GDB VI: This time *we* have Bulin...

Jason Gregor
October 14 2009 09:26AM

Last year the Oilers rolled into the Windy City feeling pretty good about themselves toting a perfect 4-0 record. Dwayne Roloson got his first start of the season that night, which was also a Wednesday, but Nikolai Khabibulin was the star earning a 3-0 win.

Fast forward to tonight.

The Oilers are back in Chicago, sporting a nice 3-1-1 record. And like last year, they have three wins in games where they were out shot.

But there are some distinct differences to last year.

This time Khabibulin is on their team. The Oilers have 19 goals, with eleven different forwards having at least one. Last year it took them nine games to get 20 goals, and only eight forwards scored in the first ten games.

Three players, Dustin Penner, Denis Grebeshkov (how’s that goat pick going Wanye?) and Mike Comrie are averaging a point a game. In fact, the only skaters who don’t have a point yet are Sheldon Souray and Steve Staios.

The Oilers are getting balanced scoring from all four lines.

  • Hemsky, Horcoff and Jacques have combined for three goals and eight points.
  • Gagner, O’Sullivan and Stone have three goals and eight points.
  • Brule, Penner and Comrie have six goals and 14 points.
  • Moreau, Cogliano and Stortini have tallied four goals and seven points.
  • Hell, even the blueliners are chipping in.

In 2007/08 Grebeshkov had a measly 34 shots in 71 games. Last year he fired 62 shots in 72 games, but he already has nine shots in five games this season.

Two years ago Ladislav Smid had four assists in 65, while last year he registered eleven apples in 60 games, but this year he is on fire with three assists in five games. The problem for Smid is he doesn’t have a shot on goal yet, and his goalless streak is at 130 games.

His last goal came in the final game of the 2006/07, season when he scored in Calgary. Smid hasn’t scored since Gagner was drafted.

Even Jason Strudwick is on a scoring binge, having two points in three games, although maybe we shouldn’t be that surprised considering he set a career high with nine points last season.

But the two biggest differences I’ve seen so far is their willingness to play physical, and that they’ve been ready from the drop of the puck.

The Oilers haven’t been dominated early in game so far. They’ve outscored their opponents 9-3 in the first period so far. Getting behind early, or getting dominated territorially were chronic problems last year, and so far they’ve managed to avoid that.

Their inability to close out games has been an issue, and one they will need to rectify, but it they can continually get out to good starts, then they’ll have the chance to work on protecting the lead or at least finishing strong.

In their first five games last year the Oilers had 87 hits, and so far this year they have 107. Jacques (21), Stone (17) and Brule (14) and Stortini (10) have combined for 62, and it isn’t surprising to see all of them on a different line. The first three weren’t here last year, and you can’t underestimate their value in making this Oiler team more physical.

Last season the Oilers could go half a period without a hit, or any energy that could possibly reverse the momentum in their favour. This year, that hasn’t been the case, and if they keep playing physical it shouldn’t change. None of the other forwards are hitting more than before, it’s just that the three new forwards are hitting and are making an impact every game.

