The Oilers begin this five-game road trip without their leading scorer and emotional leader, however, injuries are part of the game and the Oilers need to prove to themselves, and the rest of the league, that they can compete without Taylor Hall.
It won’t be easy.
The Oilers have only won 12 of the previous 47 games that Hall sat out due to injury or suspension. They managed to salvage a point in eight other games, but a 12-27-8 record without #4 illustrates this five-game road trip could become very disappointing.
The Flyers are playing a very open style right now. They are 3rd in the league with 32.6 shots per game, but they also allow the 5th most shots/game at 32.3. They are 9th in goals for and 23rd in goals against.
Their style suits the Oilers, but without Hall the Oilers don’t match the offensive prowess of the Flyers’ top line.
Jakub Voracek is on fire with 16 points in the first 11 games. He sits 2nd in the NHL in scoring, while Claude Giroux is 18th with 13 points. I’d guess Craig Ramsay will try to match Mark Fayne/Oscar Klefbom or Martin Marincin/Jeff Petry against them as often as possible.
The Oilers aren’t mature enough yet to play a shutdown game, so I expect we will see a lot of good chances at both ends of the rink tonight. The Flyers defence is simply not good enough to shut down the Oilers even without Hall.
Benoit Pouliot will have a chance to live up to his $4 million contract playing alongside Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle. The latter two need to produce without Hall.
Yakupov and Draisaitl remain together, and in theory Hendricks should be good at retrieving pucks for them, but we will see if they can cycle the puck in unison.
Perron is coming off his best game of the season and he needs to keep producing if the Oilers have any hope of winning a few games on this trip.
With Ference out and Hunt finally back in the AHL we will see some new D pairings. Marincin and Petry will be reunited, while Klefbom and Fayne become the shutdown pair. Schultz has played much better when he was paired with Nikitin, mainly because Nikitin is an NHL defender, and he is also big and strong enough to break up the cycle. Hunt simply couldn’t do that.
Klefbom was dominating the AHL both offensively and defensively, and he should enter the lineup with a lot of confidence.
Scrivens has been very solid stopping pucks for the past two weeks, but his puck handling decisions have cost the Oilers. After a poor performance in Arizona he told Eakins he wanted to play the next game, and the coach gave him a chance to redeem himself. That won’t be the case tonight. Viktor Fasth gets his first start since he was injured vs. the LA Kings.
Fasth’s numbers look awful. He has allowed seven goals on 54 shots for a .870 SV%. He didn’t have much help vs. LA when he surrendered three goals in 15 minutes, but he’ll need to be much sharper tonight.
FLYERS… lineup courtesy of Dailyfaceoff.com
The Flyers are getting balanced scoring from their top three lines. Giroux’s line has 11 goals, Raffl leads them with 6. Lecavalier’s line has 9 goals, Simmonds has 6 of them, while Couturier’s line has scored 7 goals.
I don’t see an obvious matchup advantage for the Oilers, unless they can get RNH’s line out against the Bellamare line, which is unlikely in Philadelphia.
Without Coburn, MacDonald and Timonen the Flyers D corps is very average. The Oilers have to use their speed against Grossman, Schultz and Schenn. Colaiacovo was signed over the weekend and he will play his first game tonight. The Oilers have to take advantage of his conditioning, or lack thereof.
He has a unique record against the Oilers. He’s 7-4 despite an awful 3.74 GAA and .859 SV%.
- Whichever forward line gets the Colaiacovo-Schenn pairing has to use their speed and force those two to skate. That is the obvious weak pair, and it would be nice to see the Oilers take advantage of that.
- The Oilers are 4-2 in their last six visits to Philly. Considering they went 7-22-2 in their first 31 visits that is a massive improvement. Keep in mind that the two losses in the most recent six games occurred in 2012 and 2014, so no one on the current roster has won a game in Philly wearing an Oilers jersey.
- I’m still amazed at some of the decisions of the Oilers. Brad Hunt went from having the highest offensive zone starts amongst Oilers D to being sent to the AHL. It was obvious he wasn’t an NHL D-man to everyone who watched, except the Oilers. Yes, he had a hard shot, but he had the 2nd lowest Shots/60 at EV of every player on the team except Martin Marincin. He wasn’t shooting, and when he did he missed the net. And if the Oilers didn’t keep the puck in the offensive zone he was a major liability defensively.
Until they stop making decisions like that no one can say this organization is turning the corner. For every step forward they take one, and sometimes two, steps back. It is ridiculous. I’m not hating on Hunt at all. Good for him to get some NHL paychecks and into a few games, but the organization continues to believe that they know more than everyone else. The track record suggests they don’t.
Stop playing players who aren’t NHL caliber.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Despite only winning 12 of 47 games without Hall, the Oilers have won the first game that he didn’t play three times. I see a high scoring game, with the Oilers losing 5-4 in OT.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Both teams will give up numerous odd man rushes. It will entertaining to watch, but frustrating for those who want perfect defence.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: In the second period Mason decides to copy David Leggio’s actions when he sees Draisaitl and Yakupov coming down on a 2-0. Yakupov and Draisailt play rock, paper, scissors on the bench to decide who takes the penalty shot. Yak wins with paper over rock and scores on the penalty shot.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
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- GDB 9.0: Keep on rolling
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