Let's Talk About the NHL Expansion Draft https://oilersnation.com OILERSNATION is your home for Edmonton Oilers coverage, news, analysis, rumours and scores. We are a site by NHL fans, for NHL fans. Wed, 05 May 2021 21:26:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.7 https://i2.wp.com/oilersnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cropped-oilersnation_site_icon1.png?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Let's Talk About the NHL Expansion Draft https://oilersnation.com 32 32 125283403 Let’s Talk About the NHL Expansion Draft https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/05/lets-talk-about-the-nhl-expansion-draft/ https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/05/lets-talk-about-the-nhl-expansion-draft/#respond Wed, 05 May 2021 22:00:52 +0000 https://oilersnation.com/?p=101304 The Oilers expansion plans are slowly starting to become more and more of a conversation. The team definitely has some interesting decisions to make in the coming months and with the number of quality young defensemen on their roster, there is a real chance that they’ll lose a good player to the Seattle Kraken.

There is a way for Ken Holland to get out of this without losing too much though. That conversation starts with Oscar Klefbom. The 27-year-old defenseman hasn’t played all season and it still sounds like it’s far from certain that he’ll play next season. He recently had the necessary shoulder surgery but made it clear in his most recent media availability that quality of life is his main focus and his hockey career will come second to that.

If the Oilers think that Klefbom will be healthy for the start of next season, then I could totally see why they would want to keep him around and potentially protect him. He’s under contract for two more seasons at a cap hit of just $4.16 million. He’s a quality defenseman with a good contract.

There are two ways that a team can attack the expansion draft. They can protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie or they can protect eight skaters and a goalie.

If the Oilers want to keep Klefbom, they would either need to protect eight skaters or they would have to expose Caleb Jones.

When you consider that Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Kailer Yamamoto, Jesse Puljujarvi, Darnell Nurse, and Ethan Bear all need to be protected, you can see why going the eight skaters route might be tough.

One way it could be done though is to not sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins until after the expansion draft. If they have a deal agreed to with Nugent-Hopkins but he agrees to not sign it until after the expansion draft, then they could leave him unprotected and just sign him in free agency.

That route would allow them to keep both Jones and Klefbom protected with the six other players I mentioned above.

Of course, if they want to get a deal done with Nugent-Hopkins before the expansion draft, then they’ll have to choose between Klefbom and Jones.

One big question to consider is: would Seattle even take Klefbom? Would they see any value in a defenseman who hasn’t played in over a season and might not ever be back at 100%? I’m not sure if a new franchise would be looking for that kind of player. The Oilers might be able to leave Klefbom unprotected and get away with it. It’s a risk, but I personally would rather see them take that risk than lose out on a quality young player like Caleb Jones without getting anything in return.

If they go that route, then the seven forwards they would protect would likely be McDavid, Draisaitl, Yamamoto, Nugent-Hopkins, Puljujarvi, and two others. That could include Tyler Benson, Josh Archibald, Zack Kassian, Cooper Marody, or Jujhar Khaira.

Another option would be to look at making a trade, either with Seattle or another team in the NHL. Caleb Jones has one more year on his current contract, which carries a cap hit that is less than $1 million. He’s on a great contract for next season, but he’ll need a fairly big raise after that. If the Oilers believe that Nurse and Klefbom can be their top-four for the next five seasons, then maybe Ken Holland will explore the idea of trading Jones.

He is a fine young defenseman who can skate well and move the puck at a high level. I generally would not be a fan of trading players like that. But it’s important to remember that they have Evan Bouchard and Ethan Bear already on the roster (although they play the other side of the ice) and lefties like Philip Broberg and Dmitri Samorukov coming through the system.

If they were to make a trade that involved moving out a valuable young defenseman like Jones and bringing in a good, young forward they could potentially improve their team and make life easier in the expansion draft.

In fact, if they didn’t have any good young players for Seattle to grab then the Kraken may be more incentivized to take a bad contract from the Oilers. If Ken Holland plays his cards right, then maybe he not only walk away from this years expansion draft without losing a good young player, but he could even shed a bad contract (like Zack Kassian or James Neal) without having to give up too much.

It’ll take a bit of luck and it might involve taking a risk by trading a promising young player like Caleb Jones, but there’s a way for the Oilers to come out of this summer looking very strong and playing their cards right in the expansion draft is the first step.

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Why the Concern Over Nurse’s Next Contract? https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/05/why-the-concern-over-darnell-nurses-next-contract/ https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/05/why-the-concern-over-darnell-nurses-next-contract/#respond Wed, 05 May 2021 19:15:03 +0000 https://oilersnation.com/?p=101298 Darnell Nurse is having a stellar season, but when you look at the progress he has made over the past few years it isn’t that surprising. Nurse has improved different parts of his game over the years. This season his biggest improvements have shown up with in his decision making with the puck, as well as defending, his quick transition edges and his shot.

Nurse spent most of the off-season working on his skating. He was always a good skater, but he wanted to improve his edges and crossovers. The improvement has been noticeable. Often Nurse takes two quick crossovers, and he pulls away from an attacking forward and heads up ice. He has also shown more calm and patience in his game. He isn’t attacking forwards all the time. He lets them come to him now. There is less chasing in his game, likely a product of maturing and understanding the NHL.

