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Photo Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Game Notes Oilers @ Canadiens: Complementary Scoring

If the Oilers are going to go deep in the playoffs Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will carry them offensively. Tampa Bay, Washington and Pittsburgh had their superstars drive their scoring, but you need a few timely goals from your secondary forwards. You don’t need a lot. Tampa Bay had eight forwards with two or more goals in the postseason last year. They had another four forwards with one goal in their 25-game road to the Stanley Cup.

— Does Edmonton have enough depth scorers? Can someone be like Blake Coleman and score five goals and 13 points?

— Prior to game one of this two-game mini series v. the Habs I wrote about the need for a few depth forwards to get going offensively. It happened as the Oilers got goals from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Dominik Kahun and James Neal on Monday. This group needs more goals from players not named Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Jesse Puljujarvi. Confidence is a major part of sports, and Kailer Yamamoto could use a goal in the next two games. I’d strongly consider starting him on the first unit PP on Saturday.

—Yamamoto has one goal in 25 games and none in his previous 13 games. You can tell it is on his mind. We’ve seen it happen to many players, and even though they try not to think about their slumps, it weighs on them. Scoring a goal in the next two games would be a huge boost for Yamamoto.

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— James Neal has five goals in 27 games in a season where he’s battled the after effects of COVID for much of it. He has 24 goals in his last 82 regular season games and had two in four playoff games last season. He knows how to score. He put in a lot of work trying to get his conditioning back and he has looked much better in the past few games. He has a proven track record in the playoffs and if he continues that he could be a really important piece in the bottom six. And possibly get the odd shift with McDavid at certain times in tight games.

— On Monday we saw the Artturi Lehkonen-Jake Evans-Paul Byron line dominate Connor McDavid’s line outscoring them 3-1. McDavid made a great play to set up Dominik Kahun, and then scored the winner in OT, but for much of the game that Habs trio out chanced and outscored the Oilers’ top line. McDavid is highly competitive and I expect he will be fired up when he faces them again tonight.

— Daniel Nugent-Bowman asked Connor McDavid about working on his defensive game and why it was important to him.

“You are asking me that on a night where I was on the ice for three goals against,” said McDavid. “That is why I work on it. It is something that all the top players are out against tough matchups every night and you can’t be a liability. That was the next step for our group and for Leo (Leon Draisaitl) and I to take that responsibility on and grow into that 200-foot game. Leo has done an amazing job and I’m continuing to work on it each and every day.”

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— McDavid was asked what was the main area he wanted to improve on. “The biggest thing is you can’t be in motion all the time. I would get caught swinging away or swinging by pucks. I’m just trying to stop and stay underneath pucks,” said McDavid. We’ve seen improvements in that area, and it has led to him having his best offensive season. Because he still feels he can improve his defensive instincts, I think we will see him push and surpass his points-per-game total in future seasons.

— Many keep saying how Montreal has the Oilers number. Montreal dominated two games in January, but Edmonton is 3-2-1 in the last six and a victory tonight will even the season series at 4-4-1 for each team. I don’t see it as the Habs dominating. They play hard, but the Oilers today are not close to the team they were in early January.

— It is official. For the seventh time in franchise history the Edmonton Oilers will play the Winnipeg Jets in the playoffs. Edmonton has never lost a series to Winnipeg. Of course, this is a different Winnipeg Jets organization. The original Jets are now the Arizona Coyotes, while these Jets were born in Atlanta as the Thrashers. Edmonton defeated Jets 1.0 in six consecutive series.

They swept the Jets 3-0 in the first round in 1983 and 1984. Then swept them 4-0 in the second round in 1985 and 1987. In 1988, Edmonton won 4-1 in the opening round and the closest series was in 1990 when Edmonton overcame a 3-1 series deficit and won 4-3.

Edmonton won its first 16 playoff games against the Jets before losing game three in 1988. It has been utter domination for the city of Edmonton over the city of Winnipeg. The Jets are a different organization now, but will we see a similar result between the two cities?

— To illustrate how dominant McDavid has been lately: In his last 14 games he has 34 points. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has 34 points this season.

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McDavid’s 34 points would be 98th in league scoring and he’d be tied with RNH, Nino Niederrieter, Connor Brown, Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, Cam Atkinson, Jack Roslovic, Travis Konecny, Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty and Morgan Reilly. An incredible run for the 2021 Hart Trophy winner. He will win. If it isn’t unanimous it won’t matter, but he will win by a landslide.

— The Oilers and some individuals lead or are near the top in many league categories.

The Oilers PP is first at 27.4%. They are first in net PP (minus SH goals) at 26.2%. They were 24.5% last year in net PP.
They are second in regulation wins with 31.
They are the only team who hasn’t been involved in a shootout.
McDavid is first in points with 102. Draisaitl is second with 81.
McDavid is second in goals with 33 while Draisaitl is fourth with 30.
McDavid is first in assists with 69 and Draisaitl is second with 51.
Tyson Barrie is second among D-men with 46 points.
Darnell Nurse is second in goals by defencemen with 16.
Nurse is first in EV goals with 15 and tied for first in 5×5 goals with 12.
Nurse is second in EV points with 29.
Nurse and Barrie are fourth and fifth in shots on goals among D-men.
Draisaitl leads the NHL in +/- at +31, while Nurse is second at +29.
Josh Archibald is seventh in hits with 182 and Adam Larsson is 10th at 164.
Larsson is second in the NHL in blocked shots with 125.
Draisaitl is fourth in takeaways with 52.
Draisaitl is tied for first with Nathan MacKinnon and Jack Hughes with hitting eight goal posts.
McDavid is second in penalties drawn with 29. Brady Tkachuk leads with 33.

— With the Boston Bruins sitting out many veterans last night many are wondering if Dave Tippett will do the same. McDavid said this about sitting out. “I think you want to keep going. It is Tipp’s decision. We want to keep playing and keep our mindset going.” I’d reduce his minutes, but I wouldn’t sit him. He played 19 minutes on Monday and I suspect he will play the same or less tonight.

Tippett added he would never tell a player to sit out. He will have a conversation with them. I sense McDavid, Draisaitl and Nurse want to play, unless they have are banged up. I’m curious about Mike Smith. Will he want to play tonight and Saturday? Or is he okay with playing tonight and then having a week off before the playoffs start? His decision might depend on when the Oilers open up against the Jets. The league is discussing the 19th and/or 20th as opening night for the North. I have to assume that Montreal/Toronto will be on one night and then Edmonton/Winnipeg the next. It would be less than ideal to play both series on the same nights.

— I saw a lot of discussion online about the Oilers going after Jack Eichel. Some say having three stars isn’t bad even at $31m. In theory that is correct, but Eichel isn’t a UFA. You have to trade for him and give up at least three pieces (players, prospects or picks) and possibly four. So any Eichel discussion involves subtracting some depth.

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Eichel has a $10m cap hit. What if Edmonton can sign two UFA forwards for $10m.

In the past two seasons Eichel has 38-58-96. Tomas Tatar scored 32-59-91 and Zack Hyman has 36-34-70.  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has 37-58-95. Eichel only played 89 games, so his points/game was the best of the four, but he does want surgery on his neck.

If you could re-sign RNH and one of Tatar and Hyman, (or both Tatar and Hyman as RNH might walk) for $10-$11m and not have to give up any prospects, is your team better than acquiring Eichel? Also don’t sign any of those three UFA to too long of a term. Term is what kills teams in free agency.

That is the question that matters. Adding Eichel isn’t just about salary, you also have to factor in what the Oilers would have to give up to acquire him. They aren’t blessed with an abundance of NHL depth just yet.

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