GDB 43.0: SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS

Jason Gregor
January 02 2014 12:11PM

During their seven, soon to be eight, year playoff drought the Edmonton Oilers have done surprisingly well against the San Jose Sharks. While the Oilers have floundered near the bottom of the standings the Sharks have circled near the top, finishing 5th, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 7th and 6th in the western conference.

Once again, the Sharks are one of the best teams in the west, sitting 4th with a 25-9-6 record, and the Sharks lead the league with a +7.3 ratio in shots for/against. Despite the Sharks consistency as an elite team and the Oilers as a bottom-feeder, Edmonton is 6-6-1 in San Jose during the past seven seasons.

Why? I have no idea, but the Oilers are hoping they continue to be competitive in the Shark Tank tonight.

The Oilers' struggles against western division playoff teams continued in Phoenix on Tuesday with a 4-3 OT loss. The score flattered the Oilers as they were outshot 45-25. In 14 games against the top-8 western teams the Oilers have been outshot by a combined 163 shots and are a paltry 1-11-2. It has been ugly vs. the best in the west, and the Oilers need to wake up to avoid another "shot kicking" tonight.

LINEUP

Hall-RNH-Perron
Yakupov-Gagner-Eberle
Smyth-Gordon-Hemsky
Joensuu-Lander-Gazdic

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

Bryzgalov/Dubnyk

Those were the lines at practice yesterday, so they likely stay the same tonight. Eakins likely won't play his goalies back-to-back and Bryzgalov has played two very strong games, so they could go with him tonight and Dubnyk tomorrow; unless Eakins wants Bryz to face another one of his former teams. Either way, goaltending hasn't been the issue the past few games.

Yakupov draws back in while Roman Horak played one game and was sent back to OKC. I'm curious to see how Yakupov responds to Eakins' "plan." The simple part of the plan is that Eakins will play Yakupov with offensive guys as long as Yakupov plays better without the puck and in the D zone.

I expect Yakupov to play hard tonight, but based on what Eakins said he'll need to do it consistently to stick in the top-six. That is fine, but it's about time Eakins starts thinking about challenging some other forwards the way he has Yakupov. Gagner and Eberle need to be better.

QUICK HITS

  • Anton Belov's play on the OT goal was the epitome of a soft play. For reasons unexplained he elected to coast for one stride at the blueline and then he made a weak stick check on Yandle. I understand that players will make mistakes, turn the puck over and not always execute, but soft plays are inexcusable and the Oilers have too many players who make soft plays fairly frequently. Until that stops this organization won't improve. If Belov plays significant minutes tonight what message is Eakins sending his team?
     
  •  The players need to be more accountable to each other, and I liked that Ilya Bryzgalov showed his displeasure after the tying and OT goals. You don't want players doing it all the time, but at certain times it is necessary. It might cause some discomfort now and then, but when Bryzgalov, who spent the past 120 minutes standing on his head keeping his team in the game, gets fired up his teammates should listen. He was playing his ass of and it is nice to see a player demand that his teammates put forth the same effort.
     
  • Scott Burnside wrote a fantastic article on how TEAM USA picked their 25-man roster. It was great to get a glimpse into the process. The thing that stood out to me, yet didn't surprise me, was how cautious they were about offensive players. That is the biggest issue in our game in my opinion. GMs and coaches would rather go with safe players than highly skilled guys who might make mistakes.

    Bobby Ryan has scored 160 goals since the start of the 2008/2009 season. Phil Kessel, 175, is the only American with more goals during that span, yet Ryan didn't make the team.

    What perplexed me the most was that the coaches felt they didn't need him on the PP, because he only had 8 PP points in Ottawa. The majority of the game is played five-on-five, and the only forward on the USA roster with more ES points than Ryan's 28 is Patrick Kane. Ryan produces at ES, and Brian Burke even admitted in the article that he is an elite finisher. Instead of downplaying his PP production, shouldn't they have been applauding his ES totals?

