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Photo Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The Day After: Keeping up the momentum

Welcome to the day after where we dive into what’s happening with the Oilers the day after a game. 

The Edmonton Oilers have something going in their favour right now — momentum.

They got off to a slow start this year, but in the past seven or eight games, they’ve begun to turn things around. Sure, some of that is in thanks to four wins against the Ottawa Senators in the last nine days, but it’s also due to another thing: how good the Edmonton Oilers are playing as a whole.

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Last night’s game was far from perfect, but Mikko Koskinen bailed the Oilers out and gave them key saves when they needed him to. Not only that, but the Oilers got depth scoring like they haven’t for quite some time.

“I think they pushed hard in the third. There were some plays we could’ve made better decisions on, a little more poise with the puck,” said head coach Dave Tippett after the game. “We said all along the second game after you win the first one is the hardest to win.

“The team is going to push hard and try to avenge their loss. I like the way we hung around. We scored timely goals, we had timely saves and we found a way to get two points.”

And the Oilers are starting to do it without their biggest stars. Last night’s win was the first time the Oilers won a game where Connor McDavid and Leon Draisiatl didn’t score a point since October 2017. It’s a surprising stat, but it shows how important they are.

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Last night, the Oilers three goals all came from defencemen — Darnell Nurse, Evan Bouchard and Tyson Barrie — with assists coming from Josh Archibald, Jujhar Khaira, Alex Chiasson and Devin Shore: all players in the bottom-six. It’s a contributing factor to why the Oilers were able to come out of Ottawa with two wins.

“You’re looking for balanced scoring all the way through (the lineup),” said Tippett. “Obviously, Connor and Leon take a big chunk of it, but if we can have secondary scoring whether it’s the second two lines or our d, that’s a huge help.

“That’s the tale of the tape tonight — our defence comes through with big goals and we found a way to win.”

Now, the Oilers need to find a way to win some more games, but against tougher opponents. Edmonton pays a visit to the Montreal Canadiens, one of the top teams in the North, in what will be a true test for the Oilers.

When Edmonton lost their first two meetings against the Habs earlier and struggled mightily. It’s a ship they’ll look to right Thursday, before a two-game homestand against the Winnipeg Jets.

Backhanders…

  • Tyson Barrie has really come into his own with the Oilers and is now up to 11 points in 15 games with eight points in his last six games. He, and the players around him, are looking more and more comfortable out there every night.
  • After last night’s game, the Oilers now have the second-most points scored by defencemen in the NHL. The last time the Oilers weren’t in the bottom third in the league in that stat? 2008-09 when the backend featured the likes of Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov, Sheldon Souray and Lubomir Visnovsky.
  • My guess (and that’s all it really is) is that the Oilers will go back to Mike Smith on Thursday against Montreal, and I could see them going back and forth between them for a while.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]

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