After 10 days away due to the All-Star Game and bye week, the Edmonton Oilers are back in action with a matinee affair against the Philadelphia Flyers.
What a weird start to 2019 it’s been for the Edmonton Oilers, right? After losing against the Detroit Red Wings in a miserable fashion in their last game before the break, the team rightfully punted Peter Chiarelli off his perch as the destroyer of hopes and dreams and then, thanks to the CBA mandated bye week, were able to disappear into the shadows for almost two weeks. Outside of Connor and Leon (mostly Connor) who were forced to talk about the state of the franchise at the All-Star game, the Oilers players were more or less able to hide away and let the heat die down before having to resurface and face the media in regards to Chiarelli’s dismissal.
Coming into today’s matinee, I really have no idea what to expect in terms of how this thing is going to shake out. The Oilers are playing their first game back after the bye week and the Flyers have already been on the ice since Monday, so the boys are going to have to find a way to shake off the rust without getting burned for it. Obviously, the Oilers will need to get their legs moving early to get themselves engaged but, more importantly, I think they’ll need to play a simple game rather than trying to get too cute and complicated. With the Flyers playing in their fourth game since their own bye week, the Oilers will have to play some catchup in terms of timing and execution and it’ll be imperative that they focus on the small details first before trying to do too much.
If the Oilers are going to win this hockey game, they’re going to have to get on their horse from the moment the puck drops, get strong goaltending, and shoot for the kind of execution that’s been missing in their game over the past month or so. Given everything that has gone on over the past few weeks, I hope that the players are coming back refreshed and motivated because it’s going to take every single one of them playing at their best if the Oilers are going to pull this playoffs thing off. While it’s been nice to have a break from the insanity of another trying season, I think that many of us are ready for the boys to get back to work and start chipping away at the monumental task of clawing their way back into playoff contention.
|LAST 10 GAMES||4-6-0||7-3-0|
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||47.06||50.98|
Numbers courtesy of Corsica (fancies at 5×5)
Lucic – McDavid – Rattie
Rieder – Draisaitl – Chiasson
Khaira – RNH – Kassian
Cave – Brodziak – Puljujarvi
Nurse – Russell
Gravel – Larsson
Manning – Benning
Alright, so I don’t know what’s going on with these forward line combos but that’s what Hitchcock was running with at practice this week. I guess the break inspired him to fire up the blender and give it one of the longest spin cycles we’ve seen all year. The interesting part will be how long these trios last as Hitchock has been known to move guys around if he doesn’t have a good feel for how the game is going, and I suspect we’ll see some of that today.
Van Riemsdyk – Giroux – Konecny
Lindblom – Couturier – Vorachek
Laughton – Patrick – Simmonds
Varone – Vorobyov – Raffl
Provorov – Sanheim
MacDonald – Gudas
Hagg – Folin
Coming into today’s game, the Flyers are absolutely rolling to the tune of a six-game winning streak, and that’ll be a mighty challenge for a rusty Oilers squad that is playing their first game back from the bye week. As I wrote above, the boys are going to need to hit the ground running if they’re going to pull this thing off.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
It’s hard to say the team has been significantly “better” under Gordon’s stewardship, although their record has improved. Hakstol was let go after a 12-15-4 record this season, while his replacement has so far posted a 9-8-2 record. Despite the slight tweaking in the forwards’ ice time, the team’s overall scoring has ticked down from a 3.00 goals-per-game average through the first 31 games to 2.63 in the 19 games following the coaching change.
The big difference that has brought the team over .500 has come from allowing fewer goals. The Flyers are averaging nearly one fewer goal against per game (3.75 average under Hakstol; 2.84 under Gordon). While it would be nice to attribute that to the shuffling on defense, the team’s shots against have actually risen and advanced possession metrics like Corsi and Fenwick have fallen.
The improved record is almost entirely due to the players who play all 60 minutes, though. The team-wide save percentage under Hakstol was .874, which has jumped to .912 under Gordon, thanks mostly to the stellar contributions of rookie netminder Carter Hart.
Game Day Prediction: The Oilers feel refreshed after the break and use the extra energy to power themselves to a 3-2 road win, snapping the Flyers winning streak in the process.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: After pulling out a big win in Philly, the boys head out on the town to grab themselves some celebratory Philly Cheese Steaks.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Before the game started, Brandon Manning offered to take his teammates on a tour of Philadelphia, showing them everything from the Rocky stairs to the Liberty Bell. Everyone had a great time.
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 2/02/2019 – 9:00 am MT