Tonight the Oilers will try to get things back on track against the Vancouver Canucks. Typically this has been easier said than done in years past, but the Nucks have yet to separate themselves form the Oilers in this young season.
Edmonton and Vancouver are nearly identical in the “Goals For” and “Goals Against” categories with about 20 in both. They are also both getting some good goaltending. Dubnyk is sporting a .925 save percentage (and that’s with his shellacking against the Sharks) and Luongo has a .944. Wait…Luongo?
Luongo has been way too likeable since last season ended. He’s funny on Twitter and playing so well that Vigneault has no choice but to play him. Quite honestly, when he isnt playing the Oilers I’m starting to root for him. Not as a Canuck, just personally. I feel like I need a shower just writing that though.
*Returns from shower*
The Winner of tonight’s game can put themselves atop the Northwest Division and while that really doesnt mean much so early in the year, it’s a point of pride. The Oilers havent had much to be proud of for years so they should be hungry to prove themselves tonight. I expect that they should come out tonight at home flying.
I was generally disappointed by their last game, as I feel like the Oilers dont have many excuses not to score at least 2 goals a game. I understand that it WONT happen every game, but they have
like 10 3 1st Overall picks plus Jordan Eberle. They shouldnt struggle offensively. The good news is that the chances are coming. RNH has had some grade A opportunities, the goals will come eventually if he doesnt get too frustrated. As a note, Paajarvi was recalled by the Oilers. This might mean that OKC’s Nordic line gets reunited at the NHL level.
Oilers Keys to the Game
1) Highway 106
The highest output that Nuge, Ebs, and Hall ever had in Juniour were 106 points. Each of them. They were held off the scoresheet against Colorado. That cant happen in back to back games. Those guys are going to be counted on each and every game to provide offense. Eberle is shooting at 11.5% right now, which makes him normal again. I think that number should climb based purely on the quality of chances he gets combined with his unreal ability to shoot the puck. Hall on the other hand needs to figure out a way to get his linemates more involved. Hall is a puck carrier but he is reminding me more of the way Hemsky was. He will skate himself into a corner more than he should.
2) Whitney Needs to be Better
Whitney wont ever be the way he was pre-surgery. I get it. But he has to be better than what he is right now. He is leaking chances against and has almost no foot speed. The other day he had an icing waived off because he got to the puck too slow, except he was giving it everything he had. He can still make a pass and seems like a pretty good guy, but at this rate he looks like the kind of player the Oilers will let walk away at year’s end.
Whitney looks to be on the 4th pairing in the morning skate. This generally means that he will be scratched tonight unless Krueger has a last minute change of heart. Hopefully this message is received loud and clear because the D-Man the Oilers had hoped would be their 1-2 guy when they acquired him has fallen to 6-7.
3) Be prepared to respond Physically
The Canucks have always been able to bring a physical element to their game against the Oilers, but the addition of Kassian brings it to a new level. The kid can flat out play and at 6’3″ and 214 pounds he can demolish guys. He already knocked Ben Eager out like he was some dude at the Pub and threw a few nasty hits against some high profile Oilers. The Oilers need to have a physical response or they’ll get pushed around. That said, they also need to watch how they do that because the Vancouver Canucks are the worst divers in the NHL and fall over at the lightest of breezes.
Puck drops at 7:30PM Mountain time on Sportsnet. Game on!