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G37 Game Notes: Will Oilers Feast on Depleted Blackhawks?

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 month ago
The Edmonton Oilers skate into Chicago set to face an injury-riddled Chicago Blackhawks team. On paper this looks like a major mismatch, as the Blackhawks are without many of their top forwards. Connor Bedard, Taylor Hall, Nick Foligno, Anthony Beauvillier, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Johnson are on the IR. Defencemen Seth Jones has been skating recently and might play tonight. Same with depth forward Taylor Raddysh, but even if those two do dress, the Chicago offence is significantly weaker than Edmonton’s.
— Philip Kurashev (23 points), Jason Dickinson (20), Ryan Donato (13) and Raddysh (10 points), if he plays, will be their only forwards in the lineup with more than 10 points. Edmonton has seven forwards, and Evan Bouchard with 15+ points this season. I know Chicago just defeated Calgary, but tonight is as close to a guaranteed win as I can think of in recent memory. I can’t recall the last time I saw a team playing without six of its top-seven forwards.
— And the Oilers are red hot. They are 15-3 in their last 18 games and on a seven-game winning streak. They’ve outscored teams 76-41. Their power play is at 30.9% and their penalty kill is functioning at 87.5%. Stuart Skinner is 12-2 with a .926Sv% and 2.00 GAA. Calvin Pickard is 3-1 with a .909Sv% and 2.77 GAA. Every facet of their game is crisp right now.
— Connor McDavid has 38 points in the last 18 games. He has 30 assists, which equates to a 136 over a full season. His career-best pace was when he had 79 apples in the shortened 2021 season (prorates to 115). He’s killing it as a passer right now. This bullet point isn’t a criticism, just an observation. When a player has 38 points in 18 games it is hard to expect more.
— But McDavid isn’t shooting the puck nearly as often this season as he has the past three years.
SeasonGPG-A-PTSSOGSOG/GP
20215633-72-105200 (4th)3.57
20228044-79-123314(5th)3.92
20238264-89-153352 (3rd)4.40
20243414-40-54104 (65th)3.05
McDavid finished fourth, fifth and third in most shots on goal the past three years, while also leading the league in scoring each season. McDavid is on pace for 33 goals, his lowest total since he scored 30 in his second NHL season. His current 3.05 shots/game is the lowest since his rookie season. The previous three seasons McDavid averaged 3.97 shots/game, which was fifth most in the NHL behind Nathan MacKinnon (4.73), Auston Matthews (4.50), David Pastrnak (4.43) and Alex Ovechkin (4.15). McDavid grew up playing with more of a pass-first mentality. He’s worked hard to become a better shooter and more of a volume shooter.
— In each of the past five seasons we’ve seen his SOG/GP increase. In 2019 he fired 3.07, then 3.31 in 2020, 3.57 in 2021, 3.92 in 2022 and 4.40 last year. Currently, he is near his 2019 pace. In his first 16 games this year he fired 47 shots (2.93), and over the last 18 games he’s up to 3.16/game (57 shots). But he’s almost a full shot/game lower this season than he averaged the previous three years.
— It is crazy to think how many more points he might have if he was shooting more. In the Ottawa game he passed on both two-on-ones he had, and neither resulted in a shot on goal. On the odd man rush with Leon Draisaitl, McDavid was in a great shooting spot (in the middle of the slot), but still tried to thread a pass through the defender. Last season, he would shoot from that spot. He was excellent at making the goalies think he was going to pass, and then beating them with a hard shot through the five-hole. I won’t be surprised if we see an uptick in his shots moving forward and he might even produce more points than he has lately, which seems ridiculous. But he’s more than capable of it.
— McDavid has really dominated at 5×5 lately. He has 21 5×5 points in his last 18 games, after scoring seven in his first 16 games. His career high is 71 in 82 games in 2018, although he did have 56 in 56 games in the shortened 2021 season. His recent pace of 1.16 pts/GP at 5×5 is outstanding. The only players in the salary cap era with more than 70 points at 5×5 are McDavid (71 in 2018), Johnny Gaudreau (72 in 2022) and Henrik Sedin (77 in 2010). His recent play has him pushing for 70+ again.
— McDavid needs three points to pass Glenn Anderson (906 points) for fourth place on the Oilers’ all-time scoring list. He will pass Mark Messier (1,034) and Jari Kurri (1,043) next season and then will only trail Wayne Gretzky (1,669).
— If the Oilers win tonight, they’d become only the third team in NHL history with three separate eight-game winning streaks in a span of 45 games.
FranchiseFrom SeasonTo SeasonStreaksGames won in streak
Edmonton2022-232023-2439, 8 and 8* games
Philadelphia1984-851985-8638, 11 and 13 games
Boston1928-291929-3038, 14 and 11 games
The other two franchises also had one of their winning streaks late in the previous season.
— The Oilers have never won 10 games in a row. They’ve won nine in a row twice (2023 and 2001), and eight games five times. The Cup-winning 1983-84 teams had three eight-game winning streaks in a span of 56 games with a record of 40-12-4. That stretch went as follows: 8W, 1L, 4W, 1T, 1L, 1T, 1W, 1L, 1W, 2L, 4W, 1L, 8W, 1L, 5W, 1T, 1L, 1W, 5L and 8W. The final game of that five-game winning streak was the worst loss in franchise history, 11-0 in Hartford. They went 18-4 after that loss including the eight-game winning streak and then went 15-4 in the playoffs enroute to their first Stanley Cup.
— It hasn’t been mentioned often, but the Oilers are 7-1 in their last eight road games, and they haven’t had to rely heavily on McDavid. He had four points in their 5-0 shutout win over Washington, but when they won their five in a row before and after Christmas, McDavid factored in on only seven of 24 goals. It is a great sign when the team can win game handily without McDavid dominating. There will be nights when they need him to dominate to win, but they haven’t had to rely on him as much lately on the road.
— Last season McDavid scored 77 points in 41 road games and had 76 points in 41 home games. He led the league in home and road scoring. This year he has 35 points in 17 home games and sits in second place behind MacKinnon who has 45 points in 22 games. MacKinnon has a point in all 22 home games for the Avalanche. He’s been unreal at home thus far. But surprisingly, both players have been scored significantly less on the road. MacKinnon has 21 points in 19 road games and McDavid has 19 in 17. They were first and second in road scoring last season. McDavid led the NHL in road scoring in 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. He was third in 2019. He is due for a few big nights on the road, and I won’t be stunned if happens on this trip.

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