I know that a threepeat is usually associated with winning three consecutive championships, but right now a three-game winning streak for the Oilers is as rare as a threepeat, so you need to start somewhere.
The Oilers dominated the Blue Jackets on Tuesday, and while a 7-0 drubbing is unlikely, if the Oilers play with the same speed, tenacity and determination they should defeat the Florida Panthers. However, as the Vancouver Canucks learned, you can’t take anyone lightly, and I’d hope that the 29th place Oilers aren’t looking at the 28th place Panthers as an easy opponent.
Tuesday was only one game, but the only way you can start a streak is by winning and tonight the Oilers have to build on that strong performance. They Oilers scored first for the first time in ten games. Their PP continues to produce, and they didn’t give up any quality chances.
They aren’t going to score seven goals every game, and they aren’t going to rack up shutouts weekly, but they can find some ensure they have consistency in their game. It is what they lack the most. If the majority of players can learn to play with consistency, then, and only then, can we start to discuss actual progress.
Everyone from the fans, players, coaches, management and media knows the Oilers don’t have the right mix of players to be an elite contender, and Craig MacTavish can’t fix that overnight, but the players can learn to play with consistency.
The players have to realize that acquiring a top-pairing D-man or some size in their top-nine won’t magically solve their problems. It won’t instill uniformity in their game; they need to instill it now so when MacTavish adds pieces to the puzzle this team is ready to legitimately be competitive.
Obviously they want to win, but I don’t believe they will start winning regularly until they learn to play with conviction, consistency and determination on a nightly basis.
They did that on Tuesday and now they need to do it tonight against a team they are capable of beating.
After consecutive victories there is no reason to change the lineup. Eakins will stick with five forward on his first PP unit, but suggested that might only last a few more games. There is a risk if they give up an odd man rush, but Eakins said that shouldn’t happen, and the upside it immense with the creativity of the five forwards. In their last eight games the Oilers are 9 for 25 on the PP. Whatever combination they’ve used has worked.
- Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky are the only players still on the Oilers who played in the Heritage Classic ten years ago. Smyth said the biggest challenge was the temperature change. The benches were extremely warm with the heaters, but then you’d go on the ice and it was -22. He loved the experience and is hopeful the young kids will get to experience an outdoor game.
- I’m hearing the Oilers and the NHL are looking at another outdoor game in Edmonton within the next two or three years.
- Steve Staios tied a career high with three points in the 2003 Heritage Classic. Staios had a goal and two assists and was named 2nd star. He’s had five three point games in his career and he had three that season.
- The Oilers placed Steve MacIntyre on waivers today. Not much of a surprise considering he hasn’t played one game this season and Luke Gazdic has played well in Macintyre’s role. I asked Eakins about Gazdic and why he feels it is necessary to have a tough guy in the lineup.
"I think it is important right now for our group. I know there is a lot of people out there who think that (fighting) has nothing to do with the game, but they’ve never stood on the bench and seen how it ignites your bench. I think it is important for all of our players to stand up for each other. It shows you care, especially when you come to one of your guy’s defence. I think that goes a long, long way to your group’s closeness. The way they will fight for each other, and I don’t mean fist fight, I mean they are all pulling on the same rope.
One of my favourite teams to watch the past few years is the Bruins. You touch one of their guys and five or six guys are waiting for you. That shows a team that is extremely close. There are no scrums where you have two or three guys skating around looking in the stands, everyone is in there supporting each other. You don’t have to be big and tough to do that, you just need to stick up each other."
- I then asked Eakins if he thinks his team has enough of a pack mentality, or is he trying to instill that?
"It is something we are pushing to have happen, but we have gotten way better at since day one. There would be a scrum before and we would have three or four guys sitting back thinking the refs will get in there, but now we are starting to see guys jump in.
A few games ago against Dallas, their agitator, Roussel, was fooling around with Potter and here comes Taylor Hall and he gives him a swat, chases him away and I was like, ‘Yes, I love that from our team.’
That resonates on the bench. That’s why I find it interesting hearing people’s views on violence in hockey that say it does nothing to the game, but maybe we should invite them down to the bench and see what it does to the guys who are getting ready to go out on the ice."
- I’ve been critical of the Oilers overall lack of toughness for years, and not just fighting. I have noticed they are slowly getting better at standing up for one another, and that is a necessary step to showing a willingness to do whatever it takes to win.
For the past five years, I’ve participated in the Junior Chamber International of Edmonton Holiday Hamper program. You sign up and they place you with an underprivIleged family. They supply a grocery shopping list and you go buy the food and one small present for each member of the family. You then deliver the hamper to their house.
It has made Christmas much more enjoyable for me, because it truly is about giving. The JCI is hoping to help 750 families this year and they need about 250 more people to sign up. This is a great bonding experience for your family and a great way to show your children how to help others in need. If you are interested in helping out go to www.holidayhamper.ca and click on hamper. They are hoping to fill the spots by December 1st.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: THREEPEAT, THREEPEAT, THREEPEAT… Oiler fans aren’t used to witnessing a three-game winning streak, but it will happen tonight. Oilers win 4-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After a big win the 50/50 will be back above $65,000. Winning makes fans feel better and willing to poney up some more cash in hopes of winning.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Anton Belov, Nick Schultz and Sam Gagner are the only Oilers who have played 10 games and haven’t scored. Gagner ends his drought tonight, and Belov shocks all of us as he decides to actually shoot the puck. He fires a career-high four shots on goal and scores his first NHL goal.