GDB 18.0: SLAY THE DRAGON

If you focus on statistical categories heading into tonight’s tilt v. the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks it doesn’t look good for the Oilers. The Hawks are 15-0-3, they have ice girls, a sold out building and right now they win for fun.

Can the Oilers pull off a major upset?

Logic tells you it is highly unlikely that the Oilers can skate into Chicago and leave with two points.

The Hawks have outscored their opponents 56-32 (I don’t include SO goals).

The majority of the game is played five-on-five and the Hawks have 38 GF and 24 GA, meanwhile the Oilers ES scoring woes continue with a league-worst 16 goals, but at least they’ve only allowed 30 five-on-five. The Hawks are +14 in ES scoring while the Oilers are -14. Ouch.

The Oilers have the 4th most PP goals, 18 on 76 opportunities, but the Hawks PK is 2nd best in the league having allowed only 7 goals on 67 chances. 

LINE UP

Smyth-Nugent-Hopkins-Eberle
Paajarvi-Gagner-Hemsky
Eager-Belanger-Jones
Yakupov-Vande Velde-Petrell

Teemu Hartikainen has been put on the IR with a shoulder injury and Lennart Petrell has been activated. Smyth has four points in his last four games and he’s played much better since being benched. With Taylor Hall sitting out the final game of his two-game suspension it makes sense to put Smyth on the top line. The Oilers need to find a mix that will get them at least two ES scoring lines.

I suspect Paajarvi needs a great game to stay in the top-six past tonight, and lately he’s been either highly noticeable or completely invisible. He needs to find some consistency in his game.

Yakupov on the 4th line is a bit of a head scratcher, but Krueger had to mix up his 2nd line. They weren’t producing, and they were giving way more scoring chances than they were producing. There is no point putting Yakupov with Belanger, because Belanger has zero offensive confidence right now.

When Hall returns, I wonder if Krueger will mix up his six skilled forwards amongst three lines. The issue is that until Horcoff returns it means two of his skilled guys will have to play with Belanger. Belanger has shown he’s a solid 4th line centre, who can kill penalties, but his offensive instincts seemingly have dried up.

I’d look seriously at a Hall-Horcoff-Yakupov combination along with 94-93-14 and 28-89-83. I’m not sure any need to be labeled the 1st, 2nd or 3rd lines, but when the captain returns I’d look at that. You could switch 94 and 28 as well, since Smyth and Hemsky have always played well together.

Smid-Petry
N.Schultz-J.Schultz
Fistric-Potter

Interesting how Theo Peckham can’t get back in the lineup, despite playing pretty well against Minnesota. Maybe it is as simple as Krueger wanting to stick with the lineup that beat Phoenix. I know Struds is a huge believer in keeping the same lineup after a win. I still don’t see what the coaches see in Corey Potter, but they like him.

Khabibulin

Khabibulin has played well in every game this year; however, does Devan Dubnyk deserve to sit out an entire week? It is a fine balancing act for Krueger. He wants to win, but he also needs to find out what he has moving forward. The Oilers can’t afford to waste another year chasing the playoffs without finding out if Dubnyk is their goalie of the future.

QUICK HITS

  • The Oilers lead the NHL with the most wins when trailing heading into the 3rd period. The Oilers are 4-3-2 when trailing after 40 minutes. That’s the good news. The bad news is the Blackhaws are 12-0-1 when leading after 40 minutes.
     
  • The Hawks love fast starts. They’ve outscored the opposition 41-17 during the first two periods. The Oilers need a good start.
     
  • Ray Emery starts for the Blackhawks. He is 7-0 with a 2.10 GAA and a sparkling .933 SV%. Including tonight he’s started 5 of the last 6 games for the Hawks. Corey Crawford shutout the Blue Jackets 1-0 last night, but he’ll get the night off.
     
  • Patrick Kane is the only Blackhawk in the top-38 scorers in the NHL. Kane has 23 points in 18 games. Jonathon Toews is tied for 40th with 15 points. The Hawks have 11 players with at least 7 points. They win with balanced scoring.
     
  • “I’ve started to realize that getting hit and taking big body checks doesn’t mean you are tough or playing well, it just means you are being a little stupid and reckless. You can still go to the hard areas, and you can still get a lot of pucks and make a lot of plays without taking a big hit." Taylor Hall told me this and much more in an article about how he’s changed his game. You can read the rest here. 
     
  • Ryan Whitney will sit out for the 6th time in 18 games. It looks like his time with the Oilers is coming to an end. The debate is whether they can increase his trade value by playing him, or does sitting him keep his value constant. Moving him for a 3rd or 2nd round pick doesn’t help them now. I know Whitney hasn’t played great this year, but moving him for a pick means they definitely lose the trade now. The pick might, a big might, pan out in four years to salvage a deal, or better yet, they move that pick to another team and acquire a proven NHL player.
     
  • The new line combinations v. Phoenix didn’t result in anymore ES goals, but they did generate more chances. It is obvious the Oilers need to mix in some grease and grit with their skilled guys.
     
