If there’s one thing that’s sure to get the blood pumping on a Saturday night, it’s a matchup against the always exciting Minnesota Wild. Are you pumped? Of course you are.
Isn’t it strange to think that tonight’s game will only be the second time these two teams have met up so far this season? I remember the days of the Northwest Division when the Oilers and Wild would play against each other seemingly hundreds of times per year, resulting in some of the most boring hockey games of all time. Fortunately, times have changed, the divisions have been shaken up, and we’re only forced to look at those horrible unis three times per year. And while the Wild aren’t quite as boring as they once were, I can still feel the yawns coming on anytime I see that horrible logo coming up on the schedule. Here’s hoping the Oilers don’t feel the same way.
After struggling through February with various losing streaks and lacklustre efforts, the Oilers have turned things around a little bit and find themselves winning two straight after sneaking out a pair of bonus hockey wins against the Coyotes and Islanders. If they plan on extending that winning streak, they’re going to need to find a way to get more balanced scoring than we’ve seen lately and they’re going to need to find a way to take advantage of a team that played last night. This will be the second of three games against the Wild, and the Oilers will need a solid performance if they’re shooting for another win like what happened back in December when our boys in orange played a solid road game and walked away with a 3-2 victory.
If they’d like to see that same result again tonight then they’re going to have to come out swinging from the moment the puck drops and they’re going to need more than just Connor McDavid to show up and contribute.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
- Connor McDavid has been hot fire lately as he tries to single-handedly drag this team forward. In his last 10 games, Connor has amassed 15 points (8G, 7A) but should likely have more than that since he’s been dominant on most nights. In his last 18 games, the captain has 16 goals as he continues his white-hot pace.
- Not to be outdone, Leon Draisaitl continues to ramp up his play as the season goes on and is also catching fire down the stretch. In his last 10 games, Draisaitl has produced at a point per game clip (4G, 6A) and finds himself with 60 points in 63 games overall. Needless to say, McLeon make magic when they’re together.
- How good has Eric Staal been since landing in Minnesota? Staal had 39 points in 83 games (Car/NYR) in 2015-16 and I remember some people thinking he was washed up. Well, this year Staal leads the Wild in goals (37) and points (68) and looks like a brand new player. Not only that, Staal is on fire right now as he, just like Connor McDavid, has 16 goals in his last 18 games. Unlucky for his brother Jordan that he left to rot in Carolina. I’m kidding, of course.
- In their last 10 games, the Oilers are sporting a slightly above average record of 6-4-0 which is a reflection of the yo-yoing they’ve done over the past month or so. They’d lose a bunch, win a few, lose some more, and look like they were going to turn things around again. Needless to say, it’s been a strange year for the Edmonton Oilers.
- On the flip side, the Wild are currently hanging on to 3rd place in the Central Division, are sporting an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games played, and are the winners of their last three games. Last night, they killed the Canucks with a 5-2 victory and will certainly be looking to carry that success over into tonight’s game.
- I don’t have to explain this to any of you but this season has been so odd. According to Corsica, the Oilers ranked sixth in the league with a 51.67 CF% and fifth in Expected Goals For which implies that they should be getting enough shots and chances to win hockey games. However, their 8.12 shooting% lands them in 25th place overall and shows a snapshot of how the shots they’re taking aren’t ending up in the net.
- In 86 games played against the Wild, the Oilers have a 32-40-4-10 record which amounts to a .453 win%. Needless to say, there’s work to do and a win today would certainly be a step in the right direction.
- Tickets are on sale now for the Nation 10th Anniversary Party on April 7th! We’re getting the Nation together to say ‘thank you’ with a night full of prizes, boozes, and all kinds of hockey related shenanigans. Get your tickets before they sell out.
At the time of posting, no line combos had been confirmed yet so I’m just going with what Jack Michaels tweeted out from practice yesterday. What I will say is that I’m not a big fan of Nuge’s second line. Why? Well, his 17 goals on the season is only one fewer than what Caggiula/Aberg have produced in their careers combined. That’s not a good spot for your second line to be in. Anyway, I will be sure to update as news becomes available.
***UPDATE*** Oscar Klefbom will miss the next two games (at least) for a minor procedure that will determine whether or not he needs further treatment.
I’m guessing on Stalock starting but Devan Dubnyk played last night in Vancouver and I feel like it’s a reasonable guess. Hold your applause.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Many of Minnesota’s key veteran players seem to be firing right now, after long stretches of quiet offensive production. Zach Parise has points in six of his last seven games and goals in three of his past four, Mikko Koivu has seven points in his last five games, and Ryan Suter has four points in two games.
Meanwhile, the younger core players are cooking as well, with Mikael Granlund (who scored a hat trick in Vancouver last season) averaging 1.5 points per game over his last eight, Jason Zucker registering eight points in five, and even recent doghouse resident injury-hampered Nino Niederreiter getting on the board last game. Oh, and by the way, Eric Staal has scored ten goals in eight games. Minnesota has recently been getting better balance in its scoring than it has seen all season. This is good timing, as it heads into the stretch run of its season, but that pattern will definitely need to carry into the playoffs, should the Wild have any hope of a deeper-than-usual run this year.
Game Day Prediction: The Wild played last night in Vancouver and because of that their little legs are tired and cannot withstand the 20+ minutes of Connor McDavid. Oilers extend their winning streak to three games with a 4-3 win.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Despite the fact that Jacques Lemaire hasn’t coached the Wild in 100 years they still manage to be boring to watch in arguably the worst jerseys in the NHL. Oh, and Connor scores again.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: After checking out Crashed Ice last night, the boys will look to mix in some aerial tricks of their own into tonight’s game. In the second period, Matt Dumba will try to throw a hit on McDavid but Connor responds with a double back-flip over the defender that he lands perfectly.
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Source: Edmonton Oilers, Official Game Page, 3/10/2018 – 10:00 am MST