Oilers Make it 5 Straight with Win Over Predators

The Edmonton Oilers were able to run their winning streak to five games on Tuesday night, defeating the Nashville Predators by a 7-4 final. With the win, they see their record improve to 7-3-0 on the season, while the Preds now sit at a disappointing 3-6-1.

Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid
Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

From an Oilers’ perspective, there was plenty to like in this one, though there were still some areas of concern. They once again gave up a very early goal, this one coming off the stick from Matt Duchene less than a minute into the contest. On top of that, Jack Campbell was once again quite average, allowing four goals on just 23 shots. That said, the focus needs to be on what went well, as there was plenty on this night yet again for Jay Woodcroft’s red-hot squad. Let’s take a look at a few of the biggest reasons for Tuesday night’s victory.

Oilers’ Big Boys Showed Up

From the get-go this season both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have been their usual incredible selves. Entering the contest, the two superstars had combined for 34 points in 18 games, and, non-surprisingly, they continued that dominance on Tuesday night. By the time the final horn sounded, Draisaitl found himself with a goal and four assists, while McDavid scored twice and added two helpers. They simply cannot be stopped right now and should both have no issues topping 120 points if health remains on their side.

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Despite the dominance of the Oilers’ top two forwards this season, one other top producer for them who had yet to find his footing was Evander Kane. He had just two goals in nine games entering Tuesday’s outing, which was rather disappointing given the outstanding clip he scored at last season. The early struggles may be behind him, however, as he was able to record a hat-trick in this one.

Oilers’ Finns Provide Physical Presence

One concern about this Oilers team in past seasons is that, aside from players like Darnell Nurse and Zack Kassian, they lacked toughness and would often get pushed around. The signing of Kane certainly helped in that regard last season, and, though early, appears to no longer be an issue whatsoever in 2022-23.

Young Finnish defenceman Markus Niemelainen has proven in his short time with the club that he is not shy at all to throw the body. He has the makings of an old-school, throwback player who has the ability to make massive open-ice hits. He was able to do just that once again last night as he stepped up on Mattias Ekholm, which resulted in several Predators going after the 24-year-old. That physical presence should be enough to keep him in the lineup plenty moving forward.

Niemelainen wasn’t the only Finn in the Oilers lineup dishing out hits, either. Late in the game, Jesse Puljujarvi finished an open ice check on Alexandre Carrier, which the Preds didn’t seem too thrilled with once again. Credit to the man dubbed ‘Bison King’, who, despite struggling to put up offense thus far, has seemingly added some grit to his game.

Depth Scoring Played a Part

While scoring goals hasn’t been a problem for this Oilers team as a whole so far this season, they aren’t getting a ton of contributions up front from players not named McDavid, Draisaitl, Kane, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Zach Hyman. While those big guns continued to lead the way on Tuesday, they were able to get contributions from some others as well.

Derek Ryan Edmonton Oilers
Derek Ryan, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

After already being up 3-1 in the opening frame, Devin Shore and Tyson Barrie displayed some beautiful passing before the latter set up Derek Ryan with a backhand feed to extend the Oilers’ lead to three. While those three got credit on the score sheet, it is also worth noting that rookie Dylan Holloway had a very nice zone entry just prior to that which helped lead to the tally.

Looking Ahead for the Oilers

With last night’s win, the Oilers remain second in the Pacific Division, though they still trail the Vegas Golden Knights (who have won five straight themselves) by four points. They will look to shorten that gap on Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils, who happen to be on a four-game winning streak themselves. They will then end their week with a game on the road versus the Dallas Stars, who own a very solid 6-3-1 record through their first ten games of the season.

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