He played his 400th game on Monday and many defenders have openly discussed how with experience the game seems to slow down. You see plays quicker. You react quicker and you learn when to attack and when to stay in your position defensively. We are seeing that in Nurse’s game, and both ends of the ice.

Nurse is having an excellent season scoring goals. He has 12 goals at 5×5. Only 27 forwards have more 5×5 goals than him. He has 15 even strength goals, which is first among D-men and tied for 23rd overall. He is scoring goals like a first line winger.

Nurse has nine goals playing with Connor McDavid. Jesse Puljujarvi has eight and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has four. Playing with McDavid doesn’t ensure success. You still have to have skill to produce and Nurse has been shooting like a scoring forward when he’s in good shooting positions. The puck is off his stick quickly.

Look at his goal last night.

He receives the pass from Josh Archibald and without hesitating he snaps it home. He has scored the majority of his goals this way. He isn’t just pounding slapshots through screens that find the back of the net. Had he scored a lot of those types of goals, I could understand the concern about him having a “lucky” year. Will Nurse be on pace to score 20 goals next season? He might not, but his overall offensive production at 5×5 hasn’t been grossly ahead of previous seasons.

Season GP TOI Goals Total A 1st A 2nd A Points Shots S%
2016 69 1190:51:00 3 3 2 1 6 112 2.68
2017 44 674:22:00 5 4 1 3 9 81 6.17
2018 82 1548:57:00 5 19 8 11 24 174 2.87
2019 82 1556:22:00 8 19 9 10 27 158 5.06
2020 71 1371:13:00 4 22 8 14 26 148 2.7
2021 51 1061:49:00 12 9 3 6 21 119 10.08

He has 21 5×5 points this season. Prorate that over an 82-game season and he’d be at 33. He had 27 in 2019 and prorated 30 last year. I’d argue his offensive production has been improving for years and not in an unsustainable fashion. He has more goals this season, but fewer assists, while his overall production has been increasing steadily for three seasons. This should be regarded as a positive.

If you want to look deeper than just goals, Dom Luszczyszyn broke down the Norris voting with his model on March 31st and had Nurse ranked 12th. That is one model, but it is based strongly around analytics, so the argument Nurse is only good because of McDavid might not be as valid as some want you to believe.

Nurse is still 12th on that ranking, even thought it doesn’t weigh actual offence that much. He is second among NHL defencemen in goals with 16. He is first in EV goals with 15 and he is tied for first in 5×5 goals with 12. Any way you slice it, Nurse is having an excellent season.

He currently leads the NHL in time on ice at 5×5 with 1,061 minutes. He has played almost 200 more than any other Oilers defender. Tyson Barrie is at 881 while Adam Larsson has skated 856 minutes. All three have played 51 games. Nurse’s value to the Oilers can’t be overlooked. The other left defenders aren’t even close: Kris Russell (568 minutes), Caleb Jones (363) and William Lagesson (253). Dmitry Kulikov has been a nice addition and solidified the second pairing, but his overall skill package isn’t close to Nurse’s.


Feb 8, 2021; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) takes Ottawa Senators right wing Connor Brown (28) off the puck in the second period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

To date Nurse has lived up to his contract every season. When he signed two years at $3.2m for the 2019 and 2020 seasons he became outstanding value-contract player. Over the two seasons he was ninth among D-men with 53 points at 5×5. And he played a total of 2947 at 5×5. Adam Larsson was at 2,400 minutes and Oscar Klefbom at 2,242.

This season he is up to $5.6m and again he has given the Oilers excellent value on his contract. He is in the Norris trophy conversation. He is playing huge minutes on a team without a solid second pair left defender, and he’s leading the league in goals at 5×5 and is sixth in points among blueliners.

And his defensive play has also improved. He has shown improvement every year. On top of his offence and possession numbers, Nurse is physical and tough. If someone tries to take liberties with the Oilers’ star players, he can step in. That doesn’t happen often in today’s game, but having a player who is on the ice more than anyone else increases the chances he will be there to help when trouble arises.

The moment Nurse signed his two-year deal at $3.2million many fans fretted about his next contract. He signed that and despite him having a stellar campaign, the same concerns are being voiced. It perplexes me. How many Oilers players have lived up to their contract every season? Not many, but Nurse has.

Because he doesn’t play the powerplay, he won’t put up massive offensive numbers, and that means he won’t command huge dollars. If Nurse signs for $7-$7.5 million I don’t see it being that out of line with what he does for the team.

Edmonton doesn’t have anyone who can play his minutes and be as productive as he is. Caleb Jones, Philip Broberg and Dmitri Samorukov are not ready to play top pairing minutes and log over 25 minutes a night. Oscar Klefbom’s health is a major question, but even when he was healthy he never produced offence like Nurse has at 5×5. The big difference between the two is Nurse’s health. He hasn’t missed a game in four seasons. He had one injury in 2017, but that’s it. He is durable and his conditioning and skating ability allow him to play huge minutes without fatiguing.

