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…***


    • Phixieus666

      Hell no man, that is exactly what I’d be telling my guys to aim for. They play two games against each of Van and Min. If they win all 4 of those that closes the gap to 1 point. and above all else, winning the division guarantees a playoff birth.

  • Zamboni Driver

    I know Kreuger doesn’t want to mess with a winning lineup but even so I struggle to see why he refuses to swap Potter out for Peckham when heading into situations like last night.

    It’s a little unnerving to see Jackman, Begin and McGratton lined up on one side and poor, undersized Mike Brown standing alone on the other.

    The Canucks aren’t exactly pushover’s either, nor do they have the same crappy PK that the Flames have. Once the Oilers run into a game where the PP isn’t clicking, the opposition will probably just grow another inch or two instead of pulling back.

    I also wonder if now that the deadline has passed and the roster limits have changed, will the Oilers consider bringing Hordichuk or Eager back up, just to have them available should they find they are getting run a little to regularly?

    Re quick hits; In looking at what Columbus did yesterday, considering how poorly they fared over the last…umm forever, in running Nash out by himself, have they not just taken a step back towards the same formula? Gave up depth but perhaps more importantly leadership and personality in order to bring in a single scorer.

    That team will continue to live and die on Bobrovsky’s play and that may be enough to get into the top 8 but I don’t think yesterday’s trade is going to be judged well by history when talking big picture/long term.

    • Carlos Danger

      Re dessing some muscle for last nights game,I said it the day before they should dress Fistric or Peckham, as I could see the previous game the loogans were circling the wagons… no Krueger dresses Potter.. Its not like he would be a big loss.

      Your right Brown cant handle all of this on his own… Cheap shot artist like Bieksa will be at it again.. needs taking care of.. Oilers wont get revenge by scoring, because this is a whole different team than Calgary.

      Krueger wake up for a change! And while your at it wake up Hemsky from his slumber.

      • Czar

        Our star players need to get use to this type of treatment from players like Bieksa. Dressing more goons, with no other purpose in the lineup, does not help this team win.

        Our 4th line is finally a true energy line. Potter is +6 during this 5-game winning streak. We have outscored our opposition 25-7!! I think we can cut Krueger a break.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Taylor Hall waits till his team is up by five before the Bieksa payback is taken care of. Hall waits till he’s facing the boards and slams him into the glass so hard, his head falls off.

    With every passing victory, the Fear This series against the Blackhawks becomes a step closer to reality.

  • Clyde Frog

    Well looking at the standings, we are 2 back of Detroit, 4 back of LA and 5 of the Canucks and the Wild all with the same amount of games played

    St.Louis is 1 back of us but has 2 games in hand.

    So who do we play? The Canucks and Wild twice and LA once.

    That means if we win the remaining series against the Canucks or Wild we are effectively one point behind them…

    2 points behind LA if we beat them and well only 2 back of Detroit right now.

    The remaining schedule is tough, but we actually have a lot of control against 3 of the 4 teams we are battling with for a playoff spot.

    This really is the best we could have hoped for heading in to the final 10 games of the season.

    • This is a great way to look at it. I think the old loser mentality would dictate we play bottom feeders and hope we get some help from other teams, but this way, playing mostly people above us, we can actually affect our place in the standings as oppose to just trying to get as many points as possible. I wonder if this is how Krueger is looking at it as well?

  • Phixieus666

    Whitney will take on Bieksa man. We are all good.

    Honestly I don’t care what choices Kreuger makes as long as they keep winning. If you need whitney and potter to better transition the puck to make that happen then by all means go for it.

  • A-Mc

    Wow some people are just never happy. The Oil are on a 5 game win streak that has them sitting in a fragile 8th place and yet some fans will still waste thier time griping about management and potter.

    Look: the team is winning and even when they dont, they are still playing well. Leave them be.

    Moving on…

    So here we are with 12 games left and the dreaded but possible 7-5-0 record Target. Im Nervous as F#ck. im going to need to learn to control my emotions if the Oil have progressed to a bubble team.

    *deep breath*

    GDP: … Cant do it. Im leaving it to the hockey gods..the oh so merciful hockey gods.

  • StHenriOilBomb

    GDP: Vancouver is not the team it once was. Oilers battle back from a 3-1 third period deficit to win 5-4 in OT.

    OGDP: Nuge’s line scores 2 goals, and Hall adds 2 more points to his impressive run.

    NSOGDP: Because I promised my fiance that I would skip one of these games to spend an evening with her, I will miss what turns out to be the most exciting, gruelling game of this short season. Thinking I had lucked out choosing the Calgary match-up, I will end up ruing the decision after numerous glares across the living room for obsessively checking scores, shot totals, etc…

  • A-Mc

    Mirror Mirror, indeed! 6 game winning streak, check. Meaningful games in April check. Hall in top ten scoring check. Regardless of if we make the playoffs or not, this is fun!

    PS. I want to me that mirror!

