In No Particular Order: Post Game, Bouchard, Puljujarvi, Kuemper, Centres
Good afternoon everyone. Today we are going to discuss the Oilers recent win over the Ottawa centres, what to expect in the coming weeks, some thoughts on the young guys, a potential trade rumour, and what to do with the bottom six.
So many things to discuss, so little time so let's get to it.
OILERS SWEEP SENS
The first game against the Senators was a mess with Edmonton starting an AHL goalie against an AHL team. The Oilers were fine to keep things open and trade chances and fans witnessed goals a plenty.
Last night Edmonton played a far more structured game, out-chanced Ottawa through the first two periods (and took their foot off the gas a bit too much in the third) and now once again sit at .500 hockey.
Have the Edmonton Oilers turned a corner after a rough start? I think it's too soon to say. Depending on where Edmonton sits after their next road trip that sees them play Calgary, Ottawa twice, and Montreal may give us a better indication.
As a whole the Oilers have played a far better team game since their last homestand against Toronto. There are still at least one or two near critical mistakes being made a game but we are not seeing the total collapses that plagued this team in the first two weeks.
Kahun, Puljujarvi, Barrie, and Turris. These were the big adds that Holland made in the off-season in the hopes of adding more scoring depth. While Kahun and Puljujarvi were getting some good looks, none of these players were providing any scoring.
Puljujarvi and Kahun now both have a couple goals on the season and Tyson Barrie has 9 points in 12 games, tied for fourth in team scoring alongside Darnell Nurse. It took longer than fans wanted but these guys are starting to pick up their play which takes some of the burden away from McDavid and Draisaitl.
The only real disappointment so far has been Kyle Turris who is still not able to provide much of anything for the Oilers, in the defensive or offensive zone. More on what to do with Kyle Turris in a moment.
The defensive depth is starting to show for the Edmonton Oilers. Darnell Nurse is playing some of his best hockey right now and is looking like he belongs on a top pairing. Nurse has cut off most of his net front issues that caused so many goals when he was on the ice last season. Not all of them... he still falls to the ice rather than engage his stick more than I would like but he has cleaned up his game.
Evan Bouchard jumped into his first game of the season and already looks like one of the Oilers top six defencemen, Bouchard is just so calm on the ice. He skates with purpose, doesn't over extend himself to make a big hit or throw a pass out to nothing when under pressure. Last night Bouchard made a few amazing passes that I had to rewind to see how he hit the stick of his teammate.
Bouchard played just over 17 minutes last game and finished the game with 4 shots and an assist from his shot from the point that was deflected in by Puljujarvi.
Tippett praised him in the post-game so it will be interesting to see where we go from here. After such a strong performance I think it would be difficult to take him out of the lineup against Calgary. If Bear remains out it is easy enough to find a spot for him but if #74 is ready to return there would need to be more shuffling.
It was going to happen eventually and Jesse Puljujarvi scored not one but two goals in his last game. The first was the flashier of the two but before breaking down the goal itself I think it's important to look at how the play developed.
Barrie breaks up the play by the Senators and pushes the puck up to McDavid and at this point Puljujarvi is in full sprint down the ice. JP rushes down turning Coburn around (who was subsequently put on waivers today), and fires off the first shot. Instead of skating past the net in full flight, Puljujarvi stops on a dime and picks up his own rebound to force by Hogberg for the goal. The whole scenario showed that JP is thinking the game at the NHL level and starting to develop some real chemistry with McDavid.
The second goal was just a great seeing eye play with a deflection on the Bouchard shot. All 6"5 of JP makes him a force on the ice and a difficult man to outmuscle. Last season Yamamoto arrived and established himself as a top six player in his own right and we may be witnessing the same for Puljujarvi now.
Today Eklund mentioned that the Coyotes may be looking to trade Kuemper and that Edmonton is interested. There have been rumours about Kuemper/Raanta's availability since last summer with the organization as a whole trying to shed salary left and right. The Yotes are still very much a team in disarray without much in the coffers to come and rescue their future.
For Edmonton, obviously adding a Kuemper or Raanta makes sense. Koskinen can't play every game and while he has been at least average this season, he isn't showing yet that he is the guy you want going into a seven game series.
While a Yotes goalie would solve a need for Edmonton, I don't see how a trade framework would work. Edmonton has next to zero cap space right now and the whole reason the Coyotes would trade him would be to alleviate cap space. They aren't going to want a dump in return.
In terms of other assets Edmonton has their first round pick available but do not have a 2nd or a 3rd or a 5th round pick. Do you trade your first knowing you are essentially throwing away a year of drafting? Is Kuemper worth it?
LINEUP MOVING FORWARD
In a bit of an odd move, Tippett went to 11 forwards and 7 defence last night. Here was the lineup:
Longer term I would like to see Tippett continue to run this, albeit with a couple changes.
With a fully healthy roster, here is what I want to see Tippett run:
Up front I like the look of those three lines. Haas is looking sharp and of all the options we have seen this season (Turris, Shore, Khaira, Haas), Gaetan Haas has impressed the most.
The "extras" in Kassian and Turris, I want to see Tippett double-shifting McDavid, Draisaitl, and RNH alternating to put more pressure on the opposing coach for line matchups. Perhaps Turris can find a spot as a winger easier than in the middle.
On defense I would run the 3 B's on the right side with Larsson as the extra. Adam Larsson can provide some physicality and is still a very good penalty killer and can slot in over Bouchard in those scenarios. Edmonton needs more players who have the hockey sense to make a good exit pass out of their own zone. Bouchard has that skill and Larsson does not.