Game notes

  • It’s true that Moreau plays well v. Chicago with 10 goals and 18 points in 28 career games, but they are his second favourite team to play. In 44 career games against Phoenix he has 17 goals.
  • Penner loves playing the Hawks more. He has eight goals in 14 games, the most goals against any NHL team.
  • O’Sullivan has lit the lamp six times in 12 career games against the Blackhawks. The only team O’Sullivan feasted on more was the Oilers, with six goals and nine points in nine career games.
  • Khabibulin also thrives against the Hawks, with a record of 12-6-1, a 2.16 GAA, .929 S% and three shutouts. The only team he has shut out more is the Kings.
  • The Hawks have 18 goals through five games with Patrick Sharp 4-3-7, Patrick Kane 3-4-7, Kris Versteeg 1-5-6 and Brent Seabrook 1-4-5 leading the way.
  • Jonathon Toews only has one assist thus far, while free agent signing Tomas Kopecky has zero points and is -4 with the Hawks.
  • Like the Oilers the Hawks have four guys with double digits in hits: Seabrook (16), Troy Brouwer (15), Dustin Byfuglien (15) and John Madden with 12.
  • The Hawks are great in the draw. Toews is 60%, Dave Bolland 56.4%, John Madden 55.4% and Colin Fraser 53.3%.
  • Horcoff is 56.9% in the draws, while Brule is 46.5%, Cogliano 43.8% and Gagner 39.5%. 
  • As a team the Oilers are 50.6% overall, which puts them 12th in the NHL. The Hawks are 3rd best in the dot winning 56.4% of their faceoffs. The Oilers will need to bear down tonight.
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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 Tha Legion
October 14 2009, 09:33AM
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gogo gadget oilers, 3-1 with a goalie fight

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#2 Harlie
October 14 2009, 09:33AM
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i wonder what Comrie's percentage is in the dot? I think it may be the best on the Team...even though he doesn't get slotted in as a C-man right now. A weird quirk but as long as the team wins who cares.

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#3 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 14 2009, 09:38AM
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Harlie wrote:

i wonder what Comrie's percentage is in the dot? I think it may be the best on the Team...even though he doesn't get slotted in as a C-man right now. A weird quirk but as long as the team wins who cares.

62.5%

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#4 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 14 2009, 09:42AM
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I like how we are getting scoring from all over, it makes it tougher for the oppostion to pin point one line with their checking line. Those game notes are interesting, but at the sametime Bulin had Calgary's number too.

This will be a good matchup for us. It will show us where we stand against one of the top teams in the West. Curious to see how our PK and Faceoffs do against Chicago. Not sure what Chicago's PP is at, but they have plenty of talent to move that puck on the PP.

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#5 Harlie
October 14 2009, 09:45AM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

62.5%

yep...even better % than the Hawks players....less draws taken by the Commie tho...

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#6 Ogden Brother
October 14 2009, 09:46AM
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Should be a good test to see how bad the loses of Staios/Souray are going to hurt.

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#7 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 14 2009, 09:48AM
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Harlie wrote:

yep...even better % than the Hawks players....less draws taken by the Commie tho...

I just don't understand though when Gagner and Brule were both less then 40% the other day why you wouldn't let Comrie take a few draws. I just wonder if Flemming has told Quinn to let the younger guys work through their problems.

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#8 BUCK75
October 14 2009, 09:54AM
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Should be a great test tonight for the oil. Hawks manned up coming from behind & beating the flames the other night. Both teams are physical & skilled - should be an entertaining game. Not to mention a confidence builder if we can outplay & outscore the hawks.

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#9 Harlie
October 14 2009, 09:58AM
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@Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

yeah i hear you...at least to keep Comrie sharp in the draw as a backup and to give the other guys struggling to win draws a bird's eye view on how it's done. I at least like the fact that Comrie is a good backup plan if he is out there and another guy gets waived from the circle. Still tho..

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#10 Harlie
October 14 2009, 10:03AM
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F sakes! I've been dealing with my bank (CIBC) on changing my variable mortgage to a closed and my banker and a realtor buddy of mine last week were all saying no worry's on interest rates...they won;t be going up until 2010. Well guess what happened to rates today? Scotio, RBC, CIBC and most of the otehrs have all raised their mortgage rates in the last week or last few days. Question to you all...does anyone deal with Presidents Choice Financial and or Dominion Lending for mortgages? They have good rates still but they are not brick and mortar banks like CIBC and the others. Any input or experiences are welcomed...thanks.

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#11 Skidplate
October 14 2009, 10:04AM
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Oilers: 4 - Hemsky, Horcoff, Comrie, Lubo

Hawks: 2 - Toews, Sharp

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#12 Skidplate
October 14 2009, 10:07AM
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@Harlie

Dealt with PC Financial for over a decade and their rates and customer service are excellent. Very pleased with them.

