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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Game Notes Oilers @ Flames: Sutter Returns, Trades and More

In his second stint as head coach of the Calgary Flames, Daryl Sutter has made an immediate impact. The Flames are 2-0 with Sutter on the bench and his players, for two games at least, inherited his direct, no nonsense approach on the ice. They defeated Montreal 2-1 and 3-1. They allowed a season-low 18 shots against in the first game and 25 in the second.

In the eight games prior to his arrival they allowed fewer than 31 shots once. He will not tolerate loose defensive hockey, and if you combine that with the Edmonton Oilers defensive approach since February 1st, tonight’s game could be a tight checking affair.

— In their last 19 games, Edmonton has allowed 2.42 goals/game, seventh best in the NHL. They’ve had two shutouts, four times they allowed one goal and seven times they’ve allowed two. In 13 of their 19 games the opposition has scored fewer than three goals. Their puck and positional awareness has improved immensely as they are allowing 1.78 goals/game at 5×5.

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— A big reason the Oilers are winning is because their depth scorers are outscoring opponents at 5×5, and only Willy Lagesson is running a crazy high PDO.

GP TOI CF% FF% SF% SCF% GF GA GF% PDO
 Willy Lagesson 9 114:55 44.44 46.92 43.2 49.45 8 2 80.0 1.19
Alex Chiasson 16 145:28 48.83 50.54 50.0 45.05 6 2 75.0 1.06
James Neal 10 101:13 49.2 48.51 53.5 51.25 3 1 75.0 1.04
Tyler Ennis 16 202:24 46.59 48.33 47.1 44.57 9 4 69.23 1.06
Jesse Puljujarvi 18 240:00 53.66 53.35 54.1 55.75 12 6 66.67 1.04
Patrick Russell 6 65:30 54.13 58.97 57.9 48.89 2 1 66.67 1.02
Jujhar Khaira 18 189:04 47.63 47.46 46.7 45.95 9 5 64.29 1.06
Leon Draisaitl 19 303:16 53.19 53.04 52.5 52.8 19 11 63.33 1.04
Connor McDavid 19 323:46 54.55 53.86 55.9 56.43 21 13 61.76 1.02
Kris Russell 13 205:22 47.19 45.78 44.1 42.86 8 5 61.54 1.05
Tyson Barrie 19 348:01 52.95 52.01 53.8 53.52 25 16 60.98 1.03
Adam Larsson 19 322:22 48.07 50.67 47.5 49.81 12 8 60 1.04
Gaetan Haas 14 124:15 54.37 59.26 57.9 50.62 3 2 60 1.01
Darnell Nurse 19 399:19 52.76 51.93 52.5 53.47 26 19 57.78 1.02
RNH 19 260:07 52.91 52.07 50.7 56.55 13 11 54.17 1.01
Josh Archibald 15 166:52 50.00 49.78 48.5 46.67 8 7 53.33 1.02
Kailer Yamamoto 19 281:03 52.76 52.28 52.0 51.14 14 15 48.28 0.99
Evan Bouchard 12 157:49 53.97 51.5 52.9 47.1 5 6 45.45 0.98
Kyle Turris 10 94:07 43.53 40.48 40.2 45.68 4 6 40 1.00
Devin Shore 8 78:28 36.88 37.5 34.7 40.3 3 5 37.5 1.01
Dominik Kahun 14 169:37 48.94 47.91 47.5 41.04 5 11 31.25 0.94
Caleb Jones 9 114:51 55.81 59.09 60.4 54.22 1 3 25 0.94
Ethan Bear 9 122:40 50.81 51.06 49.0 48.35 2 6 25 0.93
S. Koekkoek 8 62:46 42.15 40.00 42.0 32.08 1 3 25 0.96

— Why are people still saying Barrie gives up more than he produces? It is accurate to say he had a rough first nine games, but since then he’s been excellent. He’s become a major part of the team’s success. He plays a lot and he is producing a lot and his +9 GF-GA at 5×5 is the best on the team in its last 19 games. There is no other right-shot D-man who could play as well right now. It isn’t a debate.

If you want to discuss what is the best move in the off-season, that is a separate conversation and a valid one to have then, but right now he’s playing great.

— I expect Mike Smith to get the start tonight. Koskinen was solid in Vancouver on Saturday, but Smith had two days off and he’s been excellent since returning to the lineup on February 8th. I’m curious to see which goalie starts Wednesday v. the Flames and Thursday v. the Jets. If Smith wins tonight, does Tippett stick with him, or does he want Smith for the first game against Winnipeg? With the Oilers in the midst of 10 games in 16 days they will need both goalies playing well, but there will still be some strategy to who plays when.

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— Sutter is a huge hockey fan, and while he wasn’t coaching he was still watching a lot of games, and said he’s watched the Oilers a lot. He was very direct in his assessment of Connor McDavid.

“Bottom line, he’s head and shoulders the best player in the league,” said Sutter. “I don’t think there’s one player who stops Connor McDavid. He’s a tough guy to stop. You just try to slow him down within the rules and limit his chances.”

I like how he added in within the rules, as we know players often go outside the rules to slow down the league’s best players. Former NHLer Kris Versteeg joined Frank Seravalli and me on the DFO Rundown Podcast today and Versteeg spoke at length about how the NHL needs to do a much better job enforcing the rules. It was music to my ears to hear a former player utter those words, as I’ve been beating that drum for years. Versteeg took it a step further and had some really good comments on why the league needs to change their approach. I recommend listening to him here. 

— Versteeg also told a great story about how he gave himself the nickname “The Purist” and had the announcer introduce him as Kris “The Purist” Versteeg before games. Or Kris Verbeauty. What a character.

— McDavid loves playing the Flames. He has 20 goals in 24 career games against Calgary. He also has been penalized more against the Flames than any other team with 12 minors in 24 games. He gets emotionally invested in the BOA and we should expect him heavily involved in all facets tonight.

— In their last 23 games the Ottawa Senators are 9-14. They are 0-7 against the Oilers, but 9-7 against the rest of the North. Help me understand why people are trying to downplay the Oilers wins against Ottawa? I thought the sign of a good team was that it regularly beats the teams it’s supposed to beat. While the Senators looked below average against Edmonton the past 40 days, they’ve been good against the rest of the division.

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Alex Stalock will be out of quarantine on Wednesday, but with Edmonton playing Wednesday and Thursday he won’t get in a full team practice until Friday at the earliest, and I doubt they even practice that day, as they play Saturday. If Koskinen keeps playing well, I’m not sure we will see Stalock in a game this month. He is a good depth option, but he hasn’t played a game all season, and if your goalies are playing well there is no reason to force him into a game.

James Neal didn’t play Saturday, but I sense it was cautionary from the last time he played back-to-back. I’d play him tonight against Calgary. Patrick Russell works hard, but he doesn’t have much offensive touch at the NHL level. I also didn’t like the interaction with Ryan Dzingel last Wednesday night against Ottawa. Showing a coach you are willing to go outside your comfort zone can be a big plus, but mainly Russell hasn’t shown any ability to finish at the NHL level. With Neal available and Zack Kassian getting close it is difficult to see how Russell fits in the lineup.

— Something to monitor. The NHL and the seven Canadian teams are in discussions with the Canadian government to see if they can get an exemption for the 14-day quarantine, or at least reduce it for players coming from the US via a trade, said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly on Sirius XM radio this past weekend.  It makes sense. Players in the US are getting tested daily. They would leave their city, get on a private flight and come to Canada. They wouldn’t be exposed to anyone. If this happens, it will impact the trade market.

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