GDB 20.0: BATTLING THE BLUES

Gotta love the passion of Oilers fans. Screaming, pointing, worried and concerned about one of their players, and tonight you’ll do the same as the Oilers look to finish the first third of their nine-game road trip on a high note in St. Louis.

The Oilers shouldn’t have got a point in Chicago, but they did. They never win in Dallas, but they did. Tonight they will look for their first back-to-back road wins on consecutive nights since December 1st and 2nd of 2010 when they beat the Habs 4-3 in OT and then spanked the Leafs 5-0.

The Oilers have been incredibly streaky the past few years. Usually the streaks don’t go their way, but when they play as well as they did last night, they’ve been able to maintain that for a few games. The Oilers deserved to win last night, and if they give the same effort tonight they’ll have an excellent chance to put themselves right in the playoff mix.

An Oiler regulation win and a Minnesota loss would put the Oilers in a tie with LA, St. Louis, Minnesota, San Jose and Dallas with 22 points. Tied for 6th to 11th. The western conference is tight like first night and it will probably stay that way the entire month of March.

Last year the Blues won with stingy defence and stellar goaltending, but this year their goalies have been average and the Blues are giving up almost one more goal per game than last year. In 2012 they led the NHL with a 1.89 GAA, but this year they sit 18th at 2.84. The Oilers are 13th at 2.58 and currently they have the better goaltender.

Devan Dubnyk is 10th in SV% amongst goalies who have started at least ten games.

He has a very respectable 0.921 SV% in 15 starts.

The Blues goalies are barely treading water:

Jaroslav Halak: 8 starts and a 0.904 SV%
Jake Allen:         4 starts and a 0.895 SV%
Brian Elliott:       7 starts and a 0.849 SV%

Halak will start for the Blues. The interesting thing about the Blues goaltending is that they don’t face many shots. The Blues are allowing a league-best 22.9 shots against/game. The Oilers are 29th in shots allowed at 33.5/game.

Last year the Blues were also first in shots against/game at 26.7, but Elliot had a 0.940 SV% in 36 starts, while Halak had a 0.926 in 46 starts. Amazing how different things look from year to year.

LINEUP

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

The only lineup change we might see is Magnus Paajarvi slotting in for Ryan Smyth. Krueger hinted earlier he might give his veteran a night off during back-to-back games, but considering how strong the team played last night I doubt he makes the switch. Jones is a little sore after the Benn crosscheck, but he will dress.

Smid/Petry
N.Schultz/J.Schultz
Peckham//Whitney

Potter left the game after his head hit the boards, and Mark Fistric has a sore elbow so Ryan Whitney and Theo Peckham will draw in.

Dubnyk

QUICK HITS

  • I am taking a hiatus from talking about Magnus Paajarvi. At this point he isn’t more effective than Ryan Jones or Ryan Smyth. He isn’t better offensively than Eberle, Hall, Yakupov or Hemsky, and his game is not suited to being an energy guy who plays physical on the fourth line. I’d much rather play him 20 minutes a night in OKC than sit in the pressbox or play 10-11 minutes when he does draw in.
     
  • That doesn’t mean he won’t be an NHL player soon, I just don’t see where he fits in on this roster when everyone is healthy. It doesn’t make sense to me to have a 21-year-old playing 11 minutes a night or sitting in the pressbox, when he could be playing PP, PK and ES in the minors.
     
  • For those who believe advanced stats always tell the truth, is it possible that Paajarvi is a better advanced stat player, but Jones produces more on-ice production? I know this might be really crazy to believe, but is is possible possession metrics aren’t perfect. Maybe they don’t tell the entire story. Just a thought.
     
  • When the Oilers inevitably trade one or two of their forwards, that doesn’t mean they aren’t good players. Many good and even great players have been dealt. The key isn’t who they move, it is who they get in return. They are past the point of trading for picks and prospects. They need to acquire proven NHL talent.
     
  • The Senators, Jets, Habs and Leafs are playing well. If the Oilers can get on a roll how awesome would it be to have six Canadian teams in the playoffs. I don’t see a scenario this year that has both Calgary and Edmonton making it, so there won’t be seven, but it would be great to see six of 16 playoff teams reside in Canada.
     
  • Oiler fans are going to have a field day with the Ryan O’Reilly saga. It turns out that because O’Reilly played two games in Russia after the season started, so he would have had to clear waivers if the Avalanche hadn’t matched the Flames offer sheet. Meaning the Flames would have lost their two picks and O’Reilly to waivers. Wow, Oiler fans will chuckle while Flames fans will be groaning. Great scope by Chris Johnson from Sportsnet. Story is here.
     
