GAMESERVATIONS…

The Edmonton Oilers refusal to shoot the puck on the powerplay likely cost them two points. The Oilers had four minutes of PP time in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the game, and didn’t have one decent scoring chance, they only had one shot. They could barely enter the zone on their first two man advantages, and their unwillingness to just fire the puck on the powerplay was evident throughout the game.

The Oilers had 7:28 of powerplay time and registered two measly shots, and one of them was off the stick of a falling Ryan Smyth for a goal. That is pathetic anyone you slice it. If you add in the final 4:22 where they played with an extra attacker, that is 11:50 of PP time with only four shots. (They had two shots and one goal post in the final 4:22.)

The Habs had 2:49 of PP time and fired four shots, including a Brandon Gallagher goal.

Those who are believers in Corsi rating will point out that the Oilers won the Corsi 46-45, but that only accounts for EV play. I understand the statistics that if the Oilers remain even or better at Corsi their odds of winning will increase. That is great, but it doesn’t tell the entire game story.

Almost 1/4 of last night’s game was played on the PK or PP, and that is what cost the Oilers, although a very bad defensive effort  on the 2nd Canadiens goal was a key factor.

There are reasons to be excited about the Oilers, they are playing more in the offensive zone this year, but there are also reasons to be concerned.

THOUGHTS….

  • I understand and respect the basic premise of Corsi, shot attempts for or against, but sometimes a small sample can change them drastically. For instance, in the 3rd period last night the 4th line was out against Eller/Pacioretty/Briere and the Habs ended up with two shots on goal and the Oilers blocked three shots. That is a -5 Corsi rating for the fourth line, and that one :45 second shift made their Corsi rating go from bad to dreadful.

    It was a bad shift, however, neither of Pacioretty’s shots were good scoring chances and the Oilers were actually in good lanes to block the shots. In this case the Corsi stats looked awful afterwards, but the play on the ice didn’t lead to any significant scoring chances.

    It can also work the other way where a line is buzzing and getting lots of outside shots, or blocked shots in a :45 second span, but none of the shots were legitimate scoring chances. I get that the odds will even out in the end, and while the Oilers overall Corsi is much better this year, which is a positive, I don’t believe it is good enough to mask all of the issues on the team.
     

  • That doesn’t mean the fourth line can’t be better, they need to be much better or find better players, but I was just showing an example of how one bad shift can really alter the stats. I’d love it if Corsi valued shots from closer to the net higher than ones from outside. Most goals come from within 15 feet of the net. I know that would be a lot of work, but that would make it even more accurate and useful.
     
  • The Oilers are still making too many mistakes in their own zone. It is still a fire drill at times, and Nail Yakupov’s effort on the Canadiens 2nd goal is inexcusable. I’d have no problem if he was working his tail off and made the wrong decision, but he was just floating around doing nothing. Winning teams don’t allow that. One of his teammates will need to have a quiet chat with him. I’m not picking on Yakupov, I’m pointing out a major issue that has been in Edmonton for years; a lack of commitment in the defensive zone.
     
  • I liked that Eakins gave Yakupov a brief stint on the bench for the remainder of the 2nd, but then went right back to him in the third period. That is smart coaching. Get the player’s attention, but don’t staple him to the bench. Yakupov is a proud player and I’m sure he’ll get the message. He is too dangerous to sit in the pressbox, so please don’t mention banishing him to the pressbox. Unless a lack of effort becomes a regular issue, he should be in the lineup every night.
     
  • The Oilers need to learn how to work their hardest on every shift. You take a shift off in the NHL and often it will bite you in the ass. Yakupov is too good not to work hard.
     
  • Jordan Eberle needs to shoot the puck. Twice last night he was in a great shooting lane and dished it off. He’s one of their best shooters, and they need him to shoot. He will likely come around, but one of your best shooters can’t pass of quality chances.
     
  • Eakins is playing his most skilled players more than any other coach. RNH leads all NHL forwards in time on ice (TOI) per game at 26:58, Hall is 2nd at 23:35, Eberle is 3rd at 22:39 and Perron is 5th at 22:06. The onus will clearly be on those four to produce.
     
