Oilers v. Blackhawks - Ephesians 3:2-7

You must already know about how God, in his amazing generosity, chose to teach us about his grace through this most wonderful hockey team, a mysterious plan that has been working itself out over many years. As we walk through these next several seasons together, we will continue to understand God's grace in a whole different way than the generation that came before us, a generation that was given an absolutely ridiculous abundance of talent, and a chance at history on any given night.

But this is God's plan for us: that the team's management would make so many bad decisions, all people could agree that victory by natural means would be all but impossible; yet victory would come, the promised inheritance of the Oiler faithful, children of a faithful God who has given and will give to us his blessing. This is the good news for us to share with all who have ears to hear.

Edmonton Oilers (15-19-3) @ Chicago Blackhawks (24-10-4)

United Center, 6:30 p.m. MST
Television: Sportsnet West

More analysis after the jump...

Home Team Scouting Report:

After a season of wandering in the wilderness of bad fortune - which nearly resulted in the team missing the playoffs - the Chicago Blackhawks have returned to the top of the Western Conference standings. But while the team is (yet again) very talented, there are indications that they may not be quite as good as their record suggests. For instance, the club's +18 goal differential is only good enough for sixth in the NHL, and is well behind league leaders like Boston, Detroit, and Vancouver. Further, their Fenwick percentage with the score close (within one in the the first two periods or tied in the third) is in a very tight group from 3rd to 6th (Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Boston are all between 53.1% and 53.5%) but well behind St. Louis and Detroit in first and second, mostly because Joel Quenneville, who often goes out of his way to find good match-ups, hasn't been able to achieve anything more than mediocre when the team is at home (their Fenwick percentage with score close at home is 51.7%, good enough for just 17th in the league). As we get closer and closer to the playoffs, I'm sure all of the main contenders will make improvements to their respective rosters, but based on what we've seen so far, the Hawks are not the odds-on favorite to come out of the Western Conference.

Expected Lineups:

Edmonton Oilers (15-19-3):

Smyth - Horcoff - Hemsky
Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Gagner - Belanger - Jones
Eager - Lander - Petrell

Smid - Gilbert
Sutton - Potter
Peckham - Petry


Khabibulin

Chicago Blackhawks (24-10-4):

Carcillo - Toews - Hossa
Stalberg - Sharp - Kane
Bickell - Bolland - Frolik
Brunette - Mayers - Hayes

Keith - Seabrook
Hjalmarsson - Leddy
O'Donnell - Montador

Crawford

By the Numbers:

  • The Blackhawks have a record of 12-7 in games decided by two goals or more, and a record of 12-7 in games decided by one, which is the kind of symmetry we would usually expect (though it's not usually going to be perfect like that). The Oilers just don't have that. Their record in games decided by two or more is 9-10, which is fantastic compared to their record of 6-13 in games decided by a single goal. That suggests to me that the Oilers have been somewhat unlucky so far this year, and that we should probably expect a slightly better second half as far as the team's record is concerned.
  • Another thing that suggests an Oiler finish outside of the bottom five is their Fenwick percentage with the score tied - 51.3% is pretty good - and the score close (i.e. tied in the third or within one in the first or second) - 48.8% is less good, but still good enough for 19th in the league.
  • Of course, the Oilers' superior performance in front of their goaltenders could be overwhelmed by a regression in performance by Nikolai Khabibulin who is still fifth or sixth among starters (depending on what you think of Brian Elliott) in save percentage at .924. I'm very happy to see him doing so well, but that's the line for his save percentage for the rest of the season, I'd take the under, and it isn't a tough choice.
  • Chicago's Sean O'Donnell will play in his 1,999th career regular season game and is closing in on 1,200. He'll be just the 90th player in NHL history to play in that many games. 35 of those players are already in the Hall of Fame, but O'Donnell isn't likely to join them. In fact, among those 90, he'll have the lowest number of career goals (he's got 31), and the fourth-lowest number of career points (227), ahead of fellow stay-at-home blueliners Ken Daneyko, Luke Richardson, and Craig Ludwig.
  • When the Blackhawks got Michael Frolik from the Florida Panthers for Jack Skille, I thought it was an absolute steal. I still think that's true, but Frolik's scored just 19 points in 64 regular season games since coming to Chicago, which is decidedly underwhelming. He isn't getting much in the way of power play time, and his on-ice shooting percentage five-on-five has been very poor (5.9%), so there are some outs available to explain some of that, but it's still got to be a little bit disappointing for Stan Bowman.
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