Oilers top line hits a big bump in the Road

Jason Strudwick
October 25 2013 09:32AM

 

The Nuge, Yak and Ebs trio were taught a pretty stiff lesson last night by the Washington Capitals top line. Ovie and his two line mates outscored the Oilers top line and that was the difference in the game.

Nuge's line was minus four on the night. That really hurt the Oilers. For the most part that line was pretty solid but if they are going to match up against the top lines of the league they must recognize how dangerous these lines can be. Let’s take a look at the goals they were on for.

The first goal was a defensive zone face off to the left of Dubnyk. Nuge wins the draw but the puck ends up going right back to Ovie who is set up for the one timer in the slot. As Yakupov goes out to his point man it is his job to make sure Ovie doesn't get the puck. Yakupov goes behind Ovie and BOOM, one to nothing.

On the second goal I fault the pair of defencemen for the Oilers more than Nuge's line. The pairing of Anton Belov and Justin Sschultz need to box out at the net so that Dubnyk can see the shot. I will give a pass to Nuge's line.

On the third goal this line gets outmuscled by the Caps’ top line. It is a longer shift for the Oilers trio but those shifts happen and you need to be able to handle it. In the end Backstrom outmuscles Nuge for position in front of the net. He gets a perfect pass and it is an easy redirect for him with Nuge on the wrong side of his man. Nuge needs to battle to get better body position.

For their fourth minus of the night, Eberle takes a risk at the Caps blue line that doesn't work, it becomes a turnover. It is a two on two that isn't played well by the Oilers d pairing. It ends badly for the Oilers when Chimera gets a breakaway and scores.

Three of the four goals last night are a result of a direction action by each member of the Oilers top line. It takes only a split second for things to go badly and result in a goal.

Head coach Eakins can chalk this up to a rough night for this trio. Maybe it won't happen again, maybe. But at this point in this teams development these three need to see how razor thin the margin for victory is every night in the NHL.

If you take away these four goals a case can be made that they played a pretty good game. For the most part when out against the Caps top line they were able to contain them and even generate some chances and good offensive zone time. But you can't look at the game that way. If this trio is going to be playing against the top lines around the league they cannot be outscored. They need to win this battle within the game.

Each shift against top lines in the NHL is important. They can seemly be sleeping through a game and then explode for a quick goal out of nowhere. I remember playing against Brett Hull and thinking "wow this guy isn't that hard to play against?" He never really hit or forechecked. He would just hang around and then just when you thought he was totally asleep he would get a pass in the slot and score. He would push the snooze button and go back to sleep knowing he had just scored the winning goal.

These are lessons that can only be learned by playing the game. Someday Oilers fan should hope these young players are the ones doing the teaching.

The Power Play

The Oilers PP hasn't been clicking so far this season. I think they look to make one too many passes instead of just firing the puck at the net with traffic in front. There is no doubt that Eakins can put an extremely talented group on the ice for both PP groups but so can the Washington Capitals.

I was very impressed with the Caps PP last night. They are currently leading the league in percentage. Although they didn't score last night with the man advantage it is obvious why they have been successful.

Their goal is to get pucks to the net. They spend very little time dusting the puck off on the side way or the corner. They move the puck quickly with the purpose of getting the puck to the point. Once the puck is moving high, the low players attack the front of the net.

This isn't rocket science. The Caps have just as much skill as the Oilers do on their PP but they keep it much simpler.

Pitlick

I was part of the Oilers for his first camp and boy did he impress me. He has three things I like in forwards... size, a hard shot and good skating. I figured it would only be a matter of time until he was playing in the NHL.

So far his career path has gone slower than I expected. He is up with the team now and getting a chance to make an impression. In the games he has played he has been solid, doing what I expected from him. He is keeping the game simple by getting the puck out on the wall, dumping it in and getting in on the forecheck. These are all areas the Oilers need their bottom to lines to do.

Pitlick has been pretty good but I think he needs to add one more element to his game that could be the difference between his being a long term NHL’er and not. He needs to bring more edge and attitude to his game. Be a little cockier, chirpier and get underneath the other teams skin like a Brad Marchand or David Perron. If he can do this he NHL career path might be back on track.

