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GDB Game Notes: Oilers @ Sharks

During the past month the top three teams in the Pacific Division have been three of the best in the entire NHL. Since December 8th the Vegas Golden Knights are tied with Pittsburgh for the most points, 23, followed by the San Jose Sharks with 22 and the Calgary Flames have the 6th most with 20. Suddenly the top three teams in the Pacific are first, second and third in the Western Conference. The Pacific is arguably better than the Central right now, and the Oilers, who are 25th in the league since December 8th with 11 points, will need to play much better than they did in Anaheim if they hope to keep pace with the Minnesota Wild for the final Wildcard spot. The Wild won 1-0 last night in Montreal play Boston tonight and currently have the final spot with 45 points two ahead of Edmonton.

The Sharks have scored 61 goals in the last month, most in the NHL, and the Oilers will need to be much more aware in the D zone tonight to avoid giving up seven to the Sharks like they did ten days ago.

1. I’d start Cam Talbot again. I don’t see any reason to even consider starting Mikko Koskinen after how well Talbot played on Sunday. He was excellent in Anaheim, especially early, and bailed out his team on numerous occasions. Wins are all that matters, and when your goalie stops the high quality scoring chances then the focus is more on the goalie than it is on the team defence allowing the great chances. The Ducks can’t finish. They have scored the second fewest goals in the NHL, but the San Jose Sharks can score. They have scored 150 goals compared to the Ducks 101. The Oilers can’t give up as many grade “A” chances tonight and expect to win.

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2. I was asked if Talbot is playing better under Ken Hitchcock. In seven starts he has stopped 220 of 241 shots (.912sv%). He has made two relief appearances and stopped 28 of 29 in 83 minutes so his overall SV% is .915. So yes it is better than before. His SV% on the season is still only .899, but he has looked better. He still hasn’t found the consistency to reel off five or six consecutive solid starts, but I’m sure he and Ken Hitchcock are hoping he can build off of Sunday’s game in Anaheim. He looked confident, controlled and poised right from the first shot to the 39th. The Oilers will need him or Mikko Koskinen to steal a few games this month before Oscar Klefbom returns.

3. The goalless droughts of Tobias Rieder and Milan Lucic have been painful for the players, and fans, and what makes their slumps even more surprising is how rare they are across the NHL. Rieder is one of seven forwards without a goal in 29+ games played. Tom Pyatt (37), Juho Lammikko (36), Gabriel Bourque (34), Valeri Nichuskin (33), Tim Schaller and Brian Gibbons (32) are the others. Last season only one forward in the NHL played more than 30+ games and didn’t score a goal — Dominic Toninato played 37 games for the Avalanche and 31 games in the AHL. This season he has 5-7-12 in 26 AHL games.

4. Milan Lucic hasn’t scored since opening night. He is goalless in 40 games, which, not surprisingly, is the longest active drought among NHL forwards. However, he is one of four NHL forwards who have played 40+ games this year and only have one goal. Columbus teammates Riley Nash (40GP) and Alex Wennberg (41GP) along with the Maple Leafs’ Par Lindholm (41GP) join Lucic with only one goal. Last season four forwards played 40+ games and only scored one goal. Oscar Sundqvist played 42 games, Marcus Kruger and Cody McLeod played 48 games while Chris Thorburn played 50. Thorburn scored in his 45th game last year.

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5. Lucic’s inability to score is unlike anything I’ve seen in NHL history. He had 191 goals in his first 765 games. But he only has two in his last 88. We have seen players regress as they age, but I’ve never seen anyone just stop scoring like he has. I can’t imagine how frustrated and disappointed he is. For the first ten years of his career he was used to scoring a goal once every four games. He has scored the 498th most goals in NHL history, but literally in a flash he went from scoring once every four games to once every 44.

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6. In 2017 Connor McDavid led the NHL with 51 penalties drawn. That was 15 more than every player except Nikolai Ehlers (41) and Matthew Tkachuk (47). He had 100 points that season.
Last year McDavid produced 108 points, which suggests he was a better player than in 2017, yet he drew only 35 penalties, tied for sixth most. Tkachuk led the league last year with 42.
This season McDavid has 62 points, and he sits tied for 13th in drawn penalties at 17. McDavid point totals are going up, but his drawn penalties are down. It is a perplexing contrast.