  • The PP has started to show some life again with four goals in their last 13 chances. Krueger had Smyth and Hartikainen both in front of the net on one unit and it led to the tying goal. The Oilers need more ugly play and less pretty plays on the PP and ES if they hope to start scoring more.
     
  • Good news is that tickets for the Nation 5th Birthday party are going well, the bad news is if you are a procrastinator there are only 50 tickets left. $20 gets you the snazzy limited edition 5th Birthday T-Shirt, a $25 Oodle Noodle GC, a $20 Pint GC, and Labatt swag. We all know you plan on watching Friday’s game, so you might as well do it at the Pint Off Whyte, help raise some money for charity and get a sweet Nation T-shirt.  click here to buy yours.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Hawks barely beat the lowly Blue Jackets yesterday, so you wonder if their streak is close to ending. The Hawks might be a bit fatigued, and could take the Oilers lightly, but I still don’t see the upset. Hawks win 3-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Eberle scores. He has 15 points in 8 career games v. the Hawks including 5 goals.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Early in the first period Ryan Nugent-Hopkins skates into the Hawks zone, but heinexplicably stops at their blueline. He then takes two hard scrapes with his blade on the bluelinem and then slams his stick into the gap his blade just made. He then dumps the puck in and heads to the bench. After the game he was asked what he was doing on the play. "Last year the blueline cheap-shotted me. It tripped me which sending me flying into the boards and it that cost me the Calder trophy and a huge salary bonus. I can stand up for myself, and I wanted the rest of the league to know they can’t cheapshot me."

  • bazmagoo

    I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when Whitney confronted the coach and/or management about being benched. Must have been a colourful conversation for them to continue playing Potter in front of Whitney.

    On the one hand I applaud them for playing character in front of skill, on the other hand I have to watch Potter play like an AHL winger instead of an NHL defenceman. Team isn’t going anywhere playing an AHL defenceman over a proven NHL veteran in my opinion, but of course that’s probably part of the plan, lol.

  • bazmagoo

    Hall, RNH, & Paajarvi (and others) all back check harder and faster than Potter does. Difference being the 3 forwards aren’t the ones caught way out of position.

  • PlayDirty

    When 4 on 4, Gagner can’t bail on the point as quickly as he would 5 on 5. This was on Smid. He got sucked away from the front of the net when Petry was already out of position … Let them try and score from behind the goal line.

    2 greasy crease goals by the Hawks. I hope our guys took some notes.

    • A-Mc

      ” 2 greasy crease goals by the Hawks. I hope our guys took some notes.”

      This game was great from a coaching stand point. The Oilers had their butts thoroughly handed to them from minute 1 through 60. Coaching staff now has excellent study material going forward.

      If you’re going to get destroyed by a team, what better way to do it than to walk away with 1 point?

      Last night is almost a ‘success’ in my mind, but there is still lots of work to do.

  • PlayDirty

    I think Petry has the potential to be a great defender in this league but he has had a tough start in my opinion. I think we would all agree that Smid/Petry wouldn’t be the first pairing on any other team but we started to believe that he was close. I am not so sure anymore. His upper ceiling may be closer to Gilbert. If we had a do over, would you trade Petry for Shultz Sr instead of Glibert? Would we be further ahead today with Gilbert in our top pair?

  • Jprime

    I cannot find a way to understand why Oiler defensemens love chasing guys and/or getting stuck behind the net. Everytime it puts them out of position and leaves the front of the net open.

    The goldmine is in front of net…you’d think they would realize this when the team has Ryan Smyth employed.

  • magick

    Well well…as a long, long, long time oiler fan/follower..I have to say that there really is no longer any hope with this KLowe and Stumpellini led team anymore. On average, the majority of the Oilers show no fight, no fire, no intesity. How are you gonna win games in this MANS game when you have dudes who dont really put in effort to try to win the puck, make a decent pass…or chase a puck? This must be 20 plus years since we have been sold another “small, young, talented” team…that just plain sucks.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I guess I should have finished reading the other comments, as others agree that it wasn’t Gagner fault. More blame lies on Petry and Smid.

    While the Oilers didn’t play good at all, they should have won this game.

    Did Khabby have to make any really good saves? He let two soft ones in. And if Yak hit the net on that power play it would have been different.

    • Rob...

      “While the Oilers didn’t play good at all, they should have won this game.

      Did Khabby have to make any really good saves? He let two soft ones in. And if Yak hit the net on that power play it would have been different.”

      I’ve been wrestling with this very thing. The Oilers did not look like they played well. The Blackhawks looked great. Khabby didn’t seem to make any/many spectacular saves. I don’t see how all three of those can be true at the same time.

      Is it possible that Krueger’s ‘new system’ is starting to work, but doesn’t make for good looking, exciting hockey?

  • 2004Z06

    Whats worse is Krueger saying “I thought we battled hard tonight against an exceptional team” NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And then following that up with some garbage about how salvaging a point in this game is a positive start to this long road trip. My god! They have created a culture here that losing is acceptable and in fact rewarded with 1st overall picks. We as fans cannot accept this but I fear as long as we continue to sell out games, nothing will change in E town.