After a four-game road trip through the Eastern United States, the Oilers are back in Edmonton for a Sunday night game against the Colorado Avalanche. Here are your game day notes.
1. The Oilers had a hell of a stretch in which they played eight games in 13 days in seven different cities. Tonight’s game will mark just their seventh home game of the season as they’ve played 10 games on the road and six at home for an 8-7-1 record. In their six home games, the Oilers are 3-2-1.
2. The Avalanche are also rolling in on a pretty tough schedule. They had to jump on a bus at home in Denver and drive all the way up to Winnipeg for their game against the Jets on Friday night. Then, after that, they jumped on another bus to travel to Edmonton for tonight’s game. This, of course, is because Winnipeg doesn’t have an airport. Interesting they didn’t opt to fly into Fargo, North Dakota for a shorter bus ride.
3. Colorado’s hot start to the season has been all but erased by a five-game losing streak. The Avs came flying out of the gate, going 6-1-2 in their first nine games. Since then, though, they’ve gone 1-5-1. Their fall back to earth has been fairly predictable. When they were rolling early on in the season, they were riding high percentages and poor shot numbers. That usually isn’t a recipe for success.
4. One part of the unsustainable percentages I mentioned above is goaltending. During the team’s hot start, Semyon Varlamov was playing out of his mind. The team was routinely being outshot and out-chanced, but Varlamov stood on his head. In six starts over that hot nine-game stretch, Varlamov went 4-0-2 with a .953 save percentage. Even Phillipp Grubauer was excellent, as he went 2-1-0 in the three non-Varlamov games in that stretch with a .925 save percentage. Since then, though, the goaltending has cooled off, and so has the team. Varlamov has started four of Colorado’s losses during the five-game skid, posting a .875 save percentage, and Grubauer got tagged for seven goals on 37 shots in his loss during the skid.
5. One thing that hasn’t cooled for Colorado is their offence. The Avs rank fourth in the league with 55 goals scored through 16 games played. They’ve scored more than three goals in half of their games played this year and only twice have they scored fewer than two goals in a game.
6. Virtually all of Colorado’s offence comes from their top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog. Rantanen is currently the NHL’s leader in points with 24 and MacKinnon isn’t far behind him with 22. MacKinnon and Landeskog also sit in a tie for second in the league in goals with 11. All told, this trio has combined to score 27 of Colorado’s 55 goals this season.
7. It’ll be important for the Oilers to stay out of the box against Colorado. As is the case pretty much whenever you have a high flying offence as Colorado does, the team is excellent with the man advantage. The Avs are currently scoring on 24.56 percent of their power plays, which is good for ninth in the league. The power play is also pretty much the only place Colorado gets any depth scoring. Two of Carl Soderberg’s five goals and two of Colin Wilson’s four goals have come on the power play.
8. The Oilers aren’t that different than the Avs in terms of being top-heavy offensively. Connor McDavid leads the team with 23 points and Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins sit in a tie for second with 17 points. After them, there’s a steep drop off to Oscar Klefbom who sits in fourth on the team with eight points. The big three Oilers forwards have combined for 23 of the team’s 45 goals, an even higher percentage than Colorado’s big three.
9. It’s important for Edmonton to win games against Western Conference opponents. The conference is looking very competitive right now as everybody save for the Los Angeles Kings seem to be in the thick of the playoff race. Some teams like Vancouver might fall off, but other teams like St. Louis who got off to cold starts could rise up. It’s anybody’s guess as to who grabs those eight Western playoff seeds so wins against middle-of-the-pack teams like Colorado count for four points.
10. This game will be only Edmonton’s seventh against a Western Conference team so far this season. The schedule has been very Eastern-heavy early on, as the Oilers have played 10 games against the East and six against the West. In their games against the West, the Oilers have gone 4-1-1, which bodes well for navigating this deep, competitive conference.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 11/11/2018 – 7:00 am MT