Year GP TOI CF% FF% SF% GF% xG% SCF% Off. Zone Def. Zon Off. Zone %
2016 69 1190:51:00 45.67 44.61 45.19 41.67 43.96 45.57 126 159 44.21
2017 44 674:22:00 51.05 50.11 49.45 50.0 51.38 50.7 95 79 54.6
2018 82 1548:57:00 51.11 52.67 52.23 55.2 52.47 51.22 195 241 44.72
2019 82 1556:22:00 46.28 45.70 45.99 46.32 46.05 46.54 154 226 40.53
2020 71 1371:13:00 48.68 48.12 48.53 47.41 48.97 49.42 188 150 55.62
2021 51 1061:49:00 50.79 49.66 49.59 57.89 51.07 52.00 132 100 56.9

If you look at Nurse’s analytics you don’t see a massive spike. His GF% is up to 57.8, but it was 55.2% in 2018. The other improvements are a few % points, which matches his 5×5 scoring going from 27 to 30 and now on pace for 33 (in an 82-game season). Seeing consistent and constant improvement should be viewed as a positive among Oilersnation. Nurse has had more offensive zone starts the past few seasons, and he has shown an ability to produce when given those chances.

The concern surrounding Nurse’s contract has been ongoing for years, and each time he has proved the skeptics wrong. The bonus for the Oilers is they have Leon Draisaitl, who won three major awards and is the second most prolific scorer in the NHL, and he makes $8.5m.

With a flat cap, I don’t see how Nurse would get more, so his next contract likely has a cap hit starting with a seven. Based on his current play, and the continuous growth in his game over the past few seasons, I think there is a good chance he will live up to that contract as well.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

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On the Edmonton Oilers taxi squad and the defence… https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/05/on-the-edmonton-oilers-taxi-squad-and-the-defence/ https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/05/on-the-edmonton-oilers-taxi-squad-and-the-defence/#respond Wed, 05 May 2021 18:00:34 +0000 https://oilersnation.com/?p=101302 There’s been an interesting wrinkle in this season that’s been fun to watch playout: the taxi squad.

Each NHL team was allowed to have an additional four to six players, and a goalie, that were eligible to practice and travel with the respective clubs. Edmonton’s initial taxi squad included Joakim Nygard, Tyler Benson, Ryan McLeod, Patrick Russell, Alan Quine and Stuart Skinner, but that didn’t take long to change.

As the year’s gone on we’ve seen players brought up, and dropped down, all the while having hard, game-like practices on a regular basis.

Now we approach the NHL playoffs, where on any given year a regular flock of Black Aces would act much like the taxi squad does in the regular season. And as a whole, the Oilers have done a great job of managing their group.

“You’re gonna need a lot of bodies. Playoffs, you never know what — knock on wood — injuries come along,’ said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett after last night’s win over the Canucks. “We try to make sure everyone stays engaged. Our assistant coaches have done a great job with the taxi squad and I give the taxi squad guys a great deal of credit: they work.

“Sometimes they don’t play for a while, but they put the work in and stay ready. You saw that tonight with a guy like Bouch jumping in and having a real solid game. They do a lot of game situation like work in the practices and it paid off for them. We’re going to need a lot of bodies, you can never have enough depth.

“It’s hard, we’ve talked about this before. A normal year you have one or two guys pissed off they’re not playing. This year, we’ve got 10. That’s the way it goes.”

It also allowed someone like Evan Bouchard, who hadn’t played a game in 64 days, a chance to stay in shape and be ready for his next chance. Last night, he made the most of it. He played the third most minutes of any Oilers player and saw time on both the power-play and the penalty kill.

As someone who had been concerned with Bouchard’s lack of playing time throughout the season, it’s nice to see him step into the lineup and succeed the way he did.

With the Oilers having used a regular recall on him, there’s going to be more chances for him to play down the stretch of the season — and maybe even into the playoffs.

The on-ice results haven’t been great for Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear, but that’s largely in part due to a dismal 3.39 on-ice shooting percentage for the pair that’s played 175 5×5 minutes this season. Nonetheless, getting the pair a night off allowed for Bouchard to step in and have a strong game as he did.

It’s going to be hard to predict, but it’s going to be interesting to see the way the pairings shape up down the stretch. I think the Oilers are fairly locked in on Nurse-Barrie, Kulikov-Larsson in the top four, but it’s open season on that third pairing.

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 zach@oilersnation.com.

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Breathing Room https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/05/edmonton-oilers-give-themselves-some-breathing-room/ https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/05/edmonton-oilers-give-themselves-some-breathing-room/#respond Wed, 05 May 2021 15:45:20 +0000 https://oilersnation.com/?p=101295 Back when it was usually a hair-on-fire dash to the wire just to make the playoffs for the Edmonton Oilers, they often looked like they were out of gas by the time they got to Texas for what became an obligatory exit at the hands of the Dallas Stars. Getting there isn’t half the fun when you’re running on fumes by the time you arrive.

