Back-to-back games have not been kind to the Edmonton Oilers this season. This is their fourth set of BTB games and they are 2-4-1 thus far. They won in Nashville and Chicago on October 27th and 28th, lost in Washington and Tampa Bay on November 5th and 6th, then lost in Calgary and at home to Vegas on November 17th and 18th, and lost 5-4 in OT last night in Winnipeg.
Despite their struggles in BTB recently, a victory tonight would move the Oilers into second place in the Pacific Division with 39 points. They’d be tied with San Jose and Anaheim, but have the tiebreaker over both of them.
Their five losses in BTB games were to teams in the playoffs. Tonight’s opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers, are currently 25th in the NHL and without their best goalie.
1. The Oilers battled hard against a more talented Jets team last night. Connor McDavid was an inch away from winning the game in OT, when he hammered one of the goal post moments before Josh Morrissey won the game. This won’t be an easy game by any stretch. The Flyers should have defeated Calgary on Wednesday night but blew a 5-3 lead in the final 70 seconds of the game.
2. Stolarz is making his sixth start of the season. He has a 3.80 GAA and .889Sv%. In his last four games, he has allowed 16 goals on 126 shots (.873sv%). His confidence, and the Flyers confidence in him, has to be fragile right now. Edmonton needs to go after him early and get him moving side to side.
3. I know many of you are thinking, “Gregs, the Oilers struggle against backups.” In the past yes, but here are the goalies the Oilers have lost to this season: Keith Kincaid, Jaroslav Halak, Jussi Saros, Matt Murray, Alex Stalock, Pheonix Copley, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Roberto Luongo, Semyon Varlamov, David Rittich, Marc-Andre Fleury, John Gibson, Cal Petersen, Anton Khudobin and Connor Hellebuyck.
They have defeated Henrik Lundqvist, Hellebuyck, Halak, Holtby, Saros, Cam Ward twice, Jonathon Bernier, Antti Niemi, Martin Jones, Khudobin, Jonathon Quick, Fleury, Jake Allen, Devan Dubnyk, Rittich and Varlamov.
Rittich might be considered the backup due to fewer starts, but there is no debate he’s been the better goalie for Calgary. The Oilers haven’t been stoned by a backup who has played poorly all season, other than Copley and Stalock, who have been average at .902 and .904 respectively. The other backups have been solid: Rittich is 9-3-1 with a .921sv%, Petersen has a .927sv%. Khudobin has been his usual steady backup with a .913sv%. Halak has started more games than Rask in Boston and he is second in the NHL with a .930sv%.
4. In previous seasons the Oilers have been stonewalled by backups, but like many other parts of their game this season they haven’t made a backup look all-world very often. Stolarz comes in as the shakiest goalie they have faced all season. They can’t afford to let him get comfortable.
5. Sticking with goalies, Mikko Koskinen has started eight of 12 games under Ken Hitchcock. He is 6-1-1 with a .936sv% and a 1.87 GAA, while Talbot is 2-1-1 with a .910sv% and 2.95 GAA. The starts illustrate who is the starter right now for the Oilers. If they remain at to 2:1 ratio, Talbot will start 16 games and Koskinen 32-34 over the final 50 games. That seems reasonable and we might even see it closer to 35 or 36 starts for Koskinen and 15 or 14 for Talbot. I believe Koskinen has taken the starters job. That doesn’t mean the Oilers won’t need Talbot. He has picked up five of a possible six points in his last three starts, and if you get type of point production from your backup then you should be ecstatic.
6. Connor McDavid picked up his 300th career point last night. He is now 19th all-time in points for Edmonton with 301. He is on pace to score another 72 points this season and if he does he will finish the season 13th all time, ten points behind Jordan Eberle. By the end of next season it is very likely he will be eighth all-time, close to 480 points and trailing only Doug Weight (577), Ryan Smyth (631), Paul Coffey (669), Glenn Anderson (906), Mark Messier (1,034), Jari Kurri (1,043) and Wayne Gretzky (1,669).
7. McDavid became only the ninth player in NHL history to reach 300 points before his 22nd birthday, joining Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, Dale Hawerchuk, Ron Francis, Jimmy Carson, Pierre Turgeon, and Steve Yzerman.
8. In 240 career games McDavid has 301 points (1.25 points-per-game). Evgeni Malkin is second in the past four seasons at 1.15 points per game, but Patrick Kane has the most points, 308, albeit in 38 more games played. Vancouver rookie Elias Patterson is averaging 1.18 points-per-game in his young 28 game career.
9. I’d guess we will see Caleb Jones make his NHL debut tonight. Jason Garrison only played 8:59 last night in Winnipeg, but he was +2. Chris Wideman played 11:07. Jones shoots left, but has been playing RD all season in the AHL. He can play both. Will they want him paired with a veteran like Garrison or have him play his natural side and skate with Wideman? I see him slotting in on the left side with Wideman.
10. The Flyers are 7-6-2 on the road. They’ve been outscored 58-51, but outshot opponents 476-471. Their special teams have struggled. The powerplay is 14.3% going 6-for-42, while their PK has allowed 15 goals on 53 kills for an ugly 71.3%. Meanwhile, the Oilers are 9-4-1, outscoring opponents 43-33, outshooting them 460-425. Their PP has struggled at home compared to the road. They are 23.4% on the road, but only 17.3% (8 of 46) on home ice. The PK has been steady at 80.5%, allowing seven goals on 36 opportunities. They have drawn 10 more penalties at home, while they are -9 in PP/PK ratio on the road.
11. Koskinen is a perfect 6-0 at home, allowing only five goals in six starts for a sparkling .972SV% and 0.83 GAA. It made sense to start Talbot in Winnipeg and Koskinen at home tonight.
MONTH OF GIVING
Thank you to Emil for his wonderful bid on the Hughes package and for all of you who helped out in the Pyramid of Giving for Adopt-A-Teen.
DAY 10, Package #1: McDavid and Hockey
- A signed Connor McDavid jersey
- Pair of seats, row 22, to the Oilers game vs. Panthers on January 10th.
- $1000 GC to use at any Liquor Depot
- Twi bottles of Flat Bourbon Tennessee Whiskey
- Pair of seats, row 23, to Oilers game vs. Blues on December 18th
You can bid by listening to TSN 1260 and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today. All proceeds will go to the M.E. Lazerte breakfast and lunch program.
From peewee to the pros, Albertans loves the atmosphere, energy, and life lessons that take place at rinks across the province. And where there’s an arena, you’ll find an ATB branch nearby—with our team members cheering and fundraising along with you. See more information at ATB.com.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- GDB 32.0: Goin to Winnipeg
- Paging Nurse to the Top Unit
- GDB 31.0: Ride The Mile High
- McDavid enters a Jagr, Lemieux and Gretzky category
- Wild About Talbot
- Oilers Questions: What Are The Answers
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 12/14/2018 – 11:00 am MT