Welcome, friends, to a GDB edition of Hockey Night in Canada as we prepare for tonight's match between the Edmonton Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning. It's the last game before the Christmas holiday and it would be great if the boys could go back to the victory column before they all left.
With the Oilers not playing since Tuesday night, we had plenty of time to dissect and analyze all that went wrong in this two-game losing streak, as well as creating a blueprint for everything that had to change. As a fan, solving the problems of your team's universe is part of the package and we've had more than a week to do just that. A big topic here has been the way Ken Hitchcock put his new lines together and whether or not he will help some guys. We got Draisaitl back to the center of the second row, Gritensity Line got an improvement with Lucic, and Jesse Puljujarvi had the best chance he has had so far this season, as he will fit on the right side with McNuge. We have not seen Hitchcock change his lines much since he was behind the bench, but the old blender certainly took a turnaround after losing two ugly games against Vancouver and St. Louis.
With regard to Christmas gifts, having your last game before the break against Tampa Bay Lightning when you're stuck in the rut of two consecutive losses is like catching a piece of coal under the tree when you were desperately waiting for fresh Pogs. Needless to say, this will not be an easy game to try to hit the ship and I would be lying if I said I was not a little nervous. Tampa has the ability to put goals in shards and with Edmonton missing two of his best defenders (three if you're counting Sekera) then you have the potential for a long night, and this before even taking into account that a break is coming in less than 12 hours. If the Oilers are already thinking about coming home to their families for a few days, instead of focusing on this game, we're all going to have a bad time. Given the injuries and the succession of special teams in general, we will need them all on the same page and shoot all the cylinders.
So again, would anyone really be surprised if the Oilers put in a touchdown tonight? Lately, I've found that the Oilers have narrowed their competition a bit, so maybe a meeting with the best in the league is just what they need to cheer up? Thought of desire? I mean, I know that was not the case when the Oilers met Lightning for the first time in November, a game they lost quite easily, but I still think a guy should be able to believe in Christmas miracles. To put it mildly, a win against Tampa Bay Lightning would be a great outing for the range and a simple gift that I think every fan of Oilers could use now. Considering the roller coaster this season has been so far, I think two points would be a perfect gift for both the team and the fans. And, furthermore, a win tonight would mean more to the Oilers than to Lightning, and it's the donation season.
Happy Holidays, folks! Enjoy the game.
Numbers courtesy of Corsica (costumes in 5 × 5)
RNH – McDavid – Puljujarvi
Rieder – Draisaitl – Chiasson
Caggiula – Brodziak – Kassian
Lucic – Spooner – Rattie
Nurse – Larsson
Gravel – Jones
Trim – Benning
On Thursday, Gregor made a run through the new lines and combinations of game power and it goes without saying that Hitchcock is going for a new look. With the team losing their last two games disappointingly, the Oilers needed a reset and maybe those new trios are what will cause the engines to fire again. Needless to say, if there was some time for the Oilers to get some score on all four of their lines, tonight would be a great time to start.
Palat – Stamkos – Gourde
Johnson – Point – Kucherov
Killorn – Cirelli – Miller
Erne – Paquette – Callahan
Hedman – Girardi
McDonagh – Cernak
Stralman – Sergachev
Tampa Bay Lightning has eight players with 20 points or more. In comparison, the Oilers have three. Needless to say we're going to need an all-time Hitchcockian lockdown and a few prayers answered by Hockey Gords if we're going to keep them off the board.
The two players that Tampa Bay have to contain are Connor McDavid (obviously) and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid has 16 points in their last 10 games and Draisaitl has 14 points on the same stretch. Alex Chiasson was a scoring machine with 15 goals this season. That puts him third on the team behind only McDavid and Draisaitl. He is also shooting at an absurdity of 31%. But Tampa Bay has the talent across the board to mitigate its impact. The biggest problem I see for Edmonton is their lack of deep scores by McDavid (49), Draisaitl (42) and Nugent-Hopkins (31). The next closest player has 19 points (Chiasson). Compare that with Tampa Bay, which has eight players with 20 or more points and three players with an average of one point per game.
If there is an area that could pose a problem for Tampa Bay, it will be Mikko Koskinen's game. The netminder Oilers has set a solid season so far. He has a GAA of 2.18 and a saving percentage of .928. This is very good given the staff in front of him. If Koskinen is to the level he made during the recent Oilers' rise, this game can get really interesting.
PREDICTION OF THE DAY OF THE GAME: Despite making a brave effort, the Oilers are simply outclassed and fall short of expectations and fall 4-2.
PREDICTION OF THE DAY OF THE OBVIOUS GAME: There have been parents waiting all year to use their Santa costume in the game and tonight is their night. Live your best life, gentlemen.
FORECAST OF THE DAY OF PLAY NON-UNDER OBSERVATORY: With this being the last game for a little while and also falling on a Saturday night, Rogers Place runs out of beer, which causes the team to start digging a tunnel toward Labatt Brewery. The result is a steady stream of emergency beer and an increase in your property taxes by another 3.26%.
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Source: NHL, official game page, 12/22/2018 – 11:30