GDB Game Notes: Oilers and Canucks in Meaningful Game

It has been 13 years since the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks met in a game that meant a lot in the NHL standings. It was March 25th, 2006. The Canucks entered the game in 7th spot in the western conference with 82 points, while the Oilers were in 8th place with 80 points. LA was 9th with 79 and San Jose was 8th with 78. All four teams played that night and heading into the game the Canucks had 11 games remaining, the Oilers and Kings had 12 while San Jose had 14.

The Oilers defeated the Canucks 3-2 on goals from Ryan Smyth and Sergei Samsonov, and Steve Staios scored the winner two minutes into the third period. The Sharks and Kings also won so the standings at the end of the night had Edmonton and Vancouver with 82 points, LA with 81 and San Jose with 80. The Sharks finished on a tear going 10-3-1 in their final 14 games and finished 5th in the conference. Edmonton went 7-4-1 and finished eighth, while the Canucks stumbled in the back stretch going 4-5-2 and finished 9th. The Kings ended up 10th going 5-7-0.

Edmonton and Vancouver fans still have a healthy rivalry, but you haven’t played a meaningful head-to-head matchup in 13 years. That changes tonight. Enjoy.

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1. Edmonton and Vancouver are tied with Anaheim for 9th in the western conference with 47 points. The Minnesota Wild defeated the Kings in a shootout last night and hold the final wildcard spot with 49 points, while Colorado has the first wildcard spot with 50. The Canucks defeated the Oilers on December 16th and 27th by identical 4-2 scores. Brock Boeser had three points in the first game and the Canucks scored four goals in the first period in the second meeting. Elias Pettersson will be a game time decision, and whether he is in the lineup of not, the Oilers can’t afford to lose three in a row against a team they are battling for a playoff spot. These are the types of games players love to be in and fans love to watch. It’s been a long time since these teams faced off in a meaningful game, and both fanbases should enjoy it while also developing a healthy hatred for the opposition.

2. Suddenly Milan Lucic has more goals in 2019, three, than the two he produced in 2018. It was remarkable to see Lucic suddenly stop scoring. As I outlined a few weeks ago, Lucic produced, on average, one goal every four games for the first 10.5 seasons of his career. Then in 2018 he produced two goals in 82 games. The 2018 year was awful offensively for him. It was more than a player showing signs of aging. It was a massive outlier. I looked up other players and could not find a forward whose goal/game ratio went from 1:4 to 1:41. There was no gradual decline, it was him skating to the edge of a cliff and falling off. With two goals last game he has three in his last four, and three goals in the first seven games of 2019.

3. Lucic had nine goals and 26 points in the first 36 games of the 2017-2018 season. He was right on pace with his one goal every four game ratio. Then he just stopped scoring. He missed numerous open nets and in some games in March and April of 2018 he looked disinterested. He scored one goal the remainder of the season, and then only once between October-December of 2018. Lucic’s effort was much more consistent this season despite his slump reaching new levels of unproductiveness. I don’t know how much he will produce the remainder of the season, but if he manages even a 1:6 goal/game ratio the Oilers would be ecstatic. Can he produce nine goals in the final 36 games? History says he can, and I’m curious to see what he does.

4. Lucic’s 2018 struggles illustrate how much of NHL success is mental. He didn’t suddenly lose all his skills, but he played like he had. He struggled making the simplest pass. I spoke to Lucic at length after his two-goal performance and as always he was very candid and upfront. I give Lucic a lot of credit, because throughout his dreadful slump he never shied away from the media. He didn’t hide. And after his best offensive game and first multi-goal game as an Oiler since April 6th, 2017 against San Jose, when he scored a hat trick, we talked about confidence.

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5. “The first goal, and I’ve talked about it before, when you have confidence you aren’t thinking, you just shoot it hard and it found a way in,” said Lucic. “It was nice to score again so quickly after the San Jose game. I’m not afraid to say I had l lost my confidence. It is hard to explain, but you never want to lose it and you can’t just magically get it back. The best players in the world come to the rink cocky, and not in a bad way, but they have swagger and they believe they will make a difference in the games. You can see it. I had that swagger for a long time, I’m not saying I’m like them, but I was a consistent scorer and I knew I could produce, but I lost that feeling and it was difficult.”

