GDB 17.0: BRACING FOR THE BOLTS

Jason Gregor
November 07 2013 12:06PM

When you are a 28th place team every game is tough. Two days after a 4-3 OT victory over the 27th place Florida Panthers, the Oilers at least have some momentum heading into a showdown with the 10th place Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Oilers, most likely Andrew Ference and Jeff Petry, will have the pleasure of trying to shut down the dangerous duo of Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis. Stamkos is 2nd in NHL scoring with 20 points, while St. Louis is tied for 17th with 16.

Those two have scored 40% of Tampa Bay's goals, and only twice this season have both of them been held pointless. The Bolts lost both games, 3-1 and 5-0, and both losses came against the Bruins.

The Oilers don't have a Zdeno Chara, so it is unlikely the Oilers can shut out Stamkos and St. Louis, but they will need to contain them.

The Bolts have five players with 4+ goals, while the Oilers only have two, Gordon and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Twenty different players have scored a goal for the Oilers this year, but they need get a few more players scoring consistently. It is difficult to win regularly without a few go-to players, but the Oilers will get a huge boost as Taylor Hall returns to the lineup.

LINEUP...

Hemsky-RNH-Eberle
Hall-Gagner-Yakupov
Omark-Gordon-Arcobello
Jones-Smyth-Gazdic

Hall will play his first game since being injured in Ottawa and Eakins is hoping Hall can jumpstart two struggling players, Gagner and Yakupov. Hall is the best option to do that.

The only aspect of the line juggling that I question is moving Ryan Smyth to centre. Smyth struggled mightily last season playing in the middle. He excels on the wall, not in the middle of the ice. You can't expect him to contribute when he is playing centre.

There is no way you could demote Mark Arcobello or Boyd Gordon to the 4th line. They've arguably been the two most consistent forwards all year. There is no way Eakins could retain respect within the room if you demoted them, yet played struggling players like Yakupov, Gagner, and recently recalled Linus Omark ahead of them in the top-nine.

Smyth at centre has to be a short-term experiment. He is better on the wall.

I'm most interested to see who Eakins will use to try and contain Stamkos and St. Louis. Gordon is his best defensive forward, but with his wingers I'm not sure that is a matchup Eakins wants to run. I'm guessing he'll try to get the RNH line out against them.

Ference-Petry
Smid-Larsen
N.Schultz-Fedun

There is no reason to switch up the D pairs. Petry and Ference are the Oilers best option to face 91/26. I liked Larsen's game in Florida, especially on the PP. Fedun and Schultz won't outmuscle many players, but both play smart, positional defence.

Dubnyk

Tampa Bay is getting solid goaltending. Dubnyk needs to match Ben Bishop's play to give the Oilers a chance. 

YAK SUPPORT....

Yesterday head coach Dallas Eakins and Craig MacTavish made it clear that Nail Yakupov wasn't being shopped.

“Nail Yakupov is not being shopped, he’s not going anywhere and I wanted him to hear that from me, look me in my eye, and let him know that we’re attached at the hip," Eakins said after he had a heart-to-heart chat with Yakupov on the ice in Tampa Bay that had some speculating the first pick in 2012 might be a healthy scratch.

While scouting the Rangers/Pengiuns game, MacTavish said this to the media, "We very much believe Nail will evolve to become that dynamic, electric player — become one of the most entertaining guys in the game. I told that to Igor (Larionov) (Yakupov's agent) and I told that to Yak. Development is very rarely a straight line. It has ups and downs.”

It was smart for the coach to tell a young player who is struggling he believes in him, but the harsh reality of pro sports is that if you aren't performing you likely won't be playing much. Yakupov didn't see the ice for the final 9:30 or regulation, and the 1:55 of OT, while the Oilers were trying, unsuccessfully, to protect a lead.

That isn't surprising, considering he's not a defensive stalwart just yet, but if he continues to sit for long stretches, and continues to struggle offensively, will the Oilers consider a stint in OKC?

MacTavish wisely said development is rarely a straight line. Yakupov isn't the first sophomore to struggle, but due to his age they could let him gain some confidence in OKC. Yakupov has high-end skills, so he could score tonight and no one will worry about his offence, but if his slump continues the Oilers should consider OKC a viable option.

QUICK HITS...

  • Unless they acquire another goalie the Oilers need to stick with Devan Dubnyk. Jason LaBarbera is not going to perform better, so tell Dubnyk he's your guy, and tell him to stay focused the entire game. Challenge him to be consistent.  
     
  • The Oilers have actually played pretty well at ES on the road this year outscoring teams 26-25. They've been decent at ES, but they've been outscored 9-3 on PP. Their PP is only 9.4% on the road. Their PP looked much better in Florida, and if it can get going, they might start to pull out some wins away from Rexall.
     

