We’re saying goodbye to 2021 with a matinee between the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils as these two teams will square off for their first of two meetings on the season. Happy New Year, everybody!
In Wednesday’s loss to the St. Louis Blues, the Oilers looked about as rusty as one would expect them to be after a nearly two-week break and the result of that sloppiness was a missed opportunity at two points. It was one of those nights where every mistake the team made seemingly wound up in the back of the net, and those issues need to be addressed so that one loss doesn’t turn into two. Needless to say, gifting the opposition with a basket full of quality chances and wide-open lanes to the net is something that cannot happen this morning against the Devils unless the team is satisfied with hanging another loss on the board. For all of our sanity, the Oilers need to find a way to execute at both ends of the rink or run the risk of getting tagged with a loss at the hands of another inferior opponent. The point here is that NHL teams are too good — even the bad ones — to be gifting them with bonus chances and clear looks on net, and the Oilers seem to be struggling with this concept over the past month or so. I mean, what else can you really say when the team is 3-7 over their last 10 games?
Looking across the ice, the Devils are a team that gives up goals in bunches without being able to match that output at the other end of the ice. That said, New Jersey has skilled players that can certainly burn you if given the chance so the Oilers will need to be a lot tighter with their puck choices than they have been or the Devils will be the next in line to steal their lunch money. Not only do the Oilers need to be smarter with the puck, but they also have to ensure that they’re not passing up quality chances of their own in favour of the prettier play. Put another way, when was the last time we saw the Oilers score goals by hacking away at loose pucks in the crease? When was the last time we saw them cash in a goal through sheer determination as opposed to a beautiful passing play? From my point of view, the Oilers have tried to be too cute with their attack over the last month or so, and finding ways to produce more without having it happen on the rush will be extremely important to their success as we head towards the back half of the season. Is it doable? I absolutely believe think so, but I also think it will require a bunch of the players in the lineup to be willing to pay the price for going to the tougher areas to make it happen.
Let’s see what the numbers say.
|LAST 10 GAMES||3-7-0||2-7-1|
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||50.60||50.52|
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)
Hyman – McDavid – Puljujarvi
RNH – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Foegele – Ryan – Sceviour
Shore – McLeod – Turris
Nurse – Bouchard
Keith – Ceci
Koekkoek – Barrie
With the return of Darnell Nurse and Jesse Puljujarvi, this will be the healthiest the Oilers have been since the first couple games of the season and I hope that translates to a better night on the ice than what we were given on Wednesday. We’re running out of time for excuses and it will be up to the players to ignore the noise and get the job done against a team that they should beat more often than not. As for the line combos, nothing has been put out yet because of the early start so I took a swing at what I think Dave Tippett will be running with for the first half of the back-to-back set.
Zacha – Hischier – Boqvist
Sharangovich – Hughes – Bratt
Johnsson – Mercer – Kuokkanen
Studenic – McLeod – Bastian
Graves – Hamilton
Siegenthaler – Severson
Smith – Subban
As I mentioned above, the Devils don’t score a whole lot but that doesn’t mean they don’t have some guys that can make you pay if given the chance, so the Oilers would be best served to keep the puck in New Jersey’s end as much as humanly possible.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The New Jersey Devils ended a six-game losing streak on Wednesday when they held on for a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres are still one of the worst teams in the league despite playing better before the extended Christmas break. However, the Devils are there as well, so we have to celebrate the wins when we get them. The Devils need to keep the momentum going, and it starts with wins like these.
Jack Hughes just put the team on his back and led the Devils to victory. He had an assist on both of the Devils goals in the first period, and then he scored the go-ahead goal in the third period after beating Rasmus Dahlin for the puck. Hughes showed he was able to beat players with as much talent to the puck and score.
Hughes was amazing on Wednesday night. He was a part of every big play outside of the fourth goal of the game. He was on the ice for 24 chances and the other team only had 10 chances at 5v5. Hughes was very good offensively, and he wasn’t on the ice for a goal against.
There is an interesting stat that stands out for Hughes. He only took four faceoffs at even strength. The other 16 shifts started on the fly according to Natural Stat Trick. Lindy Ruff was trying to play to Hughes’ strengths. He knows faceoffs aren’t his forte, but Ruff still got him on the ice for just under 18 minutes. There was no other forward on the team who played more time on the ice.
Game Day Prediction: The Oilers get themselves back in the win column with a strong performance a 2-4 win.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl end 2021 the way it started, with both of them getting points.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Both McLeod brothers get on the scoresheet with an assist.
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