5cf6b487166aced0cd781e41bfef915e
Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#51 tileguy
October 25 2013, 09:50AM
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"This isn't rocket science. The Caps have just as much skill as the Oilers do on their PP but they keep it much simpler."

But the Caps have way more weight, can't crash the net when 220 is holding p 190. This is the major flaw of this team and will only get worse when we play teams like LA, Boston ect.

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#52 Dave
October 25 2013, 11:05AM
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Not to mention the horrible decision to pinch on the second goal and Petry gets caught puck watching on the third goal when his man is wide open behind him, who in turn taps it over for a tap in goal. Lots of blame all over on these ones.

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#53 HugThePost
October 25 2013, 11:53AM
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Hey Struds, I enjoy your posts here; with you and Sutherby, it's awesome to get the perspective from guys who have been there.

Would you agree with this perception that the Oil are still too unbalanced to be a top tier team?

ie:

too many small skilled forwards, not enough size/skilled guys

a top-loaded forward group with a pretty useless bottom line

not a real defensive stud who can control entire games at evens, PP and penalty kill

My concern also is the team doesn't seem to have their "guy"---the guy that a lot of nights will carry them and demand the same effort. You know, players like #99, 87, 66. We have blue chip talent, but doesn't seem like we have out of this stratosphere players. Case in point: Nuge's line having their show run when put head to head with ovechkin's line.

thanks for your great posts.

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#54 Rocket
October 25 2013, 12:28PM
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sizzay wrote:

Struds, what would you think of putting Pitlick on a line with Yak and Nuge?

I understand his offensive creativity doesn't warrant a top 6 role but maybe his simplified game is what that top line needs. Yak, Nuge, Hall and Ebs all try and carry the puck in. Nuge did dump it in a few times but still, that top line needs simplification.

Pitlick seems to know how to play a simple game and has been fairly decent in the short sample size playing on the defensive side of the puck. I mean, he has a hard shot (which has been commended since his draft year), he just maybe needs a chance to get it on net. Some guys turn out better NHLers than AHLers. Not that I'd hold my breath.

J.F. Jacque

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#55 Pouzar99
October 25 2013, 01:34PM
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Thanks Jason, great analysis. I would add that the mistakes made by different members of the top line were not equal. Yak's flyby of Ovi on the first goal is absolutely terrible, and the worst transgression by far, particularly because it creates the first goal of the game and because of who he skated and failed to check.

Nuge made a big mistake but it wasn't a question of being outmuscled. He simply went to the wrong place on the ice, leaving Smid two players to cover. When he realized his mistake he was on the wrong side of Backstrom and there was no time to get to the right side. It was a costly mistake but not as irresponsible as Yak's.

I would only say about Eberle's that down 3-0 with time ticking off a low percentage gamble to try and create something is somewhat understandable, in a way it would not be in a tied or one-goal game.

My question is, how does Eakins address these shortcomings, particularly the first two?

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#56 srbuhr
October 25 2013, 07:39PM
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@ryan

Time will tell I guess. So tell me which teams will be willing to part with a valued asset for a player really struggling who has already shown he will do what he wants not what the team wants. You do recall he played in the KHL last year and not in the CHL even though Edmonton wanted him to play junior. Further how did yak do at world juniors against his peers - seemed to me he wasn't a standout but then again you have stated your so much smarter then me. You honestly think Montreal would trade Alex Galchenyuk even up for Yak. Whose the idiot here?

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#57 Serious Gord
October 25 2013, 11:31AM
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And further to my comment above, the oil is one point behind Dallas but Dallas also has two games at hand. The oil play three games between now and nov 1. Looks bleak.

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#58 Oilers need Ogie Ogilthorpe!
October 25 2013, 11:48AM
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That third goal looked fishy to me when I caught it on thehilights. Outmuscled, for me, doesn't quite get to the bottom go it.

