The Oilers pulled off a huge win last night against the Maple Leafs and now have an opportunity for a weekend sweep with the Senators in town.
1. Last night’s game felt like a must-win. The Oilers had lost back-to-back games and owned a 3-6-0 record. With that win, they’re up to 4-6-0 with a prime opportunity on the horizon to pick up some points in the standings and climb back up the Canadian Division. The team has to capitalize on this opportunity.
2. There’s no such thing as an automatic win in the NHL bu the Ottawa Senators are as close as you’ll get to that in this division. They’re 1-6-1 through eight games and their only victory came more than two weeks ago when they shocked the Maple Leafs with a 5-3 win on opening night. Since then, it’s been nothing but losses for this rebuilding Sens squad.
3. The Canucks were in a similar spot to the Oilers last week. The team suffered a couple of lopsided losses to the Canadiens and sat with a 2-5-0 record and everybody was ready to slam the panic button. Then the Canucks hosted Ottawa for a three-game set with the Sens and racked off back-to-back-to-back victories by scores of 7-1, 5-1, and 4-1.
They carried that momentum into Winnipeg and picked up a commanding 4-1 win over the Jets. The Canucks now own a 6-5-0 record and all of that talk about the sky falling is in the rearview mirror.
4. The expectation for Edmonton in this upcoming set against Ottawa, which features a two-game set in Edmonton and a two-game set in Ottawa broken up by a Battle of Alberta in the middle, should be to win all four games. Thanks to that win against the Leafs, the Oilers can get above .500 for the first time this season by sweeping these four games against Ottawa, no matter what happens in that Calgary game in the middle.
5. As I mentioned above, the Sens haven’t won a game since Jan. 15. They won that games by a score of 5-3 and they haven’t scored more than three goals in a game since. In four of their seven losses, the Sens have managed to score just one goal. Ottawa ranks 28th in the league with 17 goals scored and one of the teams behind them, the Hurricanes, has only played five games.
6. But the Sens also shouldn’t just be taken lightly as an automatic victory, though that’s how it appears based on their record. While Ottawa has struggled mightily to score, they’ve been getting shots on goal and opportunities. The Sens rank 11th in the league in Expected Goals For per 60 minutes at even strength which is based on a combination of shot volume and quality.
The Sens scored just one goal in all three of their losses to Vancouver but they put 36, 43, and 37 shots on goal in those games.
7. It looks like Stuart Skinner is going to make his NHL debut tonight. It’s no surprise that Mikko Koskinen is getting the night off on the second leg of a back-to-back given the fact he’s played all 10 of Edmonton’s games this season and he’s faced more shots than any goalie in the league. But it’s a little bit surprising that Troy Grosenick, a guy with more experience at the professional level, isn’t the one who’s getting the nod.
8. It’s been a long time since Skinner has played a game. While many Oilers prospects went overseas back in the fall to play in Europe, Skinner didn’t find a gig, so his last game came with the Bakersfield Condors back in March before the league got shut down due to COVID-19. On the other hand, Grosenick hasn’t had much practice time after sitting in a hotel room in quarantine for two weeks.
9. If Skinner picks up a win tonight, he’ll become the first goaltender drafted and developed by the Oilers to do so since Devan Dubnyk in March of 2010.
Bryan Pitton, Olivier Roy, Tyler Bunz, Frans Tuohimaa, Samu Perhonen, Zach Nagelvoort, Miroslav Svoboda, and Dylan Wells were drafted in the years between Dubnyk and Skinner. None of them won a game at the NHL level and Bunz was the only one to appear in a game.
Dubnyk also didn’t pick up a win until his 14th appearance in the NHL. Let’s hope Skinner has better luck.
10. While the Sens are underachieving a bit offensively based on their underlying numbers, their results on the defensive side of the game are exactly what you’d expect. Ottawa ranks dead-last in the league in terms of Expected Goals Against and they sit 29th in the league with 36 goals allowed. Matt Murray and Marcus Hoberg have combined for a .861 save percentage this season.
If McDavid can make a Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl pairing look like a couple of pylons, it’ll be fun to see what he can do going up against Nikita Zaitsev and Erik Gudbranson.