After defeating the Calgary Flames by a scoreline of 5-3 last night at the Saddledome, the Nashville Predators (6-1-0) look to sweep their way though Alberta and pick up another win tonight against the Edmonton Oilers (3-2-0).
To the surprise of nobody, Connor McDavid has been the catalyst for this Oilers team, piling up point after point. On the other hand, the Predators are much more of a team scoring by commission, with every Predator except Frederick Gaudreau already picking up at least one point. Which strategy will win tonight?
The Edmonton Oilers
After their fall from the playoffs to dwelling near the bottom of the Pacific Division, the Oilers look alright this year.
Correction—Connor McDavid looks phenomenal. The rest of the Oilers, other than Leon Draisaitl, look horrific.
Nonetheless, generational players have the capability to dominate games, and Connor McDavid has done just that. Recently, the Oilers picked up a big statement win over the Winnipeg Jets, so they certainly are not a team that one can take lightly. Nonetheless, the Oilers have a feel to their team that makes it seem that, if one can contain McDavid, this team is not one that should be feared.
Cam Talbot, who some people expected to bounce back this season, has also been a weak spot in net for the Oilers. His save percentage is only .902%, while his goals-against-average is a mediocre 2.81. Granted, the Oilers are sorely lacking in defense, but Talbot certainly is not helping any of the woes the Oilers have.
The Nashville Predators
Juuse Saros was going to start tonight’s game regardless, but Pekka Rinne sustained an injury yesterday that could prove problematic for a while. The young Saros could look for more extended playing time in the near future. Starting Rinne last night was a little baffling considering that he has dominated the Oilers his entire career, but nonetheless it appears time for a new Finnish goaltender to take that challenge.
Albeit having the best record in the league, the Predators still aren’t playing their best hockey. Now, that’s a double edged sword: it simultaneously means that this team, at the top of the league, can still get better. It also means that the Predators could be winning some games that they should be losing, and that their record is not indicative of their play. They still have clear-cut weaknesses, such as their 5th-worst power play in the league. They also have the 13th-most penalty minutes. Finally, the Predators have the 9th-worst penalty kill.
Those are not numbers for Stanley-Cup–winning prototypes. The Predators special teams are bad, and it has been nearly a full season since the power play last worked effectively. Considering how lackluster the penalty kill has played, the Predators cannot afford to take as many penalties as they do. The Predators may be winning games right now, but their special teams need to play significantly better hockey to convince me that this team can go farther than they did last season.
Reasons to Watch
- Juuse Saros starts! Cheers for Little Bear!
- Connor McDavid is always a thrill to watch. More than his speed is his ability to accelerate. If you have young hockey players at home, tell them to watch McDavid’s footwork when he initially receives the puck. It’s a lesson in hockey.
- Kyle Turris got the game he so badly needed last night, picking up two assists. The whole second line was buzzing, so hopefully there’s more to come from them tonight.
Sights and Sounds
Tonight’s contest is in Edmonton at 9:00ct. Fox Sports will have the television broadcast with 102.5 The Game taking over the radio airwaves.
Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about the food culture of Alberta. Plus, I’ll be attending the Blackhawks-Blue Jackets game in Columbus tonight anyways, so it’ll be a burger in all likelihood. Or a chili dog with Skyline on it. So many options...