There is no doubt the Edmonton Oilers need to reduce their goals against and play a more consistent defensive game. I just don’t think it will happen tonight. Only twice in their past 10 meeting has the winning team scored fewer than four goals. In one of those games, neither team scored a goal, but Winnipeg won 1-0 in the shootout, and the other saw the Oilers win 3-2.
The first three games this season Edmonton lost 6-5 and 6-4 and won 4-3, while the scores in the previous 10 games have been 5-4, 5-4, 4-3, 4-2 and 5-0.
It might be unrealistic to expect a defensive battle tonight between two teams who love to skate and play a more free-wheeling style.
That doesn’t mean the Oilers can’t be make better decisions than we saw two nights ago. Turnovers by Kailer Yamamoto and Dominik Kahun led directly to goals. Kyle Turris left his man wide open in the slot. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Darnell Nurse converged on one player, leaving Mason Appleton wide open to score his fourth of the season, although that is a shot Mike Smith would have liked back.
These two teams will exchange chances tonight. Both coaches will show video focusing on how to limit chances, but I don’t see it happening tonight. Maybe they will surprise me and it will be a defensive battle, but I’m expecting a total of at least seven goals. Granted, I have an affinity for offence, so maybe I’m hoping for offence, but when these teams meet offence is usually on the menu.
Winnipeg has allowed four or more goals four times this season. Three of those games were against the Oilers. Connor Hellebuyck has allowed four and five goals in his two starts to the Oilers. In his other 10 starts this season he’s allowed a total of 22 goals and never more than three. Even a Vezina trophy-winning goalie has a hard time limiting goals when these two teams meet.
Edmonton has played 17 games, and in nine of them the combined goal total has been seven or more. They have scored 4+ goals eight times, and allowed 4+ goals eight times. They want to limit goals, and during their recent 6-2 run, they have improved in reducing goals against in their six wins, but in both their losses they allowed six. They are still a work in progress when it comes to playing consistent, sound defensive hockey, but they have shown signs of improvement recently.
Dave Tippett will want to see them play like they did in Montreal last week, but Winnipeg has a lot of skill and speed and they are hard to slow down. They’ve scored 3+ goals in 11 of their 15 games. You might need to wait another game if you are hoping to see low-scoring, tight-checking hockey.
JOIN THE CLUB…
Connor McDavid is poised to join a pretty good club. He needs one point for 500 in his career, and if he does tonight he will tie Sidney Crosby for eighth place in fewest games needed to reach 500 points.
The top-10 include some of the greatest offensive scorers the NHL has ever seen.
Wayne Gretzky: 234 games
Mario Lemieux: 287 GP
Peter Stastny: 322 GP
Mike Bossy 349 GP
Eric Lindros 352 GP
Jari Kurri 356 GP
Bryan Trottier 362 GP
McDavid currently 499 points in 368 games
Sidney Crosby: 369 GP
Alex Ovechkin: 373 GP
It is a safe bet he will pick up a point tonight. He has 26 points in 17 career games against the Jets. He’s only scored more points against Vancouver (31 in 23 games). An even better bet would be that he picks up an assist tonight, as he has 22 assists and four goals against Winnipeg. Crosby scored 1-3-4 in his 369th game to reach the 500 point mark. He finished the game with 501 points. McDavid knows 500 is within reach, and the great players have a way of having big games when chasing milestones.
McDavid will become the 492nd player in NHL history to score 500 points. He will be in the top-400 at the end of the season if he finishes the season with 91 or more points, which seems very doable.
McDavid will also become the 21st player to reach 500 points before turning 25 years of age. (Thanks to Shawn May from the Oilers for this stat.)
|PLAYER||TEAM||GP||G||A||P||BIRTH DATE||Game at 25|
|Dale Hawerchuk||Winnipeg (1979)||559||312||440||752||4/4/1963||4/3/1988|
|Pierre Turgeon||Buffalo and NYI||543||256||380||636||8/28/1969||4/13/1994|
|Jimmy Carson||Detroit, EDM and LA||518||254||259||513||7/20/1968||4/15/1993|
|Kirk Muller||New Jersey||531||180||325||505||2/8/1966||2/5/1991|
|Eddie Olczyk||ChI, TOR and WGP (1979)||546||207||297||504||8/16/1966||3/31/1991|
McDavid won’t turn 25 until next January. He has 39 more games this season, and if next season starts in October then he likely will have another 40-45 games next year. If he gets to play 80-85 games then he will become the 11th player to score 600 points before the age of 25, and join the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Dale Hawerchuk, Steve Yzerman, Pierre Turgeon, Bryan Trottier, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby, Paul Coffey and Bobby Orr. What a group of superstars.
