Game Notes Panthers @ Oilers: Something to Build On
Photo credit:Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
By Jason Gregor11 months ago
The Oilers are a modest 11-10. They began the season 7-3, are only 4-7 since, but after overcoming a 3-0 deficit and scoring four goals in 13:38 to shock the New York Rangers on Saturday the Oilers are hoping to build off their best third period of the season.
— Tonight’s game is a home game, but it is essentially part of a six-game road trip. The Oilers visited the Devils, Islanders and Rangers last week then flew home to host the Panthers tonight, before leaving tomorrow to take on Chicago and Minnesota on Wednesday and Thursday. The flight back from New York was much more jovial for the Orange and Blue after their stellar third period and they need to build off that momentum.
— Evan Bouchard scored his first two goals of the season. Bouchard had been struggling getting pucks on net prior to Saturday. He had 44 shots on goal, but also had 43 blocked. Shots that hit players in the low slots are different than when the high winger is blocking the shots. Bouchard prides himself on getting shots through, especially past the high forward, but this season it’s been a struggle up until Saturday. Confidence is an amazing beast. Bouchard likely felt the weight of a gorilla leaving his back after he scored his first goal. On his second goal, the best part of it was getting the shot up quickly so it wouldn’t hit the high forward who came out to block it. Prior to his first goal, that shot is getting blocked, but he gets it up and it sails all the way to the back of the net and put the Oilers right back in the game.
— I fully believe Bouchard’s game will benefit because his offensive confidence is back. He will make quicker decisions with the puck. He is still developing as a defender. It wasn’t his forte in junior, and he’s made strides in that area since joining the Oilers, but when he is producing offence his confidence extends into the defensive zone. He only played 14:07 on Saturday, but his poise and execution in the third period were arguably his best of the season.
— Ryan McLeod also had a dynamic third period picking up three assists. It was the second three-point game of his career and first three-assist game. McLeod entered Saturday with two points in his previous 14 games and no goals. The three apples likely would have injected some much-needed confidence into his game, but last night the Oilers placed McLeod on IR, along with Kailer Yamamoto.
— Yamamoto wasn’t going to play tonight, but he was placed on IR retroactive to November 8th, the last game he played. He will be eligible to play later this week, while McLeod will miss at least three games. Edmonton moved Yamamoto to IR, so they could recall both Tyler Benson and James Hamblin. Warren Foegele didn’t practice yesterday, and he too might not be available tonight.
— If Foegele can’t go, the Oilers will be without four of their top-nine forwards in Evander Kane, Yamamoto, McLeod, and Foegele. It is not ideal, but it presents an opportunity for others.
— Dylan Holloway scored his first NHL goal to tie the game. He was on the ice for the Oilers’ first two goals as well, and the youngster desperately needed a jolt offensively. He only played 8:03, but I hope head coach Jay Woodcroft saw the impact he had in the third period and rewards him with more ice time. Holloway will make some mistakes, but his speed, size and skill are evident even in limited minutes. I’d love to see him get five consecutive games with 12+ minutes to see what he can do. Many other forwards, who have produced very little, have been given the same opportunities. The time is now to see what Holloway can do if given more minutes.
— It can’t be overstated how important it was for Edmonton to get three goals without Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl on the ice v. the Rangers. Edmonton’s depth scoring got them back in the game, before Draisaitl and McDavid connected on the game winning goal. The Oilers’ top two scorers are paid handsomely to score, and they do, but the Oilers need a few more games where the depth guys can lessen the offensive burden. If that starts happening regularly the wins will follow.
— The Panthers’ flight from Florida to Edmonton wasn’t nearly as jovial or upbeat as the Oilers. While Edmonton orchestrated a fantastic third period comeback, the Panthers blew two separate three-goal leads and lost 5-4 in OT to St. Louis on Saturday. The Panthers led 3-0 only 8:47 into the game. They led 4-1 after 40 minutes, but the Blues scored three goals in 7:55 midway through the third period to tie the game at four, and then Jordan Kyrou won it in OT for the 2019 Stanley Cup Champions.
— Edmonton’s first period struggles continue. They only have 13 goals in the first period compared to 26 in the second and 29 in the third. They are 25th in first period goals, while they are ninth and seventh in the second and third periods. They continually play from behind and it is the main reason they are 11-10. Scoring first tonight would be more important than most games, because Florida is the worst team in the NHL when they allow the first goal. The Panthers have only won once in the seven games when allowing the first goal. Their .143 winning% is lowest in the NHL. They’ve scored first 14 times, second most in the league, so scoring first on them won’t be easy, but based on this season it would significantly increase the Oilers’ chances of winning.
— The Oilers have only scored first eight times this season (tied for 27th), but they have the third best winning% when scoring first at .875. They are 7-1. Even non-math experts can see the combination of Edmonton scoring first combined plus the Panthers’ struggles to win when allowing the first goal makes the first goal quite important tonight.
— Edmonton didn’t score in the first frame v. the Panthers earlier this season, but Tyson Barrie did score the first goal 11:49 into the second as the Oilers went on to win 4-3. Edmonton has only scored first in four of their 11 home games thus far. They need to improve their starts.
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