The Chicago Blackhawks keep rolling and are now showing no signs of a “Stanley Cup hangover”, as they prepare to face the mightily struggling Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers haven’t had much go right for them, this season, as they are sporting a 4-12-2 record, good for 10 points, and last place, in the Pacific Division. Currently, the Oilers are ranked 23rd in Goals Per Game, 30th in Goals Against Per Game, 21st in Power Play Percentage, 22nd in Penalty Kill Percentage, 12th in Faceoff Percentage, and 28th in Corsi For Percentage. So, the numbers don’t lie, Edmonton has severely struggled, this season.
At least some of the blame for the Oilers’ struggles, can be attributed to the fact that Taylor Hall has missed 7 of the first 18 games, this season. Other than Hall, the Oilers, who are in the midst of what has been a long painful rebuild, are lead by an intriguing group of young, potential stars, in the NHL. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle are putting up points this season, as has rookie, Mark Acrobello. Aside from them, it has been a struggle. 2012 first overall pick, in the NHL Draft, Nail Yakupov, is off to a rough start to the season.
While the forwards have great potential, and could eventually be the core of a succsful Oilers team, in the future, it’s mainly the defense and goaltending that has Edmonton floundering, in the Pacific Division. While the Oilers acquired the eccentric, once very good goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, it will be Devyn Dubnyk, between the pipes, tonight, for the Oilers, and he will have a mighty task at hand, tonight, against Chicago.
The Blackhawks are surging and overpowering teams, like they are expected to, but tonight will be their 2nd game, in 2 nights, which will be a concern, as the Hawks have struggled in 2nd games of back-to-backs, this season. On paper this matchup favors the Blackhawks, in ridiculous ways. The Hawks are ranked 2nd in Goals Per Game, 13th in Goals Against Per Game, 6th in Power Play Percentage, 27th in Penalty Kill Percentage, 13th in Faceoff Percentage, and 1st in Corsi For Percentage. While the Hawks are towards the top in most categories(except Penalty Killing, which is starting to turn it around), if the Oilers mightily cut down on turnovers, this game will be interesting.
While the Oilers boast a roster full of developing NHL stars, the Hawks roster is full of stars, that are firing on all cylinders. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp are leading the way in points, and defenseman Duncan Keith isn’t that far behind them. It will be a concern how fresh these guys’ legs, are today.
In net, tonight, it figures to be Nikolai Khabibulin, who is looking ti get his season on-track, as he has not played well at all, to say the least, in his limited amount of playing time.
Tonight’s game figures to favor the Blackhawks, on paper, but having played last night, the Oilers definitely have a shot. It should be a good game!