GDB XV: Passing and faceoffs and goals, oh my!

Courage wolf says score goals or else

All of a sudden the Oilers can’t score, but even though they were blanked three times in the last week, they have scored the 7th most goals in the league. Through 14 games their offence has been fine, but like previous years, they are giving up too many goals.

The Oilers have surrendered the 7th most goals, 43, so far this year. Injuries and illness to Sheldon Souray, Steve Staios and Lubomir Visnovsky have played a role in that, but I still see too many turnovers and errant passes if this team wants to be more than a .500 team.

Visnovsky is feeling better and his return should help the PP and cut down on turnovers. Staios is skating with the team, but highly doubtful for tonight. The bad news, like I wrote last week, is that Souray isn’t getting any better. Concussions are unpredictable and it looks like Souray might be out until December.

I don’t just blame the D-men though.

Passing the buck… and the puck

The forwards have been just as guilty, if not more, of horrendous passes. How often do the Oilers miss a teammate with a simple eight-to-ten-foot pass? Bad passing has been a problem for a few years, and I believe it starts in practice. The players need to demand better execution from one another.

Their leaders need to be more vocal about this.

I don’t like to compare players or teams, but the Detroit Red Wing players demand crisp and accurate passes in practice. I’ve watched a Wings practice and the players — not the coaches — expect good, crisp and accurate passes.

It helps when Nick Lidstrom along with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavol Datsyuk are their leaders, but at this level every player should be able to make tape-to-tape passes in practice.

I will chart tonight’s game and list how many times the Oilers either miss a pass, or just dump the puck away when they have complete control. Lately, many players will have possession of the puck without being pressured, and they will just dump it into the neutral zone, or deep in the offensive zone. The problem with that thinking is this team still isn’t good at retrieving pucks.

Father-son combo

When Steve Tambellini was hired in 2008, some jokingly wondered if he’d try and acquire his son, Jeff. Most would have ripped him for making such a move, but right now the young Tambellini is red hot with five goals in four games. He tallied a hat trick v. Buffalo on Saturday and had two goals in Montreal last Monday. Prior to last week, he had never had a two-goal game.

Tambellini has six goals in eight games and is tied for the team lead in goals with unheralded Jeff Moulson. Moulson, was a 9th draft pick for the Penguins in 2003. He never played for them, and had six goals and ten points in 29 games with the Kings over two seasons, before signing with the Islanders this summer.

Moulson along with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo lead the Islanders with 10 points.

Know thy enemy

The Islanders are 15th on the PP and 8th on the PK, while the Oilers come in 16th on the PP and 14th when down a man. The big advantage will be in the dot. As a team the Islanders are 4th in the league winning 53.4% of their draws, while the Oilers are a 27th winning only 47.1%.

The four centres tonight will be Shawn Horcoff (50.5%), Sam Gagner (43.8), Gilbert Brule (50.5) and Andrew Cogliano (36.5) and none of them are above average.

With Mike Comrie (54.6%) and Dustin Penner (64.5%), I wonder if Quinn will start to use them more in faceoff situations. Penner has only taken 31 draws, and I doubt he could maintain that much success, but tonight is the 15th game of the season and we haven’t seen any improvement in the dot. In fact, the Oilers have gotten worse in recent weeks.

The Islanders don’t rely on just one guy like the Oilers. Tavares has taken 195 draws winning 49.2%, while Richard Park has also taken 195 winning 57.4%. Josh Bailey has taken 152 and is 51.3% while their best guy is Frans Nielson who has won 53 of the 85 draws he’s taken.

The lack of success in the dot hasn’t hurt the Oilers offensively, but it is a big reason why they have given up an average of 33.7 shots a game. Only Colorado is giving up more.

Look for a combination of Fernando Pisani, Brule and Patrick O’Sullivan tonight. Horcoff will play with Ales Hemsky and Penner. Gagner will centre JF Jacques and Robert Nilsson while Cogliano is back in the middle with Zack Stortini and Ethan Moreau.

Looks like Visnovsky is back in and Theo Peckham comes out.

  • Shaun Doe

    Yeah I get the whole flu angle but again I just wonder how much we can really blame the troubles on it. Like you and I have both said, the change just appears so dramatic. Although I will conceed that the team seems to be playing as if it has lost its head. I wonder if one of those injured players is the one that rallies the troops when the chips are against em?