After a week off work, the boys are back in town to take on the heathens from Vancouver in a Saturday night affair. My friends, it’s game day.
Despite the fact that this season hasn’t gone the way we wanted*, I have to admit how bored I’ve been over the past week. On one hand, it was nice to have a break and not worry about whether or not I’ll have to power through another can of beets. On the other hand, I get Connor withdrawals after a few days and life is way more boring when I can’t watch him out there doing his thing. Sure, it’s painful to lose but at least we have Connor. At this point in the season, I don’t think anyone would blame me for looking for silver linings whenever I can.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Oilers will take on a Vancouver Canucks team that is also coming off of their own bye week. Needless to say, I’m expecting this game to be a little bit sloppier than normal, but that ‘who know what the hell is going to happen’ vibe could also be exciting, depending on how the cookie crumbles. For the Oilers, it will be important for them to get a good start and find a way to score the first goal. To do that, they need to make sure that their heads are pulled out of their asses from the minute the puck drops. They need to pay attention to the details and make smarter puck choices to limit their giveaways and resulting possession time for Vancouver.
The Oilers have dug themselves a hole that will be insanely tough to climb out of, and if they have any hopes of getting back into the mix then they’re going to need games like this one. But as we’ve seen many times this season, winning the games they’re supposed to win is easier said than done. Buckle up.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
- Coming into tonight’s game, the Oilers and Canucks are sitting in 5th and 6th place in the Pacific Division respectively. For one of those teams, a weak season was probably expected. For the other… sadness. Coming into tonight’s game, the Oilers are sitting 10 points out of a Wildcard spot with five teams to leap. Needless to say, the odds are not in our favour.
- It hasn’t happened often this year but the Oilers are actually going up against a team with a worse goal differential than them. Despite both teams allowing a miserable 147 goals against, the Oilers actually come out ahead in this metric due to the fact that they’ve scored an additional seven goals (Oilers: GF126, GA147). It’s by no means a big win but we’ll take it. Small victories, my friends.
- Before heading into their bye week breaks, the Oilers and Canucks were both riding two-game win streaks, but that’s about all that’s gone right lately for this two squads. Over their last 10 games, the Oilers are sporting a depressing 3-6-1 record while the Canucks haven’t been much better with their 3-5-2. Fart fumes wafting both ways in this one.
- Looking at the fancy stats, the Oilers continue to sit in a top five spot in terms of CF%. Their 52.5% CF has them along the likes of Tampa Bay, Boston, and San Jose who are all sitting in in playoff spots. Unfortunately, all of those shot attempts don’t do a whole lot if you can’t keep the puck out of your own net.
- The Oilers were only 100% healthy for 1.5 games this season (Arizona, and half of the Vegas game) before RNH went down with his rib injury. Happy day. Remember when the Oilers only lost one man game in their top six last season? Good times.
With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the shelf for the next five or six weeks, Todd McLellan obviously had to shuffle the lines and put Leon Draisaitl back at centre. Unfortunately, moving Drai back to the middle really shows just how shallow the organizational depth is on the right side, but that’s where we’re at right now. With RNH out, there are plenty of forwards that will get an opportunity to shine in a top six role and we’re going to see who is able to take advantage of those added minutes.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
I half-expect the Canucks to pull this one off tonight (see what I did there?) with the imminent return of future-captain Bo Horvat coming tomorrow. The idea of three-straight wins is so alluring it gives me goosebumps. We can talk about Brock Boeser and his Calder run but as a team, the guys that have surprised this year, there is some promise even though they definitely miss the playoffs again. The trade deadline could mean players like Thomas Vanek, Michael Del Zotto, and God-willing, Erik Gudbranson are shipped off which as bad as that is for two of the three to leave, it opens up spots for Elias Petterson and maybe Adam Gaudette.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Despite some rust and general sloppiness, the Oilers not only score the first goal of the game but also the last, powering their way to a 4-2 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Hockey Night in Canada crew spends both intermissions talking about every team in the NHL other than the two that are playing.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After hearing about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ injury, good guy, Sam Gagner, bought him a family pack of Dunkaroos and a Rambo themed big wheel.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 1/20/2018, 10am MST