The NHL landscape changes quickly. A week ago the Edmonton Oilers were 8-4-1 and playing well, but suddenly they have lost four straight, are 8-8-1, and things aren’t nearly as rosy as eight days ago.
Having the fewest wins in the NHL since 2007 doesn’t allow the Oilers organization the luxury of staying calm and having the confidence and knowledge they will turn things around. Make no mistake, they are feeling the pressure and after consecutive sub-par efforts v. Florida and Colorado they need to rediscover their work ethic tonight.
1. Edmonton has scored only six goals during their four-game losing streak, and they’ve allowed 17. A perfect recipe for losing. They need to find some offence and their team defence, and goaltending, must improve or this losing streak will continue.
2. The Oilers were noticeably outworked by Colorado on Sunday. It was their worst performance of the season. No question. The fourth line was good, but every time they had a solid momentum-gaining shift, the next lines were unable to maintain it. I thought they had “good losses” in Tampa and Washington, as far as they competed, but Sunday was ugly. Maybe it was just a speed bump. Tonight’s effort will tell you a lot about where this team is going.
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3. Milan Lucic studies the history of hockey and knows a lot of players statistics. He is acutely aware of his struggles. He spoke about what his frame of mind and what he is doing to try and stay positive.
“Just having a smile on your face coming to the rink, and being happy coming to the rink and making it a positive place to be. I understand the numbers and the goals, but if I focus on my overall game I feel like it’s been pretty good. If I just stick with it eventually it’s going to go in. Maybe it’s just the year 2018, it’s just hasn’t been my year. Everything that could bounce the other way has, so just stay with it until 2019 rolls around maybe…”
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4. He smashed his stick into pieces at practice yesterday. He took a shot off the knee during a powerplay drill, which irritated him, and set him off, but as he smashed his stick repeatedly over the net, breaking into more pieces, I’m sure the frustration of the past 60 games played a part. How could it not? He’s in the worst scoring funk of his career. This season his effort has been fine, but his execution and finish has been almost non-existent. He did get an assist on Ty Rattie’s third period goal on Sunday, so that should give him some solace, but he admitted the past 11 months have been tough.
5. I asked him what he is trying different to emerge from his 2018 scoring funk.
“Sometimes shooting harder, gripping different part of your stick, taking it on your back hand, switching the way you tape your stick, I don’t know. You try different types of things to try and get something to work for you. Sometimes even changing gloves, washing your gloves, changing your laces, different types of things, Just trying to find something to work off of. As far as drills go, yeah just shooting from different spots, shooting off a different foot, shooting off different stances, trying all those different things to see if something will work. And like I said, just try to find something to build off of and stay positive about.”
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6. He tried explaining what has gone wrong, but admitted there is no clear answer.
“I wish I could put my finger on it and have an answer for you, but I don’t know. You look at last December and I was really getting going, but like I said, once the calendar changed it’s like the taps shut off and nothing’s going right for me. Even in my worst times before this, I never went on a stretch like this.  I’ve even gone back and looked at myself score goals back in Boston, and even my Vancouver Giants days. Finding videos of yourself scoring goals and feeling good about yourself.  I can’t let it bring the team down, I can’t let it bring down the most important thing with this team moving forward and that’s getting wins. So I’ve got to find something heading into tomorrow’s game, and if you look at my personal stats, I’ve had success against the Montreal Canadiens so I’m feeling good about that going into tomorrow, but saying that, it’s not going to be easy against them and a top goalie,” said Lucic.
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7. Lucic has 14 career goals v. Montreal, the most against any NHL team. Ironically he scored the last time they played on December 23rd at Rogers Place. That gave Lucic 26 points in his first 36 games. Since then he has two goals in 63 games. Could a game against the Habs end his funk?
8. Connor McDavid had an interesting take on Lucic’s goal scoring funk. “You know what, it doesn’t matter if he scores, at all. He’s a guy who brings so much to the team, so much in the room. When he’s playing hard and he’s playing mean like he has been, it opens up so much ice. He’s been a guy who’s been a leader in this room since he’s gotten here. If he scores, great, If not, whatever, he still brings so much to the table.” I understand where he is coming from, but a few goals from Lucic would be a big boost.
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9. The Canadiens lead the NHL in 5×5 goals with 42. Brendan Gallagher has seven, Tomas Tatar and Max Domi have six, Paul Byron and Jonathon Drouin have four while Andrew Shaw, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Charles Hudon have three. The Oilers only have four forwards with three 5×5 goals as McDavid and Drake Caggiula have three, Alex Chiasson has five and Leon Draisaitl has six.
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10. Lucic isn’t the only player in a long funk. Carey Price has struggled since January 1st, 2017. It is almost two full years and he hasn’t been close to the goalie he was prior. In 96 games he is 40-45-11 with a .906sv% and a 2.83GAA. In that same span Cam Talbot is 60-50-6 with a .910sv% and a 2.80sv%. Since January 1st, 2017, only 17 goalies have had 90+ starts. Price has the lowest sv% of the 17.
Name                       GS      W-L-OTL      SV%      GAA
John Gibson            97      49-31-12     .930        2.30
Pekka Rinne             100     66-23-8       .927       2.26
Sergei Bobrovsky   107    59-40-9        .922       2.39
Andrei Vasilevskiy    107    66-32-9        .920       2.60
Connor Hellebuyck  104    64-23-13      .918       2.59
Frederik Andersen   117    65-34-13      .918       2.73
Devan Dubnyk         106    64-31-11      .917       2.53
Robin Lehner             91    33-44-13      .914       2.90
Henrik Lundqvist      105   47-44-12      .913       2.92
Tuukka Rask              95    56-31-7        .911       2.46
Braden Holtby          103   66-26-8        .911       2.72
Cam Talbot               119   60-50-6         .910      2.80
Martin Jones            106    54-37-12      .910      2.61
Mike Smith               100    42-44-12     .910       2.86
Jake Allen                  98     48-39-8        .909      2.71
Craig Anderson         91     43-35-12      .906      3.10
Carey Price                95      40-45-11     .906      2.83

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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 11/13/2018 – 7:00 am MT