Nothing says ‘there is a long way to go’ like seeing another team in the same position. Since the beginning of the 2013-14 season, the Buffalo Sabres have won 55 games—eight fewer than Edmonton’s 63 over the same time period. This is the nadir for both teams, or so we hope.
WHAT IS HAPPENING….
The Oilers, with a win tonight (and an Arizona loss), would be within three points of the final playoff spot in the Pacific. I am not going to tell you this is major, because honestly every team’s fan base has a right to be talking playoffs at this point in the season.
It is unique to Edmonton in recent Decembers though, and that is worth noting. Edmonton has found their goalie of the here and now, seem to be cobbling together a defense they can trust a little, and when all the forwards are back and performing at par, this could get interesting.
Todd McLellan managed to pull this team through the always frightening first quarter without losing sight of the playoffs. A hat tip is required, and I do so here. Interesting to note the goal differential between Calgary and Edmonton so far this season — looks like there are issues that remain in the southern city. Should we light a candle?
I thought it might be an idea to talk about young Leon Draisaitl. He is, as you know, a fabulous young player. HockeyAnalysis.com tells us how fabulous in this chart showing the top scorers in 5×5 play per 60 minutes:
Sorry if it is too small to read, you can also click here. Source.
Notice also Connor McDavid is No. 5 and I should let you know Taylor Hall is No. 27 on the list. The McDavid injury, added to the Eberle, Yakupov injuries, robbed the Oilers and their fans of the ‘full Monty’ experience and that is a shame.
That said, we should be getting the injured players back in the next few weeks and men like Jordan Eberle are starting to turn north offensively. There should be good times ahead, folks! I am not promising because lord know what is around the next corner for this team, but good arrows.
- Brandon Davidson is likely to draw in and I wonder if Todd McLellan sits Mark Fayne. The veteran had a very poor night against Dallas and this might mean another game or two on the bench. The top pairing of Andrej Sekera and Darnell Nurse have been playing the jacks and kings non-stop as well, and their possession numbers have been going south. I suspect that pairing will become an issue in the future if this continues.
- Oscar Klefbom has not been a regular at between-game practices, suggesting whatever ails him is real and bothersome. He has been playing well to my eye, but that is something to keep in mind.
- Pouliot’s injury is a worry, Edmonton needs skill on the port side behind Taylor Hall. If the big winger is gone for long, I would not be surprised to see a deal.
- I have long been an Anton Lander fan and hope things improve, but it is hard to make a case for his return next season based on his performance in the first third of the year. Needs to get going, especially offensively.
- Justin Schultz’ return means more power-play time, and that means more angst over the lack of a big shot with the man advantage. What ever happened to using Brandon Davidson there? He has a bomb.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING…
Die By The Blade: The Sabres have scored four or more goals in each of their last four
games, something they haven’t done as a franchise since 2007. Edmonton
has given up 80 goals this season, sixth worst in the league, so there’s
a decent chance here for the Sabres to make it five in a row. Source
GAME DAY PREDICTION
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Things start in a hurry, with Buffalo scoring twice in the first five minutes. Edmonton scores a late first-period goal to make things interesting heading to the second period.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Leon-Hall have their way in the second stanza, both men scoring goals and giving the home team the edge heading to the final period.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Three goals go in, but only two count—one for each side. The Oilers win again and high-flying (or high) fans begin talk of playoffs.
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