When there’s no margin for error, when every point can be the difference between getting into the playoffs or waiting until next year, coaches like Ron Low, Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish didn’t have the luxury of taking their foot off the accelerator. There was little or no time to rest the best players, to mix in youngsters for game experience in case you needed them later, to ease off long enough to catch your breath. Go, go, go. Get in. Go some more.

This edition of the Oilers is taking another road. They’ve known they’d make the playoffs in the North Division for weeks and they made it official by beating the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 Monday in their 50th game. That gave coach Dave Tippett options going into the rematch last night and he took advantage of them on the way to a 4-1 waltz against the utterly gassed Canucks.

Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear got a rest in favor of William Lagesson and Evan Bouchard, who shook off the cobwebs from months on the taxi squad and scored the 3-1 goal. Connor McDavid continued his pursuit of 100 points with two assists and played under 20 minutes for the second game in a row. Likewise, Leon Draisaitl, who scored two goals. We saw more of Ryan McLeod and the line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins between Kailer Yamamoto and Dominik Kahun. Kyle Turris got back in.


May 3, 2021; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) and forward Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrate PuljujarviÕs goal against the Vancouver Canucks (13)in the first period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Teams like the Oilers don’t have the luxury of flipping off the switch and then expecting to be able to flip it on again when playoffs begin. It doesn’t work that way. This isn’t that. It’s more subtle. It’s about easing off the ice time of McDavid, Draisaitl and, at some point, Darnell Nurse just a little. It’s about having Jones, Bear and Bouchard ready to go. It’s about giving workhorse Mike Smith, who made 28 saves last night, a rest and making sure back-up Mikko Koskinen is sharp. Details.

“You have to continue to play well. You can’t take your foot off the gas and expect to jump on it again. We have to play solid hockey,” Tippett said. “You’re going to need a lot of bodies. Playoffs, knock on wood, you never know when injuries come along, and the different mix of your lineups you’ll be looking for. So, we try to have everybody stay engaged.”

Bouchard certainly was engaged. He logged 20:13 of ice time paired with Lagesson. Considering all the time he’s spent watching instead of playing, he was exceptional. Bouchard’s 3-1 goal on the power play was slick — he faked a slapshot, slide-stepped into the middle and eased a wrist shot past Thatcher Demko. 

“I thought it went pretty good,” Bouchard said. “To get back in the game was a good feeling. Everyone wants to play, but you have to take advantage of what’s given to you. I had a lot of practice time, a lot of time to work on what I wanted to work on, specifically my skating. It was good to take advantage of that.”

The look-see at Bouchard likely doesn’t happen if the Oilers are playing for every point like their playoff lives depend on it, but their 14-4-2 record over the last 20 games provides that option. That doesn’t mean they don’t want the points in their final five games because they do, but they don’t need to run the big horses into the ground because they need them.


Smith, who has been an absolute stud in the blue paint and sits at 19-6-2 with a 2.25 GAA and a save-percentage of .925, will get a game or two to watch over the next five and get ready for either the Winnipeg Jets or the Montreal Canadiens. A competitor like Smith will never say he isn’t ready to play, but at 39, a night off or two will do him good.

“It’s everything. That’s why we play,” Smith said of gearing up for playoffs. “The last quarter of the season has gone by so slow. It’s nice to see the end in sight and be playing good hockey going into the most important time.”

Previously by Robin Brownlee

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Baggedmilk on #theLOCKERROOM: Can the Oilers make a deep playoff run? https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/05/baggedmilk-on-thelockerroom-4/ https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/05/baggedmilk-on-thelockerroom-4/#respond Wed, 05 May 2021 15:00:32 +0000 https://oilersnation.com/?p=101289 Happy Wednesday, Internet friends, and welcome to another chapter of your ol’ pal Baggedmilk’s adventures in local radio. As I do every Wednesday, I jumped on the air with the boys on The Locker Room for a quick segment to talk about Tom Wilson, playoff runs, and anything else that’s going on in the world of the Edmonton Oilers.

Kicking off this week’s appearance, we jumped in with a look at the Tom Wilson situation and how the DoPS decided that the incident against the Rangers this past week. Needless to say, all of us were surprised that George Parros decided that the shenanigans was only worth a fine, and it will be very interesting to see how the league handles the Rangers’ response as well as tonight’s rematch between NYR and Washington. Back to the Oilers, now that the team has clinched a playoff spot, we started talking about the potential for the Oilers to make a run and how likely that will be considering no team in the NHL has played anyone outside of their own division. Would that be an advantage for a team like Edmonton that has two of the best players in the league playing at a level others may not be prepared to handle? Would it be a disadvantage somehow? Regardless of what happens, one thing that was very apparent in this call was that we’re all excited for the postseason to get going and to see how far this McDavid magic can take us.

Listen to this week’s segment below:

Previous Appearances:

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WWYDW: Winnipeg or Montreal? https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/05/wwydw-winnipeg-or-montreal/ https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/05/wwydw-winnipeg-or-montreal/#respond Wed, 05 May 2021 14:00:09 +0000 https://oilersnation.com/?p=101233 The Oilers clinched a playoff spot on Monday night and they’re pretty much locked into second place in the Canadian Division.

