The Edmonton Oilers are in first place in the Pacific Division, which is a bit of a surprise out of the gate; however, they don’t seem that comfortable there. Tonight, the Oilers play the New Jersey Devils (with alumni Taylor Hall coming back to town), so it will be an interesting game. The Devils are playing a back-to-back, and are coming from a drubbing by the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.
What makes the Devils such an interesting team – other than seeing Taylor Hall again – is that the number-one pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft – Jack Hughes (the Vancouver Canucks’ Quinn Hughes’ brother) – is starting to score with regularity. Last night he scored a goal and an assist in the team’s 5-2 loss to the Flames. Although he started the season slowly, the early Calder candidate (along with brother Quinn – wouldn’t that be something to see two brothers up for the same award) now has nine points in 14 games this season.
The Oilers’ Recent Woes
Suddenly Oilers’ fans are jumping off the bandwagon. The Oilers have lost their first two games on their three-game homestand – to the Arizona Coyotes and then to the St. Louis Blues. The team seems to continue to get points, but they are dribbling in one at a time rather than the two-at-a-time pace that comes from winning in regulation.
The team’s problem is that their lack of scoring is becoming an issue. They certainly haven’t been an offensive force – even with Connor McDavid – and have scored two or fewer goals in seven of the team’s last nine games. That doesn’t help the team’s record. The Oilers have only won three of those games.
As all Oilers fans know, the team has the big-three of Leon Draisaitl (who has 29 points), McDavid (who has 26 points), and James Neal (who’s scored 11 goals). But, so far there’s been no support. Erstwhile higher-scoring forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has only scored a single goal all season and he needs to break out.
As the Oilers get ready to play the Devils, I want to share some team news. It seems as if there are a number of player movements happening.
Item One: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Has Ten-Game Goalless Streak
Speaking about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, he’s gone 10 games without a goal. That’s a bit of a surprise after his career-high scoring 28 goals in 2018-19. If Nugent-Hopkins can’t score, who else – other than McDavid, Draisaitl, and Neal – can generate the offense?
Obviously Nugent-Hopkins understands the problem all too well. He was quoted as saying, “I look at myself as a guy who needs to get going secondary-scoring wise.” He noted about the big-three, “Those guys are getting big goals for us almost every game. We have to find a way to help them out.” (from “Stanley Cup champions teach Edmonton Oilers a lesson,” Robert Tychkowski, The Edmonton Sun, 11/07/19)
Item Two: Josh Archibald Is Returning to the Lineup
Josh Archibald, who’s spent the last six games on the injured reserve will play against Devils on Friday night. The 27-year-old depth-winger from Regina has played only eight games this season. And, although he had a decent season with the Arizona Coyotes in 2018-19, he hasn’t scored a point so far in 2019-20. Perhaps tonight?
Item Three: Colby Cave Was Demoted to Bakersfield
I thought the team might keep Colby Cave simply to take defensive-zone face-offs. I haven’t checked his record, but every time I watched he seemed to be winning one. Alas, that’s not enough to keep him with the big club. He has been sent to the minors. Cave scored a goal in five games with the Oilers this season.
Item Three: Tomas Jurco Was Waived
After what seemed like a strong preseason, Tomas Jurco only had two assists in 12 games with the Oilers this season. He’s been put on waivers. I’m surprised after what I saw from the 26-year-old Slovakian winger in the preseason that Jurco’s game couldn’t translate to the regular season. Because he cleared waivers today, he’ll suit in Bakersfield.
Item Four: Connor McDavid Just Keeps Scoring
As always, it seems, Connor McDavid keeps scoring. He had a goal and an assist in the 5-2 loss to the Blues. His goal led off the scoring in the game, but the team couldn’t keep up the good work. Finally, during the third period, the Oilers’ captain had an assist on Zack Kassian’s goal. It cut the Blues’ to 3-2 but that was all the Oilers could muster.
McDavid has scored nine points in his last seven games. To date, he has eight goals and 18 assists (for 26 points) in his 17 games this season.
Item Five: Mike Smith Couldn’t Keep Up the Stellar Goal-tending
Goalie Mike Smith obviously can’t be fantastic every game. Against the Blues, he allowed three goals on 23 shots and was beaten by the Blues “before-Jordan Binnington-I-should-have-won-the-Calder” starting goalie Jake Allen. To date this season, Smith has a 5-4-1 record with a 2.22 goals-against-average and a .926 save percentage. That’s good goal-tending, but only if his team can score more – but, they can’t, so the won-loss numbers look as if Smith isn’t that strong. He’s still strong.
What’s Next with the Edmonton Oilers?
Word came out today that Mikko Koskinen will start in goal against the Devils. Koskinen started strong with a 5-0-0 record (2.35 GAA and .927 save percentage) but hasn’t won since – losing one in regulation and one in overtime. But there’s a good chance he’ll win tonight – if the Oilers can score. The Devils are the worst team in the NHL in goal differential at -2.17 goals per game. Plus, they only average 1.67 goals per game on the road. Can the Oilers score two and win?
My prediction is that the Oilers will get some secondary scoring tonight: I’m looking for Gaetan Hass to score. I think his game is rounding into form.