The Oilers don’t want to talk about it, but the harsh reality is that the Oilers are still winless vs. the western conference. The Oilers are 0-6-1 vs. the western conference, 0-1-0 vs. the Central division and 0-5-1 vs. the Pacific, and until they can win in the west they won’t be taken seriously.
The Oilers were in the exact same spot two weeks ago. They had won four straight vs. eastern opponents and were facing the Nashville Predators looking for their first western win. The Predators dominated the first period, out scored the Oilers 2-0 in the second and cruised to a 4-1 victory.
Edmonton is coming off their most complete game of the season, a 3-1 win in New York, and they will need a similar effort tonight if they hope to compete against the 9-3-2 Predators.
The Oilers play 63.4% of their games against the west, so beating those teams regularly is the only way the playoffs become a possibility.
In their seven games against western opponents the Oilers have been outscored 31-14. They’ve only been outshot 220-210 in those games, but the final scores have not been flattering.
The Oilers simply need to defeat a western team before anyone will look at them as anything other than a rebuilding team.
This road trip has shown that Draisaitl needs to be protected in order to play. In eight home games he has averaged 14:16, but in seven road games he is playing 11:26. Protecting him makes sense, but on this road trip he hasn’t be very noticeable. It might simply be the struggles of a rookie, but the Oilers need to closely watch how much of a factor he is for the remainder of this month.
If it comes to a point where he isn’t contributing, and forcing Eakins to really protect him, then it limits the Oilers chances of success. The NHL should be about winning, not developing individuals at the expense of icing a competitive team.
The blueline was solid vs. the Rangers, although Mark Fayne played a season-low 13:05, which is surprising considering the Oilers were leading. I realize that Keith Aulie is a stop-gap for now, but he is doing exactly what you want from a #7 D-man. Play simple, play smart and don’t make any major mistakes.
I don’t see any reason why the Oilers will carry eight D-men when they return home, so I would send one of Martin Marincin or Oscar Klefbom down to OKC rather than fly back to Edmonton.
Stick with the hot hand.
Rookie Filip Forsberg leads them in scoring with 15 points in 14 games, and he leads the NHL in +/- at +15. He along with Mike Ribeiro and James Neal have given the Predators a legitimate #1 line. They have scored 50% of the Predators goals. They have combined for 17, while the rest of the team has 17.
The Predators have been winning with excellent goaltending and stingy defence.
They are 3rd in the NHL with a 1.93 GAA, and they have allowed the fewest 5-on-5 goals (14) in the entire NHL.
- The Predators have allowed only 14 EV goals, but they’ve surrendered 11 powerplay goals. The Oilers PP must wake up, start shooting the puck, and generate some goals.
- The Oilers have three PP goals in their last 13 games. They are 3 for 42 in that stretch. Eberle, Schultz, RNH, Perron, Yakupov, Purcell, Pouliot, Arcobello, Draisaitl and Nikitin must be better. They need to work harder. They need to enter the zone better. They need to match the work ethic and desperation of the penalty killers.
- The Predators average 29.1 shots for/game and 28.7 shots against/game.
The Oilers average 29.9 shots for/game and 29.7 shots against/game.
- The Predators have allowed 27 goals, while the Oilers have allowed 50. One shot more per game shouldn’t equal 23 more goals against. The Oilers defensive zone coverage and goaltending has to become more consistent.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hands up how many thought the Oilers could salvage this road trip after losses in Philly and Boston? Me neither. The Oilers have to beat a western team eventually, and they play well in Nashville, so I’ll pick the upset, 3-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Matt Cullen scores and is dangerous all night. He loves playing the Oilers.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers get six PP shots and actually score two PP goals. Instead of playing on the perimeter they actually direct some pucks on goals and have guys funneling down towards the net. I know it is a crazy notion, but it does work.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- Monday Musings…
- GDB 14.0: Familiar Territory
- GDB 13.0: Unlucky in Boston
- A large Hall to climb
- Injuries, suspension and waivers: Ference out three games
- Ben’s Netminders