Four Games. Four lopsided results. The Edmonton Oilers versus Montreal Canadiens games haven’t been very competitive so far this season.
Montreal won 5-1, 3-1 and 4-0, while the Oilers won 3-0. Not only have they been one-sided, the loser didn’t show much of an offensive pulse.
— In all three of their losses the Oilers didn’t score a goal in the first or second periods. Slater Koekkoek scored with 7:01 remaining during the first meeting to ruin Carey Price’s shutout bid, while Devon Shore scored shorthanded with 2:09 to go two nights later to spoil Jake Allen’s potential goose egg. In their only victory the Oilers scored one goal in each period while Mike Smith posted a 38-save shutout.
— In 240 minutes of action both teams have been on the scoresheet at the same time for a total of 9:08. Amazing. Price made some key stops in the first meeting of the season, but he had an easy 17-shot shutout last Tuesday when the Oilers struggled to get anything going offensively. Maybe fatigue was a factor, but for three games the Habs have really contained the Oilers forwards.
— Shore and Jujhar Khaira are the only forwards with goals in four games. Koekkoek, Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie scored the other goals. The Oilers top-two lines haven’t scored once at 5×5 in four games. Jesse Puljujarvi is -5, Leon Draisaitl is -4 and Connor McDavid, Nurse and Barrie are all -3 at 5×5. The Oilers have been outscored 8-1 at 5×5 in the three losses. It is pretty clear where they’ve lost the games to Montreal and the entire team needs to be better 5×5.
— The positive for the Oilers is that after their sluggish start to the season where they went 3-6 and were outscored 21-15 at 5×5, they have improved. They are 20-8-1 in their last 29 games and outscored teams 68-58 at 5×5. They still aren’t a great team at limiting 5×5 goals, but their overall goals against of 2.62 is 10th best since January 30th. So overall they have played well defensively, but there is still room to improve 5×5.
— Since January 30th, the Oilers have allowed 76 goals overall with 58 at 5×5, one at 4×4, one at 3×3 and 16 at 4-on-5. Montreal meanwhile has allowed a league-low 38 goals at 5×5 in that span. So Montreal is clearly better defending at 5×5, yet since January 30th the Canadiens have allowed 2.66 goals/game to the Oilers’ 2.62. Montreal has allowed 20 PP goals, two at 4×4, five at 3×3, four empty net goals, and two when the opposing team had an extra attacker on the ice after pulling their goalie. It illustrates that while 5×5 play is very important, and most of the game is played there, you still need to be good in all areas to win. A goal at 5×5, shorthanded, on the powerplay or into an empty net counts the exact same on the scoreboard and non 5×5 play has been the Canadiens weakness defensively.
— The Oilers powerplay needs to be better. They are 1-of-16 against the Canadiens and they’ve allowed two shorthanded goals. The Oilers are actually -1 on the PP through four games. Their powerplay has been much better this season at not allowing shorthanded goals. Last year they allowed 10, but this season they’ve allowed two and both have been to the Canadiens. Edmonton’s powerplay is 29.5% in their other 34 games, but only 6.2% against Montreal. It might just be an anomaly, but it is one they need to change tonight.
— Edmonton needs to be focused on faceoffs tonight. Montreal is first in the NHL winning faceoffs at ES that lead to a shot on net (32%), while Edmonton is 16th at 23.4%.
— The Oilers are seventh best at generating shots from the slot off the rush, while Montreal is first at limiting shots from the slot off the rush. Will Edmonton be able to generate chances off the rush tonight, or can they generate chances off the cycle or forecheck, where they are 21st and 17th in the league respectively?
— Edmonton is one of the best teams in the league when leading after one period, but they are also one of the best when trailing after 20 minutes. They are 13-2 when leading after one period (fourth best W% in the NHL), but they are 6-9 when trailing after one, which is the second most wins in the NHL and fifth best W%. Edmonton is 4-3-1 when tied after 20 minutes for those who like to make in-game wagers. Montreal is 12-2-3 when leading after 20 minutes (21st in W%) and they are 1-5-4 when trailing (27th in W%). They are 3-2-2 when tied.
Here are both teams’ numbers when leading/trailing after two periods.
Edmonton is 16-1-1 (16th in W%) when leading. They are 3-12 when trailing, which is the 11th best W% and illustrates how rare teams overcome a deficit after 40 minutes. They are 4-1 when tied after 40 minutes.
Montreal is 14-0-1 (seventh in W%) when leading, while they are 1-7-2 (18th in W%) when trailing and they are 1-2-6 when tied after 40 minutes. If the Oilers are leading or tied after two periods tonight their chances of winning would be pretty good based on the previous results this season.
— Joakim Nygard was placed on waivers yesterday as a favour. He wants an opportunity to play. It wasn’t a trade request per se, but the organization did him a favour to see if another team would take him. It didn’t happen. Nygard will remain with the Oilers, but he is in tough to get a spot in the lineup.
— Oscar Klefbom’s surgery went well, but it will be a few months before anyone knows if he will play next season. Ken Holland is hoping to have a clear answer from the doctor and Klefbom by early July. Until then he isn’t going to worry about it, as there is nothing he can do. You can’t speed up the healing process so he has to wait, but he needs to gather as much information as he can before deciding if Klefbom will be protected in the expansion draft.
If he gets an exemption (doesn’t need to be protected in the expansion draft) from the NHL, that likely means his career is over. In 2017 there were 16 players who got exemptions and none of them played another game in the NHL. Will they know for certain Klefbom has a potentially career-ending issue by then? I doubt it. So I suspect Edmonton will have to decide if they protect him or not.
Is it worth the risk to protect him, and expose other players, if Klefbom returns but only plays one season or half a season before his arthritic shoulder starts to bother him again? That is the dilemma. The other factor is if they don’t protect him, is Seattle willing to take the risk to acquire a player who is owed $9.669 million in cash ($4.167m cap hit) over the next two seasons? I don’t have all the information and I won’t get all of it before the expansion draft, but based on previous injury history, Klefbom’s comments when he spoke to me last about just wanting to have a good quality of life, I’d lean to leaving him exposed, because I think Seattle might pass due to the remaining contract and wonder why Edmonton isn’t protecting an obvious top-three defender.
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