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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – What makes the power play go boom, boom, pow?

A new week means we’ve got a brand new Mailbag to help you get your Monday started and also to make sense of everything that’s going on with our beloved Edmonton Oilers! This week, analytics, the Oilers at even strength, the first month of the NHL season, and more. If you’ve got got a question you’d like to ask, email it to me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.

Oct 30, 2021; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen (19) makes a save against the Vancouver Canucks in the third period at Rogers Arena. Oilers won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

1) Daniel asks – How would you describe Mikko Koksinen’s play so far and do you think he’s doing enough to reduce the pressure to find a different solution in the crease?

Jason Gregor:

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He has played as well as I’d expect. He is a solid goalie, but not an elite starter. Finding a different solution at the deadline isn’t that easy. How many legit #1 starters will be available? Smith will be the main starter when healthy, but Koskinen is showing that he is a solid backup who is capable of starting multiple games in a row. He is an elite backup in the NHL, and next summer many teams will want to sign him. If he hadn’t gotten overpaid many people’s perception of him would be much different.

Robin Brownlee:

Koskinen is 7-1 with a .920 save percentage and a 2.54 GAA. This is more than good enough so far, no? I don’t expect him to stay at this level, but if he holds together until he’s back in tandem with Smith, things are fine. Beyond this season, I expect changes — I can’t see rolling out Smith and Koskinen again.

Cam Lewis:

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Certainly more than good enough. He had a bad outing against the Flyers in which the Oilers lost and another bad one against the Rangers in which Edmonton won again. He’s been good enough for them to win all but, in my mind, who of his outings, and they still managed to win one of those. He’s previously struggled when having to play a lot of games in a row but he’s done very well through this stretch.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Friday night was obviously not his best night, and he’s had a few rough games now, but for the most part how could you not be happy with what Koskinen has given the Oilers? He still has a .920 save percentage and has come huge in a few games, like the one against Vancouver. He’s been way better than I thought he’d be. Im excited to see if he can keep it going once Smith returns and they return to their rotation.

Baggedmilk:

Outside of a tougher start (still a win) against New York, Koskinen has been rock solid and I’m a little bit surprised his start to the year hasn’t calmed folks down a little bit on this. We’ll see how things go as the season progresses, but I think he’s been solid so far.

May 8, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point of the season on a goal by forward Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) Karrie asks – There’s no doubt the Oilers have two of the league’s best players that help make the power play go but what do you see in terms of tactics that are helping Edmonton look like a coin flip with the man advantage?

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Jason Gregor:

Continuity is a big factor. They know where each other is going and where they like the puck. RNH and Barrie are very good power play players as well, while Hyman and JP are solid in front. The Oilers PP is just as dangerous off the rush as it is stationary. They can score so many different ways and teams can’t game plan against one or two looks.

Robin Brownlee:

Not sure what you mean by a coin flip. McDavid has been driving the bus on the PP even more than usual. He’s got fully half of his 22 points on the power play to this point. RNH has also been really good distributing the puck on the PP. Hyman and Jesse are threats in tight. The puck moves now. No standing around.

Cam Lewis:

The players are so familiar with each other at this point they can fire the puck around the zone with ease and quickly execute planned plays because everyone knows what they’re doing. Nobody can defend Edmonton’s power play not only because it features high-quality skill, but also because of familiarity.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

They’re just wildly unpredictable. Sometimes McDavid is in the one-timer slot, sometimes he’s up at the point, sometimes he’s on the other side of the ice, and sometimes both he and Draisaitl are just circling around the zone. They’re hard to stop because it isn’t like there’s just one system that they play. Their success is purely based on talent.

Baggedmilk:

Obviously, this group has been playing together for a while now but for me, it’s the way they move around in the zone that’s incredible. When other teams think the boys are going to go cross-ice for a one-timer to Draisaitl, the Oilers will send the puck around the horn at the top of the zone and move it down low for a net-front shot. My point is that the power play is very fluid and the way they move things around makes it nearly impossible to defend.

Oct 22, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett looks on in the third period against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

3) James in Peterborough asks – The club’s top three lines seem to be set and playing relatively well. The 4th line has not. Who do you want to see on that line and/or do you think it is a deployment issue?

