rattie waiting to get back in the lineup, the only RW who could come out is Puljujarvi. That means the Oilers could have two 20 year olds in the press box tonight. One of them has to be sent to the AHL when they return from the road trip, and I’d strongly consider sending both Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto to Bakersfield. Get them playing a lot of minutes, and in a few weeks if Chiasson and/or Drake Caggiula slow down, or the production on the right side slows down, then they can consider recalling one of them. They are the future of this team, but it is clear they aren’t ready to be contributors in the present. There is nothing wrong with that, they are only 20, but Peter Chiarelli needs to make the right decision. Get them to Bakersfield.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 11/07/2018 – 9:00 am MT