  • I tried it at home

    Im not saying it would happen, but out of curiouslty, could Horcoff take Bieksa in a good ol’ fashioned Drop The Gloves waltz? Ive seen the man, he’s not exactly small, has shown heart and is a fitness nut. I know he’s not a fighter per se, but it certainly would go a long ways to cementing his legacy as Captain of the Oilers.

  • Eddie Edmonton

    Yakupov’s first goal last night was sick. He smacks the sh!t out of the rotating puck before it even hits the ice.

    I like the maturity the Oilers showed in the goal celebrations once they realized they were playing with a dead horse.

  • Czar

    •The Oilers are 8-2-2 since Shawn Horcoff called a player’s only meeting

    That’s about the same time the new Nation Gear came out,coincidence? I think not!

    Bieksa is a D-Bag!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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]

  • ginganinja

    Guys, this is the chump change fans we are going up against…pull out your tinfoil hats!

    Apr 4, 2013 2:02 AM in response to: sportsnet_ca

    Re: Commodore takes shot at Canucks fans

    The Canucks didn’t lose because of Colin Campbell. They lost because of Jeremy Jacobs, Gary Bettman, Colin Campbell, Mike Murphy, Brian Burke, Terry Gregson, Stephen Walkom, Kelly Sutherland, and lingering support for Stephane Auger in the officiating community.

    Their sheer corruption wouldn’t have been possible without the tacit support of the CBC and its pro-Boston commentary from Milbury, Stock, Cherry, McClean and even Simpson.

    The lone voice of reason was Jim Hughson but he got drowned out by the rest of them. It was a travesty.

    LINK: http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/commodore-takes-shot-at-canucks-fans/

    • ginganinja

      I agree, maybe we need to spend a period trying to spring guys by greenlighting EVERYONE to sprint the puck end to end, just greenlight anyone with the puck in our zone to bust it up ice fullspeed and make sure we all fall in to support that rush every possesion, lets just pick a spot and keep hitting it for 20 mins, just absolutely rush it end to end every time with support, no passes just make them eat the rush all period. Make sure we stack the men at least two deep and very close together north/south gapped maybe five or six feet and eliminate the passing and go to the relaying of the puck and advancing it in six foot stages at full speed.Cycle it north/south by stacking players and penetrating with numbers and strength in the middle,just keep one man standing alone and back deep.

  • ginganinja

    I have seen this story more than once in the past few years. Keys to the game. Take care of the puck against the Sedins. Nope. Line match against theSedins and get schooled.Check. Take multiple penalties.Check.12 Shots on goal after 2 periods.Check

    2-0 at the end of 2 periods. I am going to bed this one is over. The fat lady was singing after it was 1-0. The Oilers ever hope to make the playoffs they need to check that list and make sure they understand that if they don’t want to see the same story everytime they play the Nucks in van city they need to takes care of buisness first.That means those 2 guys named Sedin.

    enjoy the third boys I am done.

  • Rob...

    We knew this team wasn’t going to win 17 in a row and making the playoffs was going to be difficult so relax everyone. With this team being tired and the Canucks rested we were physically out matched. Vancouver’s got a big talented defence that really outmatched us last night.I thought they should have played Fistric so someone would hit the Sedin sisters.Hopefully in the off season we can get a physical 2/3 defenceman,a top 6 forward with some size and an edge to his game,a tough 3rd/4th line forward that can play and another capable goaltender.

    • Right on. It’s amazing how much the bandwagon has changed on a day-to-day basis this season.

      The Blackhawks played like sh*t when the Oilers beat them earlier this season. Doesn’t mean the hawks are a bad team, but even good teams are going to play bad games.

      The Oil had to play against two very physical teams back-to-back, road games no less. What was everyone expecting, a blowout?

      Calm down and see how they play after a day of rest against LA. They’re not out of the playoff race yet.

    • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

      Agree with everything you said…..just wish personally that they had started to make these moves at the deadline. But, maybe the deals just weren’t there. Although Hemsky + for Forsberg would have looked ok. Clowe probably wanted to be moved to a contender. Not a lot of quality D at the deadline.

      Still, feel like we missed a window to move Habby, Hemmer and Whitney while their value was at a peak.

      I may still be proven wrong…we may come up with a miracle run in the next two weeks!

  • John Chambers

    As much as I respect Minnesota for “going for it”, they paid huge for Pomminville. Their top goalie prospect, an excellent C in Larsson, along with a first rounder is a steep price for a smallish forward with a 65 or 70 point ceiling.

    However, with Suter & Parise’s contracts, Minny really has a 5-7 year competitive window before those deals become onerous.

    Probably a good idea that they loaded up.

    • Carlos Danger

      I respect that they overpaid, especially in comparison of what was returned for Iggy and J Bo. But as an Oiler fan, it must really be nice for your team to finally be in a position to give up a little bit of your future to acquire one of the last pieces that could put your team over the top, and become a cup contender.

      Personally, I still think Minny will get destroyed if they face off against LA in the first round. Or better yet the Sharks as they are on a roll again. But it’s hard not to look at their team and be impressed by everything but their defence after the name Suter.