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G31 Game Notes: Oilers Chasing .500

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Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
5 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers have had a point% of .500 for a meagre two games all season. They defeated the New Jerseys Devils on December 10th, and improved to 12-12-1, then two nights later they beat Chicago 4-1 to reach their season high of .519P%. They lost their next three games, before last night’s 6-3 victory over the Devils.
Tonight, they face the Eastern Conference’s top team in the New York Rangers, and a victory would send them home for Christmas with a record of 15-15-1.
— It seems strange to write, but the Oilers should have won that game more handily than the 6-3 score. They needed three goals in 69 seconds (nice) in the first 2:40 of the third period to take control of the game. They had dominated much of the game up to that point, but two giveaways, and too many passed up shots, had them trailing 3-2 to start the third. They deserved to win and will need a similar effort tonight against a much tougher Rangers team.
— The Oilers crushed the Devils on the cycle last night.
The scoring chances off the cycle were 11-1. High danger chances were 20-7. And the Oilers won 63.6% of the puck battles. The only area they need to clean up is odd-man rushes. Two of them led to goals, and both were preventable.
— Moving Ryan McLeod to the Leon Draisaitl’s left wing gave the second line a much-needed boost. The Kane-Draisaitl-Foegele line struggled through 40 minutes, mainly due to their horrific puck possession. They kept giving away the puck by trying low-percentage passes. They can’t continue to just give the puck away attempting low-percentage passes.
— All James Hamblin, Sam Gagner and Adam Erne do is outscore the opposition. Erne (5-3), Hamblin (8-5) and Gagner (9-6) are the only players with a GF% above 60%. When they are off the ice the Oilers have been outscored 57-49. I know they play limited minutes, and don’t play against top lines, but when your fourth-line players are outscoring the opposition, you should be winning more games. They are doing their jobs and Erne’s goal down the right side was a high-skilled play. Rather than just shoot it into Vanecek’s pads, he’d made a power move around him. When he gets in the lineup, he has added more positives than negatives. At 5×5 he is third among Oilers forwards in hits with 33 and he’s only played 99 minutes. The Oilers forwards are not an overly physical group.
— Evander Kane leads the forwards with 107 hits at 5×5, followed by Connor McDavid (38), Erne (33), Dylan Holloway (25 in 14 GP), Ryan McLeod (25), Zach Hyman (24), Warren Foegele (23), Mattias Janmark (16), Derek Ryan (13), Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner (12), Connor Brown (11) and James Hamblin (7). Kane is third among forwards in the NHL, while McDavid is tied for 80th and Erne is 95th.
Erne is third in the NHL at hits/60, Kane is 15th, Holloway is 50th and McDavid is 134th. Erne and Holloway are the only players in the bottom six in the top 150 in hits/60. Janmark is 155th. Erne isn’t a defensive liability, outscores and out chances the opposition when he’s on the ice, and he’s physical. Connor Brown needs to take notes.
— Sam Gagner didn’t play the final 13 minutes of the game after getting a stick in the face. Derek Ryan was hammered into the boards in the final minute of the game and left the ice in discomfort. If either can’t play, then Brown will draw back in, but if they are healthy there is zero reason to change the lineup.
— If I’m Kris Knoblauch, there would need to be an injury for me to split up the RNH-McDavid-Hyman line. They’ve played 133 minutes together at 5×5 and are outscoring the opposition 15-5 and outshooting them 111-48. They are absolutely crushing it. If the other lines aren’t going and the coach needs to make an in-game adjustment, do what he did last night and juggle the second, third and fourth lines, but leave the first line intact. If they have to, keep Janmark as the third line centre and play McLeod with Draisaitl. It isn’t ideal, but splitting up the first line shouldn’t be an option right now.
— I suspect we will see the Chris Kreider- Mika Zibanejad- Blake Wheeler line out against McDavid’s line tonight. They’ve become a line recently and in their 140 minutes they’ve outscored opponents 11-6 and outshot them 86-72. Not as dominant as the McDavid line, but their size and speed are likely the matchup the Rangers want. Which means Leon Draisaitl’s line will face the Artemi Panarin – Vincent Trocheck – Alexis Lafreniere line. In 250 minutes together they’ve been outscored 17-11, despite outshooting opponents 168-132.
— We could see quite the battle in the faceoff dot tonight, if Trocheck and Draisaitl’s lines go head-to-head. Trocheck is third in the NHL at 63.6%, while Draisaitl is 15th at 57.
PlayerEVPPPKOZNZDZ
Trocheck413 (63.9%)111 (63%)25 (60%)250 (64.4%)128 (64.8%)171 (61.4%)
Draisaitl412 (58.7%)165 (56.5%)69 (49.2%)257 (58.7%)137 (58.3%)202 (54.4%)
Draisaitl takes more draws in the D-zone and on the PK. This will be a classic right shot v. left shot in the faceoff dot.
— The Rangers win games with their special teams. At 5×5 they’ve been outscored 59-58, however, their special teams are elite. They lead the NHL with a 31.3% power play and their penalty kill is fifth at 85.3%. Their overall GF-GA is 32-18 on special teams. Edmonton is 31-27 on special teams and has been outscored 67-62 at 5×5.
—The Rangers host the Oilers tonight and Buffalo tomorrow. Jonathon Quick shutout the Oilers 3-0 on October 26th, and he is 9-0-1 with a .926Sv% and 2.09 GAA. Igor Shesterkin has a .906Sv% on the season and an .888Sv% in six starts in December. He has stopped 52 of 55 shots he faced over his last two games, both wins over Boston and Toronto. The Rangers could let him start three games in a row for the fourth time this season, as he seems to play better when he starts more games in a row. When he starts his third game in a row, he is 3-0 with a .947Sv% and 1.62 GAA this season.

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