The Oilers will look to head into their extended All-Star break on a high note as they host the Arizona Coyotes in a key Pacific Division match-up.
1. This will be Edmonton’s last game before they get their annual off week, which matches up with the NHL’s All-Star break. The team has gone 4-1-1 so far in 2020 and it would be huge to pick up another win before being off for 10 days.
2. This game is also huge because it’s one of the Oilers’ eight remaining four-point games against an opponent in the big Pacific Division cluster. As of right now, the difference between first and fifth in the Pacific is two points, so doing well against Arizona, Calgary, and Vegas the rest of the way is huge.
3. The Oilers have played Arizona twice so far this season. They lost in overtime in their first meeting back in early November at home and they beat the Coyotes in the shootout a few weeks after that on the road. This afternoon’s game will be the first time they’ll face the Coyotes since they went all-in and acquired Taylor Hall.
4. How has that acquisition gone for Arizona? Through 15 games, Hall has produced six goals and 14 points. Despite that, the Coyotes have a fairly mediocre record during that span, owning a 7-7-1 record in the Hall era.
5. Digging a little deeper, the addition of Hall has done what the Coyotes had hoped, sort of. Before the trade, Arizona was relying entirely on defence and goaltending to win games. They ranked 29th in the league with 2.1 goals per 60 minutes at even strength. In the 15 games since acquiring Hall, they’ve jumped up to 2.63 goals per 60 at even strength, which ranks 14th in the league. But on the other hand, they allowed the second-fewest goals per 60 minutes before Hall, and, since adding him, they’ve allowed the fourth-most.
6. It’s fair to credit Hall for adding offence, but should we also point to him for the team’s sudden defensive woes? Arizona’s pre-Hall team save percentage was 94.09, and with Hall, it’s 90.66. Usually, I would just chalk this up to a stretch of poor goaltending, which makes some sense given Darcy Kuemper has been injured since mid-December, but it seems to be a bigger issue than that. Arizona pre-Hall was one of the best teams at suppressing high-danger chances against, allowing 9.68 per 60 minutes. With Hall? They’re one of the worst at doing so, allowing 12.12 high-danger chances per 60.
7. Is Hall that bad defensively? Can he come in and pretty much singlehandedly torpedo an elite defensive team? Looking at his on-ice numbers in relation to his teammates, that might actually be the case. Hall is slightly in the red when it comes to being on the ice for shots against compared to when he’s off the ice, but he’s deep in the red when it comes to high-danger chances. He’s still driving offence at an elite level, but he’s also giving a lot of it back, it seems.
8. Hall has fairly frequently been in the red in terms of allowing more shots and chances against than his teammates do, which isn’t all that surprising given the role he plays. A key criticism of Hall’s game when he was here was that he was poor defensively. The eye-test would indicate that was an issue, but his numbers defensively, while not great, were never that bad, and his offence more than made up for it. But now? We’re seeing the bad defensively narrative really come to life. Never in his career has Hall been bleeding high-danger chances against like he is right now with the Coyotes.
9. So, all in all, Taylor Hall has had a major effect on the Coyotes, good and bad. They wanted a play-driving force offensively, and he’s certainly added that. But, on the other hand, he’s seemingly had a massive negative impact on the team’s defensive play. To be fair, 15 games is a pretty small sample size, and Hall is still learning Arizona’s system and his new teammates, so we’ll see if this is still an issue after another 15 games.
10. Courtesy of Gregor, here is the Oilers scoring last year compared to this season, as well as the Coyotes scoring, through 48 games.
|TEAM||TOP-5 FORWARDS||REST OF FORWARDS||DEFENCE|
|2018/19||93 (204)||26 (73)||16 (81)|
|EDMONTON||97 (233)||32 (73)||14 (86)|
|ARIZONA||64 (143)||53 (133)||21 (88)|
11. Conor Garland leads the Coyotes with 16 goals. Nick Schmaltz leads them with 35 points, although Taylor Hall does have 39 in total this season, but 14 in 15 games with the Coyotes. They are 22nd in goals/for per game, but third in goals/against at 2.56.
12. One final note so this thing is entirely about Taylor Hall, a big reason for Edmonton’s strong stretch of play recently has been the team’s second line. Since recalling Kailer Yamamoto and putting him on a line with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the trio has combined for 13 goals and 15 assists. RNH is a +8, Draisaitl is a +3, and Yamamoto is a +5. I wonder how long until Edmonton’s other possible game-changer is recalled from Bakersfield. Connor McDavid needs a winger and inserting Tyler Benson into that role and him having success would mean Ken Holland could focus his deadline efforts on finding a third-line centre. How about calling up Benson and trading for J.G. Pageau? That could be huge. I think Pageau’s impact on the Oilers would be bigger than Hall’s on the Coyotes.