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G67: Oilers vs Leafs - Keep the Momentum Going

March 11, 2023, 4:47 PM ET [27 Comments]
Sean Maloughney
Edmonton Oilers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Edmonton Oilers easily could have folded after going down 0-2 against the Bruins after the first period of Thursday night's game. Instead the whole team regrouped, fought back, and beat the Bruins in their own barn 3-2. It was the first time this season that the Bruins had lost in regulation after winning in the first period and second period.

It is still a very small sample size but we are starting to get an idea of what Mattias Ekholm is and what he brings to this roster. The answer? A whole bunch of things. The Oilers have outscored their opponents 8-2 at 5 on 5 with Ekholm on the ice. He has the highest xGF% on the team at 60.25% and the highest actual High Danger Chances for % at 65.79%. We are talking about a 5 game span here but the results so far have been excellent. Ekholm is such a calm presence in the Oilers end and every time he has the puck he makes smart decisions. You don't see him ice the puck often or get caught out of position or be the culprit of unnecessary turnovers. It's exactly what this team needed on the blue line.

In addition to the play of Ekholm, Evan Bouchard is finally getting respect for his great play. Bouchard without Ekholm this season had great possession numbers (56.77%), the Oilers regularly outshot their opponents when he was on the ice and created more chances. The issue was that in actual goals the Oilers were outscored 39-45 at 5 on 5 when Bouchard was on the ice. Make no mistake, Bouchard has had struggles this season defensively and has gotten caught out too many times, but he has also been sporting a 0.965PDO. To recap for those not familiar, PDO is the combination of a team's shooting percentage and save percentage. Usually the number should come out to 100%. Anything more than that means the puck is going in more than it should and anything below suggests it isn't going in enough. It isn't a perfect stat (none are) but across the NHL for years it is a pretty good way to track players either overachieving or under achieving.

Bouchard with Ekholm has just clicked from the get go and the puck is going in for the Oilers and that makes players feel more confident. In the Bruins game the Oilers had a 4 on 1 play and Bouchard could have easily tried to pass the puck to another player for a fancy tap in. Instead the 23 year old wired the puck on net, beating Swagman clean. This pair has been excellent for the team and if this continues it will make contract negotiations very intriguing for Bouchard this summer.

Tonight is the last time the Oilers will face off against the Leafs this season (in the regular season at least). Edmonton remains in the top Wild Card spot and despite strong play so far in March, winning 4 of 5, they have not been able to gain ground on the Kings or Golden Knights. The Kraken are showing some cracks and a win tonight could propel the team into third in the Pacific. Matches against Toronto are always fun and dynamic affairs and I expect nothing less today.

Thanks for reading!
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