GDB 28.0: HURDLING

Lowetide
December 01 2013 08:24AM

The Edmonton Oilers have been tightening their defensive play under coach Dallas Eakins and it does appear to be working. In the club's last 10 games, the goals-against average for DD and Bryz is 2.52 compared to 3.24 for the entire season. The goaltending has improved, but what about the defense? Is it getting better? How can we tell?

BOXCARS

In the last 10 games, the Oilers blue has posted the following boxcar numbers:

  1. Phil Larsen (IR) 5, 0-4-4 -4
  2. Justin Schultz 5, 2-1-3 +3
  3. Corey Potter 6, 0-2-2 -2
  4. Nick Schultz 10, 0-2-2 -1
  5. Denis Grebeshkov 2, 0-1-1 +1
  6. Jeff Petry 10, 0-1-1 +3
  7. Anton Belov 10, 0-1-1 -2
  8. Taylor Fedun 2, 0-0-0 -2
  9. Andrew Ference 10, 0-1-1 -1

It's an interesting look back, we can kind of see the point where  Larsen went on IR and Fedun was sent down, and then the 5 games Schultz the younger has been back has coincided with an uptick in results (funny, that) for the team.

CORSI FOR % (5x5)

In the last 5 games, it's fun to see the list of defensemen who have been on the ice for good things:

  1. Anton Belov 78-62 55.7%
  2. Justin Schultz 66-57 53.6%
  3. Denis Grebeshkov 23-20 53.4%
  4. Jeff Petry 66-58 53.2%
  5. Nick Schultz 60-67 47.2%
  6. Andrew Ference 57-65 46.7%
  7. Corey Potter 30-44 40.5%

This is from Extra skater, and I'm listing Corsi For-Corsi against and the percentage and this is all 5x5. Now, it's important to note that we're not taking into account things like zone starts and toughness of opposition, this is straight Corsi at 5x5 over the last 5 games.

That said, it's fascinating to see four defensemen above 50% over that time (!!!!) and the 5-6 guys are not far from 50% (with only Corey Potter fading badly). We don't know if Schultz's return or Grebeshkov's callup are big reasons for the improved shot differential, we only know that in the last 5 games this group has been part of some good things.

And we also know the goals against in the last 10 games has been going down, and part of that is due to the puck being in the other end more often.

These are all nice signs for the club, and barring injury they should be able to repeat it (depending on quality of opposition, etc) and more wins should come as a result.

LINEUP

Hall-RNH-Eberle
Yakupov-Gagner-Hemsky
Smyth-Gordon-Perron
Jones-Arcobello-Joensuu

Ference-Petry
Grebeshkov-J.Schultz
Belov-N.Schultz

Dubnyk

That's my guess, but I don't know why you'd change anything aside from the goaltender. That 4th line has been doing some nice things, and I'm betting the Nuge line will find a way to rock and roll in Texas later today. The young Russian likes the big stage, and everything's big in Texas, maybe he'll rip three rockets into the Dallas night.

QUICK HITS

  • According to nhl.com, the Oilers have 4 rookies this season: Mark Arcobello, Taylor Fedun, Luke Gazdic and Tyler Pitlick. Anton Belov doesn't qualify.
  • The Oilers leading scorer is Jordan Eberle (23 points) who is tied for 28th in league points. Last year, Taylor Hall finished 9th, but this year he and David Perron are tied at 61st overall.
  • Craig MacTavish was in Oklahoma City last night, raving about Mark Arcobello in an interview with brilliant play-by-play man Jim Byers.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

WHO CARES? It's almost time for hurdles!!!!! Okay, fine.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers play the system and find their range on the powerplay, scoring twice with the man advantage in a 3-2 victory over the Stars.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ryan Smyth leaves it all out on the ice.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Shawn Horcoff channels himself as a rookie and sends a cross-ice pass that Yakupov shoots through the net for the winner.

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Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on TSN 1260.
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#201 S cottV
December 02 2013, 08:34AM
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Spydyr wrote:

Spydyr wrote: A good defensive centre puts his head down and hustles back. Picking up the trailer.Not coast back and watch the puck go in your net.

After seven years in the NHL you would think Gagner would know that.

You suggesting Perron belongs on team Canada gives me all the information I need about your how astute you are concerning the game of hockey at the NHL level. Sure he is having a good year but there 30 players ahead of him at forward

Your tactical understanding of this play and Gagner's responsibility is wrong. Sorry I'm typically not one to argue, especially if its an opinion or discretionary call. But this was not. Its cut and dry. On a clear 2 on 2, the 1st fwd back (C or otherwise) should never "hustle back and help the D". His job IS to turn around, even slow up, and wait for the 3rd man who IS his responsibility. This is a concept I have a hard time teaching kids, because your instinct is to hustle back and help your d man. But this causes further breakdown, and is absolutely wrong.

