The Oilers are back from the Christmas break on a three-game losing streak and tonight’s opponent was the team that got it started. For the second time in under two weeks, the Oilers will faceoff against the Vancouver Canucks, and this time they’d be best served to stay out of the penalty box.
1. When these teams met up 11 days ago, the Canucks had an absolute field day with the man advantage. They popped off for three straight power play goals within the first 25 minutes of the hockey game and the Oilers went from having a pretty good start where they were able to grab a one-goal lead to a limping finish in a real hurry. Special teams matter and we’ll have to hope for better tonight.
2. Speaking of power play goals, the Oilers haven’t been getting as many as they’d like lately and it’s been costing them points in the standings. In December, the Oilers have nine goals on 44 chances (20%) which isn’t exactly terrible, but there have been too many games where their PP has been a complete non-factor. I’m thinking specifically of the loss against St. Louis when they went 0/5 with the man advantage which basically paved the way for the Blues to steal the night.
3. Just as concerning as the special teams play is the trend where the Oilers have been heavily outshot for six straight games in a row. On December 9th, a 1-0 shutout win against the Flames, the Oilers were mostly able to suffocate Calgary’s attack and limit them to only 24 shots, but the following six games have been quite the opposite. They’ve had a knack for bleeding chances and had it not been for some fine goaltending performances then who knows where the losing streak would be right now. Perhaps the boys were getting tired after playing so many games leading up the break or something, but there’s no way Ken Hitchcock is happy about some of the looks his team has been giving up in their own zone.
4. The Canucks sit at 17-18-4, only one point behind the Edmonton Oilers for the final wild card spot in the West. After going through a horrible stretch of losses (1-10-2) in November, the Canucks are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and have really turned things around.
5. On the penalty kill, the Canucks have killed off 22 straight penalties over their last nine games and have been perfect on the PK in 21 of 39 games. When these two teams first met, the Oilers got only one power play opportunity while the Canucks had five (scored on three), and it will be interesting to see what role the special teams will play in tonight’s rematch.
6. Looking at the scoring leaders for both clubs, Connor McDavid has nine points (2G, 7A) in his last five games leading into the Christmas break while Elias Pettersson has three (1G, 2A) for the Canucks. I know some Canucks fans love to try and sell the idea that Pettersson is better than Connor, and don’t get me wrong he’s a damned fine player, but let’s not pretend it’s close at this point.
7. The Oilers are riding a four-game winning streak against the Canucks at Rogers Place. Let’s hope the streak continues because I’ll be in the building tonight and there’s nothing more annoying than happy Canucks fans. On the bright side, I have a sparkling 2-0 record when I’m in attendance so far this season.
8. The losses against Tampa Bay and Vancouver marked only the second time that Mikko Koskinen has lost back-to-back starts all season. The big Finn has been remarkably steady for the Oilers all season, but even he looked human against the Lightning and Canucks, finishing both games with sub-.900 save percentages.
9. I’ve really liked the way that Caleb Jones has played in the four games since being recalled. As the games have gone on, Hitchcock has shown more and more trust in the young defenceman and continues to reward him with increased playing time and responsibility. Jones’ TOI has increased in each of his four games, starting out at 11:59 in his debut against the Jets and climbing all the way up to 19:19 against Tampa Bay. Now, one could argue that he shouldn’t be playing this much so soon, but the Oilers don’t have all that many options to run with and Jones has formed a nice third (sometimes second) pairing with Kevin Gravel.
10. How could I not mention the white-hot heater that Alex Chiasson has been on so far this season? When you need a goal, Chiasson is there. For a guy that came in on a PTO with a chance to maybe add some veteran depth to the roster, he’s been a ridiculous find for Peter Chiasson so far and while we don’t know how long this 32% shooting percentage will last, I’m going to keep hoping that he’ll score on every third shot forever.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 12/27/2018 – 7:00 am MT