Praise Yahweh in every city!
Night and day sing out in worship!
Lift his name high on consecutive nights!
For the love he shows to his most beloved team will never end.
Whether in an empty foreign temple,
or one filled to the brim with band-wagon jumpers,
Edmonton Oilers (2-4-2) @ Chicago Blackhawks (6-4-1)
United Center, 6:30 p.m. MDT
Television: Sportsnet West
More analysis after the jump...
Visiting Team Scouting Report:
Looking over Chicago's roster, it's clear that this isn't the same team that was able to capture the Stanley Cup just five months ago. That team was built on depth, and with Joel Quenneville's excellent bench management, every forward line came out on top. The first line controlled territory, as did the second, the third, and even the fourth; there was nowhere for the opposition to gain traction. This year, not so much. The Hawks decided to send away most of their depth in order to keep all of their stars. The result is a team much less capable of beating you with all four lines and all three defense pairings, especially when some of the high-priced stars are injured. The Hawks have been without Brian Campbell for a while now, which means Nick Boynton is in the top four, and after Marian Hossa's injury in Chicago's last game against the Kings, they'll now also be playing one star short up front. During last year's playoffs Troy Brouwer and Tomas Kopecky both spent time as a healthy scratch; this year, they're both consistently top nine forwards. The team just isn't the same, and they'll have real trouble repeating as division champs.
Edmonton Oilers (2-4-2):
Hall - Gagner - Hemsky
Paajarvi - Horcoff - Eberle
Penner - Cogliano - Brule
Jones - Fraser - MacIntyre
Whitney - Gilbert
Smid - Vandermeer
Strudwick - Peckham
Chicago Blackhawks (6-4-1)
Sharp - Toews - Stalberg
Brouwer - Kopecky - Kane
Smith - Bolland - Pisani
Skille - Dowell - Bickell
Keith - Seabrook
Hjalmarsson - Boynton
Hendry - Cullimore
By the Numbers:
- Taylor Hall scored his first NHL goal last night in Columbus, but it didn't take eight games because the player has struggled. Despite Tom Renney's tendency to let the other coach get his matchups (last night in Columbus the three forwards who played the most against Rick Nash were Andrew Cogliano, Gilbert Brule, and Hall), the first overall pick still has the best Corsi ratio on the entire team 5-on-5. The downside? The best Corsi number on the team is break-even.
- Right now the Oilers have three players on pace to take at least two hundred shots on goal: Kurtis Foster, Dustin Penner, and Magnus Paajarvi. This is particularly encouraging in Paajarvi's case because many players are able to increase their shot totals through their first few seasons in the league. At the other end of the spectrum, Steve MacIntyre is the only player on the roster who doesn't yet have a shot on goal. I know that's not why he's out there, but it's yet another statistic that demonstrates how little MacIntyre accomplishes on the ice outside of the very narrow role he's been assigned (i.e. punching goons).
- Fernando Pisani has settled into a useful checking role with the Blackhawks. He's played in all eleven games so far this season on the third and fourth line and ranks ninth in EV TOI per game with 10:07. He's also been one of Chicago's top four options on the penalty kill, and has been getting ice time in the last few minutes of games when the Hawks are protecting a lead. It's good to see Pisani healthy and playing a significant role on a good hockey team.
- Marty Turco and Corey Crawford have provided very good goaltending for the Blackhawks so far this season. Their combined EV save percentage so far this year is .926 and their combined overall save percentage is .923. Last season, the Hawks got a combined EV save percentage of .905 from Cristobal Huet, Antti Niemi and Crawford (one game), and a combined overall save percentage of .904. The Hawks got worse in a number of areas over the off-season, but they improved significantly in goal while simultaneously getting much cheaper.
- Last season, the Chicago Blackhawks had the best shot differential in the NHL at +9.0 per game. After eleven games in 2010-11, the Hawks differential is -3.9 per game, a massive shift in the wrong direction. I expected there to be some decline coming into this season, but I certainly didn't expect the Hawks would fall that far. And the Oilers? Through eight games they're sitting at -6.8 per game compared to -4.8 over the course of 2009-10.