Game Notes Oilers @ Predators: Get Back On Track

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
2 years ago
Go big or go home seems to be the motto of the Edmonton Oilers some nights. In 30 games under Jay Woodcroft the Oilers are 19-8-3. Overall they have been quite impressive, but they’ve also shown an ability to completely unravel. They’ve had three ugly losses under Woodcroft, losing 7-3 to Minnesota, 9-5 to Calgary and 5-1 in Minnesota on Tuesday. Tonight they will look for a bounce-back effort against the Nashville Predators.
— The Oilers allowed 21 goals in their three worst performances. But in their three best they’ve allowed a total of one goal. Remove their three worst games defensively, and their three best, and in the other 24 they’ve averaged 2.75 goals against/game. If you include all 30 games they are at 2.93, which is 11th best in the NHL since Woodcroft arrived. The Oilers have improved defensively, but the next step will be trying to avoid one horrendous defensive outing every 10 games.
— I didn’t watch Tuesday’s game live. I was away with my wife celebrating our 10-year anniversary (miracles do happen). We relaxed at a spa and I tuned out of sports. I PVR’d the game and watched it late last night. It wasn’t like the Oilers struggled all game, but wow did they self implode on the first three goals. They were gifts. Duncan Keith and Evan Bouchard had a rough night with giveaways. That pair had been consistent since being put together over a month ago, but Tuesday was not a good game for them. They will be looking for a rebound effort tonight. Tuesday’s loss reminded me of games earlier this season when the Oilers gifted goals to the opposition. It happened far too frequently. It hasn’t occurred nearly as often the past three months, but it did on Tuesday. It should act as a good reminder on how they need to play to be successful.
— The Oilers’ offence has really improved with Woodcroft. They are fifth in goals for/game at 3.73. If you remove their three best offensive games, and their three least productive, the remaining 24 games has them averaging 3.70 goals/game. They have been very consistent offensively since February 11th. And their top players are leading them offensively.
— Connor McDavid has 19 goals, Leon Draisaitl 18, Evander Kane 14, Zach Hyman 11 and Kailer Yamamoto 10. They’ve combined for 72 goals and the rest of the forwards have scored 28, while the blue line has chipped in with 12. How do the Oilers compare to other teams over their past 30 games?
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— Colorado has had injuries to some of their top players which is why their top-three goals are down in this run, but on the season they are still the second best offensive team in the NHL.
The Blues have better depth scoring, but Calgary and Edmonton have more top-end scoring. Edmonton could use another four or five goals from its sixth-18th skaters. And the easiest options would be to have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi chip in with two more goals each over a 30-game span. It isn’t a huge ask, and I think those are the two have the most offensive potential of the sixth-18th skaters. I don’t think it is unrealistic to have Pulujarvi and RNH score one extra goal every 15 games.
— Next season you would hope Ryan McLeod could add another goal or two as well, but he’s a rookie and I wouldn’t expect him to produce much more than he is this season. The addition of Kane has been a huge boost to the offence, as well as their physical play and play along the boards. It will be interesting to see if Ken Holland can re-sign him and if any other teams offer a longer-term deal.
— Kane has also added some much needed toughness to the lineup. He sticks up for his teammates. Here he backs up Kailer Yamamoto.
My issue with this scrum was how slow the other Oilers were to reacting. Kane was never in trouble, but Yamamoto was the only one around him for the first few seconds. Part of that was due to where Kulak and Barrie were when the scrum happened. The Wild had four players within 25 feet when the scrum began, but I’d still like to see a bit more urgency from McLeod, Kulak and Barrie to get in. Granted, Kane was never in trouble, but in the playoffs you need a pack mentality. You get in to help teammates without hesitation. Oilers need to be prepared to engage tonight against the very physical Nashville Predators.
— I’ve seen many asking about Carter Savoie and if he will sign with the Oilers. Let’s look at the scenarios.
  1. If he signs a contract for the remainder of this season, he can only play in the NHL. So they’d burn a year of the deal and he’d likely only play one or two games at the most. And keep in mind Dylan Holloway has yet to play an NHL game and he is more NHL-ready than Savoie at this point. Keep in mind, if they sign him to a deal that starts today he can’t be reassigned to the American Hockey League. Savoie isn’t ready to help the Oilers in the playoffs, so signing him for the remainder of this season doesn’t really help the organization. Also, if the Oilers signed him now they’d have no cap space to recall anyone else from Bakersfield, unless it was on an emergency basis. Teams always like to have some cap flexibility, and if the Oilers signing him for the remainder of this season that severely impacts their cap. I’m not sure the risk is worth the reward.
  2. He could sign a contract that begins in 2022/2023, receive his signing bonus, and then sign an ATO to go play in the AHL. The one disadvantage of that scenario is he can’t go back to college. If he was playing junior, he could sign an NHL contract that starts next season, sign an ATO, and still go back to junior next season. If Savoie signs he is ensuring his NCAA career his over. He just won a National Championship with Denver, so some might argue he has nothing left to prove or learn in College. I’d disagree. He could return to Denver and improve his defensive play. He wasn’t used on the penalty kill this season, but he could go back and be on the PK and on the ice in the final minute while protecting a lead. Savoie killed penalties for Sherwood Park in the AJHL and scored a few shorthanded goals. So he can do it, but he hasn’t done it in NCAA. He could still improve his overall game at Denver and maintain his offensive confidence while doing so.
— I wouldn’t be too concerned if Savoie hasn’t signed yet. If the Oilers had loads of cap space and weren’t challenging for the playoffs, then signing him would be easier. But they aren’t in that position and I don’t see him as a better option than Holloway. I think the most realistic option is to sign a deal that begins next season and then sign an ATO and go play with Bakersfield.
— Mike Smith gets the start tonight. He is 6-0-1 with a .932Sv% and 2.49 GAA in his last seven starts since March 17th. Some will argue it is too small of a sample size, and there is some truth to that, but you also can’t discount he has played his best hockey of the season over the past month. He looks more controlled and confident in net. I don’t think it is realistic to expect him to post a .932Sv%, but if he could be between .912-.918 over the final few weeks of the season then he will enter the playoff with confidence. If he and Koskinen have similar Sv%, and expected Sv%, then I’d start Smith in game one due to his puck handling skills. His ability to move the puck and to stop dump ins allows the Oilers to spend less time in the defensive zone. But his puck handling skills are only a tiebreaker. If Koskinen is playing better entering the playoffs, then I start him.
— Draisaitl set the Oilers’ new franchise single-season record with his 21st power play goal of the season on Tuesday. Of the 32 NHL franchises, 21 of them have had a better single-season PP goal record than the Oilers 21. If Draisaitl scores 22 it would tied Dallas/Minnesota North Stars, 23 would tie Ottawa and 24 would tie Chicago, Tampa, New Jersey, San Jose and Arizona/Winnipeg (1979). The Oilers have never had a player in the top-50 all-time in single-season PP goals. If Draisaitl scores two more he’d move into a tie for 45th-50th with Marcel Dionne, Vid Hadfield, Dany Heatley, Charlie Simmer and Pat Lafontaine.


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