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.
  • J-rock

    This is going to be a tough task for the Oil tonight, but I think Bulin will have his best game of the year against the old team.

    4-2 Oil

    Penner, O'sully, Jacques, and Gilbert.

  • Harlie

    F sakes! I've been dealing with my bank (CIBC) on changing my variable mortgage to a closed and my banker and a realtor buddy of mine last week were all saying no worry's on interest rates…they won;t be going up until 2010. Well guess what happened to rates today? Scotio, RBC, CIBC and most of the otehrs have all raised their mortgage rates in the last week or last few days. Question to you all…does anyone deal with Presidents Choice Financial and or Dominion Lending for mortgages? They have good rates still but they are not brick and mortar banks like CIBC and the others. Any input or experiences are welcomed…thanks.

  • Should be a great test tonight for the oil. Hawks manned up coming from behind & beating the flames the other night. Both teams are physical & skilled – should be an entertaining game. Not to mention a confidence builder if we can outplay & outscore the hawks.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I like how we are getting scoring from all over, it makes it tougher for the oppostion to pin point one line with their checking line. Those game notes are interesting, but at the sametime Bulin had Calgary's number too.

    This will be a good matchup for us. It will show us where we stand against one of the top teams in the West. Curious to see how our PK and Faceoffs do against Chicago. Not sure what Chicago's PP is at, but they have plenty of talent to move that puck on the PP.

  • Harlie

    i wonder what Comrie's percentage is in the dot? I think it may be the best on the Team…even though he doesn't get slotted in as a C-man right now. A weird quirk but as long as the team wins who cares.

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          I just don't understand though when Gagner and Brule were both less then 40% the other day why you wouldn't let Comrie take a few draws. I just wonder if Flemming has told Quinn to let the younger guys work through their problems.

          • Pat Quinn, quoted here on October 11:

            "Our down low coverage depends a lot on your third man back in, which traditionally is your centreman. We were losing a lot, we weren't strong enough around the net area. Part of that is your third, your centreman in a lot of cases. I thought I'd move Mike [Comrie] out to the wing, which is where he believes he signed to play."

            I was somewhat surprised that nobody else seemed to pick up on Quinn's shot at Comrie (and his reduction of ice-time, which I also pointed out). The reasons he doesn't get more time at centre seem clear:

            1. Comrie isn't good enough defensively to be the high forward.

            2. Comrie wants to play on the wing.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            I missed the weekend so I might of missed Quinn's comments on Comrie. I was wondering why the switch, but I guess it makes sense. How hard would it be for Comrie to take the draws and then switch to wing?

          • Harlie

            yeah i hear you…at least to keep Comrie sharp in the draw as a backup and to give the other guys struggling to win draws a bird's eye view on how it's done. I at least like the fact that Comrie is a good backup plan if he is out there and another guy gets waived from the circle. Still tho..