GDB 18.0: SLAY THE DRAGON

Jason Gregor
February 25 2013 01:06PM

If you focus on statistical categories heading into tonight's tilt v. the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks it doesn't look good for the Oilers. The Hawks are 15-0-3, they have ice girls, a sold out building and right now they win for fun.

Can the Oilers pull off a major upset?

Logic tells you it is highly unlikely that the Oilers can skate into Chicago and leave with two points.

The Hawks have outscored their opponents 56-32 (I don't include SO goals).

The majority of the game is played five-on-five and the Hawks have 38 GF and 24 GA, meanwhile the Oilers ES scoring woes continue with a league-worst 16 goals, but at least they've only allowed 30 five-on-five. The Hawks are +14 in ES scoring while the Oilers are -14. Ouch.

The Oilers have the 4th most PP goals, 18 on 76 opportunities, but the Hawks PK is 2nd best in the league having allowed only 7 goals on 67 chances. 

LINE UP

Smyth-Nugent-Hopkins-Eberle
Paajarvi-Gagner-Hemsky
Eager-Belanger-Jones
Yakupov-Vande Velde-Petrell

Teemu Hartikainen has been put on the IR with a shoulder injury and Lennart Petrell has been activated. Smyth has four points in his last four games and he's played much better since being benched. With Taylor Hall sitting out the final game of his two-game suspension it makes sense to put Smyth on the top line. The Oilers need to find a mix that will get them at least two ES scoring lines.

I suspect Paajarvi needs a great game to stay in the top-six past tonight, and lately he's been either highly noticeable or completely invisible. He needs to find some consistency in his game.

Yakupov on the 4th line is a bit of a head scratcher, but Krueger had to mix up his 2nd line. They weren't producing, and they were giving way more scoring chances than they were producing. There is no point putting Yakupov with Belanger, because Belanger has zero offensive confidence right now.

When Hall returns, I wonder if Krueger will mix up his six skilled forwards amongst three lines. The issue is that until Horcoff returns it means two of his skilled guys will have to play with Belanger. Belanger has shown he's a solid 4th line centre, who can kill penalties, but his offensive instincts seemingly have dried up.

I'd look seriously at a Hall-Horcoff-Yakupov combination along with 94-93-14 and 28-89-83. I'm not sure any need to be labeled the 1st, 2nd or 3rd lines, but when the captain returns I'd look at that. You could switch 94 and 28 as well, since Smyth and Hemsky have always played well together.

Smid-Petry
N.Schultz-J.Schultz
Fistric-Potter

Interesting how Theo Peckham can't get back in the lineup, despite playing pretty well against Minnesota. Maybe it is as simple as Krueger wanting to stick with the lineup that beat Phoenix. I know Struds is a huge believer in keeping the same lineup after a win. I still don't see what the coaches see in Corey Potter, but they like him.

Khabibulin

Khabibulin has played well in every game this year; however, does Devan Dubnyk deserve to sit out an entire week? It is a fine balancing act for Krueger. He wants to win, but he also needs to find out what he has moving forward. The Oilers can't afford to waste another year chasing the playoffs without finding out if Dubnyk is their goalie of the future.

QUICK HITS

  • The Oilers lead the NHL with the most wins when trailing heading into the 3rd period. The Oilers are 4-3-2 when trailing after 40 minutes. That's the good news. The bad news is the Blackhaws are 12-0-1 when leading after 40 minutes.
     
  • The Hawks love fast starts. They've outscored the opposition 41-17 during the first two periods. The Oilers need a good start.
     
  • Ray Emery starts for the Blackhawks. He is 7-0 with a 2.10 GAA and a sparkling .933 SV%. Including tonight he's started 5 of the last 6 games for the Hawks. Corey Crawford shutout the Blue Jackets 1-0 last night, but he'll get the night off.
     
  • Patrick Kane is the only Blackhawk in the top-38 scorers in the NHL. Kane has 23 points in 18 games. Jonathon Toews is tied for 40th with 15 points. The Hawks have 11 players with at least 7 points. They win with balanced scoring.
     
