On the surface, the meeting between the Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets may only look like a game to see who’s worse in the Western Conference. But if you look closer, you’ll see two teams that are struggling despite their good starts.
The Blue Jackets have a key forward in Artem Anisimov, who has four goals to his credit and can be lethal when he has the chance to score. The problem is that the team hasn’t found those prime scoring chances, with only Anisimov and Mark Letestu leading the team with four goals apiece. After 11 games, their top center, Derek Brassard, only has two, and alternate captain R.J. Umberger has none. In fact, roughly half of the forwards and defensemen have no goals at all.
The Oilers have youth and skill on their team in the form of the “Kid Line” of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and the addition of Nail Yakupov hasn’t hurt them in clutch situations. There’s also San Gagner, who is in midseason form and could sneak in another eight-point game on us at any time, and defenseman Justin Schultz, who’s dazzled everyone with his play in both the NHL and AHL. The only downside is that such youth also comes with stupid little mistakes. The youngsters (and the entire team, for that matter) need to avoid distractions and stay out of the penalty box.
As for the goaltending, it will be a battle of Devan Dubnyk against Sergei Bobrovsky. Dubnyk is off to a hot start so far, with a 4-3-3 record in 10 starts, while Bobrovsky is 2-2-2 in six starts. While Dubnyk has been solid in net, Bobrovsky has had consistency problems, wavering between flashes of greatness and moments where his play breaks down. If the Blue Jackets want to keep pucks out of the net, it’ll take more than just five men defending the net to do so.
Both of these teams want desperately to pull themselves from the bottom of the standings. Whoever can best temper that desperation with discipline and skill will take away two points from this game.