I love the passion of Oilers fans. Despite a rough 13-year stretch, you are still heavily invested in your team. Most of you have found a balance to enjoy the victories and critique the losses. Losing 5-2 to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night ignited some frustration within Oilersnation, which was fair, but head coach Dave Tippett was rather calm about the loss — at least publicly. He didn’t like it, of course, essentially saying two soft goals forced them to chase the game, but Tippett has remained even-keeled all season. He seemed more frustrated after the loss to San Jose earlier this year.
Tippett has turned his focus to the Los Angeles Kings, and after the Kings embarrassed the Oilers two weeks ago, you’d expect Edmonton to be highly motivated for tonight’s tilt. How the Oilers fare against Pacific Division foes will go a long way in determining their playoff aspirations. They are off to a great start within the division, with a record of 7-3-1.
1. The past seven meetings between these teams have been won by the home team, and both teams are 4-1 at home respectively over the past ten meetings. Edmonton has won seven of their past eight home games against the Kings and will look to continue that trend this evening.
2. The Oilers are 4-4 against bottom five teams and the loss to the Ottawa Senators has Oilersnation wondering if Edmonton can be a playoff team while being average against the bottom feeders. You don’t get more points for beating good teams so had the Oilers not come back to defeat Washington earlier this season, but defeated the Senators, would it matter? Optically, yes, but not in the standings. Of course the Oilers should do better against the bottom tier teams, but ultimately if they win enough games to propel them to the playoffs it won’t matter if they come against top-five teams or bottom-five teams. I think losses to teams like the Senators is more frustrating for fans, which is understandable, but regardless of how they got here Edmonton is 17-10-3 through 30 games.
3. They are 5-4-1 in their last ten, and were 5-4-1 in games #11-#20 after starting the season 7-2-1. Is it a concern? I guess it depends on what your expectations are. I picked the Oilers to make the playoffs, but I didn’t see them as a dominant team who will cruise to the postseason like Washington, Boston or St.Louis. Edmonton will have to grind it out, and I think it is important to look at how other Pacific teams are doing as well. Making the playoffs isn’t just about how the Oilers play. The other Pacific Division teams’ play, whether good or bad, will have a major impact as well.
4. I don’t expect the Anaheim Ducks or Los Angeles Kings to be in the playoff hunt, so that leaves six teams competing in the Pacific. Let’s compare their ten-game sequences to the Oilers.
Game # ARI EDM VEG VAN CGY SJ
#1-10 6-3-1 7-2-1 6-4-0 6-3-1 5-4-1 4-5-1
#11-#20 5-4-1 5-4-1 3-4-3 4-4-2 5-3-2 5-5-0
#21-#30 6-2-2 5-4-1 6-3-1 4-4-1* 4-5-1 6-3-1
Vancouver has only played 29 games, while Vegas started their fourth ten-game stretch with an OT loss to the New York Islanders last night.
5. The Coyotes and Oilers have the same amount of wins through 17 games, but the Coyotes have one more OT/SO loss. Vegas was three points back through 30 games while the Sharks and Flames are five back. It will be a tight race, and while the Oilers are only 5-4-1 in their previous ten, the rest of the division isn’t lighting it up. Vegas made up no ground over the past 20 games, and Vancouver will either have lost one, two or three points depending the outcome of their 30th games. The Flames also lost a point to the Oilers. Arizona gained three and San Jose gained one.
6. I don’t think the Oilers are dominant enough to skate away from the rest of the division, but all the teams in the Pacific have weaknesses. No team is noticeably better than the rest of the division. Edmonton was in first place from opening night until last night, but no one expected that. Because the Coyotes are now one point up on Edmonton shouldn’t be a big story. The story, in my eyes, would be more about how Edmonton managed to remain in first place for the first 63 days of the season. They could be back in first tonight with a victory. I didn’t see one media pundit, prognosticator or fan predicting a first place finish for the Oilers. Because they aren’t in first shouldn’t be a major cause for concern. Over the past 20 games, they are 10-8-2, which is probably fairly close to what they will be in their next 20. If they manage even one more win in that span then they’d be in pretty decent spot.
7. If the Oilers go 5-4-1 in each of the five remaining 10-game stretches they’d accumulate 55 points on top of the 37 they have for a total of 92. And they’d have two games remaining. Welcome to the playoff race Oilersnation. There will be many highs and lows. There will be big wins over good teams and some frustrating losses to teams low in the standings. Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster, and hopefully you enjoy the high moments more than you let the low ones irritate you.
8. The Oilers offensive production has been steady this season. In the first three 10-game sequences they scored 30, 30 and 31 goals. The issue has been goals against, as it has increased from 23 to 30 to 35. Tippett addressed that yesterday and talked about the need to refocus on their defensive responsibilities and make smart plays with the puck. Edmonton has started to turn the puck over too frequently in all three zones. Simple plays like getting the puck deep, rather than having a dump in knocked down and transitioned quickly the other way, need to become the norm again. They need a reset in their overall defensive play and their decisions with the puck.
9. Their goals against have increased significantly, and the increase is solely at even strength. Their penalty kill has remained excellent. In the first 10 games the PK allowed four goals on 34 kills (88.2%), then in the middle 10 games it allowed five goals on 32 kills (84.4%) and during the last 10 games they killed off 25 of 29 penalties (86.2%). They allowed 19 goals at EV in the first 10 games, but then 31 in the last 10. The goalies need to be better and the players need to be more responsible defensively.
10. Here is the Oilers scoring last year compared to this season, as well as the Kings scoring, through 30 games.
|TEAM||TOP-5 FORWARDS||REST OF FORWARDS||DEFENCE|
|2018/19||58 (126)||13 (39)||10 (51)|
|EDMONTON||66 (146)||16 (51)||9 (52)|
|LOS ANGELES||35 (81)||23 (64)||15 (51)|
11. Edmonton’s top-five goal scorers now includes Jujhar Khaira. He scored his sixth goal on Wednesday passing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. For this project we are separating players by goals, not value or ability. Simply it is about goal production. Khaira had no points in the first 10 games. In the middle 10 he produced 1-0-1, but in the past 10 games he has 5-0-5 and he’s only dressed in eight of them. He has earned his promotion to play with Leon Draisaitl, and when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returns I’d play Khaira with him and James Neal.
MONTH OF GIVING…
A massive thank you to everyone who participated in the Pyramid of Giving for Holiday Hamper and helped raise over $8000. Thank you.
You can bid by listening to TSN 1260 and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today. All proceeds will help out The Christmas Bureau.
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