Photo Credit: Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun

Game Notes Jets @ Oilers: Limit the Mistakes

The sky is not falling in Edmonton despite the Oilers 6-5 loss on Monday. Was it a frustrating loss for Oilersnation? You bet. Edmonton was the better team for long stretches of the game, but their arch-nemesis — shoddy-defensive-play — cost them the game.

Imagine how Dave Tippett felt watching his team toss out multiple bad turnovers, when in the previous three games they were sound defensively in victories over Ottawa and Montreal. The regular season is a constant work-in-progress. The Oilers aren’t a Cup contender like Tampa Bay, who bring their A-game most nights. Edmonton isn’t there yet, but Tippett is hoping they continue to trend in the right direction and when May hits their defensive game is more consistent.

— Edmonton is 6-2 in their last eight games. In the two losses, they allowed six goals in each game, and lost both games despite scoring four and five goals. Their offence is coming from every position in the lineup. They aren’t relying on the brilliance of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to score. That is a huge positive for this team. They’ve proven they can score enough to win, now can they find the same consistency defensively?

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— I’d go back to Mike Smith in goal tonight. I know he allowed four goals on 11 shots, but I felt only the Mason Appleton goal was weak. The other three he didn’t have much of a chance to stop. Smith isn’t going to steal you games every night. If he can win two of three starts like he has since returning, the Oilers would be thrilled. Smith isn’t as bad as his stat line showed on Monday and isn’t as good as the .985sv% he had in his first two starts, but he is capable of giving the Oilers decent minutes if the team doesn’t leak high danger chances in front of him.

— The defencemen continue to produce points. They had five assists last game and now lead the NHL with 13-29-42. That is the upside of having more puck movers in your lineup. The concern is the defensive play, although I didn’t see the defenders making bad reads or turnover that led to goals on Monday. The most egregious turnovers came from forwards.

— The biggest positive for the Oilers during this 6-2 stretch is they’ve scored 23 goals at 5×5 and Connor McDavid has none. Leon Draisaitl has two. Their scoring depth at 5×5 has been excellent, and if it continues they will win games, even if their defensive lapses continue. McDavid does have 16 points in the eight games, so it’s not like he isn’t producing, but the blueline and depth forwards have really chipped in 5×5.

— I wonder if RNH’s second goal on Monday gets him going 5×5. He only has one 5×5 goal in the past eight games. That line has created a lot, but hasn’t scored much. RNH and McDavid lead all forwards with 16 and 14 shots at 5×5 during this hot streak, but have only scored once. It is unlikely that trend continues, so when the depth scorers slow down, it would seem reasonable to expect the McDavid line to score more. They’ve outshot and out-chanced the opposition since January 30th, but it hasn’t led to many goals. I won’t be surprised to see a surge in their goal scoring.

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— McDavid can tie Sidney Crosby tonight for eighth-fastest player to score 500 points. Crosby needed 369 games to do it, and McDavid needs one point to reach 500 points in 369 games. The scary part about McDavid’s production this season, is that he’s doing it despite having a low 5×5 on-ice SH%. The only forwards with a lower on-ice SH% in the last eight games are Jesse Puljujarvi and James Neal. McDavid has been on the ice for 87 shots at 5×5 the previous eight games. RNH is second with 70. It sounds crazy to say, considering he has 16 points in the past eight games and 30 points in 17 games this season, but McDavid is due for a few “point night” games.

— Tyler Ennis got promoted to the Draisaitl line on Monday and he will start there tonight. He’s played really well since drawing back in the lineup, while Kahun only has two goals in 17 games. He will slide down and play with Khaira and Archibald. Tippett has been very patient with Kahun and the second line, but his turnover just inside the blueline on Monday led to the game-winning goal and got him demoted.

— I understand that penalty killing is important, but so too is 5×5 play. Caleb Jones should get a chance to play ahead of Koekkoek or K. Russell. Jones didn’t have a great start to the season, but Russell and Koekkoek’s numbers aren’t good enough to keep him out. I’d play Jones tonight. Ethan Bear skated yesterday and he looks close to returning as well. We might see both in the lineup tonight.

Neal Pionk really impressed me on Monday. He and McDavid had a healthy battle going all night, and he delivered a hard, clean bodycheck to Draisaitl in the third period. Pionk isn’t very big, but he’s competitive and a really good skater. Jacob Trouba got a $8m contract from the Rangers, but the Jets are getting much better bang for their buck from Pionk. I hope he and McDavid keep their rivalry going tonight.

—Pierre-Luc Dubois skated yesterday, but Jets head coach Paul Maurice wouldn’t commit to Dubois returning to the lineup. It seemed more likely Dubois might need a few more days rest before playing.

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