7. There are more powerplays per team this year than in 2017, yet McDavid is on pace to draw 33% fewer penalties than he did two years ago. Alex Barkov leads the NHL with 27 minor penalties drawn followed by Nathan MacKinnon and David Pastrnak at 24. Barkov leads NHL forwards in TOI/game at 23:09. McDavid is second at 22:45, however, McDavid averages the most EV TOI at 18:45/game compared to Barkov’s 17:13. The vast majority of penalties are called at EV and McDavid is in those situations more than any NHL forward. Pastrnak draws 1.78 minor pen/60, while Barkov, and rookie phenom Elias Pettersson are at 1.75. MacKinnon is at 1.55. McDavid is 79th (among players who have played at least 25 games) at 1.09. Two years ago he was at 1.77 minor pen drawn/60. The only stat in his game that has dropped this significantly in two seasons is his MPD/60. It seems odd the most dangerous player in the league draws penalties at such a low rate compared to others. Alex Chiasson is second on the Oilers at 1.03 MPD/60. Does he carry the puck even half the same time as McDavid? Probably not.

8. The main reason why Ken Hitchcock won’t keep McDavid and Leon Draisaitl apart very much is production:
In 339 5×5 minutes without Draisaitl, he has 11 points.
In 389 5×5 minutes with Draisaitl, he has 24 points.
Even the best offensive player in the NHL needs to play with at least one gifted winger.
We could see Hithcock start the game with McDavid, Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on their own lines, but he will put 97/29 together at times, because the odds of them scoring together are significantly better than them playing apart.

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9. The Oilers could get a bit of a break with Marc-Edouard Vlasic nursing a lower body injury. He didn’t play Saturday or last night against the Kings. Vlasic is one of the few defenders who manages excellent gap control against McDavid, and doesn’t seem to get overwhelmed by McDavid’s speed like most D-men do. If he is out that could be a big boost for the Oilers. The Sharks and Oilers are playing their third game in four nights, but the Sharks will be on the second half of back-to-back games.

10. Let’s talk about the ridiculous notion that Connor McDavid should ask for a trade.

Let me make this perfectly clear: I am in no way defending the Oilers organization. I think I’ve made it pretty clear how I feel about the poor job Peter Chiarelli has done to surround Connor McDavid with quality players. That is a separate issue. But this garbage about McDavid asking for a trade? Stop it. Just stop, especially if you are an Oilers fan.

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Are we so damn soft as a society now that we are promoting running away from adversity? Toughen the hell up. McDavid made the playoffs in his second NHL season. He won a playoff round.

Mario Lemieux made the playoffs ONCE in his first six seasons. Once.

Joe Sakic — same thing. And Sakic never WON a playoff round until his eighth season.

Suggesting McDavid will ask for a trade means you think he is a quitter. I believe anyone who thinks he will ask for a trade because the Oilers are still a tire fire is a quitter themselves.

I respect Bruce Arthur a lot as a writer, but his assumption McDavid should ask for a trade, but won’t, is the ultimate low hanging fruit. Not to mention it is the ultimate slap in the face to Oilers fans. Basically, it is saying the team stinks so you fans should pay the price and see your best player leave town…again.

Well, no offence Bruce, but to quote the great Jason Strudwick, “sit down and drink your popcorn.”

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I can understand why Easterners or others from outside Edmonton think McDavid should do it, but I think it is shameful for an Edmontonian to mention it. Be better. Be proud of your city. The Oilers are not Edmonton. They play in Edmonton, but they do not represent everything about Edmonton. Stop thinking it is okay for your best player to want to leave.

Demand more from the organization, rather than think McDavid would quit. He isn’t a quitter. He’s the most dangerous offensive player in the NHL. He didn’t get there by backing down from challenges.

Be frustrated at the Oilers management. Demand they do better. Get a better GM, but do not give in to the loser mentality that McDavid might demand a trade. Name the last young, elite player who asked for a trade simply because their team didn’t find instant success?

McDavid won’t be the first.

