The Oilers will have to weather their Oscar Party hangovers and try not to be the Silver Linings Playbook to Chicago’s Argo. (Sorry)
Tonight the Oilers have the unenviable task of trying to stop what seems to be an unstoppable force of nature. If this were the year Titanic won Best Picture I would have tried to make an “Iceberg Dead Ahead” joke, but instead I’ll settle for Krueger telling Whitney to Argo Fuck Yourself when asked about being re-inserted into the lineup.
The Blackhawks are in the midst of a Season for the Ages right now, having taken points in EVERY SINGLE GAME THEY’VE PLAYED. They havent lost once in regulation. With 33 points in 18 games that’s good for 1st in the NHL. The fans of Chicago are getting their money’s worth these days.
Kane is having a whale of a season offensively right now as he has 9 goals and 14 assists over 18 games. Sam Gagner’s old Winger is lighting it up right now. He is 8 points up on his next closest Teammate. The Blackhawks best players are their best players. Unlike the Oilers this season is progressing exactly the way Chicago’s management drew it up.
Crawford is playing lights out in net right now. He’s sporting a .941 sv% (2nd Among Starters in the NHL) and a 1.49 GAA. For a team that is already snakebitten he could be scary to face. The good news is that the Oilers owned the Blackhawks last year, winning all 4 games including Gagner’s breakout 8 point performance.
Oilers Keys to the Game
1) Khabibulin Proves to be a Regular Option
Khabibulin is starting again tonight. Stauffer implied that Krueger is going with a “Win and You’re In” approach to his starters. I think it is absolutely a horrible plan. Khabibulin proved he wasnt capable of being a regular option over the last 3 years. Dubnyk won the job as the starter and stood on his head while being fed to the wolves early this season. His reward now is bench time. I dont like it one bit, Khabi HAS to be solid in Net. He has to be or the Blackhawks will continue to roll.
2) Offense from the Bottom 6
Jones looked very good in his return from injury. Maybe it was adrenaline but there was a jump in his step. He brings speed and a willingness to go to the net with the puck. He made some things happen on Saturday and he needs to keep that going. Additionally, Yakupov has been banished to the 4th line (at least to start the game). Maybe the idea is to protect him from the sharks that occupy the Chicago top units, no matter the thought process he needs to add some offensive punch when he’s out there with the pylons.
3) Blackhawk Killers
Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner are certified Blackhawk killers. Gagner is roughly a point a game against Chicago while Eberle has 15 points in 8 games. If those two, playing on separate lines, can keep up their successes then the Oilers pose a half decent shot at stopping the NHL’s Juggernaut team. If they fall flat then there arent many others who have a history of success in the Windy City.
Puck Drops at 6:38 PM Mountain time on Sportsnet. Game On!