  • The new CBA allows a team to sign one of their own RFA or draft picks out of Europe during the season without making them subject to waivers. This is a new rule in the CBA. It is rule 13:23 if you are a CBA fanatic.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Many asked me to keep picking against the Oilers on this trip since they already have 3 of 4 points. I don’t buy into that at all, but since it is Positive Friday I’ll play along. Blues win 3-1.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: All the single Nation readers down at the Pint off Whyte for the Nation’s 5th Birthday party will miss most of the first period trying a variety of unique unsuccessful pick up lines on Arianny Celeste.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Nail Yakupov and Vladimir Tarasenko are tied for third in rookie goal scoring with six goals, but instead of scoring they will shock everyone and drop the mitts after they get into a lengthy verbal sparring match. No one on the ice will have a clue what they said to get each other riled up, but both benches get fired up watching them exchange blows. After the game both wouldn’t divulge what they discussed on the ice, but a lip reader will tweet the exchange.

Yakupov: "Let’s show Plums that Russians know how to fight."
Tarasenko: "His name isn’t Plums, it is Prunes."
Yakupov: "What ever we need to show him that Russians punch better than Semin."
Tarasenko: "I heard your sister is in the country now, can you give me her number so I can see her when we come to Edmonton."
Yakupov: "That is onside man, way onside. You want to go for a kayak ride?"
Tarasenko: "First plums, now onside and kayak instead of offside and canoe. Your English worse than sister’s kiss."
Both drop gloves and fans from both teams love the emotion from their youngsters. 

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

  • This was one of those games when Tom Renney would have lost it in the post game scrum last year. Terrible effort after a terrific game last night. This team will go nowhere until they figure out that they have to play nuts out every night.

  • OilLeak

    Gregor, Paajarvi is an infinitely better player than Jones. Paajarvi helps keep the puck out of the defensive zone, a skill most Oilers seem to lack. Paajarvi is also better defensively than Jones, Jones tends to cheat for offense often abandoning his defensive responsibilities to do so.

    Jones scores some goals and is a good pker, great, but if that comes at the cost of chances and goals against, then it’s not worth a whole lot. The problem with the Oilers is playing guys like Jones and Eager above their depth, this team will be bad until this changes.

  • Poolanov

    hey gvblackhawk..watch throwing up in your mouth you might choke on it…yes l would move our top “scorer” to the third line..that gagner is our top scorer should illustratre there is a problem..we need change on all the lines..thats the point you clearly are missing

  • Poolanov

    hey gvblackhawk..watch throwing up in your mouth you might choke on it…yes l would move our top “scorer” to the third line..that gagner is our top scorer should illustratre there is a problem..we need change on all the lines..thats the point you clearly are missing

    • OilLeak

      And your plan is to replace the good players on the top lines with a bunch of plugs that spend their time chasing their tail against the opposition’s depth lines? Bravo, you’re hired.

      • back to my plan…l would like them to look at two man skill combinations with a retrieve and pound compliment…for your education hockey history approves the formula…gretsky/kurri and ….???? fill in the blank…sometimes Semenko sometimes Dave Brown…the great Believeau played alot with John Ferguson and if you are too young to remember Eager and Jones are far better skaters…try this…rnh/eberle…hall/hemsky and gagner/yak…fill in the combinations with symth..harti jones or eager…looking for chemistry …stop running the same combinations out night after night getting the same sad result

        • OilLeak

          I’m pretty sure you’re trolling now. Jones is one of the worst skaters on the team, constantly falling down for no reason. Who cares if Eager skates fast, he never has the puck, because he’s terrible at hockey. Good players hold onto puck and create chances, like Hall and Hemsky. Bad players like Eager and Jones chase the puck and bleed chances against.

          Also, who cares what happened in the 80s? Hockey has changed and there is no Gretzky on this team. Watch the good teams in the league, they have players who are good at hockey on all of their lines, or at least the top 3. Grit and truculence is just BS and not worth a damn thing if the player is terrible.

        • GVBlackhawk

          You are basing your strategy on the performances of Gretzky and Beliveau?

          News flash!!! These were generational talents. One is arguably the best player to ever play the game.

          Please think about what you are saying because you are talking crazy and losing all credibility.

