View From the Other Side: Oilers @ Predators
Editor’s Note: I couldn’t rationalize writing about Nashville for the third time in four weeks. They’re so goddamn boring. So I let Teeps aka the president of St. Veg’s Predators’ fan club write this one instead. Might have been the worst CEO decision I’ve ever made. Also, remember Nikitin?! God I’ll miss that guy for eternity. He’s about half a second away from turning the puck over up there^. You can literally see the fear of handling the puck engraved in his eyes.
Sup, Oilers fans?
A little Sunday afternoon action coming at ya from Music City. The final contest of the three-team mini tournament between Nashville, Edmonton, and Washington wraps up today with the Preds having a chance to go 2-0 over the weekend. The two teams enter today’s contest with very similar records, with the key difference being the Oilers playing in the Pacific so their playoff spot is all but locked up. The Preds, meanwhile, are in the midst of a playoff race, sitting two points up on St. Louis for third in the Central and five points ahead of Los Angeles for the final wild card spot. The two points they picked up yesterday over Washington were big, but a clean win against a Western Conference playoff team would go a long way (referring to the Oilers as a “Western Conference playoff team” is still weird as hell).
Forsberg – Johansen – Arvidsson
Fiala – Fisher – Smith
Wilson – Jarnkrok – Watson
Zolnierczyk – Fiddler – Neal
Josi – Ellis
Ekholm – Subban
Irwin – Weber
EDITOR’S NOTE!!!!! See what I mean^^^^^^^^^^ (Daryl and Big Pou are game time’s. Iceman cometh).
It’s expected that the Preds will run the same lineup as the one they iced for yesterday’s 5-2 win over the Capitals. The top line has been electric all week, with Filip Forsberg potting seven goals over his last three games. The third line of Wilson-Jarnkrok-Watson has become the defacto checking line and will be tasked with locking down the Oilers top line of Pat Maroon, Connor McDavid, and Leon Draisaitl. James Neal is officially in Peter Laviolette’s doghouse, registering one goal in his last 13 games (or four in his last 24). Craig Smith has also been invisible all year, heading into today’s matchup with nine goals and 17 points after three straight season of 20+ goals and 50+ points. He’s got three goals since November 23rd, and two of them came in the same game.
The starting goalie hasn’t officially been announced yet, but with Juuse Saros starting yesterday I’d be shocked if Pekka Rinne doesn’t get the call today. The Oilers-killer himself hasn’t lost in eight stars against the blue and orange, registering three shutouts along the way.
Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers come to town following their own matchup with the Caps, dropping a well-played 2-1 decision to the 2017 Stanley Cup champs. The Oil are in the middle of a six-game road trip, splitting their trip to Florida with a loss to Nikita Kucherov and a 4-3 win against the Panthers. They’re virtually a lock for their first playoff appearance since 2006, barring an almost unthinkable collapse. It’s been five months of Oiler fans holding their breaths, waiting for the inevitable collapse to occur, but now it’s time to exhale. The Edmonton Oilers are playing playoff games in April. Bizarre, right?
Why They Stink
Outside of a really good goaltender and the second best hockey player on the planet, this team really isn’t that good. It COULD be good if any of the $6 million dollar men show up for more than a couple games each month. The defense is steady but underwhelming, though the returns of Adam Larsson and Daryl Nurse will help. The top line has been responsible for the majority of their offense (as it should be), but the lack of depth scoring will become an issue if the middle of the roster doesn’t wake up. If the Preds can contain McJesus and the German Gretzky they’ll have no problem outscoring the other three lines.
Also, this doesn’t have anything to do with hockey but this franchise just put a banner in their arena for Garth Brooks having nine sold-out concerts. That’s right, hanging alongside the banners of some of hockey’s greatest players is this thing:
Sticking with the Sather/Phillips trend of retiring people who never actually dressed for the team. This is Edmonton, circa 2010-2017.
Why Their Fans Stink
Go ahead, try to chirp an Oilers fan. 95% of the time you’ll be reminded of the five Cups that were won before they were born. In fairness, nothing positive has happened to this franchise in the 27 years since their last championship, outside of a couple months in 2006 and some magic ping pong balls falling their way in 2015. I guess the quality of the material doesn’t matter when there’s no other material to use.
If you somehow don’t get reminded about how great this team was before mom and dad had even met, you’ll probably hear some bragging about how awesome their arena is. It’s that building downtown that Oil fans seem to think they were responsible for and that was built because of how awesome they are as fans. It was actually built because this curly-haired, wannabe Bond villian, Rob Schneider lookin’ mofo threatened a move to Seattle before twisting the arm of city council for a bunch of taxpayer money:
I guess the real reason the arena was built isn’t as romantic as “because we’re the City of Champions bro!!!”
Also, there’s this:
Talbot’s been good, no question, but Connor McDavid has single -handedly carried this team out of the basement. Since being drafted in 2015, the Oil have built a record of 53-43-11 with him in the lineup and 11-21-5 without him. Cam Talbot’s been there the whole time.
Which Oiler Stinks
The Oilers don’t have anybody that other teams hate. Even Connor McDavid isn’t truly hated, other fan bases just hate how good he is.* Since the Oil are such lovable losers, we’ll go with the guy that Oilers fans themselves hate, the $42 million caveman, Milan Lucic. Here he is hitting the side of a wide-open net:
SIX MORE YEARS! Looch has been borderline useless, except for the first game against the Preds in Edmonton where he played like the terrifying human being he was in the early 2010’s. Outside of that, there haven’t been many highlights. Hell, even CBC’s Hometown Hockey promo for today only showed Lucic clips from that one game.
Why They Might Not Stink
Goddammit he’s just too good.
The Preds have had the Oilers number for years now since they’ve been able to match their speed and finesse up front while being able to shut down their top guys. The concern is that they come out flat, especially after knocking off the Capitals yesterday afternoon. Pekka Rinne may be forced to weather the storm until they find their legs, but if they can get out of the first period within a goal I like their chances. The Forsberg-Johansen-Arvidsson line has been the hottest in the league and with the Oilers defense being banged up, Lavy should be able to take advantage of some favourable matchups.
The Preds start slow but pick it up in the second half to win 4-2. Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg both notch a goal and an assist, James Neal snaps out of his slump with a power play marker, and everyone finally realizes how good Matthias Ekholm is.
Editor’s Note: Oilers win 5-0. Daddy with 6. Book it.
*Does not apply to Philadelphia, where they hate Santa Clause and sunshine