Sports analysis is always changing and often it requires multiple different scopes and angles at the same time. General managers and coaches try to juggle looking at the big picture, while simultaneously focusing on the present.
It is why the cliché, “Don’t let the highs get too high, and the lows too low,” is very accurate. If you overreact to a few tough losses, or a few big wins, it can lead to bad decisions. Sometimes the lows can be good lessons, even if they don’t feel that way at the time. The Oilers’ recent three-game losing streak to Toronto caused quite the stir among fans and pundits. The Oilers were brutal. They weren’t in the same class as the Maple Leafs and needed more drastic changes to compete, were common suggestions.
Were they accurate or possible overreaction? Maybe a bit of both.
For those three games the Oilers weren’t as good as the Maple Leafs. Special teams, goaltending, defending and scoring were not close to Toronto’s.
But if you zoom out a bit and look at the Oilers play dating back to game on January 30th against Toronto, you’d likely have a different analysis.
Since January 30th both teams have played 17 games.
Edmonton is 12-5-0 with 24 points. Toronto is 11-4-2 with 24 points.
Edmonton scored 3.35 GF/G and allowed 2.76. Their PP was 28.9%, PK was 77.8%. They averaged 30.3 shots/game and allowed 31.6. They won 50.7% of faceoffs.
Toronto scored 3.53 GF/G and allowed 2.24. Their PP was 25%, PK was 76.3%. They averaged 30.2 shots/game and allowed 29.5. They won 50.2% of faceoffs.
Over a five-week span the differences weren’t nearly as wide as the play on the ice in their recent three games. Toronto played a nearly flawless three games, while Edmonton struggled. Toronto proceeded to lose two consecutive games to Vancouver, while the Oilers gutted out a 3-2 win over Calgary.
I’d still argue Toronto is a more consistent team today, but they aren’t that much better than the Oilers. They were for three games, and that won’t change until they meet again later this month.
Meanwhile, as we prepare to watch tonight’s matchup between the Oilers and Senators, I find we need to use the same wide lens outlook when analyzing this upcoming three game series.
Edmonton is 4-0 against Ottawa this season. They played on January 31st, February 2nd, 8th and 9th. Edmonton won by scores of 8-5, 4-2, 3-1 and 3-2. If we just glance at their season series and their current place in the standings (Oilers .577 P% and Ottawa .352 P%) we’d think Oilers should win these games, and sweep the Senators.
They could, and they do have a slight advantage tonight because Ottawa played in Calgary last night. The Senators are 0-5 in the second half of back-to-back games this season.
But dig a little and we discover that Ottawa has played much better lately.
Since January 31st, they are 0-4 against the Oilers, but 8-7 against Montreal (3-2), Calgary (3-2), Winnipeg (1-1) and Toronto (1-2) in that span. They’ve become a more competitive team. They can still struggle defensively as they allowed seven goals (March 4th) and six goals (February 27th) to Calgary, but overall they’ve become a more difficult team to play.
With games tonight, Wednesday and Friday it would be a big accomplishment to win all three for the Oilers. Winning seven consecutive games against any team is an accomplishment.
Since the 1999/2000 the Oilers have won 6+ consecutive games against the same organization only five times.
They won eight in a row over St.Louis between 2007-2009.
They won seven straight over Anaheim (2002-2004) and Arizona (2007-2009).
They won six consecutive games with Minnesota (2001-2002) and Boston (2015-2017).
Their longest active winning streak against any franchise is four: The Rangers, Blue Jackets and the Senators.
Tonight, they can extend that to five over Ottawa.
Draisaitl – McDavid – Yamamoto
Ennis – RNH – Puljujarvi
Shore – Khaira – Turris
Neal – Haas – Chiasson
Russell – Larsson
Jones – Bear
For the first time this season, Dave Tippett will start the game with Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid on the same line. It will be a short-term thing, but Tippett will give it a look for a bit. When Draisaitl and McDavid play together, they produce. They’ve scored nine goals in under 60 minutes of 5×5 time together this season. Impressive. I could see Tippett running with that line for a few games, but unless the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins lines produces a lot, I sense he’ll return to McDavid and Draisaitl on separate lines soon.
I like he is doing it now. It will add some excitement to the group, but it will also challenge the other lines to produce.
Dominik Kahun comes out tonight, and I sense he isn’t 100% healthy. Josh Archibald will miss his second consecutive game with an upper body injury.
The defence remains the same, and Tippett said this about Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones.
“We are trying to build their games,” said Tippett. “Bear has been up and down due to injuries. Jones has been up and down also. We are trying to push them to a place where we know they can get to. We are trying to get those two back to that level. I thought they were better in the second half of the Calgary game. If they can get going it makes our group much better back there.”
They do need to keep improving, as William Lagesson is close to returning and the Oilers don’t want Evan Bouchard to sit too long. So Bear and Jones need to play well to remain in the lineup, and they are both capable of being more consistent.
Mikko Koskinen starts, and I expect he and Smith will each play two games this week. I could see Koskinen going tonight, Smith Wednesday and then they split the two games Friday and Saturday.
Stutzle – Norris – Batherson
Tkachuk – Tierney – Brown
Paul – White – Dadonov
Dzingel – Peca – Watson
Chabot – Zaitsev
Reilly – Zub
Wolanin – Gudbranson
Ottawa has struggled in games played outside Ontario and Quebec. Last night was their first victory in nine starts in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. Granted six of the eight losses came before February 3rd. They have been a better team since, but it is something to watch.
Joey Daccord makes his third NHL start tonight and second this season. Last Sunday he stopped 30 of 32 shots in Montreal, but lost 2-1. Edmonton took advantage of Marcus Hogberg earlier this season, and need to do the same tonight against an inexperienced Daccord.
Matthew Peca was recalled on an emergency basis and he will play tonight. Ian Mendes mentioned he thinks Dadonov is banged up and could come out. Senators coach DJ Smith will address the media later this afternoon and he will likely address which forward is injured.
**Edit, it is Anisimov who is banged up and coming out so Peca will play on the 4th line.**
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
We’ll see what the Senators have left in the tank heading into Edmonton tonight.
It’s the first of three straight against Connor McDavid and the Oilers. Ottawa has had more than their fair share of struggles against Edmonton this season, dropping all four games.
The game plan against McDavid is simple though. Locate him and tackle him immediately. If that fails, just hope and pray.
No game day skate for the Senators today and because DJ Smith won’t meet with the media until 6:15 PM, the lineup will be a bit of a mystery until closer to game time.
Safe to assume there will be at least one change though.
Erik Brannstrom played just 5:19 last night as Jack Capuano rolled five defenceman for most of the game. The combination of that early penalty Brannstrom took and all the time Ottawa spent on the penalty kill are the likely reasons but still hard to imagine Brannstrom staying in the lineup tonight.
Could mean a chance for Christian Wolanin to draw back in.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton wins its fifth consecutive game against the Senators with a 5-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid and Draisaitl each pick up three points and someone will complain you can’t beat good teams with one line.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Turris scores his second goal of the season. Instead of a former Oiler scoring against Edmonton, the trend is reversed as Turris scores against his former team.
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