After kicking off their road trip with a 4-2 win over the Panthers yesterday, the Oilers get back at it right away with another matinee against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
As far as back-to-back sets go, this is a tough weekend for the Oilers as they had to go up against not one but two tough opponents from Florida (it’s weird saying that). Heading into Tampa, all I can hope is that the Oilers have some energy left in the tank after yesterday’s big comeback win. The Lightning are a very good hockey team that can absolutely shred the Oilers if they play sloppy, and in the second game in as many days that is a real concern. That said, the Lightning are in the same boat and could actually be in worse shape since they played last night against the Bruins which means even less rest between games. Needless to say, finding their legs early and getting off to a good start could be the advantage for either team. Point being, Edmonton needs to come out firing.
In their last meeting, the Oilers absolutely pummelled the Lightning back at Rogers Place by a score of 6-2 with the night being capped off by a Connor McHat Trick. That was easily one of the best games of the season and another example of the weird ups and downs that have turned this year into some weird Shakesperian tragedy. When the Oilers play well, they look like a team that should be making the playoffs rather easily, but when they’re bad you wonder how the hell you can be watching a team that had 103 points last season. It’s enough to drive you crazy sometimes. Although, on the other hand, the fact that we don’t really know which Oilers team will show on a daily basis has certainly eliminated any predictability of how things will go and that’s a good thing if you’re really into surprises.
To beat the Lightning again, the Oilers are going to have to be sharp, and they’re going to have to take advantage of the chances that they get when they get them. The Lightning don’t give up a whole lot of goals but they can score a ton, so Edmonton will not only need to defend well and get some saves but they’ll also need to land some counterpunches whenever they get an opening. Since both teams played yesterday, there could be some fatigue that creeps into their decision making which could make for a buffet of avoidable turnovers, or maybe we see two teams that are ready to play and have their gameplans locked in. Regardless of what happens, the Oilers have a shot at a four-point weekend if they can play the way we know they can. It just depends on who shows up — Jekyll or Hyde.
The beauty of sports is that either team can win on any given Sunday. Here’s hoping that on this Sunday that the winning team is wearing white.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
- Coming into today’s game, the Tampa Bay Lightning lead the league in goals with 257 which seems like a gargantuan total compared to the Oilers’ 200. On the other side of the puck, the Lightning hold the edge there too as they have only allowed 201 goals against compared to the Oilers 228.
- Check this out… The Oilers have only allowed four power play goals in 47 opportunities against over their last 16 games, and their PK average is still only 75.3% (61.9% at home will do that). On the bright side, the Oilers’ PK has been really good lately and that improvement has seen them climb out of the league’s basement and into 27th place overall. Not great, but better. We’ll take it.
- On the other side, Tampa Bay’s PK isn’t much better than the Oilers at only 76.3% (75.0% at home) which gives an Edmonton a glimmer of hope to get something done on their lacklustre power play. But for as ‘meh’ as Tampa’s PK is, their power play is exceptional. They’re ranked second in the NHL on the man advantage and are cruising along at a 24.0% success rate. Meanwhile, Edmonton’s power play has fallen off a cliff and into dead last in the NHL with a horrible 14.8% success rate. There have been a lot of things that have gone wrong for the Oilers this season and none are bigger than the special teams.
- Looking at the fancies over at Corsica, the Oilers are Lightning are actually right alongside each other in terms of CF%. Edmonton’s 51.33% ranks 10th in the league while the Lightning’s 51.56% has them in seventh. So if the shot attempts are roughly similar, where are we seeing the difference? Look no further than the shooting%. As a team, Tampa Bay is first in the NHL with a 10.86% in all situations whereas the Oilers are two+ percentage points lower at 8.17%.
- Connor McDavid kept up his heater yesterday with another three-point effort (1G, 2A) which now gives him 12 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in his last 14 games. Coming into game’s head-to-head matchup with Kucherov, McDavid is tied for second in league scoring with 89 points (34G, 55A).
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has five points (3G, 2A) in his last four games as he continues to build chemistry with Connor McDavid. So far, the pair has been electric together and, if this level of production continues, I can’t see any reason to split them up anytime soon or ever again for that matter.
- Since being taken off McDavid’s wing, Leon Draisaitl has only two points (1G, 1A) in those four games. The Oilers need him to be able to produce away from Connor and I’m hoping that we’ll start to see more of that today. Leon’s line has been getting some chances, but they’ve also been giving up a truckload of free passes going the other way.
No word yet if Pontus Aberg or Kris Russell will be back in the lineup so I’m just running with the same combos that closed out the win yesterday against the Panthers, save for Zack Kassian coming out with an injury. There’s a good chance that one or both of those guys will be back in the lineup but we’ll have to wait and see what happens. As always, I’ll make sure to update as news comes out.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Overall, this is a team playing very well. But we do need to address one glaring area of weakness: the goaltending. In the “Results” section, we find one orange dot way into the “bad” area. That represents how the goaltending has performed compared to what would be expected based on how dangerous the shots allowed have been. The gray dot is in a bad spot and the orange in a worse one meaning that the goaltending has been getting progressively worse over the last 20 games.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has said directly that he’s tired. And it would be easy to look at these declining results and proclaim that he’s played too many games and the coaches should all be ashamed of themselves for overworking him. But as Matt Esteves pointed out in his recent article, Vasilevskiy’s workload is at the high end for a starter but not into an obviously unreasonable range. Goaltending results are also notoriously fickle in small samples so I’m not even comfortable saying that this recent run of poor results is anything more than bad luck.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: With both teams playing yesterday there were mistakes made on both sides that result in goals. In the end, the Lightning make more mistakes than the Oilers and the good guys finish off a perfect weekend with a 3-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Connor McDavid continues his pursuit of Kucherov at the top of the NHL scoring race with another two-point game. Kucherov also gets on the scoresheet but only registers a single point.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Getting another start between the pipes means another new bucket for goaltender, Al Montoya. Montoya leads the league in New Buckets/60 and will fight tooth and nail to make sure he remains on top of the leaderboard.
Take home a growler, a crowler, a sixer, a mixer, whatever. Sherbrooke Liquor. Where’s Your Beer?
Source: Edmonton Oilers, Official Game Page, 13/18/2018 – 10:00 am MST