The Edmonton Oilers improve to a perfect 3-0 at home and on the season in a high-scoring, back-and-forth game with the Anaheim Ducks. Rogers Place is looking tougher and tougher for teams to come into and play with how the Oilers have performed so far in front of a home crowd that has been longing to come together and cheer their team on.
The Oilers were once again dominant in the faceoff circle, being able to dictate the game. This is not what opponents want when facing a team that has Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in their lineup. 58.1 percent on the draw last night, they have now finished all three of their games with over 50 percent.
Evan Bouchard’s Elevation Pays Off
We may see Evan Bouchard overtake Tyson Barrie way sooner than expected. Already in the third game of the season we saw Bouchard move up to the top defensive pairing with Darnell Nurse while Barrie sat on the bench. (“Evan Bouchard subscriber Q&A: Training with Darnell Nurse, adjusting to the NHL and the ‘Bouch Bomb,’” The Athletic, Oct. 19, 2021) To that point, Barrie was a minus-3 and the Oilers needed a comeback after being down 4-3 heading into the third period.
Dave Tippett’s line shuffling worked, getting Bouchard out on the ice more. He assisted on the power-play goal scored by Zack Kassian and added one of his own on a poke from the corner five minutes later. The trust Tippett must have in young Bouchard is showing very clearly, as he was out there in the final minutes protecting the lead with the Ducks’ net empty.
Not only did Tippett elevate Bouchard, but Brendan Perlini was moved up onto the second line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman in place of Kailer Yamamoto, who only played 10 minutes. It is a good sign that Tippett is sending the message early in the season that if you’re not working or performing, you’re sitting and someone else can take your place on the ice.
Kassian Leads the Oilers’ Third Line Charge
Again we see the third line of the Oilers working extremely hard and creating chances down low. Not only that, but their ability to forecheck and drive the net was on full display once again. Though everyone on this line played well, Kassian was the standout, scoring two goals, one being on the power play. Those were his first two goals of the season in his third game. All of last season saw him score the same amount in 27 games.
Smith Considered Day-To-Day
A Mike Smith injury is the last thing the Oilers need after the great start to the season he was having. He stopped 82 of 86 shots faced in his first two games of the season before allowing four goals on 15 shots in the first half of this game.
Smith’s injury last season kept him out for the first 13 games of the season, which saw Mikko Koskinen’s workload become too much to handle. Hopefully, the tweak doesn’t result in anything serious and Smith is available to play in one of the upcoming back-to-back games Thursday or Friday. If he’s not, Stuart Skinner, the next up in the Oilers’ goaltending depth charts, is better equipped to start games in the NHL compared to last season when the coaches didn’t trust him enough to give Koskinen some much-needed rest.
Oilers’ Top Line Adds Even More Offence
Tippett seems to have made the right call in having Leon Draisaitl play on the top line with Connor McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi rather than centre his own line. Draisaitl recorded two goals and two assists against the Ducks with McDavid scoring a goal and two assists and Puljujarvi adding two assists.
In this game, these three players put up nine more points, increasing the number of points the line has to 22 in three games. McDavid and Draisaitl are tied for the league lead with eight points, while Puljujarvi is close behind tied in sixth with six points.
Oilers’ Power Play Can’t Be Contained
The power play was on full display once again, going two for six. (“Oilers power play still a fright for opposing teams,” Edmonton Sun, Sept. 28, 2021) The top unit wasn’t hogging all the goals this game, as the second power-play unit, which hardly ever sees time, took advantage of the end of one of the Oilers’ many man advantages. They added to their total power-play goals on the season with five in 12 attempts, good for just over 41 percent. That could increase drastically with their next opponent being the Arizona Coyotes.
In a surprising turn of events, the Oilers only managed to go on the penalty kill one time in the game, successfully killing it off. They actually got two penalties, but the Ducks just couldn’t seem to stay out of the box. Instead, the Oilers played a bit more 4-on-4. It is a vast improvement on the six minor penalties they took against the Calgary Flames.
Puljujarvi Drawing Penalties
I think the Oilers have found another player they can rely on to draw penalties and put the No. 1 power play to work more often. Puljujarvi seems to be that man. He’s big, fast, and lives in the corners and around the net. In this game, he drew two penalties on the same play to put the Oilers up by two men — they scored not long after. It’s tough to clear a body that size from in front of the net, and cross checking is still engrained in many players’ heads. That is exactly what happened as Rickard Rakell tried to clear Puljujarvi and ended up taking a penalty.
It was a very entertaining night in Edmonton and lots to take away from a hard-fought victory. Along with keeping the offence rolling, the Oilers should look to tighten up defensively to help out their goalies a bit.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News and trade talks.
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