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Photo Credit: © Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 31.0: Ride the Mile High (7pm MST, SNW)

Sports enthusiasts are suckers for comeback stories, or unexpected turnarounds. It gives you hope, and usually hits you right in the feels. When Daniel E. “Rudy” Ruettiger finally got to play at Notre Dame you were cheering, and then when his teammates carried him off the field you might have shed a tear. I know I did.

I will cry during a sports movie, or a dog movie, much more frequently than I would watching a romantic flick or something like Titanic.

I relate to the struggles in sports movies as realistic. You can relate to the sacrifice, loyalty and family. And don’t get me started on movies like Marley and Me. If you ever had your own dog you know what I’m talking about. Hell, just typing this thinking about taking Chuck to the vet to be put down gets me emotional.

It is good to feel that way, but sports movies are different. You get fired up, and even if you know the outcome you are still cheering for the underdog.

In 2017 the Colorado Avalanche were one of the worst teams in NHL history. They won 22 games, meaning they lost 73.2% of the games. Even the darkest year in the Decade of Darkness was never that bad.

It was the 10th lowest point total, 48, in the previous 25 years (full NHL seasons). The Avs were awful, but then last season they had one of the great single-season turnarounds we’ve seen.

They almost doubled their point total jumping from 48 to 97.
Semyon Varlamov’s SV% jumped from .898 to .920 and he played 27 more games.
Nathan MacKinnon had 53 points in 2017 in 82 games, but exploded to 97 points in 74 games.
Mikko Rantanen jumped from 38 points to 84.
Gabriel Landeskog went from 33 points to 62.

Tyson Barrie and Eric Johnson were better, and in Johnson’s case, healthier, and suddenly the Avs were a playoff team.

And they have improved even more this year. Rantanen leads the NHL with 48 points, MacKinnon is 2nd with 45 and the Avs are tied with Nashville for first place in the Central division with 39 points.

I’m sure Oilersnation wasn’t bursting with emotions watching the Avs’ Cinderella turnaround last season, but Colorado fans sure were, just like Oilers fans were in 2017 when Edmonton improved by 33 points to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade. Things can change quickly in the NHL, for some teams, and big improvements, or large dips in the standings have become more common.

Colorado is looking to build on last season, while the Oilers are hoping for a 20-point improvement to get back in the playoffs. A month ago the Avalanche came to Edmonton and easily defeated the Oilers 4-1. I thought it was the Oilers worst performance of the season. They were listless and looked disinterested for the entire game.

The most impressive aspect of the Avalanche’s solid start is they’ve only played eleven home games compared to 19 on the road. Eight of their next eleven games are at home and they will be looking to separate themselves from the rest of the Central Division, meanwhile the Oilers are just trying to claw their way into a playoff position.

Both teams are 7-2-1 in their previous ten games. The Avs have outscored their opponents 38-29 during that stretch while Edmonton has won with defence allowing 22 goals and scoring 24.

If the Oilers can contain the high-powered Avalanche first line then their defence and goaltending has truly turned a corner.

LINEUP…

Oilers

Chiasson-McDavid-Draisaitl
Khaira-RNH-Puljujarvi
Lucic-Brodziak-Kassian
Zykov-Spooner-Rattie

Klefbom-Larsson
Nurse-Russell
Gravel-Benning

Koskinen

Ken Hitchcock deployed Kyle Brodziak and McDavid’s line each for seven minutes against Johnny Gaudreau’s line at home on Sunday. McDavid’s line was outshot 6-2, while Brodziak’s trio was outshot 2-1. I suspect Hitchcock will want McDavid’s line, and McDavid and Draisaitl will want the challenge, against the dangerous Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen trio.

Those five are all in the top-16 in NHL scoring so the potential for offence is definitely there. The Avs have given up more goals lately, but they’ve also scored 14 more than Edmonton. It will be fun to watch how this matchup unfolds, but Hitchcock won’t be afraid to deploy his veteran line against Colorado’s top unit.

