I am positive that with each passing day, us Oilers fans are dedicating more and more minutes of our day gazing into the beauty that is the current NHL standings. No, the Oilers aren’t contending for the President’s Trophy, but considering our nightmare yester-years, third place in the Pacific feels pretty damn good! Not only that, but Edmonton currently holds a 7 point lead on the Flames, who happened to jump into the second wild card last night.
That 7 point lead, in the Bettman point era with only ~25 games to go, isn’t necessarily a guarantee of playoff hockey, but it sure makes it a lot easier to sleep at night. Every single point that McDavid and the boys can squeeze out over the next few games will be the sustenance that the Oilers community will thrive on as the anticipation of postseason hockey builds. The Oilers are so close to making it that it still hasn’t quite sunk in… playoff hockey in Edmonton, if it happens, will be amazing. It’s been quite the long crawl, but we are almost there!
“I prayed, prayed, prayed
For a sign, sign, sign
Now there it is in the window
It’s about time, damn time”
Tonight, the Oilers take on Steve Mason, Brandon Manning (Public Enemy #1) and the Philadelphia Flyers at Rogers Place. After a switch up of the lines by McLellan, the Oilers exploded for 5 goals on Tuesday, albeit on a weak Coyotes team. That outburst of offence was desperately needed following a string of sloppy hockey courtesy of the Orange and Blue. They will look to build off of that momentum and will once again playa team on the second half of a back-to-back to try and do so (the Flyers lost 3-1 to Calgary last night).
You may remember the last time that these two teams met for a couple of different reasons. For one, it was a game that went a long way into solidifying the need to bury Jonas Gustavsson in the minors for his socialist approach to giving wins to his opponents. The second is the bad blood that was brewed even further between Connor McDavid and Brandon Manning. Manning, who will forever be linked to the breaking of McDavid’s collarbone, found himself in the crosshairs of Connor following the latest tilt, in which during, he supposedly said some classless thing to McDavid. Both players have downplayed the animosity going into this evening, but it would be naive to assume that there won’t be at least some sparks that follow. You can find McDavid’s post game reaction from December here.
Steve Mason starts for the Flyers tonight, and he is 9-4 versus the Oilers, despite owning a .870 save percentage against them.
Meanwhile, this time around, the Flyers are 2-2-1 and have scored a grand total of 7 goals in the 6 games leading up to tonight.
— Sarah Baicker (@sbaickerCSN) February 16, 2017
Oilers Key to the Game
- Piping-Hot Power Play: The Oilers had struggled on the man advantage heading into the other night, but found themselves with a pair of goals on the Power Play thanks to Leon Draisaitl and Mark Letestu. Edmonton should be able to lure a tired Flyers squad into some penalty trouble, and if they can, they will have a dangerous looking Power Play at their disposal to try and capitalize. An early goal or two on special teams and that could be enough to seal it for Edmonton.
Players to Watch
- Connor McDavid: For the obvious reasons… Connor seems to have a knack for rising to the occasion in spirited contests, and tonight would seem to fit the bill. It could be a massive game for the young Captain.
- Jordan Eberle: He came close on a few occasions on Tuesday, but couldn’t quite find the back of the net. Jordan could hit the scoresheet tonight if he gets similar opportunities. Worth noting is that he has 8 points in 8 career games.
- Brandon Manning: It will be fun to watch and see if any sparks fly. Will he be a willing combatant if Lucic, Maroon, or Gryba come calling?Here is hoping McDavid can turnstile the defender at least once, just to see his reaction.
- Jakub Voracek: He always seems to play the Oilers well (19 points in 19 career GP) and remains a dangerous force for the Flyers. Voracek got four points in the (horrific, nightmarish, horrible) game between these two teams on December 8.
Maroon – McDavid – Eberle
Lucic – Draisaitl – Slepyshev
Caggiula – Nugent-Hopkins – Kassian
Hendricks – Letestu – Pakarinen
Klefbom – Larsson
Sekera – Benning
Davidson – Gryba
(Lineup courtesy of EdmontonOilers.com)
Schenn – Giroux – Simmonds
Weal – Couturier – Voracek
Raffl – Cousins – Read
VandeVelde – Bellemare – Weise
Provorov – MacDonald
Streit – Gostisbehere
Manning – Gudas
(Projected lineup courtesy of Daily Faceoff)
- Oscar Klefbom managed a goal and two assists in the win against Arizona on Tuesday, working with over 25 minutes of ice time. As of late, McLellan has had no issue feeding Oscar a large amount of playing time, with the game against the Coyotes being the 7th game in his last 13 where the defenceman had over 25 minutes of ice time. Look for Klefbom to be a major factor tonight as well.
- Draisaitl also found the scoresheet three separate times on Tuesday and he will be a player to watch tonight. If Leon can continue to drive his own line, this will certainly adjust Peter Chiarelli’s plans heading into the trade deadline.
- Matt Benning had an unusually weak game the other night. He will once again get the call to play on a pairing with Sekera, and fans should hope for a bounce back game for the rookie.
- Eric Gryba gets the nod again on the third pairing, which is most likely correlated with McLellan’s reluctance to change a winning lineup. However, Gryba did struggle the other night, and many spectators had figured Oesterle would draw in this evening as a result. Perhaps Gryba is playing in anticipation of any funny business occurring, and if so, that is unfortunate. Tonight’s game should be fast and feature plenty of puck movement, which is right up Jordan Oseterle’s alley.
The last time that the Oilers played the Flyers, they had actually played not too bad of a game. They were rewarded with a dismal goaltending performance and lost 6-5 in regulation. That game was also during a time when the Flyers were one of the hottest teams in the NHL.
A lot has changed since then, and tonight’s game looks to be a prime opportunity for the Oilers to once again jump on a tired opponent, with the added benefit of having solid goaltending behind them.
With that said, I predict a comfortable 4-1 win for Edmonton tonight. The Flyers will continue to struggle to score, especially on 24 hours rest and facing Cam Talbot, while the new lines for Edmonton will build on the chemistry created last game.
Expect massive things for Connor tonight. I think he nabs himself a goal, accompanied with 2 helpers on the Power Play.