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GDB Game Notes: Edmonton Oilers @ Boston Bruins

Things don’t get any easier for the Oilers after a frustrating overtime loss to the Sabres in Buffalo as the team will head to Boston for a matinee game with the Bruins.

1. You could make the argument that the Bruins are the best team in the league right now. They currently sit in a tie with the Washington Capitals for first place in the league with 59 points while the St. Louis Blues are right behind them with 58 points. I would give the edge to Boston right now given the fact they’ve only lost seven times in regulation in 42 games played. Will that be the case at the end of the season?

2. Facing the Bruins at the TD Gardens in Boston is a daunting task. It isn’t very often somebody comes into their stadium and exits with a win in regulation. The Bruins have a 14-1-9 record at home so far this season with their only regulation loss coming in early December to the Colorado Avalanche. Going back to last year, the Bruins posted a very impressive 29-9-3 record at home during the regular season. Despite that, they lost the most important game of the season on home ice that spring.

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3. The best way to beat the Bruins is to get them beyond regulation. In the 13 games that Boston has been tied after 60 minutes of play, they’ve ended up with just two wins. They’re 2-5 in overtime and 0-6 in the shootout. You’d expect a team with a dominant top-line like the Bruins have to thrive in three-on-three play, but that’s been far from the case.

4. Courtesy of Gregor, here is the Oilers scoring last year compared to this season, as well as the Bruins scoring, through 43 games.

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TEAM TOP-5 FORWARDS REST OF FORWARDS DEFENCE
2018/19 84 (183) 19 (59) 14 (73)
EDMONTON 86 (206) 28 (66) 11 (72)
BOSTON 86 (203) 34 (88) 19 (83)

5. Gregor added, the Oilers and Bruins top-five scorers are virtually identical. The difference tonight is McDavid and Draisaitl are on their own lines, while David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand play together. I assume McDavid will see a lot of them, so Draisaitl’s line needs to have a strong game. The Oilers depth scorers have outscored Boston’s since November first, and they need a strong game if the Oilers plan to win. They need a very strong team game to defeat the Bruins. In an odd stat, the Bruins lead the NHL with 11 OT/So losses. They have only won four of their last 14 games, with six of their 10 losses coming in OT/SO.

6. It’s interesting how the Oilers are always criticized for having a one-dimensional offence that relies almost entirely on McDavid and Draisaitl while the Bruins operate just fine with pretty much only one line. The Marchand, Pastrnak, and Bergeron line has 67 of the team’s 139 goals. Their second line of David Krejci, Charlie Coyle, and Jake DeBrusk have a modest 26 goals, but the bottom-six has produced almost nothing for the Bruins. Despite having half of their offence come from one line, Boston still manages to be a strong offensive team. They currently rank fifth in the goals in goals for with 139.

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7. The Bruins top duo of Marchand and Pastrnak are slowly creeping up to McDavid and Draisaitl at the top of the league’s scoring table. The once-massive lead between Edmonton’s dynamic duo and everyone else has now shrunk to just a few points. McDavid leads the league with 64 points and Draisaitl is right behind him with 63. Nathan MacKinnon is catching up with 62 points, while Pastrnak and Marchand have 60 and 59.

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8. Another reason Boston’s one-line strategy works for them is their elite defensive game. The Bruins are one of the best teams in the league at keeping the puck out of the net. They have three strong defensive pairs, forwards who play well in their own zone, and strong goaltending. They have the fourth-best expected goals for rating in the league and they’ve allowed the third-fewest goals, so it’s no fluke. You might see Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak’s combined .926 percentage and assume they’re relying heavily on goaltending, but it’s a full team effort.

9. Last game, the Oilers used Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl, and Kailer Yamamoto as the second line. It was a brand-new trio we haven’t seen before and it worked nicely. The line dominated for stretches and generated a wealth of scoring opportunities. But where does this leave McDavid? He currently has James Neal and Zack Kassian on his wings, which doesn’t give him much help. We’ve seen Yamamoto come up and impress early, so I wonder how long it is until Tyler Benson joins him.

10. Today marks the third of four early-morning Eastern matinee games for the Oilers this season. While this was generally a big issue for the team in the past, the Oilers have actually won both of their matinee games so far this season. Could it be that matinee games are no longer cursed for this organization?