Welcome, friends, to the Edmonton Oilers’ fourth tune-up game as they get set for the 2019-20 redemption tour with tonight’s battle coming against the hated Calgary Flames.
Whether it’s a pre-season or regular season, matchups against the Flames just seem to hit a little bit differently, ya know? Even though these two teams haven’t had a playoff matchup in ages and the overall hatred between them seems to have settled as a result, the Battle of Alberta is still must-see TV to me and that has me jacked up for tonight’s game. And sure, another pre-season game that features barely any NHL vets certainly dampens the excitement a little bit, but even so, there are still plenty of reasons to watch this hockey game. With jobs available on both sides of the ice, I’ll be expecting the remaining prospects and scratch tickets that are playing tonight to come out flying as they work to earn an NHL job.
From an Oilers perspective, there are still plenty of unknowns in terms of who is going to stick around when the puck drops for real on October 2nd and who will be discarded under the rock of obscurity. If there’s one thing Ken Holland has done in his time here so far it’s bringing in guys on one-year show-me deals that have something to prove, and while we don’t know if any of them will actually pan out, this approach is creating an environment where spots are no longer guaranteed. For a team that has often been accused of giving players jobs whether they’ve earned it or not, this organizational shift is long overdue. Besides, the laws of mathematics would dictate that some of these gambles have to work out eventually, right? RIGHT!? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
I should note that I was able to find the top six forwards and the d-pairing for tonight’s game but that the bottom-six trios are only a guess on Gregor’s part. Jason told me that the bottom-six could get changed up until puck drop so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how things actually go. Either way, I like seeing more NHL vets actually playing tonight.
You have to assume Brandon Davidson scores tonight, right?
Koskinen will start tomorrow. Tippett expect a Smith to join team for practice on Sunday as Saturday is an off day.
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) September 20, 2019
1. Mikko Koskinen had a tough night against the Canucks in his pre-season and while I’m not going to put too much stock into a single tune-up game, it’s obviously important that he gets himself back on track tonight against Calgary. Vancouver was able to sneak a few goals past his glove hand, an area of concern for Oilers fans everywhere, and that’s a trend that needs to stop in short order if we’re going to have a chance to move this thing forward. Gregor got some interesting quotes from a goalie coach in his article from this morning regarding Koskinen’s glove hand and I thought this one stuck out:
“Great shot by the forward, right from downtown. Koskinen doesn’t have a great glove hand. I think that is fair, and it likely won’t improve that much due to his age. So you work on improving his positioning and subtle techniques. Even a great glove hand could get beat on that shot from that distance. If anything, what I’d want on that play is the defenceman to let Koskinen have the shooter, because he was a left shot and had fewer openings to shoot at, and take away the pass. The goal scorer (Beagle) was in a much more advantageous position.”
2. Dave Tippett mentioned last night that the Oilers would only be bringing 29 to 31 players to Kelowna which triggered a bunch of cuts to the roster this morning. I like the idea of trimming things down as quickly as possible so that the final group of 23 can start to familiarize themselves with the systems and each other.
Here are the cuts: Tyler Benson, Cameron Hebig, Caleb Jones, Kirill Maksimov, Cooper Marody, Ryan McLeod, Anthony Peluso, Dmitri Samorukov, Dylan Wells
Waivers: Josh Currie, Joseph Gambardella, Keegan Lowe, Brad Malone
3. The Flames released former Oiler Eric Gryba from his PTO on Thursday, leaving Cam Talbot, Milan Lucic, and Tobias Rieder as our former friends that are still with the club. Like the Olympic glasses that you used to be able to get at Petro Canada in the 90s, the Flames are trying to collect the whole set.
4. According to Flamesnation’s Pat Steinberg, it seems like the Flames will need to move a contract or two out if they want to fit Matthew Tkachuk’s new deal in under the cap, meaning someone like Mark Jankowski or Austin Czarnik could get moved as a result.
5. With only four games left in the pre-season, we’re getting to a point now where the rosters start to fill up with more NHL regulars and while the record in these games doesn’t matter, they do give us a better idea of how this team is built relative to its competition. That said, Edmonton’s 6-1 pre-season record in 2018 was second in the league behind only Detroit (7-1), and we all know how that turned out for both clubs.
6. Through three preseason games, the Oilers have killed off eight of 10 powerplays against and I’ll be watching to see if that trend continues as we move closer to October 2nd. There were so many nights where the PK killed the team’s chances of winning last season that getting improvement in this area is absolutely crucial. In 2018-19, the Oilers’ 74.8% kill rate ranked them in 30th place overall, which is, obviously, nowhere near good enough.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers get a late goal in the third period to secure a 4-3 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Someone will start off their weekend with a bang after they walk away from Rogers Place with a cheque for $32,000 thanks to our unparalleled love of the 50/50.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Brandon Davidson scores a goal, stops at centre ice, and pulls off his jersey to reveal at Tobias Rieder jersey for Bob Nicholson who is watching from the press box.
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 9/20/2019 – 12:00 pm MT