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Photo Credit: © Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 68.0: FREE BIRD

The Edmonton Oilers are in a real live playoff race and their opponents have refused to fold like a cheap suit. For Oilers fans, the excitement of the postseason is a new drug, but the idea of a losing streak, epic fail and embarrassing end to the regular year is prominent, front and centre. What is a fan to do? May I suggest enjoying the ride?

THE EVIDENCE

This morning’s standings have many Oilers fans going around the bend. There is a lot of upset among some folks because the Calgary Flames have passed Edmonton in the Western Conference. I would suggest to you there will be a few more flip flops before we arrive at the final standings, and the Oilers will have a story to tell.

CAM TALBOT

This year’s Oilers are not the band that is going to deliver the peak season during the Connor McDavid era, but the mission statement (roll 97 and Talbot stops most mistakes) has held pretty well for this group. That said, we should be aware that Talbot has had an extremely busy season and his erosion from overwork could be an emerging story.

  • October: 9gp, 2.04 .936
  • November: 13gp, 2.91 .902
  • December: 12gp, 2.26 .924
  • January: 12gp, 2.20 .923
  • February: 11gp, 2.35 .918
  • March: 3gp, 2.61 .901

I think Cam Talbot has been amazing this season, but it is also true he is working a lot. However, in watching his season, he seems to be least effective on rest. So, it is a mystery wrapped in a riddle, but those numbers are just really impressive this year. Can he post a .920+ SP for the rest of March?

LINEUPS

Oilers

Canadiens

Lineups (subject to change) are courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

NOTES

  • For me, the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night will hold in my memory for a long time. The Oilers had a slow start, and lost in the shootout, but they also skated with the fast train Penguins and outchanced them over the entire 65 minutes. That game impressed the hell out of me. If Edmonton plays that well for the rest of the season, we will have a lot more season.
  • Connor McDavid continues to lead the NHL in points. As good as he has been, I think that fact isn’t as prominent as it should be this season. In the future, 97 will play with a pure shooter and even more of his passes will cash. His place at the top of the scoring charts this season is a reflection of just how much pure talent he possesses.
  • The second line (Lucic-Nuge-Eberle) is really coming on now, later than hoped but possibly just in time.
  • Adam Larsson is getting a lot of love and I am happy to see it. Along with Oscar Klefbom, Larsson has patrolled some of the toughest minutes available and come out the other side intact and with the puck heading in a better direction.
  • Jonas Gustavsson struggled badly at the NHL level and played infrequently when sent down to the AHL. He has been in net three times this week, posting a .933 save percentage. If Laurent Brossoit stumbles in his upcoming auditions, would the Oilers consider recalling him?
  • Jesse Puljujarvi and Griffin Reinhart are the most famous prospects in Bakersfield, will we see either or both during the regular year? It will have to happen soon or not at all.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

  • Dave Collins, Habs Eyes on the Prize: Interestingly, tonight’s game will see the Habs line-up against a familiar face: David Desharnais. The long-time Canadiens pivot has two points in three games since joining his new club, and scored his first goal as an Oiler on Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. That also means Brandon Davidson will face his former club for the first time, should he remain in the Habs’ line-up tonight.
  • Source

TONIGHT

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Both teams look ragged to begin the game, with Edmonton getting the better chances in the first frame. A late fluke goal by the visitors quiets a loud crowd for the time being.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION:  The Oilers power play comes alive in the second period, cashing twice and giving the home team the lead. Again a late marker by Montreal hushes the throngs and we are 2-2 after 20.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers strike quickly, scoring two times in the first five minutes of the period. Goals by RNH and Nurse have fans wild with glee, and Montreal’s goal at the 13 minute mark does little to dash the noise. However, with 5:01 remaining in the contest, Edmonton takes a 5-minute major and play the rest of the game shorthanded. The PK, which has had tremendous wobble this year, somehow covers well and Cam Talbot is stunning with his brilliance.  Oilers 4-3 winners over Montreal, with an exhausted crowd happily heading into the night, warmer weather in the forecast.