Cult of Hockey Game Day # 34
Edmonton Oilers (18-12-3, 39 pts) at Vancouver Canucks (15-16-4, 34 pts)
Edmonton Oilers is down to his last 3 games before Christmas.
Unlike a gloomy scenario, a keyboard writer predicted in September that this team would probably "lose eight right before the Christmas flap and fall out of the race", these Oilers are actually in line with the 2016-17 playoff club.
In fact, a victory over Canucks tonight would put Oilers in rare air, just in time for Santa to make his big trip: Lonely possession of 3rd place in the Pacific.
Should I take an Oilers playoff place in my sock? Damn straight.
9. A big but hardly surprising development like Evan Bouchard have made the Canadian national junior team. This tournament will be good for the child's development. But I really wonder, past it. Bouchard is 5-13-18 in just 13 matches with a fantastic +20 grade in OHL. In mid-January, he had been better (if the rules had allowed it) in AHL, facing a much tough development challenge.
8. Those who proclaim that "so and then is next (fill in empty with generation players)" marry the young stars that are expected to fill the bigger skates. I have nothing against Auston Matthews in addition to the bad guys, some write about him. Same for Vancouver amazing Elias Petterson. I look forward to seeing him and Connor McDavid share the ice. But I could do without a fan-boy-hype.
7. While Edmonton Oilers runs 2 quite hot goaltenders in NHL, AHL Bakersfield also gets good performance between the pipes. Not from the veteran Al Montoya as some may have expected. So far, Montoya has only a .879 SV%. Shane Starrett has transported most of the water for Condors (.902 in 11 matches). And last night, rookie Dylan Wells earned a 27-save shut-out. Arrows up.
6. There are still volumes written in Edmonton about Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle trades. I was a vowel fan of both players. However, some critics seem to be downgraded to Hall Devils (2nd last east) and Eberle Islanders (4 points of a wildcard spot in the East) so far in 2018. And if you add the goals Hall (8) and Eberle (6) has so far, they are alike Alex Chiasson s 14. Unfair comparisons? O.K., but then it is also the irrevocable criticism.
5th Caleb Jones did not enter the Oilers organization as one of their main prospects. His proposal for pedigree was nowhere near Bouchard or Darnell nurse. And Jones has got a lot to get where he is today. Keep in mind that only about 15% of the players selected where Caleb was (4th, 117th overall) played 100 NHL games ever. Less than 5% have ever become a top 6-forward / top 4-d-man. Encouraging.
4th Kyle Brodziak played for Ken Hitchcock before in St. Louis. Then the wing had Ty Rattie. If we compare the ice age with confidence, it seems that the new Oilers coach has a lot in Brodziak and not so much (at least so far) in Rattie. The Veteran Center has seen its TOI pick up with so much or more than any other Oilers player since Ken hitched his horse to a post in Edmonton. It is mostly 5 × 5 games and on the death penalty for Brodziak. Rattie, on the other hand, has seen his TOI fall harder and faster than any other player on the roster.
3. It will be the first NHL regular season game since 1999 that Edmonton Oilers has played in Vancouver in a game that is not against Henrik and Daniel Sedin. As much as I'm tired of watching the twins, the lights shoot out to my favorite team for all these years, I developed a true admiration of them as professional hockey players. 2018-19 Canucks is under staffed. But they still hang in there a bit better than I had expected. There is no doubt that it is part of the competitiveness and professionalism of Sedin's twins. Their good influence has creeped on many young players in Canuck's changing room today. What a gift.
2nd Leon Draisaitl attracts much criticism in view of the season he has. I have some theories about why but one that I have not mentioned yet: Some people hook up a mistake a player makes, and it almost blinks them to the many things the same players do in the rest of the game. Well this only: All players make mistakes, big or small, every night. When I chart a game, I notice both positive and negative influences in all zones (it's not just mistakes for and against scoring chances, which my Cult of Hockey Colleague David Staples makes it very good). Instances that result in a goal, for or against (as David's statistics reflect), weighs heavier. When I look back over the last 10 Oilers games, only one player has a "net positive" also close by Connor McDavid: Leon Draisaitl. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is 3rd. Draisaitl is also in step for 104 points. Only two players have done more than that over a season in the last 5 years: McDavid (108) and Patrick Kane (106). # 29 is # 7 in NHL points. Is the point everywhere? Yes. Would Leon Draisail's amazing start be marginalized because of it? No.
1stOscar Klefbom is out 6-8 weeks with several breaks on his left pinky finger. Some expressed surprise that a damage to a pinky would keep a player out for so long. Why not just tape it to the next and be back on it in a few weeks? Do not stop so easy, explains my doctor's friend. When there is an unstable fracture that one Klefbom obviously has, a finger needs a pin inserted to keep the broken leg in place. The hard of a break also gets the whole hand to be out of alignment, so a shine is usually needed for at least 3-4 weeks. As you can imagine, the full rehab of the hand can only start when the damper comes off. About the only good news is that Klefbom will be able to move all the time. So his studback should be relatively quick from a footwork and cardio picture. For what it's worth, I broke my wrist while playing. My diagnosis was also 6-8 weeks. I was back with a playing casting (against the doctor's wishes) at 5 1/2. But I was not even close to being the same player. It takes more of you than you can guess.
Now … to today's game.
projected Oilers lines and mating
DRAISAITL – McDAVID – CHIASSON
NURSE – LARSSON
KHAIRA – NUGENT-HOPKINS – PULJUJARVI
GRAVEL – JONES
LUCIC – BRODZIAK – KASSIAN
GARRISON – BENNING
RIEDER – SPOONER – CAGGIULA
SKRATCHES: Talbot (back-up), Wideman, Rattie, Zykov).
Yes … that's exactly the same line that hit Philadelphia last time, save for Jones and Benning's mix. Canucks is on the second of a back-to-back tonight, decisively defeating the same Flyers 5-1 home last night. These 2 teams are roughly equal to crimes, but Oilers allows fewer goals against. The Canucks is also a terrible 3rd period club, which allows 15 more goals over the final 20 than Edmonton. Vancouver is 5-3-2 in his last 10, Oilers 8-1-1.
Sunday's game starts at 6:00 PM MST.
Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins
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