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Photo Credit: https://twitter.com/EdmontonOilers

The Day After: Getting hot at the right time

The old saying goes ‘There’s no better time than now’ and for the Edmonton Oilers, now is when they’re getting hot. They wrapped up their season series last night against the Winnipeg Jets with a strong 3-1 win and will look to continue to roll in the coming week.

But last night, the re-emergence of one of the hottest lines in the NHL over the last few years came to play. The DRY NuDryYam Dynamite second line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl, and Kailer Yamamoto dominated the Jets all night long.

“I’ve felt pretty good since being back (from injury),” said Nugent-Hopkins, who scored the game winning goal on the powerplay and added a helper on the Oilers first. “Being back with Leo and Yamo, we’ve tried to find our chemistry right away and create some scoring chances.”

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Last night, the trio at 5×5 controlled 64.71 percent of the shot attempt share and a whopping 80.05 percent of the expected goals. In their 318.5 5×5 minutes together last year, they were red hot posting a 77.8 goal share, 56.5 percent of the expected goal share, and controlled 52 percent of the shot attempts.

Sure, their goals percentage is undeniably unsustainable, but sometimes players and lines catch lightning in a bottle. Head coach Dave Tippett seems to be ready to give them a shot to do it again at a point in the season when the games are the most important.

“I think (those three) have gotten more comfortable each game we’ve played them together, so we’ll see how it goes,” said Tippett, adding he’s liked Nugent-Hopkins’ game since his return from injury. “He’s played real well.

“He does a lot of things in the game that go unnoticed that when you start looking at a game on tape, he does well. He touches a lot of parts of our game. Now we’re trying to get that line up and going, trying to find more balance in our group.”

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They’re not the only players looking to heat up. Connor McDavid continued his tear through the North Division notching assists on all three Oilers goals last night. Now, he’s only 16 points back from the century mark with nine games to go and has built his scoring lead on players not named Leon Draisaitl to a whopping 23 points.

Jesse Puljujarvi has remained a great constant alongside him while a rotating cast of characters has slid in on the other wing. The latest has been Dominik Kahun, and the pair may have found someone who could stick there.

Tippett said he liked that trio.

Edmonton plays Calgary tonight, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the majority of the lineup stay the same. With that being said, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a bottom-six or two player swap out.

Credit: twitter.com/EdmontonOilers

Backhanders…

  • Ryan McLeod had another solid showing last night in game two of his career. At 5×5, the Oilers controlled 70.46 percent of the expected goal share and 55.56 percent of the shot attempts. Here’s Tippett’s shining review: “You always got some jitters in the first game, but I thought he was solid the first game. As he continues to grow here, he’ll get more and more comfortable. He looks like he’s comfortable with the puck now. When the puck comes to him, he’s looking to make plays, looking to hold it when he has to. He’ll continue to move along. He’s a real good, young player. I think there’s only upside with him right now.”
  • Mikko Koskinen looked great last night, but had some candid answers about what the season has entailed for him. Credit to him though, as he’s worked hard at his game and looked good doing so. Since the return of Mike Smith, he’s appeared in 10 games posting 6-4 record and a very impressive .929 save percentage. You can’t ask much more from him right now.

What they’re saying…

This was the response game that mattered.

The night the Winnipeg Jets were going to tell us whether or not they remain a team to be taken seriously in the NHL’s all-Canadian division.

To show they can play a style of hockey that won’t lead to a quick exit from the Stanley Cup tournament, a game that can hang with the Edmonton Oilers.

Monday’s 6-1 embarrassment, a fourth straight loss, had to not only be rock-bottom, but the catalyst for change. The proverbial wakeup call, gut-check time – pick your cliché.

They accomplished just half their goal on Wednesday, tightening up defensively but managing just one goal again in a 3-1 loss.

“It was way better than the last game, for sure,” captain Blake Wheeler said. “They scored two power-play goals and that was the difference in the game.”

Down 2-1 late, they pushed, pulled goalie Connor Hellebuyck but gave up an empty-netter to Leon Draisaitl.

The Jets hung in for the entire night. Better than that. They matched the Oilers, chance-for-chance, which in this case didn’t have to mean odd-man rush for odd-man rush.

That’s a fool’s game against Connor McDavid and Co.

Instead, the Jets were tenacious. Competitive. Much smarter and more engaged than they’d been after they fell behind by a couple of goals on Monday. – Paul Friesen, Winnipeg Sun


Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]