The Oilers have lost eight of their last nine games and they’re winless on their current three-game Eastern Conference road trip. They’ll look to get back in the win column against the Islanders in Brooklyn tonight. Here are your game day notes.
1. The Oilers have dropped back-to-back games so far on their three-game swing, but they haven’t played poorly in either of them. Despite getting dropped 3-1 by both the Penguins and Hurricanes, the Oilers put forward strong efforts in both games. The issue, of course, was an inability to put the puck in the back of the net. Leon Draisaitl has scored the team’s only two goals on this trip thus far.
2. Speaking of Draisaitl, he has now scored 34 times this season, putting him in a tie for third in the league in goals with Patrick Kane. Alex Ovechkin leads the league in goals with 39, so Draisaitl is quietly just five goals back of the Rocket Richard race. Despite what many would like you to believe, he is far from the problem on this team.
3. The Islanders don’t have a single player who has reached the 20-goal plateau yet. Anders Lee leads the team in goals with 18, whole Brock Nelson and Mat Barzal are right behind him with 17 and 16 goals respectively. Scoring goals isn’t the Islanders’ calling card. Barry Trotz has the team playing rock-solid defence as New York ranks first in the league in goals against. Their goalies, Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner, have been an incredible tandem, as they rank first and second respectively in the league in save percentage (among goalies with 20 or more games played).
4. It’s been an amazing heel turn for the Islanders. They went from allowing the most goals in the league last season to being the best team at keeping the puck out of their own net in just one year. Given the fact they didn’t make any major additions to their blueline over the off-season, this comes down to the excellent work Barry Trotz has done since joining the team. While losing John Tavares to his hometown Leafs was unfortunate, gaining Trotz behind the bench has been a game-changer for this franchise.
5. This has certainly been a much better first season in the post-Tavares era than anybody expected for the Islanders. They’re sitting at the top of the Metro Division and are looking at home ice advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Where will those homes games be played, though? The Islanders have been splitting time between Barclays Centre, Jay-Z’s stadium which really isn’t meant for hockey, and Nassau Coliseum, the old barn that isn’t really up to NHL standards anymore. If the Islanders make the playoffs, the team has said they’ll play their first-round games at Nassau, and then they’ll play any additional games at Barclays after that. The arena saga for the Islanders has been a weird one.
6. It’s going to be another interesting off-season for the Islanders. Of course, they lost Tavares last year, and this summer, they’ll have to figure out new contracts for more key free agents. Captain Anders Lee needs a new deal, as do top-six forwards Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson, and breakout goalie Robin Lehner. Eberle is an interesting case. He’s on pace to put up 20 goals and 20 assists in what has been a down year offensively, but he’s still going to be one of the better scorers on the open market. I can think of a team that could use somebody who can put the puck in the back of the net.
7. Eberle faced his old team twice last season and he was noticeable in both games. The Oilers beat the Islanders 2-1 in both meetings last year, but Eberle scored a goal in the first meeting and he scored in the shootout in the second.
8. After scoring just one goal in back-to-back games, the Oilers rank fifth-last in the league in goals with 158. Only Arizona, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Anaheim are worse at putting the puck in the back of the net than Edmonton is. The team’s secondary scoring beyond their big three of McDavid, Draisaitl, and RNH has totally dried up. I mean, it was dry before, but even the production they were getting from Alex Chiasson has come to an end. Chiasson has just one goal in 16 games since the calendar flipped to 2019.
9. While Chiasson has fallen off a cliff, Zack Kassian has been one of Edmonton’s best producers as of late. Kassian, who has been getting reps on the top line with McDavid and Draisaitl, has six goals and 11 points in 17 games thus far in 2019. That’s a pretty dramatic increase from the three points he had in 36 games in 2018 he spent largely stapled on the Identity Line.
10. Cam Talbot was dealt to Philadelphia in a one-for-one swap involving Anthony Stolarz last night after the game in Carolina. The move freed up some cap room for the Oilers, who need to make space on the roster for Andrej Sekera to be activated from the LTIR. I figure we’ll see quite a bit of Stolarz down the stretch. He needs to play in 10 of Edmonton’s final 25 games to avoid becoming a Group VI UFA at the end of the season. If the Oilers play him 10 times, they’ll retain his rights and he’ll be an RFA at season’s end.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 2/16/2019 – 11:00 am MT