6. “I’m not going to go into 2018 anymore, but we have lots to play for in 2019 and so do I. Right now getting the two points is the most important thing for our team, but it was nice to contribute. It feels good and it is amazing how different you play when you have confidence. You don’t think as much, you just play,” said Lucic. I understand why he doesn’t want to look in the past anymore, because there are very few positives for him, or the Oilers, from the 2018 calendar year. The Oilers playoff hopes would increase significantly if Lucic could remain an offensive contributor the remainder of the way.

7. A funny scene unfolded at the end of practice yesterday. I was standing behind the net, where the zamboni enters, watching the Oilers skate. The formal part of practice had ended and all the D-men were doing a shooting drill right in front of me. They were taking shots from the blueline, some were one-timing passes that came from the coach in the corner, while others were just taking stationary slapshots. Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid skated over and after Draisaitl spoke to Adam Larsson, Draisaitl lined up to take a slapper…standing still. He looked very awkward and all the defenders and Draisaitl started laughing. In the room afterwards, I asked him when was the last time he took a slapshot standing still in a game.

“I don’t think I ever have. I can’t even raise the puck on a (stationary) slapshot I think, honestly. It is pretty impressive how guys score from back there (blue line), because unless it has eyes, or somehow trickles in from back there, I don’t think I could ever score from there,” said Draisaitl.

8. Very few forwards take slappers in games, never mind score goals with a slapshot. The rare breeds like Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and Patrik Laine can, but when you think about it, for many of the top point producers, slapshots aren’t part of their arsenal. For Draisaitl he rarely took slapshots as a kid. “I was never shooting. I never really cared about shooting the puck too much. Obviously, I worked on it and I knew I had to improve my shot, which I did, but to me passing was always way more fun. I’d way rather watch someone score and see how excited they are. I enjoyed more making a nice pass that led to a goal. I’ve always been a pass-first guy.”

9. He has become more of a shooter the past few years. Not in slapshot form, but his snapshot and wristshot have become very good. What work has he done to improve his shot?

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“Sometimes it is not improving your shot, sometimes it is about the position you put yourself to not give the goalie a chance to stop the puck. A lot of people think the guy with the hardest shot score the most goals, and there is some truth to that with Ovechkin and Tarasenko, they have great shots, but some of the best goal scorers don’t have the hardest shots in the world they just know where to put it, they know when to shoot it and they get in positions where the goalie can’t stop it. Improving your shot isn’t just about the velocity, it is about accuracy, and when you release it. I’ve studied that more than just trying to make my shot harder,” said Draisaitl.

10. Tobias Rieder is lucky Lucic struggled as much as he did because it took the focus of Rieder. He doesn’t have a goal this season, and he was pointless in 20 games prior to his two assists Monday night against Buffalo. Rieder is in a similar outlier situation to Lucic. Rieder scored 13, 14, 16 and 12 goals in his first four seasons, but he has zero in 33 games this year. Zero. He only has points in five games. He has produced two assists four times this season, which is good, but having one point in his other 29 games is brutal. Maybe his two points will give him a boost. In his first four years he averaged 14 goals and 29 points. Is he capable of scoring six goals down the stretch? He is, and like Lucic, if he can end his horrific outlier season soon, he too could be a major boon for the Oilers’ depth scoring.


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.

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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 1/16/2019 – 9:30 am MST

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Every time I see that photo of that … well, whatever that structure is in Vancouver they put up for the Winter Olympics … I’m not only reminded of its ill-timed malfunctioning, but also how the Vancouver Olympic committee thought it would be a good idea to have the greatest hockey player of all time standing the back of a Chevy Avalanche, holding a torch and shivering in a cold winter rain, with numerous Vancouver street people running alongside for three blocks. That image, as much or more than Crosby’s golden goal, remains etched in my memory of the 2010 games forever.

    • dabears318

      From Edmonton, living in Vancouver past few years. That area is beautiful and the structure looks great on the backdrop of ocean and mountains. That said, it’s no silver balls on the whitemud…

  • Abagofpucks

    Rieder and spooner are the worst forwards we have and have done nothing to help this team win. They need to go away, only problem is they have no value trade wise. Pc and company should swing for theses trades.

    • Kepler62c

      Spooner was over .5 pt/gm his whole time in Boston, and start of NYR tenure — I don’t know how he could go from a 40-50 point pace over 82 games to 10-15 point pace. Perhaps he’s not being put in the right situations, but probably a change of scenery is needed to get him back on track.