Avalanche

Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen
Jost-Compher-Wilson
Nieto-Soderberg-Calvert
Andrighetto-Kerfoot-Bourque

Girard-Johnson
Cole-Barrie
Nemeth-Zadorov

Varlamov

The Avs first line has scored 45% of their goals. They’ve been deadly so far, lighting the lamp 49 times. Their other forwards have scored 45 times, which is still solid production from the bottom nine. In case you’re wondering, the Oilers top line tonight has produced 43 goals and the other forwards have combined for 28 goals, but Drake Caggiula has seven of those and he isn’t in the lineup tonight. The difference between the Oilers top line and Colorado’s is that the Avs trio has played together all season, while Chiasson, McDavid and Draisaitl have played for long stretches with other linemates.

Regardless, the Avs forwards have scored 92 goals and Edmonton’s have produced 71. The overall depth scoring is a decided advantage for Colorado. The Oilers forwards have 15 PP goals, while Colorado’s forwards have 28.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Mile High Hockey:

The rough loss in Tampa Bay makes it easy to forget that the Avs ended their four game road trip with a respectable 2-2 record.

Despite the drubbing at the hands of the Lightning, Colorado still sits tied with Nashville at the top of the Central Division. Despite their place in the standings, these are a huge two points as the Avs might end up battling Edmonton for a Wild Card position at the end of the season.

This game gives us the two fastest skaters in the NHL and three legitimate Art Ross Trophy contenders – the defenders on both sides need to be ready to skate.

The Oilers will be looking for revenge as the Avalanche won the first matchup between these two teams last month in Edmonton.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Avs’ first ranked PP scores and Colorado wins 4-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers fans watch the Avs PP and wonder why can’t the Oilers move puck that quickly and precisely? It is a valid question.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Milan Lucic scores his second goal of the season.

MONTH OF GIVING…

Thank you to Curtis for his amazing bid of $19,500 on the amazing Full Acre package. Thanks to Ryan for donating it.

DAY SEVEN: Manny Viveiros coaches your child’s hockey team’s practice.

Todd McLellan started this a few years ago, and after he left Viveiros offered to keep it going. I love it.

  • Your son or daughter’s minor hockey team will have an hour practice at the community rink, or Rogers depending on availability, in January-March with Viveiros running the practice.
  • Viveiros will take the team on a tour of the Oilers coaches room and other facilities.
  • A signed Oilers jersey by every player on the team or a signed McDavid jersey.

You can bid by listening to TSN 1260 and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.

Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out Santas Anonymous.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Rama Lama

    I think that their top stars are preforming well…….but Connor is going to show them who is top dog!! If we had support for Connor like a Rantanen I can only imagine how may points he would have. In stead he has to carry his line mates almost each and every game.

    I say it’s time to get rid of the giveaway machine named Leon Driasatle and get Connor a real linemate.

  • Ty Guy

    Lucic should be offering up $20,000 for the primary assist on his next goal…..

    and how many more games before we get to wear blue again?!? really wish these were the norm and orange was alternate….

  • Natejax97

    OGDP – Oilers win and the next “old vet” in line comes forward with the media from another city to share more crap on how the team was run 6 years ago, because nobody from that time can stand to see any success for the Edmonton Oilers and media from other cities can’t wait to spew it all over Edmonton, their current players, and their fans.

  • grumpyKoala

    If we had to compare Drai to any others player around the league who will it be? My take is Phil Kessel, not an exact copy but very similar stats, somehow not that very far off playing ability, both having the benefits to be on and off playing with other stars player. I am curious of who you guys think of?

    • Rama Lama

      Great question……he is good on offence, but lacks the wheels or desire to play defence. I think that comparing him to Phil the Thrill is good, except that Phil seems to have learned to at least try when it comes to defence. If you watch LD closely it appalling just how many times the play dies on his stick.

      I know people disagree with me at this time on LD……..but if you watch him closely enough you will come around…..lol

      • YFC Prez

        Given everything you guys know about Hitch’s system. How vocal and concise he’s been with the media. His history in the league. Let me ask you both one question.

        If Leon Draisaitl were playing a defensively nonchalant game remotely close to what you guys are talking about. Do you think Hitch would keep him on his top line?

        Fun fact, Daisailts minutes per game have gone up over 4 minutes per game from TM to KH. One of the most defensive minded coaches in the history of the league is riding Draisaitl. Hard.