They have an arrangement with CIBC for use of their bank machines and tellers.

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#13 J-rock
October 14 2009, 10:17AM
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This is going to be a tough task for the Oil tonight, but I think Bulin will have his best game of the year against the old team.

4-2 Oil

Penner, O'sully, Jacques, and Gilbert.

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#14 Jorge.R
October 14 2009, 10:20AM
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Its gotta be time for Hemsky and Horcoff to score some goals after that nice goal last game right? Hemsky 2 Horc 1 Penner 1?

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#15 Harlie
October 14 2009, 10:24AM
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@Skidplate

thanks skidplate...this is the type of opinion I am looking for. I like the CIBC tie in as well.

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#16 OvenChicken8 - Team JSBM
October 14 2009, 10:26AM
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Oilers will 4-3 in regulation. Stortini will not score tonight but will get into 1 fight and have 5 hits in his first shift. Gilbert will be a minus 3 tonight. That is all.

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#17 Jorge.R
October 14 2009, 10:31AM
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It feels like if Oilers are going to win tonight its going to be in OT/SO

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#18 Harlie
October 14 2009, 10:34AM
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Oilers win 4-3 in regulation. Hopefully anyways..

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#19 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 14 2009, 10:39AM
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Taking a look at the NHL faceoff stats and it just makes me wonder why we never signed someone to help out in that area. There are about half a dozen guys that were UFA's that are in the top 20. Reasoner #2, Brodziak(60.7%) 11th, at least Horcoff is up there at 25th

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#20 blu
October 14 2009, 10:43AM
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I don't want to know how we'll do without Souray. Srsly, no thanks.

I do think we'll play well tonight.

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#21 Nick Dynasty
October 14 2009, 10:49AM
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Is Comrie's FO% so high though because he's taking draws when both centers get thrown out?

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#22 SirFozz
October 14 2009, 10:51AM
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@Harlie

I use PC and have had no issues.

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#23 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 14 2009, 10:54AM
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Nick Dynasty wrote:

Is Comrie's FO% so high though because he's taking draws when both centers get thrown out?

I don't recall seeing two both centers thrown out this year. Generally it is just the one.

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#25 Jonathan Willis
October 14 2009, 11:01AM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

I just don't understand though when Gagner and Brule were both less then 40% the other day why you wouldn't let Comrie take a few draws. I just wonder if Flemming has told Quinn to let the younger guys work through their problems.

Pat Quinn, quoted here on October 11:

"Our down low coverage depends a lot on your third man back in, which traditionally is your centreman. We were losing a lot, we weren't strong enough around the net area. Part of that is your third, your centreman in a lot of cases. I thought I'd move Mike [Comrie] out to the wing, which is where he believes he signed to play."

I was somewhat surprised that nobody else seemed to pick up on Quinn's shot at Comrie (and his reduction of ice-time, which I also pointed out). The reasons he doesn't get more time at centre seem clear:

1. Comrie isn't good enough defensively to be the high forward.

2. Comrie wants to play on the wing.

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#26 Jonathan Willis
October 14 2009, 11:03AM
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@Jason Gregor

Still, this team hasn't got past the 'Shawn Horcoff needs to take every faceoff because only he can win them' problem that they had last year, right?

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#29 Harlie
October 14 2009, 11:17AM
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@SirFozz

thanks for your comment Ronaldo.

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#30 VK63
October 14 2009, 11:24AM
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So is "suitcase" still with the team in edmonton or is he roaming around the organization?

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#31 brucechris
October 14 2009, 11:37AM
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@Ogden Brother

You're right, we will see the effects of not having Sheldon Souray in the lineup. Yep, we sure could use Souray back. Souray's contributions will surely be noticeably missed.

Souray.

