You would be hard pressed to find a more difficult schedule than what is on the way for the Oilers in the month of October. The terror begins in Winnipeg against a high-powered Jets squad with one of the best top six groups in the entire league. Then it’s a steady diet of Cup contenders rolling into Rogers Place with visits from Boston, Nashville, Pittsburgh and Washington.
The star power the Oilers will be facing over the next two weeks is staggering. We already saw what David Pastrnak is capable of doing.
It’s safe to say Klebom, Larsson, Nurse and Russell will need to play out of their minds during the opening homestand of the season. Here’s a look at what the Oilers top four will be dealing with over the next two weeks. Yes, I’ve ranked eight line combinations I believe the Oilers will need to overcome if they plan on having success during this upcoming five game stretch. All of the line combinations come from the most recent information from our wonderful friends at DailyFaceoff.com.
Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak (Boston Bruins)
The Oilers have already had a look what the Bergeron line can bring to the table and it’s scary. This may be the most well-rounded line in the entire league. Bergeron is an elite two-way centre, Marchand brings skill and aggressive play while Pastrnak is simply one of the most talented offensive players in the league. As a line, they’ve combined for 30 points in five games.
Connor – Scheifele – Wheeler (Winnipeg Jets)
I really wanted to have this line at the top of the list but I just couldn’t do it with the way the Bruins top trio has been producing. Kyle Connor flew under the radar last year but now finds himself on the top line full-time and has taken advantage of it leading the team in both goals and points, for now. Scheifele has been a point-per-game player for the past two seasons and Blake Wheeler is Mr. Consistency. This trio has been somewhat quiet so far this season, I’m afraid they may blow up on Tuesday.
Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Stephenson (Washington Capitals)
Kuznetsov and Ovechkin appear to be less hung-over than we thought they would be after a summer of Stanley Cup celebrations. Kuznetsov has already compiled a handful of highlight reel plays and Ovechkin is scoring goals, what else is new? Kuzy also has four goals, all of them on the power play. Chandler Stephenson, who scored against the Leafs, is a placeholder right now while they wait for Tom Wilson to return from suspension.
Hagelin – Malkin – Kessel (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Malkin and Kessel are the key components of what I call the Rodney Dangerfield line because they never seem to get any RESPECT! Evgeni Malkin trails only Connor McDavid in points-per-game over the past two seasons and Kessel is coming off of a career year. Hagelin is riding shotgun with these guys right now, lucky guy.
Forsberg – Johansen – Arvidsson (Nashville Predators)
This trio has already combined for 14 points in their first five games of the season. Forsberg is the closest thing the Predators have to a game breaker. Arvidsson is sneaky good offensively while Ryan Johansen is off to a good start as he hopes to improve on last year’s 54-point campaign.
Guentzel – Crosby – Brassard (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Sidney Crosby deserves better but this is the hand he’s been dealt yet again. Crosby hasn’t scored in his first four games of the year. Guenztel has found the back of the net three times this season. They’ve got Brassard listed on the right side right now, Rust was there earlier in the week so I’m not sure what to expect by the time they roll into town. Crosby by himself gets them to where they are on this list. Regular season Guentzel shouldn’t scare anyone.
Ehlers– Little – Laine (Winnipeg Jets)
Mathieu Perreault started the year with Little and Laine but has since been moved down to the bottom six. Ehlers is a player who has explosive offensive potential but he’s off to a slow start. Patrik Laine has found the back of the net twice this season; which is not bad for the average player but slightly disappointing for the big Finn.
Vrana– Backstrom – Oshie (Washington Capitals)
Nicklas Backstrom has put up seven points in five games to start the season and it seems like nobody has noticed, it’s the story of his career. Oshie has four goals in his first five games of the year and Vrana who is getting an early push on this line has chipped in with one goal of his own. This line flies under the radar but will be a handful for the Oilers.
We have yet to witness the Oilers top line firing on all cylinders but they’ll need to be when the puck drops tomorrow in Winnipeg. Maybe even more importantly Leon Draisaitl is going to have some very big head-to-head matchups over the next ten days and if he’s not up to the task it might be lights out early for this team.
To wrap up I’ll leave you with a question. Which defensive pair do you want to see draw the most difficult matchup, Nurse and Russell or Klefbom and Larsson? Can I say Nurse and Larsson?