Game Notes Red Wings @ Oilers: Ride The Wave

The Edmonton Oilers enter tonight’s game against the Detroit Red Wings in first place in the Western Conference. Who knows how long they will remain on top, so enjoy it while you can. This evening the Oilers will be gunning to start a season 7-1, or better, for only the fifth time in franchise history.

The last time the Oilers made the playoffs in 2016/2017 they started the season 7-1. Dare to dream Oilers fans, dare to dream.

1. Even with all the past great teams in Edmonton and around the NHL, a 7-1 start is still rare. In October of 1983 the Oilers started 7-0 and then dropped to 7-1. In 1985 and again in October 2016 they were also 7-1. In 1984 the Oilers started 12-0-3. They tied their opening game, won six, tied, won four, tied and then won two. So that is clearly the best start in franchise history. The Oilers won’t match that this season, but a victory tonight would give them 14 points and banking points early in a season is a big advantage.

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2. If we assume 94 points will get you a playoff spot in the west, then an Oilers victory tonight means they would need to go 37-31-6 in their final 74 games to make the post season. They won’t have to be great, just win half of their games the rest of the way and they are in. It won’t be easy, but it illustrates the benefits of a great start.

3. This is statistically the most productive seven-game stretch of Connor McDavid’s young career. He has 5-12-17 in seven games, with 16 points coming in his last six games. Prior to this stretch McDavid had produced 16 points over a seven-game span twice: From March 17th-27th, 2018 (7-9-16) and again between March 2nd-16th, 2019 (3-13-16).

4. Leon Draisaitl is also on the most productive seven-game stretch of his career with 6-9-15. And not surprisingly, they sit first and second in league scoring. The last time teammates finished 1-2 in scoring was in the lockout shortened 2013 season when Tampa Lightning teammates Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos did it. However, McDavid and Draisaitl finished second and fourth last season, so it isn’t crazy to think they could finish 1-2 this year. There are still 75 games to be played, and a lot can happen in that time. They way they are playing, it might happen.

5. The NHL has rarely seen two teammates off to such a great start. McDavid and Draisaitl became the 10th duo in NHL history to each have 15+ points through their first seven games, and the first to do it since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in October, 1995. McDavid averaged 1.48 points/game last season. If he could maintain that for the final 75 games this season he’d finish with 128 points. If Draisaitl matched last season’s point/game pace he’d finish with 111 points.

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6. The Oilers PP is lava hot, clicking along at 45.5% with 10 goals on 22 opportunities. The Boston Bruins are second at 38.1% and the Buffalo Sabres are third at 35.7%. Of course the Oilers PP% will drop as the season progresses, but how far?

7. Could they finish at 30%? It has only happened three times in NHL history since they began tracking PP% in 1977/1978. The 1978 Montreal Canadiens were 31.9%, the 1978 New York Islanders were 31.4% and the 1979 Islanders were 31.1%.

8. Last season the Tampa Bay Lightning finished at 28.2%, 10th best all time. They scored 74 goals on 262 opportunities. Had they scored 79 times they would have finished at 30%. They were very close, and they achieved 28% with a dominant first unit powerplay. Nikita Kucherov led the NHL with 48 PP points. Steven Stamkos was second overall with 40 points. Brayden Point was sixth overall with 35 points.

9. McDavid finished tied for 10th with 33 PP points last season while Draisaitl was tied for 18th with 29 points. Both are capable to challenge Kucherov and Stamkos point totals from last year. A lot would have to go right, but with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, James Neal and Oscar Klefbom the Oilers’ skill on their top unit rivals any team in the NHL.

10. The Oilers need to draw more penalties than they did last season, when they averaged 2.7 powerplays/game. This year they are 3.14/game, which is a decent increase, but the Oilers are currently 21st in PP opportunities. They are still below the league average per game. Having the puck more at 5×5, and defending less, should lead to more PP opportunities because the opposition has to defend more. They still need to draw more penalties.

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11. McDavid has been in on nine of the Oilers ten PP goals. Neal has six points, all goals, while Draisaitl has five and Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom each have four. Everyone on the top unit has been involved, which makes it very difficult for opposing teams to focus on one player. Right now, the powerplay can beat you from either side, and with multiple options. Neal and Buffalo’s Viktor Olofsson are tied for the NHL lead with 13 PP shots, while Draisaitl is tied for 10th with eight.

12. One of the reason the Oilers PP is so dominant is because of how many shots they have taken. They have 37 shots in 33:12. Only seven teams are averaging one shot/minute, and currently, the Oilers have the third highest shot volume behind only Philadelphia and Vegas. The Flyers are ahead due to their 19 PP shots against the Oilers on Wednesday. They had a total of 18 in their first four games. Edmonton’s PP success is due to their ability to move the puck around quickly, but also because they aren’t overpassing it.

13. Their shot volume at 5×5, however, is the lowest in the NHL. They have 133 shots in seven games. An average of 19 shots/game in 48:44 minutes/game. Conversely, they have allowed 24 shots/game at 5×5, which sits 13th in the NHL. They aren’t giving up a lot of shots, but they simply aren’t getting enough pucks on net.

14. The Oilers top line is firing regularly. In fact, Leon Draisaitl has taken a lot more shots/60 so far this season — 8.59/60 compared to 6.1/60 last season. Joakim Nygard has the best shot/60 rate on the team, and his injury hurts the bottom six more than some think. He had eight shots in six games. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has seven, while Zack Kassian has eight and James Neal has ten to give you a guideline for Nygard. I felt Nygard was getting better every game and was creating more. They will miss his speed and tenacity on the forecheck.

15. The bottom six has done a decent job drawing penalties this year. Markus Granlund, Tomas Jurco, Patrick Russell, Jujhar Khaira and Josh Archibald have each drawn one. Same with Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Darnell Nurse has drawn three, Draisaitl four and McDavid six.

16. The Red Wings PK is tied for 24th with an ugly 69.6%. They are perfect at home killing off all eight powerplays, but are woeful on the road at 53.3% allowing seven goals on 15 powerplays. They haven’t taken many penalties, 23, and rank 19th in times shorthanded (TS). They have really struggled on this road trip. The Canucks scored three PP goals in five chances on Tuesday, while Calgary was 2-for-5 last night. Tonight is the Red Wings‘ third game in four nights, and their PK will likely be very hesitant tonight facing an Oilers PP that is oozing confidence. Every game you want to draw penalties, but the Oilers want to mirror what Vancouver and Calgary did and get five PP chances. If they do, the PP should do the rest.

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