When I was a child, NHL hockey games arrived on Saturday night. That meant finding something to do until 6 o’clock. My brother and I had chores (he was four years older so had the tougher ones) that included bringing in enough coal for the next 24 hours (coal is filthy, the soot would get everywhere), feeding the goats (my brother couldn’t drink cow’s milk) and then the two of us playing in the driveway or basement depending on how damned cold it was that day. Stampede Wrestling mid-afternoon (I took a helluva beating, four years is a gap), then Bugs Bunny (love that show to this day) and then the HNIC intro would arrive. Sometimes the game you were going to get (Montreal hosting Rangers) according to the TV Times would be replaced by the one you wanted (Bruins in Toronto) and that was a good day.
After the game, my brother and I would go outside and replay the game. I loved it, but he always got to be the Bruins. Periods ended when he had to hit the can or Mom yelled it was time for bed. I looked forward to the day when I’d be older and could be the Bruins and he had to be the Leafs, but it never came. My brother grew up, got a job, bought a car, and found the fairer sex. I would find my way too, but the time in between was a lonely one. Not much shakin’ but coyotes and a car every 12 hours when you’re 17 miles north of Maidstone in 1973.
Those wonderful Saturdays of my youth come flooding back to me every year, my mind drifts to that place 17 miles north of Maidstone where my world changed in a hurry. The comfort of the hockey game on Saturday remains, then and now, connecting me across the years to the things I held dear in youth. It’s hockey night in Canada.
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.
- New Lowetide: Oilers risers and fallers and how they impact the opening night roster
- Lowetide: Will Ken Holland let it ride in goal for the Oilers this season?
- Lowetide: Oilers rookies with a chance to stick after one week of training camp
- Lowetide: 9 bold predictions for the Oilers’ season
- Lowetide: Early roster rumblings as Oilers open training camp
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers training camp: Forecasting the big roster battles
- Lowetide: Dylan Holloway’s world juniors work offers clues about Oilers future
- Lowetide: The Bakersfield Condors will be competitive in the coming AHL season
- Jonathan Willis: After a brilliant rookie Oilers season, how high is Ethan Bear’s ceiling?
- Lowetide: How secure is Zack Kassian’s role on Oilers’ top line?
- Lowetide: Why fans should expect an Oilers playoff berth in Canadian division
- Jonathan Willis: Dave Tippett has more options now thanks to versatile Oilers forwards
- Lowetide: What if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins doesn’t sign with the Oilers?
- Lowetide: Seattle Kraken expansion mock draft 5.0: Who could the Oilers lose?
- Lowetide: Why McDavid and Nuge together could be key to Oilers’ playoff success
GAME 1 PROJECTED LINES AND PAIRINGS
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Connor McDavid—Zack Kassian
- Dominik Kahun—Leon Draisaitl—Kailer Yamamoto
- Josh Archibald—Kyle Turris—Jesse Puljujarvi
- Tyler Ennis—Jujhar Khaira—Alex Chiasson
- Darnell Nurse—Ethan Bear
- Caleb Jones—Adam Larsson
- Slater Koekkoek—Tyson Barrie
- Extras: Kris Russell, William Lagesson, Evan Bouchard
- Mikko Koskinen (Mike Smith)
- LTIR: Oscar Klefbom
- IR: James Neal, Gaetan Haas
- Taxi squad: LW Joakim Nygard, RW Patrick Russell, LW Tyler Benson, LC Ryan McLeod, LC Alan Quine, G Stuart Skinner.
Koekkoek starts ahead of Russell tonight, that’s a good sign that the late free-agent signing has emerged as the best available partner to Tyson Barrie. It could be injury to Russell, or performance related, it shows the increased depth available to coach Dave Tippett this season.
One hopes Mikko Koskinen starts and we see the top two lines get major minutes while the game is in doubt.
The third line in Game 1 2019-20 was Jujhar Khaira-Colby Cave-Josh Archibald and they played 7:16, going 7-17 Corsi, 4-6 shots, 0-1 goals and 0-2 HDSC. Better results are expected from the new No. 3 line, as Archibald gets two new linemates.
The fourth line same night was Markus Granlund-Gaetan Haas-Alex Chiasson, who played just 2:01, 0-2 Corsi.
I’ll be watching for aggressive forechecking, strong special teams, Tyson Barrie’s five on five usage and how long it takes the coach to shuffle lines. This is two points, that’s what’s important tonight.
JESSE’S NUMBER CHANGE
I received a dm yesterday urging me to hammer on about Jesse Puljujarvi’s number change. No. The event does gives me a chance to remind everyone that this blog tries to chronicle the important news of the day. I don’t think JP’s number change, or the reasons behind it, are terribly interesting. I don’t care. I do think it’s important for Puljujarvi to have success, so if No. 13 suits him, then that’s cool. If it matters to you, fill your hat. If you’re interested in why JP is such an important player for this team, you’ve come to the right place.
In the GDT of G1 2019-20 I wrote “today, another season begins and I believe this year in Edmonton will be a lot about rookies before the campaign ends. Ethan Bear is in the NHL tonight, and there’s a watershed on the way.”
That’s why Puljujarvi is important, and Evan Bouchard and Ryan McLeod, too. The number doesn’t matter. Never did.
LOSING A GOALIE ON WAIVERS
This is a far bigger deal than a number. I’ve mentioned several times that it’s unlikely Edmonton gets through the year with the Koskinen-Smith tandem, and Anton Forsberg is a suitable replacement. Stuart Skinner is unproven, so Ken Holland has to find a replacement. This is an opportunity to upgrade (doubt the Oilers will grab Alex Nedeljkovic) but the key is that the acquired goalie has already cleared waivers. Anthony Stolarz, former Oilers goalie, is a candidate among many.
THE THING PEOPLE ARE MISSING
I see this as a playoff team, warts and all. The moment Leon Draisaitl moved to center and his line began delivering five on five outscoring, Edmonton moved into another realm of contention. It changed the team’s ability to win hockey games, even with inconsistent goaltending. Consider the Oilers of one year ago and the impact represented by the five on five outscoring by center:
- McDavid line: 62-58 (+4)
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (first half, 15-19); Draisaitl (second half, 33-16): 48-35 (+13)
- Riley Sheahan line: 17-37 (-20)
- Gaetan Haas/others: 13-19 (-6)
Getting the top three lines above the Mendoza line is vital. I think that McDavid number is about to rocket.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, we continue a day long preview of the Oilers-Canucks game this evening at Rogers. At 10:20, Bruce McCurdy from the Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal will discuss the roster, the new faces and the Oilers goaltending situation. At 11, Joe Osborne from OddsShark will talk NFL weekend, NBA this evening, NHL tonight and the Oilers chances this year. At 11:25, Thomas Drance of The Athletic discusses the Canucks roster and expectations, plus the recent news on J.T. Miller and Jordie Benn. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. It’s all happening!