The Edmonton Oilers are 16-5-0 and sitting on top of the Western Conference coming into Friday's game against Seattle. But Wednesday night's 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins might have been one of the more challenging wins of the season.
The Penguins had a strong game at 5-on-5 and all situations on the ice, but skated out of Edmonton without a point to show for it.
Mikko Koskinen was brilliant to keep Edmonton in this game with 32 saves in the victory. In a season with many question marks in net, Koskinen holds a mark of 12-2-0 record.
The best scoring chances came from Zach Hyman, who, arguably, had his best game in an orange and blue uniform, scoring twice and coming incredibly close to his first hat trick at the NHL level.
Hyman's two best chances at the hat trick came first in a goal that was called back due to an offside call, but also in a two-on-one where Evan Rodrigues had eliminated a pass, forcing Connor McDavid to shoot into the empty net.
"Obviously I'm trying to get him that puck, I almost feel guilty putting it in the net," McDavid said. "Rodrigues kinda glued himself to Hyms and obviously you gotta put it away as well".
The play of Hyman is something that Oilers head coach Dave Tippett continues to praise and is something that he wants more of his players to pay attention to.
"That's what he brings every night," Tippett said. "We said that in the coach's room after the first period, we should have a few players stop looking at the iPad and start looking at Hyman out there. He plays the game honestly, he plays the game hard. We talk about getting our nose over the puck and competing for loose pucks, he's the apotome of that, we gotta have more guys do that."
While the Oilers did get their third win in a row, this game did fully show how banged up Edmonton is defensive. Coming into this game, the Oilers were already without Darnell Nurse, Duncan Keith, and Slater Koekkoek due to injury. Cody Ceci was added to the COVID-19 protocol list this week, too. Outside of Tyson Barrie and Kris Russell, it was a young group of blueliners in the lineup in the form of Evan Bouchard, William Lagesson, Philip Broberg, and Markus Niemelainen making his NHL debut.
At Thursday's post-practice press conference, Tippett expressed that he would like his defensemen to be a little more careful with the puck but added that the forwards can contribute in that aspect also.
"Just be a little better with the puck, there are some hard plays that need to get made and there are some easy plays that need to be made," Tippett said. "More plays that give you time of possession that can help us. The forwards can help there too in being available more and win a few more battles."
Friday is a great chance for the Oilers to clean up their play with the puck and another chance for the young defenders to develop as they face a Seattle team that's picked up points in four of its last five games.