March 05 2013 01:23PM
After 21 games with an offence that scores less than a married guy after coming home late from an all-nighter, Ralph Krueger elected to switch up his line combinations. And he was smart enough to do it against the team the Oilers dominate like no other western division foe, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Oilers have won 28 of 45 games played vS. the Blue Jackets, a solid 62.2 winning percentage. Jordan Eberle, Ales Hemsky, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Magnus Paajarvi and Ryan Smyth all average at least a point-per-game vS. the Blue Jackets, so juggling the lines should be easier to sort out against the Jackets than the Red Wings in two nights.
Nugent-Hopkins is very good defensively and Hall and Hemsky are the hardest wingers to defend, so that line should see, and be able to handle, the tougher minutes.
The 91-89-14 trio looked decent v. Minnesota, and if Paajarvi can stay as involved in the game as he was in Minnesota they should create some chances.
Jones/Belanger/Smyth had some very good shifts against the Wild where they created turnovers and hemmed the Wild in for a good 30-40 seconds. Yakupov could add the potential for outside shots, but he won't be as good as Smyth at cycling the puck. I'll be curious to see how this trio plays. If Horcoff was healthy this line would be much better.
Moving Smyth to centre isn't ideal, but considering Vande Velde adds little, I'd go with Smyth's experience even if he is out of position. If this line cycles like you'd expect them to, and can wear down the defenders on most shifts Krueger will be happy.
It seems like Whitney is starting to play the way Krueger and Steve Smith want him to. He jumped up into the rush much more in St.Louis and Minnesota, and by being more aggressive, and moving his feet when he had the puck, he wasn't caught standing still as often. He needs to play like he has the last two games to stay in the lineup.
Dubnyk stole a game the last time the Oilers were in Columbus. The Jackets outshot them 40-14, so you'd expect a better effort tonight from the skaters in front of Dubnyk.
- This is one of the greatest videos I've seen in a long time. Kudos to You Tube poster/artist "M A K A V E L I" for this hilarious compilation. He made this after Bruins head coach Claude Julien had the audacity to
complainwhine about the Montreal Canadiens and their embellishment.
- I know Oiler fans are talented so we might have to have a You Tube contest later this year.
- After listening to Steve Tambellini yesterday I think it is fair to conclude that when the Oilers get healthy he'll have to make a minor trade or two to get guys back on the roster. Vande Velde will go down when Horcoff returns in a few weeks, and Hartikainen likely goes to minors when he comes of IR, but when they activate Mark Fistric from the IR he'll have to try and move someone rather than just lose them on waivers.
- Right now the 8th place team is on pace for 54 points. If we conclude that 54 points is the cut off for the post-season, the Oilers need 34 points in their final 27 games. Meaning they need to go 16-9-2, 15-8-4 or 14-7-6 to make it. I think 8 OT/SO losses in 27 games is a stretch so I won't go lower than 14 wins. A loss tonight v. the lowly Blue Jackets makes the final 26 games even harder.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers find a way to win and the 4/93/83 trio combine for six points in a 4-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Mike Brown fights Jared Boll. Fans who like scraps will love it, while the number crunchers will suggest Brown is an awful NHL player and that his intensity isn't necessary and that punching people doesn't help you win.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: While Ales Hemsky is serving a rare coincidental roughing penalty, Krueger gives Brown a shift with Hall and Nugent-Hopkins. Nugent- Hopkins finds himself all alone in the slot and releases a quick snapshot. The shot was going high and wide, not surprise since his aim seems a bit off this year, but it hits Brown in the moustache and deflects into the net. Brown's moustache is so thick it protects him from a cut. Within minutes @MBstache will be created on twitter and it will have 10,000 followers by the end of the game.