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GDB 27.0: Winning is Fun (7pm MT, SNW)

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
2 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers’ last loss was November 22nd. They’ve compiled eight consecutive victories since and will try to tie their franchise record of nine in a row tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Oilers, and their fans, can’t wait for puck drop. When you are winning regularly everything seems better.
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The Oilers aren’t just winning, they are crushing teams. They’ve only allowed 13 goals during their eight-game winning streak, while scoring 38.
The penalty kill (96.1%) has allowed only one goal on 26 kills.
The power play (44%) has 11 goals on 25 chances. They’ve scored at least one PP goal in seven of the eight games. They didn’t score against Carolina, but only had one PPO.
All 19 skaters who have played during the winning streak have at least one point at 5×5.
Every D-man has a 62.5GF% or higher.
The Oilers are playing like the team they expected to be. They entered the season with lofty expectations. They tripped over themselves multiple times early in the season, but they’ve found their stride lately, and as they keep winning their confidence and belief in playing sound, smart defensive hockey is increasing. They’ve proven they can score in the regular season and the playoffs, but the remaining 56 games of this regular season should be about fine-tuning their commitment in the defensive zone. And that isn’t just about playing defence, but making smart plays with the puck in the defensive zone.
“Coff (Paul Coffey) has really helped us work on when is a good time to do it (make a play up the middle) and when is not a good time,” said Mattias Ekholm. “And more importantly just being very positive around it, even though it doesn’t work out every time. Instead of saying don’t do it, he is saying ‘maybe look for this, maybe look for that.’
“As a group it fits us well. Everyone can skate, everyone has a good hockey sense and knows when to pass it and when not to. We have skilled forwards, so we know if we get it in their hands as quick as possible and in as good as spots on the ice as possible, usually up the middle is the best spot to do it, then they can attack and do their thing.”
The Oilers’ offence is rolling, but so is their defence with only 13 goals allowed in eight games. Ekholm spoke about how their skill is helping their defensive game.
“When you break out the puck cleaner you spend less time in the defensive zone,” said Ekholm. “And when you defend you have more energy doing so. You do it more efficiently and now do spend less time defending now, and when we do have to defend it looks better because we have more juice, more jam. I feel like we have done a good job not letting teams roam around our zone for a minute. When they do come in, it seems it is taking us a shorter time to get the puck back.”
The phrase “a best defence is a good offence” accurately describes the Oilers’ play during this streak, because they are spending less time defending.
Evan Bouchard is a prime example. He’s been outstanding during the past month. His partner agrees.
“The one thing I’ve seen change from the first 10 or 12 games to where he is at now is it starts in the D zone,” said Ekholm. “It starts with his breakouts. He is very accurate. He hits usually the forward’s tape or my tape every time. It makes us go the other way. At the offensive blue line he is making his plays, but he doesn’t turn them over and create odd man rushes the other way. I saw this last year from him and now again this year. He has offensive instincts that very few players have.”

PRESENTED BY BETWAY

LINEUPS…

Oilers

RNH – McDavid – Hyman
Janmark – Draisaitl – Foegele
Kane – McLeod – Brown
Gagner – Hamblin – Ryan
Nurse – Ceci
Ekholm – Bouchard
Kulak – Desharnais
Skinner
It was an optional skate this morning, so no line rushes. Last game Knoblauch swapped Draisaitl and McLeod, and he had Draisaitl skate with Janmark and Foegele yesterday, so there is a good chance we could see that line tonight. Evander Kane is battling some sort of ailment and didn’t skate yesterday. I’d still expect him to play, but that might be a small factor in the second and third line centre switch.
I’m curious why those yelling for Dustin Schwartz to be fired are suddenly quiet. I thought he was terrible (according to them). I thought he couldn’t develop a young goalie. Stuart Skinner had an excellent rookie season, and like many rookies struggled in the playoffs. Then he had a rough start to this season, but he’s found his stride. He has a .914Sv% and 2.30 GAA in his last 12 starts and is 7-0 with a .934Sv% and 1.70 GAA in his last seven. But a rough first eight had many on the fire-the-goalie coach train.
The claims Schwartz only ruined goalies are inaccurate and misleading, yet many keep repeating it, because during his rookie season as a goalie coach the Oilers had Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth and he didn’t make them great. Or how in six games with Anthony Stolarz somehow Schwartz destroyed his technique. Some even stooped as low as to spread falsehoods about who he was married to. Of course, they are quiet now and say nothing, but once Skinner has another rough patch, as most goalies do, you will hear the same moronic claims. I’d recommend not giving them any credence.
Skinner, like the Oilers’ defensive structure, has been much better the past month.

Lightning

Barre-Boulet – Point – Kucherov
Jeannot – Cirelli – Hagel
Stamkos – Paul – Sheary
Motte – Glendening – Eyssimont
Sergachev – Cernak
de Haan – Raddysh
Fleury – Perbix
Vasilevskiy
Victor Hedman will not play tonight. He missed Tuesday’s game in Vancovuer with an injury and is a maybe for Saturday in Calgary. Since defeating the Oilers on November 18th, Tampa Bay is 5-6-1 while being outscored 41-33. Nikita Kucherov is carrying them offensively. He has six goals and 20 points, averaging 1.66 pts/game, and he’s factored in on 60% of their goals since these two teams met. Compare that to McDavid.
In Edmonton’s ten games since, McDavid is on a ten-game point streak with 25 points (2.5/game), but he’s factored in on 56% of Edmonton’s goals. He’s scoring more than Kucherov, but the Oilers’ supporting cast has been much better lately than Tampa’s. Since their last meeting, Kucherov and Brayden Point lead the Bolts with six goals while Anthony Cirelli has five, Steven Stamkos has four and Tanner Jeannot has three. Kucherov (1.66 pts/GP), Brandon Hagel (0.92), Point (0.75), Hedman and Stamkos (0.73) round out their top-five producers.
Edmonton’s top five are: McDavid (2.50), Zach Hyman (1.44), Evan Bouchard (1.40), Leon Draisaitl and RNH (1.20). Edmonton has scored 44 goals (4.40/game) in 10 games, while Tampa has scored 33 goals (2.75) in 12 games. The Oilers have allowed 24 (2.40) while Tampa’s given up 41 (3.42).

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton ties their franchise record with their ninth-consecutive victory as they skate to a 3-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid, Kucherov and Draisaitl pick up points.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: In 21 career games v. Tampa Bay Zach Hyman has one multi-goal game. He makes it two in 22 and moves into fourth place among the NHL’s goal scoring leaders with 18.

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