January 07 2014 01:02PM
Ken Hitchcock's St. Louis Blues come to town on a five-game winning streak, and they are the 2nd highest scoring team in the NHL. That's right, the Blues are no longer just a great defensive team; they are a scoring machine.
The Blues have scored 150 goals and they are averaging 3.56 goals/game. Only five teams in the NHL score 3 goals/game: Chicago is at 3.62, the Blues 3.56, Anaheim 3.27, Pittsburgh 3.16 and San Jose is at 3.14.
The Oilers are in the midst of playing those five teams in a span of six games. Ouch.
The lost 5-1 and 5-2 to the Sharks and Ducks last week, and they face the Blues tonight, Pittsburgh on Friday and Chicago on Sunday. When you are the 29th place team, every game is a challenge, but you can make the argument that the Blues are currently the best team in the NHL.
Not only are the Blues the 2nd highest scoring team, they are the 3rd best defensive team in the league allowing only 2.27 goals/game.
The Blues are a league-best +55 in goals for/against.
The Oilers are currently -39 in goals for/against, only Buffalo is worse at -44.
On paper this is a major mismatch, and when they met on December 21st the game on the ice mirrored the stats. The Blues crushed the Oilers 6-0, and outshot them 28-9 in the final 40 minutes.
The Blues don't need many shots to score. They are 18th in SF/game at 29.1, yet they are 2nd in the league in goals.
Some statisiticians will argue that the Blues can't keep scoring at this pace.
Backes has a 21.3 SH%.
Steen is at 20.5%.
Schwartz is at 17.9%
Stewart is 16.9%
Tarasenko is at 15.7% and even 4th liner Ryan Reaves is at 20%.
Boyd Gordon leads the Oiler at 17.1%, while David Perron is at 13.5%.
The Blues are getting some puck luck, but they also score a lot of goals from in close. The Oilers blueline will be in for a huge challenge, literally and figuratively, tonight.
Look at the size difference between the Blues forwards and the Oilers defence.
|Chris Stewart||6' 2"||231|
|Ryan Reaves||6' 1"||224|
|David Backes "C"||6' 3"||221|
|Vladimir Tarasenko||6' 0"||219|
|Patrik Berglund||6' 3"||217|
|Maxim Lapierre||6' 2"||215|
|Adam Cracknell||6' 2"||210|
|Magnus Paajarvi||6' 3"||208|
|Brenden Morrow||6' 0"||205|
|Vladimir Sobotka||5' 10"||197|
|Jaden Schwartz||5' 10"||190|
|T.J. Oshie "A"||5' 11"||189|
|Derek Roy||5' 9"||184|
|Nick Schultz||6' 1"||203|
|Jeff Petry||6' 3"||195|
|Brad Hunt||5' 9"||188|
|Martin Marincin||6' 4"||188|
|Justin Schultz||6' 2"||188|
|Andrew Ference||5' 11"||187|
The Oilers have one D-man over 200 pounds, while the Blues have eight forwards, who will dress tonight, who are 205 pounds or more. That makes a significant difference when you are trying to battle for pucks in the corner or move guys from the front of the net.
It is clear that Bryzgalov has become the starter. Eakins said they plan to play him a lot leading up to the Olympic break. What does this mean for the Oilers moving forward?
Both Bryzgalov and Dubnyk are UFAs. Will they re-sign one of them, none or both? No chance both are back and how they play in the final 40 games will decide if one of them returns. It is going to be interesting to see how the goalie position unfolds over the next eight months.
Many have said the Oilers should go after Jonas Hiller in the summer. That makes sense, but why would Anaheim let their proven starter leave for free agency? I know they have depth in goal, but none of Fasth, Andersen or Gibson is a proven NHL starter.
If you were the Ducks, would you let Hiller, who turns 32 in February, walk away for nothing and start the season with three unproven goalies? I don't see why you would. I think the Oilers have a better chance of acquiring Fasth than they would Hiller in the summer.
- Taylor Hall shouldn't fell bad he didn't make the Canadian Olympic team, when you look at some of the other names who didn't make it. Marty St. Louis has scored the most points, 271, of any Canadian player since the start of the 2010/2011 season and he didn't make the team. Claude Giroux has scored the third most, 255, and he also was snubbed.
Based on Canada's decision to keep Nash, all Giroux or Hall need to do is light it up at the World Championships for the next few years and they are a lock to make the team. That is the only explanation why Rick Nash is on the squad.
- Canada has a lot of depth. For fun this is who could be on Canada's B team:
Goalie: Crawford, Fleury, WardForwards: Couture, Eberle, Giroux, Hall, E.Kane, Ladd, Lucic, M. Richards, Neal, Seguin, Skinner, St. Louis, E. Staal, Thornton.
Defence: Beauchemin, Boyle, Campbell, Giordano, Letang, Phaneuf, Seabrook, M. Staal.
The Blues have won five straight without their leading scorer. Alex Steen hasn't played since December 21st.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers keep it respectable, but lose 4-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall continues his hot streak with another two points. He had 13 points in 9 games entering tonight.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: In their last meeting David Backes challenged every Oiler and none of them did anything about it. Tonight the Oilers will at least show some push back. Ference engages with Backes to show the kids you can't let teams intimidate you even if they are bigger and stronger. Sadly, very few of his teammates will follow his lead.