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Game Notes: Ducks @ Oilers G3

This is the Edmonton Oilers 42nd NHL season. They have only started a season 3-0 six times and tonight they will try to make it seven.

— The Oilers best start was 7-0 in 1983/1984.
They went 5-0 in 1985/1986 and in 2019/2020.
They were 4-0 in 2008/2009, but missed the playoffs.
They went 3-0 in 1996/1997 and in 2005/2006.

Getting off to a good start, even winning your first three games, isn’t that easy. But if Edmonton does, history says a playoff appearance is quite likely.

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— The Ducks won 3-2 in overtime in Calgary last night. Tonight is the first of 14 games where the Oilers will face a team on the second half of a back-to-back. Tonight is a game they should win. They are a more skilled team. They’ve had two days off between games and the Ducks played last night.

Here are the other games when Edmonton faces a team who played the night before. (In parenthesis lists who and where they played the night before).

November 1st v. Seattle (home to NYR).
November 3rd v. Nashville (in Calgary).
November 14th @ St. Louis (in Carolina).
December 9th v. Boston (in Vancouver).
January 3rd @ NYR (home to Tampa).
January 16th @ Winnipeg. (home to Ottawa).
January 18th v. Chicago (in Seattle).
February 2nd @ Washington (in Pittsburgh).
March 9th v. Washington (in Calgary).
March 26th @ Calgary (home to Arizona).
March 28th v. Arizona (in Winnipeg).
April 9th v. Colorado (in Winnipeg).
April 29th v. Vancouver (home to LA). Oiler play on the 28th v. San Jose.

They likely won’t win all 14 games, but with the potential of facing slightly fatigued teams Edmonton should win at least 10 of them.

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— Through two games Edmonton has outscored opponents 3-2 at 5×5. One of the Oilers main goals was to reduce their 5×5 goals against. They’ve been good at limiting goals, and no player is below 50% in GF-GA.
Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Jesse Puljujarvi, Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci are 66.7%. (2-1)
Derek Ryan, Warren Foegele, Zack Kassian, Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie are 50% (1-1).
The other 10 skaters haven’t been on the ice for a goal for or against.

— It is interesting to note that while the McDavid line has outscored teams thus far, their possession numbers aren’t great, sitting at 43.8SF%, 42.98xGF% and 36.67SCF%. Which begs the question: What is more important — goals scored or shots, scoring chances and expected goals? I’ve always felt goals scored, simply because they impact the outcome of the game more than anything else. You can counter that if you are constantly getting outshot or out-chanced you will eventually give up goals, and in theory that seems legit. However, in the past three seasons, McDavid and Draisaitl have had a higher GF% than SF%, SCF% or xGF%. What does it mean? Discuss amongst yourselves.

— The Ducks are 2-1 so far and they’ve only allowed five goals in three games. John Gibson has stopped 74 of 77 shots (.961Sv%) and won both his starts, while Anthony Stolarz stopped 41 of 43 (.953Sv%) in the Ducks 2-1 loss to Minnesota. They’ve had great goaltending thus far.

— Mike Smith has been just as good for the Oilers going 2-0 and stopping 81 of 85 shots (.953Sv%). We could see a lot of shots on goal tonight as the Oilers have allowed the second most shots against/game at 42.5 and the Ducks are third at 40/game. Both teams will want to tighten up defensively.

— “I’ve seen excellent goaltending from Mike,” said Dave Tippett when asked about what he’s seen from his team 5×5 defensively. “We’ve given up more scoring chances than I would like. That being said, there was 47 shots the other night, but it wasn’t a 47-shot game. The chances were very even. There are some things we need to do better. We haven’t been bad, but we can be better at coverage in our own end. We’ve been wandering a bit, not getting engaged as much as I’d like to see. We addressed some of those in practice today and on video.”

— The bottom six has done a good job of drawing penalties thus far. Derek Ryan, Warren Foegele, Kyle Turris and Colton Sceviour have all drawn penalties. Sceviour is the only one who has taken a minor, and that was the instigator when he went after Tyler Myers after he rocked Duncan Keith with a hard, clean check. Kailer Yamamoto did draw a double minor on Rasmus Andersson, but then Yamamoto took two the only two minor penalties in the final 30 minutes. Last season Yamamoto drew 13 penalties, but he also took 13 minors. He has to cut down on his minor penalties, especially those in the offensive and neutral zones.

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Tippett agreed. “I told him about a lesson an old coach taught me a long time ago, said Tippett. “He told me, ‘You are a penalty killer, not a penalty taker. When we get a penalty I want you on the ice. When you are in the box you can’t be on the ice.’ We use him on the penalty kill and he shouldn’t be taking penalties.

“First one the other night his stick gets caught up in a guy’s feet, but the second one is not a good penalty to take. You can’t put your stick in a guy’s hands in the middle of the ice when they are down a goal. They are screaming every time someone gets close. If we were in that situation and someone did that to Connor we are saying it should be a penalty. It was a penalty. He has to play the same aggressive style, but he can’t be taking a lot of minors.”

Yamamoto needs to figure out how to walk the line of being aggressive on the forecheck, without taking so many minors. I suspect Tippett can live with a few. He expects it, but Yamamoto can’t be second on the team in minor penalties like he was last season.

— The Ducks have had balanced scoring through three games with six players with two points and three others with three.

— Anaheim’s power play is off to a good start with four goals on 11 chances. Keep in mind they had the worst power play in NHL history (since they started tracking PP% in 1977/1978) at a measly 8.9%. They only scored 11 power play goals all season on 123 chances. And they allowed five shorthanded goals, so their power play was only +6. It was dreadful, but so far it looks infinitely better.

They run two units fairly equally.

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Ryan Getzlaf, Trevor Zegras, Max Comtois, Rickard Rakell and Jamie Drysdale are on one unit. They’ve scored one goal.

The other has Adam Henrique, Jakob Silfverberg, Kevin Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler and Mason MacTavish. Troy Terry has taken a few of MacTavish’s shifts. They’ve combined for three goals.

The units have split the ice time very evenly, so the Oilers penalty killers need to respect both units.

— The Oilers PP is clicking along at 50% with three goals on six chances. Edmonton sits 24th in PP opportunities/game at 3.00. Last season they were ninth at 3.11. McDavid has yet to draw a penalty, and I’m not sure I’ve seen them miss a call on him. He was second in the NHL in drawn penalties at 29 last season, so he will likely draw one soon.

—- After 59 consecutive regular season games against Canadian teams the Oilers will face an American squad. These teams haven’t met since February 25th, 2020s and the rosters were much different.

Only McDavid, Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nurse and Smith were on the ice the last time they met. Kassian and Yamamoto were injured. Meanwhile, the Ducks have six forwards, three D-men and John Gibson on the roster from their last meeting.

— Smith will start his third consecutive game while Stolarz gets the start for the Ducks. Devin Shore skated yesterday, and barring any setback he will play his first game of the season tonight. When the Oilers activate him they will need to re-assign a forward to the AHL or to IR. Ryan McLeod has only played 5:52/game thus far. He doesn’t require waivers, and he needs to play, so sending him to the AHL makes the most sense to me.

— Did you know there was a Balloon World Cup? How fun would this be? Also, the announcers are top notch. TOP NOTCH. I didn’t understand one word they said, but their emotion and intensity reeled me in. This is a game I’d like to try.

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