Weekly Wraparound: Oilers On The Road for Week 5

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 11: Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal during a NHL game between Edmonton Oilers and Boston Bruins on November 11, 2021, at TD Garden in Boston, MA. (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers started the season 9-1-0 and set a franchise record, with 7 of the 10 games at home. Starting a 5 game road trip for week 5, it may be the biggest test of the early season, so far.

After a few perfect weeks to start the year the Oilers had a rough start to the road trip losing games to Detroit and Buffalo, Tuesday and Friday, but beating Boston on Thursday night. They ended the week on Sunday in St. Louis where they won a back and forth affair 5-4.

4 games in 7 days..

Tuesday, November 9th @ Detroit Red Wings:

The first game of the week was Tuesday night against the Red Wings, where the Oilers looked jet legged to start. It was youngster Stuart Skinner’s second career start and he had an excellent game stopping 35 of 38 shots.

The Oilers didn’t show up till the 3rd period and ended up losing 4-2, for just their second loss of the season.

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1st STAR: Vladislav Namestnikov (DET) – 2 Goals

2nd STAR: Alex Nedeljkovic (DET) – 2 Goals Against, 33 Saves, Win

3 STAR: Connor McDavid (EDM) – 1 Goal

Thursday, November 11th @ Boston Bruins:

The next game went down in Boston against the Bruins. Edmonton had a solid complete game effort against one of the leagues most consistent contenders. The Oilers squeaked out a 5-3 win for their 10th in 12 games.

It was a well played game from both sides, with a little extra emotion on a night from both teams honouring the late Colby Cave.

Colby Cave’s wife Emily was part of the ceremonial puck drop before the matchup between Colby’s two former teams.

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1st STAR: Leon Draisaitl (EDM) – 2 Goals, 1 Assist

2nd STAR: Connor McDavid (EDM) – 1 Assist

3rd STAR: Patrice Bergeron (BOS) – 2 Assists

Friday, November 12th @ Buffalo Sabres:

Coming into Buffalo seemed like an easy win. Edmonton is much more skilled from top to bottom. Unfortunately that’s not all it takes sometimes.

Buffalo got a stellar performance from goaltender Dustin Tokarski and two timely goals by 1st rounder Dylan Cozens. The Oilers had a late push with the net empty but the Sabres held on for a 3-2 victory.

Stuart Skinner started his 2nd game in 3 days and saved 20 out of 23 shots. It wasn’t as good as his effort in Detroit, as goaltending ended up being the deciding factor.

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1st STAR: Dylan Cozens (BUF) – 2 Goals

2nd STAR: Dustin Tokarski (BUF) – 2 Goals Against, 35 Saves, Win

3rd STAR: Leon Draisaitl (EDM) – 2 Goals

Sunday, November 14th @ St. Louis:

The Blues and Oilers have been at or near the top of the Western Conference for most of the early season, so it was another big test in St. Louis.

The starting goalies for the game were Jordan Binnington and Mikko Koskinen. The two netminders are both in the midst of excellent, and similar starts to the season, with Save Percentages around .915 and Goals Against Averages around the 2.70 mark.

St. Louis scored first but Edmonton struck with just 4 seconds left in the first to tie it up. The Oilers had a 4-2 lead heading into the the 3rd but that was quickly erased 8 minutes into the period.

When it seemed like the game was going to an extra frame, Leon Draisaitl found Kailer Yamamoto for a quick one timer to take the lead 5-4 with 28 seconds to play. The Oilers won 5-4.

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1st STAR: Connor McDavid (EDM) – 1 Goal, 1 Assist (600th Career Point)

2nd STAR: Leon Draisaitl (EDM) – 1 Goal, 2 Assists

3rd STAR: Robert Thomas (STL) – 3 Assists

Oilers’ Top Performers of the Week

Leon Draisaitl

Is Draisaitl the best player in the league right now? That’s a big statement when comparing him to his teammate Connor McDavid. Leon kept his fantastic stretch going with another 5 goals and 3 assists in the 4 games this week.

