Welcome, friends, to a Hockey Night in Canada edition of the GDB as we get ourselves set up for tonight’s matchup between the Edmonton Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s the last game before the Christmas break and it would be really nice if the boys could get back in the win column before we all roll out of here.
With the Oilers not playing since Tuesday night, we’ve had all kinds of time to dissect and pour over everything that has gone wrong on this two-game losing streak while also putting together a plan for everything that had to change. As a fan, sorting out the problems of your team’s universe is part of the package and we’ve had most of a week to do exactly that. One big topic around here has been the way that Ken Hitchcock has put his new lines together and whether or not it will help get some guys going. We’ve got Draisaitl back to centring the second line, the Gritensity Line got a tweak with Lucic getting the bump, and Jesse Puljujarvi getting the best chance he’s had so far this season as he’ll slot in on the right side with McNuge. We haven’t seen Hitchcock changes his lines up all that much since he’s been behind the bench, but the ol’ blender certainly took a spin after dropping two ugly games against Vancouver and St. Louis.
As far as Christmas gifts go, having your last game before the break be against the Tampa Bay Lightning when you’re stuck in the rut of a two-game losing streak is like getting a lump of coal under the tree when you were desperately hoping for fresh Pogs. Needless to say, this will not be an easy game to try and right the ship with and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous. Tampa has the ability to put up goals in bunches and with Edmonton missing two of its best defenceman (three if you’re counting Sekera) then you’ve got the potential for a long night, and that’s before even factoring in that a break is coming in less than 12 hours. If the Oilers are already thinking of getting home to their families for a few days rather than focusing on this game then we’re all going to have a bad time. Given the injuries and general special teams suckery of late, we’re going to need everyone on the same page and firing on all cylinders.
Then again, would anyone really be surprised if the Oilers put up a touchdown tonight? Lately, I’ve found that the Oilers have played down to their competition a little bit, so maybe a date with the league’s best is exactly what they need to get fired up? Wishful thinking? I mean, I know that wasn’t the case when the Oilers first met up with the Lightning back in November, a game they lost quite handily, but I still think a guy should be allowed to believe in Christmas miracles. To put it lightly, a win against the Tampa Bay Lightning would be a wonderful send-off into the break and a simple gift that I think every Oilers fan could use right now. Considering the rollercoaster this season has been so far, I think two points would be a perfect present for both the team and the fans. And besides, a win tonight would mean more to the Oilers than it would to the Lightning anyway and it is the season of giving.
Happy Holidays, everybody! Enjoy the game.
|LAST 10 GAMES||6-3-1||9-0-1|
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||49.78||55.37|
Numbers courtesy of Corsica (fancies at 5×5)
RNH – McDavid – Puljujarvi
Rieder – Draisaitl – Chiasson
Caggiula – Brodziak – Kassian
Lucic – Spooner – Rattie
Nurse – Larsson
Gravel – Jones
Garrison – Benning
On Thursday, Gregor did a run through of the new lines and power play combinations and it goes without saying that Hitchcock is going for a new look. With the team dropping their last two games in disappointing fashion, the Oilers needed a reset and maybe these new trios will be what gets the engines firing again. Needless to say, if there was ever a time for the Oilers to get some scoring from all four of their lines, tonight would be a damned fine time to start.
Palat – Stamkos – Gourde
Johnson – Point – Kucherov
Killorn – Cirelli – Miller
Erne – Paquette – Callahan
Hedman – Girardi
McDonagh – Cernak
Stralman – Sergachev
The Tampa Bay Lightning have eight players with 20 points or more. By comparison, the Oilers have three. Needless to say, we’ll need an all-time Hitchcockian lockdown and some answered prayers by the Hockey Gords if we’re going to keep them off the board.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The two players Tampa Bay has to contain are Connor McDavid (obviously) and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid has 16 points in his last 10 games and Draisaitl has 14 points in the same stretch. Alex Chiasson has been a surprise scoring machine with 15 goals this season. That puts him third on the team, behind only McDavid and Draisaitl. He’s also shooting at an absurd 31%. But Tampa Bay has the talent throughout the lineup to mitigate his impact. The biggest issue I see for Edmonton is their distinct lack of scoring depth past McDavid (49), Draisaitl (42), and Nugent-Hopkins (31). The next closest player has 19 points (Chiasson). Compare that to Tampa Bay who has eight players with 20 or more points and three players averaging over a point per game.
If there is one area that could pose an issue for Tampa Bay, it will be the play of Mikko Koskinen. The Oilers netminder has put together a solid season thus far. He has a GAA of 2.18 and a Save Percentage of .928. That’s pretty good given the team in front of him. If Koskinen plays up to the level he did during the Oilers’ recent surge, this game could get really interesting.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Despite putting forth a valiant effort, the Oilers are simply outmatched and fall short and fall by a 4-2 score.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: There have been dads waiting all year to wear their Santa costume to the game and tonight is their night. Live your best life, sirs.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: With this being the last game for a little bit and also falling on a Saturday night, Rogers Place runs out of beer which prompts staff to start digging a tunnel towards the Labatt brewery. The result is a steady flow of emergency beer and an increase to your property taxes by another 3.26%.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 12/22/2018 – 11:30 am MT