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Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers Through 80 Percent: Three Up, Three Down

The Edmonton Oilers are through 80 percent of their games in the 2019-20 season. Their 36-23-8 record is very solid and leaves them on track to make the playoffs for the second time in 14 years. I last wrote about which Oilers were trending up or down at the 40-percent mark. Let’s check in which Oilers are trending up and down after 80-percent, or 67 games.

Three Up ⬆ ⬆ ⬆

RNH-Drai-Yamamoto

In nearly 300 five-on-five minutes, the Nugent-Hopkins-Draisaitl-Yamamoto line has a 52-percent Corsi and outscored teams 25-8. The Oilers get 75-percent of the goals with that trio on the ice. That will probably level out eventually, but for now, they’ve been one of the hottest lines in hockey. The Oilers finally have a second line opposing coaches worry about for the first time in Connor McDavid’s career.

Mike Smith

Month SV%
October 8GP – .919
November 7GP – .895
December 5GP – .828
January 7GP – .920
February 9GP – .916
March 1GP – .910

Smith’s save percentage splits by month are really interesting. Smith started the season as well as anyone could have hoped in October. However, his November and December were as poor as anyone could have expected. Smith looked well on his way out of the league in those months closing out 2019, but he’s had a resurgent 2020 and looks like the Oilers’ number-one goaltender down the stretch.

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Caleb Jones

When Oscar Klefbom went down with a shoulder injury, someone had to step up and play more minutes. Jones has taken on that role, with Adam Larsson to his right, and done very well in an increased role. I’m a huge Jones guy and his past few games show why. He skates and moves the puck better than most of the Oilers defence. He’s playing over 20 minutes a game in Klefbom’s absence and looking like a player who needs more ice time even when Klefbom returns.

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Three Down ⬇ ⬇ ⬇

Injuries

McDavid going down with an injury is the worst possible situation. It’s bad for the Oilers and it’s bad for hockey. Thankfully, he only missed a handful of games. But then Klefbom gets hurt also. James Neal was on injured reserve for what felt like forever. Joakim Nygard is a useful forward with speed, also gone for a significant amount of time. Kris Russell was dealing with concussion issues. Zack Kassian wasn’t injured, but his poor decision making left him out of the lineup as well. The Oilers acquire Mike Green then he promptly gets hurt. Of course.

Zack Kassian

Kassian got a nice extension at the end of January, followed by a seven-game suspension for trying to kick a Tame Bay player. Kassian’s a useful player, but I’m not of the mindset to give him four years or $3.2-million a season. Your mileage may vary. Kassian has four points in his last 15 games. In his last 20 games, he has two goals. It’s safe to say Ken Holland probably could have waited until free agency and circled back to Kassian after he tested the market. Again, Kassian’s a solid player, but in a cap world you have to squeeze some guys and depth players are prime targets. Kassian’s production was, and is, extremely linked with playing beside McDavid. Tippett now has Kassian on the third line with Riley Sheahan and Andreas Athanasiou. A $3.2-million player on the third line isn’t a huge deal, but one that doesn’t play either special teams makes things a little tougher. The Oilers obviously love Kassian’s size and speed, I’m sure all his teammates love him too, but seeing a guy like Tyler Ennis produce beside McDavid in the early days of his Oiler career has to give Holland some buyer’s remorse on the Kassian contract.

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Jujhar Khaira

If one of your fourth-line players is the biggest concern, you’re sitting in a good position. Khaira just hasn’t been good this season. The Oilers were likely hoping for a return to his 11-goal performance in 2017-18, but he’s providing very little offence in 2019-20 instead. Edmonton gets outshot with Khaira on the ice and outscored 34-12 five-on-five. 34-12. Khaira plays over a minute and a half on the penalty kill a game, but at some point, you have to ask if his even-strength play is worth his penalty-killing abilities.

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