  • “I’ve started to realize that getting hit and taking big body checks doesn’t mean you are tough or playing well, it just means you are being a little stupid and reckless. You can still go to the hard areas, and you can still get a lot of pucks and make a lot of plays without taking a big hit." Taylor Hall told me this and much more in an article about how he's changed his game. You can read the rest here. 
     
  • Ryan Whitney will sit out for the 6th time in 18 games. It looks like his time with the Oilers is coming to an end. The debate is whether they can increase his trade value by playing him, or does sitting him keep his value constant. Moving him for a 3rd or 2nd round pick doesn't help them now. I know Whitney hasn't played great this year, but moving him for a pick means they definitely lose the trade now. The pick might, a big might, pan out in four years to salvage a deal, or better yet, they move that pick to another team and acquire a proven NHL player.
     
  • The new line combinations v. Phoenix didn't result in anymore ES goals, but they did generate more chances. It is obvious the Oilers need to mix in some grease and grit with their skilled guys.
     
  • The PP has started to show some life again with four goals in their last 13 chances. Krueger had Smyth and Hartikainen both in front of the net on one unit and it led to the tying goal. The Oilers need more ugly play and less pretty plays on the PP and ES if they hope to start scoring more.
     
  • Good news is that tickets for the Nation 5th Birthday party are going well, the bad news is if you are a procrastinator there are only 50 tickets left. $20 gets you the snazzy limited edition 5th Birthday T-Shirt, a $25 Oodle Noodle GC, a $20 Pint GC, and Labatt swag. We all know you plan on watching Friday's game, so you might as well do it at the Pint Off Whyte, help raise some money for charity and get a sweet Nation T-shirt.  click here to buy yours.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Hawks barely beat the lowly Blue Jackets yesterday, so you wonder if their streak is close to ending. The Hawks might be a bit fatigued, and could take the Oilers lightly, but I still don't see the upset. Hawks win 3-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Eberle scores. He has 15 points in 8 career games v. the Hawks including 5 goals.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Early in the first period Ryan Nugent-Hopkins skates into the Hawks zone, but heinexplicably stops at their blueline. He then takes two hard scrapes with his blade on the bluelinem and then slams his stick into the gap his blade just made. He then dumps the puck in and heads to the bench. After the game he was asked what he was doing on the play. "Last year the blueline cheap-shotted me. It tripped me which sending me flying into the boards and it that cost me the Calder trophy and a huge salary bonus. I can stand up for myself, and I wanted the rest of the league to know they can't cheapshot me."

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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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#51 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
February 25 2013, 03:08PM
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The Oilers have a better record when trailing after two rather than leading?

They're like a baby Hercules. Maybe they'll grow up one day...

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#52 hunkybill
February 25 2013, 03:17PM
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When Horcoff gets back...He is missed. Who would have thought. High Five!

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#53 westcoastoil
February 25 2013, 03:22PM
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Chitown has the best ice girls in the league.

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#54 bwar
February 25 2013, 03:25PM
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Krueger must really hate Yakupov. Seems like the kid is really going to have to work and be perfect to get his chances. Last game he assists on Eberle's goal, then has a few good shifts with the top line creating some scoring chances, then has one shift where he got himself out of position in the offensive zone and then I'm not sure he got another shift for the rest of the night.

Krueger clearly doesn't trust him defensively and only seems to want to give him ice time when we are losing and desperately need a goal. It seems like such a waste of talent to bury on the fourth line. The kid really wants to play. Yes he's going to make some mistakes but he is a young talented player that is going to be part of this teams core for a long time. Krueger really needs to figure out how to use Yakupov more effectively and I just don't see how burying him on the fourth line accomplishes that.

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#55 A-Mc
February 25 2013, 03:34PM
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@bwar

YakAttack is pretty risky when he's on the ice. He makes lots of bad plays so i can see why he'd have 3/4th line time. Those lines usually consist of a good defensive focus over the top 2, so maybe they'll help balance everything out.

