G21 Game Notes: Heightened Rivalry

Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
6 months ago
Rivalries are formed in the playoffs. The animosity, the hatred and the intensity are nourished during the regular season, but the starting point often stems from a playoff meeting. Vegas knocked Edmonton out in six games last spring, and I expect the regular season games between these two to be more intense than we’ve seen in the past. Add in the fact the Oilers are desperate for wins to climb up the Western Conference standings, and they should have no problem getting motivated for tonight’s tilt vs. Vegas.
— Fun fact: Through 20 games last season, Edmonton scored 66 goals. They have 66 again this season. Last year McDavid and Draisaitl combined for 27 goals. This year they have 16. Last season, 12 players had a goal through 20 games, and this season, they’ve had 15 different goal scorers.
16 – McDavid12 – Hyman
11 – Draisaitl10 – Kane
9 – Hyman and RNH9 – Draisaitl
5 -Kane (14GP)7 – McDavid
3 – Foegele, McLeod, Nurse & Barrie5- RNH and Bouchard
2 – Ryan3 – Foegele, Nurse and Ekholm
1 – Ceci and Puljujarvi2 – Hamblin, Gagner and Ryan
1 -Desharnais, Holloway and Kulak
— Edmonton’s offence wasn’t very good early with 31 goals in their first 12 games, but they’ve found their stride recently with 35 goals in their last eight games. McDavid scored four points in nine games after returning from injury. He was only out a week, so rust wasn’t a factor, but a combination of returning from injury and a slight dip in confidence led to the rare outage. Ever since he scored his first goal in Florida last Monday, he’s looked like his usual dominant self. Even the best player in the world can battle with some confidence issues, similar to Leon Draisaitl, who for a stretch of games couldn’t connect on a one-timer. It happens, but McDavid has been flying the past four games, on the ice and up the scoring leader board.
— Last Monday morning McDavid was 108th in NHL scoring with 13 points. He produced three goals and 12 points in four games since and now sits in 16th spot with 25 points. Draisaitl is ninth with 28 points, and they are seven and 10 points back of scoring leader Nikita Kucherov. The scoring title is a nice side bar for McDavid and Draisaitl, but the recent surge by McDavid and Draisaitl (seven points in four games) kicks starts the Oilers’ offence, and gives the team confidence.
— Since the coaching change Edmonton is 16th in the NHL in GA/GP, and much of that is due to the penalty kill, which has killed off 26 of 29 penalties (89.7%). The one concern is they are still taking too many penalties. Edmonton has averaged 4.14 times shorthanded (TS) per game under Knoblauch. St. Louis (2.29), Winnipeg (2.33) and Carolina (2.40) have the fewest TS. Edmonton is averaging almost two more PK chances per game. You are playing with fire taking that many penalties.
— It is a very small sample size, but here’s a look at the differences we’ve seen since the coaching change courtesy of Clear Sight Analytics.
Defensively under Woodcroft:
27th in high% XG against at 5-on-5.
32nd in rush high% XG against at 5-on-5
7th in in-zone high% XG against at 5-on-5 (which tells you how bad the rush was to be 27th overall)
26th in high% XG against at 4-on-5 PK
Defensively under Knoblauch:
9th in high% XG against at 5-on-5
10th in rush high% XG against at 5-on-5
13th in in-zone high% XG against at 5-on-5
18th in high% XG against at 4-on-5 PK
The team has tightened up defensively. Coaching might be a small part, but I think player commitment is also a factor. I outlined yesterday how in each of the three previous seasons the Oilers had a terrible stretch defensively between 15-20 games, and then they’d tighten up. But the biggest improvements have come from reducing high danger chances off the rush.
— And here is a look at the offensive numbers. Again, it is only 13 games v. seven. Both aren’t the ideal sample size.
Offensively under Woodcroft:
18th in high% XG for at 5-on-5
23rd in rush high% XG for at 5-on-5
8th in in-zone high% XG for at 5-on-5
19th in high% XG against at 5-on-4 PP
Offensively under Knoblauch:
25th in high% XG for at 5-on-5
28th in rush high% XG for at 5-on-5
10th in in-zone high% XG for at 5-on-5
8th in high% XG against at 5-on-4 PP
The Oilers have scored much more lately, but haven’t created more, except on the power play. Small sample size. And this is expected goals.
— I find it interesting the difference between Clear Sight Analytics and Sportlogiq. Sportlogiq has the Oilers’ offence creating the second-most high-danger chances while allowing the seventh fewest. I think they’ve given up more than that, and not created the second most high danger chances. Edmonton was 31st in slot shots allowed up until the past few games and are now 27th, which is why I’m a bit perplexed SL has them seventh in HD chances allowed, when most come from the slot or inner slot.
— MacKenzie Weegar scored with five seconds remaining in OT to give the Calgary Flames a 2-1 victory over Vegas last night. After starting the season 11-0-1, Vegas is now 3-5-2 in its last ten games. They’ve only scored six goals in their last five games and were shutout in Pittsburgh and at home to Arizona no Saturday. They were also shutout in Washington on November 14th. Tonight is their third game in four nights and second half of a back-to-back. Edmonton has a clear scheduling advantage. They must use it.
— Vegas is banged up on the blue line with Shea Theodore and Alec Martinez out. That is half of their top four, but Vegas plays all three D pairs similar minutes regardless of who is in the lineup.
Kaeden Korczak was recalled on Sunday replacing the injured Theodore and played the most minutes 5×5 last night for Vegas. He logged 18:01 followed by Brayen McNabb (17:37), Alex Pietrangelo (16:19), Nicholas Hague (16:18), Ben Hutton (15:46) and Zach Whitecloud (15:43). McNabb and Pietrangelo played over 24 minutes due to their special team ice time, but Vegas’ coaches have faith in all their players.
— I suspect you will see the McNabb – Korczak and Hague – Pietrangelo pairings out against the McDavid and Draisaitl lines tonight.
— Edmonton has won five of its last eight games, but those wins came against weak offensive teams. Seattle is 26th in goals for/game, while Anaheim is 27th, Islanders 30th and Washington 31st. Edmonton did a good job limiting them to seven goals in five games, but they need to be able to limit a more competent offensive team. Vegas is 18th in goals but has struggled lately scoring. Edmonton needs to ensure that continues. Vegas is a much tougher test and if the Oilers are going to climb the standings, they will need to start defeating some of the top teams in the NHL. Vegas has the fifth-best points% and tied for the most points in the NHL. This will be a good test for the Oilers.
— Edmonton should be highly motivated tonight. Vegas stole their dream in the playoffs. This should be an easy game to get up for. At some point this season, the Oilers need to send Alex Pietrangelo a message he can’t go after Draisaitl like he did in the playoffs, and not pay a price. It doesn’t have to be tonight necessarily, unless the game is decided, but there needs to be a message sent.


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