GDB VI: This time *we* have Bulin…

Last year the Oilers rolled into the Windy City feeling pretty good about themselves toting a perfect 4-0 record. Dwayne Roloson got his first start of the season that night, which was also a Wednesday, but Nikolai Khabibulin was the star earning a 3-0 win.

Fast forward to tonight.

The Oilers are back in Chicago, sporting a nice 3-1-1 record. And like last year, they have three wins in games where they were out shot.

But there are some distinct differences to last year.

This time Khabibulin is on their team. The Oilers have 19 goals, with eleven different forwards having at least one. Last year it took them nine games to get 20 goals, and only eight forwards scored in the first ten games.

Three players, Dustin Penner, Denis Grebeshkov (how’s that goat pick going Wanye?) and Mike Comrie are averaging a point a game. In fact, the only skaters who don’t have a point yet are Sheldon Souray and Steve Staios.

The Oilers are getting balanced scoring from all four lines.

  • Hemsky, Horcoff and Jacques have combined for three goals and eight points.
  • Gagner, O’Sullivan and Stone have three goals and eight points.
  • Brule, Penner and Comrie have six goals and 14 points.
  • Moreau, Cogliano and Stortini have tallied four goals and seven points.
  • Hell, even the blueliners are chipping in.

In 2007/08 Grebeshkov had a measly 34 shots in 71 games. Last year he fired 62 shots in 72 games, but he already has nine shots in five games this season.

Two years ago Ladislav Smid had four assists in 65, while last year he registered eleven apples in 60 games, but this year he is on fire with three assists in five games. The problem for Smid is he doesn’t have a shot on goal yet, and his goalless streak is at 130 games.

His last goal came in the final game of the 2006/07, season when he scored in Calgary. Smid hasn’t scored since Gagner was drafted.

Even Jason Strudwick is on a scoring binge, having two points in three games, although maybe we shouldn’t be that surprised considering he set a career high with nine points last season.

But the two biggest differences I’ve seen so far is their willingness to play physical, and that they’ve been ready from the drop of the puck.

The Oilers haven’t been dominated early in game so far. They’ve outscored their opponents 9-3 in the first period so far. Getting behind early, or getting dominated territorially were chronic problems last year, and so far they’ve managed to avoid that.

Their inability to close out games has been an issue, and one they will need to rectify, but it they can continually get out to good starts, then they’ll have the chance to work on protecting the lead or at least finishing strong.

In their first five games last year the Oilers had 87 hits, and so far this year they have 107. Jacques (21), Stone (17) and Brule (14) and Stortini (10) have combined for 62, and it isn’t surprising to see all of them on a different line. The first three weren’t here last year, and you can’t underestimate their value in making this Oiler team more physical.

Last season the Oilers could go half a period without a hit, or any energy that could possibly reverse the momentum in their favour. This year, that hasn’t been the case, and if they keep playing physical it shouldn’t change. None of the other forwards are hitting more than before, it’s just that the three new forwards are hitting and are making an impact every game.

Game notes

  • It’s true that Moreau plays well v. Chicago with 10 goals and 18 points in 28 career games, but they are his second favourite team to play. In 44 career games against Phoenix he has 17 goals.
  • Penner loves playing the Hawks more. He has eight goals in 14 games, the most goals against any NHL team.
  • O’Sullivan has lit the lamp six times in 12 career games against the Blackhawks. The only team O’Sullivan feasted on more was the Oilers, with six goals and nine points in nine career games.
  • Khabibulin also thrives against the Hawks, with a record of 12-6-1, a 2.16 GAA, .929 S% and three shutouts. The only team he has shut out more is the Kings.
  • The Hawks have 18 goals through five games with Patrick Sharp 4-3-7, Patrick Kane 3-4-7, Kris Versteeg 1-5-6 and Brent Seabrook 1-4-5 leading the way.
  • Jonathon Toews only has one assist thus far, while free agent signing Tomas Kopecky has zero points and is -4 with the Hawks.
  • Like the Oilers the Hawks have four guys with double digits in hits: Seabrook (16), Troy Brouwer (15), Dustin Byfuglien (15) and John Madden with 12.
  • The Hawks are great in the draw. Toews is 60%, Dave Bolland 56.4%, John Madden 55.4% and Colin Fraser 53.3%.
  • Horcoff is 56.9% in the draws, while Brule is 46.5%, Cogliano 43.8% and Gagner 39.5%. 
  • As a team the Oilers are 50.6% overall, which puts them 12th in the NHL. The Hawks are 3rd best in the dot winning 56.4% of their faceoffs. The Oilers will need to bear down tonight.
  • Suntory Hanzo

