The Blues are smack in the middle of their three game road trip through western Canada. Tonight they are in Edmonton to take on Connor McDavid and the rest of the Oilers squad. Puck drops at 8:00 CT and can be seen on Fox Sports Midwest.
The Oilers are fresh off of a 8-2 thumping of everybody’s favorite third-line team the Vegas Golden Knights. McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins both tallied a pair of goals a piece while the former also recorded his 18th three-point game in this still young season.
Despite their offensive burst Tuesday night the Oilers find themselves in all too familar territory. Their 7-9-2 record is good enough for second to last place in the Pacific division and are 4 points out of the last wild card spot. They are 5-4-1 in their last ten games and have a home record of 4-6-0 so far this season. [NHL.com]
When glancing at the Oilers lackluster record it would be easy to assume that Connor McDavid is not performing at the same level as he did last year during his 100 point campaign. However, according to Hockey-Refrence.com he is still averaging the same 1.22 points per game as he did last season. He leads the team in goals (9), in assists (13) and points (22). So yeah, any hopes you had of facing a slumping McDavid probably just evaporated.
And really the Oilers are, statistically speaking, still a decent team. Their 5 on 5 Corsi For% is second best in the league while their Fenwick and Shots For% are both on the good side of 50%. However, the pucks simply are not going into the net. Their minus 8 goal differential, which is fifth worst in the league, is due in large part to their microscopic 5.94% 5 on 5 shooting percentage. In fact there is only one team in the entire league who has a worse shooting percentage than the Oilers, the Pittsburgh Penguins. [NST.com]
Unfortunately, their shooting percentage is only where their troubles begin. As good as the top line of McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and home-town boy Patrick Maroon have been and as well as second line center and former first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins along with winger Milan Lucic have played so far this season, there is still a giant black hole occupying the bottom half of their lineup.
Much like the Blues, the Oilers have had to depend on their two top lines for virtually all of the team’s offensive production. In fact, Tuesday it was announced that the Oilers had traded forward Jussi Jokinen to the L.A. Kings in return for forward Mike Cammalleri. General Manager Pat Chiarelli is starting to stink of desperation.
True to form with the rest of the team starting goaltender Cam Talbot has been pretty meh so far this season. His .912 save percentage and 2.85 GAA are both below his career average which has only compounded the Oilers troubles. Not something you really desire out of your number one net minder.
Just one year removed from advancing to the post season for the first time in ten years it is starting to look more and more like the Oilers playoff window is slamming shut. A turnaround is still possible and with Connor McDavid anything is possible but lets just hope it doesn’t start tonight.
As for the boys in Blue, they are coming off of one of their worst losses of the season in which the gave up a touchdown and lost by a field goal to Cal and Gary on foreign soil.
Not much went right for the Blues on Monday night and if Wednesday’s practice is any indication Mike Yeo is not about to let this train run completely off of the tracks before he starts pumping the brakes.
After attempting to bring some much needed balance to his lineup by splitting up the red hot line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch announced that the Blues lines had been returned to their upright and secure position.
Tarasenko back w/Schwartz-Schenn; Sobotka-Stastny-Steen; Upshall-Brodziak-Thorburn.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) November 15, 2017
In fact, it didn’t even take a whole game for Yeo to decide there is apparently only one way for his team to generate offense. Mid way through Monday night’s affair he had already retreated back to the safety of the Schwennko(?) line. Unfortunately, they too failed to make Eddie Lack look like the backup goaltender that he really is.
However, during tonight’s tilt, balance throughout the lineup will probably be the furthest thing from Mike Yeo’s mind. The Oilers really only have two lines for the Blues to worry about and it will probably come down to which top line can produce the most.
If the Blues can keep McDavid busy in his own end trying to slow down Tarasenko while Stastny and company take care of the Nuge then we should be looking at a fairly even game but God help us all if the third line gets stuck out on the ice during a long change because it’s not going to be pretty.
Thanks for reading and Go Blues.