I don’t know what the Oilers did to piss off the NHL’s schedule makers over the summer but they’ve had one of the toughest roads through the early portion of this season that I can remember. After going up against the Cup champs last night and dropping a tough 4-2 loss, the boys are back in action against the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning to finish off the back-to-back set.
If I’m being honest, I would have felt a lot better about tonight’s game if the Oilers had been able to pull off a win last night in Washington. Unfortunately, the boys’ ship was sunk by some costly mistakes and untimely goals against and an otherwise decent road effort was wasted. The good news is that they get the chance to get right back to work and try to right the wrongs from 24 hours ago, but the downside is that they have to try to make it happen against the Tampa Bay Lightning. To pull this one off, the Oilers will need to get all of the good parts from last night’s game, the waves of offensive pressure and cycling the puck in the o-zone come to mind, but they’ll also have to do a much better job of taking care of their own zone. There were a handful of times where the swarm tried to make a comeback and Tampa has way too many offensive weapons at their disposal to be able to play loose defensively and expect to walk away with two points.
Another big story leading up to tonight’s game is that Mikko Koskinen will be back between the pipes and continuing his bid to take over the net and even become The Answer. For some Oilers fans, the guy has already done enough with three straight wins to earn a run as the team’s starter, but that decision is ultimately up to the coaches and it will be very interesting to see how things play out of it he gets another ‘W’ tonight. All I know for sure is that it’s been a while since we’ve had a good old-fashioned goalie battle in Edmonton and I’m going into this thing with the mindset that some competition could be good for both of these guys. We’ve talked about the need for guys to push each other at basically every position and I don’t see why it should be any different in net. At this point, all I care about is that someone stops the puck and can do it consistently. Maybe Koskinen steals the net for a little while is exactly what Talbot needs to get himself going again?
In 2017-18, the Oilers and Lightning split their two games, starting with a big 6-2 Oilers win at Rogers Place in February before dropping the rematch in mid-March.
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||52.63||56.59|
Numbers courtesy of Corsica (fancies at 5×5)
Outside of Mikko Koskinen getting the start between the pipes, the Oilers haven’t put too much info out about what the lineups will look like just yet. Jack Michaels tweeted out that that Gravel, Rattie, and Yamamoto were likely to draw in after being healthy scratches last night, and it will be interesting to see where everyone slots in.
***UPDATED**** Looks like Chiasson, Puljujarvi, and Garrison are out. Jim Matheson tweeted that Chiasson got banged up and Puljujarvi well… sideburns.
Even without Victor Hedman in the lineup over the past few games, the Lightning haven’t missed a beat as their impressive overall depth has been able to step up and fill the void.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Bolts have found, well, lightning in a bottle with the chemistry that Anthony Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph have. Their ability to break down the opponent’s defense with their relentless forecheck gives the Lightning a strong and reliable third line that can also create offense. The Lightning have the sort of depth the Oilers could have had (you know what I mean), which has helped them out in so many games this season. If the Steven Stamkos line falls silent, Brayden Point’s line can carry the offense. When Point’s line falters, Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are usually wreaking havoc on other teams.
The Lightning have fared well enough in Victor Hedman’s absence, but it hasn’t been the smoothest adjustment. It was nice to see Slater Koekkoek get his first goal in nearly a calendar year, and he’s playing with the sort of confidence that we haven’t seen in a very long time (maybe ever, at least at the NHL level). Head coach Jon Cooper confirmed that Hedman wouldn’t return until later this week, which means the Bolts may need to draw up a new plan to stop McDavid. Weak team around him or not, he still has the ability to break down a team’s defense by himself. If Ottawa’s third goal on Sunday night was any indication (though that entire play was just a series of unfortunate events), the Lightning still have some ways to go to figure out how to stabilize their blueline in Hedman’s absence.
Game Day Prediction: Despite a valiant effort and a late push to tie things up late, the Oilers drop tonight’s game by a 3-2 score.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: The third line plays reasonably well but still doesn’t come within a country mile of scoring a goal.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: I looked to see how much tickets are for tonight’s game and I found some going for $17/each. I also put together a last minute flight from Edmonton to Miami and found one (return) for $850 with taxes. At $867 all in, the cost of flying to Miami to go to tonight’s game costs about the same as a single ticket to Rogers Place and a Bobby Nicks burger combo.
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 11/06/2018 – 12:00 pm MT