Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Game Notes Senators @ Oilers: No Mercy

The Edmonton Oilers need to have a ruthless mentality when they face the struggling Ottawa Senators. The Oilers and their fans know all too well what it feels like to be to the NHL doormat, and how opposing teams aren’t empathetic to your plight. This is professional sports. The goal is to win, and two points against a cellar dweller are just as good as two points against the league leader.

The Senators are 0-5 on their seven-game road-trip and they’ve been outscored 30-11. No mercy needs to be the mentality tonight.

— The Senators haven’t had a lead in a game since January 19th, when they led the entire game until Winnipeg tied it with 1:17 remaining and then the Jets won in overtime. Ottawa has allowed the first goal in their last six games, and trailed 2-0 in four of those six games. Don’t give them any reason to believe. Get up on them early.

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— Senators head coach DJ Smith admitted the eight-game winless streak is taking a toll. “I think everyone is fragile at this point,” said Smith.

“You go into a season with expectations to be competitive every night and things haven’t turned our way. But one thing in the world is, not everything is easy and when it’s not, that’s when you learn the most about yourself and about your team. And as a coach, as well, you find out how resourceful you can be, how do you find a way to get out of this? It feels like you’re never going to get out of it when you’re in it, but when you do get out, you’re always better for it,” Smith said.

Edmonton needs to ensure the Senators stay in it (losing streak) for another game.

— The Oilers are tied with Washington and Vancouver for the most first period goals with 13, meanwhile Ottawa is tied with Pittsburgh for allowing the most goals in the first frame at 15. The Oilers have allowed 12, including three against Ottawa on Sunday, so early fireworks are expected.

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— There has been a lot of talk about what, or who, the Oilers are missing on the penalty kill. Is it Oscar Klefbom, Riley Sheahan, Jujhar Khaira? They might play a role, but you can make a strong case that Mike Smith is who they miss the most. Smith had the fourth best SV% on the PK last season, and Mikko Koskinen was sixth. The Oilers allowed the ninth most SA on the PK (10th most SA/60), but Smith and Koskinen were very good. The group got into a rhythm, and Smith said he had a good sense of where the shots were coming from. His absence has meant Koskinen has had to play more, and that could be a factor. Of course the killers need to be better at getting in shooting lanes more often, but you can’t overlook how good both goalies were.

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Leon Draisaitl has scored 131 points in his last 82 games, dating back to last season. In that time Connor McDavid is second with 119 points (75 GP), while Nathan MacKinnon and Artemi Panarin are tied for third with 107 points. Draisaitl hasn’t had any Hart trophy hangover, and I’d argue he is better this season due to his domination in the faceoff dot and his continued improvement in his overall defensive play. I think he and McDavid will challenge one another, in a healthy way, for not only the scoring title, but also getting ice time at key moments in games.

— The 12 goal outburst over the weekend helped the Oilers powerplay, but also their 5×5 scoring. They now have nine forwards with at least one goal at 5×5, and that is close to most of the other teams in the North. They need to continue to improve their 5×5 goal scoring, but it is very competitive within their division.

TEAM GP Fwds with 1 G Fwds with 2+ Total FWD 5×5 G D-men 5×5 G
VAN 12 11 9 29 3
MTL 9 10 5 19 4
WPG 9 10 5 18
EDM 11 9 4 16 5
TOR 10 9 4 16 1
OTT 9 8 3 13 1
CGY 8 7 2 10 1

Edmonton has scored the third most 5×5 goals overall and sit fourth in goals by forwards. Their offence is fine. The issue is limiting goals against. They are 29th in 5×5 goals against/game at 2.36. That is the main reason why Tippett wisely kept the Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto line together before the weekend. They have only been on the ice for one goal against. Line combinations aren’t solely about how much they produce offensively.

— With Ethan Bear banged up, tonight is the perfect time to play Evan Bouchard. The young blueliner needs to play, and he deserves an opportunity. He can play with either Kris Russell or Slater Koekkoek. Something to watch at morning skate today is who will be paired with Adam Larsson. He started the game with Caleb Jones, and played 6:22 together at 5×5, but he skated 8:55 with William Lagesson. In his post-game presser, Tippett mentioned he liked Lagesson’s play, so I could see him playing again tonight.

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— Under the category “How do you explain this?” Connor McDavid has 15 points in his last five games. He’s ripping up the league, and he’s done so with only four shots on goal at 5×5, including none in his past three games. He had 21 shots at 5×5 in his first six games. Imagine scoring 15 points and only firing four shots on goal in 80:19 of 5×5 time. He has six points at 5×5, one at 3×3 and eight on the PP during his hot streak.

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This is the second time in his career he’s scored 15 points in a five-game stretch. He had 6-3-3-1-2 in five games between November 14th-23rd, 2019. Those were games 6-10 during an 11-game point streak. If McDavid scores two points tonight it will be the most productive six-game stretch of his career. McDavid will look to extend his point streak to eight games tonight.

— Leon Draisaitl is also on a seven-game point streak. He has 16 overall, and he has 14 in his past five games. He had his first career six-point game on Sunday. This is the second time in his career he’s scored 14 points over five games. He had 4-2-5-2-1 between November 10th-19th, 2019. If he scores two points tonight it will be the most productive six-game stretch of his career as well.

— James Neal’s two goals on Sunday gave him 291 in his career. He is now tied with Simon Gagne and Brian Gionta for 216th all-time. He needs nine goals to become the 209th player to score 300 NHL goals. If he remains healthy he should reach that milestone this season.

Thomas Chabot will be a game-time decision. The Senators were struggling with him, but their D corps lacks much offensive punch without him. I’d guess Smith starts Matt Murray tonight. He pulled Murray after the third goal on Sunday, but I didn’t think he was at fault on any of them — it was likely a pull to try and change momentum for his team. It didn’t work. Murray needs to play better though.

In seven starts Murray is 1-4-1 with a .849Sv% and 4.82 GAA. His backup, Marcus Hogberg, has struggled just the same going 0-3-3 with a .845Sv% and a 4.71 GAA.

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