Oilers Pre Game 1 Blog - Everything You Need To Know
We come to it at last, the great battle of our time...
Is that a quote from The Return of The King? Yes.
Am I a dork? This should've been clear by now.
Does any of this make anyone feel less hype for some Oilers playoff hockey?
Here. We. Go.
Saturday at 1PM the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks will face off in Game 1 of the first Stanley Cup Qualifying Round. The winner will go on to the Western Conference Quarter Finals, while the other will have a chance to draft Alexis Lafreniere. That second option isn't even a thought in the minds of most Oilers fans as they have waited far too long once again to see some playoff action. After nearly moving on to the Western Conference Final in 2017, the Oilers responded with two mediocre years, fired another coach, another GM, and were once again uncertain what the future would bring.
Tippett and Holland were not slam dunk choices at the get go. Fans were understandably apprehensive of bringing in the GM of a Red Wings team that had begun to crumble and a coach that had not worked in the league for a couple of seasons. Since then both have been looked at with near unanimous admiration.
The Oilers finished 2nd in the Pacific, fourth in the West but due to points percentage were placed in the qualifiers while the Stars who finished with one less point has a first round buy. The Blackhawks meanwhile finished dead last in the Central and solid off assets like Gustafsson and Lehner at the deadline. Make no mistake, one team does not belong here.
Here is what the roster will likely be for Game 1:
- Edmonton has two lines that could be viewed as a top line on most NHL teams. The Hawks have a younger defense and even if they throw their best combo of Keith and Boqvist at the McDavid line, the likes of De Haan and Murphy still have Draisaitl to contend with.
- Athanasiou still hasn't come on in the scrimmages and exhibition games and the Oilers need him to in a big way. Sheahan may or may not be ready for game 1 but I really like Gaetan Haas's game and his speed and tenacity are a perfect fit for a Tippett bottom 6.
- The Neal, Khaira, Chiasson line might end up being a secret weapon for the Oilers and I am not kidding. Both Neal and Chiasson finished positive in possession for the Oilers this season and should be counted on to play some solid minutes against the likes of Toews, Saad, and Debrincat. Both Neal and Chiasson have won cups and have that experience that so few on the current Oilers roster have.
- With all the talk about Broberg, not enough has been stated that Ethan Bear continues to look better and better. The rookie played more minutes at 5 on 5 than any other rookie this season and performed admirably but signs of fatigue were showing. Well rested, Bear looks like he is ready to continue playing at the same level or better than where he left off.
- I see Mikko Koskinen playing in the first game and even if he has a brilliant game I would not be shocked if Mike Smith is still there for game 2. Tippett has switched up his goalies throughout the season and while it's almost unheard of to do so in the playoffs unless a goalie is struggling massively, I could still see a scenario in which Mikko picks up the W in game 1 and Smith starts the following game.
- The Caggiula, Dach, Kubalik trio is causing me more worry than any other line for the Hawks. While the top two lines will be getting a steady helping of the likes of Debrincat, Toews, Strome, Kane, and Saad, that line has some high octane talent and could easily dominate the Oilers third line.
- Remember that Edmonton is the home team for the first two games and therefore will get the final line change. Tippett and the Oilers need to use that advantage well because without a crowd it will be the only extra advantage they get.
- The Hawks looked solid against the Blues in exhibition but St Louis really looked like they were playing a pre-season early game while the Hawks were in full focus. There is little to be gleaned from that game, especially on Corey Crawford who looked sharp but also wasn't ever truly challenged. Edmonton needs to make life difficult for Crawford early and often.
Tomorrow morning I will post my game day blog and like all of you will be rooting for an Oilers win!