    My biggest beef about the state of hockey is that coaches are drawn towards safe players instead of finishers.Hockey is becoming to risk averse. I understand the need to have reliable players on the roster, but if you can't score you won't win. Is Derek Stepan going to be a difference maker more than Ryan? Ryan has been one of the top-ten most productive goal scorers in the NHL the past five years, yet the USA elected to go with guys who were "safer" and had a good first 40 games of the season. I suspect they will regret that decision.
     
  • What makes Ryan's omission even more surprising is the make up of their blueline. Only one of the eight D-men named to team USA would crack Canada's top-seven, Ryan Suter. The rest are Ryan McDonagh, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Justin Faulk, John Carlson, Kevin Shattenkirk and Cam Fowler. Orpik is the only physical defender, and only Carlson is the only other one above 6'2".

    How do they plan to defend Canada's big skilled forwards like Getzlaf, Perry and others? They can't expect to win games 2-1 just because they have Jonathan Quick in goal? Their blueline is made up of puckmovers, but they cut their 3rd most productive forward and that seems somewhat contradictory to me.

    I'm very surprised Dustin Byfuglien wasn't one of their eight defenders. He adds a different dimension. To me Carlsson, Faulk, Fowler and Shattenkirk are essentially the same player. I don't see how their blueline will be able to handle Canada's forwards when they start cycling. That is great news for Canadians. I don't see USA as a main threat in this tournament.
     
  • You can point at Taylor Hall and make an argument that he should make Team, Canada based on his offence, and that is a valid point. However, the difference between him and Ryan is that Canada has other guys with more points than Hall. Crosby, Toews, Getzlaf, Perry, Sharp, Tavares, Kunitz and Thornton. Kunitz also has more points, but playing with Crosby definitely helps.

    I've said I'd have Hall on the 25-man roster, but Canada has the luxury of going with guys who are also very good offensively, but have a bit more experience in Staal, Nash and Giroux.  Even in the case of Kunitz he is showing he can produce. Pascal Dupuis also played with Crosby and he only had 20 points. If Kunitz makes the team at least they can say he is producing more than guys who didn't make it, unlike Ryan with Team USA.

    When Hockey Canada makes their announcement next week it will be interesting to see which forwards aren't on it. We could see Hall, Seguin, Benn and Duchene on the outside.

TONIGHT...

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Their struggles against top teams continue with a 4-2 loss.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall has eight points in his last four games and he continues his strong play tonight with a goal and an assist. He is making a strong push to make Team Canada, but even he admitted he doesn't think he'll crack the roster. Hall could be top-15 in scoring by the time January 7th rolls around, which will only add to the debate if he doesn't make the cut.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After scoring four goals in his first six games, Boyd Gordon only has one in his last 30. He buries his 6th of the season tonight which puts him on pace to shatter his career high of eight goals.
 

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

Ddf3e2ba09069c465299f3c416e43eae
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 Lochenzo
January 02 2014, 03:04PM
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I was just on THN where they are counting down the all time greatest teams. #2 is the 83-84 Oilers. This current crop is nowhere near as talented as the 83-84 team and the current Oilers would kill to have a Paul Coffey or even Charlie Huddy on defense. But the 83-84 team was a young group of kids all in their early 20's who took 4 years together to learn where their heads needed to be for them to win.

The league is a little different now. Almost half of the teams don't make the playoffs. But the same lesson applies. For this current crop, they need to get their head in the space. Let's not forget that. If Brett Hull can learn to back check and then go on to win a Stanley Cup, then I'm sure these kids can too.

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#52 RexHolez
January 02 2014, 04:36PM
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@Kevin

Why would they claim a free NHL player?? We have lots of AHL guys to give ice time. Even Konopka would be an upgrade

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#53 RexHolez
January 02 2014, 05:13PM
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@**

He's grooming yak to be our. 4th line checker/pk specialist. It's a challenge for him

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#54 JJ
January 02 2014, 07:51PM
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Nichushkin with another goal tonight. Nurse better be the real deal. Otherwise missing out on the next Malkin will be the greatest Oil mistake of the decade. We shall see.

