Good morning, Nation! Here we are with yet another matinee edition of the GDB as our beloved Edmonton Oilers get set to take on the Boston Bruins in what will surely be a mighty test for our boys.
Considering the light January schedule and the desperate need to get some wins on the books, the Oilers will have to put their best foot forward if they plan on taking today’s contest with the Bruins. While Boston has slowed down from the torrid pace they had going on earlier in the season, they’re still finding ways to get points even in their losses and there’s no question that this will be one of the biggest tests the Oilers have faced in a while. They produce a tonne of offence, they don’t give up a whole lot, and all four lines can burn you with timely goals if given the opportunity, meaning that Edmonton will have to come up with a much stronger defensive effort than we’ve seen from them in quite some time. Not only will they have to be better defensively, but they’ll also have to figure out how to play for a full 60 minutes which is something that has been a real problem over the past couple of nights. Can it be done? Yes. Will it be easy? Absolutely not.
For this season’s flavour of the Oilers, consistency has been a major challenge and it’s been incredibly frustrating to watch them change so much depending on the game or shift. Yeah, Forrest Gump loved not knowing what was coming next in his box of chocolates — how’s that for a timely reference — but that doesn’t really work so well when it comes to professional sports. The best teams in this league tend to play the same way every single night and that’s been a massive struggle for the Oilers for as long as I can remember. The good news is that they tend to play up to their competition, so I’m hoping that a date with the Bruins is exactly what they need to keep themselves moving forward. If they can rise to the challenge then the outcome of today’s game could come down to who makes fewer mistakes with the puck, but if they come out flat, then we could be looking at exactly the kind of morning that we’d all hope to avoid.
Today’s matinee marks the first of two meetings between these two clubs with the next not coming until mid-February when the Oilers will either be in the midst of a playoff push or, once again, looking to sell ahead of February 24th’s trade deadline.
|LAST 10 GAMES||3-6-1||4-1-5|
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||48.36||49.69|
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)
Neal – McDavid – Kassian
RNH – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Nygard – Haas – Chiasson
Khaira – Sheahan – Archibald
Klefbom – Bear
Nurse – Russell
Lagesson – Larsson
Dave Tippett mixed up the lines ahead of Thursday night’s game against the Sabres and I was into how they all worked together for the most part. I especially liked the way the second line of Nuge-Draisaitl-Yamamoto played and I’m very hopeful that they’ll be able to continue on with another strong performance. Now, that said, I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Oilers need more skill on the wings to become a legitimate threat but I do appreciate the way this latest shuffle has looked so far. Based on yesterday’s practice lines, we’re likely to see the same lineup outside of Mikko Koskinen getting the start in net.
***UPDATE*** Jack Michaels just tweeted that Smith is getting the start, meaning that Koskinen is likely still battling whatever illness he has going on.
Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak
DeBrusk – Krejci – Coyle
Bjork – Kuraly – Heinen
Nordstrom – Lindholm – Wagner
Chara – McAvoy
Krug – Carlo
Moore – Grzelcyk
Looking at the Bruins’ stats page, they have 14 players with more than 10 points as compared to the Oilers having nine which is a pretty significant difference. While the top end production is relatively similar (give or take), this tells me that the depth lines are likely to play a major role in how this game plays out. Now that the Oilers are getting a little bit of depth scoring, will they be able to match up with what the Bruins (mostly) had going for them all season?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
When the Bruins signed Halak to a two-year deal, $5.5 million contract in 2018, most expected him to settle in as the backup to Tuukka Rask. So far, Halak more than lived up to his contract.
In his first year in Boston, Halak played in 40 games. He finished with 22 wins, a .922 SV%, and a 2.34 GAA. Those are starting goalie numbers.
Halak came up big last year when Rask struggled in the early parts of the season. When Rask took a leave of absence, Halak stepped in and gave the Bruins a chance to win every night. Then, even when Rask came back, coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t afraid to play Halak down the stretch.
This year has been more of the same for Halak and the Bruins. Friday’s win in Buffalo was Halak’s ninth win in 16 starts this season. He currently rocks a .928 SV% and a 2.22 GAA, both of which are higher than Rask’s marks.
Halak also has a knack for shutouts. After the victory over the Sabres, Halak now leads the NHL with three shutouts. That also was the 50th shutout of his career. Only 31 goalies in NHL history have that many shutouts.
Given his cap hit, Sweeney and his staff expected Halak to be better than the typical backup. However, his play so far likely exceeded even their wildest expectations.
Game Day Prediction: The last time I predicted that the other team would win our boys pulled out the W, so I’m going to maintain my consistency and go with a 4-2 Bruins victory.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Whether it’s a goal or a dirty play that goes unpenalized, Brad Marchand will do something that irritates us down to our very core because that’s the kind of player he is. Also, Sportsnet will talk about Jake DeBrusk growing up in Edmonton again just in case anybody forgot.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: At least one commercial break will be spent talking about the Patriots Wild Card game. Remember that you heard it here first.