You knew it was coming. Hell, last season when I previewed the Oilers and the Bruins, it was all about Hall vs. Seguin. #1 vs #2. Before we get this preview in full swing, let's play a little game I call "Before and After".
Before the 2010-2011 playoffs:
Taylor Hall was the man last season. He was the number one draft pick and got tons of ice time (averaged about 19 minutes a game last year) and was on pace to score a bunch of goals before succumbing to a high ankle sprain. In 65 games last year, Hall scored 22 goals, had 20 assists. He averaged a goal every 3 games, which isn't bad for a rookie. Many looked at him and said "Well, he's a good player on a terrible team, no wonder he gets so much ice time." This is true, but you can't deny the kid has talent.
Tyler Seguin was dubbed the savior of the Bruins before he even hit the ice. Seguin was a talented kid on a playoff contending team so, unlike Hall (and guys like Jeff Skinner), he was unable to be let loose and score his buckets upon buckets of goals. Instead most of Seguin's time was spent in the press box watching the Bruins play hockey. That's not entirely accurate as Seguin did play 74 games, but you know what I mean. Seguin did spend some time in the press box (healthy scratches, by the way) because his defensive game was not up to par. People in Boston begged for Seguin. Claude didn't budge because he knew "The Kid" needed to be taught.
After the 2010-2011 playoffs:
Like I mentioned earlier: Hall shut it down due to a high ankle sprain and obviously the Oilers missed the playoffs. This isn't to say that Hall sucked last season because it's far from it. Was he Caulder Trophy material? No, but based on the three finalists it's not hard to see why. For those that don't remember: Jeff Skinner won the Caulder Trophy after he totaled 63 points.
Need I say more?
After the jump, more preview goodness...
So now that this new season is upon us, it's time to look at where both teams are headed. The Oilers selected Ryan Nugent-Hopkins number one overall (two years in a row with the number one overall pick? Must be nice) and lead their division with 20 points (2nd in the West). The Bruins are the defending Stanley Cup Champions, 4th in the Northeast Division and 13th in the East with 12 points BUT they're currently on a three game winning streak.
It's been a tale of two teams. October saw a sluggish, lazy and unlucky Bruins teams while November's squad (so far) has looked crisp, ripe with emotion and able to put the puck in the net both 5-on-5 and when on the power play. It's amazing to see how different this team is when they actually show up to the rink. I've heard a lot of squaking that the Bruins played Ottawa, Toronto and the Islanders and not "tough" teams. Well, when the Bruins faced Ottawa they won six straight games. When they played Toronto, they were leading the division (and still are). The Islanders, well, Toronto and Ottawa were good.
I think people get these teams confused sometimes with previous seasons. The same goes for the Oilers. Last year the Oil sucked (and it's obvious based on where they drafted) but this season they're one of the best in the league? Why? Their young kids are contributing (Nugent-Hopkins is in the top 30 in NHL goal scoring) and their goaltending has been other-worldly. Raise your hand if you thought Nikolai Khabibulin was going to lead the NHL in GAA (0.98) in November and be second in save percentage (.964). Exactly, not one hand up. However, the Bulin Wall has found the fountain of youth and has played out of his mind. 0.98 GAA. Do you understand how crazy that is? Not to mention that the guy they traded for in the offseason, Ryan Smyth, is healthy and already has 7 goals this season.
The Bruins young guys are just as impressive. Tyler Seguin has been a beast and that's an understatement. Seguin is currently 12th overall in goals scored in the NHL and being put on a line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron has only made him better on both sides of the ice. His defensive improvements are almost as impressive as his offensive game because he was always blessed with offensive talent. His willingness to learn from Bergy (who should already have a Selke or two under his belt by now) will only make him a more well rounded NHL player. It's not just Seguin though. Out of nowhere, Milan Lucic has scored 7 goals and is ranked 18th overall in the NHL in scoring. Shit, the Bruins are now 8th overall in goals per game with 3.00. That's a huge, HUGE improvement over where they were last week, which I believe was around 25th. Even the power play has taken a nice jump, going from about 26th last week to 18th overall.
This will be a fun fucking game to watch. These young kids are going to let it all out on the ice.
Everyone knows that Paille took a puck off of the face (although USA Today claims it was from defenseman Daniel Paille) and with Peverley coming back from his Undisclosed minor injury, Beniot Pouliot will play in on the fourth line with Soupy and Thornton. Not sure who is in between the pipes tonight, but I'll go with Tim Thomas.
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Jordan Caron-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Beniot Pouliot-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub
Game Day Video
TIME TO GO!