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#55 Dog Train
January 02 2014, 07:52PM
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We have lost so far this year so here's to positive thinking! Oilers pull one out, 3-2 in the shootout.

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#56 @Oilanderp
January 02 2014, 10:28PM
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@Zamboni Driver

This is not notify you that you have been traded to Calgary.

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#57 Arius Mumin
January 02 2014, 11:05PM
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Eakins should bathe in his players piss.

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#58 Cameron
January 02 2014, 12:19PM
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A Shakespearean quote came to mind that seemed fitting for the Oiler's owner, management and Serious Gord:

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not with our stars, but in ourselves"

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#59 Horcsky
January 02 2014, 12:57PM
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Hmm, I disagree with some of the guys you listed as being more productive than Hall, Gregor.

Perry, Kunitz, Sharp, and Toews are all at a lower points per game pace than Hall.

http://www.sportingcharts.com/nhl/stats/player-points-per-game-leaders/2013/

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#60 BC BOY
January 02 2014, 01:14PM
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"Canada has other guys with more points than Hall. Crosby, Toews, Getzlaf, Perry, Sharp, Tavares, Kunitz and Thornton."

The only players on this list with a better P/G than Hall on this list are Crosby, Getzlaf, Tavares and Thornton

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#61 Bryan in SK
January 02 2014, 01:21PM
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That photo... (the one with the shark)... that looks like Petry getting chased into the corner by Thornton.

NSOGDP - Jumbo Joe scores his third with 5 to play in the third. Farhan Lalji has a stroke waiting for #4 and the subsequent post-game interview.

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#62 A-Mc
January 02 2014, 01:27PM
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Stack Pad Save wrote:

Your favorite player is the guy who calls out his teamates and yells at them on the ice? Has tantrums and throws his stick? The guy who won't paint his helmut because he is using the organization to audition for other teams for next season?

yep

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#63 Ed in PV
January 02 2014, 01:39PM
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Having Gags and Yak on the same line, Eakins is rolling the dice. I think the dice are loaded against him.

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#64 RexHolez
January 02 2014, 04:09PM
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@Newj

Breezy might not be a very good NHL level goalie, but he's still on upgrade on Dubnyk!

Bishop, Bernier, Schneider.... All could of been had

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#65 BIGDAWG
January 02 2014, 04:39PM
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Bryz has been awesome the last 2 games. Standing on his head awesome! I like the emotion he shows on the ice. atleast someone has it..

I haven't seen the line up for tonight but if belov and petry are in I want Eakins gone.. cant just pick on yak when other players including ebs and gags are making the same or worse mistakes. I hear the word accountability... now lets see some.. I am also getting fed up of hearing Eakins talking about how hard this team works.. we are clearly seeing two different teams out there. Call a spade a spade already.

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#66 Serious Gord
January 02 2014, 04:54PM
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Bucknuck wrote:

I predict a big win for Edmonton tonight. 7-3 BIG. Yakupov gets a hat trick, and Gagner gets four points.

If I'm wrong I can just blame it on a delerium caused by a horrible head cold combined with cold medication. If I'm right I look like a GENIUS. Or something like that...

Go OIL.

I recommend a double hot toddy - piping hot tea with whiskey or brandy; some lemon and honey to taste - drink one a period or until you pass out. You will be right as rain tomorrow morning and the agony of another oilers mastication will be but a hazy recollection.

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#67 K_Mart
January 02 2014, 05:03PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Stauffer pointed out that hall has 38 points and has cracked the top twenty.

Guess who has one more point and is +11? And no one seems to be talking about him playing in Sochi.