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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 1/07/2019 – 7:00 am MST


  • OilersBro

    The goal-less droughts in the middle 6 are what is killing this team. Imagine if Reider, Lucic, and Spooner played like 35 point per – season players like we expected from them, not 15 point per season players.
    The thing is, all 3 of these guys are trying to shoot their way out of this slump. Muffins from the wing aren’t gonna get you out of this drought. Last game we had 4 goals from 4 different players battling their way to the front of the net and getting greasy goals off rebounds. The underwhelming trio needs to do that.
    Don’t break the streak with a toe-drag bar-down snipe, just take up high priority space

  • lee

    The NHL is a league where no one is allowed to question the reffs.
    If a coach speaks up he is fined, if a player says anything he is a whinner.
    The fact that McDavid gets mauled most nights with zero calls should be dealt with. There has to be someone at the NHL head office that is available for questioning.
    In the Premier league (England) if a ref makes bad calls he is dropped to the lower leagues, in the NFL if a ref makes a bad call the league apologizes for it. In the NHL there are just crickets.
    The NFL and Premier League are the two biggest leagues in the world, the NHL is still a niche league that has always had its own set of rules and unspoken codes.
    If the Oiler’s owner had any stones he would be calling Bettman up and demanding an explanation. But hey its the NHL so that’s not going to happen.

  • Jon123

    How can we demand better from the management? I’m sorry, I’m not going to stop going to the games, I love live hockey and they’re not taking that away from me. There’s a guy who’s job it is to audit the performance of the GM and he’s been ignoring his responsibility for years now. The fans or media shouldn’t have to tell him his GM is poor. Nicholson needs to go!

    • Alkali

      As long as the arena sells out, there is no need to change anything. The only leverage the fans have is to not buy tickets. If you need live hockey, you can go watch the U of A Golden Bears instead of the Oilers

    • BobbyCanuck

      The problem with the Oilers? Ask Jon123 to look in the mirror, that is where the problem is. Money talks, and Jon123 is happy to give it to Katz, year after year after year

  • Gaz

    Jason – don’t denigrate me, and don’t assume I’m not a fan because I am legitimately concerned that the ineptitude of the Oilers organization is putting McDavid’s future with the team in jeopardy.

    I have grown up watching and cheering for the Oilers. Hockey is the only sport I am passionate about. Your scathing, emotion-based tirade against a lifelong, proud Edmontonian is not appreciated and completely off-base. You included me in a group that you have made a sweeping generalization about, and I do take offense to that.

    Do not, I repeat: do not EVER question someone’s loyalty, passion, or integrity because they disagree with you.

    As you would say – be better.

    • Jason Gregor

      Gaz, you are allowed to be offended although it seems you simply disagree. A few things. No where did I question your loyalty, passion or integrity. Those words were never mentioned anywhere. so I see it as you interpreting things how you want. I can’t control that.

      You can be worried all you want, but my point is it seems a baseless worry. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall were #1 overall picks. RNH has made the playoffs once in eight years. Has he asked for a trade? Hall didn’t make them in seven years. He never asked.

      McDavid has already made the playoffs and the Oilers are in the hunt again. You realize that most #1 picks miss the playoffs their first year in the NHL, because the team they are joining isn’t very good. Alex Ovechkin didn’t make it in his first two years, never won a round until his 4th season and never got out of the 2nd round until his 13th year. Winning is difficult.

      The Oilers management needs to be better, but suggestions that because McDavid will miss playoffs three times in four years would lead to him asking for a trade is the ultimate “sky is falling mentality.” It won’t happen.

      You can take offense to anything. It is your choice. I don’t take offense to you being offended, but reading your comments I think you are offended by words that were never uttered. There was zero reference to passion, loyalty or integrity. In fact, I said demand more from the team.

      I said clearly, do not have a loser mentality in thinking he will leave. He isn’t a quitter, and missing playoffs twice in three years is more the norm for #1 picks than the exception. Have a nice day.

      • Gaz

        Fair enough. I still interpret your article much the same way that I originally did, but I genuinely appreciate the response.

        One thing we agree on completely – more needs to be demanded of this team’s management and executives. The results are appalling, made even moreso by the absolute embarassment of riches that the Oilers have received (and haplessly traded away or mismanaged).

        Thanks again.

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      I’m guessing he meant Oilers fans who think McDavid SHOULD ask for a trade, not fans who are worried he MIGHT ask for a trade. At least I hope that’s what he meant.

  • This franchise has no interest in the fans. So little in fact that they put us into tiers! This city bends over for the oilers and rhe OEG continues to ram it in our asses over and over. A prime example is the Edmonton Rush being pushed out of the city the year after they win a championship. The oilers dont want to compete with a franchise that wins