Game Notes: Edmonton Oilers @ Winnipeg Jets — Game 49
By Cam Lewis9 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers have boarded the bus to Winnipeg and they’ll take on the Jets on Saturday afternoon looking to match a season high with their fifth consecutive win.
1. Edmonton’s longest winning streak of the season came when they won five games in a row right out of the gate. They lost their sixth game of the season, a 5-3 defeat to the Flyers, and then immediately went on a four-game winning streak. The Oilers had another four-game winning streak back in January and carried a 5-0-1 stretch into the All-Star break but came out flat and lost back-to-back games. Those losses to Vegas and Chicago cost Dave Tippett his job and his successor, Jay Woodcroft, hasn’t lost since.
2. The Woodcroft era is off to as good of a start as anybody could have asked for. The team is 4-0-0, they’ve outscored their opponents 18-to-6 over that stretch, including 14-to-3 at even-strength, and the underlying numbers look good too. Edmonton is dominating opponents 184-to-129 in shot attempts over the four Woodcroft games and they’re up 41-to-24 in terms of high-danger scoring chances. Everything is working right now and it’s great to see.
3. That being said, this hot streak has seen the Oilers go up against two non-playoff teams, the Islanders and Sharks, and two bubble teams, the Ducks and Kings. The Jets are another bubble team, but Woodcroft and the Oilers will soon be tested by some of the league’s elite. On Sunday, they’ll return home to host the Wild, who are in second in the Western Conference, and then they’ll hit the road to play the Lightning, Panthers, and Hurricanes. Those are four of the top teams in the league in terms of points percentage as of Friday afternoon.
4. Three of Edmonton’s four wins during this stretch have also come against Pacific Division opponents, which is huge. The Oilers are dominating their Pacific foes this season, with 13 wins in 16 games. Saturday’s game against Winnipeg will be another four-point game as the Jets are a team that the Oilers could wind up going up against in the Wild-Card race. The Jets are 10th in the Western Conference in terms of points percentage at the time of writing and the Oilers are in seventh. Just like the Ducks and Sharks, the Oilers want to distance themselves from Winnipeg in the standings, and winning the head-to-head is the best way to do that.
5. The Jets had a miserable stretch in January in which they lost six games in a row and it looked like they were going to fall out of playoff contention. Since an embarrassing 5-1 loss to the wildly mediocre Canucks at home, the Jets have gone 5-2-1 and remain in the mix.
6. Winnipeg is far from a guaranteed playoff team so it’ll be interesting to see how they approach the trade deadline. Andrew Copp is having the best season of his career and he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer. Veteran Paul Stastny is also on an expiring contract. Selling would be a sad move for a team that’s made the playoffs in each of the past four seasons but it’s hard to see a legitimate contender out of this current Jets group.
7. The Oilers have split their season series thus far with the Jets as the two teams split a home-and-home back in November. It was a tale of two seasons against the Jets last year. The Oilers dominated in the regular season, winning seven of nine meetings, but then struggled when the refs put the whistles away, dropping four in a row during the playoffs. The Jets know how to stifle the Oilers and shut down their offence, the question is whether the refs will allow it.
8. Edmonton will have a challenge to navigate as Jesse Puljujarvi will apparently miss the next few weeks with a lower-body injury. Puljujarvi was ice cold in January and the early part of February but he was starting to heat up after Woodcroft took over. In his last four games, the big Finn scored twice (the first one ended a 14-game goalless drought) and added one assist.
9. What can Woodcroft do to fill Puljujarvi’s spot in the lineup while he’s out? The team is also without Zack Kassian, who has a fractured jaw, so Kailer Yamamoto is the only regular, top-nine right wing the Oilers have right now. Derek Ryan has been playing well on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ wing on the team’s third line and they often don’t dress a fourth right winger as Woodcroft likes to rotate seven defencemen. Whatever the play is to find Connor McDavid a new right wing, let’s hope it doesn’t come at the expense of running McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins as centres. The forward group is at its deepest when its three best players are driving their own lines.
10. At some point, you’d think Cooper Marody would get a chance to play with the NHL club. Woodcroft obviously knows Marody well, and he’s putting together another good season for the Bakersfield Condors, as he has 14 goals and 35 points through 32 games. Marody only seven NHL games for his career, which is surprising given what he’s done at the AHL level. There’s also Seth Griffith, who leads the Condors with 46 points in 34 games, and Brad Malone, who was recently inked to an NHL contract.
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