Welcome, friends, to a Hockey Night in Canada edition of the Oilersnation GDB! Tonight, our beloved Oilers will be looking to extend their winning streak against the red-hot Nashville Predators in front of a national TV audience. Can they make it four in a row? We’re only a few long hours from finding out.
What a difference a week can make. Last Saturday, the Oilers faced off in a must-win matinee against the New York Rangers with the threat of a 0-3 record hanging over their heads but rather than keep digging the grave, they were able to calm the nerves of a Nation with a clutch win. Two more wins later and all of a sudden Oilers fans are starting to feel pretty good (or at least decent) about what’s going on here, which was something I think we all needed. Frankly, the rage levels were getting out of hand and I think we can all agree that it was way too early for that. Sure, there’s still plenty of work to be done but it has been nice to have the vibe lighten up around here a little bit, especially considering that we’re still in October. But even with those much-needed wins tucked safely in the bank, the road doesn’t get any easier for our heroes and if they want to keep the winning glow going then they’re going to get themselves amped up to play because the opponent is a tough one.
Tonight’s game against Nashville will easily be the biggest test of the year for the Oilers so far, at least in my opinion. Coming into this thing, the Preds are sporting a 6-1-0 record which puts them first in the Central Division and they’ve looked every bit like a contending team should. They’re fast, they’re skilled, and they’re getting great goaltending which is a pretty lethal trifecta. Yeah, sometimes early season records can be misleading but that’s not the case here — this is a very good hockey team we’re talking about. And even with Nashville playing last night in Calgary, everyone wearing an orange jersey should expect nothing less than a Predators team that will be ready to play and one that won’t allow any time to settle in or get going. As much I loved how dialled in Cam Talbot was against the Bruins and the fact that he was able to hold the boys in it while they got their legs under them, I’d rather that this didn’t become the norm this season.
Instead, I dream of a world where the boys are flying around the ice at breakneck speed, murdering fools with a relentless attack and that they’re making it all happen right from the opening faceoff. I want to see the Oilers work their bags off to try and dictate the pace of the game rather than playing the role of a gracious host that lets anyone come into their house and set the table. Against the Nashville Predators, they’re going to need to put the hammer down right from the jump and they’re going to need everyone on board. I watched chunks of last night’s Preds/Flames game and saw plenty of shifts where the Flames were locked down in their own zone because of a simple mistake on a breakout or mishandling of the puck, which tells me that the Oilers need to take extra care with their choices. On Thursday night, Edmonton was lucky that they didn’t get burned by the bounty of turnovers they gave up early on and I’m not so sure that they’ll want to test their luck with that strategy again tonight.
Oilers have lost 12 straight to Nashville. Six at home. Six on road.
Have been outscored 37-15.
Been shutout 4x.
Scored more than 2 goals once.
375 shots in 12 games (31/game).
Team SH% of 4%.
Rinne has 11 wins.
Suros 1 win (46 save shutout on Dec 14, 2017)
Are #Oilers due?
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) October 20, 2018
Numbers courtesy of Corsica
With Matt Benning being placed on the IR yesterday, it looked like Kevin Gravel was going to get his first NHL action of the season after starting his year with the Bakersfield Condors, but we’ll have to wait another day. In other lineup news, Kailer Yamamoto will get a chance to play with McNuge today with Ty Rattie nursing the injury sustained against the Bruins. Alex Chiasson will also make his Oilers debut after turning his PTO into a one-year contract shortly before the season kicked off.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Perhaps the biggest surprise for this Nashville team is the performance of their depth players. Colton Sissons, Anthony Bitetto, Dan Hamhuis, Miikka Salomaki, Nick Bonino, Calle Jarnkrok and Ryan Hartman have all recorded at least one point, which is at least one point more than second line phenom Kevin Fiala through six games. Zac Rinaldo, who has also not scored a point, has a mere 11 penalty minutes while having played in each game, and he has not been suspended—at least not yet.
Juuse Saros taking a bigger role in the goaltender rotation has also been a huge help for a team whose fans used to believe that their window closed as soon as Rinne steps away from the game. Saros is 2-0-0 with a 2.50 goals allowed average and .902 save percentage in 2 starts against the Islanders, and there’s a good chance he gets his third start in the back end of a back to back this weekend as the Preds take on the Edmonton Oilers.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers come firing out of the gates and grab an early two-goal lead. The Preds bounce back with two goals of their own and take the game to overtime. Unfortunately, Nashville takes this one in the extra frame. 3-2 Preds.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Connor McDavid scores two points and refuses to accept any praise for yet another stellar performance.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Inspired by Kailer Yamamoto’s first goal, Evan Bouchard made it his mission to get his first in front of a hometown crowd as well, and he does exactly that with an absolute bomb from the point. After posing for the usual picture with the puck from his first goal after the game, Bouchard does what any good dad would do and passes along the memento to his son to display in his room.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 10/20/2018 – 12:00 pm MT