  • Devan Dubnyk said Jeff Petry has the hardest shot on the team. Petry needs to start using it more. He either needs to get a quicker release, or at the very least just get shots through from the point. Getting shots through isn’t easy, but he needs to put the puck on net more often and see what happens.
     
  • Justin Schultz has ONE shot on the PP so far this year. He has to start shooting the puck. Either tee one up, of just put it on net and see what happens. It is a small adjustment, but the Oilers PP was a major reason they didn’t get two points. It might not be fair to put that much pressure on the shoulders of a player with only 52 NHL games, but that is the reality in Edmonton. He has special offensive skills and he needs to start using them more on the PP.
     
  • I thought Dubnyk played well last night. He had no chance on the Gallagher and Galchenyuk goals. The key was he looked sharp early, rather than fighting the puck. He needs to build off last night’s performance.
     
  • The Oilers re-assigned Brandon Davidson to OKC and they sent Denis Grebeshkov down for conditioning and recalled Philip Larsen.
     
  • I won’t be surprised if Larsen draws in for N.Schultz in Toronto. The Leafs haven’t been killing teams with offensive zone pressure, so the Oilers might look to add a guy with better offensive skills instead of a stay-at-home D-man vs. Toronto.
     
  • Last night’s loss should sting, because the Canadiens were willing to play run-and-gun with the Oilers, yet the Oilers couldn’t beat their backup goalie. The Oilers should thrive in a game like last night, and unfortunately they didn’t. Very few teams will play that way, so the next time a team is willing to open it up, the Oilers skilled players need to take advantage of it. I look at last night as a lost opportunity. That was a game they should have won.
     
  • The Oilers need to start attacking more north and south. Their speed gets teams in bad positions, but then the Oilers will either swing the puck, or the puck carrier will flare out and that allows the defence to recover. The Oilers speed is their best asset, but they need to start taking the puck in straight lines more often to fully utilize their speed.
     
  • I wouldn’t have used the Joe Thornton quote. Jason Botchford elected to and that is his choice, but I wouldnt’ have. Unless I’m asking a player a direct question, I look at everything else as a conversation and "off the record." There are many discussions that go on that aren’t for public consumption, just like conversations in your work environment as well as mine around the radio station. Trust is big part of any work environment or relationship, and I doubt the Sharks will trust Botchford. Maybe I missed it over the years, but has he written off-the-cuff comments of Canuck players over the years? If so, then he’s consistent, if not, I wonder why?
     
  • One quick note… Challenge yourself to eat healthier today. Don’t have pop, instead have water and a lemon. Have a green salad with chicken, instead of a heavy, creamy dish. Go for a walk after work. I’m looking for people who will take the Challenge to improve our health. We can start small, but it will benefit all of us. If you are up for it let me know and we will hopefully encourage many to make take small strides to a healthier lifestyle. Have a POSITIVE Friday.
     

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR   

  • 4th line is just terrible. What have they had, 3 scoring chances in 4 games? If they are poor defensively, and invisible offensively, what do they contribute next to hits and fights?

    If Oilers want to be more successful, we need to search for a future Glencross, Brodziak type player, not useless players who have zero offensive ability, and give gifts to the opposing team for 5 minutes a night.

    • Micbilly99

      honestly, if the Oilers have to rely on the 4th line to score goals to win games, doesn’t that show that they have some big issues? Does Pittsburgh care if their 4th line scores? probably not.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        Jussi Jokinen scored a hatty the other night. Thought he was their fourth line center. (He could be playing left defence for all I know, I have not seen the Pens play this season)

        A reasonable fourth line has value. Chicago 4th line is on the ice in tight games. How many big goals does Boston’s fourth line won games for them in the last two deep playoff runs. The fourth line doesn’t need to be all world, but the Oilers have 3 AHL players on the fourth line which shows how little foresight MacT has. Nuge playing 26 minutes a night is going to kill the lad on the road. A fourth line that doesn’t get hemmed in the d zone would take pressure off these kids. Heck even Brandon Prust a forth line banger type had a goal last night.

