The Edmonton Oilers hit the road for a brief two-game road trip in Anaheim and San Jose. They will be back in Edmonton on Thursday night to play host to the Colorado Avalanche. The Oilers are coming off a 4-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night. It was an impressive defensive showing and performance by Mikko Koskinen between the pipes. Koskinen shouldered the load in the crease with 29 saves to hand the Oilers their 11th win of the season. They enter Anaheim with a record of 11-5-2 for 24 points in the Pacific Division. Edmonton currently own a 1-point advantage over the Calgary Flames for 1st in the division.
It’s been a refreshing start to the year for the Oilers. Their fans suffered through a disastrous season last year. The lowly Kings were the only team in the division that they managed to top. They finished with a lackluster record of 35-38-9 just two years after going 47-26-9. The Oilers wasted two years of the Connor McDavid era, but they’ve been trending up thus far in 2019-20. Given their lack of success the last two years, which fooled everyone after going to the playoffs in 2016-17, there are going to be some people being cautious with the Oilers, though. Understandably so, but McDavid did not have an experienced Leon Draisaitl to work with then. With Draisaitl entering his prime years, there is going to be less pressure on McDavid than before.
The acquisition of James Neal has really made an impact as well. Following a terrible tenure with the Flames last season, Neal looks a lot more comfortable in Edmonton. He follows McDavid and Draisaitl with 14 points on the season. McDavid and Draisaitl have been a force, with 27 and 30 points going into Sunday. The goaltending has been sharp for the Oilers, too. That goes for Mike Smith and Koskinen who is coming off a shutout. It’s a welcome sign for the Oilers. Head below for our free Oilers vs. Ducks pick.
Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks Pick
The Oilers are going to continue to get incredible production out of McDavid and Draisaitl, but they’re also going to need James Neal to maintain his pace and not drop off considerably. Whether Neal hits a wall or not will likely provide a lot of answers for the Oilers’ season. Also important for the Oilers is going to be Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith in net. Smith is enjoying a resurgence this season. He hasn’t looked this good since 2011-12 with the Coyotes when he posted a 2.21 GAA and 0.93 save percentage.
Smith owns a 2.22 GAA and 0.926 save percentage in ten starts. Conversely, Koskinen has been holding it down as well. The 31-year-old has been sharp with a 2.18 GAA and 0.927 save percentage. They are also getting a lot more help because of head coach Dave Tippett. He’s changed up their philosophy in the defensive zone a bit and the Oilers have been moving the puck a lot more efficiently out of harm’s way.
Also keep in mind the presence of Ethan Bear on the blue line. Bear has been garnering plenty of attention and has provided the Oilers with an element defensively that they didn’t have a season ago. He’s helped the Oilers’ defence considerably and will likely catch Calder Trophy hype later in the season if he can continue playing so well.
The Oilers finished 25th with 3.3 goals against per game last season. That’s dropped to 2.5 goals per game and the Oilers are in the top-5 of the league defensively. The defence has been lights out for the Oilers on the road, as they’ve allowed only 1.89 goals per game as a visiting team.
Expect the Oilers to grind away at a Ducks’ offence who’ve scored 2.65 goals per game for 24th in the NHL. The Ducks will likely want to get into a similar grind it out type of contest on Sunday. They’re 6th in the NHL with just 0.3 goals against per game separating the Oilers and Ducks. The Ducks’ defensive unit should benefit against an Edmonton team who’ve notched only 2.22 goals per game on the road. There’s been an average of just 3.75 goals scored in regulation in their previous four meetings. We probably get above that, but a 3-2 final score will still provide a winning pick on the UNDER.