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#32 BK
October 14 2009, 11:45AM
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GREGGOR SAID - "The Oilers haven’t been dominated early in game so far. They’ve outscored their opponents 9-3 in the first period so far. Getting behind early, or getting dominated territorially were chronic problems last year, and so far they’ve managed to avoid that."

But Greggor, don't you think that Montreal game they were back on their heals at the start! Credit to the Habs, they came out forechecking and striking, and credit to the Oil, that they took advantage of the Canadiens deep attack with some counter rushes, BUT I don't think they came out so strong in that one. Not exactly flat as last year (to your point) but frightningly close to it!

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#33 Rob...
October 14 2009, 11:46AM
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Is this a good time to mention that Reasoner is 2nd in the league in face off wins, at 68%? I wasn't exactly a Reasoner fan when he was here; everybody hates the teacher's pet, but damn if hindsight isn't painful this time.

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#34 Ender
October 14 2009, 11:51AM
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@Rob...

~You mean . . . MacT may have actually had one idea that was right at some point? Who'dve thunk it?~

I miss Marty.

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#35 Ender
October 14 2009, 12:00PM
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I still don't understand why Cogs is playing on the fourth line with Chopper and Storts (Aside: man, the Huggy-Bear thing is hard to let go of, even though it doesn't fit as well anymore; we gotta get the guy something better than 'Storts'.) Putting the fastest guy on the team with your two slowest wingers; does that make sense? And he's not exactly your prototype 'goon-line' player at 5'10" 184lb. I get that Brule's not any bigger and that the Oil are not exactly flush with large, physical centers (if only someone had recognized a need for that in the off-season . . . hmmmmm . . .) so someone is going to get stuck centering that line. I just don't see that Cogs is the guy the gets saddled with it. I mean, if he can score points with those two guys, imagine what he could do with MC and PDP.

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#36 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 14 2009, 12:00PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Not sure what stats you are looking at, but out of guys who have taken 75 draws Horcoff is eighth in the league. He has also taken the 3rd most draws.

The team is 12th in the league in faceoffs, so they aren't bad. Which was my point.

I just went to NHL.coms faceoff leaders. They included guys with 25+, so I decided that is what I would use. Why you used 75 is beyond me,there are only 39 guys with 75+.

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#37 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 14 2009, 12:07PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Agreed, but getting a faceoff specialist, who isn't better in other areas doesn't make sense.

People forget that Horcoff wasn't dominant his first few years in the league. They have to work with the three young guys. Gagner was a woeful 22% after three games, so he is improving.

If they are 50% as a team and in the top half, then it isn't that big of an issue, other than Horcoff taking too many of them.

The hope is that the three kids improve enough that Horcoff isn't saddled with 75% of the draws.

The one difference is that even though Horcoff is taking most of the draws, he isn't playing 23 minutes a night. He is only averaging 20:26 a game, and that is much more manageable.

I agree being over 50 is no need to be concerned, but your last half of your statement is the exact samething we heard last year. There were qutie a few faceoff/specialist that could've helped out elsewhere.

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#38 I'm a Scientist!
October 14 2009, 12:16PM
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@Ender

I still don't understand why Cogs is playing on the fourth line with Chopper and Storts

I think it is more of a matter of spreading out the offensive ability of the team so that every line has a goal scorer and every line has a gritty player. I don't think we can consider this a fourth line in the traditional sense of the word. If you put Brule down there then you WOULD have that traditional 4th line.

I agree with you though, i would prefer to see him with some people that can keep up... Cogliano with Comrie and O'Sullivan is a combination that makes me happy.

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#39 Ogden Brother
October 14 2009, 12:16PM
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brucechris wrote:

You're right, we will see the effects of not having Sheldon Souray in the lineup. Yep, we sure could use Souray back. Souray's contributions will surely be noticeably missed.

Souray.

Wait until Chorney gets exposed, you'll be wishing for Staios.

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#40 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 14 2009, 12:25PM
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Unrealted topic, but what is the talk of Gilbert for Stafford? We would have to swap a prospect for Tallinder in the deal as well? Is there any legs to this?

