The best part of live sports is the unpredictability. We can dig up data, look at statistics, trends, systems and more, and convince ourselves we know what to expect. But we usually don’t.
How many of you had @Nick Schmaltz in your fantasy lineup this week? If you did, you are likely fist pumping. Schmaltz set a new Coyotes franchise record when he scored seven points on Saturday, and he followed that up with a four-point night last night. In his first 35 games, he was a  0.74 points/game player. Now in 37 games he’s a 1.00 points/game player. Unreal.
Schmaltz had quietly been playing well prior to his 11-points-in-two-games stretch. He had 19 points in his previous 18 games. Since January 17th he has 30 points in 20 games. Getting healthy played a role, but no one expected him to go from scoring seven points in his first 17 games, to scoring 30 in his next 20. Sports can be very unpredictable.
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Right now the Oilers’ special teams are the opposite of Schmaltz. They were great to start the season, but have dropped off significantly the past 36 games. Yesterday, the Oilers spent much of practice working on the power play.
“I don’t think we were close last game,” said Jay Woodcroft.  “We weren’t anywhere near where we needed to be on our power play, specifically early in the game. We had a few chances, but not at the level we want to create at. Our power play wasn’t a momentum generator for our team and it was a key factor in us not winning the game was the frustration we felt.
“There are a few things you look at when you looking at success on the power plays. I think we can do a better job in the face off circle and establish an early shot. Our breakouts can improve, in terms of our entry success level and our ability to move pucks under pressure.
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“I know the numbers aren’t where anyone wants it to be over the past few months, but for me this was our first chance since coming up here to really dive in on it and get some good work, and I thought, without taxing our people, we were able to get a lot of touches today,” said Woodcroft.
Woodcroft wanted to implement changes on the 5×5 and it has worked. The Oilers have outscored teams 27-20 since he arrived, but the special teams have struggled. Can one practice, or a reset, make a difference? For the power play I think it could because up until the recent skid, the Oilers PP was dominant over a 24-month stretch. @Connor McDavid and @Leon Draisaitl are more than capable of making better plays under pressure. I expect the power play to improve in the coming weeks.
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The penalty kill is a different beast. They have a lot of different players on the kill this year, who weren’t here in the past. It was good for the first 21 games, but has really struggled since. But they are capable of being better than the 72.7% they’ve been clicking at since Woodcroft took over. A few small tweaks, a reminder about positioning, and getting pucks out on the first attempt will help. When you have possession, and can’t clear it, often that comes back to haunt the penalty kill and over the past few months that has been a problem on the PK.
Maybe the Oilers’ PP improves from one day of practice, or maybe something none of us expect gives them a spark. Maybe McDavid or Draisaitl has a new stick. Or maybe it is McDavid’s new flow. He got a haircut yesterday. Who doesn’t feel better after a trim, or in my case, a head shave. You’ve heard the say look good, feel good.
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Maybe tonight, the unpredictable factor is McDavid’s new haircut. Look good, play good.

LINEUPS…

Oilers

McLeod – McDavid – Hyman
Kane – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Foegele – Shore – Ryan
Sceviour – Malone – Kassian
Nurse – Ceci
Keith – Broberg
Lagesson – Bouchard
Koskinen
**Update** Oilers have activated Zack Kassian and put Kyle Turris on LTIR. Kassian will play tonight.**
Evan Bouchard is back in after missing his first game of the season in Calgary with an illness. Broberg played his best game of the season in Calgary, and logged over 22 minutes playing with Duncan Keith. Broberg is quite comfortable playing on the right side.

Capitals

Ovechkin –  Kuznetsov – Wilson
Mantha – Backstrom – Oshie
McMichael – Eller – Sheary
Jonsson- Fjallby – Dowd – Hathaway
Fehervary – Carlson
Orlov – Jensen
Van Riemsdyk –  Schultz
Samsonov
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Samsonov allowed three goals on four shots when these teams met in February. He was pulled in his last start v. Toronto on February 28th after allowing three goals on 10 shots. Vitek Vanecek started the next three, and won them all defeating Carolina, Seattle and Calgary. Samsonov hasn’t found his groove this season. He has a .901Sv% and 2.93 GAA. In February he made eight starts, went 4-4, and posted a .898Sv% and 3.31 GAA. He isn’t oozing with confidence and the Oilers need to create some high quality chances early in the game and bury a few of them. Don’t just waste shots from the outside that let him gain confidence.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION:  Oilers sweep the season series and pick up a much-needed win with a 5-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid finishes the night with three points. This is a nationally televised game in Canada and in the States.
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NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: William Lagesson scores his first NHL goal.

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