Player grades: Calvin Pickard delivers the goods in first home start, leads Oilers over Devils

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Devils 1, Oilers 4

With starter Stu Skinner drawing a rest day after backstopping 6 straight wins, Edmonton Oilers turned to backup Calvin Pickard on Sunday afternoon and got the result they needed. Pickard delivered a first-star performance as the Oilers rolled to a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils.

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Pickard had plenty of help in front of him, with his mates blocking nearly as many shots (25) as he did (26), the penalty kill delivering another spotless 4-for-4 performance, and the fourth line delivering a huge goal that kickstarted the win.

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While the visitors had the majority of the shot attempts (67-54 in all situations), Edmonton outshot them 30-27 with a 13-7 edge in high danger chances as per Natural Stat Trick. Our own analysis at the Cult of Hockey had the Oilers having an 18-12 advantage in Grade A Shots including 12-7 in the most dangerous 5 alarm chances (running count). In short, the better team won, even as this game remained tense right into the late stages.

Player grades

Cult of Hockey player grades

#2 Evan Bouchard, 7. For the second straight game he delivered the game-winning goal with an unstoppable powerplay clapper. In the process he extended his point streak to 11 games, longest for an Oilers rearguard since Paul Coffey’s NHL-record 28-game run in 1985-86. Played a solid, controlled game for the most part. Great pass that RNH tipped off the post, leading to scramble and a dubious disallowed goal call. Contributions to Grade A Shots (GAS): Even Strength +3/-1; Special Teams +2/-1.

#5 Cody Ceci, 6. Stalwart in defence, especially on the PK on which he played a team-high 3:53. Drew a penalty. Among those beaten on the lone Jersey goal. GAS: ES +0/-1; ST +0/-0.

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#10 Derek Ryan, 7. Played a shade under 10 minutes but got a lot done. Scored the game’s first goal on a quick shot from the slot that found a hole. Made a major contribution to the penalty kill in 2:38 on the unit. Did his usual splendid job of getting the puck to good spots at the end of shifts, frequently all the way to the end wall while twice in the third period dumping a long clearing shot a few feet short of the icing line. 2 shots, 1 hit, 1 takeaway. GAS: ES +1/-0; ST +0/-0.

#13 Mattias Janmark, 6. Another in a lengthening series of solid 2-way games on an effective third line with McLeod and Foegele.. Led all forwards with 2:53 on the PK. 2 shots, 1 hit. GAS: ES +1/-0; ST +0/-0.

#14 Mattias Ekholm, 7. Rock steady on the back end and also contributed to the attack including a couple of fine stretch passes. Took a marginal penalty trying to contain the slippery Jack Hughes. GAS: ES +4/-0; ST +0/-0.

#18 Zack Hyman, 7. No points to show for it, but another strong game. Shafted by Akira Schmid on a breakaway, but got his revenge by winning a battle along the end wall against the Jersey tender that led to McDavid’s open net tap-in. Led the forwards with 5 shots. Robbed of a goal when referee Kevin Pollock completely lost track of where the puck actually was and imagined an infraction on the other side of the goal crease. GAS: ES +5/-0; ST +1/-0. 

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#25 Darnell Nurse, 7. Made a goal-saving defensive play by racing back to prevent Nico Hischier from tapping in a rebound. Terrific stretch pass sent Draisaitl and Kane in 2-on-1 for a great chance. Rang the post with a good chance of his own. Drilled Dawson Mercer with a heavy open-ice check. Led the Oilers in ice time (24:15), shots (5, tied with Hyman) and blocked shots (8). A tower of power on the PK in 3:11. Took a penalty and did get beaten by a pass that led to 2 Jack Hughes chances in the late going. But the good far outweighed the bad. GAS: +2/-3; ST +0/-1.

#27 Brett Kulak, 7. Ended a 15-game scoreless drought with a secondary assist on Ryan’s goal that opened the scoring. Skated and moved the puck well. Chipped in a couple of important shifts on the PK when regular PKers (Nurse, Ekholm) were in the box. 2 hits, 2 blocks. GAS: ES +1/-0; ST +0/-0.

