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Photo Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Day After: Contributions from all the right places

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

The Edmonton Oilers had a tough test last night in a good Montreal Canadiens team that dominated them early this season.

And last night, they showed they wanted revenge with a solid 3-0 victory. From the puck drop the Oilers were the better team controlling play well in all three zones. It’s about as big of a win as you could get for the Oilers at this time of the season, doubly so considering they had four wins against a bad Ottawa Senators team in their last five games.

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It’s one the teams can hang their hat on. When you adjust for score effects, the Oilers hung in and had a better CF% and xGF% by the end of the day at 5×5.

“The trip was pretty good,” said Dave Tippett of an Oilers road trip that saw them secure three out of four wins. “The Calgary game there was some positive things to take out of it, the two games in ottawa we battled. There’s a lot of people contributing right now and we’re finding ways to win games.”

The win against the Habs, according to hockeyviz.com, shot the Oilers playoff chances from 51 percent up to 57 percent.

A big part of what’s going good for the Oilers? Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have been quiet.

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Edmonton’s bottom-six is playing better hockey led by Jujhar Khaira, Josh Archibald and Tyler Ennis on a new-look third line. They’re scoring goals and are doing the right things on the ice. They got rewarded by head coach Dave Tippett by getting the start, and they turned around and scored the first goal of the game.

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“We wanted to start with a real working mindset tonight and that’s why we started that line,” said Tippett. “They’ve been pretty good, they deserved that and they played another strong game for us.”

The Oilers defence, too, has been playing much better. Evan Bouchard and William Lagesson getting regular shifts has been a big help in my eyes, too. They’re looking really good.

“He plays hard. It’s not pretty all the time,” said Tippett of Lagesson’s play, “but he plays hard and he’s hard to play against.

“In front of the net, you need people who are going to do that. I give him credit, he’s out there battling all the time. He’s giving us some quality minutes.”

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The Oilers have some COVID-19 concerns that could impact the team moving forward. Jesse Puljujarvi was added to the NHL’s COVID protocol list yesterday and missed the game, and Mikko Koskinen was held out of the game for precautionary reasons.

Puljujarvi’s addition to the list marked only the second time a Canadian Division player has been added to the protocol list since the season started (Tucker Poolman for the Jets was first) and it’s a bit of a concern for the Oilers moving forward. Puljujarvi will miss some time, and while Koskinen was held out of the game, he wasn’t officially added to the list.

We all know how viral COVID-19 is and we’ve seen by looking south of the border how quickly it can spread through NHL teams. At the time of writing, four teams have over five players on the protocol list with the New Jersey Devils leading the way with 18 (!) players on the list. It’s led to multiple game postponements and we have to hope that doesn’t happen here.

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These next couple days as the Oilers prepare for a home game Monday against the Winnipeg Jets should provide some more clarity, but let’s hope that the virus isn’t making its way around the Oilers.

Backhanders…

  • Mike Smith was rock solid for the Oilers last night. He made a big save on the first shot of the game — a Montreal breakaway — keeping the Oilers in the game from the get-go. He now leads the league in save percentage with two great games this week.
  • The Oilers defencemen are really activating and getting into the game offensively. The Oilers currently lead the league in goals by defencemen and that, too, is a big part of the team’s recent success. They’ve needed it for years, and it’s finally happening.
  • I’m curious to see what happens with Caleb Jones moving forward. He was really good for the Oilers last year but has struggled to get into the lineup much of this season. I’d imagine he’s going to get a game or two sooner rather than later.

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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