Fresh off a 3-1 victory in St. Louis last night the Oilers skate into Chicago to face the surprising 4-2 Blackhawks tonight. Chicago has won four in a row, including the last three on home ice, and they’ve outscored teams 18-11 on their winning streak. Edmonton arrived in the Windy City with their first winning streak of the season. It is only two games, but streaks need to start somewhere, and Edmonton will be looking to get on a roll.
— Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ game winner was the 200th goal of his career with Edmonton. He is the ninth player to reach 200, and the closest active Oiler behind him is Darnell Nurse with 56 goals.
Only 23 players have scored 100 goals for the Orange and Blue. RNH should pass Paul Coffey for eighth this season, but it is unlikely he finishes any higher. Leon Draisaitl needs 40 goals to move into the top five.
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— RNH is off to a much better start 5×5 than the previous two seasons, where he struggled mightily. Last year he only had 11 total goals. He already has three goals 5×5 in 89 minutes. He had six last year in 820 minutes and seven in 732 minutes in 2021. He’s never been a dominant goal scorer 5×5, but he has scored 19, 15, 15, and 14. If he can produce 14 goals at 5×5 this year that would help the Oilers a lot.
— Edmonton was solid at 5×5 again v. the Blues. For the second time in five days the Blues didn’t score 5×5, but unlike in Saturday’s loss, the Oilers generated much more offensively.
The most impressive aspect of the Oilers win, was they generated 11 scoring chances off the cycle at 5×5 and held the Blues to only two.
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— Last night was a good example of where shots on goal are misleading. The Blues had more, but they didn’t have more quality shots. My only complaint about the Oilers was their lack of finish on their odd-man rushes. They wasted many of them by trying to force passes rather than shoot. It is definitely an easy fix, and if you keep giving Draisaitl that many odd-man rushes he’ll eventually make you pay, but last night the Oilers passed up too many good looks.
— Stuart Skinner had another solid appearance. He’s now stopped 88 of 92 shots for a solid .956Sv%. He keeps earning more starts, and last night was his first victory over a playoff-caliber team. Last year his six wins were against non-playoff teams, and he lost both games to playoff teams in Boston and Dallas. Last night was a great performance and another statement from Skinner that he is an NHL-caliber goalie. He’s oozing confidence right now and I expect we will see him back between the pipes again soon. With him playing well there is no reason to overplay Jack Campbell.
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— Speaking of Campbell, I think he has played quite well for Edmonton. Some might look at his .895Sv% and disagree, but I think that is misleading. It is only that low because of the Calgary game where they scored four goals on 11 shots. And none of those goals were softies by Campbell. He has a .917Sv% in his other four games, stopping 121 of 132 shots. Edmonton’s goaltending hasn’t been an issue, and I like the idea of playing your starter on the second half of back-to-backs (BTB). The team might be more fatigued, and in theory, your starter should be able to handle a heavier workload. Giving Skinner a start against a good Blues team raised his confidence, and now the Oilers are in a good position to get the two-game sweep with Campbell going tonight.
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— The Oilers had 10 sets of BTB last year. They won both games three times, went 1-1 four times and were 0-0-2, 0-1-1 and 0-2 in the other three. They were 6-2-2 in game one and 4-5-1 in game two. Chicago has won four games in a row, but they don’t have as deep or as talented a roster as the Oilers. Even on a BTB this is a very winnable game for Edmonton if the team plays to its potential.
— Chicago leads the league in face off% at 63.6%. Edmonton is 15th at 51.7%. Max Domi has won 62 of his 95 faceoffs (65.3%) and Jonathon Toews has won 53 of 89 (59.6%). They’ve combined to take 184 draws and the rest of the Hawks have taken 146. In their six games the Hawks have had 333 faceoffs, while the Oilers have had 453 in their seven games. Oilers games have averaged 64 faceoffs/game while Chicago games have had an average of 55. In the odd stat category, Carolina leads the NHL with 66 faceoffs/game and the Oilers are second, while Chicago sits 30th.
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— The Oilers penchant for taking penalties early in the season was a factor in their faceoff totals. In their first four games, the Oilers had faceoff totals of 71, 66, 72, and 78. In those games, they were shorthanded 21 times and on the PP 16 times. In their past three games, they took 43, 60, and 63 faceoffs. Edmonton was shorthanded a total of nine times and only the power play six times. In their first four games, there was a total of 37 power plays, compared to 15 over the past three games.
— Chicago has the worst PP-PK ratio at -12, followed by Dallas at -11 and Edmonton at -8. Teams with the best PP-PK ratio are Vegas (+7), Detroit and the New York Rangers (+6), and Washington +5.
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— Alex Stalock never played a game for the Oilers after being claimed on waivers on March 1st, 2021. He had a heart condition in 2020 due to COVID, and when he was claimed on waivers, he had been deemed healthy to play, but he had a setback. This past January he was cleared to play and was sent to Bakersfield. He played five games for the Condors before being traded to San Jose for future considerations. He played 12 AHL games with the Barracuda and one NHL game with the Sharks. The Blackhawks signed him on July 13th to backup Petr Mrazek. Mrazek got injured in his third start and Stalock is now the starter for the Blackhawks. He is 3-1 with a 2.09 GAA and .938Sv%. So far, he’s been a great comeback story for Chicago.
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— Chicago has had three comeback victories already. They trailed 2-0 in San Jose before Toews made it 2-1 at the 27 minute-mark to start a five-goal rally and they won 5-2. They spotted Detroit a 2-0 lead in the first period and trailed 3-1 after the second period, but then Chicago scored twice in the third and won in OT. They fell behind 2-0 to Seattle seven minutes into the game, regrouped to take a 3-2 lead early in the second, but then trailed 4-3 to start the third. They scored twice in the third to win 5-4. In their last game, their fourth consecutive win, they jumped out to a 3-0 lead over Florida and won 4-2 win.
— Both the Oilers and Blackhawks have struggled with slow starts. The Oilers have been outscored 10-5 in the first period, before outscoring teams 11-7 in the second and 9-4 in the third. Chicago has been outscored 8-5 in the first frame, is even at 6-6 in the second, and outscored teams 8-3 in the third period. But both teams are undefeated when they lead after the first period. Edmonton is 2-0 and Chicago is 1-0. Chicago has only scored first once in six games, and they won that game, while Edmonton has scored first three times and has gone 3-0.
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