Outside of the obvious increase in overall talent, the one area that separates the top teams in the west from those battling for the wildcard spots is their records on home ice. Nashville is 15-7, Winnipeg 15-6-2, Vegas is 15-3-3, San Jose is 15-4-4 and Calgary is 13-4-4. Meanwhile, Minnesota is 10-7-3, Edmonton is 10-9-1, Anaheim is 10-6-8, Colorado is 9-6-5 and Vancouver is 9-9-1.
The Oilers have seven games before the All-Star break and subsequent bye week, and six of them are on home ice. They need to string together some wins at home and keep pace in the wildcard hunt and hope that the return of Oscar Klefbom in February can give them a needed boost to stick in the race.
But if they don’t take advantage of home ice then they will likely have to play catchup in February and March, and history suggests it is very difficult to make up ground late in the season due to the Bettman loser point.
The Oilers home record is the best example of their Jekyll and Hyde personality.
In their ten home wins they have allowed eleven goals. Yes, only eleven goals. They’ve allowed two goals four times, one goal three times and have three shutouts. They’ve scored 35 goal in their ten victories. Outscoring teams 35-11 is outstanding, but the issue is their other ten home games.
In those ten they are 0-9-1 and have looked lost defensively. They’ve allowed 7, 6, 6, 6, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4 and 3 goals, for a total of 48 goals against, and they’ve scored 25 goals.
In ten games you allow eleven goals, but in the other ten you surrender 48. It seems impossible, but I double-checked my numbers and the Oilers have been that polar opposite defensively.
If they aren’t prepared to play smart defensively tonight the Panthers will expose them. The Panthers are 10th in the NHL averaging 3.15 goals/game. They can score. Their problem is they give up way too much. They are 28th in GA at 3.51/game. Edmonton can’t get sucked in to exchanging changes with the Panthers, because Florida will outscore them.
The Panthers are 9-11-2 on the road and in their 13 road losses they’ve allowed 64 goals and have surrendered 5+ goals seven times. Their road games mirror the Oilers home games.
Ken Hitchcock has reunited his first line for tonight, mainly because he wants Connor McDavid to go head-to-head against Aleksander Barkov. I won’t be surprised to see both centres play upwards of 24 minutes tonight.
Draisaitl– McDavid – Chiasson
Lucic – RNH – Puljujarvi
Rieder – Khaira – Kassian
Gambardella – Brodziak – Spooner
Jones – Larsson
Nurse – Russell
Gravel – Benning
Alex Petrovic is out with a concussion and Matt Benning draws in, while Joseph Gambardella slots in for Ty Rattie. The Oilers have three injured D-men (Klefbom, Sekera and Petrovic) and Manning still isn’t in the lineup. So he is 10th on the depth chart and makes $2.25 million. My goodness the cap and asset management of that trade gets uglier by the moment.
“I think Koski (Koskinen) has hit a wall a bit, but I think he is starting to come out of it. I love his attitude, he isn’t afraid to look in the mirror and know what is wrong,” said Ken Hitchcock this morning on why Talbot is starting again. Talbot was excellent against Anaheim, and he got a mercy pull in San Jose.
Head coach Bob Boughner switched up his top line, moving Dadonov down with Hoffman and sliding Malgin up fro the third line. Last Tuesday Boughner benched Huberdeau, Hoffman and Yandle for the final 32 minutes of the game after the Panthers gave up shorthanded goals five minutes apart. After the game he said the trio was “out to lunch.”
When a coach benches some of the top players it sends a much stronger message than having your fourth line ride the pine.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Edmonton (20-20-3) has dropped eight of 10 games but is only a couple of points back of a wild-card spot. Despite their struggles, the Oilers are looking at a golden chance to make a push. Six of their next seven games are on home ice, and only two of their next eight opponents are currently in a playoff position.
Sure, the middling Oilers have no right to look down on any club, but the potential to get on a roll is right there — provided they find something that’s been in short supply this season.
”This road trip, we played two really good games and two bad games. We’ve got to find that consistency,” forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said.
Consistency has also eluded the Panthers (17-17-7), who have dropped three straight games and arrive in Edmonton after a 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday to kick off a five-game road trip.
Well, the Panthers have been consistent in one area of late — falling behind. Florida has surrendered the first goal in seven consecutive contests, four times within the first two minutes.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have lost five consecutive home games getting outscored 25-13. It’s been ugly at home, but they buck the trend and pick up their first home win since December 14th. Oilers win 4-1.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Panthers are averaging the second most powerplay opportunities in the NHL at 3.6/game and their PP is deadly at 27% (4th best). They score a PP goal.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Lucic scores a goal in consecutive games for the first time since April 4th and 6th, 2017. Florida is one of six teams that Lucic has 10+ career goals against and after ending his 41-game drought he has some extra pep in his step and scores his first goal at home since March 5th, 2018.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 1/10/2019 – 12:30 pm MST