GDB 5.0: IT IS VERY SIMPLE…

Ideally your team would win every game, but since no North American pro team other than the 1972 Miami Dolphins has done that, fans expect their team will lose a few games. There are certain games, however, where you desperately want your team to win. Tonight is one of those for Oilers’ fans.

The Oilers don’t play the Leafs very often, 90 times in 33 NHL seasons, but they are an easy organization to dislike. They haven’t won a Stanley Cup in 46 years; they will extend that to 47 years in June, yet their fanbase acts like they are the darling franchise of the NHL.

My late father’s favourite player was Dick Duff, great name, so there was no love for the Maple Leafs in our house. Dad wasn’t a diehard Habs fan, but he loathed the Maple Leafs and I’m thankful I inherited the same disdain for the Leafs.

They’ve had some players I enjoyed watching: Borje Salming, Mike Palmateer, Wendel Clark and Tie Domi to name a few, but when their own captain, Mats Sundin, screws them over like he did it is clear even the players don’t respect the organization.

Due to my job, I’m not a fan of the Oilers, but there are certain games where my inner-Edmontonian appears and I watch the game hoping the opposition sucks the hind banana. Tonight is one of those nights.

Oilers fans have endured a lot of losing the last decade, yet you still find the strength to turn on the TV and watch the Blue and Orange. The Oilers are making a rare early appearance on Hockey Night In Canada, and an Oiler victory could turn your evening into a "runaway" very quickly.

For your sake, and the sake of every drinking establishment in Edmonton, I hope it happens.

LINEUP

Hall-Nugent-Hopkins-Eberle
Perron-Arcobello-Hemsky
Smyth/Joensuu-Gordon-Yakupov
Gazdic/Smyth-Acton-Brown

J.Schultz-Ference
Smid-Petry
N.Schultz-Belov

Dubnyk

The Oilers recalled Philip Larsen yesterday and sent Denis Grebeshkov down for a conditioning stint. Larsen is a natural RD, and he could give the Oilers more offence from the back end. He likely won’t play tonight, but you will see Ladislav Smid back with Jeff Petry and Anton Belov back on the right side playing with Nick Schultz.

Eakins said if Jesse Joensuu is ready to go, he will play. That likely means Ryan Smyth or Luke Gazdic comes out of the lineup. Smyth scored the only goal last game, so it might be hard to take him out, however, the Oilers claimed Gazdic so when they played a team like Toronto they would have a heavyweight. It wll be interesting to see if Joensuu is ready, who Eakins sits.

***UPDATE*** Yakupov will be a healthy scratch.*** Clearly Eakins is making a statement regarding the 2nd Montreal goal last game.

Dubnyk played better on Thursday, but he’ll need to be very good for the Oilers to skate away with a win. Jonathan Bernier has stopped 113 of 116 shots, .974SV%, and many Leafs fans are already writing his Vezina trophy speech. Remember when Nikolai Khabibulin had a .960 SV% at the end of October, 2011. How did that season end?

Bernier has played 3 1/2 games, and he’s been stellar, but if the Leafs continue to give up 35 shots a game his numbers will drop significantly.

QUICK HITS….

  • Hall, RNH, Eberle, Perron, Hemsky and Yakupov need to capitalize on their chances. The Leafs are surrendering 34.8 shots per game thus far.
     
  • The Leafs draw a lot of penalties and their PP is red-hot, 28.6%. The Oilers will need to keep their feet moving and not take stick infractions. The Leafs have drawn 15 tripping, hooking, slashing and interference penalties thus far. The Oilers will need to skate with them.
     
  • Kessel leads the Leafs with 6 points in 5 games, and he’s 2nd in the NHL in shots with 26. Eakins must avoid having his 4th line out against them.
     
  • The 4th line has to stop icing the puck, or they will see a lot of Kessel’s line. It is clear Gadzik has been told to just get the puck out of the zone, but he has to stop icing it, or at the very least take a few extra strides, get to centre and then dump it in. He’s iced the puck too often so far.
     
  • Eberle has five goals in four games vs. the Leafs. I sense he or Yakupov will end their goal-scoring drought tonight.
     
  • Previous meetings between these two clubs have no impact on tonight’s game, but the Oilers have scored 3 or more goals in their last 5 games in Toronto. Hopefully we see a high-scoring game tonight.
     
  • The Western conference is 18-5-2 vs. the East thus far. Both the Oilers and Leafs are 1-1 in inter-conference play.

LOOKING AHEAD…

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers skate away with a 4-3 victory and silence the Vezina talk of Bernier.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: This is the easy, if Gazdic plays, he and Colton Orr drop the mitts early in the first period. If he sits, then I’ll go with the other obvious prediciton; Joffrey Lupul, a former Oiler, scores against his Oilers.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Jeff Petry averages a point-per-game against the Leafs. He’s only played them twice, but he has a goal and an assist. Petry will actually use his heavy slap shot tonight, and he’ll beat Bernier for his 2nd goal of the season.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

  • Time Travelling Sean

    I hope that for the sake of the team Eakins stops with all the line tinkering and let’s players get use to playing with their regular line mates.

    Clearly this “SWARM” system ( or lack thereof) has not been understood by all the players and I suspect this will take time…….but for the love of god Dallas, stop putting our top offensive players out there to kill penalties. On any level having Hemsky and RNH killing penalties makes no sense. We have players who excel at this why not use that skill set appropriately?

    So far I’m holding Eakins accountable for all the loses……..mostly due to his retarded line combinations.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      What is wrong with having your Top end talent on the PK..?

