The Oilers came into tonight’s game on a high, coming off a fantastic win last night over their inter-province rivals the Calgary Flames. You could tell right off the bat, they were coming out with tons of confidence and didn’t really miss a step from the night before. Their puck movement was still on point and was looking better and better as the game progressed. The puck management aspect of the entire team is 100 times better then the first game as everyone is making much smarter decisions with the puck. There were a few hiccups along the way but that’s expected, but the progression has been excellent to see. Coming into this 2015/16 season who knew the Oilers would have solid goaltending? Nilsson has stood on his head and Talbot has provided that calming presence that’s been missing for the good part of a decade. If they keep it up, watch out Western Conference.
The Oilers were outshot 34 – 24 in this game but it certainly wasn’t an indication of who the better team was. The game was evenly matched throughout the night with each team having their fair share of opportunities but I’m giving the slight edge to the Oilers. There just appears to be a bigger sense of urgency with this team to get the puck, to win the puck battles and give that extra 10% to get that puck back, especially in the offensive zone where they have looked relentless at times. Everyone is pulling their own weight and making the most of their ice time. Even Luke Gazdic, who put in extensive time this off season to become a better hockey player, hasn’t looked lost on the ice. The ConYak Connection is looking deadlier an deadlier with the more minutes they play together. I’m going to make a bold prediction here and now, if they continue to play together, Yakupov cracks 30 goals, there is just an uncanny chemistry these two are building.
At certain points tonight, you could tell the Oilers were looking a little tired, especially in the second period where they were outplayed for the most part. It looked like the first back to back was wearing on them a little. As their legs started to slow down the passes became less crisp, but this is where McLellan’s team management has come into play, an area where I don’t think he is getting enough credit right now. He is finding a nice balance to this line up, placing Klinkhammer or Hendricks on the top line, on paper doesn’t seem like the brightest of ideas but so far it’s paying off. They are creating the time and space for Hall and RNH and are smart enough players that they know their roles on the ice. The way the coaching staff is handling the defensive minutes is paying dividends for them, not overplaying and not under playing anyone, but using everyone just the right amount. It shows in the way they were still able to find the energy to pull out a win in overtime tonight.
The game this evening was just another prime example of how simple hockey can in fact make it complicated for the opposing team. They made sure to get the puck behind the Canucks’ defenders and to put them on their heels and force turnovers.
Hall has looked like a man possessed as of late, using his hockey IQ and speed to get in quick and either win the puck battle or get the defence to cough it up. In an astounding margin the Canucks had 17 giveaways tonight compared to the Oilers 4, which is speaking volumes to the adjustments that McLellan is making with this team.
Quite amazing what a proven NHL head coach can do with a team like this, there were a few bumps in the road, but without those you don’t know what to tweak or to improve. The more this team plays, the more chemistry that is being established with an incredible sense of balance from the net out. There is trust in everyone to make the right play which is something this team has lacked in previous years.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 19, 2015
Tonight’s Beer League Three Heroes are:
1. Anders Nilsson – The guy has been nothing short of spectacular in this first 2 starts with the Oilers, creating an actual goalie tandem for the Oilers to rely on, he has stopped 81 of 85 his first two starts. He doesn’t quite have the calming presence, but he’s making the saves and he is keeping them in the games and that’s all that matters.
2. Lauri Korpikoski – He has been a very solid pickup since the Oilers traded for him. He isn’t known for his offensive ability, but he’s been effective every shift, especially tonight. He netted the game winner in overtime off a sweet saucer pass from Sekera. If the Oilers can continue to get depth scoring from guys like him…. Don’t think they will continue to be taken lightly anymore.
3.Nail Yakupov – Everyone has just been ready to write this kid off as a bust but he is looking better after an odd start where he looked lost on the ice. Yak is finding his bearings and discovering real chemistry with Connor McDavid, as two nights in a row he has shown his ability to find the scoring areas and unleash his blistering NHL caliber shot.
