GDB 37.0: DOWN TO THE DIRTY DOZEN

The Oilers took care of business and swept the Flames, two games they had to win, and now the real games begin. Nine of the Oilers remaining 12 games are against playoff teams, and this is the scenario the Oilers desperately wanted their young team to experience.

The intensity will increase, and the youthful Oilers will need to match the consistency, smarts and veteran savvy of the Canucks, Ducks, Blackhawks, Wild and Kings.

These games matter. The players know it, management knows it and the fans know it. This should be fun.

You can sense the excitement in the city and on the Nation. Fans are jacked up. The scar tissue you’ve obtained from seven seasons of watching an over-matched, under-talented, uninspiring team is starting to breakdown. You actually look forward to the games, because you believe your team has a legitimate chance to win.

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If you are under 30 it is likely a feeling you’ve never truly experienced during the regular season. The Oilers are still a few players short of being a dominant team, but their first line is the hottest line in the NHL, and when one line is that good you have a chance to win any game.

During this five-game winning streak Taylor Hall has 14 points, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has 10 and Jordan Eberle has 8. They’ve combined for 32 points, and the scary part is that they’ve missed some glorious chances. Their speed, skill and smarts are a deadly combination right now, and it will be interesting to see how Alain Vigneault, Darryl Sutter and Bruce Boudreau try to slow them down on this road trip.

LINEUP

Hall/Nugent-Hopkins/Eberle
Paajarvi/Gagner/Hemsky
Jones/Horcoff/Yakupov
Brown/Smyth/Petrell

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

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Dubnyk (Although Krueger hinted he hasn’t made up his mind and Khabibulin might play. I don’t see any reason not to play Dubnyk)

Magnus Paajarvi is banged up, but Krueger said this after the game last night, "It’s not a serious injury, it’s a manageable one. He’s probable for tomorrow." Hemsky has been playing with a minor knick, and I suspect Paajarvi will dress tonight. If the injury is more about pain-tolerance than impacting his play he’ll go. Players can play hurt, but it isn’t wise to play injured, especially if the injury will limit your performance.

Jerred Smithson, acquired yesterday from Florida, will be in the hospital today as his fiance is scheduled to give birth. He told me yesterday that if things go as planned, he’ll join the team in either Los Angeles or Anaheim. "Family comes first, once we get the baby figured out, I’ll join the team as quick as I can. I can’t wait to play in Edmonton," Smithson told me on my radio show yesterday.

I’d play Smithson when he gets here. He shoots right and his FO% the last four years is: 54.8% in 2013, 56.1% in 2012, 57.4% in 2011, 54.9 in 2010, 52.6% in 2009. He can win draws, and you can use him and Horcoff on different sides.

QUICK HITS

  • The Oilers nine remaining games against playoff teams are all against the top-six teams in the west. They will have to play one of them in the playoffs if they make it, so they might as well get used to it.
     
  • The Oilers are 8-2-2 since Shawn Horcoff called a player’s only meeting and returned to the lineup in Chicago. I know the 4/93/14 line is carrying this team offensively, but Horcoff’s message sunk in. The Oilers have cut down on their turnovers in the defensive and neutral zone. And they rarely turn it over at the offensive blueline anymore. Those plays were killing them early in the season.
     
  • The other big change is their willingness to drive the net. Guys without the puck are finally going to the net and creating havoc. 
     
  • The Oilers are 2nd in combined special teams at 108.3. They are 3rd in PP effeciency at 23.8% and 7th on the PK at 84.5%.
     
  • It is hard not to like Roberto Luongo these days. His twitter feed is hilarious, and yesterday, when the Canucks made the idiotic decision to make him hold a press conference to discuss why he wasn’t traded, he was very honest and classy. When asked why he wasn’t traded he replied, "Cause my contact sucks. If I could rip it up now I would."
     
  • You could tell not playing is killing him. He’s handled this situation extremely well, and when the Canucks finally trade him to the eastern conference I suspect many fans will be cheering for him. Tonight of course, you hope the Oilers light up him and Corey Schneider.
     
