The Edmonton Oilers first five games of an eight-game stretch v. Pacific division opponents, and the Dallas Stars, has been anything but smooth. The Oilers are 1-3-1 and have been outscored 20-12. Despite the sluggish five games, they are only three points behind Vegas for third in the division and four back of Dallas for the final wildcard spot.
They need to remain close to the playoff picture, and after disappointing losses to Vegas, Anaheim and LA they need a much better effort tonight.
1. I don’t understand the Oilers rationale with Jesse Puljujarvi. Their resistance to just let him develop and get comfortable in the AHL perplexes me. He was just starting to gain some traction in the AHL, but they decide to recall him and play him 7:43 in LA on Sunday. This doesn’t help him, and right now he isn’t doing enough to help the team win. The Oilers can’t change the past, but if you continually make head-scratching decisions it makes it hard to expect the future to be better. Maybe I’m missing something, but I see way more positives in having Puljujarvi in Bakersfield instead of in Edmonton right now.
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2. The most important number for Ken Hitchcock right now should be points. Mikko Koskinen is 5-2-1 in eight starts. The Oilers have picked up points in six of his eight starts. Cam Talbot is 5-9-1 and the Oilers only have points in six of his 15 starts. In 75% of Koskinen’s starts the Oilers are getting points, while they’ve only left the ice with a point in 40% of Talbot’s starts. Hitchcock should run with Koskinen until the Oilers reach a set of back-to-back games. They need wins, and right now Koskinen gives them a better chance.
3. Alex Chiasson continues to play incredibly well, but all I keep hearing is how his SH% is unsustainable. Thanks Captain Obvious, we know that, but look at how he is scoring. He reads the play well, he gets into good positions, and his second goal on Sunday illustrated his quick hands in tight. He only has 24 shots in 17 games, and of course he won’t maintain a 41.7 SH%, but that doesn’t mean he can’t remain a solid contributor. How many of his goals have been lucky? The one off his knee, sure, but many have been sweet shots or plays. I see him getting more shots, having a dip in his SH%, but still producing.
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4. At this point I think you could promote Ty Rattie to the 2RW and keep Puljujarvi in the minors and the production from Rattie would likely be the same as what Puljujarvi does in that spot. I’m presuming Chiasson gets a bump to the first line to open up a spot for Puljujarvi in the top-six. This illustrates the organization is once again sending mixed messages. Their goal should be to win now, and play the players who give you the best chance to win. Instead they are going to try and force Puljujarvi into the second line and hope he produces. I guess it is possible, but from what I’ve seen it looks like a low percentage bet.
5. It has only been five games, but Ryan Spooner has done very little. He skates well, but other than that I’ve haven’t noticed much. He didn’t look comfortable on the top line with McDavid, which matches my belief that just playing with McDavid won’t guarantee you success. McDavid needs someone who is good at retrieving pucks, or creating turnovers on the forecheck. Spooner did neither and he hasn’t done it regardless of who he’s played with so far. It is only five games, but the first impressions have not been positive.
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6. The Stars blueline has been decimated by injuries. They’ve used 12 different defenders through 24 games. Stephen Johns has missed all 24, while Marc Methot and Connor Carrick have each sat out 15. Earlier this month John Klingberg injured his hand and he’s now missed eight games. He was playing over 25 minutes/game and had 13 points in 16 games. In the eight games since he’s been out, Esa Lindell (24:11), Miro Heiskanen (23:45), Roman Polak (20:35) and Gavin Bayreuther (20:11) have been their top four. Bayreuther has now played six NHL games, Heiskanen is also a rookie, and the Stars have started to slowly slip. They are 3-4-1 in their past eight.
7. To make matters worse starting goalie Ben Bishop was injured on November 19th against the Rangers. In three games since the Stars have allowed 12 goals. Bishop was 8-5-1 with a 2.33GAA and a solid .923sv%. Anton Khudobin has been promoted to the starter, and he has a 3.07GAA and .905sv% this season, but he has an .858sv% in the three starts since Bishop was injured.
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8. The Oilers top three scorers — Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — have outscored the Stars top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov 81-62. McDavid and Draisaitl will likely see a lot of the Stars top line tonight, although Radek Faksa often gets tough matchups.
9. Goals are up across the NHL. Heading into tonight eight players are on pace for 50 goals. At this time last year only three players were on pace for the magical 50, but none remained there. Alex Ovechkin had 18 goals in 25 games last year (pace for 59) and he finished with 49. He has 18 goals in 24 games this season, but Patrik Laine and David Pastrnak each have 19 goals in 22 and 24 games respectively. Laine is on pace for 70 goals. I highly doubt he reaches it, but I sure hope he, Pastrnak, Ovechkin and a few others reach 50.
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10. Laine has a ridiculous 16 goals in November. That is the most goals in a month since Mario Lemieux had 17 in 15 games in December of 1996. Laine has 16 goals in ten games, including three hat tricks. The Finnish sniper plays tonight and Thursday with an opportunity to match or surpass Lemieux’s 17 goals.
11. The Edmonton Oil Kings host the best team in the CHL on Wednesday night. The Prince Albert Raiders are 23-1. They’ve outscored their opponents 119-40. They dominate in many categories, but their penalty killing is outstanding. It is 92.9%, but they have scored 15 shorthanded goals and only allowed eight powerplay goals. They are +7 when they are shorthanded. Ridiculous. Brett Leason, 19 and undrafted, leads the WHL with 25 goals and 54 points. The 6’4″ winger is having a breakout season. He is on a 24-game point streak. Netminder Ian Scott is 19-1 with a 1.45GAA and .948sv%. The Raiders have a lot of depth, are big, mean and have a solid blueline. They lead the WHL with 119 goals while the Oil Kings are second with 104. Leason is first in league scoring and the Oil Kings Trey Fix-Wolansky is second with 52 points. If you’ve been thinking about going to an Oil Kings game this is one you will want to see.
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12. I would argue the Raiders have had the best start in WHL history. They are 23-1. The 1978/1979 Brandon Wheat Kings were 21-0-3 through 24 games, and in fact went 24-0-5 before losing. But in their first 24 games they picked up 45 points (21-0-3), while Prince Albert has 46 points (23-1-0). The Wheat Kings were undefeated for 29 games, so that streak is still intact, but I’d say the better start (up to this point) is from Prince Albert because they have more points through 24 games.

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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 11/27/2018 – 7:00 am MT