The Edmonton Oilers controlled much of the game against Washington, but a few timely mistakes and missed scoring chances cost them two points. They flew to Tampa Bay after the game and Mikko Koskinen will try for his fourth consecutive win tonight against a balanced Lightning lineup.
1. Tampa has the second best record in the NHL at 10-3-1 and have scored the third most goals with 49. They are very deep and run four lines consistently. Nikita Kucherov leads their forwards with 17:43/game. The Oilers are tied for 10th with Winnipeg and Dallas and two points behind third place Calgary with a game in hand.
2. The Oilers must be aware of Brayden Point’s line. He along with Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson have been crushing teams at 5×5. Point has outscored teams 14-3, Johnson is 12-5 and Gourde is 11-5. Point leads the Bolts in goals, assists and points with eight, nine and seventeen respectively.
3. The teams have each won seven times in their past 14 meetings dating back to 2009, but Edmonton is 1-5-1 in Tampa Bay in the past decade.
4. The Oilers third line had a strong game in Washington last night, but once again they couldn’t finish. It is great to control the play and not give up anything at 5×5, but Ryan Strome, Milan Lucic and Jesse Puljujarvi need to find a way to score. Lucic was on the ice for 6-1 SF-SA ratio, while Strome and Puljujarvi were 7-3. They didn’t give up much, but again produced nothing.
5. That trio has combined for TWO even strength points this season. Puljujarvi has one goal, Lucic has one assist and Strome has none. Somehow Strome has managed to be even at GF-GA at 5×5. He has been on the ice for two GF and two GA. They had a great three-way passing play in the first period last night that ended with Lucic in all alone, but he couldn’t finish. We’ve seen it play out all season long. Strome or Lucic create a good scoring chance, but neither can beat the goalie. The good news is the Oilers are winning despite no production from their third line, but they have to find a way to bury a goal soon.
6. Tampa Bay not only has a lot of depth on their roster, their AHL team is filled with young, talented players. The NHL roster has draft picks Alex Killhorn (3rd, 2007), Steven Stamkos (1st, 2008), Victor Hedman (1st, 2009), Nikika Kucherov (2nd, 2011), Ondrej Palat (7th, 2011), Slater Koekkoek (1st, 2012), Andrei Vasilevskiy (1st, 2012), Cedric Paquette (4th, 2012), Adam Erne (2nd, 2013), Point (3rd, 2014), Anthony Cirelli (3rd, 2015) and Mathieu Joseph (4th, 2015).
Their AHL roster has 2015 picks Mitchell Stephens (2nd), Matthew Spencer (2nd), Dennis Yan (3rd) and Jonne Tammela (4th). 2016 picks include Boris Katchouk (2nd), Taylor Raddysh (2nd), Connor Ingram (3rd) Oleg Sosunov (6th) and 2017 picks Cal Foote (1st) and Alexander Volkov (2nd). They also traded 2016 1st and 2nd round picks Brett Howden and Libor Hajek to the New York Rangers for Ryan McDonagh and JT Miller. They have built a pipeline of prospects and their young players, excluding the elite ones, develop in Syracuse.
7. I spoke with Red Wings GM Ken Holland about his development strategy. When the Wings were dominant he talked openly how it was easy to develop players, because their NHL roster was so deep you didn’t have to rush players. But now the Wings are in a rebuild. They have Michael Rasmussen (9th overall in 2017) and Filip Zadina (6th, 2018). Right now Rasmussen is with the Wings and Zadina is in the minors. Rasmussen could have gone back to junior, but the Wings kept him.
“He is physically ready. He is strong enough and thinks the game at an NHL level,” said Holland. “He can handle the wear and tear of the NHL. It will be a challenge, but we felt he showed us he is ready for now. Meanwhile Zadina is a bit different. He is smaller and needs more time developing.”
8. What is the Wings’ strategy on minutes for Zadina in the minors?
“No, we don’t have number of minutes,” said Holland. “We talk to Grand Rapids Coach Ben Simon every day, and I watch about 40 games every year. We’re on top of it, but I also don’t think adversity is a bad thing in the development of young people, whatever field you’re in. I look at Dylan Larkin, he had a great rookie year but in his second year he got frustrated. He couldn’t do the things he was doing in College or in his rookie year. The league, coaches, and pros understood how to stop him from having success, and you need to be unpredictable. When you’re predictable you can be shut down, and I thought in the first 60 games of his second year he was trying things that weren’t working, and that adversity, in my opinion, has made him a way better player today than he was three years ago.
“I think right now Zadina is going through that adversity in the AHL. You’re playing with men; you don’t get as much space, when you go in the corner you aren’t playing against 17 or 18 year olds. You’re playing against 26/27 year old men who have families, and that’s how they put food on the table. You’ve got to learn to win those one-on-one battles, you have to learn how to get free, you have to learn how to go to the gym every day. Many players, not all, but many players at some point in their careers go through adversity. And that adversity gives you the feedback on what you need to do differently in your approach to your business to be successful,” said Holland.
9. More from Holland on playing time. “Zadina is playing in the top nine, and on the power play, but certainly if coach Simon feels at some point he needs to give him a healthy scratch to send a message to him, we sign off on that. It’s important they play, but it’s also important that they understand they’re playing pro hockey, and they’re playing against people who do it for a living. It’s a job and you’re going from amateur to professional hockey and it’s professional hockey for a reason. We do give guidelines to the minor league coach, but we do give coach Simon the authority and responsibility to coach the team because we want the proper environment. You can’t just run around and entitle people in Detroit and in Grand Rapids and think that you’re going to wake up down the road with a real good program. We’re sort of like parents, there’s got to be some sort of process to get them to a finished product,” said Holland.
10. I listened to Holland’s words on playing time, adversity, etc and I thought of Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi. Both should be in the AHL right now, developing, learning to win battles and competing for ice time, but mainly playing more than they are now. They have combined for seven healthy scratches so far this season, and when they play they aren’t playing very much. It sounds like a broken record, but once this road trip is over the right move is to send both to the minors. I’d settle for one of them, but I think both should be down there. Yamamoto is not strong enough, yet, to handle NHL players, while Puljujarvi needs to improve on the small elements of the game, but most importantly regain his offensive confidence and play in the top six and on the powerplay in the AHL.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 11/06/2018 – 9:00 am MT