The Edmonton Oilers went into another opposing building and won for the fourth time in five games when they shut out the Nashville Predators 4-0 with an all-around great game on Thursday night. With the victory, they completed the season series sweep of the Predators after wins of 5-2 and 3-2 earlier in the season. Now to what you came here to read, the takeaways from this latest entertaining win.
Oilers’ Big Bounce-Back Performance
After coming off a game where the Oilers were shut down by the Minnesota Wild going down 1-0 early and then 4-0 around the halfway point, they came out flying in this one. The entire first period was dominated by the Oilers with the shot advantage in their favour 14-2.
The dominating play of the Oilers was led by none other than Connor McDavid and the top line. They controlled the play while getting chances and having continued pressure for long periods at a time. The Oilers drew two penalties in the first and capitalized on one of them. They were 24-1-0 when leading after the first and they didn’t let off for the rest of the game.
Smith Solid in Shutout
Mike Smith got the call in goal after Mikko Koskinen was the starter for each of the past two games, which were both losses. Smith has now won six in a row and is 7-0-1 in his past eight. He has allowed only four goals in his past four games including a shutout in this one where he saw 30 shots. It was the 43rd shutout of his career, moving him into a tie for 38th all-time with Brian Elliott and Gump Worsley. Smith also became the second-oldest goaltender to record a shutout in team history (40y, 23d).
Smith, the expected starter at the beginning of the season, has found his game and has been playing like general manager Ken Holland had hoped when he re-signed him for two more seasons in the summer. He looks like he is rejuvenated and finally over the injury issues he’s dealt with all season. It took him a while but now is the best time to be playing great hockey, especially in a playoff push. The Oilers have a good problem on their hands having both Smith and Koskinen playing above average, but nobody can deny that Smith would get the start in Game 1 if the playoffs began tomorrow.
Draisaitl & Oilers Dominate Special Teams
The spotlight was once again on the stars, Leon Draisaitl in particular. He had already hit 50 goals for the second time in his career last week and added a hat trick in this game to his already impressive resume. The hat trick was the sixth of his career in the regular season. He is now sitting at 54 goals and is just four back of the NHL’s goals leader Auston Matthews. He was held without a goal in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ seven-goal performance on Thursday.
The goals on the power play by Draisaitl mark back-to-back games with a power-play goal to pull two ahead of the previous Oilers’ record of 20 power-play goals in a season. Draisatl now sits at 23 and counting. The power play went two for four and has been looking a lot better as of late. The Oilers have three power-play goals in the past two games. Draisaitl has also owned the Predators, scoring seven goals in the past two meetings and 17 goals in his last eight games against them.
Not only did the Oilers’ power play find the back of the net a couple of times, but at the other end, the penalty kill also continued to play extremely well. The Predators went 0-3 on the power play and the Oilers have now killed off 29 of 31 opportunities in the past 11 games since the return of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from injury.
It looks like everything is coming together at the right time. The Oilers have one of the tougher schedules to end the regular season, so hopefully their solid play can carry over to the postseason.
Kris Russell Makes Mark in Return to Lineup
For the first time since Jay Woodcroft’s first stretch as head coach, the Oilers went with 11 forwards and seven defencemen. This came one game after they struggled in the defensive zone against the Wild. This meant Kris Russell drew back into the lineup after sitting for 10 consecutive games. The Oilers went 7-2-1 in those games.
The Oilers had been rolling with six defencemen and had newly acquired Brett Kulak paired with Tyson Barrie on the third pair which has worked extremely well. Russell is a very reliable defensive defenceman and Woodcroft made the right decision bringing him back into the lineup to calm play down a bit. It worked, and Russell was noticeable early with a huge open-ice hit. He finished the game with over 11 minutes of ice time, accumulating three hits, two blocked shots, and one shot on goal.
The Oilers’ next matchup comes tomorrow (Sat., April 16) in what could punch their ticket to the postseason. They have one of the biggest matchups of the season against the Vegas Golden Knights at home where they are 9-0-1 in their past 10. The Golden Knights are five points back and are ninth in the Western Conference. An Oilers win could create the separation that also gives them home-ice advantage in the first round.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
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