The Maple Leafs lead the way with 72 points and have four games remaining while the Oilers are in second with 66 points and five games left on their schedule. Barring some kind of late-season collapse from Toronto, it doesn’t appear realistic that the Oilers can leapfrog them and finish first in the division.

It looked as though the final few weeks of the season would feature a race between the Oilers and Jets for second place and home-ice advantage in a head-to-head in the first round. But, thanks to a seven-game losing streak, the Jets are now tied with the Canadiens with five games left each. Who the Oilers will host in the first round is now totally up in the air.

That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday ACTUALLY ON A WEDNESDAY edition question. Who would you rather have the Oilers face in the first round, the Jets or the Canadiens? Which do you figure is a more favourable match-up?

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Habs…

The Oilers have had a difficult time with the Habs this season. In seven games, Montreal has skated away with five wins while Edmonton only has two. That said, these teams will face each other two more times this season, so the Oilers could tighten the season series.

Montreal has also done a very good job at shutting down Connor McDavid. In their first five meetings, the Habs held McDavid to just two assists. McDavid finally broke through a couple of weeks ago when he exploded for back-to-back three-point games.

The Habs are an interesting team. They don’t boast much star power on their roster but they defend well and their forward group features a tremendous amount of quality depth. Montreal has some of the best underlying numbers in the league when it comes to suppressing offence but their goaltending tandem has been mediocre (.905 save percentage combined) and their forwards outside of Tyler Toffoli (28 goals) can’t finish.

My biggest worry with Montreal is Price. He hasn’t been good at all this season (.901 save percentage) but he willed the Habs to an upset over the Penguins in the play-in round last summer, stopping 126 of the 133 shots he faced. They also have Jake Allen who stopped 129 of the 138 shots he faced while playing with the Blues in the playoffs last summer.

Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets…

The Jets are a completely different animal from the Habs. They’re much more of a top-heavy lineup with stars such as Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Kyle Connor who carry the way offensively. Beyond that, though, Winnipeg lacks quality depth up front and they have a paper-thin blueline.

The one similarity between Montreal and Winnipeg is the potential game-changer in net. Connor Hellebuyck was last year’s Vezina Trophy winner and he finished sixth in Hart Trophy voting as his .922 save percentage over 58 games played was huge in compensating for Winnipeg’s lacklustre defence. This year, Hellebuyck owns a .912 save percentage, which is good but not spectacular like last season was.

The Oilers completely owned the head-to-head against Winnipeg this season, winning seven of the nine meetings between the teams. The Jets haven’t won a game against the Oilers since mid-February and that game featured a 40-save effort from Hellebuyck.

The Jets also haven’t been able to shut Connor McDavid down at all. While so many love to talk about how McDavid racked up easy points against Ottawa this season, his best opponent was actually Winnipeg. In nine games against the Jets, McDavid piled up seven goals and 22 points. He had 21 against the Sens.

What does it all mean?

Both the Jets and Habs have 57 points and five games remaining so anything could happen between them in the standings.

Winnipeg faces Calgary, Ottawa, Vancouver twice, and Toronto to close out their season, while Montreal faces Ottawa once, Toronto twice, and Edmonton twice. Though the Jets are imploding right now, they certainly have the easier schedule. Edmonton also has some ability to control their own destiny here. Beating Montreal in both of those meetings would help bury them in fourth.

In my mind, it’s pretty clear that Winnipeg is the team the Oilers would rather face in the first round. They’ve absolutely owned the head-to-head against the Jets as they have absolutely no solution to dealing with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Montreal’s roster may seem underwhelming, but they’re a deep, gritty team that plays well defensively, which isn’t what you want to go up against in the playoffs.

What say you, Nation? Would you rather see the Oilers face the Jets or the Habs in the first round? 

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The Day After: The slow burn… https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/05/edmonton-oilers-4-vancouver-canucks-1-the-day-after-the-slow-burn/ https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/05/edmonton-oilers-4-vancouver-canucks-1-the-day-after-the-slow-burn/#respond Wed, 05 May 2021 13:00:20 +0000 https://oilersnation.com/?p=101280 It was a long 64 days for Evan Bouchard, the longest of his career, between hockey games in a season.

But last night the young defenceman drew into the Oilers lineup and looked like he had played in every single game this season. He scored Edmonton’s third goal of the night, a sneaky wrister, that helped extend the team’s lead in what would be a 4-1 win.

“I’ve been working really hard off the ice to stay in shape, so to get back in the lineup was a good feeling,” said Bouchard after last night’s win. “Everyone wants to play, but you have to take advantage of what’s given to you and that’s a lot of practice time for me. (It gave me) a lot of time to work on what I wanted to work on, specifically my skating, so i think it was good to take advantage of that.

“Part of getting shots through to the net, it doesn’t always have to be that slapshot. When you can throw wristers on net with screens in front, it can help a lot. I just kind of want to get the puck through.”

While Leon Draisaitl led the way with two goals and Connor McDavid with two assists, Bouchard quietly played the third most minutes last night. He saw a total of 20 minutes and 13 seconds of ice time, and not just at 5×5. Bouchard played 1:41 on the powerplay and an additional 2:25 on the penalty kill, something that’s been new to him.

