Game Notes Devils @ Oilers: An Unseen Force

It is invisible, but you can feel it pulling at you. Slowly.

You try to fight it. You dig your feet in, lean back and try not to get sucked in deeper, but because you can’t see it you don’t know when it will try to lure you back.

Some of you go willingly, not worried about the possible heartache, while others watch tentatively from the sidelines. You want to go all in, but you’ve been burned too many times.

You told yourself you wouldn’t, but here you are fighting against the magnetic field of NHL hockey.

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The Edmonton Oilers are on the brink of legitimately being in the playoff picture, and your fandom is once again toying with your emotions. Just when you thought you were out, they sucked you back in.

1. The emotional swings of sports is what makes it so captivating. Euphoria, devastation, elation and frustration often sum up your feelings within a 20-minute period of hockey, never mind an entire season. But here you are, preparing to watching tonight’s Oilers/Devils game thinking the playoffs might be a possibility.

2. The Oilers are within six points of Arizona for the final wildcard spot with a game in hand. Minnesota is five points up on the Oilers, Colorado is three and Chicago is tied with Edmonton. At minimum the Oilers need to go 9-3-1 to have a chance. It won’t be easy, but it is possible. Technically.

3. Here is the remaining schedule for the six teams battling for two playoff spots. Courtesy of Micah McCurdy @ineffectivemath on twitter.

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It is interesting to note the Oilers have four games against teams playing the second half of back-to-back games. They play back-to-back twice, but the second time Colorado is also on their second game in two nights, so the only time they enter a game with a potential fatigue disadvantage is against Vegas this Sunday.

4. Arizona is currently on pace for 87 points. I set the line to get in today at 88, thus Edmonton needing to finish, at worst, 9-3-1. If they do, then Minnesota and Arizona can do no better than 6-5-1. Colorado can’t be better than 8-4 while Chicago has to finish at 9-3-1 or worse. Edmonton will need to be excellent and have Minnesota and Arizona be average.

5. Edmonton has had three streaks this season similar to what they will need down the stretch. They went 8-2-1 between October 13th-November 3rd, then they went 9-2-2 between November 20th and December 14th and are currently on a 7-2-1 run. Continuing that will be difficult. Thanks Captain Obvious, but difficult and impossible are very different.

6. Leon Draisaitl’s point streak it up to 14 games. He has 10-13-23 in that span, but it isn’t just his point totals. He is averaging 24:02/game during that span, the most of any forward in the NHL. The laziest and most inaccurate analysis of Draisaitl’s play is the, “but he plays with McDavid,” refrain. It is laughably incorrect. Draisaitl has been unreal for the Oilers during this run, and arguably has played better than McDavid. He and McDavid are dominating whether they play together or apart.

7. I love speaking with people who have a good grasp of who they are. Alex Chiasson was talking about his season and where he thinks he is at.

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“I’m not saying I’m a top-six forward, but I think this year I’ve proved I can play in the top-nine, play on the powerplay and I can help out in a top-six role,” said Chiasson. “I can contribute offensively. In the past couple years I’ve had those opportunities at times, and I wasn’t able to capitalize. But this year right from the get go, I’ve grabbed it and did the best I could go with it. It is a boost for my career. For a guy who has been on three one-year deals, two PTOs in a row and getting close to, arguably, the best season in my career, I’m happy with how I’ve played overall.”

8. He was asked earlier in the scrum about the 20-goal mark and how he’d like to get there. I followed it up wondering if he thought he had number 20 Monday evening late in the game on the powerplay?

“I think I should be at 25 right now (laughs) with some of the opportunities I’ve had lately,” he said. “This game sometimes…at the start of the year it felt like everything I touched was going in. Lately my looks have been there, but they aren’t going in. I saw the other day with Phil Kessel, a pretty good player in this league who has scored a lot of goals, went 16 games without a goal. I’m not comparing myself to Phil Kessel at all, I’m just saying it is a tough league to score in. It is a tough league to be there every night. I think I’ve learned in my career you can’t look too far ahead.”

9. Players develop at different times, and I’ve learned it will be very humbling once you start wanting to put a ceiling on a player. Remember at the start of this season many fans and pundits claiming Draisaitl wasn’t that good. He was a byproduct of McDavid. Or how Darnell Nurse couldn’t produce offence. Draisaitl and Nurse are extremely young in their careers, and I always felt it was foolish reading people saying what they couldn’t be. I can understand why some are surprised with Chiasson. I am too. I thought maybe he’d be a 10-12 goal guy like he always has, but he said watching TJ Oshie every day really gave him a different understanding of how to score in tight. Maybe this year is an anomaly for him, but it also might be the start of a few seasons where he is a 15-17 goal scorer instead of a 12-goal man. We will see.

10. I really liked the Chiasson, Colby Cave, Tobias Rieder line. Specifically Cave and Chiasson. They created many really good chances, especially in the middle period when Cave had four shots in only 3:10 of icetime and two of those chances were right in the slot. The next step for him is he needs to bury those chances. The Oilers need that line to chip in some goals here and there, and if they do then 9-3-1 might not seem so unrealistic. Especially with the way their top players are playing.