        I do believe the Oiler’s have systemic problems. A group of high skill forwards with little size and veteran presence. Too many coaches, and GM’s and no clear direction. I thought when MacT lifted his staff in the desert we might actually make it to promise land, I don’t want another 40 years.

    • Jason Gregor

      Gadzic was -7 on the night… -5 of that came in one 45 second shift. They had one dreadful shift. It wasn’t like they were getting dominated every shift.

      Corsi isn’t perfect, like any analysis, eyes or stats. It can give a good gauge, but doesn’t tell the exact story. It should be looked at, but it isn’t the only way to analyze the game.

      It doesn’t account for shots closer in than long shots. More goals are scored cloer to the net, so those attempts could have more value. Lots of things to look at.

      • Newj

        So are you implying this was an isolated incident? That over the course of the year it will even out and potentially these 4th liners will have a shift where they attempt 5 shots on a shift?

        I guess it will remain to be seen. But so far, this line has shown next to no offensive ability, and seem to be hemmed up in their own zone.

        Didn’t MacT have a quote before that he didn’t want players who if all you could hope for is for them to break even (or something along those lines). This line seems to contradict him directly.

        Have you bothered to look up Mike Brown’s scoring stats in the NHL/AHL? How about Gadzic’s stats, Acton’s? These guys are simply not defensive geniuses to an extent that it makes up for their invisible amount of offence.

        Not like having a decent 4th line will win you 10 games/year, but it probably will win you 1 or 2.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        If the question is, should we add as many caveats as possible to Corsi stats (small sample size, shot selection/quality, score effects, etc.) I think you will find a lot of dance partners.

        There may be a some quibbles about whether shot quality is a repeatable, consistent mitigating factor or simply noise, but I don’t think many would shun such a conversation.

        Where I think the conversation gets lost is when it looks like we are trying to pretend that shift is somehow an aberration for this 4th line and/or that they were somehow successful in allowing only low percentage chances. I’m not sure either of these arguments hold much water.

      • washed up

        Gregor I agree on your view on Yak and there is too much talent there to sit but his effort on goal #2 was dreadful.

        He, rather than Belov, looks like the jet-lagged, missed training camp Russian.

        I am convinced he is upset about his line mates. Why else does he fly around on the Hall line but then becomes Casper with every other line combo. He needs to change his attitude plenty of 19-20 yr olds start out on bottom six and earn their Top 6 minutes – he wants it given to him.

  • Micbilly99

    Justin Schultz has a great wrist shot, I get it. He tore up the AHL, it get that too.
    But this is the NHL, a wrist shot is easy pickings for most NHL goalies. Take a slap shot my good man.
    If the Oilers refuse to shoot on the power play, it’s going to be long year. The Oilers will live and die by the power play. The need an above average power play if they intend on making any sort of playoff run.

    • Blood Orange

      Goalies have no idea what J. Schultz’s wrist shot looks like – it never gets past the first shot blocker.
      Just fire the puck on the PP, making sure it gets past the first man. At that point all you need is a little puck-luck with a lucky bounce, big rebound, etc.
      They’re always trying to be too pretty instead of just shooting and going to the net, PP or not.

  • Blood Orange

    The ‘fans’ saying that Yakupov should be sent to the pressbox were the ones at the game last night wearing their Montreal jerseys with their Oilers hat…

    But seriously, the Oilers PP was the biggest thing that killed them last night. With Montreal coming in on a back to back and facing their backup, the Oilers should of jumped on them early with 2 PP chances off the hop…

  • Poolanov

    You didn’t mention RNH’s high flying loop around the perimeter of the offensive zone only to hand the puck out for the full length two on one that was the Habs 3rd goal

  • South of Cowtown

    How does someone not respond to the Hall hit? The skill players are still being hit, hard, and the so called grit issue is still an issue. I suppose timing is everything, the line that was on the ice is not generally known for creating physical mayhem.

  • washed up

    What was even funnier was listening to Bob talk in the pre-game show about fans turning on Smyth and how he needs to play less…….quite the opposite from his comments a couple of years ago.