#28 Connor Brown, 5. His string of hard luck continued when he finally stuffed a puck into the net only to have it disallowed for goalie interference (by Kane). Took a phantom penalty 180 feet from his own net in the third when Luke Hughes blew a tire in Brown’s general vicinity, even as no contact ever occurred. His season in a nutshell. GAS: ES +1/-0; ST +0/-0.

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#29 Leon Draisaitl, 6. His line with Kane and Brown is not firing on all cylinders at either end of the sheet. The trio had one goal disallowed, and messed up a couple of other chances by overpassing the puck. Leon remains a force on the powerplay, and showed it on the game-winner. Hee patiently held the puck in the right wing circle, gradually drawing Jersey’s Michael McLeod deeper and deeper into the zone and opening a shooting lane for Bouchard in the process, before perfectly teeing up the famous Bouch Bomb. Not his finest hour defensively, though twice he made a key play to tip a puck out of the zone and end a long cycle. 11/21=52% on the faceoff dot. GAS: ES +4/-5; ST +3/-1.

#30 Calvin Pickard, 8. Sharp when he needed to be in the opening 40 minutes, in which he faced just 12 shots including 4 of Grade A. But came up large in the third period in whcih he faced 15 shots, 8 of Grade A. No chance on the one goal against which cut the lead to 3-1. Made a huge stop on Hughes seconds later to maintain the 2-goal advantage, and made a pair of splendid stops off the same sniper from the doorstep with 3½ minutes to play, the game still in the balance at 3-1. 27 shots, 26 saves, .963 save percentage.

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#37 Warren Foegele, 6. Another solid two-way effort with nothing to show for it on the scoresheet either for or against. 2 shots, 1 hit, 1 takeaway, 1 block in 14:31 including a spotless 2:07 on the PK. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +0/-0.

#57 James Hamblin, 6. Continues to impress on a diminutive fouth line between Gagner and Ryan. Won the faceoff leading to Ryan’s goal. Couldn’t convert his best chance when he just missed the target on a splendid 3-way passing play. Made a fine centring passs to Gagner for a slot shot. Oilers outshot the Devils 7-2 during his 8½ minutes,. GAS: ES +2/-0; ST +0/-0.

#71 Ryan McLeod, 6. Quiet at both ends of the sheet. +1 on his grade for 2:23 of efficient work on the PK. Drew a penalty. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0.

#73 Vincent Desharnais, 7. Was especially huge on the penalty kill where he played 3:48 without a hitch or a glitch. Got beaten by Hughes speed in open ice for 1 dangerous shot against at evens. Made a good stretch pass that led to the Hyman breakaway. 2 hits, 6 blocked shots. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +0/-0.

#89 Sam Gagner, 6. Made a gorgeous backhand feed to Ryan for the 1-0. Had a great chance of his own in the late going. GAS: ES +2/-0; ST +0/-0.

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#91 Evander Kane, 6. High-event game. It was his contact with the goaltender that led to Brown’s goal being disallowed, though it likely wouldn’t have gone in at all otherwise. Had a couple of high end shots but couldn’t bury. His centring pass to McDavid with Schmid trapped out of his net was tapped home by McDavid for the 3-0. Seconds later his neutral zone turnover led directly to the lone Jersey tally. Lost a battle on the sequence that resulted in Hughes’ late double chance, but seconds later put the game to bed by potting the empty netter off a great McDavid setup. GAS: ES +4/-3; ST +0/-0.

#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 7. Earned an assist on the powerplay with a routine pass. Deflected Bouchard’s shot off the post. Played a major role on both special teams with 2:46 on the powerplay, 2:40 on the penalty kill, excelling in the latter role in particular. GAS: ES +5/-0; ST +0/-0.

#97 Connor McDavid, 8. Played a strong game with a nasty edge to it, landing 4 hits to lead the Oilers and wielding the lumber at times as well. Ask Michael McLeod, who likely acquired a couple of fresh bruises after running afoul of the Edmonton captain in the early going and paid the price in several later encounters. Rang the post on a great second-period chance. Involved in 11 of Edmonton’s 18 Grade A shots, with nothing to show for it until he found himself alone by the empty net for an easy tap-in with Schmid trapped in the corner. Made a great steal and pass to Kane for the official empty netter that closed out the scoring. GAS: ES +8/-2; ST +3/-0.

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