Player grades: Short-staffed Oilers overcome absences, two-goal deficit to grind down Kraken

Player grades: Short-staffed Oilers overcome absences, two-goal deficit to grind down Kraken

Author of the article:

Bruce McCurdy  •  Edmonton Journal

Publishing date:

Dec 19, 2021  •  5 days ago  •  10 minute read  •  14 Comments

Adam Larsson #6 of the Seattle Kraken breaks his stick as Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers controls the puck during the first period at Climate Pledge Arena on December 18, 2021 in Seattle, Washington.
Adam Larsson #6 of the Seattle Kraken breaks his stick as Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers controls the puck during the first period at Climate Pledge Arena on December 18, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Steph Chambers /Getty Images

Oilers 5, Kraken 3

The standings suggest there was nothing special about Edmonton Oilers’ 5-3 win over Seattle Kraken on Saturday night. After all, the visitors entered the game with a 17-11-0 record, far ahead of the expansion club’s 10-16-3 mark, and by night’s end had extended their lead to 13 standings points.

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But those standard facts do not account for the significant challenges that the Oilers had to overcome to get the job done. Foremost among them was the ongoing ravages of COVID, whose steady drip-drip-drip has robbed the roster of no fewer than five players who have tested positive in the last five days. The latest was Jesse Puljujarvi who flew to Seattle only to fail the game-day test and who is in limbo at this moment, a long way from home. Teammates Ryan Nugent-HopkinsDuncan KeithRyan McLeod and  Devin Shore stayed behind in Edmonton, as did head coach  Dave Tippett , all under COVID protocol.

Then there are the actual injuries which have also been piling up to the likes of Zach HymanKris Russell , and  Markus Niemelainen , all recently joining long-term absentees Mike Smith and  Josh Archibald . The latest casualty being forward Kyle Turris who hurt his hand blocking a shot last game, made the flight but was unable to go, literally leaving the Oilers a man short of a full roster even after all the experienced wingers in the organization had been called up from the AHL. It was literally all hands on deck.

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Then after a pretty strong start they somehow found themselves down by a pair not 10 minutes into the first period, one mistake by the goalie and another by a defence pair. Such an 0-2 hole proved insurmountable 5 different times during the disastrous home stand, but on this night the Oilers simply rolled up their sleeves and raised their game. They fired 20 shots during the first period and managed to tie the score. They kept on bringing it from there, grinding the boards, taking the body, working the puck into good position. They were rewarded with a couple of “ugly” goals along the way including Warren Foegele’s game winner with 11 minutes to play that needed a successful challenge to be confirmed. From there they worked the clock, played a strong possession game and prevented Seattle from mustering a single dangerous shot the rest of the way.

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On the night the visitors held a 12-8 edge in Grade A shots by our count at the Cult of Hockey , and wider margins of 73-30 in shot attempts, 41-17 in shots on goal, and 13-7 in High Danger Shots courtesy Natural Stat Trick . Edmonton also held a 29-16 edge in hits, unusual for a team that had the puck most of the night, but symbolic of the lunch-pail brand of hockey they played to ultimately win their second straight game to begin to put that ugly recent losing streak in the rear view.

A 60-minute effort, a fully-earned two points, and well-deserved passing grades for all involved.

Player grades

#5 Cody Ceci, 6. He got sucked out of position on the 2-0 goal by Jared McCann, a bit of a mix-up between Ceci and his temporary partner Lagesson, and was made to pay with some fine execution by the Kraken. Nearly got beaten again by McCann on the rush minutes later but made a fine diving stop. Solid thereafter in just over 20 minutes of work. Won a key d-zone battle that set the stage for the empty netter that put it away.

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#10 Derek Ryan, 7. Another strong game from the resurgent vet, who has found his game lately after an awful few weeks. He centred a grinding third line between Benson and Sceviour that controlled possession and shot shares (attempts 15-6, on goal 9-4 on Ryan’s watch at 5v5), and teamed up with the latter on penalty kill duty as well. Played 16: 12 in all situations with 2 shots and a strong 9/13=69% on the faceoff dot.