Tonight, once again, I thought long and and hard and I just couldn’t find anyone to give the Golden Plunger award to, so instead I’m going to post a brief paragraph of some post game analytics from our resident fancy stats expert Walter Foddis!
Brief Post-Game Analytics
Top possession (SAT +/-) forwards: Klinkhammer +2, Gazdic +1, & Letestu 0.
Top possession defenders: Sekera +2 and Fayne 0.
Bottom possession forwards: Pouliot -12, Yakupov -9, & Nugent-Hopkins -6.
Bottom possession defenders: Reinhart & Gryba at -11.
When does a team who has played back-to-back games begin to show fatigue? Toward the end of the game, which is exactly what happened to the Oilers. Overall (5v5), the Canucks outshot the Oilers 44 to 31 in shot attempts (Oilers’ SAT%=41.3%) & 24 to 11 in scoring chances (SC%=38.3%; defined by war-on-ice.com). Edmonton fell behind in scoring chances at about 15 minutes, but then managed to keep pace until the last 5 minutes of the 2nd period. At that point, they did not get a single scoring chance for almost 25 minutes!
Despite being terribly out-chanced, the Oilers tied the Canucks in high-danger scoring chances (shots from the slot) with 8. Shot quality matters. That they paced the Canucks on this metric, and kept it low, suggests that the team did a good job of keeping shots to the outside. Regardless, goaltending and a little puck luck (e.g., Daniel Sedin’s over-the-crossbar scoop) was the difference. At even strength Nilsson stopped 27 of 28 shots for a 96.4 save%.
Edmonton had 2 shot attempts on 2 minutes of power-play, which translates to 60 shot attempts (SAT) per 60 minutes. This pales in comparison to their PP against Calgary in which they shot at a rate of 145 SAT/60. A rate of 100 SAT/60 would give the Oilers a top-5 PP, which is what I’m hoping they’ll achieve.
The top-line duo of Hall and Nugent-Hopkins were beat up possession-wise by the Sedin brothers and the Canucks top-2 defenders, Edler and Tanev. Their SAT differential against these 4 players was about 40%. McDavid and Yakupov also had a rough possession night; mostly up against Vrbata, Sutter, & Burroughs. Their SAT% against Vancouver’s 2nd line was about 37%
What more can you say about this team as of late? After that pummeling in Dallas they are really starting to get their feet underneath them. You can see there is a sense of trust and confidence in each other that was missing, not just in within the locker room but from the coaching staff as well. There is confidence being built knowing your goalie is there to make a save, knowing that your defence pairing is going to make the smart play, and knowing that the forwards are going to get on their horse to get back.
Tonight was a good win, not just because it was off a back to back, but because they weathered a pretty heavy storm in the second when their legs started to get weary. They stuck with the game plan, got their second wind; came out hard, and didn’t quit in the third or OT.
The next game is against the Detroit Red Wings Wednesday evening. Detroit started out hot winning 3 straight and have since cooled off losing 2 in a row. This is going to be a really good test for the Oilers, they are playing a younger, quicker, Red Wings team that they aren’t used to seeing. This might be a game where they have to just stand in the ring, square up, and be the aggressor. I can’t express this enough, the Oilers mustn’t stray away from the simple hockey they are playing. It’s imperative that they continue to hammer the puck deep and force the opposition’s defence to turn it over. The defence will be in tough as they are going to need to be able to hold down the fort in the defensive zone, this Red Wings team has some crafty snipers in Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg and Calder Trophy Candidate Dylan Larkin.
The boys just need to continue to keep the shots on the outside and letting whoever is in net see the puck. If the muckers and grinders keep playing physical, its going to create tons of frustration for Detroit. If they are suffocating them and jumping on every loose puck and making sure support is there, then this is a game the Oilers can win!
BLH note: Sure it would just be game 7 of 82 but if the Oilers won 3 in a row here, would that change the way other fans/teams look at this squad?
Thanks for reading tonight, let me know what you think @madi39 or in the comment section below!