  • Derek Roy will help the Canucks. They desperately needed a 2nd line centre, and he will give them some much-needed secondary scoring.
     
  • I liked the Columbus decision to acquire Marian Gaborik, especially because it didn’t cost them any of their three first-round picks. Even if they don’t make the playoffs this year, the Blue Jackets added a proven sniper. Basically, the deals between the Rangers and Blue Jackets look like this…Nash, Brassard, Dorsett, Moore and a 6th for Gaborik, Dubinsky, Erixon, Anisimov and a 1st rounder. I’d still say the Blue Jackets did well.
     
  • Very interesting move by George McPhee to trade away Filip Forsberg, 11th pick in 2012, for Martin Erat. The Capitals will win the South East this year, because they are rolling and the Jets and Hurricanes are on the skids, but how will this trade look in a few years. I’ve gotten very differing views from scouts. Some really like him, while others think he’ll never produce more points than Erat. Time will tell. Caps win trade today, but Preds could benefit greatly in the future.
     
  • Don’t look now, but the Oilers playoff chances, according to sportsclubstats, are up to 42.1% after last night’s victory. Before the five-game winning streak they were at 4.1%. That is quite the jump. Detroit is at 72.7% and St. Louis 70.4%, but the Oilers have closed the gap considerably.

MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL….

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Have to go with the hot team considering I’ve picked them to win the last four. I know how superstitious the Nation can be. Oilers win in OT, 4-3.

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OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Hall, RNH, Eberle line combine for six points.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION:  Ryan Smyth ends his 20-game goal scoring drought with a deflection early in the 2nd period. Smyth does a triple combination fist-pump, look-to-the-heavens, glove-slide-on-the-ice celebration afterwards. His young teammates love the "celly," especially Yakupov who says to Smyth, "Prunes is going to love that and use it during Hockey Night in Canada,"

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

***This will be a DSF comment free section today. From your quiet editor/tech producer who needs a break from it all. Any comment with mention of him will be quietly deleted. Enjoy the game and one free day…***


  • A-Mc

    OGDP – Smitty scores one off his pants. (end debate)

    Great idea to bring up either Eager or Hordi, just for the plane rides if nothing else.

    Leave Potter alone, like all the oilers he is nicely rounding into form. and finally

    props to Tambo for staying the course, remember back in January when all we wanted was meaningful games in April, well we have that in spades. Free agancy is actually going to be fun this summer, lots of cap room, Katz cheque book will be wide open. This is a young team that has broken 2 old Oilers records this year, one more year and we will be playing meaningful games in May.
    Squeeeeeeee

    • A-Mc

      Not just meaningful games in May but entertaining ones as well. He could have cheated and brought us to mediocrity sooner with a team and coach built for the trap.

      This will be a really good, entertaining team for many years to come. And it is on course as planned.

      I will add that I am more of a fan of Tambo’s plan than I am of him, but I am so happy he has the gumption to stick to it in spite of all the bleeting.

  • 27Ginge

    I hope Krueger splits up the top line. Need more balanced scoring. This idea that having one good line that scores a whole bunch goals has little to no merit. Since when does scoring goals help win games? Hockey is about systems and balance and equal ice time. Letting good players play lots and be creative is a recipe for disaster.

  • ghostofberanek

    6 games ago, I was complaining about Taylor Hall. I whined and moaned about his play, give aways etc. I stated that I hope he makes me look like an idiot for saying that. Well, here we are. I’m an idiot, and I couldn’t be happier for it.

    Also, kudos to Tambi for (what I believe), was a good read on the situation yesterday. They’re just now starting to gel, and you simply don’t mess with that. I think he’s done a fine job for the most part.

  • 2004Z06

    …I really don’t care if the Oil make the playoffs. If they do…great, but that is not what this season was supposed to be about. It was supposed to be about improvement and playing meaningful games in the spring. It seems they have met those targets in spades. The team has improved 11 spots in the standings this year. That in itself is staggering. The Canucks on the other hand have fallen 9 spots since their Presidents Trophy performance. If I am a Vancouver fan, I am quickly realizing the window has slammed shut.

    Imagine where the Oil would be if Eberle and RNH were on the same pace as last year? This team would be ahead of Vancouver in the standings for sure.

    Thank you for continuing to point out the negatives of what should be considered a significantly positive step for this organization.

  • ginganinja

    Jason, your final comments on your last two blogs are brilliant. Kudos to you for that. Besides ClydeFrog and his excellent writing, you are the only other one that can muzzle the big mouthed self appointed genius. Thank you for letting us celebrate the Oilers success and extend our well wishes to them, without negativity from a certain poster.

  • vetinari

    The epic road trip was the low(e) point of the season; the home stand and Flames double-header has been the high point.

    I feel bipolar watching these guys in action… one game, they score on themselves or Dubs can’t stop a shot from centre ice, and the next game, they come in wave after wave like they’re storming the beaches of Normandy.

    I hope that they can ride the energy of last night’s victory into this evening’s game because Vancouver is better positionally, and will cut down the kids room to wheel.

  • Bucknuck

    What!? A GDB that isn’t dominated by one person slamming the Oilers all day long. SWEET. They have been terrible enough the last six years without having to put up with that on an Oilers site.

    I will be watching Gagner tonight. Is it just me, or has he started to let up a little the last few games (I noticed he had two pts last night). I wish the guy could get consistent with faceoffs, but other than that I have been so impressed with him this season.

    • vetinari

      I have always been on the fence with Gagner, but he is playing himself into the equation. Just like you would want to see from every young player that comes here.

      Good on him.

      Things I like about him away from the technical aspect of the game:

      He plays with emotion, passion, he’s got heart. When he scored he just worked the crowd. It was cool.

      He goes out with the young cats when the do an interview. When he speaks, he says the right things. His leadership qualities are burgeoning.

      He needs to get a little dirtier, nastier. But, this playoff drive, IMO, will unleash that in a lot of these young cats.

      • Bucknuck

        I love your listing of intangibles. I love his compete. He’s already had a good run (400 games) and he’s only getting better. He is a little nastier every season. I wonder what commentators are going to be saying about him in five years.

        Ah to have a Crystal Ball… but that would take the fun out of it.

        If he ever leaves town it better be someone like Anisimov coming back. He’s a player.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Initially I scoffed at the Brown pickup and was pissed about the wasting of time with Eager and Hordichuk, but I’m loving Brown’s play.

    Not only can he fight, and he swings em’ quick! But, I like his speed and his positional play and how he’ll rag a guy down until he gets a puck or our zone is clear.

    It hurts me to say it..but props to you Mr.T

  • charliedont

    – Hemsky will still be 38 trying to deke the blueline into submission. He has the IQ of a rock.

    – Whitney can’t skate. Literally, the guy has problems turning around.

    – Petrell is like that guy at work that nobody talks to and stays late after work, so everyone assumes he’s doing his job, when really he’s just writing a screenplay about vampires.

    – Every time Smyth winds-up for a slapshot, a comedian somewhere gets nervous that he might steal their job.

    – The overhead cam shot of Khabibulin looked like me guessing on my Calc III exam: no clue.

    – Yakupov has a magnetic field around him that only reacts to rubber and makes it impossible for a puck to lay flat or still around him. Ever. It looks like street hockey with a tennis ball when it’s near him.

    – John Garrett thinks everything is a penalty, except being the Johnny Miller of hockey commentary: that’s ok, negativity rules and clearly both could probably still play and kick in some goals like Jagr.

  • geoilersgist

    Make it 6 straight tonight! I think the Canucks were idiotic for making him hold a news conference. In all honesty they would have been smarter to move Schneider with his low cap hit and probable better return. If the Oil win tonight and some other games go our way we will get some breathing room.

    Awesome NSOGDP you are killing it JG.