January 14 – Day 96 – The Oil bring with them an old friend

The Anaheim Ducks scored three goals in 3:29 to beat the Ottawa Senators 4-1 in last night’s Game of the Day.

The first goal of the night did not occur until 27:06 had ticked off the clock.  It belonged to Andrew Cogliana, a wrister after the assist from Kevin Bieksa (his sixth helper of the season).  Ottawa leveled the score with only 3:48 remaining in the second period, as Curtis Lazar snapped a shot past Third Star of the Game Frederik Andersen.  The 1-1 tie held into the second intermission.

The game remained knotted until only 4:55 remained in regulation when First Star Shea Theodore scored the game-winner, a power play goal (his first career point), after assists from Ryan Getzlaf (his 23rd helper of the season) and Sami Vatanen.  2:23 later, it was Carl Hagelin with the first insurance goal, assisted by Ryan Kesler (his ninth assist of the season) and Jakob Silfverberg.  Silfverberg’s night was not done, as he scored with only 1:26 remaining in the game after assists from Second Star Hampus Lindholm (his eighth helper of the season) and Hagelin, giving the Ducks the 4-1 victory.

Andersen’s record improves to 6-8-5 after saving 24 of 25 (96%), while Craig Anderson’s falls to 17-13-4 after saving 34 of 38 (89.5%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 39-19-8, favoring the home squads by 28 points over the roadies.

It was a light schedule yesterday, which usually means a full set of games tonight.  This Thursday follows the trend, as a total of 16 points are on the table this evening.  The action gets started at the usual time of 7 p.m. eastern with two games dropping the opening pucks (the New York Rangers at the New York Islanders [TVAS] and Vancouver at Washington), followed half an hour later by Chicago at Montréal (NBCSN/RDS).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of two games (Carolina at St. Louis and Nashville at Winnipeg), with another pair dropping the puck an hour later (New Jersey at Colorado and Detroit at Arizona).  Finally, at 10:30 p.m. eastern, we have our nightcap between Edmonton and San Jose.

Three of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Rangers at Islanders, Nashville at Winnipeg and Edmonton at San Jose), while another set of three represents matchups between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Rangers at Islanders, Chicago at Montréal and Detroit at Arizona).

While this information is usually important in choosing a Game of the Day, there is a special reason I’ve chosen Edmonton at San Jose as the point of our focus – the return of Todd McLellan to the Tank.

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This is the second time Edmonton has been featured in the Game of the Day series.  They lost their only other appearance 4-2 on December 15 in Madison Square Garden.  The Sharks have been featured three times before tonight, and own a 1-2-0 record in such games.  Their most recent showing in the series was also a 4-2 loss on December 18 in Ottawa.

The whole focus of tonight’s game will be McLellan, who is making his first appearance in San Jose since “mutually parting ways” with the squad following the 2014-’15 season.

McLellan never had a losing season in The Tank, including the team’s lone Presidents’ Trophy in 2008-’09, and missed the playoffs only once in his seven-season tenure.  But, for all the success he found in the regular season, the Sharks advanced to the Western Conference Finals only twice (2009-’10 and 2010-’11), and never to the Stanley Cup Finals.

He now leads his new squad, the Edmonton Oilers, in their attempts to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since losing in the Stanley Cup Finals to Carolina in 2005-’06.  He will probably not keep his winning-season streak alive, but he certainly has his team heading in the right direction.

McLellan’s 17-23-4 Edmonton Oilers currently sit in last place in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference, and lose the games played tiebreaker with Buffalo, putting them in second to last in the league.  Although Edmonton does not play a strong game on either end of the ice, they have to be considered more of an offensive team than a team of strong defense and goaltending.

The Oil has fired 1279 shots so far this season (led by Taylor Hall’s 175), of which 8.2% have found the back of the net for 105 tallies (led by Hall’s 16), 21st most in the league.  While the shots and shot percentage are on par with the rest of the league, the Oilers‘ power play has been a major shortcoming.    Edmonton has scored on only 17.42% of their attempts for 23 goals.

Of course, the forwards can’t take all the blame for the Oilers‘ position, as the defense has been anything but exemplary this season.  Even with Andrej Sekera’s team-leading 88 blocks, 1356 shots have still made their way to 10-10-2 Anders Nilsson and co., who’ve collectively saved 90.7% for 131 goals against, third-most in the league.  The special teams issues continue to the power play, where the Oil have killed only 78.74% of attempts for 27 goals against.

Edmonton is currently riding a three-game losing skid, with their most recent showing being a 4-3 overtime loss in Arizona on Tuesday.

The 21-18-2 San Jose Sharks currently sit in third place in the Pacific Division and 10th in the Western Conference, and have utilized a decent offense to fight for position in the competitive race for the Pacific’s third division qualifier.

So far this season, the Sharks have fired  1227 shots (led by Brent Burns’ 177 attempts), of which a whopping 9.5% have found the back of the net for 117 goals (led by Joe Pavelski’s 22 tallies), 11th most in the league.  The success has continued to the power play, where San Jose has scored on 21.01% of attempts for 29 goals (led by Pavelski’s seven PP tallies).

Although below the league average, the Sharks‘ defense has not been atrocious.  Burns leads the charge, with 84 blocks to his credit, to allow only 1146 shots to make their way to Martin Jones and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 90.9% for 113 goals against, 11th-fewest in the league.  The real deficiencies show up on the penalty kill, where the Sharks have only killed 79.69% of opposing power plays for 26 goals against.

San Jose is currently riding a three-game win streak, with their most recent being a 4-1 win in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Edmonton‘s Hall (41 points [tied for eighth-most in the league]) & San Jose‘s Jones (four shutouts (tied for third-most in the league] and 18 wins [tied for sixth-most in the league]) and Pavelski (43 points [sixth-most in the league] and 22 goals [sixth-most in the league]).

Although it seems like McLellan has the Oil headed in the right direction, they are still nowhere near the team Edmonton fans would like to see, due in part to Connor McDavid’s injury.  Expect the Sharks to beat their old coach.

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