After a frustrating loss at home to the Flames last night, the Oilers will be back in action immediately as they host the Carolina Hurricanes. Here are your game day notes.
1. Since the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, the Oilers and Hurricanes have been two of the best successful franchises in the NHL. In the 12 seasons since then, both teams have made the playoffs just once and both teams are currently looking like underdogs to make it in this year too. The Oilers had a decade-long streak of not reaching the playoffs that ended in 2017. The Hurricanes had a surprise trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009, but missing the playoffs this year would mean Carolina has been on the outside looking in for a decade.
2. The Hurricanes in recent years have become Analytics Busters in the worst possible way. We’ve seen teams like the 2014-15 Flames and the 2013 Avalanche who predictably crashed after overachieving their peripheral numbers, but the Hurricanes are a team with good fancy stats and poor results. The Hurricanes have the second best shot attempt differential in the league (55.1 percent) and they had the league’s top shot attempt differential last season (54.7 percent) but it hasn’t translated to success in the standings.
3. Carolina is the worst team at finishing in the league. They rank second in the league in shots on goal (1685) behind only the San Jose Sharks but they’re scoring on only 7.4 percent of those shots. As a result, the Hurricanes rank 28th in the league in goals for with 126.
4. The Hurricanes only really have two high-quality players offensively right now. It’s the duo of Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. Aho has 21 goals and 51 points in 47 games and Teravainen has 10 goals and 38 points. After that, it falls off a cliff pretty quickly. Michael Ferland and Justin Williams have chipped in with 13 goals each and Andrei Svechnikov is having a solid rookie season with 11 goals. But that duo of Aho and Teravainen is really the only consistent threat offensively on the Hurricanes.
5. Much like we’ve seen with the Oilers, the Hurricanes are trying to create some kind of offensive depth, so Teravainen and Aho have been broken into two lines. This is due to the addition of Nino Niederreiter, who was acquired earlier this week in exchange for Victor Rask. Niederreiter, a consistent 20-goal guy having a down year, will slot in on the top line with Aho and Williams, and Teravainen will play on the second line with Michael Ferland and Lucas Wallmark down the middle. Wallmark has 14 points in 47 games, which isn’t ideal for your second centre. Get ready for some RNH to Carolina for a defenceman trade rumours.
6. One thing the Hurricanes do well is keep the puck out of the net. They rank 10th in the league with 140 goals against but that isn’t because of their goaltending. Carolina’s goalies have combined to put up a putrid .896 save percentage. The team itself has allowed the fewest shots against in the league (1324) which has made their poor goaltending look a lot better than it’s actually been at a quick glance.
7. Curtis McElhinney, who was claimed on waivers at the beginning of the season, has been Carolina’s best goalie thus far. He has a .914 save percentage in 18 games. Both Petr Mrazek and Scott Darling have been terrible. Mrazek has a .898 save percentage in 21 games and Darling got buried in the minors after eight games with an .884 save percentage. Darling was supposed to be the saviour in net for Carolina after a few years of being an excellent backup in Chicago but his success hasn’t translated on his new team.
8. It’s wild how streaky the Hurricanes have been this season. They had a four-game win streak right at the beginning of the season which was followed by a five-game losing streak soon after. Just recently, they went a five-game win streak that brought them right back into the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference but have since lost back-to-back games to the Senators and Rangers, two of the league’s weaker teams.
9. With last night’s loss, the Oilers are now sitting in 11th place in the Western Conference. They’re only two points back of the Wild, who currently occupy the second wild card seed, but they have to jump over Vancouver, Anaheim, and Minnesota to get to that spot. They’re also only two points up on the Blues and three points up on the Coyotes right now. The issue isn’t so much the two-point deficit in the standings. It’s having to jump over teams. That’s a difficult thing to do when you can’t put together a winning streak. Those back-to-back wins against Buffalo and Vancouver represented Edmonton’s only winning streak since they won four in a row in early December.
10. These final two games before the All-Star break (Carolina tonight and Detroit on Tuesday) are must-win games for the Oilers. Over the break, the organization will have time to evaluate where they’re at and they’ll be able to make a decision on their trade deadline strategy. A couple of wins before a week off could be a big momentum changer for a team (well, a Connor McDavid) badly in need of some time off right now.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 1/20/2019 – 12:00 pm MT