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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Monday Musings: Oilers Refuse to Lose

The Edmonton Oilers are one of only two teams who have yet to have a winless streak of more than two games. The New York Islanders are the other. Due to the NHL’s loser point we focus on winless streaks instead of losing streaks. A team can lose three games in a row, but if one is in OT/SO then they get a point and the NHL official wording is a winless streak.

Top teams like the @Washington Capitals and St. Louis Blues have “lost” three in a row, but two of them were in OT/SO so they still got points. Regardless of the wording or point system, the Oilers have found ways to stop a losing streak before it really starts. A very strong third period in Vancouver last night gave Edmonton their first win of December, kept them seven points ahead of the Canucks, and halted any talk of them hitting the skids.

They’ve done that repeatedly this season. They’ve lost two games in a row twice this season and another two times they have gone winless in two (0-1-1), but each time they rebounded with a win.

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After consecutive shutout losses (one in a shootout) to Winnipeg and Minnesota they defeated the Washington Capitals.

After losses to Detroit and Florida, then went into Columbus and dominated the Blue Jackets 4-1.

After an OT loss to Arizona and a loss to St.Louis, the Oilers shutout the Devils 4-0.

And after disappointing losses to Colorado and Vancouver the Oilers rebounded with a come-from-behind victory in Vancouver last night.

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It is difficult for many pundits, and even some fans, to look at the Oilers and not think of years past. I get it. Many people have a hard time letting go of the past. It is human nature, but this Oilers team is different. They are more skilled. They are more assertive and they have shown a mental toughness to not fold or give away games that has been missing for years.

SPECIAL TEAMS…

Nov 24, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (center) celebrates with teammates Connor McDavid (97) and Leon Draisaitl (29) after defeating the Arizona Coyotes in overtime at Gila River Arena.

When they have a bad game, or even two, they don’t let the bad habits take over their game. They find their comfort zone and play solid, smart hockey. And they dominate on special teams.

Their special teams have been remarkably consistent. Their powerplay has been beyond good at 32.5% and their PK is second best in the NHL at 87.5%.

In their first 10 games their PP was 10-for-28, then 6-for-29 in the next 10 games and 10-for-23 in their last nine games.

The PK killed off 29 of 33 in their first 10 games, then killed off 27 of 32 over the next 10 games, and have killed off 19 of 22 over the past nine days.

People have been waiting for their special teams to falter, but in fact their past nine games they have actually improved their special teams, which is crazy considering how solid they’ve been all season.

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They could drop a few percent, but I don’t see why their PK or PP will suddenly crater.

DEPTH SCORING…

After a woeful October, the Oilers depth scorers have shown up. They have scored 14 goals in the past 15 games. If they can average one goal per game, they will be right at the NHL average. More importantly, they have outscored teams at 5×5 since November 1st. That is massive. They don’t produce a large amount of offence, but if they can continue to limit the opposition then Dave Tippett can live with the average offensive production.

Scorers Score…

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl continue to produce. They lead the NHL in scoring with 51 and 50 points respectively. Last night they became only the sixth and seventh players in the past 25 years to score 50 points in their team’s first 29 games (or fewer).  Mario Lemieux (18 games), Jaromir Jagr (24 games) and Ron Francis (28 games) all did it with Pittsburgh in 1995/1996. Lemieux did it again (24 games) in 2002/2003, while Jagr did it in 28 games in 1999/2000. Peter Forsberg also did it twice, producing 50 points in 28 games in 2005/2006 and 50 in 29 games in 1995/1996. And Sidney Crosby had 50 points in 28 games in 2006/2007.

In case you are wondering:

Lemieux finished with 69-92-161 in 70 games in 1996 and 28-63-91 in 67 games in 2003.

Jagr had 62-87-149 in 82 games in 1996 and 42-54-96 in 63 games in 2000.

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Crosby ended the season with 36-84-120 in 79 games in 2007.

Francis finished with 27-92-119 in 77 games in 1996.

Forsberg produced 30-86-116 in 82 games in 1996 and finished with 19-56-75 in 60 games in 2006.

McDavid is on pace for 144 points while Draisaitl is on pace for 141. As we saw from the other five players, their final point totals ranged from 75-161 points, so it is difficult to project what will happen, but it will be exciting to see what occurs. McDavid had 23 points (10 on PP) in his first 14 games in October and he scored 28 (12 on the PP) in the 15 games since November 1st. Draisaitl had 25 points (seven on PP) in his first 14 games and 25 (11 on PP) in the past 15 games. Both have been very consistent.

Koskinen Plays More Games?

With Mike Smith battling a leg injury I expect Mikko Koskinen to start three games in a row for the first time this season. He played last night and improved to 10-2-2. Of the 30 goalies with at least 14 starts, Koskinen is tied with Freddie Anderson for sixth in Sv% at .921. He has been consistent regardless of game situation, with a .922Sv% at EV and .918Sv% on the PK.

Unless Smith is out for an extended period of time, I see no reason to overplay Koskinen long-term, and I think Dave Tippett and goalie coach Dustin Schwartz will be leery of that, but I’d let Smith get 100% healthy before starting him. With two days off until Wednesday’s game and then a day off between games on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday, now would be a good time to let Koskinen start three or four in a row. He’s earned it and it can give Smith some extra time to heal.

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MONTH OF GIVING

Our eighth annual Month of Giving begins today. Every weekday from today through to Friday, December 21st, we will be auctioning off a package on my TSN 1260 radio show with all the proceeds going to various charities including Santas Anonymous, Operation Friendship Senior Society, The Christmas Bureau, The Mayfield Rotary Club, Holiday Hamper Program, The MS Society and Adopt-A-Teen.

We will have a new package every day, and you can see all the packages for the month at Jasongregor.com so you can plan ahead and make sure you don’t miss out on a package.

Day #1

We have an awesome package from the Glendale Golf and Country Club.

RESTRICTED ASSOCIATE MEMBERSHIP

  • An Associate Membership for the 2020 golf season at the GLENDALE.
  • Immediate family (spouse and all your children) become Social Members at no additional charge (full use of the Pool and Clubhouse). The outdoor pool is awesome.
  • The Restricted Associate option allows regular access to the tee during weekdays, but is “restricted” to after noon on weekends.

You can bid by calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.

Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out The Christmas Bureau.

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