He'll still get his time on the PP. And chances are he'll see a few shifts on a different line at different parts of the game.

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#56 Smytty's Jibs
February 25 2013, 03:39PM
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I went down to Chi-tiown and had 3rd row seats for a Blackhawks game at the United Center during the season they won the cup, and I must say, those ice girls:

HUH-BUH HUBBA!!!!

They were EASILY the best thing about that game!!!

The Octane is a terrible idea, and whoever thought it up should be ashamed! I hope they see the error of their ways and adopt the rocket ice girls.

As a side note: the second best thing about the game was that Mike Grier was playing for the Sabres at the time and he laid an absolutely CRUSHING hit on somebody in the corner, and shattered the glass. It was incredible.

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#57 bwar
February 25 2013, 03:48PM
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@A-Mc

So eliminating any offensive production he might have had to maybe cover up the defensive side of his game is the answer?

I do like that he is getting lots of PP time but, its just seems like he's getting punished for mistakes a lot more than other Oiler forwards. I mean Yakupov is -8 on the season while Hemsky and Gagner are -6 and -5 respectively. Its not like they are 5v5 heroes without Yakupov.

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#58 Mikey
February 25 2013, 04:14PM
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lolhockey wrote:

I still stand by my trade suggestion:

Hemsky + something for Dustin Brown.

Also, why would we trade for Hamilton when we're getting Seth Jones? ;)

Hemsky for Eric Fehr. But Dustin Brown would be nice.

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#59 bwar
February 25 2013, 04:17PM
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oilers2k10 wrote:

All great offensive players make bone headed plays..except if their names are Crosby, Yakupov should be used as Hall's replacement on the top line till Hall gets back.. What's Krueger trying to do, turn Yak into a third/fourth line checker?

Give the guy a chance to succeed, Hall, RNH, Eberle were all given lots of chances to succeed in their rookie years despite countless mistakes, why treat Yakupov so differently?

Exactly. Are Smyth and Paajarvi more offensively gifted than Yakupov? Better get them on the top lines then!

If Krueger really wants to show he's willing to change the lines (note: subbing someone in while Hall is injured and benching Yakupov for defenisive errors are not changning the lines) then he has to break up the pairs (RNH-Eberle and Gagner-Hemsky). Seems like Krueger is getting a lot of props for doing a lot of nothing.

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#60 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
February 25 2013, 04:18PM
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Ducey wrote:

I still don't see what the coaches see in Corey Potter, but they like him.

The math says that among Dmen, has the 6th best Rel Corsi (-3.0) while facing the 5th toughest competition with the 8th best teammates.

For you MSM guys, that means he is the best option for the 3rd pairing.

So nothing special.

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#61 Will
February 25 2013, 04:18PM
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The line combinations and how Krueger is coaching, it's very clear this is not a season of rebuilding, of teaching the kids how to play the NHL system, Kruger is trying to exceed expectations and get into the playoffs. He wants to win. Which is great because that's the attitude it promotes. "Hey, you want more ice time, show me you want to win."

It'l be a difficult road trip, but in true Oilers fashion they did not perform as expected on that last three game road trip, and nearly every prediction was wrong. Their unpredictability has been about the only consistency shown by the team.

However, I would like to take a crack at it: Chicago: Win Dallas: Loss St. Louis: Loss Minnesota: OTW Columbus: SOL Detroit: Loss Nashville: Win Chicago: OTL Colorado: Loss

Which unfortunately is good enough for only 8 of a possible 18 points. Sorry for the pessimism but this is a long road trip, with a very strange schedule in how it was stacked.

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#62 Ales Hallsky
February 25 2013, 04:28PM
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Hemsky is playing well...TRADE HIM!!

Horcoff sucks....

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#63 James
February 25 2013, 05:32PM
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Can the Pint gift card be used on booze??

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#65 David S
February 25 2013, 06:35PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Yes, Corsi shows everything you need to determine who is playing well. Just like when it said Ryan Jones sucked. It was completely accurate. Thanks.

