New Year, new Oilers — hopefully. The Oilers are currently mired in a six-game losing streak and they’ll look to end their woes on Wednesday night in Arizona. Here are your game day notes.
1. Tonight’s game in Arizona will kick off a four-game road swing through the Pacific Division. The Oilers are coming off a five-game homestand that they completely blew by losing all of the games. As awful as this six-game skid has been, this four-game road trip presents the Oilers with an opportunity to redeem themselves. Three or four wins against Pacific teams this week, including two in San Jose and Anaheim that the Oilers are chasing, would go a long way in making up for this ugly six-game losing streak.
2. The Coyotes are the only Pacific Division team the Oilers have yet to face this season. The team is supposed to be built to be successful in this division but, unlike in previous years, we haven’t seen that so far in 2018-19. The Oilers are 4-6-1 against the Pacific so far this season. If Edmonton is going to climb back up the standings and into a playoff spot, they’re going to have to do so by beating the teams in their division.
3. I know it’s still fairly early on, but this feels like a must-win game for the Oilers. The Oilers, as we know, are reeling right now, and, the Coyotes, to be blunt, aren’t a very good team. This was a year many predicted the team would finally break out but it hasn’t happened. Arizona has a 17-20-2 record and they have just one regulation win in their last 13 games. Obviously, this isn’t an automatic win just because the Coyotes are below the Oilers in the standings (it didn’t work that way with St. Louis a few weeks ago) but this is a team the Oilers should beat up on.
4. If the Oilers drop this one, their points percentage will drop below .500 and they’ll see their losing streak extend to seven games. When was the last time the Oilers had a losing streak that long? You’d have to go all the way back to Connor McDavid’s rookie season in which the Oilers went on a seven-game skid that lasted for more than half of the month of February.
5. The young Coyotes have had a difficult time scoring goals this season. They rank 29th in the league in goals for with just 100 through 39 games. Their leading scorer is Brad Richardson with 10 goals. Clayton Keller, who had 23 goals last year in his rookie season, has just eight goals this year. Veterans Derek Stepan, Richard Panik, and Michael Grabner haven’t contributed as much as the team need, as those three have just eight, seven, and six goals respectively. Alex Galchenyuk, who was acquired in a swap for Max Domi last summer, has been a bust in Arizona so far as he only has six goals in 29 games.
6. It’ll be a match of a team that can’t score vs a team that can’t stop themselves from getting scored on. Since Oscar Klefbom and Kris Russell got injured in Colorado, the Oilers have allowed a whopping five goals against per game. Even adding Alex Petrovic and Brandon Manning to the mix didn’t help much as the Oilers still allowed four goals against Winnipeg on New Year’s Eve. They’ve allowed at least four goals against in all six of their losses during this skid.
7. While the Coyotes have struggled to score, they’ve actually been very effective at keeping the puck out of the net. The Coyotes rank ninth in the league with 112 goals against. A big part of that has been their incredible penalty kill. Arizona is killing 87.7 percent of their penalties, giving them the best PK in the league. They’re also shockingly lethal on the PK as they’ve scored 11 goals while shorthanded. Hilariously enough, that’s half as many goals as they’ve managed to score on the power play this season.
8. Arizona’s starting goalie Antti Raanta was injured back in November and he’ll miss the remainder of the season. 22-year-old Adin Hill, who the Coyotes recalled to split the net with backup Darcy Keumper, has been excellent in a limited showing. Hill has a .916 save percentage in 11 games, which is quite a bit better than the .906 and .908 save percentages that Raanta and Keumper have posted this season.
9. Beyond Raanta, the Coyotes have struggled with their fair share of injuries this season. Christian Dvorak, a key forward heading into his third year in the league, could miss the entire season while recovering from pectoral surgery. Jason Demers suffered a knee injury in November and will miss the entire season. Michael Grabner is dealing with an eye injury and it isn’t known when he’ll return. Alex Galchenyuk was also hurt to start the season and he’s had a tough time catching up.
10. I alluded to this earlier, but this really seemed like the year the Coyotes would take a step forward. Last season, they put together a very strong second half, going 20-14-7 in their final 41 games, which is good for a 94-point pace. Of course, it simply hasn’t happened as the Coyotes wealth of young talent hasn’t been able to translate to the NHL level. It’s amazing how things have worked out so poorly for them in the last few years. In 2014-15, they tanked aggressively for Connor McDavid, finishing second-last in the league ahead of only Buffalo. Edmonton won the lottery, bumping the Coyotes to third, where they missed out of a very nice consolation prize in Jack Eichel, Dylan Strome, who they picked third overall, was a bust and has since been dealt to the Blackhawks. The following year, the Coyotes overachieved and totally pulled themselves out of an opportunity to land local prodigy Auston Matthews at the 2016 draft. Now the team is just sitting in purgatory, lacking a true superstar and unable to translate their young talent into legitimate success at the NHL level.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 1/02/2018 – 8:00 am MST