Three Key Things: Zach Hyman, new line combos, and have the Oilers solved their goalie problems?
By baggedmilk26 days ago
Is it weird that we’re getting to the point in this win streak where I feel like the Edmonton Oilers are never going to lose again? At least, that’s what I was thinking last night heading into the third matchup of the season against the Chicago Blackhawks. With a 15th straight win on the line against an opponent that’s banged up and generally awful, the table was set for the boys to keep the heater alive, and that’s exactly what they did despite a few bumps in the road. Final Score: 3-0 Oilers
ZACHARY MARTIN HYMAN, GOAL-SCORING KING
I know I’ve written about him a lot this season, but how could I not touch on Zach Hyman picking up his 29th goal of the season? Given that his career-high was 36 coming into the 2023-24 campaign, it’s pretty amazing to see that he’s almost there already, even though there’s still almost half of the season left to play. Over and above the goals he’s scoring, I just love the way this guy plays the game. Regardless of the score, Hyman is always giving 1000% effort, and that’s the exact type of hustle that turns you into a legend in this city. Zachary Martin Hyman, we speak your name.
CALVIN PICKARD HATES BAKERSFIELD
Calvin Pickard was back between the pipes for his first start since January 11th in Detroit, and I was happy to see him get the opportunity while also relieved to see Skinner get a well-deserved night off. Up for the challenge, Pickard stood tall in the crease and gave the Oilers the foundation they needed to compete for the win even though it was another game they weren’t at their best. From routine saves to the penalty shot, Pickard made the most of his 100th career NHL game and was a huge part of the reason the Oilers were able to win. All I know for sure is that Pickard must really hate Bakersfield because nothing tells management that he never ever wants to go back quite like locking in a shutout.
THE NEW LINE COMBOS
Kris Knoblauch shuffled the lines up a bit after a slow start against Columbus on Tuesday to try and freshen things up, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit disappointed that the Oilers came out just as flat against Chicago. While the boys weren’t quite as sloppy as they were against the Blue Jackets, they really struggled to gain much traction through the first 40 minutes.
When asked about the line combos, Kris Knoblauch was pleased with his group:
“I liked them. The McDavid line got three goals tonight. I think for the most part of the game, certainly the first half of the game, Nugent-Hopkins’ line was probably the best. Now we’ve got some decisions on what happens next. We talked about the addition of Corey, possibly Saturday, and we’ll decide what we’re going to do there, whether he plays Saturday if we feel he’s ready. We’ll decide that tomorrow after practice. I thought the lines were good, no need to change things up dramatically.”
I guess maybe I was expecting more from having McDavid and Draisaitl together, but that wasn’t really the case nor did the other trios look like world-beaters either. However, we do have to give the Blackhawks credit for the effort they were putting in because they sure did throw a wrench in the Oilers’ execution for a team that’s missing half of its top nine.
OTHER THINGS WORTH MENTIONING…
- Connor McDavid opened the scoring with a power play goal early in the second period, capitalizing on the man advantage with a PP1 unit that needed to get something done. The PP hasn’t been as lights out lately for whatever reason, and it was very nice to see the big dogs get on the board with a pretty passing play. McDavid added an empty-netter late in the third period to seal the deal for the Oilers and lock in their 15th consecutive win.
- I wish I was smarter. Maybe then I could think of the words to accurately describe how much I love Zach Hyman, and how grateful I am that the Leafs so foolishly let him. I mean, last night was the Oilers’ 44th game of the season and Hyman already has 29 goals. That’s ridiculous production for a guy that some Leafs fans said would be completely useless by the third year of his contract.
- How about a casual little three-point night for Leon Draisaitl as the big man picked up a trio of assists in his first night alongside McDavid in quite some time. I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating that nothing would be better for this team than if Leon Draisaitl caught fire down the stretch, and with 14 points in his last 10 games, it’s starting to very much look like that might happen.
- Petr Mrazek has been annoying all season and last night’s contest was another chapter in the same story. Mrazek finished the night with 31 saves and .939 save%, and he kept the Blackhawks in the mix down the stretch even though they shouldn’t have been there.
- I wish someone could explain to me why the Oilers so often feel the need to force passes across the ice that aren’t there when a much better option is probably to get pucks on net and crash the crease. I don’t know exactly how many times the boys lost possession by trying
- Once I understood that Connor Brown is fancy Lennart Pettrell it made everything feel better. Now, if he can only pick up the seven goals that Pettrell had as an Oiler then my analogy would be perfect.
- On special teams, the Oilers got the job done after they picked up one power play goal on two chances with the man advantage while the PK didn’t even see the ice.
- I just can’t have a good deay if I don’t tell you that the boys won 58.5% of the faceoffs. Thank you, I needed that.
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Edited: Additional links and context
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