The Oilers haven’t scored a powerplay goal since Taylor Hall beat Jonathon Quick December 23rd at Staples Centre; a span of ten games. They are 2-7-1 in those ten games, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. You can’t win consistently in the NHL without solid special teams play. After an awful first 25 games, the penalty kill has come around, but when you are the 28th place team I guess it’s unlikely that both of your special teams will deliver at the same time.
They are 0 for 33 since Hall lit the lamp, and it has become clear that Ryan Whitney was the vital cog with the man advantage. Whitney played on Dec 26th when the Oilers went 0-3, but he only played 3:48 v. Buffalo on December 28th before leaving with an ankle injury. The Oilers are 0-29 without the 5th pick overall in 2002 and Tom Renney said he will be trying different combinations tonight in Anaheim.
Renney was quoted on the Oilers website that changes are coming.
"We can move some people around and we can use the fourth line — they’d probably be just as good. Third line too. There are options that a coach can use, including manpower and a combination of people, and we’ll look at that."
It is clear Renney has to try something different, and I’d start with putting Linus Omark on the first unit. Omark is averaging 2:15 of PP time a game, ninth most on the team, but I’d like to see #23 out there more often. He can control the PP on the side boards. His puckhandling skills and vision are unmatched by anyone, outside of maybe Ales Hemsky. Some players are just better PP guys, and Omark looks like that type of player.
I’d also try a forward on the blueline. Hall, Sam Gagner, hell, even Hemsky. With Whitney out and Kurtis Foster struggling to get a shot through or make consecutive passes, I don’t understand why they haven’t tried four forwards. If Renney can move Hall to centre, you’d think he could try a forward on the blueline on the PP, especially when they haven’t scored with an extra skater in ten games.
BACK TO BACK SUCCESS
The Oilers are 2-0-1 in the second half of back-to-back games so far this year, and tonight they’ll take on the Ryan Getzlafless Ducks in their fourth of ten back-to-back sets. The Ducks are 3-4-2 in the 2nd game on consecutive nights, but you can expect them to be in a fowl mood after getting pumped 6-2 in Phoenix last night.
Bobby Ryan has eight points in his last four games, Corey Perry is having a career year, and he is proving that he can produce without Getzlaf. Perry sits eighth in league scoring with 23 goals and 49 points. Only Ilya Kovalchuk, Eric Staal and Sidney Crosby are averaging more minutes than Perry’s 21:35/game. Randy Carlyle is using him on both special teams units, and Perry has responded with his best season yet.
Similar to Ryan Kesler, Perry isn’t as yappy or as dirty as he has been in previous years and it seems to be working. He is far from a choir boy, with 82 PIMs, but according to the Anaheim reporters he has focused more on playing and less on agitating.
SOME STATS ARE HARD TO EXPLAIN
We can all use stats to back up our point, and some are legit while others are misleading. Some stats are unexplainable though.
Ducks D-man Toni Lydman is 2nd in the NHL with a +24 rating. Every other Ducks’ D-man is a minus, except Lubomir Visnovksy (+5). What’s crazy is that the Ducks have been outscored 89-81 at EV so far, and Lydman plays more minutes than everyone except Visnovsky. I’m sure he is on the ice a lot with Perry, Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne and/or Bobby Ryan, but those four are only a combined +18. For whatever reason, Lydman has turned out to be a great free agent signing for the Ducks.
MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Until they lose in the second-half of back-to-back sets, I’ll go with the Oilers. I know their powerplay is awful right now, but did you know they’ve won both games in Anaheim four times in the last seven years. They won their first game this year at the Honda Centre, 4-2 on November 21st, and if Lydman can be a +24, then the Oilers can sweep the Ducks on the road five times in eight years. Oilers win 4-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: George Parros and Steve MacIntyre will drop the mitts tonight. MacIntyre has dressed for five consecutive games, and Renney is starting to play him more. Renney had the fourth line out against the Kings’ top line four times last night, and they didn’t look overwhelmed. SmacIntyre hasn’t fought in those five games, and he knows where his bread is buttered and he’ll be looking for Parros tonight.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After the PP goes 0-2, Renney will follow through on his promise and send out the 4th line to start the third man advantage. Ladislav Smid and Theo Peckham will man the points. They won’t throw the puck around very crisply, but MacIntyre will Jacques will cycle the puck for 20 seconds behind the Ducks’ net and then they will toss it back to Smid. Smid will fire a seeing-eye-wrister through a maze of legs and score his second goal in the past 230 games. The camera will pan to Renney on the bench and he’ll be grinning like the Cheshire Cat.