Before I jump into the gameday blog stuff I wanted to repost something I brought up in my blog from yesterday for those who didn't see it.
During tonight's game I will be tracking one Oilers player for the entire game, recording everything that occured while they were on the ice. I'll then post a blog on that tomorrow. Hopefully doing this will provide you, the readers, with some new insight on the players on this team.
You can vote for which player you want to see me track right here.'
Now to our regular scheduled programming.
Last game against the Blackhawks was a statement game by the Edmonton Oilers. With McDavid out of the line with a quad injury, all eyes were on Edmonton to see how the players would react. Luckily for fans, they did not disappoint.
Leon Draisaitl continued to prove his naysayers wrong and racked up three assists and a goal. The entire top line was magic all night with Kailer Yamamoto recording his first multi goal game and Ryan Nugent Hopkins registering a goal as well.
The Riley Sheahan line started out the scoring with Archibald making a nice maneuver to enter the zone, Kassian creating some chaos and pressure with Sheahan potting the goal.
The defense overall played a strong game, limiting the Hawks chances while Mike Smith stood strong in net. There were a few poor decisions made with the puck which led to the Blackhawks first two goals but the team held it together when it mattered the most.
Games like that should give the team confidence moving forward, showing they can play a competitive game without their captain and best player in the lineup. Consistency will be the trick as they need to prove that again tonight against the Lightning, and the following game against the Panthers, and the game after that against the Hurricanes, and again and again until Connor McDavid returns.
Tampa Bay are undefeated in the month of February and are on an 8 game winning streak, with points in their last 10 games. Over their past 8 games the Lightning have put up some impressive numbers, outscoring their opposition 26 to 12 over this period.
One area that is alarming in a couple different ways is the Lightning's powerplay. Over this 8 game stretch they have been horrendous on the powerplay, only scoring once in their last 22 chance going 1/22... that is a rate of 4.5%. That is incredibly poor and yet the Lightning keep winning games. As if the rest of the league wasn't already scared of Tampa, imagine what happens when that number starts trending the other way.
After starting the season slow the Lightning are back in full force and once again are the team to beat in the NHL. With Connor McDavid, this would be a tough game to win; without #97 in the lineup exponentially increases the difficulty of that task.
Luckily Edmonton will have a bit of help as the Lightning are dealing with a few injuries of their own.
Rutta and McDonagh have been out of the lineup for some time but the Lightning had a few key players banged up last game against the Penguins. Stamkos, Kucherov, and Cirelli will all miss tonight's game. While that is a massive bonus for Edmonton, the Lightning shouldn't be looked at as any less of a threat.
Tampa's 5 top goal scorers in the lineup tonight have a combined total of 77 goals, Edmonton's have 76. Brayden Point, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat... the Lightning still have an armada of weapons they can put out on any line.
3 KEYS TO VICTORY
1.) Score First - Edmonton ranks third in the NHL for wins when leading after the first period with 17. Tampa Bay is second with 19. With their two best players out of the lineup the Oilers have a better chance of accomplishing this but it's still going to feel like climbing Everest, especially with Vasi playing red hot as of late.
2.) Can't Only Rely On The Top Line - The Drai, Yamo, RNH trio has been hot since the start of 2020 and may have had their best game together against the Hawks. It's one thing to produce those numbers against Chicago's defensive core and an entirely different one to do so against Hedman and Sergachev. The other lines are going to have to pot some greasy goals to pull out a win.
3.) A Steal From Smith - For Edmonton to stay in the win column over the next couple weeks they are going to need their goaltending to steal them a game or two. Smith gets the start tonight who is 8-4-4 career against Tampa, with a SV% of 0.884. Smith played solid against Chicago two days ago. He needs to be brilliant tonight.
FILM OF THE DAY
Originally I was going to pick something from Thor Ragnorak due to Edmonton playing against the Lightning, but instead I decided to cheat a little. Most people have seen all the Marvel movies, but has everyone seen Thor appear in the Incredible Hulk TV show with Lou Ferrigno? You have now.