The Edmonton Oilers are 2-0-1 in their last three games, taking five of a possible six points on the road. Their two victories, in Boston and Toronto, are extremely impressive regulation wins that have them at 51 points and sitting in a playoff spot.
This nice little stretch has coincided with the emergence of a second line. The Oilers split up Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid remained with Zack Kassian and had James Neal added to his line. Draisaitl? He was shifted to the second line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and recent recall Kailer Yamamoto.
The trio played 13:40 in the club’s 3-2 overtime loss to Buffalo on Thursday. They posted a 72.22% Corsi For in the game and outshot the Sabres 8-2 while on the ice. In addition, they outscored Buffalo 1-0. This trio was the best the Oilers had on that night.
They stayed together and played 13:15 in Boston on Saturday, once again outscoring the opponent 1-0. Last night in Toronto? Same thing, as they outscored the Leafs 1-0 in 10:58 on Yamamoto’s second of the season.
(All stats via Natural Stat Trick)
Have The Oilers Found Line 2?:
I’ve been extremely impressed with how this trio has looked through three games. Draisaitl has broken out of his slump and is playing some great hockey right now. Yamamoto, meanwhile, looks like a much different player than he did a season ago.
Yamamoto is playing with confidence, is hard on the forecheck, is displaying good two-way acumen, and can penalty kill. He looks like he belongs as a middle six forward at the NHL level. That’s a big addition for an Oilers team desperate for more NHL wingers.
The thing that hampered Yamamoto in his last two stints was his inability to produce offense. He’s got three points (2-1-3) in four games during this recent stint. That’s strong production.
Although things look good right now, it’s tough to say that this trio is for sure the answer moving forward. They posted a Corsi For of 38.46% on Saturday and 34.78% last night in Toronto. The possession numbers can improve, and the Oilers should hope that they do.
Score effects do play a role in this. The Oilers were up late, and by multiple goals, when the possession numbers began to fade in each of the last two games.
On top of that, although they lost the possession battle, the line out-chanced the Bruins 5-4 on Saturday. They were out-chanced 9-4 in Toronto, but most of the damage came in a wild second period that saw each side score three goals.
My only concern with this line at this time is sample size. It’s only three games, so it is hard to draw conclusions. That said, Draisaitl is an elite player and Yamamoto looks a lot more like the player the Oilers expected to be getting when they selected him in 2017. If Yamamoto is here to stay, the Oilers are in good position moving forward.
This line has given the team a much needed jolt in the arm. If they can provide consistent secondary scoring and out-chance the opposition? They will give the Oilers the push they need to be a playoff team.
There is work to be done still, but this second line has made the Oilers a deeper, more dangerous team.
It certainly looks like the Oilers have found a second line for the first time since Jordan Eberle was sent away. Only time will tell us if this is for real.