January 29 2014 01:01PM
It is amazing how quickly confidence can appear or disappear in pro sports, and right now the Oilers have some. It is difficult to quantify exactly how much it helps, but when most of your players have a healthy dose of confidence your chances of winning increase.
I felt the Oilers played well against Vancouver (at home) and Phoenix, despite losing both games, but that good play carried over to wins over Nashville and Vancouver, and for only the fourth time this season the Oilers have won two straight games.
The Oilers will try to match their season-high three-game winning streak tonight when they take on the very good San Jose Sharks.
It is crazy to think the Oilers have only won consecutive games four times all season. It is hard to build any sort of confidence when you aren't winning, but the Oilers have played four solid games in a row, and despite only winning the last two they are starting to look like a better hockey club.
With games coming up against San Jose and Boston that could change quickly, but heading into tonight the Oilers are feeling good.
- In Vancouver, it was the Canucks turning the puck over at the offensive blueline, twice, that led directly to Oilers goals. We've all witnessed the Oilers continually turn the puck over for the past couples of seasons, but in this short string of games they have cut down those costly mistakes.
- The Oilers have had excellent back pressure from their forwards lately. That has made life much easier for their defenceman, and likely why we've seen fewer glaring mistakes from the D-men.
- The second line won them a game without needing any help from the first line. If the Oilers are ever going to be competitive they need to rely on more than one line. Perron-Gagner-Yakupov was the best line in Vancouver, and they must continue that leading into the Olympic break.
- Martin Marincin continues to play smart, controlled hockey. I'd argue that his simple game has had just as much, and maybe more. of an impact on Petry's play than Petry has had on him. It is a still a very small sample size for Marincin, but he's played well and he has been very active with his stick breaking up plays. He'll need to get stronger in the summer, and if he has to face Marleau or Thornton tonight it will be a very good test for him.
- You need to remain cautious with Marincin. Remember Justin Schultz' first 20 games last year compared to his final 28. It is extremely rare for any young player to avoid a time where they struggle, but so far Marincin has been a pleasant surprise.
- Two games with solid goaltending. Ben Scrivens was solid against the Preds and Bryzgalov played his best game in over a month in Vancouver. They don't have to steal games; they just need to be consistent. This team isn't strong enough yet to overcome weak goals, and for two games the goalies didn't allow a weak goal.
- Some might not like the length of his contract, and that is a valid concern, but Matt Hendricks has increased the Oilers intensity level significantly. Not only does he play hard, he is very vocal and positive on the bench and in the room. Many of the young players have told me how much of a lift his energy and enthusiasm on and off the ice has given them. This team needs a few more vocal leaders, and it seems Hendricks is filling that void.
- That type of contribution won't show up on the stats sheet, but it is vital for success. Not every player can be measured solely on his stats line. Intangibles help. Ask the LA Kings how much Matt Greene's off-ice leadership and humour helped them in their Cup run. He was vital to keeping Doughty focused and relaxed.
- Sam Gagner is playing better. Many of us, myself included, underrated how much that injury impacted his play. I still believe MacTavish needs to change the mix in his top-six in the summer, and if Gagner can have a strong final 27 games that will give MacTavish another trading option.
- Two games is still only two games. The Oilers better not relax or the Sharks will be up 3-0 before they know it. The Oilers must continue to build on their solid play. Like I said earlier, I believe they've played well for four games, and even if they don't win vs. the Sharks or Bruins they must continue to play smart and with some passion.
- Further to Brownlee's article yesterday about the need for success. I agree, and the best part about it is that the Oilers can play well and not impact their draft ranking much at all. The Oilers sit 29th in the NHL with 40 points and 27 games remaining. If they go 14-11-2 they would finish with 70 points.
Now let's look at who they are chasing.
The 28th place Flames have 45 points and 29 games left. The Flames would need a combination of wins/OTL totaling 24 point or less for the Oilers to pass them, and that's if the Oilers win 14 games, which is unlikely. So the Flames need to go 11-16-3 or worse.
