261
Photo Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 22.0: A Fantastic Start (8pm MT, SNW)

The Edmonton Oilers haven’t won 14 of their first 22 games to start the season in 36 years. You have to go back to October and November of 1985 when the Oilers started the season 15-4-3 (ties). That was the third best start in franchise history. They won 16 of 22 games to start the 1984/1985 season and won 18 of 22 to start the 1983/1984 season.

A victory tonight would give the Oilers their fourth most wins through 22 games in franchise history.

Edmonton is currently 13-8. Last season they were 13-6-3 in their first 22 games, and they also won 13 of their first 22 games in 2001/2002, 1986/1987 and in 1981/1982. The Oilers carried those good starts to excellent regular seasons in six of the seven times they won 13-18 games. Only the 2001/2002 season did they miss the playoffs. They finished the season 38-28-12 (ties)-4 (OTL) with 92 points, but missed the playoffs by two points.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

This good of a start usually carries a team to the playoffs, and every time they’ve won 14 or more of their first 22 they have finished near the top of the standings. A win tonight puts this team in pretty good company, and gives them an excellent foundation on which to build towards the playoffs, and possibly a long playoff run.

Right now there are no glaring weaknesses in their play. They have cut down on the amount of awful giveaways. Their powerplay is rolling. The penalty kill has tightened up. They are getting scoring from all four lines and their blueline.

They still have room to grow in their defensive game. Getting pucks out when they are six feet from the blueline is still a work in progress, but their overall competitiveness and commitment to defence is much better than it was early this season, and in previous years.

If they can continue to limit scoring chances, they should have a great chance to win tonight, because the Canucks give up too many chances every night. They look like the Oilers circa 2010-2016 and 2018-2019. It is hard to win when you are gifting the opposition great scoring chances, and Vancouver hasn’t figured out how to play sound defence. They are a fragile bunch, and Edmonton needs to feast on that again tonight.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The Oilers are the hottest team in the NHL right now, and the Canucks are the coldest. The contrast is quite clear.

TEAMS… W-L-T  GF-GA     PP%      PK%      5×5 GF-GA
EDM      10-2-0   50-32     31.7%    81.1%      34-24
VAN       2-8-2     28-45     18.9%    84.6%      19-35

 

LINEUP…

Oilers

RNH – McDavid – Puljujarvi
Kahun – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Ennis – Khaira – Archibald
P.Russell – Haas – Chiasson

Nurse – Barrie
Russell – Larsson
Jones – Bouchard

Smith

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Mike Smith gets another start. Smith was excellent in the final 40 minutes last game, and after a rough first goal he really battled back. He’s running hot, so I see why Tippett is going back to him. Ryan Rishaug asked him about going with Smith so often recently.  “We are going to play them both,” said Tippett. “I liked how he played in the third period and decided to go back with him again.”

Starting Saturday the Oilers play 18 games in 31 days, so Tippett will be using both goalies, especially in mid-to-late March when they play 10 games in 16 days. If Smith keeps playing well and winning, Tippett might ride him a bit more for the next 10 days.

Tippett spoke before the Oilers had an optional skate, and said Kyle Turris and Ethan Bear had good practices yesterday, and he will decide after the skate if they are available tonight. Bear didn’t stay out late like Turris, Shore, Nygard and Lagesson did, so we likely see him for the first time since January 30th. I wonder if we see him come in for Patrick Russell and the Oilers play seven D-men or if they go with six D. I’d take out P. Russell.

When Turris does return (not tonight), he will play on the wing. Khaira and Haas have played much better and I don’t see either losing their centre spot to Turris.

Canucks

Hoglander – Pettersson – Boeser
Pearson – Horvat – Virtanen
Miller – Sutter – Gaudette
Roussel – Beagle – MacEwen

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Edler – Schmidt
Hughes – Hamonic
Benn – Myers

Demko

Travis Green put his top lines in a blender at practice yesterday, and looks like we will see some new line combos. Jake Virtanen gets promoted to the second line, Nils Hoglander moves alongside Elias Pettersson, while JT Miller drops to the third line with Brandon Sutter. While Travis Hamonic looks to return from injury and will play alongside Quinn Hughes.

The Canucks are 2-8-2 in their last 12, and have been outscored 45-28. The coach has to try something different, because the status quo isn’t working. But will it help? Vancouver isn’t that good. They will win some games, and they could win tonight, but I just don’t think they have enough depth, or enough top-end scoring to compete. And their defensive structure hasn’t been good for two years. They give up way too many quality chances.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Canucksarmy:

  • The Reverse Retro is so very on-brand for the Canucks. It was rumoured to be this jersey even before the teasers and no one wanted it but it showed up and it has resulted in exactly the way we thought: losses, just like the original. Add the jersey the rest of the clear warnings we gave the Canucks like Tyler Myers, Erik Gudbranson, not re-signing Tyler Toffoli, signing Micheal Ferland, trading away a first-rounder when it clearly didn’t need to be traded, and I’m sure there are more but this was too depressing to continue listing off.
  • This may have been noted elsewhere but the Canucks lead the National Hockey League in HDCA with 223 events. The next closest team is… the Senators with 190. The HDGA is bad, too. Naturalstattrick.com can unearth a lot of misery if you hang around long enough.
  • Vancouver is 2-8-2 in its last 12 games. They’re averaging just over two goals per game and allowing a shade under four per, time to worry. Montreal fired their coach with a better record so this should be inexcusable. How do you continue to let a disaster like this fester? What would it take to get a shakeup? 10 goals against? Zeroing out the PP? Jamie Benn on the wing? This has to end at some point.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers complete the second consecutive two-game series sweep, as they defeat the Canucks 5-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid picks up his 12th multi-point game of the season. He’s had two or more points in 11 of 21 games so far this season.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Darnell Nurse scores his seventh goal of the season and ties Lee Fogolin Jr. for eighth on the Oilers list for goals by defencemen with 36. It is very likely that by the end of next season Nurse will be fourth all time in goals by an Oilers D-man, trailing only Paul Coffey (209), Charlie Huddy (81) and Kevin Lowe (74).

Recently by Jason Gregor: