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GDB Game Notes: Edmonton Oilers @ Vancouver Canucks

After a disappointing loss at home to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night, the Oilers will head to Vancouver looking to rebound on the second leg of the home-and-home series.

1. Through the first two months of the season, the Oilers have yet to allow a losing streak to reach three games. They’ve lost back-to-back games on four occasions now, but haven’t let it spiral to three losses in a row. But after two lopsided losses to Colorado and Vancouver, the Oilers are at risk of seeing their first real losing streak of the season. The team earned big wins (against Washington, Columbus, and New Jersey) after their previous two-game slides this season, let’s see if they can keep that trend rolling tonight in Vancouver.

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2. You can really see the value that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins brings to the team when he isn’t in the lineup. In the three games he’s missed with that hand injury, the Oilers squeaked out a win in the shootout against Arizona and got beaten badly by Colorado and Vancouver. It becomes a lot easier to deal with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl when the Oilers don’t have a strong second punch, and without RNH, there isn’t much else in the lineup.

3. There wasn’t much to like from last night’s game. The team got off to a slow start, got hammered pretty hard in the first period, allowed a goal while on the power-play, managed to tie things in the second despite the poor start, and then let it slip away. The defence looked sloppy, Mike Smith didn’t look sharp, and the offence looked sluggish.

4. Even McDavid and Draisaitl had a rare off game. Though McDavid was involved with both of the team’s goals, they just didn’t have the same dangerous spark we’re used to seeing from them. Last night, the Oilers got out shot attempted 25 to 13 with those two on the ice. I think it’s a combination of exhaustion and Nugent-Hopkins being out of the lineup, meaning the duo is being leaned on even more than usual. McDavid and Draisaitl are routinely playing well over 20 minutes per game, which is more than any other forward in the league, so it isn’t shocking to see them have a tough game every once in a while.

5. I think RNH’s absence has also made it clear that Ken Holland needs to dive into the trade market in order to improve the top-six to give this team its best chance at making the playoffs. Earlier on in the season, I figured acquiring a winger made the most sense, but now, seeing how big of an effect RNH’s absence has had on the team, finding another centre might be the safest play. I think Ottawa’s J.G. Pageau would be a perfect fit.

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6. Here is Gregor’s latest update on the scoring of the Oilers last season compared to this year’s Oilers and the Canucks.

TEAM TOP-5 FORWARDS REST OF FORWARDS DEFENCE
2018/19 52 (114) 12 (35) 9 (46)
EDMONTON 63 (149) 15 (35) 8 (51)
VANCOUVER 48 (122) 30 (63) 9 (54)

7. Gregor added that Vancouver’s depth was the difference last night as they combined for all five goals and 10 points. The Oilers forwards were very loose in the neutral zone and allowed Vancouver to create far too many scoring chances off the rush last night. They have to be much more aware tonight.

8. Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith have both played 15 games thus far. Dave Tippett has done a great job of splitting the action of his two goaltenders. But, at this point, it might be time to ride Koskinen for a while. As great as Smith was early on in the season, he’s started to sputter as of late, cycling back and forth between good and bad starts. After last night’s game, Smith has a .907 save percentage on the season while Koskinen sits at .920.

9. Loui Eriksson picked up his first point of the season last night when he scored late in the second period to extend Vancouver’s lead. Back in the off-season, there was a lot of talk about how the Oilers could swap Milan Lucic for Eriksson in an exchange of bad contracts. Getting James Neal for Lucic instead of Eriksson was incredible. I still can’t get over that trade. Neal has 14 goals this season. I doubt Eriksson and Lucic will combine for half of that.

10. The Pacific Division is going to be a tight race the rest of the way. The Ducks seem to be falling off, so it’s starting to look like a six-horse race. The Oilers are at the top of the pack right now, but a win by Vancouver tonight would put them just three points back of Edmonton. Only five points is the difference from first to sixth place in the division at the moment. That isn’t a reason to panic or anything. We should be thrilled with where the Oilers are sitting in December. It’s just becoming more and more clear this is going to be a long fight without much room for error.

THE BLACKOUT COLLECTION

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We’ve upgraded every aspect of this year’s gear and we cannot wait for you guys to check it out! The 2019 Blackout collection is now available only at NationGear.ca.