        • Glencontrolurstik

          Is it just me that’s noticing that all these veterans joining the Oilers that last couple of years are from Northern Alberta or ex-Bruins, all past their prime. Time to think outside the box…
          Reider’s fast play has generated some chances as noticed when watching games. But unfortunately that doesn’t register on the point ticker.

      • GK1980

        Why can’t the oilers ever be a right change of scenery for once for players? Aberg, Dubnyk, Broisoit…. list goes on. I guess Maroon thrived in Etown while he was here.

        • Glencontrolurstik

          I always saw Broissoit having potential. Our goalies are only as good as the D is playing.
          Often times they are hung out to dry with a plethora of shots. The D has to ease that stress a little.
          Talbot & Koskinen are much better that they show here on most nights. This explains Dubnyk & Broissoit shining when they move to a balanced defensive team. I think it’d be a mistake to trade either of our goalies. It’d be best to tighten up much better defensively & limit those pesky scoring chances.

    • grumpyKoala

      Reider wont be resigned and probably his best option is to sign a PTO somewhere else, it is very odd he did not have a single goal, he one of the oils that have the most shot on goal so it is not a lack of chances or a pack of trying. I do not have the actual number but that should be 2mill off the books

      • Odanada

        From my viewing experience, it seems that all of Rieder’s shots hit the goalie in the chest. It’s like he is aiming at the place he is least likely to score.

        • Reply to your earlier post , it is not in the room, look way higher, veterans know they can get a job here when nobody else wants them , and then slide into retirement mode. Process used to take about 6 weeks before the gave up, now it seems almost immediate.

  • Oilers are going to have to win 22 of the remaining 36 games (.610) to squeak into the last Wildcard spot. They’ve been a slightly below .500 team so far. Can it be done? Yes.

    A Win is based on playing against current worse/equal standing team
    A Loss is based on playing against current better standing team

    W Canucks
    L Flames
    W Canes
    W Red Wings
    W Flyers
    W Habs
    W Blackhawks
    W Wild
    L Sharks
    L Penguins
    W Canes
    L Islanders
    W Coyotes
    L Islanders
    W Ducks
    L Predators
    L Leafs
    W Senators
    L Blue Jackets
    W Sabres
    W Canucks
    L Leafs
    W Rangers
    W Devils
    W Coyotes
    L Golden Knights
    W Blues
    L Blue Jackets
    W Senators
    W Kings
    W Stars
    W Ducks
    L Golden Knights
    L Avalanche
    L Sharks
    L Flames

    That’s 21 wins out of 36. Very close.

    They tend to beat the Golden Knights and Avalanche so that’s a possible 3 more wins.

  • Hemmercules

    Good words from Draisaitl and Looch. I hope the boys can gain some confidence here. They can beat anyone if they put in the work, even with a somewhat rag tag group of guys.

    I have a gut feeling if a trade gets made they get a fair deal this time. Chia cant possibly keep losing them. We are due.

    Oil win 3-2 in overtime tonight. Looch gets another one too.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      You know, say what we will about Lucic. He has put in the work and is markedly improved this season. I’m especially noticing it after the Christmas break. His passion is also fuelling Kassian, Brodziak & Reider. Though, it’s probably a bit of everything including Hitchcock showing some respect & confidence in the team as well. They have to run with the positives & if they ever had to work hard for a win, it’s tonight. Greene has this Canuck team working their asses off, playing way above their capacity… Should be a dandy tonight?

  • Heschultzhescores

    Why are guys not using the slapshot? When practised it can be very accurate too. I’ve never seen a guy use a wrist shot in the hardest shot, though in today’s skills maybe they should have a wrist shot contest too.

  • TKB2677

    Given Rieder’s history having scored 12 or more goals in 4 straight years except this one, I suspect this is just a one off and will be back to his normal numbers next year. Of course the one off season, happens when he is with the Oilers. He hasn’t been good as an Oiler but given his past history and my thinking this is just a bad year, I’d resign him if he came cheap. Moving forward, you are going to need to find guys, like they did with Chiasson who are dirt cheap but play way better than what they are getting paid. He’d be a strong candidate for that. When I say cheap, I wouldn’t resign him for anything more than a 1 yr, less than 1 mill contract.

  • The future never comes

    Guys that are not scoring such as Rieder are not doing enough to get to the dangerous areas. This season he is to content with playing around the perimeter with outside wrist shots that the goalie sees. Get dirty in front and bang home a point shot Smytty style.