“It was a great opportunity for me to get through the systems and everything like that and I can add that part to my game,” said Bouchard, adding “to get a chance to play on the penalty kill was important for me.”

And it hasn’t been lost on his head coach, either, who said he felt “Bouchard was excellent tonight.”

“He played well for a guy who hasn’t played in a while,” said the ever-candid Dave Tippett.

“We’ll just take it game by game here and see how things go. We used a regular recall for him, so he’s available to us for the rest of the games. We’ll see where it goes with rest and injures and stuff like that.”

Tippett elected to remove Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear from the lineup, in favour of the rested Bouchard and William Lagesson. At this point in the season it’s clear the Oilers coaching staff is willing to try out as many things as possible.

All four lines controlled over 50 percent of the shot attempts, and all but the Draisaitl, McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi controlled over 50 percent of the expected goals. It’s a good sign as the team builds towards the playoffs.

But back to Bouchard: the Oilers will be able to hold Bouchard on the active roster for the remainder of the season, suggesting there’s a good chance he gets a few games the rest of the way. Scoring in your first game back in the lineup is, in and of itself, something that will help that, too.

Whether he’s in the lineup for playoffs or not, it’s a good chance for the Oilers to get a look at what they have in him ahead of what will undoubtedly be a key offseason in shaping the Oilers defensive future.

May 3, 2021; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) and forward Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrate PuljujarviÕs goal against the Vancouver Canucks (13)in the first period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports


  • The McCentury watch shrinks. He now needs only seven points in five games. Things are looking good in that sense.
  • McDavid and Draisaitl both collected two points last night for the third consecutive night. It’s also marked the 18th time this year the pair had multiple points in the same game. The next closest in that regards are the combos of Colorado Avalance forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen and Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner at 11 games, respectfully.

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 zach@oilersnation.com.

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GDB 51.0 Wrap Up: Points in the standings, McPoints on the board, and a 4-1 Oilers win https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/04/game-recap-51-0-edmonton-oilers-at-vancouver-canucks/ https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/04/game-recap-51-0-edmonton-oilers-at-vancouver-canucks/#respond Wed, 05 May 2021 04:45:49 +0000 https://oilersnation.com/?p=101242 These two games are the start of your payback for the Sedin years. Final Score: 4-1 Oilers

After clinching a playoff berth with a 5-3 victory, I was wondering what kind of game we would get from the Oilers on night two of this back-to-back set. I mean, did the boys get up to some Zoom drinks with each other when they got back to the hotel, or did they head straight to bed knowing that they had some business to tend to less than 24 hours later? Regardless of what actually happened outside of my imagination, the Oilers didn’t get the start they wanted as the Canucks were able to strike first in the opening moments of the hockey game. It was a lucky goal, but it was still a hole. Despite the early deficit, I thought the Oilers were trying to get too fancy with their attack rather than dumbing things down a bit, firing shots on net, and hunting for the garbage. Instead, they passed up a bunch of opportunities to fire the puck in favour of passing and it gave Demko an easier time than he should’ve had. The good news is that their shot count and quality chances improved as the period wound down, but the Oilers were just unable to make things click and actually cash in on their work.

Heading into the second period, the boys needed to come up with a goal without opening themselves up too much to allow their hole to get any deeper and they did a really nice job of putting that plan in motion. For a team that got only six shots in the first period, the Oilers needed to put away the overpassing and start ripping shots to create their own luck, which was exactly what they did. They were playing well, but they needed a goal to open the floodgates, ya know? And as the period wore on, the Oilers did indeed shift towards dumping pucks on Demko and it paid off for them to the tune of a trio of goals in a span of just over five minutes. The boys went from trailing to being up by a pair in a snap and it was beautiful to watch. Up by two with 20 minutes left to play, the Oilers were exactly where they wanted to be and all they needed to do to close out the win was make sure that they didn’t pull a Kevin and drop the chili. But as we’ve come to expect from this team when they have a third period lead, Edmonton was steady in all three zones and it gave them the luxury of being patient and waiting for Vancouver to make a mistake.

The wrap.


