The truncated 2020-21 NHL season gets underway with a realigned structure where teams will only play teams from within their division this season. With that in mind, it’s a North Division battle on the ice when the Vancouver Canucks are on the road as they make a trip to face the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday night. Vancouver finished last season 36-27-6 on the year and was edged in seven games of the Western Conference semifinals by Vegas. Edmonton was second in the Pacific Division with a 37-25-9 mark but saw their season end in a four-game loss in the qualifying round to Chicago. Last season, the teams split four meetings with each team winning once at home and once on the road, with the Canucks taking a 4-2 home win in the most recent matchup on December 23, 2019.
Vancouver Canucks Look to Build Off Last Season’s RunVancouver ended up fourth in the Pacific Division standings last season and earned the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Canucks dropped the 10th-seeded Wild in four games in the qualifying round of the postseason. Vancouver followed that up with a six-game elimination of the defending champion Blues in the official opening round of the playoffs. The Canucks then took Vegas to the limit, rallying from a 3-1 series deficit to force a Game 7, but ran out of gas as they were blanked 3-0 in the winner-take-all contest. Vancouver brought in former Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby on a two-year deal and added defenseman Nate Schmidt in a deal with Vegas for a third-round pick in 2022. The Canucks also signed defensemen Travis Hamonic on a PTO deal. Jacob Markstrom, last season’s starting goaltender, wasn’t re-signed in free agency and signed a deal with Calgary.
Last season, the Canucks were 8th in the league in goals for with 3.25 goals per contest. Vancouver was tied for 19th in goals against by allowing 3.10 goals per game. The Canucks were dangerous on the power play as they finished fourth in the league by converting 24.2 percent of their chances with the man advantage on the year. Vancouver finished in the middle of the pack in the penalty-killing department, ranking 16th by successfully navigating 80.5 percent of their shorthanded situations. The Canucks had four 20-goal scorers a season ago, led by J.T. Miller, who had 27 goals and 45 assists for a team-leading 72 points. Elias Pettersson (27 goals), Bo Horvat (22) and Tanner Pearson (21) also hit the 20-goal plateau. Quinn Hughes was the top player on the blueline with eight goals and 45 assists for 53 points, though he was a -10 while averaging 21:53 of ice time a night. With Holtby brought into the mix, Thatcher Demko (13-10-2, 3.06 GAA, .905 save percentage in 27 games last season) is likely still the backup in net.
Edmonton Oilers Trying to Improve in 2020-21Edmonton finished second in the Pacific Division and was fifth in the Western Conference standings. The Oilers were unable to get things going in the postseason, losing in four games in the qualifying round to the 12th-seeded Blackhawks. Edmonton hopes that they can take a step forward this season though they have to find some pieces to support their superstar duo. The Oilers added Kyle Turris, Dominik Kahun, Tyler Ennis and Jesse Puljujarvi to their bottom-six forwards while bringing in Tyson Barrie as a free agent from Toronto to bolster their blueline group. Edmonton did lose Riley Sheahan (Buffalo), Andreas Athanasiou (LA), Matthew Benning (Nashville), Tomas Jurco (Vegas) and Josh Currie (Pittsburgh) in the offseason.
🚨 FINAL: 4-3 TEAM BLUE (OT) 🚨— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) January 8, 2021
Take in all the highlight's from today's #Oilers Training Camp scrimmage including goals from McDavid (2), Ennis, Turris, K. Russell & the OT winner from Nurse.#FuelledByG | #LetsGoOilers pic.twitter.com/jZsLwtFYDh
On the year, Edmonton finished tied for 14th in goals per game with 3.14 goals a night. The Oilers were 15th in goals allowed as they gave up an average of 3.03 goals per contest. Edmonton was first in the league with the man advantage as they cashed in on 29.5 percent of their chances on the power play last season. The Oilers were second in the league in penalty killing by working through 84.4 percent of their shorthanded situations on the year. Edmonton is led by the extremely dangerous duo of Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. Draisaitl led the league in scoring with 110 points to claim the Art Ross Trophy for the first time in his career. McDavid can generate scoring chances seemingly at will and makes anyone on the ice with him a weapon. He put up 34 goals and 63 assists on the year. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins potted 22 goals and James Neal added 19. The Oilers also got a boost from Kailer Yamamoto, who posted 11 goals and 15 assists with a +17 in 27 games last season. Barrie is going to be looked at to be an anchor on the blueline for Edmonton. Meanwhile, goaltending will be taken care of by the same duo from last season as Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen are back between the pipes. The Oilers were a near 50/50 split in net last season with Mike Smith playing in 39 games and Mikko Koskinen logging action in 38. Smith won 19 games and Koskinen had 18 victories with each posting one shutout. Koskinen had the upper hand in GAA (2.75 to 2.95) and save percentage (.917 to .902) during the regular season.
The top trends for this contest are:
- Canucks are 3-7 in their last 10 vs. Pacific Division teams
- No Key Trends