#16 Tyler Benson, 6. Like all healthy Oilers wingers, he found himself moved up the line-up, playing a career high 15: 10. Responded with a fine performance that included a couple of sharp passes and persistent strong work in the tough areas. Dished out a couple of hits and was on the receiving end of a couple as well, but took them to make the play. Spent much of the game in the good end of the ice. Drew a penalty.

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#20 Slater Koekkoek, 6. The one piece of good news on the manpower front was Koekkoek’s return from Injured Reserve after a full month on the sidelines. That enabled a full group of 6 defencemen despite the loss of Keith. He delivered 16 minutes on a pairing with Bouchard which had some iffy moments but generally moved the puck north. Hard to argue with shot attempts to 19-11, shots of 10-7, and especially goals of 3-0 on his watch. He did get walked by Ryan Donato for Seattle’s one dangerous chance in the third, but later made an important defensive play to tip a shot into the netting. Drew a penalty. 2 shots, 2 blocks, 1 hit.

#22 Tyson Barrie, 7. Promoted to the top pairing with Nurse and responded with a proactive game. Oilers possession to the tune of 24-9 shot attempts and 13-4 shots during his 19 minutes at evens. Had 10 shot attempts and 5 shots of his own. Did make a mistake on a powerplay that resulted in a breakaway chance, but in its aftermath it was he who made the fine stretch pass that sent the  play back the other way to start a 5-man sequence that ended in the 2-2 goal.

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#23 Seth Griffith, 6. Emergency recall played his 80th NHL game but his first in four seasons. He and fellow call-up Marody were the 10th and 11th forwards who got spot duty with with McDavid or Draisaitl as their centre, not bad work if you can get it. His signature moment came on the 3-2 when he crashed the boards hard to win a puck to McDavid; said puck proceeded forthwith into the blue paint, then the back of the net. Originally awarded an assist on the play which I thought was deserved, but it was later taken away. A couple of other heady plays. Just 5: 37 of action but he made the most of it.

#25 Darnell Nurse, 7.   Tower of power on the back end, where he skated many kilometres, some of them with the puck on his stick. His 26: 09 ice time, 11 shot attempts, 6 shots, 2 blocks and 5 hits all led the Oilers in the various categories. Caught in the red light zone on the 3-3, but more than made up for that with some very strong play in his own zone to retrieve or recover the puck and to get it moving in the right direction. In his 25 minutes at even strength Seattle mustered just 5 shots on net.

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#29 Leon Draisaitl, 7. Picked up the quietest 3 points he’s gotten in a while, all of them secondary assists, but he was consistently setting the table and a few times those opportunities got converted. Worked hard in the defensive zone and won possession several times. His 32nd 3-point night in the last 3 seasons (156 total games), and as per the broadcast crew the Oilers have posted a 31-0-1 record in those games. Overall he logged 24: 08 to lead the forwards. 7/13=54% on the dot.

#37 Warren Foegele, 8. Finally given a real chance in the top six this week, and has responded with a series of strong games. This may have been the best of them, with a pair of hard-working goals in nearly 20 minutes of ice time. The first came on the powerplay, not his usual domain, but he seized the opportunity to slam home a rebound from the slot. Got down and dirty on the game winner when he crowded the net front on Bouchard’s outside shot, then got a favourable bounce/s off his upper body when he was crosschecked into Chris Driedger by Mark Giordano. The goal was initially waved off but correctly reinstated after coach’ s challenge.

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#42 Brendan Perlini, 6. Elevated to Draisaitl’s wing and responded with a workmanlike effort. 2 shots, 4 hits, and some strong skating.

#44 Zack Kassian, 7. A second straight excellent game, mostly on a line with Foegele and McDavid. Landed a couple of booming hits in the first period in response to some early physicality from Seattle, and stepped in appropriately to a scrum involving McDavid. Wound up with 4 hits on the night. No shots but some good puck movement, with a number of good short passes which on his good nights can be a real strength of his game. One of these earned him an assist on McDavid’s empty netter. Did make one nasty turnover in the third that led to a 3-on-2 rush the other way, though it ultimately came to nothing. Oilers outshot the Kraken 13-3 during his 16 minutes at evens.

