The Oilers’ second and third leading goal scorers, Connor McDavid (30) and James Neal (19), are out with quad and ankle injuries. McDavid is also tied for second in NHL scoring with 81 points.
Nikita Kucherov, who has the most points (29) in the NHL since January 1st and is seventh in the NHL scoring, with 70 points, didn’t play in the third period due to a lower body injury and won’t play tonight. Steven Stamkos, 13th in the league with 59 points, will miss his third game with a lower body injury.
Second line centre Anthony Cirelli also left Tuesday’s game with a lower body injury and is out for tonight. He has 14 goals and 39 points so far. The Lighting blueline is missing Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta, who has played the past few months on the top pairing with Victor Hedman.
It’s like Oprah Winfrey is overseeing the NHL and declaring, “You get an injury, and you get an injury, and you get an injury!”
A week ago tonight’s contest would have featured four of the top-ten scorers in the NHL over the past two seasons, but the injury bug decided to take a massive bite out of those plans.
Leon Draisaitl will play for sure. He’s been the best player in the NHL in 2020 and is leading the league with 89 points, but Kucherov, Stamkos and McDavid are out. Too bad they are banged up, or we might have seen a highly offensive game. You still might still see some offence as the Oilers and Lighting are first and sixth respectively in goals scored/game since January 1st, but it would be a surprise to see a high scoring game with injuries to key players and the current hot streaks of both Mike Smith and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
1. Edmonton is averaging 4.00 goals/game in 2020, while the Lightning have sniped 3.42/game. The main reason Tyler Benson wasn’t played higher in the lineup is because other players are producing really good numbers right now. Inserting a rookie high in the lineup, because some fans feel he needs that slot, would be wrong. Dave Tippett slotted him exactly where he should have for his first few games on a team battling for a playoff spot.
2. In 2020 the trio of Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto has produced 27, 17 and 13 points respectively. McDavid has 17. But in 14 games Josh Archibald has 4-5-9, Riley Sheahan and Alex Chiasson each have 4-4-8 and Sam Gagner has three goals in 10 games. Prorate those numbers over a full season and those players are all producing at solid second line rates. I realize they aren’t everyday second line players, but they are producing like them right now. They are a big reason why the Oilers are 9-3-2 in 2020. Suggesting Tyler Benson should play ahead of them or Zack Kassian in the heat of a playoff race is misguided.
3. Draisaitl has 27 points in 14 games since January 1st. His 1.93 points-per-game is best in the league by a large margin. Nikita Kucherov is next at 1.53, popping 29 points in 19 games. Four of the top-five leading scorers in 2020 might be on the ice tonight. Kucherov and Draisaitl have 29 and 27, while Stamkos has 23 in 17 games and Brayden Point has 22 in 19 games. Boston’s David Pastrnak also has 22 points in 17.
4. Mike Smith was stellar in the third period against Chicago stopping all 18 shots. But that is just one part of it. The Hawks dominated that period and Smith was huge reason the Oilers won. How he wasn’t one of the three stars is baffling to me. Here are some stats illustrating how much Chicago dominated the final frame.
Offensive possession time: 3:36 to 0:49.
Shots from the slot: 11 to 1.
Scoring chances off the rush: 3 to 1.
Controlled Ozone entries: 13 to 9.
Controlled Dzone exits: 27 to 20.
Completed stretch passes: 6 to 1.
5. Smith is 8-0-2 in his last 10 starts with a .917Sv% and a 2.67 GAA. Right now, there is no question he is playing better than Koskinen who is 2-3 with a .883Sv% and 3.60 GAA in the same span. Smith is making saves, he is fighting the other goalie and last night he picked up his second assist of the season on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ game winner. How long will it last? I’m not sure, but Smith has found his groove in the second half of this season exactly like he did last year in Calgary.
6. He now has 26 appearances that count towards his bonuses (he needs to play 30 minutes in a game for it to count). He receives a $125K bonus at games 20, 25, 30 and 35. He will most likely reach the 35-game (nine more 30-minute appearances) mark which would be a total of $500K in bonuses. If he reaches 40 he will receive another $250K bonus. The Oilers have 26 games remaining, and if he plays 14 of them he will reach the 40-game mark. I don’t see him playing 19 of the 26 to reach 45 games and another $250K bonus. So it would seem he will make $750,000 in bonuses in the regular season with his 40 appearances.
7. He also has a maximum of $750K in playoff bonuses. If they make the playoffs and he has 41 regular season appearances (30 minutes) he receives $250,000. If 40 or fewer he receives $125,000. Then he can make $250,000 if he is in goal for three victories in the first round. If he is net for two of the wins he receives $125,000. And that is the same for the second and third rounds, but the maximum he can make is $750,000. His bonuses could impact the cap next year, if the Oilers go over this year, so that will play a small role in trade deadline acquisitions.
8. Tampa Bay is still a very deep team, but without Kucherov, Cirelli and Stamkos tonight becomes a much more winnable game for the Oilers. The big challenge, however, will be scoring on Vasilevskiy. He is 17-0-2 in his last 19 starts. His last regulation loss was December 14th against Washington. In his past 19 games he has a .933Sv% and a 1.97 GAA.
9. Here is the Oilers’ scoring last year compared to this season, though 56 games, as well as the Lightning’s scoring.
|TEAM||TOP-5 FORWARDS||REST OF FORWARDS||DEFENCE|
10. McDavid and Neal have combined for 49 goals and 110 points. Kucherov, Stamkos and Cirelli have 67 goals and 168 points. All are out tonight and the forward production from the remaining players on both sides slightly favours the Oilers. Edmonton’s forwards have produced 106-149-255, while Tampa’s have 98-136-234.
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