Gregor BOOM!

http://youtu.be/NQUuSxtnuBM

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#66 Dog Train
February 25 2013, 06:39PM
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This road trip is murder. My line in the sand is 9 points. Any less and it's all but over. Anything more and we give ourselves a chance. With a few house of horrors stops coming up like Dallas and Minnesota, this is a huge game. I am calling for the upset, 4-3 Oilers. Eberle with a hat trick and Jonesy gets the game winner in the last 5 minutes. GO OILERS GO!!

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#67 Hayek
February 25 2013, 06:41PM
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Great article Jason. You covered many important points, and made many arguments that need to be made. I believe that you seem to have a better grasp on the team than some others on here (or maybe your view just alligns better with mine, lol).

Thanks for writing these, such a great benefit to us readers of OilersNation.

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#68 Walter Sobchak
February 25 2013, 06:42PM
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Not sure if anyone noticed that Chicago has actual women representing there team.

Where the hell did they actually dig up the majority of the "octane girls"....I'm guessing at the local drinking establishment when the lights are still dark.......bloody hell.

OGDP- Oilers are down 3-1 and come back only to lose in O.T

That's the best I can do for optimism for the lads.

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#69 steelymac
February 25 2013, 07:23PM
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Our only chance is to stay out of the box but with the officiating now adays the game has already been decided.

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#70 DrunkGuyTy
February 25 2013, 07:31PM
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Those are the best ice girls ... All 6 of them

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#71 FlamesSask
February 25 2013, 07:42PM
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17 games in and the Flames are just as good as the Oilers....or should I say that the Oilers are just as bad as the Flames! Bahahahaahaha...wait a minute...

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#72 Devolution
February 25 2013, 07:42PM
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So, why is Dubnyk sitting again? I have no problem with Khabby, but it is strange, no?

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#73 The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33
February 25 2013, 07:45PM
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Smitty looks like he's got his jump back.

Just a question here. Please don't turn this into a Smitty bashing. Is he playing better now because:

A. The benching

B. he's on the top two lines. He's never been a third liner before and he looked disinterested early on.

C. Lack of training camp (I don't buy this one personally)

Thoughts?

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#74 Walter Sobchak
February 25 2013, 08:20PM
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Nayeeeeeeeeeeeel

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#75 Shane
February 25 2013, 08:24PM
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YAK!

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#76 Bucknuck
February 25 2013, 08:25PM
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And Gagner gets another point. It's starting to look like the real thing boys and girls.

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#77 Dennis
February 25 2013, 08:26PM
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Stauffer tweeted that Gagner's agent is in Chicago tonight. Hope they're getting to work on an extension.

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#78 RyanCoke
February 25 2013, 08:35PM
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Yakupov with a horrible interview lol

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#79 The Soup Fascist
February 25 2013, 08:41PM
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Shane wrote:

What are you talking about?

Gene: "How did you like your PP goal?"

Yak: "2-1 thats it."

GOLD.

Shane, you are a much better typist.

Props for the brilliant comment.

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#80 Shane
February 25 2013, 08:46PM
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@The Soup Fascist

Haha thanks Soup! Im glad we think alike.

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#81 Mikey
February 25 2013, 08:55PM
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2 soft goals for Khabby. This is why you don't go back to back games with him.

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#82 OILERSORDEATH
February 25 2013, 08:56PM
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What really sucks is just knowing that they will blow the lead and eventually lose the game.

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#83 Walter Sobchak
February 25 2013, 09:18PM
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I hate this, lets try to make it to O.T crap, brutal watching the Oilers trying to hang on.

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#84 Shane
February 25 2013, 09:27PM
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Hey a point!

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#85 Reg Dunlop
February 25 2013, 09:30PM
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Any chance RNH, Gagner and Yak grow up to be Toewes, Kane and Hossa? Maybe but I doubt it.

