This is the Oilers Morning Report, a stats-heavy, opinion-based review of the previous night’s game. We’ve all read the wrap-ups, watched the highlights, and digested the game. Whether it’s gazing to the heavens, begging the Hockey Gods for answers as to why the Edmonton Oilers lost, or looking for more content to bask in the glory of another Oilers victory, that’s what this is here for.
Here is the review for the @Edmonton Oilers vs. Winnipeg Jets on Saturday 29 February.
The Oilers started off with strong 5v5 possession play to start the game, dominating the Jets all the way through a powerplay.
Caleb Jones and Adam Larsson had another strong game together, finishing with a xGF% close to 80.00 and a CF% close to 74.00. In Kris Russell’s first game back from concussion issues, you hope he’s alright as far as his longterm health is concerned, but he struggled in this game, finishing with a 38.10 CF%, 27.27 SCF%, and a 36.46 xGF%. Jones has played so well in the absence of Oscar Klefbom, so one has to believe that once the Oilers’ best defenseman returns that Jones will remain on the third pairing and Russell remaining as the seventh man.
But as far as forwards went, by the end of the game only five finished with a better possession game, with Riley Sheahan leading the way with a 73.42 xGF%, followed by Patrick Russell (68.93), Josh Archibald (59.74), and Zack Kassian (50.63), and Andreas Athanasiou (51.70).
Coming into this game, the Oilers desperately needed to get back on track after only picking up 1 point in back-to-back points against divisional rivals; the recent piling up of injuries certainly hasn’t help, either.
The Oilers came out strong to start the game, with Draisaitl earning his 100th point early into the first period on the Oilers’ first powerplay opportunity. The Oilers top-ranked home powerplay (32.4%) got back on track after a recent scoring drought, really since the injury to James Neal, but they went 2/2 in a game that slipped away from them at 5v5 as the game wore on; the home penalty kill also went 2/2, continuing to improve it, lifting it to 19th (after it was once as long as 29th).
The Oilers are dealing with so many injuries right now, and caught a bit of a break against the Jets, who are also dealing with injuries to many of their key players, but still managed to get killed at 5v5, which is something that needs be shored up if they intend on stringing together some wins down the stretch. Kassian was serviceable in spot duty on the second line Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but a return of a healthy Kailer Yamamoto will help remedy some of the 5v5 offensive struggles.
Smith can be a heart attack to watch sometimes, as he has a tendency to flop on his stomach almost immediately when he feels pressure from a rush, exposing the entire top half of the net and relying on scorpion-style saves to prevent goals. But he makes timely saves, and in a game where he was the busier goaltender in terms of shot volume, he stopped 6 of 7 High Danger chances and was a rock when the Jets took a quick lead in the second period and continued to push at the end of the second period.
Heath is the greatest gift the Oilers could get as they head into the last month of the regular season.
On to Nashville.