Seguin is having a nice season. Not as nice as Hall's though, especially considering the first 13 games for hall.

By the end of January if Hall stays healthy, seguin will be a mere spec in the rearview. Hall has been +3 since moving back to the wing. More impressive than Seguin's considering Hall's supporting cast.

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#68 Zamboni Driver
January 02 2014, 10:24PM
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ValleyviewSports wrote:

I'm the furthest thing from a blind faither pal. I just cannot be a fan of any other team in this world. Cause I grew up and Oiler fan, came to be a man an Oiler fan and sure as hell am not gonna quit because things haven't gone well. Be a man and stay true to the copper and blue

Sure.

But the Edmonton Oilers wear orange and blue.

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#69 Zamboni Driver
January 02 2014, 10:36PM
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ValleyviewSports wrote:

a total zero you are. go back to your hole

That hurts me after all we've been through together.

What will we tell the children?

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#70 Zamboni Driver
January 02 2014, 10:49PM
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Anyway. This train wreck is over.

Whoever mentioned the NCAA game was totally right. Flipping back and forth that game was WAY more entertaining than watching this collection of losers.

Keep drinking the koolaid though, blind-faithers. Six Cups and Batman are counting on you.

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#71 The Fasthest Man Alive
January 02 2014, 12:21PM
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Who is the hottie on the pic? Nicely done Gregor... Nicely done.

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#72 BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull
January 02 2014, 01:35PM
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@Stack Pad Save

Painting his "mask" has nothing to do with it. I see passion and a dislike of losing every night. If everybody played with his effort and focus we might win a couple more games

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#73 A-Mc
January 02 2014, 01:42PM
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BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull wrote:

I don't understand how the Oilers are handling Yakapov. The team is out of the playoff race and this is the best chance for teaching and giving a first overall draft the minutes and line mates to succeed. Playing on the four line then sitting him out is a real head shaker. MacT has to tell Dallas to play him come hell or high water. If we where in a playoff race I could see some shuffling but look at the standings and get real.

The only currency a coach has to teach, is ice time. To reward poor play with more ice time is to basically throw the teaching card out the window.

Last year the Oilers let Yak prove he could play with the big boys offensively, and he can. Now the mandate should be to reduce his defensive liabilities to the point that in a pinch, yak can tighten his sphincter and get through a shift vs a #1 line with out getting out played.

I'm not sure if you have children or not, but as a parent i somewhat relate Eakins' problem with Yak, with parenting. There are certain things that are unacceptable as a parent to let happen with relation to my kid; but the flip side is that once in a while you need to ask yourself "Is this the hill I'm willing to die on?"

Defensive Liability may just be THAT hill for Eakins and the Oilers

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#74 Will
January 02 2014, 03:01PM
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With the Oilers out, at least this year we get some Olympic hockey. I would like to see Hall on the roster and I think the fact that he is a natural LW and second in points for Canadians at that position behind Kunitz shows he deserves a spot. But I can see why they are leaving him off.

I do think a Hall, Giroux, Tavaras line would be one of the best lines at the Olympics, but with so many other options for team Canada it's easy to see why he might miss the selection.

The thing I'm most excited for is that every team looks like it is building in different ways. I think the U.S. is a very interesting case. I can never count them out as they always seem to have good chemistry and great goal tending. But how they are going to stack up against such loaded teams as Russia, Canada, and Sweden is gonna be pretty darn tough.

I am really excited to see what Russia is going to put on the ice. It sounds like the typical high power group of forwards, nothing on the back end, and a lot of depth in goal. They will live and die by how many goals their 4 lines of awesome can put in, and how many pucks their goalie can keep out. Their defence reads like a non factor.

For Canada, it always comes down to if they can play as a team instead of a group of individuals. You just never know. Typically long time teams like Germany and Switzerland have given team Canada real challenges.

It is for these reasons I am predicting Sweden wins gold, and that one of Finland or Czech upsets one of Canada, US, or Russia to knock them out of medal contention.