    BTW, Hemsky….WTF are you doing? I have a small tip for you…It's called Skating…please try it…I have seen you do it before…sometime's very well!!!…Just out of curiosity, (not saying I'm ready for this yet but) what would the return for Hemmer be on the market right now? anyone have any ideas?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I have to say once again we were outshot badly and for all of you who call them perimeter shots and weak shots, well how many weak shots that have been tipped or bounced off a player went in? Put the puck on net and you increase your chance of a goal. We seem to try pick are shots too much, just fire the puck at the net.

  • Milli

    Ya , that was the game I didn't want to see. Everytime they had anything going, turnover and trapped in our end. I thought our D was okay, until tonight, but do we ever miss Souray, and to a lesser extent, Staios. We are butter soft without them. But, I could not believe how slow we looked. Scary. The Wall was amazing. Held us in that game and if not for a couple of post….

  • Oilman

    Somewhat glad I missed the whole game. It's only one game and like I said in the past, 10 games will be the mark of when I hit the panic button.

    I'm calling the next game a win by Oil 4 – 1 over the Wild. Bet on it!

  • Oilman

    10 is the marker for major/minor trades. For example a true sniper or face off guy. Like I said, I didn't see last nights game so that may have swayed my comments this morning, but from what I've seen I like this team rather than last year.

    Penner's my Star and he's performing for now.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      Fair enough.

      Question for you seeing as you never watched the game. Are you upset that we lost 4-3 last night? Considering the Hawks are pegged as a team that could knock Detroit out of the divison title this year. Is losing to a top team by one goal all that bad?

      For those who watched, sure it wasn't the best effort we have seen, but this just tells me we aren't ready to hang with the big dogs yet.

      • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

        I thought it was a pretty weak showing, but you're absolutely right. We're not ready to challenge the Chicagos and the Detroits of the league.

        The main issue I see is that 3 goals on 10 shots is only reason for optimism if they were clean goals resulting from the system Quinn is pushing. I don't really think that was the case last night.

  • The Fish

    That Blackhawk defence seems to move the puck exceptionally well and with forwards like Kane, Sharp, Toews, Byflugien and so forth they re going to be a tough team to beat this year. They have a very good shot at knocking off Detroit in that division.

    That comback against the Flames was a huge statement and last would have been another one if it weren't for Bulin.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      I have to say that I tend to agree with which ever guy it was on the morning show that mentioned that Campbell could be moved if need be. Not sure what there is for UFA's after this year, but anyone looking at a puck mover should take a look at Campbell.

      • I'm a Scientist!

        I know they are up against the cap but if they come together and have the kind of success they are capable of or expecting I can't see them moving Campbell until the off season.

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          Oh totally agree, just saying that come July 1st if a team is looking for a player like him he would be an option. I looked at the UFA's for next year and in terms of equal guys to Campbell there isn't much.

  • The Fish

    That Chicago team is unbelieveable. It was almost like they were playing keep away last night. The Oil were not in that game from the drop of the puck plus way too many giveaways.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    So, we played like crap against a really good team and we only lost by one goal. Shouldn't THAT be a sign that we are not that bad of a team?

    If we can get our stuff together and get our injuries on track, we have the cogs to make the machine work. I am not too disheartened by the result of last nights game. We have two goalies that are able to face a lot of shots which is excellent news!

    BUCK up nationeers… still early…

    *wonders when he can stop saying it is "early"*

  • I'm a Scientist!

    Just wait until Hossa is healthy… ugh.

    I am not saying I think we will win the cup, I just want some playoff action, and from what i have seen during this early part of the season, I am relatively happy.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    @ Fish:

    Please put down the koolaid for a moment and really watch things. thecaptain is a 4th line guy getting paid 2 mill per season, under contract for another year after this one… He is not high on any wishlists. Also, it isn't the occasional bad penalty it is an absolutely insane amount of offensive zone bad penalties. If you've actually been watching the last few games there is a reason Quinn is scratching his head a bit with regards to thecaptain…There is a lot of highlight reel style poor decisions made by a guy that by now should know better.

    With regards to campbell: I would be suprised if chicago can find a dance partner for that albatross. That cap hit isn't something many teams would want and/or be able to pick up.