The Oilers start the second half of their season hoping they can find some consistency and learn how to play better in the 3rd period. The Oilers have been outscored 44-31 in the 3rd, despite outscoring the opposition 36-32 in the 1st and 43-40 in the 2nd. They need to be smarter and sometimes more patient in the 3rd and wait for the opposition to make a mistake, similar to the Wings and Pens, rather than try risky plays.
When you sit in 27th place there are many areas that need improving and yesterday in the comment section Rindog was asking why the Oilers are so bad 5-on-5. Technically they aren’t awful, having allowed 75 goals and scored 66, but it is clear they haven’t been very productive offensively at even strength.
It depends how you look at it. The Oilers are top-ten in EV GA having surrendered 75, but only LA, Minny and the Islanders have scored fewer goals with five skaters. So they don’t score much, but they don’t give up much either. They improved their EV/GA immensely from last season. They were 27th last year, allowing 171, but offensively they were 28th scoring only 127. They were -44 five-on-five in 2011, so I’d argue they’ve taken big strides at being more competitive through the first 41 games.
When you combine their improvement defensively at EV and their improved special teams you wonder why this team still can’t win? They’ve been in most games this year, but they still haven’t learnt how to close out teams, and that likely will only come with more experience.
I did wonder if the lack of offense from their blueline contributed to their lack of scoring 5-on-5.
Senators D-man Erik Karlsson leads all NHL D-men with 24 EV points, and the Sens are 4th in EV goals with 89, but does points from your backend equate to more 5-on5 scoring? (Teams tied with total goals were ranked by GP)
TEAM D-MEN PTS D-MEN GOALS OVERALL RANKING IN 5-ON-5 GOALS
OTT 70 13 4th (89)
PHO 67 14 12th (78)
COL 65 12 22nd (70)
STL 63 17 18th (72)
WASH 63 9 13th (76)
VAN 63 13 7th (84)
TOR 62 10 6th (84)
DET 62 20 2nd (95)
WPG 61 14 19th (71)
TB 61 14 9th (81)
PHIL 61 11 3rd (89)
MONT 58 10 11th (78)
BOS 58 11 1st (100)
CBJ 57 14 26th (65)
PITT 56 9 10th (78)
NASH 55 12 25th (66)
FLO 55 11 27th (65)
CHIC 55 10 5th (86)
S.J 54 9 15th (75)
CAR 54 9 16th (75)
NYR 53 16 14th (76)
ANA 50 11 23rd (69)
CGY 46 8 21st (70)
BUFF 43 11 17th (72)
L.A 43 14 30th (59)
N.J 42 7 20th (70)
DALL 39 6 8th (81)
EDM 39 9 24th (66)
MINN 35 4 29th ( 59)
NYI 31 5 28th (59)
Most of the lowest scoring teams five-on-five, Minny, NYI, Oilers, and LA don’t get much scoring from their backend, while Dallas seems to buck the trend. The Avalanche also seem a bit out of place at the top, but 11 of the top 15 teams in D-men scoring are also in the top 15 in EV goals. I do think there is correlation, however, like most statistics there are some exceptions.
I don’t think the correlation is blatant, but if you look at last year’s Oilers you do see a trend.
I looked at the Oilers EV scoring with Ryan Whitney in the lineup for the first 35 games compared to the final 47 without him.
With Whitney the Oilers scored 66 EV goals in 35 games, which is an average of 1.88 GPG.
In the final 47 games the Oilers only scored 67 EV goals, for an average of 1.42 GPG.
That is almost 1/2 a goal less/game without a proven puck moving D-man. Of course this is only one year, but I do think the absence of an elite puck-moving D-man does impact their EV scoring. Having skilled forwards makes a huge difference, but if you look at most of the best EV scoring teams they have one excellent puck mover.
Andy Sutton has been the Oilers most productive PPG/EV D-man with 6 points in 21 games, while Potter has 6 in 27, Smid has 7 in 41 and Gilbert has 9 in 38.
I don’t think we can say that the Oilers have sacrificed EV offense by playing better defence, because they are on pace to allow 21 fewer goals at EV, while scoring five more goals than last year. I just think it reflects some of the weaknesses of this team.
This team doesn’t score five-on-five for numerous reasons.
- As a group they don’t go to the net often enough.
- They don’t shoot enough.
- They don’t have any healthy elite puck-moving D-men.
- They aren’t big enough up front to consistently go to the tough areas.
Their system does play a part, but I think it is a smaller one than the other aforementioned factors.
LAST CHANCE TO SEE HHOF?
Yesterday I had the pleasure to speak with the longest serving GM in the game, Lou Lamoriello. He’s incredibly intelligent and even he admitted it is better for the league if teams play each other home and away. "I have to put aside my own agenda and do what is best for the league, even if it isn’t the best for the Devils." The Devils have a great travel schedule and they always will, but he realizes that many fans out west have missed out on having a chance to see, arguably the greatest goaltender of all-time, often enough throughout his career.