  • After a few good looks on net that he couldn’t get to go, Leon Draisaitl tied the game (1-1) with a ridiculous snipe from the slot (McPoint!) that beat Demko in an unstoppable spot. Draisaitl added another goal (2-1) late in the second period on a rare 4-on-3 powerplay after McDavid set him up for a one-timer that Demko had no chance of stopping.
  • How hilarious is it that Evan Bouchard scored a goal (3-1) on a beautiful wrist shot from the point after not playing since March 1st? Anyone reading this right now knows how badly I wanted him playing here or in Bakersfield and to see him score honestly made me laugh out loud. Turns out this guy is pretty good, huh?
  • Darnell Nurse’s heater of a season continued with another goal (4-1) after Josh Archibald set him up in the slot with enough time to make a sandwich.
  • What can you say about Connor McDavid when he’s consistently putting up multi-point nights every single game? Add another two McPoints on the pile.
  • After a night off and an extra-large bottle of Pedialyte, Mike Smith was back between the pipes and looking for his 19th win of the season and as he’s done all year, he stood tall between the pipes and gave the boys the foundation they needed to get the job done. Outside of the lucky goal the Canucks got to open the scoring, Smith was dialed-in and laser focused, stopping everything we wanted him to and some of the stuff he probably should have missed to lock in another W. Smith finished the night with 28 saves and a .966 save%.
  • How about Dominik Kahun putting points on the board in back-to-back games?
  • I don’t know about you guys but I like having Tyler Ennis in the lineup, and I would honestly love to know what Dave Tippett sees that I don’t. I know the roster is getting tighter to crack but it seems like he comes up with offensive chances any time he’s in the lineup. What gives?
  • Anybody else get scared of Adam Larsson when he was giving that death stare in the third period?
  • I love when the Oilers’ powerplay is rolling and that was the case tonight as they were able to grab two goals on three PP chances.
  • You’ve gotta give the penalty kill some love for the way they handled all four of Vancouver’s chances with the man advantage. After a slow start to the year, the PK has really turned things around and it’s turned into a nice asset as we head into the playoffs.
  • I know that you love knowing that the Oilers won 51% of the faceoffs.


  • Brock Boeser opened the scoring only 34 seconds into the game with a lucky bounce on a cross-ice pass that banked in off his shinpad. Actually, the goal took a couple of hops as it also jumped off of a sliding Darnell Nurse. Bad luck goals happen, friends, and that’s what this was.
  • Kailer Yamamoto needs a sacrifice in his name or something. The guy probably could have had a hat trick in the first period, but he’s just not getting any luck right now. Frankly, Yamamoto may never score again.
  • It’s not that Kyle Turris did anything wrong but he didn’t do anything right either, and it just reminds me of how wrong I was about how this signing would go.
  • The Corsi Gords will be upset once again as the Oilers were outshot by a 29-27 margin. Score effects, ya know?



Talk to me, Twitter. Tweet at @Oilersnation and @jsbmbaggedmilk for your chance to land in the Best of the Tweets.


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Oilersnation Radio Episode 136 – The Clinchmas Bonus Episode https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/04/oilersnation-radio-episode-136-the-clinchmas-bonus-episode/ https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/04/oilersnation-radio-episode-136-the-clinchmas-bonus-episode/#respond Tue, 04 May 2021 21:45:50 +0000 https://oilersnation.com/?p=101247 On Friday’s podcast, we said that we would record a bonus episode of Oilersnation Radio as soon as the Oilers clinched a playoff berth and since that very thing happened last night in Vancouver, we’re back with a mid-week bonus episode to break it all down.

To kick things off, we jumped in with a look at the big Clinchmas win over Vancouver and what the Oilers did right when the pressure was on to secure their playoff berth. Led by their captain, the Oilers did what was needed to get the job done and now we’ll see our boys make the playoffs for only the second time (third if you count bubble days) in the last 15 years. Needless to say, the vibes were amazing last night on Oilers Twitter and we spent a few minutes talking about how excited the Nation is about the challenge to come. From there, we looked at the ridiculous run that Connor McDavid is on as he looks to be on another planet right now, untouchable by anyone else in this league, and it was a lot of fun to talk about the heater he’s on. Next up, we looked at some of the Oilers’ secondary pieces and how they’re starting to perform at the level we need from them as we head into the playoffs. Lastly, we wrapped up today’s bonus episode with some of our favourite playoff memories from years past while also hoping to add some new ones to the bank.

Listen to Oilersnation Radio below:

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Previous Episodes:

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GDB 51.0: Avoid Bad Habits (8pm MT, SNW) https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/04/game-preview-51-0-edmonton-oilers-at-vancouver-canucks-8pm-mt-snw/ https://oilersnation.com/2021/05/04/game-preview-51-0-edmonton-oilers-at-vancouver-canucks-8pm-mt-snw/#respond Tue, 04 May 2021 20:00:24 +0000 https://oilersnation.com/?p=101251 The NHL playoffs are a different beast than the regular season. So does it ultimately matter if you are playing well heading into the postseason?

I’m not sure there is a correct answer.

I quickly looked at the past 10 Stanley Cup winners to see how they played in their final 10 games heading into the postseason.

2011 Boston Bruins: 6-3-1. They had a .628P% all season and .650 heading to the dance.
2012 Los Angeles Kings: 5-2-3. They were a .579P% all year, but .650 in their final 10 games.
2013 Chicago Blackhawks: 7-2-1. They were a .802P% all season and .750 down the stretch.
2014 Kings: They were 5-3-2. They had a .610P% in the regular season and .600 in final 10 games.
2015 Blackhawks: They were 4-6. They .622P% all year and .400 down the stretch.
2016 Pittsburgh Penguins: Went 8-2.  They were .634P% all year, but then .800 in the final 10 games.
2017 Penguins: Went 4-4-2. They were .677P% all year, despite being .500 down the stretch.
2018 Washington Capitals: They went 8-2. They were .640P% all year and then .800 in final 10 games.
2019 St. Louis Blues: Went 8-2. They were a .604P% all season, but .800 down the stretch.
2020 Tampa Bay Lightning: They went 3-6-1. They were a .637P% team all season and .350 down the stretch.

