GDB 50.0: Oilers look to start a new win streak in matchup vs the Blues (6pm MT, SNW)

Photo credit:Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
2 months ago
Only a few months ago, the Edmonton Oilers were like a toddler learning to ride their bike without training wheels. For the toddler every pedal rotation offered the potential for a wipe out or improved success down the path, and early this season the Oilers spent more time picking themselves up after a wipeout than they did pedalling gleefully down the road. They finally ditched their training wheels in late November, and it has been a joyous ride the past few months.
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The final 33-game stretch of the season will be about improving their balance, making better turns and building up momentum to take that first big jump. When you were a kid, the first jump on your bike was euphoric. You remember your friends cheering you on, while you nervously weighed the options in your head. Some of us had much more success the first time we got air off, whether it was a homemade jump in front of your house, built from leftover lumber, or the dirt jumps in the neighbourhood.
I can still remember building up the confidence on my blue bike, with a banana seat no less, pedalling feverishly down the driveway at our farm, hitting the jump we made from leftover boards and plywood, losing my balance and crashing into the trees. It took me three or four tries to land that jump without wiping out. And from that day on hitting jumps on my bike became a staple of my childhood. I never had the gumption, or skill, to take it to the next level and race, but even now, there is something sweet about hitting a jump at the bike park by my house and flying through the air, even if it is only a foot.
The Oilers have seemingly figured out how to land any jump.
If you want a high-risk, offensive game they can do it.
Want to play a patient, low-risk game? They are finally comfortable there as well.
There will be a few bumpy games or periods, like we witnessed in the second period v. Detroit two nights ago, but for the most part the Oilers have figured out how to regain their balance in games before crashing into the trees.
The Oilers skate into St. Louis with a chance to improve their record to 32-17-1 in their first 50 games. That would be four more wins than they had through 50 games of each of the past two seasons and they finished with 104 and 109 points in 2022 and 2023 respectively.
Edmonton has been a very strong team down the stretch the past few seasons.
In 2022 they were 21-8-3 in their final 32 games and last season they went 22-5-5. Could we see another 21 or 22 wins this year? I don’t see why not. They do have a bit more of a condensed schedule with 32 games in the final 62 days, but it isn’t significantly more. They played 32 games in the final 66 days in each of the previous two seasons. Edmonton played an even 16 games at home and on the road in 2022, and last season they played 14 and home and 18 on the road down the stretch. They will have 17 home games and 15 road matches in their final 32 games this year.
The Oilers had a rough second period v. Detroit. Head coach Kris Knoblauch summed up the game rather directly in his post-game media availability. “We had more giveaways tonight than we had all of January,” said Knoblauch. But they rebounded with a dominant third period.
Meanwhile, the Blues didn’t like their 60-minute effort in Toronto on Tuesday. “”I think we were all surprised with the (low) energy we had in Toronto,” Bannister said this morning. “For whatever reason, we just didn’t have it. You’re going to go through an 82-game season where that might happen. It doesn’t make it okay. We just have to refocus ourselves and get our energy back to where it needs to be, and it seems like it’s back again. Guys had a good day off and enjoyed their Valentines Day with their family.”
As outlined in Game Notes, the Blues don’t possess much offensive punch. That doesn’t mean the Oilers can, or will, take them lightly, but the Blues are winning with good defence and a dangerous power play. Their PP is 26.8% under Bannister, and the Oilers PK, which was great for months, has suddenly allowed five goals on seven kills over the past three games. The PK needs to get back on the back, and not crash on the next jump (shorthanded situation). The PK has been excellent for months, and even with the recent skid, it is still 85.7% under Knoblauch. But the Oilers need to regain their focus and balance on the PK tonight against a dangerous Blues power play.




RNH – McDavid – Hyman
Kane – Draisaitl – Holloway
Foegele – McLeod – Perry
Gagner – Ryan – Brown
Nurse – Ceci
Ekholm – Bouchard
Kulak – Desharnais
Dylan Holloway and Corey Perry will swap lines. The McLeod line wasn’t as effective without Perry, and I think he offers a different element to complement Foegele and McLeod. Mattias Janmark draws back in for Sam Gagner.
Evan Bouchard picked up his 100th and 101st assists of his career v. Detroit. He is the 15th defenceman with 100 assists in Oilers history. He has 101 assists in 233 games. He will likely pass Tyson Barrie (107 in 191 GP), Steve Staios (111 in 573 GP) and Risto Siltanen (113 in 206 GP) later this season. Darnell Nurse is currently fourth with 182 helpers and he trails Charlie Huddy (287), Kevin Lowe (309) and Paul Coffey (460).


Buchnevich – Thomas – Kyrou
Neighbours – Schenn – Kapanen
Saad – Hayes – Toropchenko
Alexandrov – Sundqvist – Walker
Leddy – Parayko
Krug – Kessel
Scandella – Rosen
Justin Faulk will miss his eighth consecutive game with a lower-body injury, while Scott Perunovich will miss his fifth straight game which has the Blues blue line much weaker.
Alexey Toropchenko gets bumped up after scoring goals in his last two games. He’s got some really good hands for a big man. He’s been sneaky good lately for the Blues and is looking like a solid late bloomer after being drafted 113th overall in 2017.
Keep an eye on the Blues’ fourth line centre, Oscar Sundqvist. He’s been a solid bottom-six player for many years and was very good when they won the Cup in 2019. He is 6’3″, 220 pounds and kills penalties. He’s chipped in with 6-13-19 for the Blues and he’s a right shot. The one concern is he isn’t very good on face offs, but at $775K, he is a trade deadline option for the Oilers. They have to revamp their fourth line before the deadline.


Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers win for the 11th time in 13 road games as they pick up a 4-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Connor Brown moves within two games of Patrick Russell for third most games played in a season by a forward without a goal. Brown’s streak extends to 43 games.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: St. Louis is the only team in the NHL McDavid doesn’t have 1.00 points/game against. He has 18 points in 21 games (0.86 PPG). He picks up his first three-point game against St. Louis.

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