22

The Day After: Well… at least they won?

Was it pretty? No.

Did the Oilers make it easy on themselves? Also no.

But at the end of the day, Edmonton meandered into the desert and somehow came out with a 5-3 win.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The problem being that once again, the Oilers forgot what time the game started and allow the opponents to score an early goal. And not only that, but they allowed two goals in the final seven minutes of the game allowing the ‘Yotes to (sort of) get back in the game.

Playing from behind has been a big issue for this club, and it didn’t get any better Wednesday.

“We started a little bit slow, then we got going a bit,” said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett. “As the game went on, I thought we got better and better. We started to play a sound version of what we want and were capitalizing on opportunities and were able to get the win.”

With the Oilers lines in the blender as Tippett looked for any kind of a spark, he got just that. The top line of Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and Zack Kassian combined for an impressive 11 points — two goals and two helpers from the big two, while Kassian chipped in a goal and pair of assists on his own.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

After the game, Tippett said they were looking to generate some offence and that he felt both Zach Hyman and Jesse Puljujarvi — who have five assists between them in the last six games, were snake bit.

“We needed that,” said Tippett of McDavid and Draisaitl’s performances. “(Tuesday) night we weren’t very good and both those guys were included in that.

“Tonight we wanted a team effort and those guys do what they do, but the rest of our group was pretty solid too.”

Ultimately the blending of lines worked. All our Oilers’ lines dominated the shot attempt share as well as the expected goal share, exactly what you want to see on a night like last night.

Now the question remains: should Kassian remain with McDavid and Draisaitl? Is Jesse Puljujarvi a good fit with Warren Foegele and Ryan McLeod?

Some pitchforks have been raised about the move, but it’s over reactionary in my mind. The change of lines wasn’t about demoting Hyman and Puljujarvi because of bad play as those are two of the most consistent Oilers in terms of every metric not including goals.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“Sometimes you get going and you get into a bit of a rut. We felt like that was the case (Tuesday) night,” said Tippett. “Kass has played there before, and has some familiarity with those guys.

“Nuge, Hyman and Yamo has been a pretty solid line for us when we put them together. I wanted to see what Puljujarvi could do in Kass’ spot there (on the 3rd line). (We’re) just trying to freshen it up a little bit.”

I’d imagine the lines stay the same heading into Saturday night against the Vegas Golden Knights as the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Backhanders…

  • Connor McDavid notched his 400th career assist last night becoming the fourth-fastest NHL’er to do it. Another impressive statistic from last night: Leon Draisaitl scored his 20th goal and 40th point in his 19th game. He became the only Oilers player not named Wayne Gretzky to score as many points before hitting the 20 game mark.
  • After the game, Draisaitl admitted they had lots to clean up in their game still. Despite notching a 4-1 lead heading into the back half of the third period, the Oilers inexplicably allowed the Coyotes to score back-to-back goals and get back in the game. Draisaitl said they needed to find a way to get that out of their game and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.
  • The Oilers defence looked solid last night. The pairing of Phillip Broberg and Cody Ceci led the way in ice-time and posted 78.13 and 75 CF% numbers and 84.2 and 86.14 xGF% numbers, respectively. Very, very impressive stuff.
  • Speaking of impressive, with Jesse Puljujarvi on the ice at 5×5 last night the Oilers only allowed one shot attempt against. I can’t recall the last time I saw something like that. He looked strong alongside Ryan McLeod and Warren Foegele.

What they’re saying…

Oilers’ stars McDavid and Draisaitl shine in win over Coyotes

Plenty of teams have had a hard time keeping the top two point-scorers in the NHL in check, so the Coyotes weren’t alone there. 

Nevertheless, the Edmonton Oilers’ dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl did damage Wednesday night, each providing four points in the Oilers’ 5-3 win over the Coyotes at Gila River Arena. 

The Coyotes (4-14-2) made it an exciting finish, however. Travis Boyd and Shayne Gostisbehere scored late third-period goals. The Coyotes went to the extra attacker in the final minute-plus, but McDavid scored into an empty net with 27.5 seconds left to seal the Oilers” win.

The Oilers’ top line of McDavid, Draisaitl and Zack Kassian combined for 11 points, with two goals and two assists each for McDavid and Draisaitl.

Coyotes goaltender Scott Wedgewood took his first regulation loss since Nov. 12, despite facing 44 shots on goal and stopping 39. 

The Coyotes scored first, with Clayton Keller moving into a tie for the team lead in goals with his fifth of the season just 3 minutes, 45 seconds into the game. Wedgewood started the play, passing out to Keller, who fed Phil Kessel on the rush. Kessel sent it back to Keller, who switched forehand to backhand for the goal.

Keller has a four-game point streak and Kessel has five points in his last six games, both part of the Coyotes’ recent resurgence. Their first winning streak of the season, two games, came to an end. 

 – José M. Romero, Arizona Republic


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]