Tampa Bay was in a unique spot. They had over four months off from when the season ended abruptly in mid-March until it started up again in August. Only the 2015 Blackhawks had a losing record down the stretch.

After a slow start, the Oilers have played quite well.

Since February 1st they are 26-11-2. They have the fifth best P% at .692.
Split that in half and in their previous 19 games they are 13-4-2 and have the third best P% at 737.

They haven’t just got hot recently, it has been three months of solid hockey, but it is important they continue that through their final six games.

In 2017, the Oilers went 8-2 down the stretch and qualified for the playoffs. They had a .637P% all year, but were playing their best hockey heading into the playoffs. And it helped them win a round and then lose in seven games in the second round. Edmonton is currently at .640P% on the season and they have a chance to finish even higher with a strong finish.

Connor McDavid believes it is important to play well over these final six games, even if the results might be meaningless in the standings.

“It’s not a light switch. You can’t just turn your game on and off,” said McDavid. “You always have to keep building. I remember in 2017 we were playing some really good hockey and came out and beat a solid San Jose team. Obviously we are hoping for the same this year. We want to go in (to the playoffs) playing our best and give ourselves the best opportunity come game one.”

These final six games likely won’t have much impact on where the Oilers finish. If they go 1-4-1 they still would finish in second spot. If they go 6-0 and Toronto goes 2-2 the Oilers would finish first. Both scenarios are possible, but unlikely, so the Oilers’ focus will be on being crisp, sharp and as Dave Tippett likes to say “in rhythm.”

“You can’t compete for the Stanley Cup unless you make the playoffs. That was the first step,” said Tippett last night.

“Give our guys credit. That was our initial goal and we accomplished that. Our leadership group does a great job in the room. They continue to mature as top players and they really drive the room. That and Schmiddy (Mike Smith) coming in and having a heck of a year for us. Our goaltending has been very solid. The added depth this year has helped. Tyson Barrie has played very well for us. There are a lot of factors that have helped our team build and continue to build in the win column.

“We have to continue to improve in checking. It is not only our play without the puck, but our play with the puck and if we continue to improve it will give us a chance to win,” said Tippett.

Much of the focus, and rightfully so, down the stretch will be on McDavid’s quest for 100 points and joining a pretty exclusive club, but the other things to watch will be how are they playing defensively and how little are they giving up.

It will be a challenge because four of those games are against the Vancouver Canucks, who aren’t that good. They are injured, physically worn down from COVID infecting almost every player on the team, and playing out the season with no hope of making the playoffs. Some might suggest they have no pressure, but neither do the Oilers. A loss won’t ruin their season, so Edmonton will try to continue to sharpen the finer details of their game.



Draisaitl – McDavid – Puljujarvi
Kahun – RNH – Yamamoto
Ennis – McLeod– Archibald
Neal – Khaira – Chiasson

Nurse – Barrie
Kulikov – Larsson
Jones – Bear


Dave Tippett said there will be some lineup changes as some players have bumps and bruises. Will Evan Bouchard play?

Mike Smith gets the start. Dmitry Kulikov had another solid game and made a great pass to set up Dominik Kahun’s goal. Outside of two giveaways, I think Kulikov has played quite well and he and Larsson will see a lot of D-zone starts in the playoffs. Maybe Dave Tippett experiments with Ethan Bear or Tyson Barrie with Kulikov for a game, but Tippett likes what he’s seen from the Kulikov/Larsson pair and seems likely to start them together in the playoffs.


Pearson – Horvat – Lind
Höglander – Miller – Boeser
Highmore – Graovac – Hawryluk
Vesey – Boyd – MacEwen

Edler – Schmidt
Hughes – Hamonic
Juolevi – Myers


Vancouver also has a different goalie with Thatcher Demko getting the nod. Vancouver worked hard last night, but they don’t have a lot talent on their roster right now.


From CanucksArmy.com:

  • As I predicted, Connor McDavid would get at least eight points against the Canucks this week and he’s halfway there after only one game. This isn’t miraculous by any means, this is just what he is capable of. McDavid will probably end tonight’s game with three points but don’t be surprised if they’re just assists; even superheroes need a break, too!
  • You have to wonder if the Canucks will pass the Senators for sixth in the Scosche (Scotia for the uninformed). Ottawa has played six more games than Vancouver and only sits four points ahead. The way the Canucks are going right now, four points seems like a monumental task. Including tonight, there are three games against the Oilers (four if the TBD game happens), two against the Jets, and four games against the Flames which are yet to be confirmed as well. Nowhere in that schedule right now do I see two remaining wins. It’s sad to say, but it’s true. The NHL should pull the plug on the Canucks season and just leave it be.


Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton completes the BTB sweep with a 4-1 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Draisaitl scores two points and is on pace for 120 points in an 82-game season.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Puljujarvi produces 1-1-2 for the second game in a row. Then on Thursday he picks up another two points which gives him six points in three games and an early birthday present to himself. He turns 23 on Friday.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

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