It’s American Thanksgiving weekend and you know what that means — an excuse to play hooky from real life and drink beers for daytime sports! Today, we’ve got a Black Friday game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Anaheim Ducks, as they face off for the first of four meetings this season.
Tuesday was a strange day. Early that morning, we found out that Todd McLellan took the bullet for Peter Chiarelli’s handiwork and that Ken Hitchcock would be his replacement behind the bench. The fact that the Oilers were able to play that night, compete hard, and ultimately walk away with two big points is very impressive. Having your coach get the axe in the morning and then playing an NHL game that night without so much as a single practice with the new guy had to be a strange day at the office. Fortunately for all of us, the boys gutted out a ballsy win that stopped the bleeding and kicked off the Hitchcock era with a much needed win.
When speaking to the media following his first on-ice session with the team, Hitchcock said that they worked on only a single minor adjustment at their first practice together which makes complete sense at this stage. He’s not going to overload the guys with new concepts at their first practice but I’d still love to know what they were working on and how it differed from McLellan’s game plan. We all know that defence is crucial on Hitchcock-led teams and that’s something that hasn’t always been a huge focus around here. Another thing I’ll be watching for is whether or not he can make sure that his team keeps their pace up for 60 minutes like they did against the Sharks, or if Tuesday’s game was the age-old ‘new coach bump.’
From where I blog, there’s no better opponent for Hitch to see what the Oilers are actually made of than in their first game of the season against the Anaheim Ducks. Are they the team that was able to get better and better as the game wore on against the Sharks, or are they the team that got blown out by Vegas at home only a couple days earlier? There haven’t been many teams that the Oilers have visibly hated over the years, but the Ducks would certainly make the list, and I’m thinking that it’s the perfect test to face in the early days of the Hitchcock era. Even last year, at the peak of their death spiral into ineptitude, the Oilers managed to get themselves fired up for a showdown with Kesler and co, so I’ll be expecting nothing less again today.
Last season, the Oilers and Ducks split a very evenly matched four-game set with each team picking up a win at home and on the road.
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||51.28||40.3|
Numbers courtesy of Corsica (fancies at 5×5)
Caggiula – McDavid – Draisaitl
Spooner – Nuge – Chiasson
Lucic – Brodziak – Kassian
Khaira – Marody – Rattie
Klefbom – Larsson
Nurse – Russell
Gravel – Benning
After yesterday’s practice, Ken Hitchcock mentioned that he wouldn’t be making many changes to the lineup that just won the night before, which isn’t exactly surprising. Even with the acquisition of Chris Wideman, I didn’t expect Hitchcock to throw him into the lineup without a practice and also given the fact that he grabbed a late flight (probably the first he could get) out of Ottawa last night. One thing we saw on Tuesday night was that Hitchcock likes to line match and it will be interesting to see how he deploys his four lines.
I know I saw some people talking about how Lucic was playing on the fourth line, but if you base your thinking around actual minutes played then you’ll see that the 27-28-44 line played quite a bit more than Marody’s trio. I imagine we’ll see the same thing today.
Rakell – Getzlaf – Kase
Aberg – Henrique – Silfverberg
Cogliano – Kesler – Sherwood
Ritchie – Kossila – Gibbons
Larsson – Manson
Mahura – Montour
Pettersson – Welinski
The Ducks have a lot of injuries to key players (Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Corey Perry, Patrick Eaves, Korbinian Holzer), which gives the Oilers the opportunity to take advantage of a depleted lineup. Having Fowler and Lindholm out with injuries is a swift kick to the shins for the Ducks, opening up an opportunity for Hitchcock to look for advantages in his matchups.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
On October 1st, two days before the dawn of a new season, Anaheim Ducks’ General Manager Bob Murray made a curious move in acquiring a young Swedish right-winger by the name of Pontus Aberg off of waivers from the Edmonton Oilers.
On October 21st, he was put onto the top line alongside Ryan Getzlaf. Since then, the 25-year-old former second round pick has thrived in Anaheim, currently on pace for 41 points and almost 30 goals for the season. Not bad for a waiver-wire pickup.
Now, it’s important to note that, while Aberg certainly has skill and is having a great season with the Ducks so far, he is not exactly a first line superstar in the making. If anything, he’s an under-the-radar middle-six option with quick feet and a jumpy trigger finger. A guy who can give this team some much needed depth scoring in a role similar to Ondrej Kase.
Game Day Prediction: The Anaheim Ducks have a ton of injuries right now, including some key pieces to their back end, and aren’t able to handle the McDouble shift. Oilers take this one 3-2.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: He doesn’t play today, but Chris Wideman ends up in Anaheim in time for the game. He takes an Uber from the hotel to the arena and doesn’t say a single word.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Ken Hitchcock remembers everyone’s name today, telling Ty Rattie that he still knows his name and that he still won’t be allowed on the ice.
Coming up on Thursday night at midnight, our annual Black Friday collecting drops for a limited time only. We’ve got hats, a tee, hoodie, and toques and they’re pretty dope so you’ll definitely want to check it out. Every year, we sell out of all of these items so be sure to get to NationGear.ca as fast as you can if you want to score something to beautify your wardrobe.
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 11/23/2018 – 10:00 am MST