As difficult as it might be the Edmonton Oilers can’t focus on the past and their current 2-10-2 skid. They can’t change the past. They can learn from it, but it will overwhelm them if they try to fix everything that ails them right now. The penalty kill is struggling. The power play isn’t firing on all cylinders. They can’t score first. They are giving up too many goals. They can’t protect a 3-1 lead. It has been a different ailment every game, and trying to fix each of them at once will likely lead to more losing.
They need to reset and focus on specific details — like puck management, being in the shooting lane, being ready from the opening whistle — and believe that if they do those small things well, success will follow.
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— It won’t be easy against the talented Florida Panthers who have the second most points in the NHL with 57. The Panthers are 26-8-5 and are averaging 4.05 goals/game. They are 16th in GA/GP at 2.90. Not dominant, but far from a push over. The Calgary Flames defeated the Panthers 5-1 on Tuesday by playing fast, disciplined and capitalizing with two power play goals.
— You might think because the Panthers lost in Calgary defeating them tonight will be more difficult. That was my initial thought, and it still might be true, but filed under the “odd stat” category: The Panthers have yet to lose only one game in regulation. When they lose in regulation they have lost two in a row, three in a row and two in a row. They haven’t been able to lose one and bounce back with a win.
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They lost 4-3 to the Rangers and then lost 7-3 to New Jersey the next night.
They lost 4-3 to Washington and then lost 4-1 to Seattle.
Colorado defeated them 3-2, then they lost 8-2 to Ottawa and 4-1 to Los Angeles.
I’m not sure it means anything, but on the rare occasion they lose in regulation, they have lost again before winning.
— Three of the league’s top-four scorers will be on the ice tonight. Leon Draisaitl is second in the NHL with 54 points, while Connor McDavid and Jonathon Huberdeau are tied for third with 53 points. Huberdeau is 18 points ahead of defenceman Aaron Ekblad (second in points) and has been the Panthers’ go-to offensive guy, but the Panthers lead the NHL with seven players with 10+ goals. Their top-six forwards all have 10+ goals, as does Ekblad.
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Huberdeau: 15-38-53
Carter Verhaeghe: 13-19-32
Sam Reinhart: 11-20-31
Anthony Duclair: 16-14-30
Aleksander Barkov: 15-14-29 (in 26 games).
Sam Bennett: 16-8-24
They have combined for 88 goals and 113 assists overall, which includes 15 power play goals and 41 points.
That is a solid and balanced top six. And they all have at least seven goals 5×5, with Verhaeghe leading with 12.
— Edmonton’s top-six production looks like this.
Draisaitl: 26-28-54
McDavid: 19-34-53
RNH: 3-23-26
Jesse Puljujarvi: 10-15-25
Zach Hyman: 11-10-21
Kailer Yamamoto: 8-5-13
They have combined for 77 goals and 115 assists overall, and 24 power play goals and 70 points.
— Yamamoto has started to score recently, which is good, but Edmonton needs its top-six wingers to get scoring. Puljujarvi has one 5×5 goal in 12 games and Hyman has none. Brendan Perlini was scheduled to play there, but he was injured at practice on Tuesday and didn’t skate yesterday. He will be a game time decision. If he can’t go, then Warren Foegele will move up. Puljujarvi and Hyman were producing quite well at 5×5 prior to this skid. If they can get going that will be a huge boost for Edmonton.
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— Florida leads the NHL with 137 goals from forwards for an average of 3.51/game. Edmonton is ninth at 2.88 with 101 goals in 35 games. Florida has very solid depth scoring as well.
— The Oilers need to find a way to score first. Somehow they’ve managed to allow the first goal in 22 of their past 26 games. Only four teams have won even half their games when allowing the first goals. The Panthers have won eight of 16, Tampa Bay has won 10 of the 19 games they allowed the first goal, Carolina has won nine of 16 and St. Louis has won 13 of 19. Many top-tier teams can even win half their games when trailing, but none of them are trailing in 71% of their games. The Oilers have allowed the first goal in 25 of their 35 games. It has been a problem for quite some time. They need better starts. It is the most Captain Obvious comment, but it is also legitimately true. Playing from behind that often is a recipe for losing. They are proving it most nights.
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— The Panthers have played the fewest road games in the NHL thus far. They are 5-5-5 on the road with 15 points in 15 games and have been outscored 48-44. They’ve been average on the road and a main reason is their special teams play. Their PP is 28th at 12.8% and their PK is 30th at 73.1%. In games outside the Eastern time zone they are 1-2-1. They defeated Arizona, lost to Colorado and Calgary and lost in OT in Dallas.
They are a dominant home team at 21-3 and outscoring teams 114-65 with a 23.1% PP and a 85.7% penalty kill. They have been a much different team on the road so far this season, which is why a good start is even more imperative. Florida has yet to win a road game when they allow the first goal.
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— Edmonton hasn’t won a hockey game in 33 days. They are 0-4-2 in that span, but due to postponed games they’ve had to obsess about a six-game skid much longer than normal. I wonder how more of a mental challenge it becomes. Normally a six-game losing skid lasts about two weeks. It still isn’t fun, but you aren’t thinking about it as long as Edmonton is now. It becomes more of a burden and the angst and frustration is harder to endure. A win would likely do wonders for the mindset of the Oilers.
— McDavid loves playing Florida. He averages two points/game against the Panthers, the highest against any opponent. He has 5-9-14 in seven games and 13 points have come at even strength. He has nine points in four home games against Florida. This is their first meeting since October 27th, 2019. McDavid has played the Panthers twice in January and he scored three points in each game. Both were played in Edmonton. Will three times be a charm tonight?
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— Edmonton had nine games postponed and the new schedule was announced yesterday. Edmonton will play eight of those games between Feb 8th-20th with three sets of back-to-backs. Edmonton and Calgary have played 35 games, while LA (39), San Jose (40) and Anaheim (41) have played more. Between February 8th to the end of the season the Oilers play 41 games in 81 days. They will have six sets of back-to-back games. They will have two days between games six times (three in Feb.) and three days between games once (March 17-19).
That is not a lot of time to practice. It will be imperative they pick up some wins in the seven games prior to the All-star break. Starting tonight they play seven games in 14 days and then they have the All-Star break from Feb 4-6th. They will practice on the 7th and start their final 41 games on February 8th. The next two weeks are crucial to bank some points and gain some confidence before a very difficult final 12 weeks of the season.
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