GDB Penguins (3-1-2) @ Oilers (3-3-0): Best vs. Once Best

That was the literal moment when the torch was officially passed. Connor gets up to accept his Hart Trophy and proceeds to BLOW by Sid like he’s Mark Giordano, then shares a little bro-shake with Vegas Wayne while Sidney collects his belongings in the back. What a moment in Oil Country history. Not a lot happening since then.

No disrespect to Alex Ovechkin and Nathan MacKinnon, or even Brad Marchand or Sebastian Ah or Evgeni Malkin, because they’re all having incredible years, and Sid’s still Sid regardless of his no goals in six games, but Connor is clearly the league’s best. His points per game may have dipped to a modest 1.83 after being shutout by Nashville (13 straight losses to the Preds *swish*) but it’s still currently good enough for second in the league, only 0.17 behind this man:

Yes, maybe the one of two real threats to Connor’s throne this season (along with Nate Mac) is a man who spells ‘cat’ with a ph. That big neanderthal is probably a distant relative of Jesse Puljujarvi and was controversially omitted off the NHL’s top 100 of all time list just last season. He’s followed that snub up with 110 points in 84 games (1.31 per game), a rate second runner up only to Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon (1.35 per game), and a very modest 77 places ahead of Jonathan Toews (0.76 per game).

So I’m going to go ahead and declare Evgeni Malkin the official opposition to Connor this season. It’s the best vs the second best and the once best tonight. To quote the godlike voice of Bob Cole, “It’s going to be a dandy, that’s right. Oh baby!”

Let’s go, baby.

Tonight’s Opponent

Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh is technically two games over five hundred and have points in all but one of their six games this year, and that’s good enough for fourth place in the metro. We actually only score goals when Connor McDavid is directly contributing and we’re still only four points back of Calgary and Vancouver for second in the PAC, with multiple games in hand. Thank god for our geographical location.

All Time Record

GP W L T OTL
76 38 31 4 3

Over five hundred, but Pens have won seven of the last eight. Not surprising, given that we only play them twice per year, and that the majority of our previous teams have been a steaming pile of megafauna shit. Surprisingly though, Oilers/Penguins games have been decided by one goal in nine of the last 11 games. The only two decided by more than one goal were both two goal losses by the fellas. Generally speaking, these are very close games. Even when the Oilers were abhorrently bad, the teams matched up well. Connor also has seven in four against the Pens. Mmmmm.

Our Lineup

First time we’ve had three players in the green on our first line all season. And good news for fans of additional help: Cooper Marody has been recalled from Bakersfield and will immediately draw into the lineup. I thought Marody was going to make the team out of training camp. He outplayed the majority of our bottom six forwards during the preseason, and his solid level of play has continued (5 GP, 2-4-6) while centering the Condors’ first line with Benson (5 GP, 1-4-5) and Hebig (5 GP, 3-2-5).

The second line got crushed against Nashville so they’re sticking together. Jujhar comes out, he’s been getting rocked like the majority of our fourth line. Caggiula is still hurt so Chiasson will play his second straight game.

Kevin Gravel draws in. This is good news because Jason Garrison is amazingly bad. This is not good news because Kevin Gravel was our next choice. I think he’s going to play with Bouchard, which segues into my next point, that is:

Holy smokes, that’s good. I’m both happy and surprised and borderline anger and not surprised. That’s a lot of conflicting emotions, also known universally as “just being an Oilers fan.” I’m happy and surprised because I love this kid and I think he has the skill set to become a very good and possibly elite RHD for a very long time, and that’s something we so desperately need. As we’ve grown to understand, puck moving RHD do not grow on trees, nor can our incumbent GM trade an MVP-caliber player for one. Therefore, our best shot was to steal on via the draft. We’ve all been vocally hoping for Ethan Bear to transition into a solid NHL RHD, but wishful thinking usually only lands us multiple bottom ten finishes. Bouchard looks like the real deal, and I’m shocked he’s looked this composed and steady after only five career NHL games.

I’m more than a little annoyed because there are other defensemen on this team who should be playing better than an 18 year old rookie and are not. If we had this level of play from, say, two or three other defensemen on our team… who knows? That’s not to say it’s entirely their faults, per se, but maybe mix in a breakout pass that doesn’t sail wider than that Justin Tucker PAT?

I’m not surprised because this is all that Petey left us with. My God.

And in the cage, making his seventh consecutive start is:

The Iceman. We paid a guy $2.5 million and threw in a NMC for shits and giggles only to staple his Finnish ass to the bench. Not saying I want him to start, because I truly believe he’s not very good and the Iceman is probably the only goalie on our roster capable of winning tonight’s game, but logistically speaking we legit actually FOR REAL paid a backup goalie $2.5 million to play in what’s likely to be in the neighbourhood of 15 games. His last start came on October 3, that’s 20 days ago.

Their Lineup

Nothing’s official yet but I’m sure they’ll go with the lineup that shutout the media’s preemptive Stanley Cup champions on Thursday. Inject Penny Oleksiak’s brother accidentally being on the ice at the same time as Connor McDavid into my larynx.

Also, remember this team willingly sought after Jack Johnson, and then signed him to a big ol’ contract for virtually no reason at all? WOOF. Jack Johnson sucks. Todd’s only job is to keep McDavid away from Pittsburgh’s first pair. I look forward to watching him do the exact opposite of that tonight.

Match Up

They’re onto us:

“More than fine.” Fuck, that stings. I’d give anything for some secondary scoring. The third line has been fairly strong all year, especially Ryan Strome, who leads the team in shot attempts for and against by a substantial margin (+28, next closest is Evan Bouchard at +10). So, I want to think goals will come for his line at some point soon. It’s the second line, particularly 29, that’s been the root of my displeasure. Leon’s getting fucking murdered in his own zone and isn’t making up for it with even a hint of competent offensive zone play. His shot attempt plus/minus is an astonishing -35. I say astonishing because when you pay a guy $8.5 million simply because that’s what he asked for, you’d expect him to contribute something quantifiably positive at either end of the rink.

So pretty much the verdict is out that if you contain Connor McDavid you should be able to defeat the Edmonton Oilers. I’m guessing Sid will shadow Connor for pretty much the entire night. Against Boston, Todd matched up Connor’s line against Boston’s top line, and Connor not only contained maybe the best first line in hockey, but also crucified them in over time. But facing Bergeron all night did limit his ability at 5v5. Still, what other goddamn line on this team would you send out against the best players in hockey? And at least Boston only had like one threatening line. If Connor’s against Sid, who’s up against Malkin? Strome’s line seems like the most logical and probably our only option, and that means a kid making his NHL debut plus a dump truck will be on the ice against Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.

And that’s still a more comfortable feeling than having Leon Draisaitl’s lackluster backcheck anywhere near a combined 707 career NHL goals. I’d almost rather Strome and Marody and Lucic face Sidney Crosby’s zero fucking goals just to have Connor and Nuge on the ice against Malkin at all times. Pray to some divine being tonight.

Prediction

Ah, hell. 7-4 Oilers. Connor with many. Sidney scores his first of the year against us tonight, because you just know he will. Marody gets his first NHL goal. Strome gets his first of the year.


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