Twice in less than three weeks, the Edmonton Oilers have engaged the Colorado Avalanche in a tremendous showcase of hockey. Unfortunately for the Oilers, they’ve lost both times.
In a game that needed a shootout to determine the winner, Edmonton fell 2-1 to the Avalanche at Rogers Place on Saturday. It was Colorado’s second consecutive victory against the Oilers, following a 3-2 win in overtime in Denver on March 21.
Related Link: 3 Takeaways as Oilers Make Statement in OT Loss to Avalanche
Warren Foegele scored Edmonton’s lone goal and Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen stopped 33 shots. The Avalanche got a goal from Nathan MacKinnon and a 49-save effort from Darcy Keumper. After a scoreless overtime, Colorado prevailed in the skills contest 1-0.
With the point earned from a shootout loss, Edmonton is now four ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for second place in the Pacific Division standings. Both teams have nine games remaining on their schedules.
Here are four takeaways from Saturday’s barn-burner on Hockey Night in Canada, as the Oilers once again proved they can go toe-to-toe with top team in the NHL’s overall standings.
Oilers and Avs Play Each Other Tight
In their two meetings this season, Edmonton and Colorado have been tied for 96:29 of 120 minutes of regulation play, and they have never been separated by more than one goal. On Saturday, the teams were deadlocked for all but nine and a half minutes. Foegele scored at 5:24 of the third period to give Edmonton a 1-0 lead before MacKinnon tied it up at 14:53.
The stat that jumps out the most from the two tilts between Edmonton and Colorado is the low number of goals: a combined total of just six in regulation time. When the Oilers and Avs are not playing each other, they’re generally involved in high-scoring affairs. The average Edmonton game this season features a combined total of 6.37 goals in regulation, while an average Avalanche game sees the teams combined for 6.28 goals in regulation.
Koskinen Stands on His Head
Saturday might have been Koskinen’s best outing of 2021-22. He made several huge saves throughout the game, none bigger than during an Avalanche power play in the dying stages of the third period as Colorado blitzed the Oilers.
Koskinen stopped four shots in a span of 36 seconds while Colorado had the late man advantage, keeping the score 1-1 and ensuring the Oilers would at least get a point. So stirring was Koskinen’s play that when the horn sounded to end the third period, the crowd rose in unison to applaud the goalie. While Edmonton captain Connor McDavid pointed at Koskinen, his teammates gathered around their goalie with taps of appreciation.
It was a scene that almost never happens between regulation and overtime, usually occurring only following a victory. It provided a feel-good moment for Edmonton’s goalie in a season where goaltending is the one thing fans in Oil Country don’t feel good about.
To that end, Koskinen’s strong performance Saturday caps off a terrific week for the Oilers’ netminders, in which they combined for a 1.22 goals-against average and .962 save percentage while Edmonton went 3-0-1. Mike Smith had started the Oilers’ previous three games, all wins, 6-1 over the Anaheim Ducks last Sunday (April 3), 2-1 in overtime against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday (April 5), and 3-2 versus the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday (April 7).
Trio of Steaks End
Saturday’s result spelled the end of three separate streaks for Edmonton: One monumental, one verging on monumental, and the other one kind of random.
Edmonton had won nine straight games at home, tying the franchise record set at the end of the 2016-17 campaign, and they could have established a new benchmark with a victory over Colorado. Their last home loss before Saturday came exactly five weeks earlier, 5-2 to the Montreal Canadiens on March 5.
Saturday also marked the first loss anywhere in two weeks for the Oilers, who came into the game winners of six straight overall, their longest such streak since December 2015. The six-game run comprised three victories on the road and three at Rogers Place.
Finally, Saturday’s defeat was the first for the Oilers in a game that Foegele scores. Edmonton had previously been 9-0-0 when getting a goal from the winger, who was acquired last summer from the Carolina Hurricanes in a trade for Ethan Bear.
Puljujarvi Struggling on Top Line
On Saturday, Jesse Puljujarvi had two sure-fire opportunities after being perfectly set up on feeds from McDavid, and he failed to convert either. If the right-winger buries one, the Oilers likely defeat the Avs.
Puljujarvi has played the last seven games on Edmonton’s top line with McDavid and Evander Kane in what is presumably an effort to get the 23-year-old Finn back on track following his return from an injury that kept him out of the lineup for a month. Since being elevated to that prime spot, Puljujarvi has just one goal and two assists. He has been held pointless in five of the last six games.
Now consider that Puljujarvi’s predecessor, Kailer Yamamoto, had seven goals and five assists in the nine games that he was on a line with Kane and McDavid. That’s an average of 0.63 goals (0.77 to 0.14) and 0.90 points (1.33 to 0.43) more for Yamamoto than Puljujarvi in the same role. Yamamoto was moved down to Edmonton’s second line where he’s playing with Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman.
But as much as those stats will raise eyebrows across Oil Country, the composition of Edmonton’s forward lineup really hasn’t been an issue given how well the Oilers are playing. The fact is, Edmonton is still unbeaten in regulation, 6-0-1, since promoting Puljujarvi to the top trio. But as the winger continues to fail to produce, how much longer before Jay Woodcroft makes a move?
Edmonton’s coach will have a couple days to ponder that question before the Oilers return to action on the road against a very good Minnesota Wild squad on Tuesday at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul.