Good morning, Nation! Here we are with yet another Saturday matinee edition of the GDB as our beloved Edmonton Oilers get set to take on the Arizona Coyotes in what will surely be a massive Pacific Division matchup.
Before the Oilers take off for their bye week, they’ve got one last piece of business to take care of as Taylor Hall and the Arizona Coyotes visit Rogers Place for a Saturday matinee, and with the Pacific Division standings being as close as they are, this is undoubtedly a huge game for Edmonton. Right now, the Oilers are chasing the Coyotes for the division lead and winning today’s game would be a huge step towards grabbing that spot as they head into a 10-day break. Now that we’re in the back half of the season, it seems like the pressure to win rises exponentially and these divisional games become as important as it gets. As of this morning, first and fifth place in the Pacific are separated by only two points and that means closing out these four pointers are crucial for not only maintaining pace but also for putting space between Edmonton and the teams chasing them. Needless to say, the Oilers need to do whatever it takes to put two more points in the bank before the break.
The other obvious storyline for tonight’s game is that Taylor Hall will be making his return to Edmonton for the first time as a Coyote after being acquired from the Devils back in mid-December. Now that he’s back in the Pacific Division and playing along with the likes of Phil Kessel, the Coyotes have a different look and feel than we’re used to, and it will be up to the Oilers to figure out a way to shut them down while also producing opportunities for themselves on the offensive side of the puck. As you’ll see in the numbers section below, the Coyotes score less than the Oilers do (they have five fewer goals in two more games), but they allow far fewer goals against which will certainly be a challenge to overcome. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that the Coyotes are still the defensive team we know and hate but they’ve found a way to add some offence into the mix which makes them a different animal to handle.
Tonight’s contest marks the third of four meetings between these two clubs with the next coming up on February 4th in Glendale. Over the first two games, each side has secured a win with both contests requiring extra time to reach a conclusion.
|LAST 10 GAMES||6-3-1||5-4-1|
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||48.41||48.53|
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)
Neal – McDavid – Archibald
RNH – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Nygard – Sheahan – P. Russell
Gagner – Haas – Chiasson
Klefbom – Larsson
Nurse – Bear
K. Russell – Jones
Over the past couple of weeks, the Oilers have really started to hit their stride in terms of producing offence from through their lineup and it’s a trend that I’m really hoping can continue after this afternoon and beyond the bye-week break. The lines shown above were what the Oilers were rocking at practice, but there haven’t been any updates since but I’ll go ahead and update things if anything changes.
Hall – Dvorak – Garland
Keller – Soderberg – Schmaltz
Course – Stepan – Kessel
Grabner – Richardson – Hinostroza
Ekman-Larsson – Demers
Chychrun – Goligoski
Oesterle – Hjalmarsson
Looking at the Coyotes’ stats page, the thing that stuck out to me was the balanced scoring they have from through their lineup, and that the real battle could come from how the depth lines match up against each other. If the Oilers’ third and fourth lines can outscore what the Coyotes can produce then we should be in line for a nice little afternoon here. At least, that’s the theory anyway.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
When the ‘Yotes played deep and cycled in their “O” zone, it posed problems for the Canucks’ “D” men. Unfortunately, there was too much puck-watching by the Coyotes and not enough support for their linemates or movement away from the puck to generate many scoring chances.
In essence, there was too much “one and done” and loss of the precious puck to the home team. Many of the ‘Yotes seemed invisible at times, mere passengers on a slow-moving train to a destination called defeat. It seemed a blessing that the Canucks were at times just as inept as the Coyotes were.
It was certainly disappointing to watch the Coyotes’ performance against the Canucks, especially after they made it clear the day before and again pregame that this contest was going to be approached as if it was a playoff game. Coach Tocchet stated that with the NHL break coming up after Saturday’s matinee game in Edmonton, the Coyotes needed to “empty the tank.” Instead, it looked as if the tank was empty from the start.
Let’s hope there’s an effective “response” game that reminds us all of the desert dogs’ resilience come Saturday afternoon in Edmonton. Win and come home to warmer weather, boys. Let’s go Coyotes!
Game Day Prediction: Oilers take it 3-2 and head off into the sunset to enjoy their bye week. I believe.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Seeing as it is a tundra outside right now, Rogers Place sells twice as much alcohol as normal as Oilers fans will do anything to keep themselves warm. Or, at least, numb the pain a little bit.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Gregor predicted he’d score on Tuesday night against the Predators and it never happened, so I’m going to go ahead and call Patrick Russell’s first NHL goal here and now. One of us needs to get this one.
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