  • Serious Gord

    There six – arguably seven – teams in the west fighting for two wildcard spots. All are far weaker than the six best teams in the conference. Both wildcards will very likely have a swift exit in the first round.

    With such a plethora of contestants and such meagre reward it is folly for the oil to make big moves that sacrifice the mid to long term future to improve the chances of getting into these playoffs.

    Fans who are pushing for such action are enabling those in the organization to continue years more of disappointment.

    • Spaceman Spiff

      Right. OK. But there’s also long-term value in chasing a playoff spot. It teaches young teams the value of playing with focus and discipline and, yes, desperation. If this team is ever to turn north, it needs to learn how to show up for games they need to win. It needs to learn how not to take days, weeks off, mid-season. It needs to learn how to practise better, execute better, focus better. The only way to do that, other than playing playoff games, is fighting for a playoff spot.

      It can’t be all about “asset-management” and “looking ahead to the future.” The game is played on the ice, not on phones, and not in The Hockey News Future Watch issue. I don’t want them to make bad trades, either, but I do expect them to put up a fight for now, this season, this spring. Otherwise? It’s a continuation of a losing culture.

      • jesse says yep

        Not having a sniff at the playoffs for their entire Oiler Career was possibly one of the biggest factors in many of the Oilers First round picks over the DoD. They never got to witness first hand the level of play required to win. For me it’s not about making a move just to squeek in but an opportunity to teach the young Oilers where their play has to get to in order to have real success in the NHL. Yes, even if they get trounced in the first round it will still be a better lesson than watching playoffs from their couch.

      • Odanada

        other teams exercise asset management and playing to make the playoffs NOW. Are they mutually exclusive in Edmonton? Why can’t we have both?
        Oh, right. It’s because we have a bad GM

      • Serious Gord

        When has it ever been about asset management in the oil org – ever?

        Getting a four game stomping – maybe, with five other teams to climb over – at the cost of a chance to develop a truly high-end and deep roster is about as wrong headed as it gets especially if you are letting this management make the moves.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        Remember the Oilers of 06? Didn’t they just squeak into th eplayoffs? Also Penguins X2 & Kings when they won, just made it in at the 11th hour if I remember?

    • Cowbell_Feva

      So are you suggesting the Oilers stand pat and not try to improve their team now, even if it means mortgaging some future assets, because there are good teams in our conference? ?
      Oilers fans had lived through 2 or 3 botched “rebuilds” and are currently wasting a generational talent in his prime…I think Chiarelli should make some moves to shore up the glaring holes on this team because prospects and picks MIGHT help us 3 or 4 years down the road.
      By that point 97 and 29 might be asking to get the hell out of here if all they do is lose.

      • Playoffs and Oilers do not belong in the same sentence. They wont be playing us , because we wont be there. K Lowe will be available for Hockey Canada AGAIN. Perhaps he could give them a lecture on how he knows a thing or two about winning (If there was ever a concern), or properly separating tiered fans. Or how to fill a building even though the product is inferior. Or how to get $15.00 for a beer or a burger. Maybe they would hire him (He would take his the other two stooges with him hopefully) One can dream.

        • Odanada

          I hope to see Connor drive for the Cup in an Oiler sweater one day, but I know it’s not going to happen under Nicholson’s watch – especially with the OBC hanging around enjoying their free lunches.
          As for K. Lowe, any respect I had for him has diminished to the point where I just don’t see him bringing anything to the team but dishonour.

          • You would think at some point the 3 stooges would look at their body of work and step aside as that is what is best for the team. Unfortunately they have taken self preservation and turned it into an art form. Any other owner would not let them near the building, even if they had a ticket. Nothing will change as long as they put their egos ahead of the franchise.

          • Glencontrolurstik

            Well said, and I hope it’s a blue sweater & not those orange embarrassments.
            That may in fact be the whole problem with this team…
            “You have to look good to feel good, & you know who you are”… Fernando’s Hideaway

    • GK1980

      Agreed, they never step up to the plate. Canucks will be all over them and overwhelm the defence….again. Same old story. It would be amazing if the Oilers actually pushed and dictate the type of game. Most likely wont happen.

  • slats-west

    Go watch a clip of Brent Burns last 5 games…… he’s more lethal than any dman slapper in the NHL and he’s always on net or to a wide open player deflecting a dangerous opportunity.