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#75 MessyEH!
January 02 2014, 03:08PM
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Someone should tell that young lady to put on a helmet.

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#76 Serious Gord
January 02 2014, 04:42PM
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BIGDAWG wrote:

Bryz has been awesome the last 2 games. Standing on his head awesome! I like the emotion he shows on the ice. atleast someone has it..

I haven't seen the line up for tonight but if belov and petry are in I want Eakins gone.. cant just pick on yak when other players including ebs and gags are making the same or worse mistakes. I hear the word accountability... now lets see some.. I am also getting fed up of hearing Eakins talking about how hard this team works.. we are clearly seeing two different teams out there. Call a spade a spade already.

Seems to me that there are at least a couple of players every game who play bad enough to sit out a game or two - how come only yak gets that treatment?

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#77 Newj
January 02 2014, 04:55PM
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RexHolez wrote:

Breezy might not be a very good NHL level goalie, but he's still on upgrade on Dubnyk!

Bishop, Bernier, Schneider.... All could of been had

You are correct on all accounts...but lots of ON seem to think he is our saviour.

Time will tell.

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#78 **
January 02 2014, 05:11PM
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Excellent coaching by Eakins, to put the 3 most defensively challenged forwards together, whom also are all under 6 ft, against a fast, heavy team. That's a winning strategy right there.

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#79 bwar
January 02 2014, 06:00PM
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I feel bad for Yak. Not only will he be blamed for any defensive lapses he has but he will also be forced to take the blame for all of Gagner's lapses as well.

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#80 S cottV
January 02 2014, 09:31PM
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Andrew wrote:

According to Debrusk a wrist shot from the blueline is unstoppable. Just another excuse making eh-hole? I think I hear a huge sucking noise coming from Cali.

Piss pathetic.

C'mon guys - a complete dzone breakdown on the first one and Yak gives it away for Marleau to tee up and you want to blame Dubnyk?

Gagner and Yak cannot play together. It's like defensively dumb and dumber.

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#81 15w40
January 02 2014, 10:26PM
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ValleyviewSports wrote:

everyone who says they give up on this team/organization can seriously go pound sand. you LOSERS make me phucking sick. I get it's a dark decade but go eff yourselves ya shmucks

Meh......

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#82 FauxRumors
January 02 2014, 11:52PM
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Another stellar night by TH and RNH...both -3 on the night!

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#83 wintoon
January 02 2014, 12:29PM
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Your analysis makes me wonder if the powers that be are creating their team "not to lose" rather than creating their team "to win it all". There is a huge psychological difference between these two approaches. That same approach seems to creep in when teams try to protect a lead. Often times it backfires.

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#84 I tried it at home
January 02 2014, 01:21PM
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Is there any link I could use to hear what Bryz said after the Phoenix game? Guy is rapidly becoming my favorite player, and I love having someone in the dressing room who's calling out the slackers ( I hope).

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#85 cubsfan
January 02 2014, 01:42PM
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GDP

Oilers outshot 20 to 4 in the 1st period, but only down 2-0

Gene Pricipe interview The Nuge...he says they have to try harder and they are better than this, and have to start taking body, let the puck do the work for them.....blah blah

Gene cracks a bad Pun that the 2 guys in the booth are obligated to laugh at... and I quickly change the channel and watch Oklahoma v Alabama game

....in this way i dont throw the remote at the TV when the Oilers lose again with a half-arse effort

This team has turned me into a glass half empty guy

I guess its better the glass totally empty guy like serious gord....but im getting there

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#86 Dan the Man
January 02 2014, 01:59PM
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Ed in PV wrote:

Having Gags and Yak on the same line, Eakins is rolling the dice. I think the dice are loaded against him.

I guess the only positive is that they probably can't be any worse than the line of Gagner, Eberle and Horak were last game. One of the worst performances I have ever seen.

