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…***


  • ginganinja

    I’m not worried about the jackets but realistically, the fight is between us, the blues and the red wings. Red wings have a pretty cushy sched as far as which teams they play, and the blues are much better than they’ve been playing. One can only hope that Elliott and Allan are as bad as we think they are down the stretch. Or Datsyuk gets injured.

  • oldhippy

    If Beiksa is cheap shoting tonight thats a good thing, it means
    the Oiler are up. One day, Hall will take of things himself
    and that needs to happen, not by fighting but a god cross
    check in the lower back or one in the face for the matter
    will tone him down. Perhaps Nuge will have enough and do it.
    One of these days its coming.

    Have fun taking penalties Nucks- with the confidence this
    team has now you will be eaten.

    You still demand respect Nuck and i give you that but you know what ?
    We aren’t scared anymore.
    Beware.

    ROCK EM EDMONTON OILERS !!

    You have made me proud lately, keep it up win or lose.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    The playoffs are still a huge longshot. keep your enthusiasms in check, but enjoy them.

    a win tonight would be huge.

    also… the Oil will never have a calder. the league will never let them have all the major awards.

  • 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.

  • oilerjed

    It was also the goaltending that helped them get into the spot they are in was it not? I wouldnt be giving any Hitchcock team to much credit unless its your bag to watch slow boring hockey with out a pulse. Same for the Nucks, no scoring, ok d, and good-great goaltending. You give to much credit to these teams and not paying close enough attention to what is going on NOW. Get with the program DSF or get the *&%^ off the bus.

  • Bonvie

    It is great to that Nuge looks to be back on form. It’s also been fun watching Hall improve his passing game. That guy is becoming a more complete player every game.

    Yakupov is 5 points from the rookie scoring lead, and Hall is 5 points from second in the league. That is Bananas. Then to consider we have Nuge, Eberle, Gagner, and J. Schutlz on the team as well. I don’t know, I’m starting to believe this might all be enough to not only make the playoffs, but make some noise while we’re there.

    Kicking St. Louis out would be especially sweet as that means Calgary only get two first rounders this year.

    I remember the last game against the Canucks when Vinuelt said after that he just had no answer for our top line.

    Further, does anyone think Whitney might actually be getting back to form? Defensively he’s still weak but his overall is getting much better.

    • Jason Gregor

      That is not me my man…I’m on air, I don’t have time to edit comments. But I do like the “take action” attitude of our beloved quiet editor. Usually he just yells at me via emails..ha

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Man this koolaid has been tasting so sweet lately that I’m gonna need a dentist soon.

    Seriously though the team’s looking really good lately. I’m hoping I don’t need to drink the koolaid too much longer. No need to hope and believe when the team is actually playing well.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Watching Luongo’s press conference yesterday has me thinking they’re fragile right now. I thought tears were gonna roll down his cheeks.

    The locker room must be a mess right now.

    Never kick someone while they’re down? I’m a freakin’ neanderthal and I say kick away! Hard!

    Go for blood!

    A few thoughts from last nights game.

    Whitney played a good game. For Whitney. But I’ll give him some props.

    Fistric should draw in for Potter.

    On the Nuge: Did you cats see him go into the corner and do a little junk and jive on a doused Flame defender. It looked like he was on one side, I think I blinked, and then he was on the other side of the guy and had the puck. He’s slippery, mang! And, he’s just a kid. Whoa!

    Nice to see that line together again. Wicked fun!

    Win and you’re in! Keep gravy train flowing, boys. Lets go, Blue!

    • ginganinja

      On the Nuge: I’m not sure if we’re thinking about the same play but there were a few times last night where it really just looked like nuge could contort his body anyway he wants while keeping possession of the puck somehow.

      At the beginning of the season we saw glimpses of how good he might be, but in the last ten or so, my goodness he’s a wizard

      Nuge and Ebs should get some real props for Hall’s recent explosion as well, those three are playing like one unit right now.

      • Eddie Shore

        Contort. I like that. He’s slippery, a freakin’ contortionist, does magic tricks in between periods, just plain good. And, He’s only going to get better. I’m loving this sh*t!

        There were a few plays where he made Cowtown players look silly. He’s sick, mang!

        How about that crowd, ginganinja? Cowtown has turned! I was laughing. It was good. My beer tasted great! I just look at it like they’ve begun to see the light. Good for them.

        Have fun wandering in that desert. Big smile. BIG SMILE! lol

  • ginganinja

    One other note:

    I haven’t seen Eager play since he was demoted, but I’m thinking the Oil are gonna need some more meat.

    The games are getting rough. Me like.

    Call him up! This is the type of hockey God wanted Eager to play.

    Just my word, yo.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Spydyr

    11 points for the kid line last night. Hall was a beast.

    GAME DAY PREDICTION :Tonight he adds to the early legend of The Hallinator. and destroys Bieksa in the corner.Leaving him a crumpled mess.At the post game interview he says i was just trying to knock the puck free.

  • vetinari

    As we’ve gone further and further on this 5 game win streak, the team looks more comfortable playing as units, rather than individuals. I do note that we average a billion “toe drag” plays a period but they do work once in a while to gain separation around a defenceman. The kids are getting strong enough to withstand initial contact by defenders and keep possession of the puck longer and the secondary lines are adding some points to take the heat off. Look forward to the game tonight.

  • Metal&Oil

    How efficient have the Oilers been:

    During Oilers 5 game win streak the teams has gone from 29th in Goals4 (74G) to 13th in Goals4(99) 25 freaking goals in 5 games & Hall was apart of 14 of em.

    When we Nuke the Nucks tonight I’ll be sold!!!

  • Concur

    People keep say that the playoffs are a long shot or that if they make that is all they want. I say the hell with that. Bring on the playoffs and if we are there I am cheering all the way. I want what was missed in ’06. Any team can win and I will be on the Oiler bandwagon all the way. The goal is to win every game and to win the Cup every year. Aiming lower is a defeatist attitude that I don’t subscribe to.

  • 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.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Yeah, I’ve been impressed. Gagner has gotten better every year and seems to have turned a corner this season.

    I think you’re right it is more fun not knowing what his ceiling is. Keeps the suspense.

    Tonight he plays against his Dad’s team. I wonder if they are throwing sh*t at each other during lunch today.

    Kid’s got some fire in the belly. I want to see more, however. But, he’s got it in him I think.

  • vetinari

    I had fun trash talking our Flaming counterparts last night, but what can we say about the Canucks for tonight?

    *ahem

    “Hey, Nuckleheads, your team is like the milk carton in my fridge… the best before date was October, 10 2009!”

    [looks around, giving thumbs up to ON]

    • Eddie Shore

      Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I for one believe that matchup would be great for us. That being said it could be just as easily Anaheim or out of the playoffs altogether. I for one like to believe, but let’s take this one game at a time. We have a whole 25% of the season left to play.

      Target: Canucks.

  • Eddie Shore

    It’s a lot of fun being this excited for Oilers games again. There is a tangible goal right in front of us and you can definitely see the intensity level rising on the ice. This will be a real test tonight. A win tonight would set us up really nicely down the stretch. I’ll say the Oilers keep it going and win 4-3 in a SO. GO OILERS GO!!