11. Ken Hitchcock said this about the Cave line.

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“They are getting a lot of zone time that changes momentum. We were on our heels in the second period, and they had three shifts in a row where they controlled the game down low. I like the way that Cave plays. He is doing a really good job killing penalties. In the working areas, he builds momentum for us. You just wish for him, he gets a few quality chances a game, that one of those goes in.”

12. The Devils skate into Edmonton tonight decimated by injuries. Taylor Hall has only played 33 games, but his 37 points are still fourth on the Devils and only 11 behind team leader Kyle Palmieri. They are also without Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha, Brent Seney who are all in their top-nine scorers among forwards. So six of their top-nine forwards as well as Sami Vatanen and Mirco Mueller on the blueline. They gave up six goals in the third period in Calgary last night, and lost 9-4. They will be a bit fatigued and are banged up. The Devils do work hard, so Edmonton has to show up, but this is a game they have to win to stay in the race. A loss isn’t an option. And frankly this is one of the few games where you can say Edmonton has more skill top to bottom.


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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 3/13/2019 – 7:00 am MT

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  • camdog

    Ideally the Oilers bring in some skill at forward which pushes Chiasson down the line up, and the 10-12 goals would be a good number for him. If he’s getting the same type of minutes next year, (if he signs on) it’s a fail on the new GM.

  • ed from edmonton

    With the NJ crew in town I wonder if someone could ask how the Hall trade has worked out from the NJ side and what the attitude is to resigning him might be. In three years in NJ has had one super nova years sandwiched between a mediocre (by is standards) first year and a disaster of a third year. I know this year is due to injury, but 37 points is 37 points. Will the Devils make a big push summer to re-sign him?

    • WHH

      They have already said that they saved a lot of cap space to sign him. He so far has indicated he would like to stay in New Jersey. He likes the coach, the team and the fans. I would imagine some of Taylor’s decision will be based on what New Jersey does this next season in putting together a competitive team.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      All you have to do is Google the New Jersey Devils side of things in the press.
      You’ll get an idea from the media & the fanbase pretty quick…
      Early in the season, as an example, the Bruin’s Fans wanted Looch back..
      They were saying that Lucic is a reactionary type of player.
      In other words, when the fans are down on him, he doesn’t produce. If the fans are behind him, all his best qualities come to light & he becomes the player he is expected to be. The fan-base was saying that Edmonton has been toxic to Looch & back in Boston he would light it up again.

  • Rob...

    I’ve never seen the movie ‘Waiting to Exhale’, it seems to be more of a Strudwick type of movie, but the title sure describes the way this season is ending for fans of the Oil. I’ll enjoy the effort I’m seeing, and hope that it ends well.

    Out of curiosity Jason, have you inquired with MSM bigwigs to see if Chia is completely finished as far as NHL employment is concerned? I can’t imagine a talent pool ever being shallow enough for him to be considered the top candidate ever again.

    • Jason Gregor

      Why would I ask media people? I’d rather talk to management types. Hockey is a close knit business. He has many friends and if he wanted a job in scouting he could have one. But will he be a GM anytime soon. I’d be stunned based on conversations I’ve had.

      • Rob...

        It’s a touchy business and the organization may still be looking out for him. My phrasing was because I assumed it would be less harmful for those who don’t cover the Oilers so closely to dig around without ruffling feathers. It wasn’t to insinuate you couldn’t get the information first hand.

  • 99CupsofCoffey

    I remember getting some massive air time on that double purple slide on the left there when i was in high school lol. And on the other side where the ramp with the little sleds are was fun, you could hop on the water and wipe out the stack of boards at the end. Got in trouble for that though. bleh.

  • TKB2677

    I could absolutely see Minnie falling off. Koivu is out for the year. Dumba is still out.

    Then they made 2 Chia level stupid trades. Rask for Niederriter trade was just a bad, bad trade. Then they follow it up with an even dumber move. Trading a top 6 center in Grandlund for a 3rd line winger in Fiala.

  • hammer313

    I for one, not getting sucked in any longer! They are the same team that they have been for years, 3/4 of the season they play like they have never played together and then for 1/4 of the season, when others are either just waiting for the playoffs or tanking for draft position, they win some games to ruin their position. No Thanks.

  • Flint

    Looking at those schedules a few things stand out. Arizona has a super easy schedule. COL plays the “others in 4pt games” on 6 occasions, so that’s points for one or the other or both. And Dallas does 5 times.

    Chicago’s schedule is brutal and Minnesota looks in tough. I doubt those two team are part of the conversation.

    Arizona and Dallas are in real good shape in almost every way. Oilers play each once and are screwed if they lose those two games of all games.

  • toprightcorner

    I love how honest Chaisson is. Apparently he is a great guy in the room as well. Admitting you are a 3rd liner that can jump up and play some special teams is the right attitude to have. Also knowing that he has has three 1 year contracts and two PTO’s is very humbling. A player like that probably wants some security over anything else.

    The Oilers could probably give him security by signing him to a 3 year, $1 mill deal and he would take it. It is more than he has made in each of his past 3 contracts and he won’t have the stress of trying to find work.

    Chaisson is worth $1 mill all day long and even as a 4th liner, that isn’t an overpay. The worst case scenario is he is put in the minors with basically no cap implications. He should be good for 12-15 goals, maybe more, and a right shot on the 2nd PP unit and some PK work. At only 28, a 3 year contract is not too long.

    I think Chaisson takes that deal all say long.