I realize that when you’ve been the worst franchise for the past eight seasons there are no easy games, and even though the Carolina Hurricanes are still looking for their first victory of the season, this is not an easy game for the Oilers. It is, however, a game they should win.
The Canes aren’t that good, and they are playing even worse lately, including a loss last night in Calgary. The Oilers didn’t take advantage of a fatigued Calgary team in their season opener, and they can’t let two points slip through their fingers tonight.
The Hurricanes are banged up. They lost their 6th straight game last night in Calgary and they’ve scored two goals in their last three games. They simply aren’t a good hockey team, and the Oilers must find away to defeat a team that has inferior talent.
There aren’t many teams in the NHL that fall into the latter category, so tonight is a great opportunity for the Oilers to prove they can win a game they should win.
There is more pressure on the Oilers to win tonight than there was when they faced Washington or Tampa Bay. They were expected to compete in those games, but they weren’t a clear-cut favourite. Tonight they are, and that makes this an intriguing matchup.
Teddy Purcell provided some much-needed secondary scoring vs. the Capitals. Purcell has five points in seven games. So far he has been a quiet, but productive complementary player, which is exactly what he is. He has excellent vision and very good stick skills, and when the top line isn’t producing the Oilers will need him, Nail Yakupov, Marc Arcobello and David Perron scoring.
Yakupov had another consistent, but not spectacular game vs. Washington, and that is a good thing. He will eventually have a dominant game, but so far this season he has become much more consistent. That is a great sign, and that gives the Oilers much needed depth.
The Oilers defence has scored five goals in the first seven games after only contributing 30 goals last season. I doubt they will remain on pace to score 58 goals, but after scoring the 2nd fewest goals of any D corps last year, the offence early this year is a welcome addition.
The main reason the Oilers are scoring more is because their defence is joining the rush more frequently. Mark Fayne and Justin Schultz’s goal on Wednesday are prime examples. The D have been instructed to join the rush the second the Oilers have possession, and it is leading to more offensive chances.
I expect that to continue tonight against a fragile Hurricanes lineup.
Scrivens has been very good the past three games, and you could argue he won them the game on Wednesday.
Their lineup courtesy of Daily Faceoff has very few names that jump at you.
Former Oilers draft pick, Riley Nash, is their #1 centre with Eric and Jordan Staal injured. This current lineup reminds me of the 2007 Oilers forwards. A few solid veterans, but mainly a group of young, inexperienced forwards mixed in with some journeymen.
Their blueline has some solid veterans, but none of them stand out as elite defenders. Ryan Murphy was injured in Calgary last night, and he and John-Micheal Liles are both game time decisions. If they can’t go then Brett Bellemore draws in.
Cam Ward is the most expensive backup in the NHL. Khudobin will start his fourth game of the season tonight. In his three starts, (NYI, NYR and WPG) Khudobin has a .912 SV% and a 2.64 GAA. He has faced 91 shots and allowed eight goals.
In Ward’s three starts (NYI, Buff and CGY) he has faced 76 shots and allowed 13 goals. He has a .829 SV% and a 4.24 GAA.
The Oilers will be facing the Canes’ best goalie tonight.
- Eberle still has a nagging injury. The Oilers won’t say what it is, but I suspect it is a hand, finger or thumb issue. He hasn’t been shooting the puck like he has in the past.
- The Hurricanes only mustered 16 shots on goal last night. They looked pathetic offensively. The Oilers can’t sit back, they need to attack early and put Carolina on their heels. This is a game where they need to show a killer instinct.
- The Oilers have won two consecutive games and have played very well for the past week, yet some fans are still infatuated with Andrew Ference wearing the “C”. He isn’t an elite defender, but him being the captain is not holding this team back. We all know Hall will wear the “C” next year. It is not nearly as big of a deal as some are trying to make it out to be. Ference is not responsible for eight years of losing. No one player is, especially since none of them have been here longer than four years and seven games.
- Despite being winless the Hurricanes PP is very good. They sit 10th at 22%, however they are the lowest scoring team in the NHL at 5-on-5. The Oilers need to play this game at ES. If they do, they should dominate.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have their most productive game of the season. They score six goals in a 6-1 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After going scoreless against Washington, Hall picks up two points and gets back on his point-a-game pace. Nugent-Hopkins has his first multi-point game of the season.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers only had two. three-game winning streaks last year. On Nov 16th, 19th and 21st vs. CGY, CBJ and FLO they outscored them 15-3 and then again on Jan 26th, 27th and 29th vs. NSH, VAN and SJ they dominated 12-3. They had 8 different scorers in November and nine different scorers during the January streak. Perron, Pouliot, Eberle, Arcobello and Yakupov score tonight giving the Oilers nine different scorers during this streak as well.
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