Steven Stamkos hasn’t played at Rexall Place since December 10th, 2010, a span of almost four seasons, however, he has had personal success both times he laced them up in Edmonton. He scored in a goal in both games, but the Lightning lost both times.
Oilers fans are hoping history repeats itself tonight. Let the best sniper in the game score on a wicked one-timer, but also allow the Oilers to pick up their first W of the season.
What will be more difficult for the Oilers: stopping Stamkos from scoring — he has five goals in five games this year — or skating away with their first victory?
I’d lean towards the latter tonight. Stamkos is the most dangerous sniper in the game, and the Oilers have allowed 24 goals in five games. Boyd Gordon’s line and the Mark Fayne/Martin Marincin pairing should get a healthy dose of #91 tonight, and they will need to be on their toes to contain the former #1 overall pick.
What makes Stamkos so dangerous is that he can score from in close and far out. He is not afraid to go to the tough areas to score. He is also very rare in that he is a shooting centreman. Most centres distribute the puck more than they shoot it, and that makes it more difficult to defend Stamkos. He finds spots in the offensive zone that most centres don’t. His coach, Jon Cooper, said Stamkos is finally starting to feel comfortable again attacking the net from the wing with speed. He mentioned that Stamkos had to overcome the mental hurdle of going to the tough areas again, and not hurting his leg, and he’s there now. That is a scary thought for defenders across the league.
Gordon’s line was excellent vs. the Canucks. They started every shift in the defensive zone, except the odd one where they changed on the fly, and they still managed numerous scoring chances. If Gordon had any finish they would have scored twice. That is the only negative about this line. They are solid defensively and will create some quality chances, but they rarely turn those chances into goals.
RNH line back together, while Draisaitl and Yakupov remain apart, which is a good thing at this point of their development.
Fayne has been really strong the past four games and he is used to matching up against Stamkos. I thought all the Oilers blueliners played pretty well against Vancouver, and if they can continue to make sound decisions with and without the puck in the D zone the Oilers’ goals against will drop.
He played his best game of the season against Vancouver, and he’ll need another strong effort tonight against the Bolts.
Losing Victor Hedman is a huge blow for the Lightning. He is tied for team lead in points with seven, is second in goals with three, leads the team with powerplay points, five, and he was leading their team in icetime before getting injured in Vancouver.
The Lighting will have to move one of Radko Gudas, Eric Brewer or Andrej Sustr into their top-four on a regular basis, and whoever it is, will be a huge drop off from Hedman. It looks like Sustr will be that guy in the top four now, but we will see how long it lasts. Gudas is also banged up, so Barberio plays his first game of the season tonight.
- The Oilers should seriously look at treating Leon Draisaitl the exact same way they treated Darnell Nurse.
- The Oilers need to start shooting the puck more. Taylor Hall is the only player with more than ten shots in the first five games. Hall has 20, while Arcobello, Perron, Purcell and Hendricks have 10. Justin Schultz has seven shots in five games and he is averaging 24 minutes/game. Shoot the puck.
- Tampa has had 24 PP chances in five games and they’ve scored seven goals. They are fourth best at 29.2%, but losing Hedman will hurt them.
- The Oilers have only had 15 PP chances thru five games, but are a respectable 20%. Only Winnipeg and Dallas have had fewer PP opportunities. The Oilers need to force teams to take more penalties, by being more aggressive with the puck.
- Tampa’s PK is also very good at 89.5% (6th best in the league) and they’ve allowed two goals on 19 kills. The Oilers have also been shorthanded 19 times, but they’ve given up five goals and sit 25th at 73.7%. Last game was the first game this year they didn’t allow a PP goal, so we’ll see if they can build off of that.
- Good news on Viktor Fasth. He was on the ice today and the injury is not as bad as originally feared. He could be back by next week. Luke Gazdic is skating and is a few weeks away according to Eakins.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are tied for the worst start in franchise history, 0-4-1. In 1992/1993 they lost three, tied one, then lost again before beating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in OT. The Blackhawks had lost the 1992 Cup final to Pittsburgh and finished 3rd overall in 1993. They were a good team, but the Oilers beat them. The Oilers will avoid a franchise-worst start tonight and pick up an identical 4-3 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Stamkos scores his 6th goal of the season.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Boyd Gordon scores his 1st of the season. He bangs home a rebound, that ricochets off the leg of a Tampa defender.
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