GDB 77.0: The Oilers’ Schedule and Penalty Kill are Issues Right Now (6:30pm MT, SNW)

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
26 days ago
It is not the ideal schedule to end the regular season. The Edmonton Oilers play six games in nine days. They are coming off a three-day break between games, so that could help them. They did play six games in nine days from March 2nd to the 10th, and those six games were in six different cities as they played in Seattle, Edmonton, Boston, Columbus, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. They went 4-1-1 in those six games and will be looking for a similar record starting tonight.
Be sure to check out the latest NHL playoff odds with online sportsbook Betway.
The travel for these six games will be easier than their March stretch. They play the first four at home tonight — Friday v. Arizona, Saturday v. Vancouver, next Monday v. San Jose — before finishing with road games next Wednesday and Thursday in Arizona and Colorado. The Oilers can secure home-ice advantage and the second spot in the Pacific Division if they go 1-4-1. They do have an outside chance to catch Vancouver for first place, but they will need to defeat the Canucks in regulation and win at least four and possibly all five of their other games. I don’t see the need to blow their load trying to finish first. It would be a nice bonus, but their playoff success won’t hinge on them finishing first or second in the Pacific.
The Oilers just want to continue to play well. “I won’t be focused on the result tonight, as much as the process,” said Mattias Ekholm. “It is about the way we play the game and get ready for the playoffs. We have history with them, we are fighting with them in regards to a potential playoff matchup, but I don’t see it as a statement game. We have greater things in the future than beating the Golden Knights tonight. Obviously we want to beat them, but at the same time it is the time of year where we are focusing on good habits.”
The Oilers aren’t going full Detroit Pistons, when discussing “the process,” but Ekholm’s point is valid. The Oilers want to continue to play well defensively and limit scoring chances off the rush. The one area of their game they need to improve over these final six games is their penalty kill. Since losing to the Golden Knights on February 6th, the Oilers’ penalty kill ranks 29th in the NHL at 72.8%. That is over their last 30 games, so not a small sample size. It needs to improve.
They’ve allowed 25 goals on 92 kills. Darnell Nurse has been on the ice for 21 of those goals. Nurse was excellent on the PK prior to the All-Star break, but since then he has struggled. Nurse has played 66:13 on the PK, while Cody Ceci has played the most minutes at 73:15. Ceci has been on for 11 goals against and has a 9.01 GA/60, while Nurse has been on for 21 and has a 19.02 GA/60. I realize they usually start the PK, and face more minutes against the top units, but it is clear Nurse is struggling more on the PK. When he takes a penalty, the PK has killed if off at a much higher rate.
But even outside of Nurse, the PK has struggled.
In the first 33 games with Kris Knoblauch, the PK was best in the NHL at 89.5%. It allowed 11 goals on 105 kills. Nurse played 93 minutes on the PK and was only on for seven goals against. He had a 4.05 GA/60 in those first 33 games, but it has ballooned to 19.02/60 in the last 30. Many other players are in a similar boat as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has gone from 4.06 GA/60 to 15.31. Derek Ryan had jumped from 4.14/60 to 13.77/60.
Mattias Ekholm has remained the same. In 73 minutes in the first 33 games he had a 4.09 GA/60, and in 59:33 in the last 30 games he has a 4.04 GA/60. Brett Kulak hasn’t killed a lot, but in the first 33 games he wasn’t on for one goal against (0.00 GA/60) in 18:42 and in the last 33 games he has a 4.59 in 26:07. We have seen a few more minutes for Kulak lately, and it is something to monitor over the last six games.
It is the only area of the Oilers’ game that has struggled. Their 5×5 play has been solid outscoring opponents 76-54 over the last 30 games. Their powerplay is 5th at 26.4%.




RNH– Draisaitl – Hyman
Kane – Henrique – Foegele
Holloway – McLeod – Perry
Janmark – Carrick – Brown
Ekholm – Bouchard
Nurse – Ceci
Kulak – Desharnais<
The good news is Connor McDavid skated this morning on his own. He won’t play tonight, but his injury isn’t serious. He might play this weekend, but there is no rush to get him back in the lineup. I’m not 100% on Carrick playing, but after he sat out last weekend, I’m making an educated guess he will draw back in. Dylan Holloway will get a good look at 5×5.
If he is going to make the playoff lineup, he will have to beat out one of their top-nine forwards. He is not taking Mattias Janmark’s spot. Janmark is ultra-reliable defensively, strong on the puck and good on the PK. He is a solid fourth liner. But I guarantee Holloway will be in the top-nine next season. No question.

Golden Knights

Barbashev – Eichel – Marchessault
Hertl– Stephenson – Amadio
Dorofeyev – Karlsson – Mantha
Cotter – Howden – Kolesar
Hague – Hanafin
McNabb – Theodore
Martinez– Whitecloud
Vegas’ roster tonight is much different than the one the Oilers faced on February sixth. Jack Eichel (injured), Tomas Hertl, Anthony Mantha, Noah Hanafin and Shea Theodore (injured) are in. While Alex Pietrangelo, Mark Stone and Nicolas Roy are injured and Kaeden Korczak and Brendan Brisson are playing in the AHL. Adin Hill will make his first start since March 23rd.


Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers have a lot to prove tonight. Vegas knocked them out of the playoffs last year and ended their 16-game winning streak earlier this season. Oilers rally around McDavid’s absence and win 3-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Draisaitl steps up and picks up two points.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: A battle of the Brett’s emerges as Brett Kulak and Brett Howden have a spirited tilt.

Check out these posts...