He’s now up to 15 goals and 16 assists in only 14 games played this season. For NHL league leaders, he’s currently: 1st in goals (3 ahead of Ovechkin), tied for 2nd in assists (2 behind teammates McDavid and RNH), and 1st in points with 31 (4 ahead of McDavid).

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

RNH added to his league lead of assists with another 3 this week. Most notable of the week was his first goal of the season on Sunday against the Blues.

As I’ve stated before, it’s what Nugent-Hopkins does away from the puck that impresses me the most. He’s an excellent two-way player that plays powerplay and penalty kill. His ability to retrieve or get takeways is what stood out most this week.

Ryan McLeod

Called up for the road trip after Devon Shore was injured, Ryan Mcleod suited up for all 4 road games and looked better every game.

After a rough first couple of games, McLeod looked terrific on the third line in both Friday and Sunday’s games. He scored his first career NHL goal against St. Louis.

Mikko Koskinen

Mikko Koskinen got the nod in the two “harder” games this week against Boston and St. Louis. Although he let in 7 goals, those two games were maybe his best of the season, especially against the Blues. If Koskinen keeps playing well the Oilers have no need to rush Mike Smith back from injury, which seems to be the case.

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Takeaways from Week 5

5v5 Play

Edmonton’s special teams has been very impressive this season, and I don’t see either the powerplay or penalty kill slowing down. If their even strength play can be better, this team is can be legitimate contenders (with some trade deadline acquisitions as well).

The Oilers are only +1 in goal differential at 5 on 5, which is not good enough. That’s also with performing better than expected in both goals for and against.

This all comes down to the bottom six which was producing at an elite rate at the start of the season. After a few slow weeks the 3rd and 4th line are now performing at below league average.

McDavid’s Milestones

Connor McDavid recorded his 200th career goal earlier this season when the Oilers were visiting the Arizona Coyotes. On Sunday night in St. Louis, McDavid recorded his 600th career point in just his 421st game, which is 6th fastest in NHL history.

What’s more impressive is how much faster each 100 points is coming for Connor:

Since the start of 2020-21 season, McDavid has 43 goals and 89 assists in only 70 games. Can the best player in the league reach point 700 this season?

“Game Management” ?

The talk on hockey twitter lately has been about stars and their inability to draw penalty calls. Watching Oilers’ games I’ve noticed at least 2 or 3 missed calls a game against guys like McDavid and Draisaitl, but especially McDavid.

McDavid has played 314 minutes this season and has currently drawn only 10 minutes of penalties. With how often he has the puck this just doesn’t add up. It seems like the stars in todays game are punished for being faster and more skilled and that’s why guys are allowed to hack and whack them.

The fact that penalties are called less in the playoffs always gets brought up in these arguments. Former NHL Head Coach John Tortorella recently stated on ESPN that “Quite honestly, just shut up. Don’t talk about it”, on McDavid complaining about not getting calls.

“I do think he has to change his game a bit,” said Tortorella “You’re not just going to fill the net and outscore teams in the playoffs, you have to play the other side of the puck.” Watch a rundown of the take by TSN’s BarDown here.

Tortorella is speaking some truth here but at the same time it’s not McDavid’s fault for being faster than every other player, so the game should be called a little more by the rule book.

Defense isn’t Mcdavid’s strongest part of his game but I think that his offense is elite enough that it washes all that out. As for the playoffs, Connor has 22 points in 21 career playoff games.

If anything on Edmonton is a problem, it’s definitely not Connor McDavid, who is probably the last player in the league that needs to change the way he plays.

What’s Next for the Oilers?

The Oilers finish their 5 game road trip on Tuesday in Winnipeg, for the first meeting with the Jets since last years playoff series. Edmonton is currently 2-2-0 on the road trip, so it will be nice to finish it above .500 with a win.

The team is back home for two games starting Thursday. The second of a home and home against Winnipeg first. Saturday night they host the Chicago Blackhawks.

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