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Photo Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

GDB +1.0: The Matchup Game (7pm MT, CBC)

After playing each other nine times in the past four months, the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets aren’t expecting any major surprises from the opposition.

“They might make some small adjustments after the success we had against them, but I don’t think you will see major changes,” said Oilers blueliner Tyson Barrie.

So what might those small adjustments be?

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Winnipeg didn’t have an answer for Connor McDavid in the regular season. He torched them with 22 points in nine games. The Jets forwards didn’t have much success.

McDavid outscored Mark Scheifele 11-3 at 5×5 in 84 minutes.
In 62 minutes Blake Wheeler was crushed 11-1.
Mason Appleton saw McDavid the third most often at 50 minutes and he had the best success breaking even at 2-2.
Andrew Copp was outscored 5-1 in 45 minutes.
Kyle Connor (44 min) Paul Stastny (36 min) were outscored 4-0.
In 31 minutes Adam Lowry was outscored 4-1.

Schiefele, Stastny and Lowry will be the top-three centres tonight. They will try to limit McDavid’s speed in the neutral zone. Unless Paul Maurice goes full Steve Kasper or Esa Tikkanen and puts a shadow on McDavid, it will be up to all five Jets skaters to play incredibly disciplined to limit McDavid.

The Jets blueliners had the same challenges.

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Josh Morrissey was outscored 9-2 in 77 minutes.
Neil Pionk was 6-1 in 69 minutes.
Derek Forbort was outscored 7-1 in 69 minutes.
Dylan Demelo was outgunned 5-0 in 22 minutes.

They are the top-two pairs tonight. Winnipeg doesn’t have a legit #1 defenceman to match up against McDavid.

Paul Maurice talked about limiting his speed through the neutral zone, and the need for the Jets to possess the puck in the offensive zone. In years past that would have been much easier, as the Oilers weren’t as sound defensively, but this season they haven’t got hemmed in their zone for long periods. It is harder to defend McDavid, because the Oilers aren’t spending as much time in their own end when he’s on the ice.

I asked Leon Draisaitl what has led to their overall improved play defensively. Since February 1st the Oilers have allowed only 2.47 goals/game, the fifth lowest total in the entire league.

“I think we are staying in our own zone longer,” said Draisaitl. “And if there is a breakdown or turnover we are able to support better and that has shown in our lower goals against.”

Possessing the league’s two leading scorers, and suddenly becoming stout defensively makes you a tough team to beat and the Oilers are hoping those trends continue tonight.

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LINEUPS…

Oilers

Kahun – McDavid – Puljujarvi
RNH – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Neal – McLeod – Kassian
Archibald – Khaira – Chiasson

Nurse – Barrie
Kulikov – Larsson
Koekkoek – Bear

Smith

Zack Kassian returns to the lineup on a line with James Neal and rookie Ryan McLeod. McLeod, Jesse Puljujarvi and Dominik Kahun will play their first playoff game tonight. I think Puljujarvi’s game is built to succeed in the playoffs.

This tweet accurately sums up why Jones is not dressed tonight.

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Since February 1st the Oilers have the fifth lowest goals against/game at 2.47.

Jets

Connor – Schiefele – Wheeler
Copp – Stastny – Vesalainen
Perreault – Lowry – Appleton
Toninato – Thompson – Lewis

Morrisey – Demelo
Forbort –  Pionk
Stanley –  Poolman

Hellebuyck

Nik Ehlers and Pierre-Luc Dubois skated in non-contact jerseys this morning and seem unlikely to play. They stayed out late after the morning skate which is often a sign they won’t play tonight. Those are two huge holes in the Jets lineup and Edmonton has to take advantage of a banged-up opponent.

GET FIRED UP…

While you wait impatiently for the puck to drop take a moment and watch this. The energy in that building in 2006 was amazing. When the crowd started to sing the anthem, with Joey Moss leading the charge, it was electric.

How awesome was that?

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Jetsnation.ca:

It’s no secret, goaltender Connor Hellebuyck was left out to dry numerous times against Edmonton during the regular season and failed to slow down their explosive offense, resulting in his miserable 3.96 goals-against average and .877 save percentage over seven games. Though Winnipeg is hopeful its defenders can take a positive step forward in the playoffs, it seems the onus will likely be on the 2019-20 Vezina Trophy winner to dominate in the blue paint and carry his team beyond the opening round.

While that may seem like a difficult task, especially since Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will probably be paired together at some point during the series, Hellebuyck has proven he can carry his dominance over to the postseason and will likely need to do so once again to advance to the second round. If the 28-year-old, who’s posted a 2.53 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage through 27 career postseason games, takes over this showdown against the Oilers, the Jets might be able to pull off this upset.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton scores first for the seventh time against the Jets this season and skate to a 5-2 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid’s hot streak continues. He has 22 points in nine games against the Jets. Scoring two points six times, three points twice and had four points once. He scored 36 points in is final 14 regular season games. His point totals in those games.

0 points: 1 game
1 point: 1 game
2 points: 4 games
3 points: 5 games
4 points: 3 games.

He finishes with three points tonight.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Both Puljujarvi and Kahun pick up points in their inaugural playoff games.

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