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#41 Jonathan Willis
October 14 2009, 12:27PM
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@Jason Gregor

I agree. I don't care how good Yanic Perreault is on the draw, he doesn't help this team.

I was thinking more someone from the Gratton/Malhotra/Fiddler tree though; they could have helped in other areas as well.

I agree that the young players (esp. Gagner, since he's got to be pencilled in at centre long-term) need to work on draws, but I'd feel more comfortable if this team had a second option.

Although perhaps that's unfair; Pouliot's injured and IIRC he's a decent faceoff option if not especially brilliant on the draw.

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#42 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 14 2009, 12:36PM
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@Jonathan Willis

I missed the weekend so I might of missed Quinn's comments on Comrie. I was wondering why the switch, but I guess it makes sense. How hard would it be for Comrie to take the draws and then switch to wing?

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#44 Mad Mike
October 14 2009, 01:13PM
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According to a Blackhawk blog site, the Oilers will see Anti Neime (or something like that) instead of Huet in goal tonight.

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#45 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 14 2009, 01:21PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

I use 75 because those are the guys who take lots of draws.

And once again, you didn't answer the question. Do you want a guy who can take a draw and adds nothing more?

I sure as hell don't.

Are the Oilers losing games because of faceoffs? No.

Is Quinn burning out Horcoff with 23 minutes of icetime due to all of his faceoffs? No.

So what is the problem.

It MIGHT become a problem, and yes there are other guys in the league with higher percentages, than the three kids. But would they make the Oilers better? Sorry boys, but if you add Reasoner who do you take out of the line up?

Faceoffs are a small part of the equation, and since the Oilers are much better at puck retrieval so far, if they loss a few draws they can actually go get the puck back, unlike last year, so the faceoffs aren't as glaring right now.

If nothing improves come Jan and Feb, then I wouldn't be surprised if they add a veteran guy then. No need to now. Let the kids work on it and improve.

By using 75 you are including only #1 centers and some #2, that is something that we don't need. We needed a #3/#4. I agree that I wanted a guy who can play more then just faceoffs, but isn't Malhotra, Reasoner, Nichol, Goc, Fiddler all players that could help this team out on the PK and in a shutdown role?

As for who do you take out, maybe you don't add Comrie?

I agree faceoffs are a small part and so far it hasn't really hurt us, but I've seen this before and I don't want to go through it again.

After x-mas would be a good time to look at this area again. Heck Cogliano had some really decent pre-season games so maybe he continues to do well. I'm also not looking for us to have everyone at 55-60, I would actually be happy if Horcoff stayed where he was and the others averaged around 45% with one of them close to 50.

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#46 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 14 2009, 01:23PM
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Mad Mike wrote:

According to a Blackhawk blog site, the Oilers will see Anti Neime (or something like that) instead of Huet in goal tonight.

He has one shutout already so I think we need to keep the pressure on him early and break him down as quick as possible.

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#47 Milli
October 14 2009, 01:27PM
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@Harlie

try

joe@morgageconnections.ca

Twice they have been able to beat all others for me. Great to deal with, very knowledgeable.

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#48 Skidplate
October 14 2009, 01:35PM
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@Mad Mike

Ya, Huet is sucking the hind teet.

0.831 save percentage and 3.69 GAA

Aunty Niemi came over to the AHL as a 24 year old and has only 38 games there and 5 in the show.

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#49 quicksilver ballet
October 14 2009, 01:38PM
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It's been a pretty good week for Oiler fans so far, Flames now have their very own "Miracle on Madison" permanently etched in their brains to go with two blown leads/losses. Weeks like these make the winter seem more tolerable.

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#50 Skidplate
October 14 2009, 02:02PM
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@quicksilver ballet

Definitely. I was thinking the same thing the other night. Only our game was more important as it was a playoff game. Man that series sucked.

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