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Photo Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 81.0: Going Out On A Good Note (7pm MST, SN1)

The Edmonton Oilers have two games remaining in the most disappointing season in franchise history. It will be another long off-season for fans, players, coaches and management, and the organization needs to ensure they find ways to ice a competitive team next season. The roster will look different, but I’m not sure we will see massive changes. I could be wrong, and we’ll see what the summer offers, but it is more likely we see three new players than seven or eight.

Their opposition tonight, the surprising Vegas Golden Knights, should provide some inspiration for the Oilers in how you don’t need to add superstars to make your team competitive.

The Golden Knights have exceeded everyone’s expectations, and their consistent play hasn’t dipped for any prolonged time all season. They are fourth in goals scored with 264, and they are tied for fifth in goals against at 214. Their powerplay is eighth at 21.8% and their PK is also eighth at 81.7%. They are 11th in shots on goal per game and seventh in shots against.

They haven’t shown any weaknesses all season, and the Oilers need to be on their toes to avoid being embarrassed at home tonight. The Golden Knights have the best home record in the NHL, and they have accumulated the fourth most road points, 49, with a 22-12-5 record.

Vegas still has something to play for. They are four points back of Nashville for first in the west with two games remaining, and they own the tiebreaker, as they are tied with Tampa Bay for the most regulations wins in the NHL with 47. They are also one point back of Winnipeg, and Vegas would love to finish ahead of them to secure home ice advantage if they meet in the third round.

The Oilers are playing for pride, and they will get a bit of an emotional lift tonight as Keegan Lowe plays his first game as an Edmonton Oiler. “I grew up a diehard fan. I’ve always been a fan and to put on the jersey tonight will be surreal,” beamed Lowe this morning. When you have nothing to play for, players look for anything to motivate them, and Lowe’s excitement could be infectious. At this point you try to draw on anything to get you into the game.

LINEUP

Oilers

RNH-McDavid-Rattie
Khaira-Draisaitl-Puljujarvi
Lucic-Strome-Caggiula
Slepyshev-Cammalleri-Kassian

Nurse-Larsson
Russell-Bear
Lowe-Benning

Talbot

I spoke to Jesse Puljujarvi this morning about his English lessons. “They are going well. I needed them,” he smiled. He did have “a few” meetings with an English teacher last year he said, but only a few. Right now he goes every day when he is home, except on game days. He plans to continue working with someone to improve his English this summer.

He told me he did take English classes for six years in Finland, but said, “I did nothing. I didn’t study or work at it.” I know how he feels. Homework as a teenager was not my forte. I did enough to get by, but when I went to College and studied I found school easy. Puljujarvi is only 19 and he really wants to improve his grasp on the English language.

He also spoke about needing to get stronger, and wants to work on his edges. “I learned my weaknesses,” he said.

It is important for many to realize, including the Oilers organization, that he is still a very young man. I’d argue he shouldn’t have been in the NHL the past few seasons, but the one positive is he has learned what he needs to work on to improve in this league. I won’t be surprised if we don’t see Puljujarvi start to reach his potential until he is 22 or 23, which is just fine, but the organization needs to be patient with him. He also needs to put in the work on and off the ice to improve, and I expect he will.

I don’t think he will be a superstar first line player, but he has the tools, if he keeps maturing and improving, to be a very solid player for the Oilers in the future. But the future might not be next season. He might still be more of a third and second line player next year, and that shouldn’t be looked as a negative.

Golden Knights

Tatar-Karlsson-Tuch
Pirri-Eakin-Neal
Carrier-Lindberg-Reaves
Carpenter-Bellemare-Nosek

McNabb-Whitecloud
Engelland-Theodore
Miller-Merrill

Fleury?

Gerard Gallant wouldn’t commit who will start in goal. It sounds like he will let Fleury decide. Zach Whitecloud will make his NHL debut on the blueline. Reilly Smith skated, but isn’t ready to play while Jonathon Marchessault and Nate Schmidt will get the night off.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Knights on Ice:

The 2017-2018 season has been extremely disappointing for the Oilers, who were preseason favorites to win the Pacific Division after last year’s promising playoff run. Instead, the Oilers have regressed considerably and will be in the Draft Lottery sweepstakes yet again.

However, the Oilers players want to help McDavid win the scoring title and claim his second straight Art Ross Trophy. McDavid sits five points ahead of Nikita Kucherov (98) in the scoring race and, barring any wild late-season heroics of the Jamie Benn variety, should do just that.

McDavid was on quite a tear recently, recording seven goals and 14 points in a six-game point streak. However, he has been held without a point in back-to-back games. The 21-year-old phenom has game-changing speed and already has two goals and five points in three games against the Knights this season, so containing him will be one of Vegas’ top priorities. However, as we’ve seen before, that’s easier said than done.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Vegas keeps rolling and wins their 48th game in regulation 4-3.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid avoids going pointless in three games for the second time in his career. He picks up two points to reach 105. He wants to surpass 106 and have the most points in an NHL season since Evgeni Malkin scored 109 in 2012.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Darnell Nurse scores his first goal in 35 games. His last goal was January 13th in Vegas.

