Well, well, well. Good to be back on top, isn’t it?
The Edmonton Oilers briefly slipped from their spot atop the Pacific Division on Thursday and through most of the day on Friday, getting temporarily usurped by the Arizona Coyotes (2015 seems to far away!) to look down upon [most of] the rest of the West from the desert with their win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
But unfortunately for Arizona, a 2-0 regulation loss for the Coyotes on Friday night was coupled with a goaltending-dominant performance from the Oilers in their own 2-1 win to see the pair of former bottom-feeders flip in the standings for a weekend return to number one in Edmonton.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
The Oilers were both the beneficiaries of superhuman goaltending from Noted Good Finnish Boy Mikko Koskinen™ and the continued league-best power-play in the league, winning their tightly-fought matchup as much due to the goaltending as due to the special teams.
A scoreless first 10 minutes was broken up when LA’s Adrian Kempe took a holding penalty against Edmonton’s own Kris Russell, giving the Oilers a chance to show off the fact that they’ve converted on a whopping 31% of their power-play opportunities through 31 games so far this year.
Sure enough, Leon Draisaitl – who leads the team with 19 goals and 53 points not even halfway through the year – was able to score off of Drew Doughty’s skate to open things up with just over a minute left on the man advantage:
Anyone surprised to see Leon Draisaitl on the scoresheet…? 😅 pic.twitter.com/wq021KFoQ3
— NHL (@NHL) December 7, 2019
Of course, poor Chiasson was robbed of his chance to slip one in the back door behind Jonathan Quick when Doughty’s overzealous attempt at blocking the pass instead slipped the puck past his own goalie, but never fear; just a few minutes later, the team went back on the power-play and he was finally able to get a tally of his own. This time, Draisaitl passed the puck across the slot to McDavid, who then put home the centering pass that Chiasson was able to net back-door to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead with 5 minutes left to play in the first:
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) December 7, 2019
No one would figure out how to beat Jonathan Quick again for the rest of the game, but luckily the 2-0 lead gave the Oilers enough of a cushion to bring the win home. Michael Amadio would take advantage of a chippy, messy scrum in front of Koskinen midway through the third period to net a rebound and pull the Kings within one, but the lethargic Southern California team didn’t have much in them beyond that. When all was said and done, the Oilers were back on top with their 39th point in just 31 games – and ready to take a nice Saturday to relax before they face the Buffalo Sabres at home on Sunday.
THE NUMBERS STUFF
Statistically, the game was the Kings’ to lose. They outchanced the Oilers 19-15 overall at even strength and edged them out on high-danger chances 8-6, outshooting Edmonton 36-20 overall and putting up a monstrous 18-shot performance in the first 20 minutes.
They fell victim to their own season-long struggles to keep players away from Jonathan Quick’s back door, though, allowing Alex Chiasson to set up shop just behind their beleaguered veteran on two separate power-plays to give Edmonton a pair of nearly-unbeatable chances. And Edmonton was so dominant during their four-minute goal scoring stretch that all it took was Mikko Koskinen having the performance he did to defeat the struggling Kings in regulation for a happy, much-needed two point effort.
THE BEST TWEET OF THE NIGHT
This is what the Oilers want to prove to themselves they can do: lock down a 2-0 lead and defend.
It's dull, but sometimes dull wins. https://t.co/Cr64u9hi3Y
— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) December 7, 2019
The Arizona Coyotes and the Edmonton Oilers have taken starkly different paths back to the top of the division since their horrendous respective 2014-15 seasons; the Oilers have used their lottery luck (and some not-to-be-overlooked drafting smarts) to stock up with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, while the Coyotes have shored up their defense and opted for a more… well, scoring-by-committee approach.
While both teams have met with plenty of success to start the year, though, a win for Arizona on the road in Edmonton back in early November triggered a column decrying the Coyotes for ruining hockey with their boring victory.
In case anyone wasn’t sure if the correlation was unintentional, never fear:
When the team hunting you down is the Arizona Coyotes, you'd better learn how to win tight, dull games.
Oilers do just that with a 2-1 win over Kings, while 'Yotes lose 1-0 at PIT.
— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) December 7, 2019
I’m more offended that Mikko Koskinen’s performance is being lumped in with a ‘boring’ game than anything else, tbh.
The Oilers are just a single point ahead of the Coyotes, who face off against the floundering Chicago Blackhawks on the road on Sunday before returning home for a three-day homestand against Calgary, Chicago (again!), and New Jersey (who have 23 points this year).
Edmonton has an identical schedule to Arizona for the upcoming week, with games on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday as well. But their own schedule might be a bit tougher; they’ll have to get through the Carolina Hurricanes and the Toronto Maple Leafs during their own four-game stretch, although they’ve got a few gimmes of their own in Buffalo and Minnesota to help keep them in the driver’s seat.
For now, though, let’s not look too far ahead. It’s a win! And more importantly, it’s putting them back on top.