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GDB 68.0: Extend the Streak (6:30pm MT, SNW)

After a monstrous start to the week that saw the Oilers demolish the Nashville Predators and steal a win from the Dallas Stars, the boys will be looking to extend their winning streak to four games tonight when they face off against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Over the past three games, the most impressive thing, for me, has to be the number of ways that the Oilers have been able to close out wins. Whether it was getting two points via their special teams as they did against the Jets, beating the opponent into the ground as we saw in Nashville, or having the goalie steal one as Koskinen did against the Stars, the Oilers are doing what it takes to get the job done when it counts the most and that’s exactly what they need to keep doing down the stretch. Against the Blackhawks, the Oilers will, once again, be facing an opponent that’s below them in the standings but one that is also riding into tonight’s contest on a three-game winning streak. Over those three wins, the Blackhawks have put 14 goals up on the board while also getting stellar goaltending from Corey Crawford, and it’s going to be a challenge for the Oilers to squash that trend at both ends of rink regardless of where Chicago sits in the standings.

Sticking with the standings, the Oilers have a chance to catch the Vegas Golden Knights for first place in the Pacific Division if they can beat the Blackhawks tonight, and I’m thinking this should be more than enough motivation to get the boys firing on all cylinders. Vegas is idle tonight and the Oilers have a major opportunity to use their game in hand to catch up to the division leader. I’d love to see that happen to not only maintain pace but also to put space between themselves and the teams chasing behind. Standings aside, the Oilers need to keep winning to save our sanity and lower the pressure building on our collective hearts that’s caused by scoreboard watching. Last night, I was out having a drink and was overcome with rage as I looked up at the TV and saw that the Flames came back to beat the Blue Jackets even though they’re still three points behind with an extra game played. Again, the best way to solve this issue is for our boys to keep winning and I believe they will do so against Chicago. Just keep winning, baby!

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Tonight’s matchup marks the third and final instalment in the season series between these two clubs with each side picking up a win so far.

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THE NUMBERS

OILERS BLACKHAWKS
RECORD 36-23-8 30-28-8
WIN/LOSS STREAK W3 W3
LAST 10 GAMES 6-2-2 5-5-0
GOALS FOR 214 201
GOALS AGAINST 205 209
POWER PLAY% 29.9 15.1
PENALTY KILL% 84.4 82.4
AVG. SHOTS/FOR 29.7 31.7
AVG. SHOTS/AGAINST 31.7 35.6
TEAM SAVE% .904 .913
CORSI FOR% 48.06 48.29
PDO 0.994 1.010
TEAM SHOOTING% 8.34 8.45
EXPECTED GOALS FOR% 48.92 46.54

Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)

LINEUP…

Oilers

Neal – McDavid – Ennis
RNH – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Archibald – Sheahan – Kassian
Athanasiou – Khaira – Chiasson

Nurse – Bear
Jones – Larsson
K. Russell – Benning

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Smith

One of the biggest questions I had leading up to tonight’s game was who Dave Tippett was going to start in net. Both guys have had statement games during this winning streak and it felt like a coin flip for whoever deserved the crease against Chicago. That’s a good problem to have, friends. According to Bob Stauffer, Smith will be getting the start tonight but we’ll have to see if that changes as Mr. Smith left practice this morning after taking a shot under the blocker. That said, he did return to practice and Tippett expects him to play so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Blackhawks

Kubalik – Toews – Saad
Nylander – Strome – Kane
DeBrincat – Dach – Caggiula
Highmore – Kampf – Carpenter

Keith – Boqvist
Carlsson – Murphy
Maatta – Koekkoek

Crawford

Gotta assume Drake Caggiula buries one tonight, right?

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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Second City Hockey:

After being sellers at the NHL trade deadline, the last thing anyone in Chicago predicted was a winning streak. Yet, after three great games from Corey Crawford — in peak form with a 3.39 goals-saved above expected and .949 save percentage — and the offense regaining composure, that’s where the Blackhawks stand.

The Blackhawks have had encouraging puck possession metrics during their streak with a 50.2-percent Corsi-For and a 52.4-percent expected goal share at even strength. Both figures are significantly above their season averages, and their push is a result of those numbers becoming better.

The best line in this run has been the combination of Dylan Strome, Patrick Kane and Alex Nylander. A surprising development, particularly for that last member of the trio, but the Blackhawks are getting success from unconventional lines.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

Game Day Prediction: I’m liking the Oilers extending their win streak tonight with a big 4-2 win. Deep dish pizza party for the boys!

Obvious Game Day Prediction: Drake Caggiula will score a goal against his former team while Brandon Manning will enjoy a BLT that he made all by himself.

Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Kanye West decides to watch tonight’s game out of pure coincidence and after seeing McDrai’s dominance pledges allegiance to the Oilers despite being from Chicago.

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