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Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 3/5/2018 – 1:30 pm MST

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    “Playing for pride”? Yeah they’re definitely playing for pride, in the midst of a 4 game losing skid and on the heels of a completely disinterested effort on the road in Minnesota. But sure, they’re playing for pride. We’re numbskull fans who’ve supported this sheety product year in and year out with little to no results.

    I’ve had it with this organization failing. The only reason we’re not in DoD 2.0 is because of McDavid. Thank god he signed last season as opposed to this year. If he was unsigned and this season still played out the way it has, I’m sure he would be signing somewhere else next summer. Maybe he’d go to Pittsburgh for a free Stanley cup

    • Natejax97

      Luuuuuuuuuuuch!! I actually feel for the guy. My god what a devastating season. You can just tell he is all out of sorts. I would imagine summer conditioning for him starts Monday…I would hate to be his heavy bag this summer. Hope he scores 30 next year, on the third line though.

    • RJ

      He should probably spend time with the scouts. Help him get an early start on his post-playing career. Or with Gretzky. He could be an ambassador for some team.

  • Spoils

    media and fan negativity in Edmonton hurt Taylor Hall as a player.

    the fresh start in NJ, followed by an outpouring of love from the fans and media as they pleasantly discover just how good he is, had a feed forward effect with the good play leading to positive coverage and the positive coverage leading to better play?

    as a fan base, we’d be well served to figure out how to get the best out of our players

    • Hemmercules

      Didn’t Taylor Hall admit he never bought into the system and didn’t bother training in the summer until he got traded? He is who he is. If anything, the trade was his wake up call, not fan pressure. I guess you shouldn’t expect full commitment from a guy when you toss him 36 million dollars.

      • Derian Hatcher

        Agreed. If you couldn’t pick up Halls selfishness; and poor attitude while playing here, you weren’t watching. No doubt he is a great talent, just had to grow up a little and the trade seemed to help him do that. Would he have matured into a better team player in Edmonton ? We ll never know.

      • Derian Hatcher

        Hall is a really good hockey player…now. But let’s not let time and his terrific season this year cloud who was here He consistently turned the puck over at the opposing blue lines trying to go 1 on 3 or 1 on 2, he refused to defend a teammate in scrums, he fully admitted that he was not interested in listening to coaches (and his play was evidence of that) and his body language was often terrible. Good for him for turning that attitude around, but the Hall we see this season is nowhere near the Hall who was here.

  • Big Jacks Meat

    you know , I hate to say it. go beat the living daylights out of vegas , same with the canucks. take no crap and slap around and get ready for next year.

    Sedins , you rocked as much as I hated you. But you have my full respect.
    you guys did yourselves proud for sure. Now go enjoy life beyond the
    Gary whats his name NHL,

    ps.. go tag team marchand , the rat needs a serious beat down. BAD

  • The Future Never Comes

    I’m going to be in Vegas April 20th to see an actual playoff game. Go figure it’s not with this under-performing tire fire of an organization. The more things that change the more stays the same. Back to square one with 2-3 players expected to carry an entire team of grossly inflated contracts of players on their back 9 and barely NHL quality AHL tweeners. Cool brah.

  • Randaman

    Another bad pass by Benning for an icing. Recipe for disaster having a face off in our own zone with Benning & Cagguila on the ice at the same time. Awesome coaching!

  • Randaman

    RFA plan:

    Benning- minimum qualifying offer, take it or leave it, Cagguila- same scenario, Nurse- two year bridge deal, 2 x 2.8M = 5.6M, Slepyshev- let him go back to Russia or trade at the draft for whatever, Strome- 5 x 3 if you can get it done for that.

    My bridge deal thinking is valid as Nurse is no P.K. Subban. Not even close. He doesn’t improve much more in my opinion. I think Strome has settled in and is worth that contract.

  • GreasyOilChef

    It’s obvious Leon Draisaitl checked out already. Maybe if he pouts enough Todd will pull out his one trick and let him play with Connor. Leon better get used to driving his own line, he’s making Milan look fleet of foot out there.

  • Randaman

    Hey Remenda, how about calling Draisaitl for that god awful pass through the middle in his own zone. Ah, never mind. Let’s just throw Kassian under the bus. Leon’s got his serious pout on.

    • Leichs

      I was thinking that as well.. Kassian was probably the last player to call out on that, how about Nurse and Drai covering the same guy near the crease and leaving buddy wide open in the slot?

  • GK1980

    I love how drew Remenda blamed Kassian for the 3rd Vegas goal. That was ALL on Drai making a stupid pass across the entire zone. Leon needs to quit making those passes. He has struggled visually lately.