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GDB 5.0: Home Opener (7pm MT, SN1)

Better late than never.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

A proverb and the opening line of an anonymous poem from the year 1603 fit well with tonight’s clash between the Edmonton Oilers and Boston Bruins, because this is the latest October home opener in Oilers history. The previous late start was October 15th in 2015 and 1986. Edmonton defeated the Quebec Nordiques 5-2 in 1986 and lost 4-2 to St.Louis in Connor McDavid’s first ever home game in Edmonton.

McDavid was pointless in his first home opener, but in 2016 he produced 2-1-3 and last season he had a hat-trick as the Oilers defeated the Calgary Flames both games. McDavid has nine points in four games thus far, and would anyone be really surprised if he scored three points in his home opener for a third time? I doubt it.McDavid picked up four points Tuesday in Winnipeg giving him 30 three-or-more point games in the first 213 games of his career. In 14% of his NHL games he has scored three+ points.

Since entering the NHL he has the most three-point games in the NHL. Only seven other players have more than 19. Evgeni Malkin is next with 26 in 202 games, Patrick Kane (251 GP) and Nick Backstrom (244GP) have 25, Artemi Panarin (248GP) and Johnny Gaudreau (237GP) have 23 while Sidney Crosby (242GP) and Jamie Benn (247GP) have 21.

Essentially in one of out seven games McDavid will score three points. But he has only had back-to-back three point games twice.

The first two games of the 2016/2017 season he had three points in each game, both victories against the Calgary Flames, and then last season on March 25th v. Anaheim and March 27th v. Columbus. McDavid was buzzing in Winnipeg and he is excited to entertain the home crowd tonight.

“The home opener is always a bit more exciting. The energy in the building is great and we are playing a good team, so it will be fun,” said McDavid.

The Bruins are good, and the possess the best line in the NHL so the drama and excitement of tonight’s tilt is magnified. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak are the highest scoring line in the NHL. Bergeron is second in NHL scoring with 13 points, Marchand is tied for fifth with eleven points while Pastrnak is tied for eighth with ten. They’ve combined for 34 points in six games.

McDavid loves the challenge of facing the best, and I’m sure he will see Bergeron’s line a lot, but not exclusively. Todd McLellan will look for favourable matchups and last season when Boston played in Edmonton, Sean Kuraly’s line saw a fair amount of time against McDavid. Bergeron played seven minutes against him, while Kuraly had five and half minutes head-to-head against McDavid. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is very comfortable playing his fourth line against teams top lines.

The main matchup the Bruins looked for was ensuring Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy were out against McDavid. McDavid played 16:58 at 5×5 and Chara was on the ice for 15:46 of it. Chara and the Bruins lost 5-2 in Calgary last night and Chara only played 18:23. Chara skated a mere 5:39 in the third period. With the game out of reach, it seemed Cassidy rested the big man in preparation for tonight.

MATCH UP…

When the Bruins visited last season Darnell Nurse and Adam Larsson were paired together while Oscar Klefbom skated with Kris Russell. They split duties against the Bergeron line with Nurse/Larsson facing them seven minutes and Klefbom/Russell six minutes. It wasn’t pretty for the Oilers that night as Bergeron’s line dominated possession, shots and scoring chances. They didn’t score any goals, but had 13 scoring chances for and only three against.

Tonight pairs are up in the air. Larsson, Nurse, Klefbom, Russell, Matt Benning and Evan Bouchard will play. “I don’t know if it will be ideal playing two righties together,” said Todd McLellan this morning which means the top-four will need to be split up.

I’d we will see either Klefbom-Larsson, Nurse-Bouchard, Russell-Benning, or Nurse-Larsson, Klefbom-Bouchard, Russell-Benning.

The top pair will see a lot of Bergeron’s line tonight. And you might switch it up at times depending on the situation. We have seen Nurse play with Larsson for a few shifts in games, often after a powerplay, so we could see that again tonight. Trent Yawney will be moving guys around based on situations, but also on who is playing well.

LINEUP…

Oilers

RNH-McDavid-Rattie
Rieder-Draisaitl-Puljujärvi
Lucic-Strome-Yamamoto
Khaira-Brodziak-Kassian

Klefbom-Larsson
Nurse-Bouchard
Russell-Benning

Talbot

McLellan switched Draisaitl and Strome last game and he liked the look of both lines. Drake Caggiula skated this morning, and he pushed himself hard, but I spoke to him after practice and he doesn’t expect to play. He has a minor lower body issue, stemming from the Andrew Copp tackle on Tuesday.

Cam Talbot played his 200th game with the Oilers on Tuesday. He is the fifth goalie to reach 200 games, trailing Andy Moog (235), Tommy Salo (334), Grant Fuhr (423) and Bill Ranford (449).

One stat that really illustrates the struggles of the Oilers lack of scoring on lines two-four is their shot totals. The third line was good, but the second line struggles to even get pucks on net is glaring.

Caggiula seven shots in 31 minutes. Solid.
Puljujarvi six in 47 min and one goal. Good.
Strome five in 45 min. Decent.
Rieder five in 39 min. Positive
Draisaitl four in 55 min and one goal.
Yamamoto three in 48 min.
Brodziak two in 24 min.
Khaira one in 36 min
Kassian zero in 19 min.
Lucic 0 in 51 min.

The first line has produced  23 shots with McDavid firing seven in 71 minutes, Nugent-Hopkins has six shots in 64 minutes and Ty Rattie has ten in 60 minutes. They each have one EV goal.

It is easy to see why McLellan switched up the second line. They had a combined eight shots in four games.

Bruins

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak
Nordstrom-Krejci-DeBrusk
Donato-Backes-Bjork
Wagner-Kuraly-Acciari

Chara-McAvoy
Grzelcyk–Miller
Moore –Carlo

Halak

Bruins lost 5-2 in Calgary last night as Tuukka Rask allowed two goals in 48 seconds in the first period, and he’d likely want both back after giving up a bad rebound on Johnny Gaudreau’s goal and then missing Juuso Valimaki’s point shot. Halak has played very well and he was going to start regardless, but with every passing game it looks more and more like they could have a goaltending controversy.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Stanley Cup of Chowder:

  • Last time these two teams played there were a couple of fights. I wonder if we see the same emotion tonight.
  • The fourth line saw some significant time against the McDavid line last game. I highly doubt we see that again.
  • Ryan Donato wasn’t in the lineup the last time these two played. The Bruins scored a pair of powerplay goals that night. Bruce Cassidy mentioned the coaches saw a weakness in Edmonton’s penalty killing coverage close to the net. This is an area where Ryan Donato tends to succeed.
  • The Oilers are a team with a ton of speed. Playing them in a back to back situation is not going to be fun. How will the Bruins match their intensity in the first ten minutes of the game?

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers are very good in their home openers and continue that trend tonight skating away with a 4-2 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid picks up two points and Bergeron’s line scores a goal.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Midway through the second period during a stoppage, the in-house Kiss Cam gets going. A diehard Oilersnation reader is put on the screen, and instead of kissing his lady, he stares deep into the camera and then pretends to lick it Brad Marchand style. Crowd loves it. Also, the fourth line scores a goal in the second period.

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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 10/18/2018 – 12:00 pm MT