Jason Gregor:

The low TOI is a factor. It is very difficult for players to really contribute when they play 6-8 minutes. I don’t care who you are. So that is the main factor for me. They do miss Josh Archibald and his energetic style of play. He would really help. I was told he is doing well. The issue is no one really knows how his body will react. They thought Stalock would be okay, but he never got the green light to return. I was told on Friday that Archibald is progressing well and might be ready for January. But, the source cautioned it depends on what happens when he really exerts himself. But if healthy he’d be on the line for sure for me.

Robin Brownlee:

Not much ice time for the fourth line so far. A guy like Perlini is just 7:01. Could see him out to start the road trip with Benson, Turris and Sceviour as the fourth line, which to me is not optimal. To be honest, I’m not looking too closely at guys who play this little after 10 games when the team is 9-1.

Cam Lewis:

They don’t play all too much and the goal when they’re on the ice is pretty much not to get scored on. They can handle the role they’ve been given but playing them too much more likely wouldn’t be ideal.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I wouldn’t say they’ve been bad, just not overly effective. I wouldn’t mind seeing Ryan McLeod get back in action here now that Shore is out. I want to see that fourth line have a little bit more speed so putting McLeod in there would help with that. I also think Tyler Benson brings a little bit more to the lineup than Perlini (although I don’t mind having them rotate). More speed would make them better.

Baggedmilk:

I don’t think they play a whole lot but I would certainly think there’s room for some upgrades on that line.

4) Art asks – I’ve been an Oilers fan since the early 80s and it is mind boggling that it’s taken this long to hang Kevin Lowe’s jersey in the rafters. Now that Lowe’s number is retired, is there anyone else from over the years that deserves the same treatment?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see anyone else from those years or any years after who will have their jersey retired. It won’t happen until 97 or 29 retire in 15-20 years.

Robin Brownlee:

No, not at this point. Next in line will be No. 97 and 29 and they’ll both play another 10-12 years. The Wall of Honour is coming. It’ll cover all the non-HHOF guys.

Cam Lewis:

The Wall of Honour thing they’re doing will be perfect for this. The Oilers have a lot of very good players who aren’t good enough to have their number retired but who still should be honoured in some capacity. The one non-HHoF player I would retire is Smyth because anybody else wearing No. 94 at this point would look weird.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I don’t hate the Hall of Famers only rule. Having your number in the rafters should only be for the elite of the elite. If you start just throwing up a bunch of players, it loses its meaning a little bit in my eyes. I still want to see them honour some players who were great Oilers but aren’t quite good enough for the HHOF and that’s why I’m happy they’re planning on doing a wall on honour.

Baggedmilk:

I think the Wall of Honour thing will answer a lot of these questions, but as for having their number in the stands, I don’t see anyone else’s name going up there any time soon.

5) Trent asks – How does Jack Eichel to Vegas change the equation for Edmonton and the Pacific Division?

Jason Gregor:

It gives Vegas a legit #1 centre which they have lacked. The question is can Vegas be healthy for the stretch drive and the playoffs. If so, they will be a tough out. Ideally, you wouldn’t want to face them in the first round, so finishing first in the division will be important.

Robin Brownlee:

Assuming Eichel fully recovers from the ADR surgery this Friday, he won’t play for months and the Golden Knights are already banged up, so the Oilers are clear favourites to win the division title. Even if/when Eichel does fully recover, I’m not convinced he’s the game breaker and difference maker some people think he is.

Cam Lewis:

If the Golden Knights are healthy and can get under the cap, they’ll be very good. They were one of the league’s best teams last year and they just added a legitimate top-line centre for the first time ever. Their future looks like a bit of a mess but they didn’t subtract much (just Alex Tuch) from their roster in order to acquire Eichel, so you have to assume it’ll be quite an upgrade once they’re rolling.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It makes Vegas a lot better and that’s not good for Edmonton. However, they will have to move out a roster player to get Eichel and Mark Stone back in the lineup, so that’s something to watch. Still, on paper, they look like a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. But there are still a lot of things that could change.

Baggedmilk:

This trade gives Vegas the number one centre they don’t have right now and that will obviously help. What I don’t know, though, is how they’re going to keep things afloat until he comes back months from now. Would they be happy to tank this season a little bit and reground for next year?

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