Nuge is sticking with his man, (who gets a decent scoring chance in tight) then skates through the crease to the other side of the net. Backstrom trips him with the stick, no call. When Nuge gets up, he looks a little stunned, and just kind of stands there, so Smid has to take his man. The puck goes cross ice, but now Smid is caught in no-man's land and Nuge is on the wrong side of his guy. At that point, he can't tie up the stick, and it's an easy tap-in.

Outmuscled suggests a lack of physical strength was Nuge's problem, and that the solution is gym time or maybe he gets himself in a Gatorade commercial doing crossfit. To me, the goal happened bc 1. Veteran play by backstroke on the subtle but very effective trip and 2. Nuge making a rookie(ish) play by seemingly forgetting to play D when he got back up. He's only out of it for a second or 2 but that's where the razor thin margin comes in.

Hope he learns from it, and I hope the zebras call that sort of thing. It was super obvious after watching the slow-mo replays 5 or 6 times. Rod Philips would have Flipped out!

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#59 Larry
October 25 2013, 02:04PM
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I think the Oilers just gotta get pucks deep, play 110%, use the boards, play a full 60 minutes, take it one game at a time and they'll be fine.

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#60 Bigfan
October 25 2013, 04:24PM
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SammyD wrote:

Question - Does Katz even want a winning team/cup?

He makes money now for doing little. Oh sure, he goes through the motions like paying to the cap limit and having 48-50 contracts and having a bunch of managers/executive assistants running around. And he uses the Oilers as leverage for getting a new building to make more money.

But he doesn't do alot and still makes money.

Let's say he makes $10 million a year right now. If he has a winning team he makes $20 million. But it's a lot of work and effort to make that 2nd 10 million. So he takes his $10 million and could care less that this losing team affects the fans a lot more than his bottom line.

Just wondering... is it 5:00 yet?

I am pretty confident Katz wants a winning team. Not everyone would agree, I suppose, but I think he is an owner more for the fun and the winning than the money.

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#61 Smokey
October 25 2013, 04:28PM
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I thought the difference was Holtby was Vezina quality while Dubby, who you could not fault on most of the goals was average. Holtby found ways to keep the puck out. Oilers out chanced the Caps like 2 to 1 I thought.

I like Dubby, hope he finds his game.

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#62 hockeycrazed
October 25 2013, 06:44PM
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Eberle, Nuge, Yakupov, on paper is a potent line with fire power in each position, except they didn't produce, why? Well, if the whole line got push over the entire night, how are they supposed to perform to their capabilities!!! On the other hand,if they try and put a bigger and stronger line mate on every line they should create more skating room for the skill players like them; Someone once suggest that because Black Hawks succeeded with a finesse line and similarly small forwards as the Oils, but circumstances are different, copying the success of others almost never works!!! In order for the Oilers' smaller forwards to feel brave enough to venture through enemy lines, they need a tougher and bigger forward on each of every line; at least, that's what have shown us so far!!!

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#63 David S
October 25 2013, 06:56PM
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Anybody who thinks we have anything that can counter Ovechkin's line when they're on like last night is drunk.*

We have average (at best) D and goalie and our top players are still a couple of years from being able to square off against top level lines in the NHL.

What bothers me is that the Caps are considered a middling team compared to the powerhouse squads in the west. I'm really worried we'll be buried by November.

*Not that there's anything wrong with that

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#64 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
October 26 2013, 02:02AM
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madjam wrote:

How can you be so optimistic about the next 2-3 years when you see what last 7 have produced ? Must be that rhetoric hope Kool -Aid they sell I presume ?

Bazinga!

I'm at a loss for words madjam. You've clearly caught me unprepared when you look at it from that perspective.

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#65 hallthetime
October 25 2013, 10:59AM
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Katz needs to sponsor TSN big time so that the annalists start talking up our 1st overalls all the time kind like they were all over Sid the kids d*** for years now he's the best in the game. Someone needs to get in the oilers heads in a positive way and who better then the media.

