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Three Key Things: All the Oilers do is win, Evander Kane, and Phil Kemp’s NHL debut

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baggedmilk
1 month ago
Seeing as it was Connor McDavid’s 27th birthday and the Oilers were playing a team that stinks of mediocrity, it felt like the stars aligned for Edmonton to extend its winning streak to 10 games. I know there are no guarantees in the NHL, but my biased opinion was that beating the Habs on McDavid’s big day was about as close as it gets. Yet, despite my confidence that a win was coming, the Habs weren’t about to roll over and die, and, thanks to a solid goaltending performance, they actually ended up being one shot away from winning 2-1 themselves.

A NEW FRANCHISE RECORD

With last night’s 2-1 OT win, the Edmonton Oilers set a new franchise record with 10 consecutive victories. That’s an amazing feat for a team that looked down and out only two months ago. As I was thinking about this new record, I found it almost crazy that the Oilers have never had a streak this long before, given some of the powerhouse teams we’ve had in the past.
I would have thought one of those Gretzky-led all-star teams would have gotten it done — they had 57 wins in 1983-84 and 56 wins in 1985-86 — but for whatever reason, it just never happened. And even though it wasn’t the most straightforward win they’ll ever get, the Oilers found a way to get the job done and grind out a win that was by no means a given.

LET’S TALK ABOUT EVANDER KANE

I thought it was way too quiet of a night for Evander Kane after he got a look alongside Leon Draisaitl on the second line. If ever there was a time to show he belonged there, it was on a night when the team was going for 10 straight. Despite the the assist and 16:32 in TOI, I was hoping for more from Kane, and not getting it was disappointing given how good that line had been before McLeod’s absence.
I’m not one of those people writing Kane off by any means, but I wonder how bad the injury he’s playing with actually is because he doesn’t look much like the guy who was having that early season heater. Kane has a history of being a streaky scorer, but the Oilers will need him to chip in a little more often than the two goals he has in the last 13 games. I believe he’ll bounce back, but I do wonder when that will be.

SHOUT OUT TO PHIL KEMP

Phil Kemp made his NHL debut last night, and how could I not mention what was surely a massive moment for the 24-year-old defenceman right-winger? Drafted in the 7th round (208th overall) back in 2017, Kemp made his NHL debut in one of the most vibrant buildings in the league, and I can only imagine how exciting it must have been for him to finally pull on an NHL jersey after all those years of work.
However, Kemp was playing at RW instead of his actual position as an RHD, which must have been confusing. With McLeod out due to illness, we all thought that the Oilers would go with the 11-7 configuration until we saw Kemp hit the ice as a right winger, which was incredibly confusing for all of us. Either way, I still wanted to give the kid some love for playing in his first NHL game even though he only finished with 2:03 in TOI. Two minutes more than I ever got.

OTHER THINGS WORTH MENTIONING

  • Evan Bouchard is having a fantastic season, and I say that over and above the OT winner he scored last night on the power play. What’s been amazing is how often he’s come up with a clutch goal at key moments, as that shot of his seems impossible to stop when he has time to really lean into it.
  • Stuart Skinner was simply fantastic in his 29th appearance of the season. I know he wasn’t nearly as busy as his counterpart, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t called upon to come up with some huge saves over the course of the game. From start to finish, Stu gave the Oilers the kind of goaltending they would need to come back from a one-goal deficit, weather some horrible penalty calls, and ultimately cash in an OT win. What else can you ask for? Skinner finished the night with 23 saves and a .958 save%.
  • Shout out to Mike Matheson for high-sticking Darnell Nurse in the face in overtime. Thanks, pal, we needed that.
  • I wish there was a stat that tracked how many cross-ice pass attempts are made because I feel like the Oilers made a tonne of them. When the boys aren’t at their best, they tend to try forcing passes through when a shot on net would probably be the better decision to be made. At least with a shot on goal you can crash the crease and hope for some chaos whereas a turnover in the high slot doesn’t do anything for anybody.
  • Looking at the special teams, the Oilers only scored one power play goal on the five chances they got, but it was obviously a big one as it closed out the game in overtime. On the PK, the boys allowed a goal on Montreal’s first chance of the night but couldn’t get anything done after that.
  • Do I dislike seeing that the Oilers won only 46.9% of the faceoffs? You know I do. Why are you asking?
  • The Oilers dominated the shot clock again, outshooting Montreal by a sizeable 41-24 margin. Had it not been for Sam Montembeault’s brilliance, this game could have easily been an Oilers landslide in the third period.

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