Who: Edmonton Oilers (24-26-5, 53 points, 6th place in Pacific Division, currently six points out of playoffs) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (29-20-7; 65 points, 4th place in Metropolitan division, #2 wildcard playoff team)
When: 8:00pm eastern
How to Watch: National games on NBCSN in the States and Sportsnet for north of the border
Opponent Track: Lost 5-2 to San Jose the last time out on Saturday and have had three days off since then. But game before last they won 4-1 vs. MIN, game before that lost 6-2 to Chicago....So good luck figuring this team out - good enough to win big but also bad enough get blown out on any given game.
Pens Refresh: 4-1 winners in Philly to at least salvage a 1-1-1 road trip.
Season Series: Pittsburgh won 6-5 in OT back on October 23rd. Sidney Crosby with two goals on the night, including this game winning goal that was so devastating Edmonton ended up trading Ryan Strome for a guy they would soon put on waivers
Was just taking a look at Sidney Crosby’s goal again. Seems like Connor McDavid went from thinking “there’s no way he’ll beat both guys...” to being mesmerized like the rest of it. Just sort of watches it play out once the puck goes through Strome. #Pens #NHL pic.twitter.com/sNKIMZWA8j— Brian Metzer (@Brian_Metzer) October 24, 2018
SBN Team Counterpart: Copper n Blue
Tale of the tape
—About the nicest thing you can say about the Edmonton Oilers is they have a great power play. Unsurprisingly, it’s pretty much just three players making it happen and they’re the exact three names you would guess as the leaders. Connor McDavid has 26 power play points, Leon Draisaitl has 12 PPG and 23 points, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has 21 PPP. Only one other player has more than eight on the season.
—Other than that, the Oil are in the bottom quarter of the league in just about every single other category we track. They can’t score a lot as a team - and that’s even with the best offensive player in the game doing (more than) his part! They can’t defend, their PK is one of the worst in the league, their shot metrics are bad and their goalies don’t make a lot of saves. That’s a bleak portrait to paint before seeing the bad contract situation and asset mis-management that will take years to get this team back to being worth anything beyond just having McDavid.
Player stats at a glance
—Only four forwards have 17+ points. The fourth best forward on the team this year, Alex Chaisson, came to camp on a tryout. That’s about all you need to know about where Edmonton is beyond McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH. Everyone else is not very good.
—Injuries on the defense to Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekara (who has missed all season) haven’t helped the cause, but it’s not like it would drastically change anything.
—And, though they got roasted for the weird flex of giving Mikko Koskinen a very rich contract extension to stay, he has been the superior goalie to Cam Talbot.
Possible Lines (from Saturday’s game)
Leon Draisaitl - Connor McDavid - Ty Rattie
Milan Lucic - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Alex Chaisson
Jujhar Khaira - Brad Malone - Zach Kassian
Tobias Rieder - Colby Cave - Jesse Puljujarvi
Oscar Klefbom / Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse / Kris Russell
Brandon Manning / Matt Benning
Scratches: Alex Petrovic, Kevin Gravel, Kyle Brodziak
Injured Reserve: Andrej Sekera
—Personnel-wise, just yuck, this is among the worst recent lineups we’ve previewed as far as depth and a lack of talent beyond a couple really great star players. That’s an awful bottom-six - Edmonton’s third line probably isn’t good enough to be most playoff caliber team’s fourth line! And those lower two pairs of defense (save Nurse) is pretty rough too. And even then they still have anchors in Lucic and Rattie playing top-six roles.
They said it
CnB on the recent struggles that even McDavid is facing in his uphill battle to drag his team along:
while you might consider Connor McDavid to be an x-factor in all of this, the fact is that the Oilers can barely get above the 45.0% mark when it comes to shot-share metrics, even with the best player in the world on the ice. Over the last 25 games at even-strength, McDavid’s on-ice Corsi For percentage is 45.33%, and his on-ice Fenwick For percentage is 43.47%. He’ll still definitely produce points in these circumstances, but make no mistake, McDavid’s productivity and his contribution to winning games is being hindered by whatever the Oilers coaching staff is trying to do.
Over the last three seasons, McDavid’s on-ice rate of unblocked shot attempts for (again, a proxy for scoring chances), has typically been between 45.0 and 55.0 per hour over rolling 25-game segments. These are well above league-wide averages among forwards, making it even more alarming to see how badly McDavid’s numbers have declined this season.
Knowing what we know about this team, their results, their roster construction and their lack of assets, it’s blatantly obvious that the Edmonton Oilers are not in a position to compete for a championship this season or next. The damage done between April 24, 2015 and January 22, 2019 has been significant, and has left the team with no options but to re-coup as quickly as possible the assets and skill they’ve lost.
And now for the Pens
Check the game notes, eh bud?
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Tanner Pearson - -Nick Bjugstad - Phil Kessel
Teddy Blueger -Jared McCann - Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese- Matt Cullen- Garrett Wilson
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Juuso Riikola / Jack Johnson
Marcus Pettersson / Chad Ruhwedel
Expected scratches: Dominik Simon (healthy), Evgeni Malkin (suspension)
Injured Reserve: Justin Schultz (broken leg, LTIR), Olli Maatta (upper body, IR)
—Could this be the return game for Schultz? Would be a great time for it, otherwise the team will have to dress poor Ruhwedel for the first time since November 19th.
—For not playing and not even practicing yesterday it was a bad day for the Pens with the news that Maatta is out “indefinitely” and Malkin received word from the league he is suspended for this game tonight.
Last night was a “come back to the pack” type of night, with mixed good and bad news for the Pens as a result. Top teams like NYI and Washington both lost in regulation - that’s good!
But Washington’s loss means CBJ’s win, and below the Pens we saw Carolina, Buffalo and Philadelphia all win last night as well.
A bit odd to see the top teams lose and the lower teams win, but that’s how it went. Fortunately the CBJ/WSH game, which was a 1-0 game for the majority of the night, did not end up tied and in OT - a worst case scenario for Pittsburgh to see both division rivals split three points. That it was only two is much more favorable. Friday night will see another key CBJ game when they host the Islanders.