The Oilers are on the road again for a quick stop in Vancouver before they ride into the holiday break with a homestand. Here are your game day notes.
1. It’s going to be weird to watch the Canucks without the Sedins for the first time in a decade-and-a-half. Actually, it’s going to be really nice for a change. Henrik and Daniel Sedin were staples on Canucks teams that dominated the Oilers during the Decade of Darkness. Henrik, in 94 games against the Oilers, had 84 points, and Daniel had the same amount of points but in one fewer game played. Funny how that works.
2. Just as the Sedin era ended in Vancouver, the Elias Pettersson era began. The Canucks’ fifth overall pick has hit the ground running in his first NHL season after a record-setting 19-year-old season in the Swedish Hockey League. Pettersson has 16 goals and 34 points in 29 games this year, giving him a 12-point lead in the rookie scoring race.
3. The Canucks are nowhere near as bad as many figured they would be this season. They’re currently 15-16-4 and are closer to a playoff spot than they are to the basement of the Western Conference. I wouldn’t expect Vancouver to actually be in the playoff mix come the New Year, but they’ve given their fans more competitive and interesting hockey than they expected.
4. Is that a good thing, though? While many Canucks fans have screamed for a full on tear down rebuild, the Canucks have actively tried to remain competitive. They tried to salvage the dying years of the Sedin era with free agent additions like Michael Del Zotto and Sam Gagner and trade acquisitions like Erik Gudbranson and Brandon Sutter. This has resulted in the Canucks being just bad enough to miss the playoffs but just good enough not to get top lottery odds. That said, in a season like this one in which the team is being led by key long-term players like Pettersson, I would rather see the team show signs of life than finish last overall.
5. The Canucks are playing tonight on the second leg of a back-to-back. They played the Flyers on Saturday night who were on the second leg of a back-to-back of their own. Philly lost in Edmonton and then hopped on the plane and looked absolutely lifeless in Vancouver. They got hammered 5-1 after allowing three goals in the first half of the first period. So while Vancouver is technically on the second part of a back-to-back, I don’t think they’ll be overly tired tonight given they only really had to play 20 minutes last night.
6. The Oilers are the final Pacific Division team the Canucks haven’t faced yet this season. They haven’t fared well against divisional opponents thus far. They’re 0-1 against the Ducks, Coyotes, and Sharks, and they’ve split with the Golden Knights, Flames, and Kings. All told, Vancouver is 3-5-1 against Pacific teams this season. The Oilers are 4-3-1 against Pacific teams so far.
7. The Canucks rely almost entirely on offence to win games. They rank 11th in the league in goals for with 106 and 28th in the league in goals against with 116. Pettersson is leading the charge offensively, Bo Horvat has 15 goals already, Brock Boeser is playing at a near point-per-game pace but missed time due to an injury, and Jake Virtanen and Nikolai Goldobin have had breakout seasons offensively.
8. Keeping the puck out of the net has been a struggle for Vancouver. Like I said above, they rank 28th in the league in goals against largely thanks to their goalies both having save percentages hovering around the .900 mark. Jakob Markstrom has a .904 save percentage in 24 games and Anders Nilsson, who starts tonight, has a .901 save percentage in 10 games.
9. Nilsson and Cam Talbot split the net back in 2015-16. He’s the goalie that many used as a reminder to pump the breaks on Mikko Koskinen hype. The were both drafted by the New York Islanders and they’re both similar, big goalies who take up a bunch of the net. Nilsson had an amazing stretch in which he looked like the guy in Edmonton. He had a .922 save percentage in his first 16 games before completely falling off a cliff and conceding the net to Talbot. Koskinen, through 16 career games with the Oilers, has a .930 save percentage. Let’s hope he doesn’t follow the same path as Nilsson.
10. Alex Chiasson scored his 14th goal of the season Friday which set a new career-high. Given the way things are going, Chiasson could easily end up with more than 30 goals this year, which would be incredible. He’s basically become the new Patrick Maroon on this team, finding a niche as the guy on the top line with the skills and smarts to finish what Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl start.
Sticking with the top line, Connor McDavid is low-key on pace to shatter his career-high in points. McDavid has 48 points in 32 games, putting him on pace for 121 points if he plays 81 games (he missed that one game in Dallas when he was sick). Leon Draisaitl is also on pace to break 100 points for the first time in his career.
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.
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 12/16/2018 – 11:00 am MT