Game Notes: Edmonton Oilers at Vancouver: Appreciate Greatness

Oilers fans have experienced more losses than any fanbase over the past 20 years. Since 2000/2001, the Oilers have won 655 times. They’ve played 1,533 games. There were 47 ties, and 147 OT/SO losses, where the team got a point, but Oilersnation only celebrated after 42% of the Oiler games. Some years were really bad, but times are changing in Edmonton. The Oilers are a good team, and they are entering a time when they will win more than half of the regular season games they play. Whether that leads to playoff wins remains to be seen, but after years of floundering and struggling the Oilers are finally a consistently competitive team.

That doesn’t mean they won’t have a few losing streaks, but the days of weeks, or months, of significantly more losses than wins seems like a thing of the past.

— Edmonton is 9-2 in its last 11 games. Since January 30th they have the best record in the NHL. Their .818 points percentage is the best, followed by Chicago (.750) and Florida and Carolina (.731).

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— Only three other times in the past 20 years have the Oilers won 10 of 12 games.
They went 12-2 in their final 14 games in the 2017 season.
They were 10-2 between February 24th to March 18th, 2008 and 10-2 again between November 19th-December 13th, 2002.

If the Oilers win tonight it will be the fourth time in 20 years. Enjoy it.

— Since January 30th, the Oilers are first in goals/game (4.18) and 11th in goals allowed/game (2.64). And they allowed 12 goals in their two losses, but only 17 in their nine wins. They have really improved defensively. They’ve cut down on high-danger scoring chances, and made life a bit easier on their goalies. But Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen have also been much better. Smith has a .940Sv% since returning, while Koskinen is at .912 during the hot streak.

— Dave Tippett outlined the differences he’s seen after a slow 3-6 start.

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“There are a couple of things,” said Tippett. “Our goaltending has been better with two guys. Our save percentage has been higher. We’ve had a rhythm in our lineup, and you are figuring out what people can do for you. As the season goes on your team has to grow. Early in the year, there is a lot of video and a lot of growing to do. I give our guys credit. They have embraced how we want to play as a team, and we are getting results.

“We have found some results, but there is more growth in this thing. We have to keep climbing the ladder, as there are parts in our game that can continue to improve if we want to become the team we really want to be.”

— While the Oilers are rolling, the Canucks are struggling. They are 3-8-2 in their last 12 and are 27th in GA/GP (3.50) and 23rd in GF/GP (2.42). But that doesn’t mean this is an easy win. As Ottawa has proven to Montreal and Toronto (twice), and Winnipeg, any team can beat you if you don’t play well. The Oilers have a great opportunity to add to the Canucks’ sorrows and move eight points ahead of them with a regulation win.

— During this hot streak the Oilers have 12 players with at least two goals and 11 players have at least five points. Connor McDavid (23), Leon Draisaitl (17), Tyson Barrie (13) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (11) have averaged at least one point per game. Only five players were outscored at 5×5: DOMINIK KAHUN (6-7), Kyle Turris (4-5), Zack Kassian (2-3), Devin Shore (1-2) and Slater Koekkoek (1-5). Only one of them was more than -1. The entire team has improved its 5×5 play as they’ve outscored teams 31-21 at 5×5. And 10 of those goals against came in the two losses.

— Koekkoek is out for at least the rest of the regular season with a broken collarbone. It looks like Caleb Jones will play his first game since January 31st, and be paired with Evan Bouchard. Ethan Bear might be available, but yesterday he was paired with William Lagesson, while Jones and Bouchard skated together. Lagesson is still a few days away from returning after jamming his wrist a few games ago.

— McDavid said this about his dazzling second goal against Calgary on Saturday night, where he stripped the puck at centre and went in on a two-on-one with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins:

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“Two-on-ones haven’t necessarily been my friend this year,” said McDavid. “I’ve been looking to pass and made a couple mistakes on those. I was looking to make it a bit easier and just shoot it on net.” If goalies have to think about him being willing to shoot more then I expect his success rate on odd-man rushes will only go up.

— After being snake-bitten at 5×5, the RNH-McDavid-Puljujarvi line has started to score, just like Zach Laing astutely pointed out they would. They have scored six goals in the past four games. McDavid scored his first goal at 5×5 in 14 games on Saturday night, while RNH buried two in the past four games, after scoring only one in the previous 14 games. RNH has a total of four goals in the past four games, and after he scored against Winnipeg, he’s been much better. He admitted his inability to bury some of his great chances prior to the Winnipeg game was bothering him.

“It can get frustrating when you are getting a lot of looks and they aren’t going in,” he said. “It also comes down to confidence. I was kind of gripping my stick too hard and putting them (pucks) into the goalie’s pads. You just have to relax out there, and now they are starting to come more, but I can’t let up.”

It is crazy to think that McDavid went 13 games without a goal at 5×5, before scoring two against Calgary. Despite that, he still produced 30 points in the past 14 games. How many points will he score now that he and RNH are feeling it again at 5×5?

— Leon Draisaitl sat out practice yesterday, and he is clearly nursing some sort of ailment/injury, but Tippett said he will play today. James Neal also didn’t skate, but Tippett simply said he was off-ice, and didn’t say he would play today. Joakim Nygard skated in his spot, so if Neal isn’t ready to go, it looks like Nygard will get in. Kyle Turris didn’t skate with the main group, but did skate with injured players. He won’t play either game in Vancouver.

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