“In like a lion, out like a lamb,” or “in like a lamb, out like a lion,” are proverbs connected to weather and the month of March. Folklore has led many to believe if the March starts off with cold, stormy weather (Lion), then it would end on a pleasant warm note (Lamb). Or if it begins with nice weather, then the cold snap would come at the end. Growing up on the farm I heard my parents utter this phrase every year and often numerous times each March.
I never tracked it to see if it was accurate, but as I got older I found myself repeating those words. I do recall years where “in like a lamb out like a lion” was legit as I froze my ass off in the barn in late March during calving season. I recall those years mainly because you expect it to be cold in early March, but when the temperature is -20 on March 24th you remember it. In 2013 I sat in the barn as three cows were close to popping. Two of them calved early that morning and both had twins. As I worked to dry off the calves, to ensure none had frozen ears or a tail, I recall mumbling something to the effect of “eff you, out like a lion.”
The 2018 Oilers began October like a lamb. They didn’t have much bite losing two games and being outscored 9-3 v. New Jersey and Boston. Oilersnation was restless, but a victory in New York, in an afternoon game no less, got the Oilers rolling and then they steamrolled through some top teams and have an opportunity to finish October like a lion if they can defeat the Minnesota Wild tonight.
The Oilers have had a steady diet of top teams in October — Nashville and Boston twice, Pittsburgh, Washington, Winnipeg, Chicago and now Minnesota. All of them except Chicago had 100+ points last season, and all of them are currently among the top-11 teams in the standings, excluding the Capitals.
A victory this evening and the Oilers will leave October with 15 points and in the top-ten of the NHL standings. It would be a remarkable feat considering their schedule, and they get another bonus from the schedule maker with the Wild losing 5-2 in Vancouver last night.
The Wild are 1-3 on the road and will be playing their backup goalie in the second game of back-to-backs. This is a great opportunity for the Oilers to keep rolling.
McLellan is sticking with the same lineup which means Jesse Puljujarvi will sit out his fourth consecutive game.
“We have some chemistry with lines and pairs and I sense a renewed confidence in the group so I will keep the lineup the same tonight,” said McLellan.
“It is not ideal for him (Puljujarvi) not to play, but we have to look at the entire group and you try to find a balance between individuals and the team. The NHL is a tough place to develop players. We have a lot of them and some nights some play well and others don’t. If you make decisions for the best interest of the team I think often they will work out better for the team,” continued McLellan.
McLellan knows what is at stake with Puljujarvi, but when others are playing better you are doing a disservice to your team to play someone simply because they are young and need to be playing. McLellan was saying as a coach you can’t let one player’s development be more important than icing the lineup you think gives you the best chance to win.
I also get the sense McLellan is speaking through his actions. It is up to management to make the decision to send Puljujarvi to the minors. They make the final call and if the team is winning and playing well, the right decision is to send Puljujarvi to Bakersfield and let him play.
The organization needs a plan. It wouldn’t have made any sense to send him down recently as Bakersfield has only played three games since October 10th. Starting tomorrow they get back into a more regular schedule with five over the next two weeks, but Puljujarvi would also get more practice time to work on his individual skills.
The NHL schedule doesn’t allow for a lot of individual practice time for players.
I remain steadfast in believing the best situation for Puljujarvi right now is to play big minutes in the AHL. Management needs to make that decision.
Zack Kassian also addressed the rumour the Oilers gave his agent permission to seek out a trade.
“I didn’t ask for a trade. When I got healthy scratched my agent did his job and reached out to Peter to see what was up. I hadn’t played well early, but I feel our line is coming on. I addressed my teammates before the Chicago game and I never asked for a trade. It is the business side of the game. These types of conversations happen often. I want to help us, we are in a good spot,” said Kassian.
His agent spoke to Chiarelli and what happens often is a GM will tell the agent to talk to other teams if he wishes. Usually, the conversations don’t lead to anything, and in most cases the situation never gets leaked. You’d be surprised how often a player has quietly asked for a trade, but it never transpired. I don’t see this as that big of a deal.
Kassian knows he is a third or fourth line player, regardless of which team he plays for. His situation or ice time won’t change much if he goes to a new team. If he plays well he will play EV and on the PK.
Kevin Woodley from In Goal Magazine had a great quote about the Wild’s goaltending duo.
“They might be the most opposite pairing there is in the NHL. Dubnyk is all positioning, and tracking, and efficiency. Alex Stalock is just a bag of fun to watch play goalie, because he’s all over the place. He relies on reads, he’s athletic and aggressive. Personally, I’m taking Dubynk’s style, but from an entertainment stand-point, you might have fun watching Alex,” said Woodley.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
As I mentioned above, the first 10 minutes of this game will be crucial. The team played last night, has a goalie that hasn’t played in 10 days, and plays a team that is one of the hottest in the NHL. You will be able to tell how the night will go for the Wild solely based on the pace of the game, and how the Wild start, in the first half of the period.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers win their fourth in a row defeating the Wild 5-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers get more powerplays than the Wild. Minnesota is -12 in PP-PK ratio. They’ve had 36 PP chances, but have been on the PK 48 times, meanwhile the Oilers have had 36 powerplays and have been shorthanded 33 times. And McDavid picks up a 5×5 point.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: In their last 19 games v. the Wild the Oilers have averaged 26 shots. Only twice have they had 30+ shots. The Oilers fire 35+ shots tonight and Lucic and Strome combine on a goal.