The majority of the best teams in the NHL are in the western conference, and if the Oilers want to become a playoff team they need to beat some western opponents. It is great that they can dominate the east, but they only play 32 games vs. the east. The other 50 games are against big, strong and experienced western conference teams. You need to compete in — and win — those games if you want to be a playoff team.
The Oilers aren’t changing conferences, so they better learn how to compete and defeat their western foes.
Tonight, the red-hot Oilers, winners of four straight, will battle the always competitive Nashville Predators. Dallas Eakins wondered aloud on Monday if the Oilers’ lack of success against the west was about a lack of confidence rather than being overwhelmed. There is no doubt that confidence plays a major role in games, but the west simply has better teams, and it is harder beat LA, Chicago, St.Louis, Anaheim, etc than it is most teams in the east.
The Oilers’ confidence should be high heading into tonight’s game, and we’ll see how much of a factor that will play against Nashville.
The Preds are 4-0-2 against the west this season, while the Oilers are 0-4-1. The Oilers have won four straight, while the Predators haven’t played since losing to Pittsburgh on Saturday.
time Oilers won four in a row on the same home stand was in 2008. They will try for a fifth in a row tonight for the first time since 1987.
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You will notice that in 2008 the Oilers defeated Colorado, Detroit, Los Angeles and Columbus, before Nashville stopped their home winning streak. Will the Predators repeat their history tonight, or will the Oilers continue their recent dominance over the Predators?
On Monday, the Oilers defeated Montreal again — they’ve
won 15 of the previous 20 meetings — and they are hoping to do the same
They have won three straight games vs. the Predators and they are 9-4-1 in their last 14 games.
Pekka Rinne has struggled against the Oilers. He is 9-8-1 all-time, but he only has a .887 sv% and he has been pulled in the first period four times.
October 12, 2009 he allowed 4 goals on 9 shots and pulled after the first period.
December 7th, 2009 he allowed 2 goals on 4 shots and was pulled after five minutes.
November 22, 2011 he allowed 3 goals on 13 shots and didn’t return for the 2nd period.
March 20th, 2012 he allowed three goals on 7 shots and was pulled 28 seconds into the 2nd frame.
He has allowed three or more goals in eight of the 18 starts. His career sv% is .919, but vs. the Oilers it is only .887. It is an oddity that he can’t explain, but the Oilers need to get to him early. He is 3-6-1 in his last 10 starts dating back to February 7th, 2011.
- The last time the Oilers won five straight games in the same home stand was on March 6th to March 17th, 1987. The won six consecutive games, defeating LA 9-3,, MTL 5-3, DET 6-3, BUFF 5-3, HFD 4-1 and NJ 7-4.
- They also won five straight in one home stand between January 19th to 28th, 1985.
- Eberle said he is feeling better now and that his shoulder hasn’t bothered him for the past two games. He and the top line will have a tough test facing Shea Weber and Roman Josi tonight.
- Ryan Rishaug and I had a fun conversation with Scrivens today. We were talking about Weber and his shot. “He has a heavy shot,” said Scrivens. We asked him what is the difference between a heavy shot and hard shot. “There shouldn’t be because the velocity is the same, but I’m telling you there is a difference. I can’t explain it (laughs). Guys like Boychuk, Weber, Bergeron (Marc-Andre), who used to be here — they had heavy shots. When it hits you, it hurts. Guys with hard/fast shots have the same velocity, but they aren’t as heavy. I know that makes no sense, but it’s true. When their shot hits you, you feel it more,” said Scrivens.
We spent a few more minutes discussing it, and chuckling, because we all felt there was a difference, but none of us could come up with a theory to properly explain it.
The Oilers will stick with the same four lines for the fifth straight game. The third line is coming off their most productive game of the season and we’ll see if Pouliot-Arco-Yakupov can build on that game. Pouliot said it was their best game, mainly due to their on-ice communication.
Hall’s line will see a lot of Shea Weber tonight, which will be a difficult task. If I’m Dallas Eakins I’d try to get them away from Weber for at least half of their EV ice time. Last game Hall/RNH/Eberle faced P.K Subban for nine minutes and saw the Markov/Gilbert pair for five. I suspect you will see a similar ratio between Weber and the Jones pairing.
Nikita Nikitin had an MRI yesterday, and will not play tonight. He is still having back spasms. Ramsay had a good rotation of minutes amongst his blueline pairs last game. They played between 13:34 to 15:20 of EV minutes. Schultz played the second fewest at EV, but ended up with the most overall minutes because of the PP. That makes sense, and I expect a similar rotation tonight.
Scrivens had another strong game against the Habs, arguably his best of the season. Roll with the hot hand. Viktor Fasth will see the doctor today, and Eakins said he expects him, and Luke Gazdic, to be cleared to play. Eakins wasn’t sure if Gazdic will get a conditioning stint in the AHL, but it seems like the most logical option.
David Poile has done a great job re-tooling his top line. Signed Ribeiro for nothing after he was bought out. Traded for Neal and Forsberg. Neal has proven that he is a dangerous goal scorer even though he isn’t playing with Evgeni Malkin. Which shouldn’t be a surprise considering he had 27, 24 and 21 goal seasons in Dallas.
The 2nd and 3rd lines are new due to Jarnkrok’s injury and Cullen playing his first game of the season. We’ll see if the Oilers can take advantage of a potential lack of chemistry.
I really like the makeup of the Predators D. Weber is elite, Josi is very good, Jones will likely become elite, Ekholm and Ellis move the puck well, while Volchenkov is a pure defensive defender. If the Oilers can generate a lot of chances against that D corps then they clearly are an improved forward group.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: They have to beat a west team at some point don’t they? Hard to pick against a team on a winning streak…Oilers win 3-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The top line picks up two goals. Hall/RNH/Eberle are all averaging over a point-per-game vs. Nashville.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Boyd Gordon slides across to block a Weber one-timer on a 2nd period PP. Gordon limps to the bench, and the crowd gives him a loud ovation. The camera pans to the bench, and Gordon is seen changing his shin pad. Weber’s shot cracked his shin pad. Three shifts later Gordon blocks another Weber blast, and then skates away thinking, “He didn’t even break my shin pad on that one, things are looking up!”
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