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#87 The Soup Fascist
January 02 2014, 02:13PM
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Two words:

Shark / nado.

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#88 Lochenzo
January 02 2014, 02:42PM
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Wow, apparently these Oiler struggles weigh heavily on your minds if so many of you can bypass hottie in skates and go straight to complaining about the club.

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#89 nunyour
January 02 2014, 02:45PM
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If you are going to point the finger at Belov,don't forget to include Eberle,he should have shot the puck into the corner or held it along the boards,then there is Petry, that should have just taken the body like you learn in peewee.

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#90 ColourMeImpressed
January 02 2014, 03:19PM
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Spotted this gem on HFB.

"It's like going for a prostate exam. When you know you already have cancer."

Sums my feelings up nicely.

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#91 Spaceman Spiff
January 02 2014, 03:25PM
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Good column, Jason, but I disagree with one of your points.

IMO, the overtime wasn't so much a soft-play, but more a fear of taking a penalty. I'm sure Belov's been told to cut down on his penalties and I think he was worried about tripped Yandle up or getting his arms wrapped around him.

Obviously, that indecisiveness contributed to the goal and the bucks tops with Belov, but you could tell that he was holding up from holding him or tripping him because he knew he was on probation, basically. Take a penalty in OT and he's in trouble with the coach. Let up and hope your goalie bails you out? Well, that's obviously a softer-play but that's what teammates are for. It didn't work this time.

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#92 Serious Gord
January 02 2014, 04:15PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

A soft play on Yandle goal? Yandle is on a breakaway and it just slips through pads. He faced 45 shots, many of them very good quality shots and you blame the goalie. Good grief.

I guess Bryzgalov should stop every puck in your eyes. Okay. I guess Belov and Petry's plays on 3rd and 4th goals were Bryz's fault.

Bryz played a solid game, faced a mountain of shots and should have stopped two more.

That said he was the reason why the oil were even i the game and for that reason he was very much a factor - in a positive way - In the game. What's discouraging is that even with all world goaltending - which Bryz has give the past two games - this team can't compete with average or better teams.

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#93 RexHolez
January 02 2014, 04:56PM
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@Serious Gord

Might need more then 1 a period, I suggest 3-4/period

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#94 EternalPessimist
January 02 2014, 05:19PM
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Did we lose yet? How bout those systems tho?

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#95 RexHolez
January 02 2014, 06:33PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Hall would have barely gotten more minutes than Seguin did - permanently on the second line behind lucic. Maybe even less given halls defensive weaknesses compared to seguins.

And would he get on the Olympic team ahead of the bruins first line left winger? Awkward.

that would be nuts to see Hall and Lucic battle for ice time, and scary for any team playing against them

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#96 God
January 02 2014, 07:21PM
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I don't agree. The US had a team with an aging Langdenbrunner, Drury & Rafalski on a roster that wasn't expected to contend for gold. We all know how that team turned out. The only point that team ever trailed was in the gold medal game.

I'd suggest that this team is superior with Brown, Suter & Backes having matured. Don't underestimate this team.

I'd call Canada the favourite with the most complete roster but every contender boasts a dominant top 6. Canada will have to win with it's bottom 6. That's what Toews did in 2010.

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#97 @Oilanderp
January 02 2014, 08:39PM
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GO OILERS GO!

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#98 D-Unit
January 02 2014, 09:11PM
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What was Yak's plan on that one? Get puck and do a spin, inside the zone, for no reason. Fancy plays for the offensive zone, smart in the D.

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#99 Bleed blue
January 02 2014, 09:19PM
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San Jose sure has lots of beards. We need more beards.

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#100 Randaman
January 02 2014, 09:42PM
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Arius Mumin wrote:

I have nothing to say.

Didn't want the comment to get lost on the bottom of page 2.

The only thing that sucks more than the Oilers is Princepe, Quinn & DeBrusk. At least Hrudey calls a spade a spade.

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