RECORDS: Oilers 18-21-3 Hawks 19-15-6
PUCK DROP: 2pm
I don’t know who sanctioned a 2pm start, but they’re going to pay. Neither of these teams wants to be out during daylight hours right now. Hell, neither probably wants to be in public. Two teams that had designs on being a lot higher in the standings than they are will make it a lunch today on Madison St. Considering how things have gone for each team recently, a loss today is going to feel closer to terminal than it probably should. Though for the Oilers, it very well might be.
We’ll start with the Oilers, who have had maybe the biggest balls-up of a season this side of the Penguins. Since we last saw them last Friday, they’ve lost to the Jets, Kings, and Stars by a combined score of 15-1, while sneaking in a shootout victory over the Ducks in there. They’re below .500, miles out of a playoff spot, and really looking at the guillotine on this season very soon. They may even already be sellers, or should be, if you could find anyone on an expiring contract that anyone would want. The Chiarelli Panic Trade Countdown is getting awfully low.
It’s not hard to identify where things have gone wrong. One, Cam Talbot just plainly hasn’t been very good, and he’s been especially woeful on the penalty kill. That’s fed into their historically bad PK, which the power play isn’t making up for, and you can’t win games if you have to win at even-strength by two or three goals. It’s not all on Talbot for the penalty kill, however. The Oilers have the worst xGA/60 on the kill of anyone in the league and it isn’t even close. It’s over two goals worse per 60 than the team in 30th. That’s the same gap between 30th and 22nd. They just give up way too many good looks on the kill, and Talbot would have to perform miracles (MIRACLES!) to get through. He’s been quite the opposite, and hence you have this kindergarten recess.
On top of that, the Oilers just don’t have the finish to make their still-exemplary metrics count, as strange as that sounds. Yes, with Draisaitl now playing in the middle they might have the best center-depth in the West. Certainly in the Pacific. And yet with no wingers that you’d piss on if they were on fire, other than maybe Puljujarvi, it’s almost rendered useless. Run CMD can spin all the golden yarn he wants but if he’s waiting five seconds for Milan Lucic to catch up, who the fuck cares? This is a team where a suspension of Pat Maroon actually matters. You don’t want to be that team. Peter Kriss doesn’t even want to be that team.
All this has masked the fact that the defense has actually improved, though still isn’t Final-contender worthy which is where the Oilers had their eyes set before the year. Darnell Nurse has ascended to the top pairing, and you could get away with Adam Larsson there too if you had a really solid second pairing. Andrej Sekera and Matt Benning do not that pair make. Kris Russell is still watching the puck all the time on the third with KLEFBOM KLEFBOM YOU’RE MY KLEFBOM.
For the Hawks, Anton Forsberg will put a pause on the Glass Jeff Experience for a day, and the Hawks really need him to resign that to a footnote on this season. Forsberg has had his moments both ways, but he needs to grab the brass ring with Corey Crawford still in the land of wind and ghosts. There was no other word on lineup changes today, but you could see Jan Rutta come back in because he isn’t doing anyone any good in the pressbox. Then again, that’s the story for Michal Kempny and you know how that goes.
The Stars got their ass rubbed in the moonshine yesterday in Dallas, and Cam And Magic Talbot was pulled early in the 2nd. Whether he turns around or Chicago Rat Hockey Ragdoll Al Montoya gets the start, the Hawks are playing a severely wounded and shaken team here. The Oilers are basically looking for an excuse to down tools, and the Hawks have basically run out of time to get their ass in gear. The game against the Rangers would see this outfit off. A start like Friday’s will give them life. So the choice is simple.
Game #41 Preview