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Four of the last five games between these two teams in Tampa have ended in 3-2 scores with each team winning twice. In those four games Oilers won, Tampa won, Oilers won and Tampa won, so based on extensive scientific research (none whatsoever) the Oilers continue that trend tonight with a 3-2 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Omark scores, because Oilersnation thrives on drama/debate.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After opening the Florida broadcast with a muscle shirt and shorts, Mean Gene Principe starts his segment standing along the boards at the zamboni entrance. He does a quick spin-o-rama then walks towards the camera talking about the return of Hall and Omark's recall from OKC. As he gets closer, he tosses it upstairs to two guys who are "classy" and "no joke", Louis Debrusk and Kevin Quinn, and then stares into the camera and drops the mic. BOOM.

** Principe was playing off the words of the Tampa Bay Lightning players after Omark's infamous SO goal on December 10th, 2010, when they whined about his move being a joke and Dan "cancelled my twitter account" Ellis claimed it "wasn't very classy."

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

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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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#301 Serious Gord
November 08 2013, 09:37AM
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PapaMike wrote:

I think that there will be some changes at the trade deadline and not before then. I would like to see how they play with a full staff if that is even possible. If they compete like they did yesterday at least it would be fun to watch.

As I stared earlier, I think that Tampa is playing over its head - they aren't as good as their record implies. So even with a full roster, against the true elite teams. - all of which are in the west save Pitt - the oil is going to lose and lose badly most nights.

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#302 Lochenzo
November 08 2013, 09:42AM
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Some of you guys are sure on the Ben Bishop parade. Bishop has some very good numbers this year, no disputing that. Funny thing is that they mirror the numbers that Dubnyk posted last year. And what's your opinion on Dubnyk?

Two real bad turnovers when I'm sure the message going into the game was to absolutely not turn over the puck with Stamkos or St Louis on the ice.

The Oilers were chasing the Lightning on the scoreboard as a result and that's not how you win games.

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#303 loweblows
November 08 2013, 09:48AM
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Lochenzo wrote:

Some of you guys are sure on the Ben Bishop parade. Bishop has some very good numbers this year, no disputing that. Funny thing is that they mirror the numbers that Dubnyk posted last year. And what's your opinion on Dubnyk?

Two real bad turnovers when I'm sure the message going into the game was to absolutely not turn over the puck with Stamkos or St Louis on the ice.

The Oilers were chasing the Lightning on the scoreboard as a result and that's not how you win games.

Bishop made the big save that some Edmonton writers feel that no goalie "dead or alive could make". Bishop must be dead.

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#304 camdog
November 08 2013, 09:49AM
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Lochenzo wrote:

Some of you guys are sure on the Ben Bishop parade. Bishop has some very good numbers this year, no disputing that. Funny thing is that they mirror the numbers that Dubnyk posted last year. And what's your opinion on Dubnyk?

Two real bad turnovers when I'm sure the message going into the game was to absolutely not turn over the puck with Stamkos or St Louis on the ice.

The Oilers were chasing the Lightning on the scoreboard as a result and that's not how you win games.

I thought the weakest goal of the game was the Hall goal given up by Bishop who was flopping around on his knees, he's standing and he makes that save.

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#305 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
November 08 2013, 11:30AM
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Fresh Mess wrote:

I thought this was a site for HOCKEY fans to discuss the Oilers. Apparently you feel it should remain a giant circle jerk of delusional Oiler superfans and other assorted enablers to fantasize.

Seriously, no sarcasm, I've always thought that this is a site where Oilers Superfans come to fantasize with other like minded enablers. And that's not a bad thing....it's entertainment...it's a place where people come to vent and to celebrate....nothing that's said or shared here has ANY affect on the Oilers organization.

Seriously, with all due respect, to think otherwise is delusional.

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#306 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
November 08 2013, 11:38AM
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boxman wrote:

Wow, a new low for the site. Bazmagoo how do you leap from Oilers fan to I couldn't care less your mom died. DSF is certainly a troll but in my memory he has never sunk as low as you Basmagoo. Shame on you!!

You may be new here....but DSF brings this kind of thing on himself.....and it's not as big a deal as it first looks like....trust me DSF can handle it.....in fact he relishes it....

That's why you see reactive comments that are normally so offensive to most people, get propped a few dozen times. (And that's even after the moderator takes out the really offensive stuff)

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#307 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
November 08 2013, 11:53AM
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Oiler Al wrote:

Interesting , Eakin loses and says they played a pretty good game, Tampa wins and their coach says they played a poor game.

The real point is that Dubby sucked the big banna again, and Bishop outplayed him 2 to 1.

Dont know if this is good news or bad, but Nuge was on the ice for all six goals.

Everything you said is true. I think the reason is that Eakins has to be concerned about his own job, and publicly trashing his starting goalie (when he has no viable options in the organization) who is already suffering from a lack of confidence, or even trashing his team who is obviously down on one knee, is not going to help anything.....from a coaches point of view.

Would like to hear what he's saying behind closed doors.....I doubt very much that it's the same message we're hearing publicly.

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#308 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
November 08 2013, 12:07PM
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Looking for small positives.....for the first eight games or so, Eakins stood on the bench like a frozen statue...saying nothing.......in the last few games his facial expressions have gotten a lot more animated ....and at times he's been seen swearing like a Drunken Bazmagoo!

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