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Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

Nielson’s Notes: Oilers – Golden Knights Edition

We are closing in on the middle of March and the Oilers hosted the Golden Knights with a chance to move into first place in the Pacific. Thanks to an amazing performance from Mikko Koskinen the Oilers managed to pick up a point and increase their cushion in the race for second place in the Pacific. 

THE OLD ROPE-A-DOPE

Outside of a tip from Alex Chiasson, the Oilers failed to do ANYTHING in the first half of the hockey game. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a more lacklustre effort from this group and you can’t use McDavid’s illness as an excuse when it comes to effort.

The Oilers started to get going late in the second period and I’m going to credit some individual efforts from Zack Kassian and Josh Archibald in helping to give the group some jump.

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MIKKO KOSKINEN

What a performance from Mikko Koskinen. The last four times we’ve seen Koskinen he has been lights out. He stopped 42 of 43 against Dallas, turned aside all 10 he faced in a relief effort in Chicago, was near perfect against the Blue Jackets stopping 45 of 46 and then was amazing against Vegas blocking 45 of the 48 attempts. This has to be the best four-game stretch of his career. He’s stopped 142 of the last 147 shots he’s faced, that’s a save percentage of .965. Remarkable goaltending.

A LINE WITH AN IDENTITY

I’ll be the first one to say that I didn’t see the combination of James Neal, Jujhar Khaira and Alex Chiasson forming an effective line but Dave Tippett strikes again. As we saw on the Oilers first goal the line is a little bit of a throwback. Win a battle down low, get the puck back to the point and go to the front of the net. In today’s game, a line that doesn’t move very well isn’t likely to have success but this Khaira line is defying odds at the moment. Assuming the Oilers move on to the postseason, this could be a difference making line when the game grinds to a halt as officials refuse to call penalties. Does anyone else like Khaira more as a centre than a winger? In past seasons, I never thought this to be the case but this year he has struggled on the wing so an opportunity down the middle seems to suit him.

WHITE GLOVES

This may not be a popular take but please tell me I’m not the only one who likes the white gloves the Golden Knights roll with on the road. I’d like to see more teams mix in the white mitts, even if it’s not with the white jerseys.

ZACK KASSIAN

I thought Zack Kassian was one of the few bright spots against the Golden Knights. He was trying to be creative in the offensive zone and appears to be getting his confidence back for the first time since the suspension. I’d lock him in on McDavid’s right side the rest of the way this season. They have a number of options to play on the left side but I think Kassian is by far the best fit on Connor’s right. I’m a fan of Archibald as well but I think that Sheahan line needs him to be effective.

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PLAYOFF HYPE

Tough game against the Golden Knights for sure but this team should still be playoff bound. Here are my rankings of the Oilers playoff matchups that I’d enjoy the most:

  1. Oilers vs Flames (Please, please, please)
  2. Oilers vs Canucks (The fan hatred would be enough to fuel conversations for years)
  3. Oilers vs Vegas (A growing rivalry)
  4. Oilers vs Nashville (for the road trip)
  5. Oilers vs Winnipeg (travel issues due to lack of an airport, but still would be fun to watch)
  6. Oilers vs Avalanche (McDavid and Draisaitl vs MacKinnon)
  7. Oilers vs Dallas (A true throwback series)
  8. Oilers vs Coyotes (They’d win and the Hall debates would continue for years)
  9. Oilers vs Blues (The toughest opponent they would face)
  10. Oilers vs Wild (No thanks)

MR. 30 GOALS

Is there a really good goal scorer in the National Hockey League that flies under the radar more than Max Pacioretty? Earlier this season Pacioretty hit the 30-goal mark for the 6th time, a very impressive feat. I watched Pacioretty very closely during his time in Montreal and I’ve always wondered what he could do alongside an elite playmaking. He’s the exact type of player you’d want to see riding shotgun with McDavid, now the Oilers just need to find one of their own.

FREUT MICH, DICH KENNENZULERNEN

Correct me if I’m wrong but I do believe that means “nice to meet you” in German. After our 2 Guys and A Goalie podcast on Monday, I had a chance to meet a good portion of the visiting fans from Germany. They were a great group of guys who are just excited to have an opportunity to watch some NHL hockey. They will be here for the entire homestand so if you are going to the game on either Wednesday or Friday make sure you say hi if you bump into them, what a great crew!

Previously by Dustin Nielson: