Breaking News: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is sick and will not play tonight…Rishaug just reported from the rink. So Oilers will have to dress two non-centres tonight. Ouch.
After a gutsy third period got them a win over Nashville on Sunday, the Oilers need to attack the struggling San Jose Sharks early tonight and get them on their heels. The Sharks have been one of the worst teams in the league since February 1st.
The Sharks are a woeful 5-10-6 after starting the season with seven straight wins. The Sharks outscored their opponents 27-12 in their first 7 games, but they’ve been outscored 59-36 in their last 21.
They Sharks are struggling and if the Oilers want to stay in the playoff hunt tonight is a game they need to win.
The Sharks don’t have any offensive depth. Joe Thornton (27), Patrick Marleau (23), Logan Couture (21) and Joe Pavelski (17) are the only forwards with more than ten points.
The Oilers have way more scoring depth. Sam Gagner (27), Taylor Hall (26), Jordan Eberle (20), Ales Hemsky (17), Nail Yakupov (14) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (11) are in double-digits, while Magnus Paajarvi has 6 points in his last 8 games.
The Sharks are ahead of the Oilers in the standings, but right now they are not playing like a superior team.
The only change might be Hartikainen coming in for Jones, but after listening to Ralph Krueger yesterday I think he’ll stick with Jones. Jones couldn’t do any activity for the entire month of January, due to his eye injury, and that hurt his conditioning. Krueger feels Jones is getting better every day and feels the extra time between games has allowed him to improve his cardio. It sounds like he wants to give him a few more games and see if the improved conditioning will help Jones.
The Oilers are in the midst of their first playoff run in four years and yesterday Jonathan Willis and David Staples suggested it would be wise to trade Ryan Whitney. Let’s look at this a little closer.
There is no doubt Whitney struggled early this season, but lately he has played better, especially offensively. After the nine-game road trip, where Whitney scored three goals, he admitted that despite his offence coming around he still needed to work on his gaps and his overall defensive game. No one is arguing he can’t improve there.
He’ll never be considered a great defensive D-man, however, he does excel on the powerplay and that is why trading Whitney at this point of the season would be a step backwards.
- 37% of the Oilers goals have come on the powerplay. They rely on their PP more than any other team in the NHL, and Whitney is the best PP D-man they have. The Oilers have no adequate replacement on the roster, and considering they rely that much on the PP to score, I don’t see why you would risk trading away your best PP D-man while you are at the start of a playoff run.
- Staples ad Willis suggested Corey Potter could fill in. The same Potter who has 0 points this year. First off he shoots right, and the Oilers 2nd PP unit is set up so a left shooting D-man quarterbacks the powerplay. So, outside of replacing Whitney with an inferior PP player, you are now going to adjust their system, even though the Oilers PP has been very effective at 22.9%. I say, pardon.
- Staples suggested Potter was great on the PP early last season, but then he lost PP time to Whitney. Let’s look at that.
|Player||Team||Pos||GP||PP TOI||PP TOI/G|
- In fact, Potter averaged more PPTOI/G and he had 38:36 more PP time all season. Potter finished with 11 PPP, while Whitney had 10. Potter had six of his PPP in the first 9 games of the season, and then produced only 5 in the remaining 57. He had a great start to the season, but I don’t think we should use a good nine-game stretch as the basis that Potter is an above-average PP player.
- In the 21 games Whitney has played this season the PP is 21 for 78, 26.9%. Whitney has been on the ice for ten of those goals and has five points. In the 7 games he sat, the PP was 4 for 31 at 12.9%.
- In the six games Potter played while Whitney sat, Potter played 11:48 on the PP scoring no points and he was on for one PP goal. He averaged 1:58 of PP time in those games, while Whitney plays 2:38.
- It is clear that Whitney has a much bigger impact on the PP than Potter.
- Whitney is even better than Justin Schultz when you look at PP time=production. Whitney has played 55 minutes of PP TOI and he’s been on the ice for 10 PP goals. Schultz has 155 minutes of PP TOI and he’s been on for 15 goals. Schultz is a rookie and he’s already a very good PP player, and I expect he’ll be even better in the future, but right now Whitney is still more productive.
- Unless you believe the Oilers are suddenly going to become a productive ES team, I see no reason why you trade Whitney. The organization wants their young players to experience "playoff-like" games, and if they want that to happen they should keep Whitney because he helps the PP. And right now the Oilers can’t win without a successful powerplay.
- The other suggestion was that you could replace Whitney with Jeff Petry. Petry is already playing 22 minutes a night, and he isn’t dominating. Adding more minutes and giving him less rest won’t make him play better, nor will it make the PP more effective.
- Trading him for a draft pick is pointless, absolutely pointless, at this juncture of the season. The Oilers need to play meaningful games, and stay competitive now, rather than add another 2nd round pick that might, slim chance, help them in four years.
- It is clear Whitney is very good on the PP, and considering how much production they need from their PP to win games, it makes little sense to move Whitney him. The Oilers do not have an adequate replacement. If the Oilers are out of it after the next seven games, then for sure you look at moving him, but if they are in the mix I wouldn’t move him for a draft pick.
- Last night Daniel Alfredsson become only the 57th player in NHL history to record 1,100 career regular season points. He is also one of the rare players who had his best offensive season between the age of 30-35. He had 78 points at 30 years of age, 80 at 31, lockout at 32, 103 at 33, 87 at 34 and 89 points as a 35-year-old. Impressive.
- He’s likely to become only the 11th player with 1,100+ points to play for only one team/organization for his entire career. Can you name the other ten? *Answer below.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets are 7-0-4 in their last 11 games and are now tied for 8th place. They only way they keep winning is if Sergei Bobrovsky keeps standing on his head. The Jackets were outshot in 9 of the 11 games, by a margin of 297 to 362. They are giving up 33 shots against in this unbeaten streak. They also played 9 of those games at home and a whopping nine of them went to OT. They were 3-2 in SO and 2-2 in OT. It is great for fans in Columbus to have their team in the hunt, but they will need to tighten up defensively to stay competitive. Bobrovsky has a .966 SV% in their last nine games. Incredible.
- The Oilers had almost a perfect last few days, and they didn’t even play. There were no 3-point games involving teams in the playoff hunt, and the Sharks, Predators, Flames, and Coyotes (twice) all lost. Now it is up to the Oilers to win.
- Carey Price is getting a lot of hype for the Vezina, and deservedly so, but Tukka Rask has been stellar with for the Bruins with a 1.92 GAA and 0.928 SV%. If Bobrovsky continues his stellar play he’d have to be considered.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers score three minutes in, and skate away with a 4-2 win led by two goals from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Devan Dubnyk is much better in the first frame tonight than he was when the Sharks lit him up for six goals in 20 minutes in the home opener. (Easiest prediction ever.)
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: With only one goal in his last 20 games, Nail Yakupov is the second one on the ice for warm up. As he is circling the ice he stops at the top of the right faceoff circle and motions to Paajarvi to come over. Paajarvi stops and after a brief moment, he smiles and laughs. Yakupov looks at him seriously and then Paajarvi mouths something to him. Yakupov smiles and says something back, then he skates away. Paajarvi looks a bit perplexed, but then continues his warm up.
Yakupov scores a PP goal in the 2nd period, and after the game he explains the what happened during warm up. It turns out Russian are very superstitious. Yakupov asked Paajarvi to say, "ни пуха ни пера!" which roughly translates to "neither fur, nor feather!" which means good luck. Then Yakupov replied, "К чёрту!" which means, "To the Devil," which is a way of securing good luck. Yakupov explains Russians do this before important tests, and since he tonight was considered a "good test" for the Oilers he thought he’d try it.
** Daniel Alfredsson is now the 11th player in NHL history to play for only one team/organization and score 1,100 points.
Alfredsson sits 57th all-time in scoring with 1,100 points. Senators
Mike Bossy: 52nd with 1,126. Islanders
Nicklas Lidstrom: 50th with 1,142. Red Wings.
Bobby Clarke: 42nd with 1,210. Flyers
Jean Beliveau: 39th with 1,219. Canadiens.
Alex Delvecchio: 33rd with 1,281. Red Wings.
Gilbert Perreault: 32nd with 1,326. Sabres.
Stan Mikita: 14th with 1,467. Blackhawks
Joe Sakic: 9th with 1,641. Nordiques/Avalanche
Mario Lemieux: 7th with 1,723. Penguins
Steve Yzerman: 6th with 1,755. Red Wings.