Florida is in 27th place with 49 points and 29 games remaining. The Panthers would need 20 points or less for the Oilers to catch them. They'd need to go 9-18-2 or worse for the Oilers to catch them.
The Islanders are in 26th place with 50 points and 27 games left. They would really need to tank it for the Oilers to gain ten points in 27 games. The Islanders would need to go 9-17-1 for the Oilers to pass them.
Keep in mind those numbers are based on the Oilers winning 14 of their remaining 27 games. That would be a massive improvement from their first 55.
The only way I see them not owning a top-three pick is if a team ranked 4th-14th wins the lottery and drops them to 4th. Don't fret if the Oilers win a few games, you should relish them, because they are still a virtual lock to finish in the bottom three and have the opportunity to draft another elite player.
- An interesting read by David Staples on why people shouldn't be that concerned about Taylor Hall's overall game. Those who believe strongly in Corsi will say he's having a bad year, but Staples illustrates that Hall is still producing quality chances, albeit not as many as last year. I feel Corsi can be used as a tool, but like Staples I have an issue in that it punishes or rewards a player for instances that he has no impact in.
A D-man can stand at the point, while the forwards cycle down low and direct three attempts on goal and he gets +3, despite doing nothing. And in the D-zone a winger can be in the right spot, covering his zone, but the opposite D could lose a battle and give up three chances. Both times the winger and D-man got rewarded or punished for essentially doing nothing more than being in position. Those are just some examples, and I know they aren't the norm but situations similar to those happen in a game. I find there are too many uncontrolled variables pertaining to what a linemate does that can impact an individual's Corsi positively or negatively.
The suggestion from those supporting Corsi is that Hall can't keep producing at ES with a 43% Corsi, and that eventually the points will decrease because of it. My question is why hasn't it happened already? It has been 55 games and despite a lower Corsi than last year his point totals are virtually identical.
So far this season we haven't seen his production dip. I split the season into two halves.
According to Michael Parkatti in Hall's first 20 games (Oilers 27th game) he had a 44% Corsi and was -60.
In those first 20 games, Hall boxcars were: 20-7-12-19 and he was -8.
In Hall's next 28 games, again thanks to Parkatti, Hall had a 43.1% and was -117. His Corsi % was a bit lower, but essentially the same.
During that 28 game stretch Hall's boxcars were: 28-11-21-32 and he was -6.
So Hall's Corsi dipped, albeit only .09%, but his production went up. The argument has been that he can't maintain his production with that Corsi rating, yet he actually improved his point production over the last 28 games. Maybe it is just too small of a sample size, or maybe, people need to look deeper than just Corsi to assess his overall game.
I think it is great to have more avenues to look at, but I feel we need to look at all angles, instead of just one to get a a more accurate picture. If people only looked at Hall's Corsi they'd think he was brutal, but his scoring chances for/against and actual production shed a different light.
No need to change the skaters and going back to Scrivens makes sense after his game vs. Nashville. Shutting down the offensively challenged Predators (20th) and Canucks (21st) will be much easier than trying to stifle the league's 5th best offence tonight.
Joe Pavelski is 2nd in the NHL in goals, 28, and while Joe Thornton is having another very good season, Pavelski has been their most dangerous threat all season. I suspect Eakins will play Gordon's line against Thornton's, but I think we'll also see Nugent-Hopkins' line match up against them.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have won three consecutive games only once this year when they defeated Calgary, Columbus and Florida in a six-day span. This is the Oilers final home game until February 27th and they give their loyal fans a surprising 5-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Sharks outshot the Oilers. San Jose has outshot the opposition in 38 of 53 games. They've only been outshot twelve times all season. (The shots were even in three games)
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: For the first time all year I buy a 50/50 ticket. If I win, I will give $20,000 of it to Nation readers. (four winners of $5,000 each). My question is do I buy the ticket pre-game, first intermission or 2nd intermission? Answer in our poll question.