Since Connor McDavid entered the NHL in 2015/2016, the Buffalo Sabres have the worst points% of all teams (excluding Seattle, which only played one season), yet the Oilers have only won five of their 12 meetings v. the Sabres in that span. Edmonton is 5-4-3 and will be looking to get back on the winning track after a 4-3 loss Saturday v. Calgary.
— Connor Mcdavid has 11 points in 11 career games v. the Buffalo Sabres. The 1.00 points/game average is surprisingly the second lowest against an NHL opponent. He’s scored 0.89 points/game against Carolina (eight points in nine games). Averaging a point/game is not bad production, it is just surprising the Sabres have been able to slow him down more than any team except the Hurricanes. McDavid has four points in five career home games v. the Sabres. He’s had 1-1-2 twice and been held pointless in the other three.
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— The Sabres’ blue line doesn’t have one defender with 300 NHL games played. Rasmus Dahlin (279), Henri Jokiharju (215), Ilya Lyubushkin (213), Jacob Bryson (113), Mattias Samuelsson (56) and Owen Power (10) have combined for a total of 886 games. The Sabres are a very young team, with many promising young players. They will be excited to face the NHL’s best player, and the Oilers will need to match their youthful exuberance.
— Edmonton needs to tighten up defensively. Via Sport Logic, the Oilers are near the bottom in many defensive categories through two games.
Edmonton is 30th in quality chances allowed, 31st in chances off the rush and 30th in shots against. When Jay Woodcroft arrived last season their rush chances against dropped significantly. I expect them to tighten up, get more consistent back pressure and play tighter as a five-man unit. If they don’t, they will continue to bleed scoring chances.
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— The Oilers are averaging six power plays against through two games — worst in the NHL. Buffalo is the fourth most penalized team averaging five PP against/game. Edmonton has killed of 10 of 12, while Buffalo has killed off 8 of 10.
— The Oilers and Sabres have each had eight power plays through two games. Edmonton leads the league with 50% PP efficiency while the Sabres are tied for 31st with Columbus at 0%. Edmonton will want to take fewer penalties, but if this game becomes a parade to the penalty box Edmonton has a clear advantage.
— The Sabres rely heavily on Dahlin. He’s averaged 25:03/game through two games, which is almost five minutes more than Owen Power who is second at 20:43. Alex Tuch leads Sabres forwards with 19:00/game.
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Darnell Nurse leads Edmonton skaters at 24:44/game, followed by Connor McDavid (23:35), Cody Ceci (23:32), Leon Draisaitl (23:24), Tyson Barrie (20:45), RNH (19:34) and Evander Kane (19:26). Evan Bouchard is ninth at 15:56.
— Edmonton has zero players above 50% shot share (SF-SA) at 5×5. Evander Kane, Brad Malone and Evan Bouchard lead the team at 50%. Edmonton has been outscored 5-3 at 5×5. Woodcroft said the bad starts are a contributing factor to their 5×5 play. “I don’t think we have started anywhere near where we want to start games,” said Woodcroft. “The big thing we talk about is when you fall behind early it disrupts your rhythm as a team, how the game should be played and allowing people to get in the game.”
— Edmonton has trailed by three goals in each of their first two games. They were down 4-1 after only 12 minutes v. Calgary and trailed Vancouver 3-0 after 20 minutes and 39 seconds. Both times Woodcroft switched his line combinations. It worked as the Oilers came back to defeat Vancouver 5-3, and closed the gap to 4-3 v. the Flames, but slow starts have been a major issue.
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— Edmonton has been outscored 6-1 in the first period this season, but they’ve outscored teams 7-1 in periods two and three. In fact, the Oilers have been outscored 6-1 in the first 10:18 of the first period. Buffalo isn’t as talented or experienced as the Oilers, and there is no reason the Oilers should find themselves down two or three goals early tonight if they show up ready to play.
— Craig Anderson is 10-4 with a .922sv% and 2.48 GAA in 14 career starts in Edmonton. The 41-year-old has had lots of success in Edmonton, although he did lose 6-1 in his most recent visit to Edmonton last March. Anderson was excellent in his only start v. Ottawa this year stopping 35 of 36 shots. The Sabres have allowed 36 and 37 shots against in their first two games. Their youthful lineup will leak chances, and Edmonton’s offence should be able to generate many quality chances tonight.
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