GD14: Oilers @ Senators - Smith Returns
Last game against the Flames, the Oilers came out strong and dominated Calgary for most of the first period. When the dust had settled the score was 2-1 but if Markstrom was not a wall in net it very easily could have been 4-1. Calgary pushed back in the second and both teams traded chances with the final score ending up 6-4.
It is the first game this season I will put solely on the back of Mikko Koskinen. There were some defensive gaps by the Oilers defenders in front; this may come as a shock but every NHL team makes mistakes. For the Oilers this season when they do make those mistakes it feels like 80% of them are finding the back of the net.
Edmonton pushed back repeatedly throughout the game. Jesse Puljujarvi scored a great goal to make it 3-3 and just over a minute later Calgary scored. Darnell Nurse brought the game back within one on a great shot and two minutes later Sam Bennett scored. As a whole the Oilers needed to play stronger in their own zone but they are getting no big saves from their netminder right now.
At no point in last night's game, unless Koskinen was injured did I expect Tippett to put Stuart Skinner in. With respect to the young netminder he is not ready for the big leagues yet. Holland chose to gamble with the same tandem from last season and unsurprisingly it hasn't worked. Yes, injuries are a surprise but is anyone that surprised that the 38 year old goaltender was unable to play for the first month of the season?
For better or worse, expect Tippett to return to how he ran his goalies last season, seeing Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith alternating every couple of games. Ottawa is as good a team as any for Mike Smith to return against.
OILERS LINE COMBINATIONS
RNH - McDavid - Puljujarvi
Kahun - Draisaitl - Yamamoto
Neal - Turris - Kassian
Ennis - Khaira - Archibald
Nurse – Barrie
Jones – Larsson
K. Russell – Bouchard
- This is my best guess. Ennis has been taken off the taxi squad and at some point one hopes that Tippett will put Jones back into the lineup
SENATORS LINE COMBINATIONS
Tkachuk - Norris - Dadonov
Paul - White - Batherson
Stutzle - Tierney - Brown
Galchenyuk - Stepan - Watson
Chabot - Zaitsev
Brannstrom - Gudbranson
Reilly - Zub
4 THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1.) Mike Smith - Smith returns between the pipes for the Edmonton Oilers and I'm sure Oilers Twitter will have their hands hovering on their keyboards at the first sign of trouble. Do I want Smith to fail? Absolutely not. Do I have confidence in him? I do not.
2.) EV Scoring - Jesse Puljujarvi has 3 even strength goals on the season. That is one more than Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent Hopkins has. RNH in particular has not done nearly enough at 5 on 5. Of his 11 points, only 4 have come at even strength. A team may only be on the ice for 2-8 minutes a game on their PP; with most of the rest being at even strength. These guys need to start putting up more points at 5 on 5.
3.) What A Difference A Week Makes - Edmonton was rarely not in control against the Senators in their two contests but to Ottawa's credit they played two much better games against the Canadiens, winning one of them (something Edmonton has yet to do). This is a great chance for the Oilers to rack up some standings points but they need to do so by playing responsible hockey.
4.) McDavid Fired Up - Yeah the tripping call against McDavid in the last game was an absolute joke but it's one I've come to expect from the League as a whole. Connor usually takes moments like that and vents them out against his opposition. Hopefully he has a productive night.
THE OILERS WIN IF...
They continue to fire shots on net against the Senators hapless goaltending.
THE SENATORS WIN IF...
Mike Smith is one of those hapless goaltenders.