The Oilers will attempt to win their third straight game with three different goalies, when Tom Renney hands the reins to Nikolai Khabibulin tonight in Toronto. Why not go with the most unorthodox strategy in winning three straight; Using three different goalies. It is an awesome plan and according to Elias Sports Bureau it will the first time the Oilers win three straight games with three different goalies.
The Oilers went 4-2-1 in Khabibulin’s absence and will try to win three straight for the first time this year, when they take on the equally inept, Maple Leafs. The Leafs are one of the few teams the Oilers aren’t automatically considered an underdog against.
They both have eight wins and 20 points. The Oilers average 2.62 goals/game and the Leafs 2.22. The Oilers have given up 3.71 GPG while the Leafs are almost a goal better at 2.74.
Both teams are struggling on special teams. On the PP the Leafs are 20th at 15.6%, and the Oilers are 23rd at 15.0%, but both teams could improve those numbers, because the Leafs PK is 29th at 73.6% and the Oilers sit 30th at 67.4%.
This could be a highly entertaining game, because both teams make lots of mistakes and give up scoring chances. The Oilers have started to show some improvement in their defensive game and turnovers the past five games, and if they continue that trend they will leave Eastern Canada with three victories.
SHUFFLE THE DECK?
Renney will go with his third different goalie and he might have to go with his third different lineup of skaters tonight. Ales Hemsky is a game time decision, with a tender groin. Renney’s options are to move Ryan Jones back with Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajarvi, and he could re-insert Zack Stortini on the 4th line. He might opt for Steve MacIntyre to counter Colton Orr, but these decisions will depend on whether Hemsky can go or not.
GAGNER FINDING HIS GAME
Sam Gagner had another strong game last night, including a dandy short-handed goal and he now has five points in three games. Gagner looks much more confident with the puck, and quietly he is second on the team in goals with seven.
The great part, and frustrating for fans, about a young player is the how their game seems like an endless rollercoaster for the first few seasons. Gagner still isn’t a great skater, and probably never will be, but his shot has improved a lot and he is starting to use it more. He shows glimpses of what he might become, but also has stretches where it seems he will never be more than a 45-point player. It is an interesting dynamic and one that makes it so hard to accurately predict what type of player he will be in three or four years.
HAVING SOME FUN
With four wins in their last six games, the Oilers look like they are finally having some fun again. Did you see how excited Penner was after his OT goal last night? In Ottawa, Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule had some intense goal celebrations, and right now all three of the top lines are scoring and all the players seem to be having some fun and, not surprisingly, they have more confidence with the puck.
This is a video from a St.Louis High School game, and while I doubt it would ever happen in the NHL, how fun would it be to watch a player do what this kid did? That player/crowd interaction was awesome, and it is a pretty unique tradition they have going.
I think it was good-hearted fun.
STRANGE TIMES INDEED
The only thing more strange than the Oilers going with three goalies in three games, is that I’ve predicted two consecutive correct outcomes.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: I was bang on last night with my 4-3 prediction, and it just seems crazy to think the Oilers could win three games in four days, but if two wins from Martin Gerber makes some Oiler fans believe he is the saviour, I’ll better that and say the Oilers sweep this road swing with a 4-3 win tonight.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have had eight different goals scorers on the trip, with a D-man scoring the first goal of the game followed by three forwards, and that trend will continue tonight. Ryan Whitney will get his first of the year, with Shawn Horcoff, Magnus Paajarvi and Sam Gagner following up.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers will jump out to an 3-0 in the first period. Oilersnation will be rocking with comments like, "The rebuild is over, we are moving on up," or, "I knew Sam Gagner would be the 2nd best pick of 2007," or "Suck it Pension Plan Puppets, Wanye is way less of a nerd than you guys."
Of course the attitude will change in the 2nd period when the Oilers sit back and surrender three goals in 92 seconds. "What was Renney thinking playing Has-been-Boozin,", or "I told you Gagner should have played two more years of junior," or "Gilbert I can still see the eggs in your pocket, and they aren’t even hard-boiled. HIT SOMEONE."
But a late goal in the 3rd period will send the Nation to sleep with thoughts of a four-game winning streak. "Gagner really stepped up in the third, but I miss his moustache," or "Good to see Khabby get a win. He’ll be great for the next two weeks," and "Stop winning you idiots. We need a first-line centre."
This game is the first time the OilersNation crosses swords with the fledgling TheLeafsNation.com. You might want to swing by and say hello on their game day blog here.