At the time of this writing, the Edmonton Oilers sit 24th out of 32 teams in goals against. This isn’t so much due to one particular player, although there are players we can point the finger at as the biggest parts of the problem. Also it’s worth noting that during their losing streak they were as low as 30th, so whatever the coaching staff is doing is helping to improve the situation.
However, Jesse Puljujarvi is one guy who may be starting to pull down the defensive play on his line as he currently sports the worst +/- on the team with a -11 so far. Once Yamamoto is healthy expect the Bison King to take his rightful place on the third line again. Evan Bouchard has improved his defensive play on the season as he was -10 earlier in the season but is still -8 at the time of this writing.
He finished last season at +10 so we know he’s capable of better. All in a day’s work, though, for a 23 year old who is not a finished product. NHL players rarely develop in a straight line – Connor McDavid did, but you can understand how high the bar is set when I mention that name. Give Bouch enough time and he’ll tighten up that number for sure. There were other players who were on the minus end of things to start the season who were struggling defensively but are now on the rebound – especially guys who should know better like Derek Ryan – but it looks like overall the +/- numbers of almost everyone are starting to improve, which is good news.
However, to put this in perspective, last season they finished 16th in GA in the regular season. They also had a goal differential of +38, a far cry from this year’s edition so far which has a GD of -4. Ouch.
As the Deutschland Dangler once said, you can’t spot the other team three goals and expect to come back from that every game, that’s not a permanent strategy.
The team is now on the right track, but they have to go on a run now. If Vegas remains this hot for the rest of the season I wouldn’t relish drawing them as a wild card opponent in the first round. It’s also especially important to pick up wins against the division rivals like LA and Vegas in case we need those wins for tiebreakers while jockeying for position.