Sorry, on this one you are absolutely wrong. If you want to blame anyone else, Petry was forced to cheat over because Ferrence sort of got beat wide. But otherwise that is squarely and entirely on Petry's

Did you not read the line in my post "A good defensive centre puts his head down and hustles back. Picking up the trailer"

At no point did I say help the "D"

Perhaps you should read the post before arguing against it. Using the same thing that was posted in the first place.

Not sure I would entirely agree with the back checker role as described by Todd. In that situation - the 2 on 2 was in a little doubt, as for a second or two it looked like Ferrance might have been beat. Ferrance reeled it back in but it probably messed up Petry, who regardless - did not have enough awareness / coverage directed at Garbutt. Gagner's first instinct as the backchecker is to come back hard and get into the high slot - while at the same time, checking behind him to be aware of where the trailer threat is. If no - immediate trailer threat because they may be changing or way back up ice - or - we have wingers back, to cover the trailer or trailers threat for a short time, there may be a window of opportunity to directly assist on the 2 on 2 - to out man it and shut it down - taking possession. If the trailer threat is on the backcheckers heels or very close, then - sure -that threat has to be picked up and taken to the net. So a read and react - but - you dont want a backchecker slowing up thru the neutral zone to wait for a trailer that wont be there for awhile. Hard back to the high slot - be aware what's behind you, but you could be in position to briefly assist directly or partly assist by grabbing a loose puck that the d is able to push back off the 2 on 2 attack. If that doesnt materialize - maintain position in the high to mid slot - partly turn to identify the late entering trailer and cover him off to the net. As for this particular play - I dont remember - how close the trailer threat was behind Gagner, and whether or not he had a window of opportunity to assist in some way. That being said - clearly Petry was out to lunch on that play and should have had way more awareness and postion on Garbutt to shut down that play.

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#202 Mikey
December 02 2013, 08:45AM
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S cottV wrote:

Not sure I would entirely agree with the back checker role as described by Todd. In that situation - the 2 on 2 was in a little doubt, as for a second or two it looked like Ferrance might have been beat. Ferrance reeled it back in but it probably messed up Petry, who regardless - did not have enough awareness / coverage directed at Garbutt. Gagner's first instinct as the backchecker is to come back hard and get into the high slot - while at the same time, checking behind him to be aware of where the trailer threat is. If no - immediate trailer threat because they may be changing or way back up ice - or - we have wingers back, to cover the trailer or trailers threat for a short time, there may be a window of opportunity to directly assist on the 2 on 2 - to out man it and shut it down - taking possession. If the trailer threat is on the backcheckers heels or very close, then - sure -that threat has to be picked up and taken to the net. So a read and react - but - you dont want a backchecker slowing up thru the neutral zone to wait for a trailer that wont be there for awhile. Hard back to the high slot - be aware what's behind you, but you could be in position to briefly assist directly or partly assist by grabbing a loose puck that the d is able to push back off the 2 on 2 attack. If that doesnt materialize - maintain position in the high to mid slot - partly turn to identify the late entering trailer and cover him off to the net. As for this particular play - I dont remember - how close the trailer threat was behind Gagner, and whether or not he had a window of opportunity to assist in some way. That being said - clearly Petry was out to lunch on that play and should have had way more awareness and postion on Garbutt to shut down that play.

The replay should be on the oilers site.

Watching the play again gagner was about 2-3 sec behind the goal scorer. You can't tell how hard he was back checking. But you can see he gets there just after the puck goes in the net. There is no way to tell how close the next Star player was, just that Gagner was the next player into the camera frame.

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#203 S cottV
December 02 2013, 09:08AM
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@Mikey

Yes - just saw it on Sportsnet. Petry has almost no awareness of Garbutt which is the main problem. That being said - did Gagner have a window of opportunity to assist directly? because a great down low centreman needs to bail out a d man mistake every now and again. Gagner should probably have read that Petry was in trouble. What we dont know is whether or not he slowed up at all on the backcheck where otherwise he might have got there, if that was the play - given that there may have been no immediate trailer threat.

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#204 Mikey
December 02 2013, 09:12AM
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S cottV wrote:

Yes - just saw it on Sportsnet. Petry has almost no awareness of Garbutt which is the main problem. That being said - did Gagner have a window of opportunity to assist directly? because a great down low centreman needs to bail out a d man mistake every now and again. Gagner should probably have read that Petry was in trouble. What we dont know is whether or not he slowed up at all on the backcheck where otherwise he might have got there, if that was the play - given that there may have been no immediate trailer threat.

