The Edmonton Oilers allowed five goals in each of their mini-series opening games against Vancouver and Montreal. They were outscored 10-4 and made some egregious defensive decisions with and without the puck to allow many “easy” goals against.
That trend needs to stop tonight when they play their first road game in 321 days. Their final three regular season games of 2020 were at home, then they played five bubble games (one pre-playoff against Calgary and four v. Chicago in the play-in round) and they started this season with four home games.
Their first road game should be a welcome change of scenery for this team, and Dave Tippett is hopeful it will lead to a more consistent effort.
Tippett elected to stick with the forward lines.
“There are parts of the game that I didn’t mind, so we will give it one more shot,” he said.
It has only been four games, with no preseason, so I understand why he is being patient. I also can see those saying he needs to make a change. In three of the four games, the Oilers haven’t produced much 5-on-5.
However, in their four games, they have seven goals at 5×5. The Toronto Maple Leafs have six. But Toronto is 3-1 while the Oilers are 1-3. The Oilers have been outscored 11-7 at 5×5, while Toronto has been outscored 8-6.
The difference is on special teams, or 4×4, where Toronto has outscored teams 8-4, while Edmonton has been outscored 4-3. So Edmonton has been outscored 15-10, while Toronto is outscoring their opponents 14-12.
We focus a lot on 5×5 play, and it is important, but so too are special teams and the Oilers PP is killing them because they’ve only scored a PP goal in one game, and allowed a shorthanded goal in two games. The Oilers are even on the PP in GF-GA. Ugh.
Tippett has opted for patience at 5×5. He has faith his top two lines will start scoring, and that is a good bet. The issue is: Can his bottom six either start chipping in offensively, or stop getting outscored?
I wrote in the Game Notes that if Tippett changed his top two lines, that I’d place Nugent-Hopkins with Draisaitl and have McDavid on his own line, rather than McDavid with Draisaitl. But I also said I could see why Tippett won’t make a change. Those lines will score. They have enough skill that they will, regardless of the combinations.
But I probably should focus more on the bottom six and how they can improve. Kyle Turris and Jesse Puljujarvi have been outscored 4-0 at 5×5. Three goals came while they were on the ice together, and the others came when Puljujarvi was with McDavid and RNH, while Turris was with Ennis and Archibald.
My concern with Puljujarvi through four games is his ability to finish. He is skating great. He is the right position, but he has whiffed on shots or completely fanned. While he has nine shots on goal at 5×5, none have been overly dangerous and a few he whiffed on and rolled harmlessly into the goalie. He is making better plays on the boards, he is using his big frame well to shield the puck, and there are many positives, but he needs to handle the puck better. When that happens, he will be much more of an on-ice factor, rather than just a statistical factor.
I like the move to put Nygard with him and Turris — speed on both wings and Turris is a smart player. They just need to make more plays in the offensive zone. They haven’t made many glaring defensive errors, so the four GA is a bit misleading from my vantage point.
The Archibald-Shore-Chiasson line started last game quite well, but then the OIlers had almost six minutes in powerplay time and they didn’t see the ice. Shore has been an upgrade over Khaira. The goal against last game wasn’t even a scoring chance. Koskinen needs to stop the Romanov shot. I put zero blame on them for the goal against. They need to grind out some offensive zone time. Shore has helped in the faceoff dot as he is 8-8 at 5×5.
One positive for the Oilers at 5×5 through four games has been their faceoffs. Draisaitl is 59%, McDavid 54.7%, Turris 53.3% and Shore at 50%. Now they need to turn that into more scoring chances and goals. Draisaitl has been very good on the PP as well, going 17-7 (70.8%), while McDavid won the only draw he took. Shore has been perfect on the PK winning all five of his draws, while Draisaitl is 50% (2-2) and Turris is 3-7 (30%). Shore chipping in with a SH goal helps even more.
RNH – McDavid – Kassian
Kahun – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Nygard – Turris – Puljujarvi
Archibald – Shore – Chiasson
Nurse – Bear
Russell – Barrie
Koekkoek – Larsson
Ethan Bear draws back in and William Lagesson comes out. Lagesson didn’t do much to change my opinion of him. He battles hard, but isn’t quick enough and doesn’t move the puck well enough to be a regular. I still question the organization’s decision to expose Anton Forsberg to waivers over Lagesson. I realized Lagesson got the Oilers $25K closer to cap so they could use more of LTIR space, but I don’t think that was enough to warrant exposing Forsberg. And I said that prior to the Smith injury. Lagesson is number eight on the active roster, but I’d have Evan Bouchard ranked ahead of him as well, so he’d be ninth.
“Our powerplay has been together for a long time and it has had lots of success. It has also had a few lulls where we weren’t as focused as we need to be. Our goals come from shooting quickly, and we have had a few good looks, but didn’t get the bounces,” said McDavid about the Oilers powerplay.
“It is a bit different, but they’re such talented guys they can put the puck wherever they want. I think it is a good look for us and gives us a few more one-timer opportunities. We haven’t had much conversations (about being a righty instead of a lefty), we are just trying to feel each other out and I think we will get clicking,” said Tyson Barrie regarding the Oilers PP.
I won’t be surprised at all when Oilers score on PP tonight.
The Oilers have had 18 powerplays through four games. They are getting 4.5 PP/game which is a big jump from the 2.68 they have averaged over the previous three seasons. If they can keep drawing penalties their PP will become a big difference maker.
McDavid has drawn three penalties, Bear and Yamamoto two and Koekkoek, Draisaitl, Nurse, Turris, Nygard and Chiasson have drawn one. Nygard has now drawn 10 penalties in 34 NHL games.
Thornton – Matthews – Marner
Vesey – Tavares – Nylander
Mikheyev – Kerfoot – Hyman
Lehkonen – Spezza – Simmonds
Reilly – Brodie
Muzzin – Hole
Dermott – Bogosian
Leon Draisaitl doesn’t have a goal yet this season, and Auston Matthews has none at 5×5. He does have a powerplay goal though. These are two of the best goal scorers in the league. Draisaitl has the second most goals (93) in the NHL the past two seasons, while Matthews is fourth with 84. Matthews has the second most 5×5 goals (53) and Draisaitl is third with 50. Both of them will start scoring more very soon.
The Leafs haven’t been as bad as the Oilers 5×5, but they’ve been outscored 8-6. Their top four is not as good as Montreal’s, and I expect the Oilers top-two lines to generate more chances, but the Oilers bottom six needs to win the battle against the Leafs’ bottom half of the lineup and third pairing. They can’t keep getting outscored by opponents.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The Leafs are blessed to be facing the Oilers for the next couple of games. The Edmonton blueline is a mess, even more than usual, and if there is one team that understands the limitations of Tyson Barrie, it’s the Leafs. Throw in the fact that the Oilers have no goaltending option other than Mikko Koskinen at this point, and this looks as ideal a situation as you’ll get for facing Connor McDavid. Of course, it’s when signs point to being able to take opposition lightly, that is when the Leafs are most likely to not show up at all.
Toronto has had two encouraging outings this year that point to this season being different. Opening night the Leafs came back with a strong effort to tie the game and beat Montreal in overtime. Last night the Leafs chose to dominate a weakened opponent, and not let up. If we see more of these performances, and less of what we saw in Ottawa, the Leafs might be ready to be top team in the NHL for real.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: My head says the Oilers woes continue, but I’m going with a hunch that McDavid and RNH reward their coach by sticking with them and score some timely 5×5 goals. Edmonton wins 5-4.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid, Matthews and Draisaitl all score a goal.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers get a goal from their bottom six.
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