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#56 Kailer Yamamoto, 6.  His best game in quite some time. His signature sequence was on the powerplay goal when he first sprinted back to disrupt the speedy Chris Tanev’s shorthanded breakaway attempt, then joined the rush the other way and hammered Draisaitl’s pass on net, creating the rebound that Foegele cashed. Just his second assist of the season, and his first shot on net in 8 games for that matter. 5 shot attempts in all, and a more engaged game. Did take a penalty trying to recover a loose puck.

#65 Cooper Marody, 6. His first NHL game since the man who acquired him, Peter Chiarelli, was Oilers GM. But with the team so shorthanded there was no choice but to call him up, and to play him. He responded to his 6 minutes of opportunity when he made a high-skill play to recover a stray puck along the side wall and feed it to Bouchard who blasted it home, resulting in Marody’s first NHL point. He was among the culprits on the 3-3 tally with a slight positional error that allowed an outside shot.

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#70 Colton Sceviour, 8. His night got off to a rough start when he got drilled right in the numbers into the boards by Jeremy Lauzon, a blatant and dangerous infraction that somehow was missed by both referees. Sceviour decided to fight his own battle, challenged Lauzon and absorbed a couple of heavy punches for his troubles. But he emerged from the sin bin as a man on a mission and had a brilliant night, mostly on a line with Ryan and Benson. The Oilers outshot Seattle 10-2 (high danger chances 4-0) on his watch, with 5 of those shots coming off Sceviour’s own stick. 1 of those found the back of the net when he went to the blue paint to clean up a McDavid rebound. Also chipped in 85 seconds on Edmonton’s lone penalty kill. Even managed 2/2=100% on the dot. Played a season-high 15: 02 and contributed in multiple ways to the win.

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#74 Stuart Skinner, 6. Had an awful start when he leaked in the first shot he faced, a 41 footer from Ryan Donato that had no business finding the twine. But he responded well, even as Seattle soon scored again on an unstoppable drive from close range. His stats of 17 shots, 14 saves, .824 save percentage won’t wow anybody, but the quality and timing of some of those saves made key contributions to the win. Notably the shorthanded breakaway save on Tanev that turned into a 2-goal swing. Later a jaw-dropping glove stop on McCann’s one-timer just inside the post off a cross-ice pass that was flat-out robbery, perhaps the best save an Edmonton netminder has made all season. Kept the score 2-2 in a game that Oilers had trailed earlier but never would again.

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#75 Evan Bouchard, 7. Got the visitors on the board when he fired a Bouch bomb from 53 feet that overpowered Driedger. Later earned the primary assist on the game winner when he fired the shot that caromed in off Foegele. A couple of iffy moments behind his own blueline but nothing that proved costly on a night he posted excellent boxcars of 1-1-2, +3.

#84 William Lagesson, 6. A couple of “moments” in the early going, one of which contributed to the 0-2 goal, but got stronger and stronger as the night went on. Landed 4 hits including a couple of real bangers. Edmonton dominated shot shares (attempts 14-5, on goal 8-3) during his ice time. He impressed with his calmness with the puck in his own end, never panicking, using his partner wisely, and making some decent headman passes.

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#97 Connor McDavid, 8. Robbed of his regular wingers he just went out his business and played a strong two-way game. Edmonton absolutely dominated possession on his watch (shot attempts 25-6, on goal 14-3) at 5v5, and he also chipped in on the powerplay. On the night, contributions to 7 Grade A shots by the Oilers and none at all by the Kraken. His primary assist was earned by finding a loose puck and barging to the net front, not that pretty but certainly effective. Finally found the twine for the first time since the club’s last visit to Seattle 7 games ago with the empty netter that put it away. Oilers’ best on the dot at 10/16=63%. Full value for his 1-1-2, +2.

Recently at the Cult of Hockey

STAPLES: Now it’s Puljujarvi ruled out with COVID

STAPLES: Roster moves galore

McCURDY: Nuge out with COVID

STAPLES: Player grades in big win to end losing streak

McCURDY: Time is now for Oilers to step up

LEAVINS: Player grades in loss to Leafs

Follow me on Twitter @BruceMcCurdy

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