GDB 53.0: ROAD WOES & RENNEY OUT.

Sam Gagner has dominated the hockey world since Thursday, 11 points in two games will do that, but tonight will be a great test to see if Gagner can maintain his dominance. The Oilers have been brutal on the road this year. They are 6-18-2 and have the fewest road points, 14, in the NHL. Columbus has a slightly worse road winning %, but being better than the Blue Jackets by .03 isn’t much to brag about.

The Oilers have played five solid games, but until they start producing on the road they won’t be moving very far up the standings.

The Oilers have played 26 games at home and 26 on the road, and when Tom Renney doesn’t get last change this team is clearly not as good. That is only one factor of course, but it is clear the Oilers need to be more competitive on the road.

                                                  HOME                     AWAY
shots for/against                 728-789                 652-842                 
goals for/against                   76-66                      59-82
PP %                           (26 of 103) 25.2%    (17 of 92) 18.5%     
PK%                           (18 on 102) 82.4%    (16 of 98) 83.7%
Points                                         33                            14

The Oilers have been a completely different team away from Rexall Place, excluding their PK, so I’m hesitant to say this team has turned the corner. They will need to be much more competitive on the road, because right now the only players who are more productive on the road v. home are Ryan Smyth, 15 pts at home, 21 on the road, Ales Hemsky, 10/12, Ben Eager, 2/5 road and Anton Lander 2/3 road.

The Oilers young guns, most notably Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, have been understandably much better at home than on the road.

Eberle has 33 home points and 19 on the road, while RNH has 25/10 ratio while Taylor Hall is almost even with 20/18, but we shouldn’t be surprised that when Renney doesn’t get last change the kids have a harder time producing. They are only sophomores and a rookie, and there is a learning curve in the NHL.

I should also point out that only Steven Stamkos has more home points than Eberle 35 to 33. Eberle has been incredible at home with 33 points in 23 game, while RNH has 25 in 19 home games, which puts both of them top-ten PPG at home.

The Oilers have taken strides lately, but they need to show improvement in their final 15 road games, before we can say they are taking the next step.

LINEUP

The Oilers will dress their healthiest lineup of the season tonight in Toronto. Tom Gilbert will dress and he’ll play with Cam Barker. The top-two pairings will stay the same and Andy Sutton will take a seat in the pressbox.

Hall – Gagner – Eberle
Horcoff – RNH – Hemsky
Smyth – Belanger – Jones
Eager – Lander – Petrell

Smid – Petry
Whitney – Potter
Barker – Gilbert

Dubnyk

The Oilers are 3-3 in their last six visits to Toronto, including a 5-0 victory last year. The Oilers have scored 22 goals in those six games and given up 19, so I’m expecting we’ll see lots of goals tonight.

QUICK HITS

  • Sam Gagner set an Oiler record with points on 11 consecutive goals. Wayne Gretzky was in on 10 straight twice, but couldn’t match Gagner. During the Detroit game every time Gagner had the puck, the crowd was anticipating him doing something special. It was eerie, yet very exciting to feel that type of energy in the building. You will likely never see that kind of two-game hot streak again, so I hope you enjoyed the ride.
     
  • Not surprisingly, Gagner was named first star of the week today. He’ll face the 3rd star, James Reimer, tonight. Reimer had two shutouts last week making 74 saves.
     
  • Eberle is tied for 10th in league scoring with 52 points, and he’s only two back of Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel, who are tied for 5th with 54 points. Eberle could realistically finish in the top-five in scoring this year, and he has an outside chance of becoming the first Oiler to score 80 points since Doug Weight had 90 in the 2000/2001 season.
     
  • I’m not big on questioning a coach on his shootout selections, but there is no way that Eric Belanger should have gone before Nugent-Hopkins and Shawn Horcoff on Saturday. Belanger hasn’t been "hot" offensively, he didn’t generate numerous chances on Saturday and historically he is awful (1 for 10) in the SO. The Oilers won the game, but they easily could have lost due to a bad decision. The SO is not the time to "try and get a guy some confidence," it is about winning and putting guys who give you the best chance to win. I understand going with a Hall, even though he hasn’t been great in SO, because he’s one of your best offensive threats, but Belanger isn’t. After the game some of the players were stunned Belanger went.
     
  • Even though I’m not a fan of any NHL team, I can honestly say that when the Oilers play the Flames or Leafs, I want Edmonton to win. I loathe Calgary, and I can’t stand the arrogance of some Leafs fans as well as certain media and bloggers. Now that Gagner has 11 points in two games, you will read and hear how the Leafs should grab him, with an underlying tone that it would be an honour for Gagner to play in Toronto. Up until this streak, no one in Toronto wanted to trade for him, but now he should want to play there. Give me a break…
     
  • Some commercials are brutal, but there is always a few during the Super Bowl that grab my attention.

Chevy "crowdsourced" this ad. Zack Borst came up with this idea and won $25,000, which is great for him, but that is chump change for Chevy to pay for this spot. 

Clint Eastwood, the best tough-guy actor I’ve seen. He was the perfect voice for this spot.

This one made me laugh. I’m not proud of it, but I did.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: We’ll see lots of offence tonight, and the Oilers will win their first road game since January 2nd with a 5-3 win.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Gagner will get a point. That is probably the easiest prediction ever. He’s on fire right now, and his family will be in the building. I’m not sure if you can bet on players to register a point in a game, but if you can, I’d put some moola on Gagner tonight.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After taking a puck in the head during practice this morning that required stitches, Tom Renney will show up on the bench wearing a helmet. Amateur coaches everywhere will be livid. In our over-reactionary-try-to-protect-us-24-hours-a-day society, some genius will see Renney on the bench and call his local hockey association demanding that coaches wear helmets during games now. By this weekend all amateur coaches will be required to wear a helmet during games. If you thought people got angry at Renney for putting Belanger in the SO, wait until you see the fallout from him wearing a helmet on the bench.

UPDATE

Tom Renney took a puck in the head at the morning skate, received numerous stitches, and he won’t be behind the bench tonight. Renney has concussion-like symptoms.Ralph Krueger will run the bench tonight. Just when it looked like the Oilers would ice their healthiest lineup of the year, they will do so without their head coach. The strange injuries continue to haunt this franchise.