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Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch reflects on six-game homestand

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Aleena Aksenchuk
2 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers have officially finished their longest homestand of the season, improving their record to 13-14-1, and for head coach Kris Knoblauch, the boys and orange and blue did what they could during that time.
“I thought we made the most of our home stretch here,” Knoblauch said after the Oilers’ 5-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.
“We we have liked to have these last two games? Yes. Do we feel like we could’ve had one, if not two of these games? Yes, but we made up some ground, and now we’re going to have to do it again. We’ve got a lot of season left. I think we’re in a really good position.”
Before the homestand, the Oilers were sitting pretty on a four-game win streak with a record of 9-12-1 after defeating the Winnipeg Jets with a score of 3-1 on November 30th. They were slotted into seventh place in the Pacific division, with a .432 points percentage.
However, six games later, the Oilers have jumped ahead of the Anaheim Ducks into sixth place and have improved to a .482 points percentage. Still, of course, the downside, as Knoblauch mentioned, was dropping their final two games and losing the eight-game win streak that happened to be the longest stretch of wins so far this season by any NHL team.

Hyman stepping up his game

It’s been an absolute stretch for Zach Hyman.
The 31-year-old forward started his point streak on November 22nd, contributing two goals in the Oilers 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Hyman extended his point streak to six games until he remained quiet during the Oilers’ 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on December 10th, their third game of the homestand.
However, he’s been consistently adding to the scoresheet otherwise with his second hat trick of the season during the team’s 6-1 win over the Hurricanes on December 6th, including scoring the lone goal on Saturday night. His performance has been exciting to watch thus far, and his points per game have increased from 1.05 last season to 1.12.
Through 28 games, he’s surpassed Connor McDavid (11) and Leon Driasaitl (12) in goal production with 18, leading the Oilers squad who seems to be finding their groove as of late. Not only does this put him on track to his predicated 54-goal campaign, but it has him sitting fourth in goals throughout the league behind Tampa Bay Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov (20), Vancouver Canucks Brock Boeser (22) and Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews (23).
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve tried to kind of develop my game and just play well with those guys, I think, and try to complement them as well as I can,” Hyman said on December 8th, after the Oilers second game of the home stretch. 
“I’m fortunate enough to be playing with Connor and Nuge and we’ve had some really good chemistry, so that’s been fun.”
As much fun as Hyman’s having on the ice is just as much fun as Oilers fans are having watching him.

Evan Bouchard

Blueliner Evan Bouchard may have been skating on thin ice at the beginning of the season, but this last stretch of games has shown improvement in his offensive abilities while showcasing his power-play reliability.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and Bouchard ended his point streak at 13 games during Saturday’s loss. However, his streak is now the second-longest in Oilers history by a defenceman sitting behind the one and only Paul Coffey with a 28-game streak in 1985-86.
His production last season struggled up until the trade deadline when he was paired up with new acquisition Mattias Ekholm, who came to the Oilers in a trade that sent Tyson Barrie to the Nashville Predators.
Since being paired with Ekholm, his numbers have significantly improved. His ice time has increased by 25%, and he’s improved his points per game to 1.13 compared to last season’s .34 (not including playoffs) and .92 at the start of the season.
The homestand saw Bouchard score three goals, two of which were game-winners, and four power play points. Of course, it’s important to note that the league also noticed Bouchard, as the NHL Players Association named him player of the week after racking up eight points in four games.

Goaltending 

With the good, there is always a little bit of bad. 
Stuart Skinner played a solid game to kick off things at Rogers Place on December 6th, saving 38 of 39 shots from the Carolina Hurricanes, giving him a .974 save percentage for an overall average save percentage of .889.
He remained strong starting the following four games, but things got a little spooky on December 14th when the Oilers dropped their win streak with a 7-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Skinner allowed five goals on 22 shots for a .773 save percentage, the lowest he’s had since the first two games of the year (.750 save percentage). Everyone is allowed to have a bad game every now and then, but Skinner always seems to have highs and lows every few games or so.
For Skinner, not only did his save percentage throughout the homestand drop to a .885, but his performance on Thursday found him taking the backseat to Calvin Pickard on Saturday night. 
Pickard, who has only made four appearances in the past 28 games, allowed three goals in the first period in the Oilers’ 5-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, followed by lone goals in the second and third periods. Following the home stretch, Pickard holds a record of 1-2-0 with a .901 save percentage and 2.99 goals against average. 
For the Oilers, like their defence on Saturday night, there needs to be a sense of urgency regarding their goaltending. At this rate, Skinner is on track to play 60 of the 82 regular season games, although last season, he could play 50 games and stay consistent; this season appears to be different without having Jack Campbell in the backseat. 

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