While 500 points is a foregone conclusion, I’m curious to see how many games it takes McDavid to score his next 500 and reach 1,000 points.
Gretzky needed 234 games to score 500, but he only needed 190 to score his next 500. He reached 1,000 points in 424 games. Ridiculous.
The next quickest have been:
Mario Lemieux: 513 games (226 games from point 501 to point 1,000)
Mike Bossy: 656 games played
Peter Stastny: 682 GP
Jari Kurri: 716 GP
Guy Lafleur: 720 GP
Bryan Trottier: 726 GP
Denis Savard: 727 GP
Steve Yzerman: 737 GP
Marcel Dionne 740 GP
Phil Esposito: 745 GP
Sidney Crosby: 757 GP
Crosby needed 388 games to go from point 501 to point 1,000. He scored his 500th point in the third last game of the 2009/2010 regular season. But the next three seasons he played a total of 99 games dealing with concussion issues, and so he was 29 when he scored his 1,000th point. If McDavid stays healthy he will be younger, and considering his points/game have increased the past few seasons, I expect it will take him fewer games to go from 501-1,000 than the 369 games it took him to reach 500 points.
If he maintains his current 1.35 point/game pace, he would reach 1,000 points in game 738, which would slot him in ahead of Dionne, and just behind Yzerman. I think he has an outside chance to break into the top-five and do it in 715 games. That means he would need to score 500 points in 344 games, which is a 1.44 points/game pace. It would be a massive accomplishment to be in the top-10, but I won’t be surprised if in 2025 we are discussing him pushing to catch Kurri, Lafleur, Trottier and Savard.
RNH – McDavid – Puljujarvi
Ennis – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Kahun – Khaira – Archibald
Haas– Turris – Chiasson
Nurse – Barrie
Russell – Larsson
Koekkoek – Bouchard
The second and third defence pairs are just a guess on my part. We know William Lagesson is out with what I think is a possible wrist injury, and Russell is playing. Caleb Jones stayed late after practice working on different drills with James Neal, Devin Shore and Patrick Russell. Ethan Bear suffered a “setback” according to Dave Tippett and is not available. Admittedly, I’m perplexed why Jones is still out, but the coaches clearly feel his defensive game isn’t where they want it to be. When he gets back in he will need to play determined and desperate like Khaira and Ennis have. Play so well the coach can’t take you out.
Gaetan Haas is likely back in as well. He left the skate early, while the three extra forwards stayed late. I could see possibly pushing Turris to the wing.
We could see Kahun and Ennis swap lines, but they didn’t do any line rushes today so it is hard to know for sure.
Copp – Scheifele – Wheeler
Connor – Statsny – Ehlers
Perreault – Lowry – Appleton
Vesalainen – Harkins – Lewis
Poolman – Morrissey
Forbort – Pionk
Beaulieu – Demelo
The Jets will run with the same lineup as Monday. Fun stat of the day: In two games against the Oilers this season, Hellebuyck has a .873sv% and 4.50 GAA, but he’s won both games. In his other 10 starts he has a .927sv% and 2.23 GAA. Edmonton has found ways to score on him, but can they limit the Jets chances?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Considering forward Connor McDavid currently leads the league in scoring with 30 points, not too many teams have had much success in slowing him down so far this season, but that’s exactly what defenseman Neal Pionk was asked to accomplish on Monday night at Rogers Place. Even though it was an extremely tough assignment, the 25-year-old did an excellent job at knocking the Oilers’ captain off the puck and keeping him out of the middle of the ice.
While McDavid was still able to generate one assist and six shots on net, he was held to just a 0.25 xG and only one high-danger scoring chance during five-on-five situations. But since it’s very difficult to contain the superstar center for an extended period of time, it’ll be very interesting to see if Pionk can help hold him in check throughout Wednesday night’s showdown.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers even up the season series at two wins apiece as they skate to a 5-3 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hello 500 points. McDavid scores three points for the 59th time in his career and fourth time against the Jets.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Chiasson remains hot scoring his third goal in two games.
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