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Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 71.0: Saturday Night’s Alright

Back in the olden days, a Vancouver-Edmonton tilt meant there would be goals. On March 4, 1987 the Oilers won 8-5 over the Canucks on the west coast, with Frank Caprice stopping 20 of 28 shots. Don’t blame Caprice, the Oilers arrived wave after wave for 60 minutes during the decade. I would love to predict seven or eight goals tonight, but something tells me it will be closer.

The Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks are at opposite ends of the rebuild tunnel. The Oilers are coming out of it, after apparently finding several detours and false exits. For Vancouver, the Sedins era is running its course and we should see the draft take center stage on the left coast for this summer and probably next. Does that mean guaranteed win night? Hardly.

Oilers fans will recognize the Canucks position in the Western Conference standings, where the draft lottery replaces the playoffs as main event of spring and second-round picks become important. As bad as Vancouver’s season has been, I have been impressed by the team’s lack of quit. Why is that pertinent to tonight’s game? This isn’t going to be a rollover game, my suspicion is we will see the A Team for Vancouver tonight. In 89 career games, Henrik Sedin has posted 81 points, Daniel Sedin has 80 points in 86 games.

OILERS!

We are in the home stretch, and there are many balls in the air for fans to pay attention to right now. Among the things worth following are:

  • Securing the first playoff berth since 2006
  • Finishing as high as second in the Pacific Division
  • That first home playoff game
  • Connor McDavid winning the scoring championship, securing the first major award for the Oilers since Bill Ranford (Smythe) and Mark Messier (Hart, Ted Lindsay) in 1990.
  • Winning the first award of any kind since 2014 when Andrew Ference won the King Clancy.
  • Beating the Flames in the standings and in the playoffs.

That is a lot to look forward to and it is all straight ahead. The standings this morning allow us to dream about second place in the Pacific Division by midnight, and it should happen based on standings and the relative importance of these two points for Edmonton and Vancouver.

LINEUPS

Oilers

LW C RW
Patrick Maroon
Patrick Maroon
Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid
Leon Draisaitl
Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic
Milan Lucic
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Jordan Eberle
Jordan Eberle
Benoit Pouliot
Benoit Pouliot
David Desharnais
David Desharnais
Zack Kassian
Zack Kassian
Drake Caggiula
Drake Caggiula
Mark Letestu
Mark Letestu
Anton Slepyshev
Anton Slepyshev
Defensive Pairings
Oscar Klefbom
Oscar Klefbom
Adam Larsson
Adam Larsson
Andrej Sekera
Andrej Sekera
Kris Russell
Kris Russell
Darnell Nurse
Darnell Nurse
Matt Benning
Matt Benning
Goalies
Cam Talbot
Cam Talbot

Canucks

LW C RW
Daniel Sedin
Daniel Sedin
Henrik Sedin
Henrik Sedin
Markus Granlund
Markus Granlund
Sven Baertschi
Sven Baertschi
Bo Horvat
Bo Horvat
Reid Boucher
Reid Boucher
Joe Labate
Joe Labate
Brandon Sutter
Brandon Sutter
Drew Shore
Drew Shore
Joseph Cramarossa
Joseph Cramarossa
Michael Chaput
Michael Chaput
Jayson Megna
Jayson Megna
Defensive Pairings
Alexander Edler
Alexander Edler
Troy Stecher
Troy Stecher
Luca Sbisa
Luca Sbisa
Nikita Tryamkin
Nikita Tryamkin
Ben Hutton
Ben Hutton
Alex Biega
Alex Biega
Goalies
Drew Shore
Richard Bachman

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

NOTES

  • Milan Lucic is coming on now, he is 4-5-9 in the last 10 games. The big man seems to have made adjustments in his game and is in more plays than earlier in the year.
  • Benoit Pouliot is 4gp, 2-0-2 since his return to the lineup and is part of an emerging line with Zack Kassian (2-3-5 in his last 10) and David Desharnais (6gp, 2-2-4 since arriving from Montreal).
  • Darnell Nurse is imposing his will on recent games, whether playing a punishing physical role or transporting the puck up the ice for a scoring sortie. He is in only his second season, we should be patient and refrain from making sweeping predictions about him. That said, his physical abilities are substantial.
  • If the Oilers win tonight, and then again on Monday against LAK, I bet we begin to see Laurent Brossoit more often as we approach G82.
  • Matt Benning has enjoyed a tremendous season, but since the concussion he has not been the same player. Plenty of time before the playoffs, but we may see Eric Gryba more often down the stretch.
  • Anton Slepyshev is making a case for himself as an everyday player on a skill line next year, and may be keeping Jesse Puljujarvi on the farm right now. JP is 27gp, 9-13-22, and that works out to NHLE 82gp, 14-21-35 using the Rob Vollman accelerator.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

From CanucksArmy.com

Bizarro world is officially here! The Oilers are battling for a playoff spot and the Canucks are playing for a good seat at the NHL Draft. Both teams will face off tonight for only the third time this season, feels weird, doesn’t it? Connor McDavid is playing for the NHL scoring lead and is a heavy favourite to win the Hart trophy as well.

On the Canucks side, roster spots are up for grabs and Willie Desjardins may just be playing out his contract before his inevitable firing is official. I think if the Canucks get blown out like the Bruins and Stars have, it might be curtains for Willie by Monday morning.

TONIGHT

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers start with a fantastic flurry, but goalie Richard Bachman is amazing in taking care of business. In a clear case of you ain’t seen nothing yet, he then stones Edmonton during a 5-on-3 opportunity midway through the first frame. 0-0 after one.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION:  Edmonton finally cashes in the second period, Connor McDavid’s seeing eye shot from just inside the blue line finds net. Seconds later, Benoit Pouliot scores and the home team begins to rock the joint. The freewheeling becomes contagious right up to the point Henrik intercepts a pass, sends a bullet to Daniel’s stick, and the more handsome Sedin counts one tally for Vancouver.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The score is 2-1 after two, and Edmonton tries to push the play while Vancouver relies on rugged play, trapping and Bachman’s heroic play. No goals in the third period, but the Oilers win an important two points for the playoff effort.