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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 44.0: Oilers Look To Extend Home Winning Streak (7pm MT, SNW)

The Edmonton Oilers haven’t lost a home game since March 3rd. After a slow start, where they went 1-4, Edmonton has won 12 of their 16 home games including seven in a row. They’ve only won eight consecutive home games three times in franchise history: From January 19th-February 22nd, 1985, then February 24th to April 2, 1986, and they set the franchise record when they won their final nine home games between March 14th to April 9th in 2017.

The race for home ice advantage in the North division is between Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton, and an Oilers victory tonight would move them one point back of Winnipeg for second place and five behind first place Toronto, and the Oilers would have a game in hand on both teams.

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I still believe there are significant advantages to having home ice in the playoffs, despite it looking unlikely teams in the North will be allowed fans in the building for the postseason. But what if things change in six weeks and the Alberta government allows 1,000 or 2,000 fans? That isn’t what motivates the Oilers to finish as high as they can, but it would be a nice bonus.

Dave Tippett will want his team to be better at 5×5 over the next four weeks. The Oilers only have six goals at 5×5 over their last six games. Goaltending and special teams have helped them win games recently, but Tippett wants to see an improvement at 5×5. He wants to see their scoring chances reduced, and he saw that in Winnipeg on Saturday.

Speaking of scoring chances, Tippett said after their video people tracked the scoring chances for and against they came up with 20 for and 10 against. This is important for those who use Natural Stat Trick. I’ve seen many use them for Scoring Chances For and Against as well as XGF. It is important to note that those stats aren’t always accurate or close to what teams track when they use video. NST had the chances 25-15 for Edmonton — so still an advantage of 10 for Edmonton, but having 25% more for Edmonton and 50% more chances for Winnipeg will severely alter any SCF% and XGF%.

I reached out to find out how the tracking words. Natural Stat Trick uses the data from NHL game sheets. Essentially they take what shows up here, and then input that into their system. But NST isn’t the one tracking shot distances. That is the NHL, and that process also has flaws.

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The person tracking them is sitting in the pressbox watching the game. They have a screen and when a player shoots the puck, they touch the area on their screen where they thought the shot came from. They list what type of shot as well. You will notice in the above link the Oilers’ first shot was a backhand by Darnell Nurse 12 feet from the net. How accurate is the distance? And how about the velocity?

Until the NHL has tracking in the puck, the distance and velocity won’t be accurate, and that is why it is important to remember when looking at scoring chances and expected goals from NST, that the data is not the same as what teams track. It doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful, but the difference between 3-5% can be massive in those statistics.

One coach I spoke with last week on the subject said he noticed on average a 20% discrepancy on what they tracked as scoring chances. He did add NST is very accurate for CF%, FF%, SF% and GF%, as well as other stats like penalties drawn, shooting percentage, but he cautioned going too strong minded on scoring chances and expected goals.

I spoke to a video guy from an Eastern-based team and he said he noticed two distinct differences from NST scoring chances to what his team tracks. The first was the overall amount, as they continually had fewer chances, and his team breaks down scoring chances into three tiers. They have grade A, B and C chances. Not all chances are equal, and what NST deems a high-danger chance is often much higher than what his Eastern team tracks.

Last season, Tippett mentioned he has a three-tier scoring chance system as well. Tippett lists every player involved on both for and against chances. Being on the ice is just one part of the process. It is important to remember this when using SCF% and XGF%. I’ve read and seen people use the NST ones as though they are gospel and tell the complete, accurate story. I don’t think that is the case, and it is why we might have incorrect evaluations of players if relying too heavily on those numbers.

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Draisaitl – McDavid – Puljujarvi
Kahun – Haas – Yamamoto
Archibald – Khaira – Chiasson
Nygard – Shore – Kassian

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Nurse – Barrie
Russell– Larsson
Jones – Bear

Smith

No lineup changes for the Oilers after their impressive 3-0 shutout in Winnipeg. The Canadiens should be a tougher test at 5×5, as they are better overall. However, in April (10 GP) Montreal is 28th in GF-GA at -6. Montreal has scored 15 goals, but allowed 21. In their first 32 games the Canadiens were 69-45 at 5×5, the best in the NHL, but they’ve been leaky recently and Edmonton needs to exploit that tonight.

With Nygard recalled prior to Saturday’s game and Ryan McLeod getting recalled to the taxi-squad, and eventually to the active roster when he is activated next week, that leaves only two more recalls for the Oilers over their final 13 games. Dmitry Kulikov is not one as he is listed as a non-roster player currently, but it means only two of Tyler Ennis, Kyle Turris, James Neal and Patrick Russell could be recalled the rest of the season.

Canadiens

Tatar – Danault – Anderson
Drouin – Kotkaniemi – Bryon
Toffoli – Suzuki – Armia
Lehkonen– Staal – Perry

Chiarot– Weber
Edmundson – Petry
Romanov – Kulak

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Price

The Canadiens have switched line combinations as often as the Oilers have recently, as head coach Dominque Ducharme looks for some chemistry. They miss Brendan Gallagher’s 5×5 productivity. I’ve read a lot about Philip Danault facing McDavid and really containing him. That is partially true. McDavid has played 27:34 against Danault, but he’s skated in 46:25 away from him. McDavid has been outscored 3-2 against Danault, while he is 0-1 in the 46 minutes away from him. The entire Montreal team has done a good job, thus far, of limiting McDavid’s points and he’s been outshot 43-35 when on the ice at 5×5. It has been a good five games for Montreal, but containing McDavid for more than five games is quite rare.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton extends home winning streak to eight games with a 4-2 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Leon Draisaitl ties Marco Sturm for most career points for a German player with 487. Draisaitl does it in 466 games while Sturm played 938 games.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Adam Larsson registers his first goal against Montreal.

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