March 01 2013 12:41PM
Gotta love the passion of Oilers fans. Screaming, pointing, worried and concerned about one of their players, and tonight you'll do the same as the Oilers look to finish the first third of their nine-game road trip on a high note in St. Louis.
The Oilers shouldn't have got a point in Chicago, but they did. They never win in Dallas, but they did. Tonight they will look for their first back-to-back road wins on consecutive nights since December 1st and 2nd of 2010 when they beat the Habs 4-3 in OT and then spanked the Leafs 5-0.
The Oilers have been incredibly streaky the past few years. Usually the streaks don't go their way, but when they play as well as they did last night, they've been able to maintain that for a few games. The Oilers deserved to win last night, and if they give the same effort tonight they'll have an excellent chance to put themselves right in the playoff mix.
An Oiler regulation win and a Minnesota loss would put the Oilers in a tie with LA, St. Louis, Minnesota, San Jose and Dallas with 22 points. Tied for 6th to 11th. The western conference is tight like first night and it will probably stay that way the entire month of March.
Last year the Blues won with stingy defence and stellar goaltending, but this year their goalies have been average and the Blues are giving up almost one more goal per game than last year. In 2012 they led the NHL with a 1.89 GAA, but this year they sit 18th at 2.84. The Oilers are 13th at 2.58 and currently they have the better goaltender.
Devan Dubnyk is 10th in SV% amongst goalies who have started at least ten games.
He has a very respectable 0.921 SV% in 15 starts.
The Blues goalies are barely treading water:
Jaroslav Halak: 8 starts and a 0.904 SV%
Jake Allen: 4 starts and a 0.895 SV%
Brian Elliott: 7 starts and a 0.849 SV%
Halak will start for the Blues. The interesting thing about the Blues goaltending is that they don't face many shots. The Blues are allowing a league-best 22.9 shots against/game. The Oilers are 29th in shots allowed at 33.5/game.
Last year the Blues were also first in shots against/game at 26.7, but Elliot had a 0.940 SV% in 36 starts, while Halak had a 0.926 in 46 starts. Amazing how different things look from year to year.
The only lineup change we might see is Magnus Paajarvi slotting in for Ryan Smyth. Krueger hinted earlier he might give his veteran a night off during back-to-back games, but considering how strong the team played last night I doubt he makes the switch. Jones is a little sore after the Benn crosscheck, but he will dress.
Potter left the game after his head hit the boards, and Mark Fistric has a sore elbow so Ryan Whitney and Theo Peckham will draw in.
- I am taking a hiatus from talking about Magnus Paajarvi. At this point he isn't more effective than Ryan Jones or Ryan Smyth. He isn't better offensively than Eberle, Hall, Yakupov or Hemsky, and his game is not suited to being an energy guy who plays physical on the fourth line. I'd much rather play him 20 minutes a night in OKC than sit in the pressbox or play 10-11 minutes when he does draw in.
- That doesn't mean he won't be an NHL player soon, I just don't see where he fits in on this roster when everyone is healthy. It doesn't make sense to me to have a 21-year-old playing 11 minutes a night or sitting in the pressbox, when he could be playing PP, PK and ES in the minors.
- For those who believe advanced stats always tell the truth, is it possible that Paajarvi is a better advanced stat player, but Jones produces more on-ice production? I know this might be really crazy to believe, but is is possible possession metrics aren't perfect. Maybe they don't tell the entire story. Just a thought.
- When the Oilers inevitably trade one or two of their forwards, that doesn't mean they aren't good players. Many good and even great players have been dealt. The key isn't who they move, it is who they get in return. They are past the point of trading for picks and prospects. They need to acquire proven NHL talent.
- The Senators, Jets, Habs and Leafs are playing well. If the Oilers can get on a roll how awesome would it be to have six Canadian teams in the playoffs. I don't see a scenario this year that has both Calgary and Edmonton making it, so there won't be seven, but it would be great to see six of 16 playoff teams reside in Canada.
- Oiler fans are going to have a field day with the Ryan O'Reilly saga. It turns out that because O'Reilly played two games in Russia after the season started, so he would have had to clear waivers if the Avalanche hadn't matched the Flames offer sheet. Meaning the Flames would have lost their two picks and O'Reilly to waivers. Wow, Oiler fans will chuckle while Flames fans will be groaning. Great scope by Chris Johnson from Sportsnet. Story is here.
- The new CBA allows a team to sign one of their own RFA or draft picks out of Europe during the season without making them subject to waivers. This is a new rule in the CBA. It is rule 13:23 if you are a CBA fanatic.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Many asked me to keep picking against the Oilers on this trip since they already have 3 of 4 points. I don't buy into that at all, but since it is Positive Friday I'll play along. Blues win 3-1.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: All the single Nation readers down at the Pint off Whyte for the Nation's 5th Birthday party will miss most of the first period trying a variety of
unique unsuccessful pick up lines on Arianny Celeste.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Nail Yakupov and Vladimir Tarasenko are tied for third in rookie goal scoring with six goals, but instead of scoring they will shock everyone and drop the mitts after they get into a lengthy verbal sparring match. No one on the ice will have a clue what they said to get each other riled up, but both benches get fired up watching them exchange blows. After the game both wouldn't divulge what they discussed on the ice, but a lip reader will tweet the exchange.
Yakupov: "Let's show Plums that Russians know how to fight."
Tarasenko: "His name isn't Plums, it is Prunes."
Yakupov: "What ever we need to show him that Russians punch better than Semin."
Tarasenko: "I heard your sister is in the country now, can you give me her number so I can see her when we come to Edmonton."
Yakupov: "That is onside man, way onside. You want to go for a kayak ride?"
Tarasenko: "First plums, now onside and kayak instead of offside and canoe. Your English worse than sister's kiss."
Both drop gloves and fans from both teams love the emotion from their youngsters.