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#66 madjam
October 25 2013, 08:48PM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

When Katz first mentioned the term rebuild, and the fact continued fan support was required for this to work out in his favor, few knew this would last most of a whole decade. They're still 2 or 3 yrs away from being a playoff team. This is what we deserve when we expect so little.

How can you be so optimistic about the next 2-3 years when you see what last 7 have produced ? Must be that rhetoric hope Kool -Aid they sell I presume ?

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#67 madjam
October 25 2013, 09:13PM
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If your player(s) are trying to clear the blue line and someone shoots from outside onto goalie and scores does it count ? Secondly , if goalie hangs onto it for a faceoff is it outside blue line ?

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#68 Don W
October 26 2013, 09:35AM
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For the most part I liked Nuges game. These goals all seem like small things that they can work on. As for Yak he has zero confidence. I never thought that would be a problem for him but it is. He needs to get a goal soon so he can get some swagger back and start playing the way he needs to. He is way too passive.

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#69 BGH
October 25 2013, 11:05AM
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Travis Sarvas wrote:

Nuge and Ebs essentially played short-handed all night trying to cover for Yak. That's on Eakins to make the adjustment to get a defensively responsible winger on that line if he intends to go power vs. power.

Pitlick has sure looked good defensively imo. Wonder how he would look skating with the Nuge and Ebs.

Leave Perron with Arco and Hemskey.

Put Samwise with Gordon and Jones.

4th line of Gazdic, Acton and Eager/Joensuu.

Guess that leaves Yak as the odd man out.

Wonder if Yak, Maricin (fill in with any of our d-prospects except Klef and Nurse) and our 2nd round pick is enough to get #1 defenseman (pipedream I know).

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#70 hallthetime
October 25 2013, 02:32PM
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S cottV wrote:

This whole run and gun, offence first, draft small scorers, swarm defence, and all that goes with it - to me, stems from a throwback to the historic glory years that the present day Oilers have to put far behind them. Hockey is a game of balance and patience, where appropriate risk and reward is woven into systems that players follow. Opposition teams will often beat themselves, if you build reasonable patience into a gameplan and dont do stupid things to beat yourself in the meantime. The Oilers seem to be in a hurry to lose 5 to 4 rather than to evolve into a team that can consistently win 3 to 2. One day in the future with considerable evolution, please bore us from time to time, with some locked down plain and simple wins.

Your so right that's how the veteran teams get their wins. Van city, Sharks, Detroit, Pens, LA, Ducks, Boston and hemmer.

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#71 Oiler Al
October 25 2013, 02:43PM
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Jason, interesting that you take the time to only point out the short falls of forwards, or first line in this case. Are you suggesting that the D men and Goal tender played an outstanding game? As far as I am concerned Dubnyk had a clear view of Ovie taking his shot [first goal] and should have stopped in from 40 feet out. Time the D men learned to clear guys out infront of the net.

Yes needed more scoring, how about the second and third line popping a few goals.

Also the first line ran out of gas in third, they played 20 minutes , while Capitals team no one forward played more than 15 min.

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#72 hallthetime
October 26 2013, 09:27AM
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Also I hate how we have been using our goalies for the passed few years. we need to play the better goalie at the time and use the backup when the time is right. When we want to make another team inferior by playing the backup goalie,kind of like every other team does to us.

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#73 Yep yep
October 26 2013, 02:14PM
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Todd wrote:

"If you take away these four goals a case can be made that they played a pretty good game."

HAHAHaaaaaaaaa.... Oh man, its hard to be an Oilers fan.

This line caught my eye too. I'm not sure Jason realized just how ridiculous it sounds. "We'll, if you take away the 50 games we list, a case can be made that the oilers had an undefeated season!"

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#74 Yep yep
October 26 2013, 02:15PM
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Well, not we"ll.....obviously :s

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#75 Yep yep
October 26 2013, 02:15PM
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Well, not we"ll.....obviously :s

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#76 niko
November 04 2013, 05:02PM
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@Bigfan

how much possible extra work on his end could not be worth an extra profit of 10 million dollars, virtually doubling his money, most nutty comment i read all day

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