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GDB 26.0: Oilers Showing No Signs of Slowing Down (8pm MT, SNW)

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
6 months ago
On November 12th the Edmonton Oilers had seven points in 13 games, they sat 14th in the Western Conference, 31st in the NHL and they were eight points out of a playoff spot. Edmonton was a good team playing awful hockey, but in the month since they’ve found their stride and have shown no signs of slowing down.
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Usually, near the end of a long winning streaks, teams win games despite not playing well. The Oilers have won seven in a row, but you could argue their past two games have been their two best games during the winning streak. They gave up very little to Minnesota and New Jersey, and if it wasn’t for Marc-Andre Fleury standing on his head and the Oilers hitting four goal posts and having two goals called off, both games could have been blowouts.
Edmonton is 9-3 in its last 12 games and have moved up to 10th in the West and sit three points out of a playoff spot with two games in hand. They’ve gained a lot of ground, but are far from satisfied.
“Because of where we are in the standings, we can’t afford a night off,” said Kris Knoblauch when I asked him about them showing no signs of slowing down in this long losing streak. “When you are in first place, you might think you can take a chance, but we can’t.”
The Oilers shut down the dangerous New Jersey Devils’ offence on Sunday. The Devils are the fourth-highest scoring team in the league and Edmonton’s defence barely gave them a sniff. “There are a lot of things that go into that,” said Connor McDavid. “Our track gap has been really good. We’ve been good at denying entries and the D-men have been breaking the puck up really well and when your D-men break the puck up really well, along with your forwards, but when your D-men do it you don’t spend much time in your D zone and that helps a lot. That is half the battle right there.”
The D-men breaking the puck up well has led to the Oilers’ offence getting back to being the best in the NHL. Edmonton led the league in goals last year, but averaged a measly 2.69 goals/game on November 12th. They ranked 26th in the NHL. In the 12 games since they’ve led the league with 4.33 goals/game — almost a full 0.5 goals more per game than second-place Dallas. McDavid has returned to being the most productive player in the league, but he’s not the only one scoring for Edmonton.
Evander Kane has nine goals in 12 games. Zach Hyman has eight goals and 14 points. Evan Bouchard’s on an 11-game point streak. Leon Draisaitl (17 points) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (14) are averaging more than one point/game. The fourth line has six goals between Derek Ryan, James Hamblin and Sam Gagner. They are getting offence from all four lines and the blueline.
And tonight they face a struggling Chicago team. Injuries and a contract termination have the Hawks without Taylor Hall, Andreas Athanasiou, Colin Blackwell, Corey Perry and now Seth Jones. Young blueliner Kevin Korchinksi is also banged up. The Hawks didn’t have a lot of depth to begin with, but removing four veteran forwards, and their top-pairing defenders, has really weakened their team. Jones was injured on Sunday and will be out a few weeks.
Chicago is 31st in offence (2.41 GF/GP) and 28th in defence at 3.44 GA/GP. This is a very difficult matchup for Chicago. Had they played Edmonton early in the season, the game would have been much easier, but tonight the Blackhawks will need their best game to stay close.

CONNOR V. CONNOR.

I understand the hype and excitement as many have this game dubbed Connor v. Connor, in regards to McDavid and Bedard. It is great to see, but right now, just like it was during McDavid’s rookie season v. Crosby, they aren’t on the same level. It is unfair for anyone to expect Bedard to really challenge McDavid now, or possibly ever, considering how dominant McDavid has been. Bedard is a very gifted player, no doubt, and I’d be willing to bet he will score 50 goals in a season, probably a few times, but right now he isn’t in the same league as McDavid. And he shouldn’t be.
This is McDavid’s ninth year. He scored 153 points last season, which was 40 more than every NHLer except his teammate Leon Draisaitl.
I’m excited to see Bedard’s release in person again. I saw him in juniors and at the World Juniors, and his shot is electric. But I won’t compare him in any way to McDavid. It is too early, and I’m not sure Bedard will ever be in the same category. That isn’t a knock on him, just more about how skilled McDavid is.

PRESENTED BY BETWAY

LINEUPS…

Oilers

RNH – McDavid – Hyman
Kane – Draisaitl – Brown
Janmark – McLeod – Foegele
Gagner – Hamblin – Ryan
Nurse – Ceci
Ekholm – Bouchard
Kulak – Desharnais
Skinner
The Oilers are rolling and Stuart Skinner looks to be the first goalie in the NHL this season to win seven consecutive starts.

Blackhawks

Beauvillier – Bedard – Kurashev
Johnsson – Guttman – Raddysh
Foligno – Dickinson – Donato
Reichel – Entwhistle –Anderson
Roos – Murphy
Phillips – Zaitsev
Vlasic – Crevier
Mrazek.
No Jones, Hall, Anthanasiou, Blackwell and Korchinski means very little chance for the Blackhawks. If this was earlier in the season, they might have a chance, but the Oilers are rolling and I don’t expect a very close game to be honest. “I thought it was pretty funny the first 10 games of the season seeing people freak out,” said Bedard this morning regarding the Oilers. “They’ve been one of the best teams in the league the past few years. I don’t think it is a surprise that they are doing what they are doing now.”
He’s wise on and off the ice.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers’ win streak stretches to eight games with a convincing 7-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid picks up at least three points. He’s averaged 2.33 pts/game in his last six v. Chicago. He increases that tonight.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Cody Ceci scores his first goal in 104 games. His last goal was October 15th, 2022, when he scored against Calgary.

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