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#86 Walter Sobchak
February 25 2013, 09:31PM
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Gagner and Hemsky on the ice.................for a goal against.....no way!

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#87 Dennis
February 25 2013, 09:33PM
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Almost ever single player on this team is in the minus. Sigh!

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#88 Mike Krushelnyski
February 25 2013, 09:34PM
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Good battle, we played with some balls tonight. Hawks were a much better team before our best player got suspended.

Smid was atrocious on goals 1 and 3.

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#89 DSF
February 25 2013, 09:35PM
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@Reg Dunlop

No.

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#90 The Don
February 25 2013, 09:35PM
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Brutal plays by Petry. First he loses Sharp and then goes behind the net sniffing daisies. How about taking the guy in front of the net? No one but Petry to blame on that last one.

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#91 Walter Sobchak
February 25 2013, 09:39PM
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The Don wrote:

Brutal plays by Petry. First he loses Sharp and then goes behind the net sniffing daisies. How about taking the guy in front of the net? No one but Petry to blame on that last one.

Absolutely incorrect!!!!

Watch the play again, Petrys man goes behind, he follows like he should, it's Hossa who slips out to the slot.

When you watch the replay you will know without a doubt who's man Hossa is.

Petry got burned but he's line mates have to have there man, that didn't happen, it's a team game and they left Petry out to hang.

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#92 Oilfred
February 25 2013, 09:41PM
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DSF wrote:

No.

RNH>Toews (or will be very soon imo)

Yakupov has every chance to become as good as Kane

The other two are not comparables.

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#93 oilman
February 25 2013, 09:42PM
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the thing that's really bothering me is the soft plays around the boards in their own end. are they scared to ice the puck or what? it's better to risk an icing than to keep turning it over on the boards over and over again. it's so frustrating to watch. also thought jones looked more rusty in this game than in his first one back for some reason.

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#94 The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33
February 25 2013, 09:44PM
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Oilfred wrote:

RNH>Toews (or will be very soon imo)

Yakupov has every chance to become as good as Kane

The other two are not comparables.

C'mon man, I'm as big a homer as it gets but Toews is one of the best player in the league. To even suggest that RNH is or soon to be better than him is kinda nuts.

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#95 TonyT
February 25 2013, 09:53PM
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@OILERSORDEATH

It really sucks being a 30 year old fan of this team. Only caught a glimpse of the glory years but was really too young to appreciate them. The only Oilers I've known have been all heart, no skill, and a prayer. While Tambo's era has really emphasized prayer, as I find myself turning into what I hate the most - a wagon jumper. For the last five years I've planned a family vacation around watching a road game. I'm actually 5-0 (PHX-ANA-DET-LAK-NAS), and this year I chose to go to Dallas on Thursday. Well, Texas has snow and I find myself struggling to want to go. Are the hockey gods telling me enough is enough?

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#96 Lofty
February 25 2013, 09:59PM
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Smid spends too much time on his knees. You can't flail on the ice every time the puck comes around the net.

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#97 DSF
February 25 2013, 10:00PM
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Oilfred wrote:

RNH>Toews (or will be very soon imo)

Yakupov has every chance to become as good as Kane

The other two are not comparables.

Phhhttt.

Hopkins is being embarrassed by Nazem Kadri.

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#98 15w40
February 25 2013, 10:07PM
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Way to lock it down and get that point. I agree, that that looked like the game plan - get out of the United Center with the point and call it a successful outing.

Didn't look like there was much killer instinct there at all.

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#99 Walter Sobchak
February 25 2013, 10:09PM
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DSF wrote:

Phhhttt.

Hopkins is being embarrassed by Nazem Kadri.

Easy, there DSF, you know RNH is a far better player then Kadri.

you can tell RNH is hurtin, question is how bad and why is he still playing.

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#100 DSF
February 25 2013, 10:11PM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

Easy, there DSF, you know RNH is a far better player then Kadri.

you can tell RNH is hurtin, question is how bad and why is he still playing.

Watch a couple of Leaf games and you'll change your mind.

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