The Oilers were back on the ice today, after a day off, and in much better spirits due to consecutive road wins in Calgary and Vancouver. The crazy part about the weekend was the Oilers won two road games against the Pacific division.
They only won one road game against a division rival last season, which illustrates how non-competitive they were within their division. Defeating divisional rivals is a must if the Oilers want to compete for a playoff spot and last weekend’s success had Oilersnation excited once again.
Now the Oilers need to keep winning.
Detroit is very beatable. They are 3-2 and have outscored their opponents 15-13, but they have not been dominating games. Far from it, in fact. They won their first three games, have lost the last two, but they’ve been getting out shot badly. Carolina out shot them 36-20 and 47-19, while Montreal peppered them 41-20.
The Wings are averaging a league-worst 21.4 shots/game, and they are 28th in shots against/game at 33.4. They have the worst SF/SA ratio at -12/game
Their CF%, 44%, is worse than the Oilers. The Wings are a team the Oilers need to beat.
- I’d argue Eric Gryba has been the Oilers’ most consistent defender. He isn’t their best, but he’s been very steady. Over the weekend his puck movement was good and he made some heady plays in the offensive zone. The Oilers need others to play better, but Gryba has been a solid addition. He doesn’t get knocked off the puck easily. The Corsi crowd will disagree, but Corsi is not an accurate stat to evaluate individual players. Even Dallas Eakins, who many analytic fans felt was very receptive to advanced stats, said Corsi was not the stat he looks at when evaluating individuals.
- I asked McLellan about Gryba and what he’s done to earn more icetime (he had the second most TOI among D-men in Vancouver). “He’s been honest. Now honest and perfect are two different things. When his skateblades hit the ice he gives us what he has. There are mistakes, there are some obvious mistakes, things that we are working on with him, but his minutes, as he chomps them up and eats them up with his size, are honest minutes. He is trying to get in the right position. He makes our backend heavier, harder to compete against and our penalty kill has been good thus far, knock on wood, and he’s been a big part of that. And I think our players feel comfortable with him around them.”
- Lauri Korpikoski has had a strong start. He was excellent in Vancouver even before his OT winner. He’s added some speed and size in the bottom six and he’s been very good on the penalty kill. He is strong along the boards and on the puck, and he’s another new player who has made the Oilers harder to play against. They haven’t been getting knocked off the puck nearly as easy as in previous years.
- Taylor Hall leads the NHL with 29 shots. He has fired 18% of the Oilers total shots, 161, which is the highest % in the NHL. Zach Parise is second in the NHL at 14.2%, 19 of 134, in five games. McDavid (12) and Yakupov (16) have combined for 28 shots. McLellan is a huge believer in putting pucks on net and Hall’s increased shots is a direct result of listening to his coach. Hall would like a few more goals, and mentioned he needs to shoot to spots other than the five hole.
- Speaking of Hall, he had food poisoning, not the flu in Dallas. He had one small bowl of oatmeal in the 24 hours leading up to the game. Anyone who has had food poisoning knows how bad it is. I’d take the flu over food poisoning any day.
- Andrew Miller skated alongside Hall and Nugent-Hopkins today and will play with them tomorrow. Miller plays in straight lines and should be a good fit on that line. He does not bring the size or physical play of Hendricks, but he will try and make more plays with the puck. Nugent-Hopkins and Hall really enjoyed playing with him. They said he added good energy and felt opponents backed off from him because he plays so honest and aggressive.
- Miller’s recall made sense to me based on how he’s played this year, but McLellan added these thoughts on why Miller was recalled instead of Leon Draisaitl: “We wanted a right-handed shot. We wanted somebody who had had some success with Taylor Hall before, and Nuge, not that Leon wouldn’t have that, but Andrew has played well down there (Bakersfield) and produced, and he’s earned the right to come up.”
- Griffin Reinhart didn’t skate today and he’s day-to-day. If he can’t go tomorrow, McLellan hinted Andrew Ference would draw in for him.
- Good news on the injury front: Matt Hendricks does not have a broken foot according to McLellan. How his foot reacts to treatment to reduce the swelling will determine when Hendricks returns to the lineup. It sounds more short-term than long-term.