Thats the thing. Gagner saw that Petry was not in trouble. Because he wasn't. I could clearly see Ferrance recovered. Petry an NHL player should have made the same reading, slowed up a bit and turned around to tie up Garbutts stick. Or if he didn't make the same reading, lay down and block the pass. Becuase all he did was just stand there. What's the first rule of a two on one? Take the pass and make the puck carrier shoot.

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#205 S cottV
December 02 2013, 09:44AM
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@Mikey

Fun to debate it but in my opinion - Gagner could have determined that Petry was in trouble because he was looking puck all the way and Gagner should be saying "sure as hell Petry is gonna blow coverage on the guy behind him." It wasnt really a two on one because Ferrance had some angle and had pushed the attack below the goal line. To me - clearly Petry is at fault. The unknown is whether or not Gagner had an opportunity to save the day, which would be determined by whether he could have got there by skating back harder and whether or not there was an immediate trailer threat, that needed to be covered off instead. I would probably give the benefit of the doubt to Gagner in this situation, although in general Gagner is not a strong down low d zone supporter.

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#206 Todd
December 02 2013, 09:45AM
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S cottV wrote:

Yes - just saw it on Sportsnet. Petry has almost no awareness of Garbutt which is the main problem. That being said - did Gagner have a window of opportunity to assist directly? because a great down low centreman needs to bail out a d man mistake every now and again. Gagner should probably have read that Petry was in trouble. What we dont know is whether or not he slowed up at all on the backcheck where otherwise he might have got there, if that was the play - given that there may have been no immediate trailer threat.

If you watch the replay very closely, right before Gagner goes off screen, he swivels his head back and checks for HIS man, who would be the 3rd man/trailer on a 2-2. This is absolutely the correct play and that split second decision ensures he could not possibly have got back in time to bail out Petry from his lack of coverage even if he realized there was no trailer anywhere.

I realize many on here loathe Gagner and try to blame him any chance they get. But you need to apply some understanding of correct team coverage before you single out a player for not going out of position to cover the errors of another player.

I'm not a Gagner apologist, nor do I think he is amazing defensively in any sense of the word. Perhaps Datzuk would have had the super hockey sense to jump the gun, except Petry to completely leave his man alone in front of the net and help. But in this case he doesn't deserve to be singled out for another players mistake.

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#207 camdog
December 02 2013, 09:52AM
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Watched the replay a few times now. If Gags commits down low then who's job is it to cover 24 coming open in the slot? Petry looked completely lost on that play. Gags does have a history of not coming back hard, I've seen him do it multiple times, on this play it looks like he's got his man.

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#208 S cottV
December 02 2013, 10:20AM
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@camdog

I agree - Gagner not at fault. Petry out to lunch and appears that a trailer was looming, that needed coverage. My point though - there are times when a backchecker can get directly involved because there is no trailer support, or it can be temporarily covered off by a 2nd backchecker. Example - many times the opposition will change the trailer and there may be a 7 to 10 second opportunity to outman and take possession. Wouldnt want my backchecker hanging around the neutral zone waiting for the the trailer replacement to show up.

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#209 S cottV
December 02 2013, 10:21AM
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@camdog

I agree - Gagner not at fault. Petry out to lunch and appears that a trailer was looming, that needed coverage. My point though - there are times when a backchecker can get directly involved because there is no trailer support, or it can be temporarily covered off by a 2nd backchecker. Example - many times the opposition will change the trailer and there may be a 7 to 10 second opportunity to outman and take possession. Wouldnt want my backchecker hanging around the neutral zone waiting for the the trailer replacement to show up.

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#210 wendy01
December 02 2013, 01:41PM
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S cottV wrote:

Fun to debate it but in my opinion - Gagner could have determined that Petry was in trouble because he was looking puck all the way and Gagner should be saying "sure as hell Petry is gonna blow coverage on the guy behind him." It wasnt really a two on one because Ferrance had some angle and had pushed the attack below the goal line. To me - clearly Petry is at fault. The unknown is whether or not Gagner had an opportunity to save the day, which would be determined by whether he could have got there by skating back harder and whether or not there was an immediate trailer threat, that needed to be covered off instead. I would probably give the benefit of the doubt to Gagner in this situation, although in general Gagner is not a strong down low d zone supporter.

This is exactly one of the biggest problems with this Oilers team. They do not trust their teammates to do their job. Petry looks like a total fool as he watches Ference and does absolutely nothing. He's so worried that Ference is going to lose his man that he gets frozen by indecision. This clearly falls on Petry and no one else. Gagner may or may not have been late on the play but if Petry had taken the 2nd man, this is a moot point and Garbutt doesn't get another goal. He is soft defensively and sometimes seems to not understand the absolute basics of hockey! It is shocking to me that after 3 months of coaching under Eakins, Petry is so lost! I'm not sure this is on the coach tho as everyone last night was basically saying the same thing. Petry missed the boat.

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