After rolling out of Vancouver with four more points in the bank, the Oilers look to continue their dominance over the Canucks at Rogers Place as we get set for matchup number three in this four-game set. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s game day.
Now that we know the Oilers have a date with the postseason, the only things I care about as the schedule winds down is that A) the boys wrap up home ice, which can happen with a win tonight, B) everyone makes it through these last five games healthy, and C) McDavid gets to 100 points. For me, I think that’s the correct order of operations here, but I’m certainly open to debate. Regardless of what your own personal checklist looks like for the rest of the COVID campaign, I’m most interested to see how Dave Tippett plays his cards here and whether or not McDavid’s chase for 100 points factors in there anywhere. I mean, does the coach care much about the McCentury? Does it even matter? With only seven points left to go until McDavid reaches that plateau, I’m torn between wanting him to get there and having him get the rest he needs to play at his best when the postseason begins — I just don’t know what the right balance looks like. Obviously, we all want Connor to get to 100 points, but does it really matter if that time could be best served giving him a little bit of rest as well as trying to get some of his teammates going? I don’t have the answers, I’m just an invested observer.
As for the task at hand, I’m completely unsure about what to expect from this game because I really don’t know what the Canucks will be throwing our way after getting dummied in the first two games of this series. In all of the years where the Oilers were stuck playing out the string, I remember the last handful of games feeling like they took an eternity to get through and you’d have to imagine that Vancouver is feeling that drain even more so than most, likely wanting their whole disastrous season just to be over with already. Now, even though the Canucks are playing out the string with no hope of getting to within a three-hour flight of a playoff spot, I still don’t expect that they’ll just be rolling over to show the Oilers their tummies either. Even though they’ve won only one of their last eight games, this is a team with some offensive weapons that can harm you if the boys aren’t careful. With jobs on the line and contracts at play, I’m expecting Vancouver’s players to bust their asses to try and respond to the first couple of losses in this series and that’s a hurdle our boys will have to clear. As much as it would be great to watch McDavid run the show and hit 100 points tonight (he doesn’t have a seven point game on his resume yet), I think it’s more likely that we’ll be watching a tighter affair than we got on Monday and Tuesday. But if the Oilers can mind the details and play as they have over the last month then I think we’ll be celebrating another win when all is said and done.
Let’s see what the numbers say…
|LAST 10 GAMES||7-3-0||3-7-0|
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||49.71||45.71|
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)
Draisaitl – McDavid – Puljujarvi
Kahun – RNH – Yamamoto
Neal – McLeod – Chiasson
Archibald – Khaira – P. Russell
Nurse – Barrie
Kulikov – Larsson
Jones – Bear
Now that we’re getting into the pointless portion of the schedule, I was curious to see how Dave Tippett would put his lines together and whether he would put added focus on getting more bodies in the lineup to get some at-bats in. As it turns out, most of the line combos are staying the same with the exception of Mikko Koskinen getting the start and Patrick Russell sneaking in on the fourth line.
***UPDATE*** It actually looks like Bouchard and and Lagesson are out after all.
Pearson – Horvat – Lind
Höglander – Miller – Boeser
Highmore – Graovac – Hawryluk
Vesey – Boyd – MacEwen
Edler – Schmidt
Hughes – Hamonic
Juolevi – Myers
The Canucks have a brutal schedule to close out the season and I wonder how much gas they have left in the tank, considering they have to play nine games in under two weeks. In terms of the McCentury chase, having Vancouver three more times on the schedule is unquestionably a bonus, but on the human side of the equation, I hope the Canucks make it through this condensed schedule without anyone getting hurt.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The Canucks have given us everything, they’ve maxed out the mileage on a season that went awry way too long ago. Tonight, they’ll take on the Oilers, again, and get the elusive win they’ve searched for over a week and a half to find. Connor McDavid has proven he is no match for Vancouver but it is still amazing to see a guy go H.A.M. at the drop of a hat. There isn’t a better player in the league right now and for at least two more games, he’ll be the focal point.
Jack Rathbone, Kole Lind, and soon-to-be Jonah Gadjovich will have all made their NHL debuts and at the very least, this is the part of the season many of us have waited for. Sure, not the most ideal circumstances, but welcome all the same. These are tryouts for real spots next season and even though the games mean nothing, the future means everything.
Let’s Do This!™
Game Day Prediction: Our Thursday night will end with a ‘W’ because the Oilers will be focused on locking down home-ice advantage, wrapping things up with a 4-2 win.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Leon Draisaitl will do everything he humanly can to try and get more McPoints on the board.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Connor McDavid only gets a single point and the Sportsnet panel seems confused about how such a thing could happen.
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