Happy game day, Nation! Here we are with a Sunday Funday edition of the GDB as the Edmonton Oilers get set to face off against the Anaheim Ducks for the first time this season.
I don’t know about you guys but anytime I see the Ducks on the schedule, I feel my blood starting to boil. I don’t know if I’m still salty about Ryan Kesler’s pad holding bullshit from the playoffs two years ago or if it’s the years of watching this team beat the Oilers down on the regular that has caused me to despise them so much, but whatever the source is, my hatred for Anaheim is real and it is not going away. Even as new guys come and go on both sides, there’s still plenty of history between these two clubs that inspires a fiery passion from both the players on the ice and the fanbase alike, and I’m expecting (hoping?) those angry vibes to translate into some exciting hockey. At least, that’s the theory anyway.
Adding to the overall intrigue for tonight’s matchup is the fact that the Pacific Division is so tight right now with the separation between first and sixth place being only a few points, which makes this a must-win. If the Pacific stays this way all season, winning these four-point swing games becomes even more important considering the obviously limited playoff spots and the potential for tie-breakers down the road, and that doesn’t even factor in the general satisfaction that comes with beating the Ducks. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we need the Oilers to win tonight’s game, preferably in regulation if they can swing it. That said, if our two-point dreams are going to become a reality, we’re going to need another strong goaltending performance and to keep getting contributions from guys not playing on the first line as they did against Jersey.
Tonight’s game marks the first of four meetings between these two clubs with the next one not coming up until the end of February, which could mean some huge four-point swing nights at the end of the season. In 2018-19, the Oilers went 2-1-0-1 against the Ducks with both teams putting up eight goals apiece over those four games.
|LAST 10 GAMES||4-4-2||4-5-1|
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)
Friendly reminder that Ryan Kesler has this horrible tattoo pic.twitter.com/Hm8tmaA0TZ
— Baggedmilk – Oilers Beet writer (@jsbmbaggedmilk) February 24, 2019
Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian
Neal – RNH – Chiasson
Khaira – Sheahan – Archibald
Granlund – Haas – P. Russell
Nurse – Bear
Klefbom – Persson
K. Russell – Benning
Seeing as the Oilers rolled over the Devils a couple of days ago, I didn’t expect too many lineup changes against Ducks outside of maybe Joakim Nygard slotting back in but it was not meant to be. Instead, Dave Tippett is rolling with the same crew and starter that shut out the Devils on Friday night, a tactic that I don’t think many would argue.
Comtois – Getzlaf – Kase
Rakell – Henrique – Silfverberg
Jones – Steel – Terry
Ritchie – Grant – Rowney
Mahura – Fowler
Lindholm – Gudbranson
Larsson – Del Zotto
Right now, the Ducks aren’t getting anything done with their power play and I’d like to see things stay that way. I don’t know if they’re not chopping enough wood or carrying enough water with the man advantage, but I’d rather not see the Oilers help them get out of the hole they’re in. Right now, the Ducks don’t have anybody playing at a point per game pace, Jakub Silfverberg is leading the team with 13 points, which is a concern for me since our boys have a tendency of being generous with players that need to get off the schneid.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
What needs fixing? The Ducks’ power play was ranked 30th in the 31-team NHL going into Friday’s games around the league. It was only 4 for 42 (9.5 percent). By way of contrast, the Boston Bruins were No. 1 in the league with a 31.4 percent success rate (16 for 51).
So far, the four-day break has been good for the coaching staff, too.
“We’re revisiting all kinds of things as a staff,” Eakins said. “Here’s how we thought we could play. Are we accomplishing it? How does that look from this year to last year? Comparing certain stats, things like that. Are we moving in the right direction with our identity?
“It’s a great time where I touch base with every player individually.”
NHL teams often realize who they are and what they’ll become upon reaching the 20-game mark in the 82-game regular season. The 2019-20 Ducks are no exception, and Eakins and his assistants are asking questions and attempting to answer them this week.
Game Day Prediction: The Oilers get a strong effort from Koskinen on out and leave Anaheim with a 3-1 win.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Sportsnet will show a highlight pack of the three-goal playoff collapse from 2017 and it will piss us off all over again. Also, Connor McDavid gets his 400th point.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins picks up a 5v5 goal midway through the first period.