          • GVBlackhawk

            News flash…just having an opinion doesn’t give you credibility ..that’s all you have is an opinion..you think you are the only one “watching the game closely and you don’t miss much” ?…you miss a lot actually ..like the context of a good argument..the comments I was making regarding Gretzky and others is called an analogy …and yes it’s great to have puck possession but when you have to retrieve the puck you need bangers to bang…just my opinion …here’s another…I think you take yourself too seriously

          • GVBlackhawk

            Thanks for your rambling nonsense. Your argument had no context and I called you out on it. Don’t attempt to educate me — you’ll only embarrass yourself.

            Your analogy is ridiculous. You are saying that Gretzky’s success was based on Semenko’s ‘banging’.

            Try banging your head against the wall.

    • GVBlackhawk

      I follow the team very closely and don’t miss much. The major problem is still on defense. If the Oilers don’t improve the defense, they will not show improvement. Period.

  • GVBlackhawk

    most american based teams have to put a good product on the ice, due to fickle fans and competition from other entertainment options. Lowe can continue to put a crap product on the ice and never worry about selling tickets…because its the only show in town.

  • geeker99

    I don’t think Katz really cares about how this team is playing, if you ask me he is waiting for the new rink to be built before they get his attention. which really sucks for us fans. I just hope the quality on this team isn’t sick of losing by that time. The glaring holes on this team are blinding. buttersoft to play against and I don’t see any help in the org too fix it. i thought Pecks played alright tonight. he was not the problem. too many problems in this line up.

  • geeker99

    The Oilers are not tough enough to compete in the nhl.

    Realistically a team can not compete if they don’t have respect.

    Eberle gets put head first into the boards against dallas and their guy finishes the game??? Plus they beak the bench without fear??

    Too soft to be taken seriously right now.

  • Jones was bad tonight…….really bad.

    This team has to get rid of these players.

    Peckham –
    Potter –
    Whitney –
    Jones –
    Belanger –
    Paajarvi –
    Hartikainen –
    VandeVelde –
    Petrell –
    Eager –
    Gagner –
    Hemsky –
    Khabibulin –

    Gagner and Hemsky are the Oilers only real trading assets.

    The Oilers will never win with these players on the team.

    This is complete incompetent management.

    • Time Travelling Sean

      GET OFF PETRELL ZOMG. Didn’t he JUST have a 2 assist game? LEAVE HIM ALONE :@

      Belanger will leave after next season if not sooner, what’s wrong with Harti? Isn’t he hard and gritty and everything else we need? VV is only here because Horc is injured. Khabi is leaving after this season or sooner too.

      • No, I won’t.

        Just because you like him doesn’t mean he’s good, just because he pitched in two assists doesn’t mean he’s good.

        He’s not good enough, he’s a boarderline AHL hockey player who doesn’t hit, doesn’t fight has absolutely no grit.

        What’s wrong with Harti, hmmmmm, he’s a AHL hockey player, if he’s so good why is only playing half the time?

        Take off the Oiler glasses.

        • Time Travelling Sean

          Petrell is gritty, he DOES hit, he does PK on the 10th ranked? pk unit, and just the fact that he pitches in offense every now and then is gravy. Fighting or not fighting doesn’t prove your a gritty player either.

          Harti is great down low, he’s good at keeping possession when he does have it down low, he just doesn’t translate that into offense effectively yet. When was the last time Teemu was a healthy scratch? He has played 17 of our 19 games?

          Also just because Ryan Jones had a bad game doesn’t mean he’s soft, unproductive, and isn’t what this team needs in its bottom 6 going forward.

          • DieHard

            Pettrell and Harti are to only two guys who play an overall physical game………without sacrificing defense.

            The most useless Oiler player ( perhaps in our history) is Eric Belenger. Outside of an average faceoff percentage, this guy bring absolutely NOTHING to the table.

            The only other guy I can think of that may be worse, is Anson Carter.

          • Ok, go look at hits, then tell me if any of these guys over an extended period hit.

            Your looking at a mirage.

            Just off my head, jones hit like 150 players last year, it’s a ridiculous low number given what the majority think he is….you included.

            As for Petrell and Harti, both players are in and out of the line up because there expendable and replaceable.

            Ask yourself this, when RNH and Eberle start to kill penalties, which they will very soon if not this year, whom do you suppose will be the player not killing Penalties?

            I will make you a personnel bet……If the Oilers trade Harti or Petrell they are out of the NHL two years later……..Book it.

            Edit;

            FYI Jordan Tootoo has almost identical stats as Ryan Jones, he plays on the Red Wings forth line……..not the second line like Jones does………see the problem here.

  • geeker99

    What did you guys think about that GWG tonight? Yikes. Team played poorly but wow #juniorB. Not hanging the game on #40 but wow. Those bad goals are still a huge part of his game.