Tonight mark’s the Devils 4th visit in the last 11 years. How many of you have seen Brodeur live? I’m guessing not many, and that is wrong. The last time the winningest goalie was in town the Oilers shutout Brodeur and the Devils 2-0 on March 7th, 2010. Previous to that Brodeur beat the Oilers 3-1 on Dec 21st, 2007 and he won 2-1 on Dec 30th, 2001. Edmonton fans went six full years without having a chance to see him in person; that’s a travesty.
Hopefully the NHL and the NHLPA get their collective heads out of their asses and respect the fans by showcasing the best players in every city at least once a year.
FANS GET SHORT STRAW
After the Flames chased Brodeur from the net seven minutes into the first period last night, you would have thought we’d see him tonight, especially when Hedberg was just as bad allowing four goals on nine shots, but this morning Devils head coach Peter Deboer said that Hedberg would start. Brodeur has yet to play back-to-back games this season, but does the coach really consider seven minutes a full game?
If realignment doesn’t go through, there is no way the Devils will be in Edmonton next year, and I’m not sure Brodeur will be around in 2013/2014 so it looks like Oiler fans will miss out on watching one of the all-time greats one final time.
With Jordan Eberle out 2-3 weeks and Josh Green and Teemu Hartikainen back in OKC, Tom Renney had to juggle his lines again.
Hall – Gagner – Hemsky
Smyth – Horcoff – Jones
Paajarvi – Belanger – Lander
Eager – O’Marra – Hordichuk
***Update…O’Marra is battling the flu, so the Oilers have recalled Milan Kytnar from Stockton in the ECHL. There are no flights available from OKC to get a player to Edmonton in time for the game.***
The bigger question will be the PP formations. With eight forwards split amongst the top two units you have to think Paajarvi will get some PP time on the 2nd unit. You might see Hemsky on the 1st unit with Hall, Smyth, Horcoff and Potter on the first unit, and then Gagner, Paajarvi, Jones, Belanger and Petry on the 2nd. No official word, but I got the sense Hemsky will be on 1st unit tonight.
Renney will switch up his D-pairings tonight.
The Oilers blueline consists of $7.39 million in salary. Anyone expecting them to win consistently with that blueline needs to have their head examined. Money isn’t alway an accurate indicator of talent, but in this case it illustrates how limited they are at this point with injuries to key D-men, and how inexperienced they are.
They have a total of 54 goals and 243 points. Andy Sutton has 146 of those points. The other five have combined for 17 goals. They are very inexperienced as Potter, Petry, Peckman and Tuebert have a total of 258 games, 10 goals and 46 points.
They will be in tough against the Devils top two lines:
Parise – Henrique – Kovalchuk
Sykora – Elias – Zubrus
Nikolai Khabibulin get the start.
- I wish Gilbert Brule all the best in Phoenix. Todd Nelson told me yesterday, "The biggest improvement in Brule’s game was that he became reliable enough to use in key situations late in games. He’s thinking the game better and he has his confidence back." Brule might become a solid 4th liner in Phoenix, and he has the skill to be a 3rd liner, but only is he’s mentally prepared. For his sake I hope he’s found some peace off the ice, and he can enjoy the game again.
- With all the injuries on their backend I wonder if the Oilers recalled Brule believing someone would claim him, thus opening up another contract spot. The Oilers are in dire need of finding a veteran D-man. Colten Teubert should be playing 20+ minutes in the AHL, but injuries have forced the Oilers to keep him here. Tambellini is looking for a D-man, and I expect he’ll find a stop-gap in the near future.
- The NHL should name Eberle to the all-star team. He was 7th in league scoring prior to his injury and he would have been a lock to go. Even if he can’t play he still should be allowed to take part in the weekend and rub shoulders with the best in the game. You couldn’t pay me to watch the game, but for the players, especially young ones, it is a huge honour to be chosen. He deserves to be there.
- The race for the Calder is heating up as Adam Henrique is now only one point back of Nugent-Hopkins. Hall played with Henrique in Windsor and he compared the two Calder candidates."Nuge is a pass-first player. He’s all hockey IQ, is incredibly talented and he’s always aware of everyone on the ice, whileHenny (Henrique) goes into the battles and penalty kills a lot. He’s great on faceoffs, good in his own end and just a solid centre. I’m sure his work on the PK isn’t a surprise to anyone in the Devils organization because he was always great at that in junior."
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are desperate, but they’re banged up. Tonight is the Devils 9th set of back-to-back games, and so far they are 5-3 on the backend, while only going 4-4-1 on the first night. Meanwhile the Oilers are 4-1 v. teams that played in Calgary the previous night. Something has to give…I’ll take an embarrassed Devils team in OT, 3-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Taylor Hall opens the scoring. He’s scored the Oilers first goal seven times so far, and with RNH and Eberle out he’ll lead the charge.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Without Mike Comrie in the lineup, Ilya Kovalchuk will look for another small guy’
s hair he can pull to fight after the Oilers go up 1-0 early. Sam Gagner will gladly oblige and after a spirited tilt the Devils score. This will fire up the anti-Gagner camp suggesting his fight cost the Oilers the game, based on what they read in Willis’ article. This will be the first of many GDB comment sections that will have Oiler fans battling against each other. I might wager that the comments sections in the 2nd half of the season might be as, or more, entertaining than the games.