The Edmonton Oilers are nine points behind Anaheim. The Ducks have the final wildcard spot, and the Oilers have one game in hand, but they simply must win this game to stay in the race. Lose and they are eleven points out with 41 games to play. Some would argue seven points is too much to overcome, but eleven would secure their fate.
For my money, this is a must-win game for the Oilers, but the Ducks also know they could knock the Oilers out of the race just like they knocked them out of the playoffs last May.
If the Oilers aren’t ready to play tonight, then this team has bigger problems than a horrific penalty kill.
1. The Oilers have been shutout for 121:45 consecutive minutes. The last time they suffered consecutive home shutout losses was October 29th and November 2nd, 2014 against Toronto and Detroit. But they have a long way to go to match their franchise record shutout sequence of 207:43 which occurred in April of 2007. They were shutout for the final 52:48 in Chicago, then were shutout in back-to-back games in Minnesota and then the first 34:55 of a 3-2 over Calgary in their season finale.
2. Be careful of repeating a “theory” you’ve read and heard without taking the time to look to see if it is accurate. After Tuesday’s loss Milan Lucic accurately said the PK let them down versus LA, which it did. For only the second time in franchise history, the Oilers allowed three goals on one five-minute major. The first was in February, 1984 when the Hartford Whalers scored four times on a Kevin McClelland elbowing major. The Whalers won that game 11-0. People suggested Lucic shouldn’t be calling out the PK because he takes a lot of penalties. Fact is he doesn’t really. He has taken seven minors. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has taken ten. Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid have taken five. Lucic hasn’t taken a penalty since November 21st. I have no issue with him saying the PK needs to be better. We all know it does.
3. If you want to criticize Lucic it should be for the powerplay’s lack of production. It has hit the ditch in the past 20 games, producing only six goals at an unproductive 11.3% efficiency. The entire group needs to wake up and start moving the puck much quicker. They need to stop overhandling the puck and move it quicker and force the penalty killers out of position.
4. With Patrick Maroon suspended for two games I’d play Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with Connor McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi, and have Milan Lucic with Leon Draisaitl and Drake Caggiula. If you want a different RW on that line, fine, Caggiula isn’t set in stone for me. But I keep Draisaitl on his own line because he thrives playing the Ducks.
5. In 12 regular season games Draisaitl has 8-5-13. In seven playoff games he had 5-8-13. He plays well against the Ducks and I’d have him and McDavid each centre a line and go head-to-head against Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf. Challenge your best players to beat their best players.
6. I’d also look at Jujhar Khaira at centre instead of Ryan Strome on the third line. Khaira has played centre his entire career, up until this season. Strome isn’t an NHL centre, so I’d look at Khaira. I like his size and speed down the middle. I’d play him with Strome and Cammalleri and have them go up against the Wagner-Henrique-Kase line. What lines would you run with Maroon suspended?
7. I like McDavid and Draisaitl on their own lines because it means one of them won’t have to face Lindholm-Manson. It means the other one will face either Fowler-Bieksa or Beauchemin-Montour. McDavid’s speed against Bieksa or Beauchemin would be a major mismatch. We know Kesler will play against McDavid and Draisaitl will have a big challenge against Ryan Getzlaf, who has 23 points in 17 games, but the D pair will play a major role as well. Tonight’s matchups should be great to watch.
8. Getzlaf has 14 points in his last 10 games. He missed six weeks after being injured on October 29th, but since returning he has been great and the Ducks are 8-4-3 since he returned.
9. The Ducks road PP is fifth best in the NHL at 22.7%, but they don’t get many opportunities. The Ducks have a league-low 44 PP chances on the road in 41 games, but they’ve made the most of them, scoring ten times. The Oilers have been shorthanded 63 times at home, and they’ve allowed 28 goals. You have seen the carnage firsthand. Edmonton has allowed a PP goal in 10 of their last 11 home games and in 16 of 21 home games, and in two of those games they didn’t take a minor penalty.
10. We likely will see a lot of hits, blocked shots and missed shots tonight. The Oilers lead the NHL in hits and the Ducks are sixth. The Ducks are fourth in blocked shots and the Oilers are sixth. The Oilers are fourth in missed shots and the Ducks are eighth. The Oilers are third in shots on goal with 1383 while Anaheim is 22nd with 1205, but Edmonton has only scored two more goals 114-112 than the Ducks.
QUICK HITS BROUGHT TO YOU BY ATB FINANCIAL
Let’s show Vegas something they’ve never seen before—Alberta hockey fans.
Enter the Vegas Breakaway for a chance to win a trip for two to Las Vegas and tickets to a Golden Knights game. Enter to win at atb.com/vegas
Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 01/04/2018 – 10:00am MST