The Oilers will finish their mini two-game Central Division road trip with a late afternoon game in Chicago with the Blackhawks. Here are your game day notes.
1. The game is being played at 4:00 PM Mountain Time and 5:00 PM local time. That’s an odd time slot and I’m not sure if I want to call it a matinee game or not. Regardless, the Oilers, who were generally terrible in matinee games last season, are currently undefeated in such games this year. They beat the Rangers 2-1 in New York and, yesterday afternoon, played possibly their best game of the season, beating the Predators 5-3 in Nashville.
2. When looking at the schedule at the beginning of the season, this looked like one of the easy games Edmonton would play. The Blackhawks finished last in the Central Division last season with a 33-39-10 record, ending a playoff streak that began in 2008-09. Chicago has enjoyed a bit of rebound season thus far, though, as they own a solid 6-3-2 record.
3. The Central Division is absolutely stacked. Chicago was pegged to come in seventh in the division again, but with them rebounding, the division is loaded top to bottom. Nashville and Winnipeg are arguably the two best teams in the West, Colorado hasn’t regressed at all, and Dallas, St. Louis, and Minnesota are all solid teams. A couple of solid teams are going to miss the playoffs because of how deep this division is. I think you’d much rather be in the Pacific Division than the Central Division.
4. This will be the first time all season the Oilers have played on back-to-back days. Fortunately for them, Chicago is also on the second leg of a back-to-back. While Edmonton played Nashville in the afternoon, the Blackhawks lost 7-3 to the Blues in St. Louis last night.
5. That 7-3 loss has been a microcosm of Chicago’s season thus far. The biggest issue for the Blackhawks has been keeping the puck out of the net. As a team, they have a .892 save percentage. Edmonton’s team save percentage is virtually identical at .890, but the difference here is that the Oilers allow significantly fewer shots than the Blackhawks do. Chicago has allowed 378 shots against so if you couple that with goalies who can’t keep the puck out of the net, you’re going to have a bad time.
6. A big reason Chicago’s team save percentage is so bad is Cam Ward. Corey Crawford has been solid as he usually is, but Ward owns an .885 save percentage through six games. Crawford started yesterday in St. Louis and allowed six goals on 36 shots, so it’ll likely be Ward getting in tonight for Chicago.
7. Chicago has largely been able to off-set an inability to keep the puck out of the net by scoring a lot of goals. While they’ve allowed the second-most goals against, they’ve also scored the third-most goals for. Patrick Kane is leading the charge offensively as he has 11 goals in 11 games and playing with Alex DeBrincat has helped revive Jonathan Toews’ offence. Beyond their top-six, though, the Hawks are devoid of offence. Kane, DeBrincat, and Toews have combined for 25 goals while the rest of the team has 15.
8. Pretty much of that offence comes at even strength. Despite their high-quality talent, the Blackhawks are horrendous on the power play. Chicago has had 35 power play opportunities and they’ve scored just four goals. That’s good for a 11.11 percentage. Only Vegas, Arizona, and Los Angeles have been worse. They also aren’t too hot on the penalty kill, allowing goals on 74.29 percent of opportunities.
9. The Oilers are streaking into this game having earned five out of six points in their last three games. A big key to their success has been finally getting offence from somebody other than Connor McDavid. Of course, McDavid is still killing it, but last game they got two goals from Drake Caggiula and they got two goals from Alex Chiasson against Washington. Also, perhaps most importantly, Leon Draisaitl is driving offence away from McDavid.
10. The lineup will remain the same in today’s game as it was yesterday. That means Jesse Puljujarvi will watch a third-straight game from the press box. I can understand giving him a game to watch from above for the sake of learning, but, sitting out for three games can’t be good for his development. When it comes to the lines, if it isn’t broken don’t fix it, but Puljujarvi should be getting ice time in the AHL.
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 10/27/2018 – 11:00 am MT