      RNH is arguably the best Oiler forward at BOTH ends of the rink. How is it a negative thing for him to be playing on the PK..?

      Having players who can turn the disc up the ice & make something happen offensively keeps the opposing teams P.P. honest & a little bit back on their heels.

      I personally want to see MORE of this from the Bench Boss.
      Maybe not Hemsky per say, but a lot more of RNH, Hall & Eberle for damn sure.

      x6

      • ShakyDS

        I love RNH, Ebs, Hall, Yaks…..and would love to see them play all the time but reality bites!

        You can’t have your best offensive players playing their regular shifts, the PP, and then the PK……..and expect them not to be tired. Exactly what was the point of getting Gordon, Jossenu, and others if we are scared to play them?

        By your own rationale would it make sense to play Gordon on the PP?

        I like the fact that Eakins thinks outside of the box but you cant play your top players 30 minutes a game because you covet fitness and want to test them.

        He has been out coached every game so far and the team looks disorganized…….plain and simple!

  • Spydyr

    This is the what could of been game:

    Dubnyk : .874 Sv% 5.27 GAA

    Bernier :.974 Sv% .85 GAA

    One of them is not like the other.

    Now you can tell me about the small sample size.

  • Bucknuck

    Bring it Oil!

    I find Canucks fans obnoxious in the extreme, but the only fans that top them are Leafs fans. They have never heard of the word humility. It’s like the “centre of the Universe” disease has infested the franchise. They disgust me.

    So the Oilers better score some darn goals!

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    “Dubnyk played better on Thursday, but he’ll need to be very good for the Oilers to skate away with a win. Jonathan Bernier has stopped 113 of 116 shots, .974SV%, and many Leafs fans are already writing his Vezina trophy speech. Remember when Nikolai Khabibulin had a .960 SV% at the end of October, 2011. How did that season end?”

    Excellent point. Bernier and in fact the entire Leafs team is well over-due for a reversion to the mean.

    Lets hope we can get them started on their quest for the bottom.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Doesn’t the Toronto Sports Network sign your cheques now?

    ” but there are certain games where my inner-Edmontonian appears and I watch the game hoping the opposition sucks the hind banana”

      • #ThereGoesTheOilers

        Early retirement Jason? Eventually we’ll be back in the win column and it’ll be mighty hard to remain impartial then.

        I do appreciate your honest loathing though. Throw some hate Vancouver’s way for me, would ya?

      • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

        Phew! I thought you might of botched things there.

        Sorry you miss out on the emotional investment, it truly is the best part of being a fan. My days would be wasted if it wasn’t for ON.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            And do you think they will collapse under the weight of that luck, or are you like Serious Gord, convinced by the power of small samples sizes and big men?

          • DSF

            And are you convinced if a coin flip produces 10 straight heads that the next flip has to be a tail?

            Last season, Pittsburgh outshot their opposition by only 0.8 S/G yet managed to win 36 games.

            At the same time, NJ outshot their opposition by 5.3 S/G yet only managed 19 wins.

            While I agree out shooting your opponent is generally a good idea, there is so much noise involved and so many other factors that are ignored, using shot metrics as a predictor is pretty weak unless you have the common sense to drill down and look at coaching strategy, goaltending quality and a host of other relevant factors.

            Otherwise you end up looking like a fool.

          • If I may ask.

            Serious question

            If Corsi is counting all shots good and bad, a team could have 20 perimeter shots and say…5 real good quality shots and out shoot the opposition 25 – 20 yet lose like the Oilers have been, yet the other team of those 20 shots 10 of those were actual grade “A” scoring chances would Corsi even be relevant?

            I go to the games, I hear Stauffer going on and on about the Oilers Corsi being so good that soon or later the Oilers will start winning, yet I’ve witnessed the other team completely out chance the Oilers?

          • DSF

            Corsi has lots of flaws and you’ve identified one.

            Some coaches, including Randy Carlyle, don’t care how many low percentage shots the other team takes and he also preaches hanging on to the puck in the offensive zone until his players have a good scoring chance.

            Corsi, like patriotism, can be the last refuge of the scoundrel (loser).

          • Admiral Ackbar

            You hit the nail on the head this time DSF. I 100% agree. Though the Oilers do generally get outshot because they’re the lesser of the two teams.

            For the past 7 years the Oil have been the super hot but dumb as a post girlfriend that I can bring myself to cut loose. Cool-Aid please….

          • Because all your friends will ride you forever for letting that once in a life timer go.

            Also, her underlying stats are probably keeping you interested, not to mention her lifetime Chick Corsi.

          • DSF

            To my eye, one of the best ways to assess how a team is playing, is to look at their 5V5 F/A.

            A hot streak on the PP or a malfunction of the PK can distort things for a while but since playing on the PP or short handed are relatively rare events in a game, how team performs at evens gives you a much clearer picture.

            It’s still early and the sample sizes are very small but by 10 games we should start to see the trends.

            Here’s how the Oilers have done 5V5 F/A in the past 5 seasons.

            09/10 0.75

            10/11 0.74

            11/12 0.91

            12/13 0.90

            13/14 0.50 (early days)

            Keep an eye on that stat if you want to see how the team is playing.

          • GVBlackhawk

            I try to Reference the lack of sample size/early in season dynamic when discussing the body of evidence so far on a regular basis. I deal with stats every day at work. However the statistical inertia thusfar is not moving things in a positive direction for the oil.

            These next ten games will either confirm or cast in doubt these early perceptions. That said fans are right in being concerned that the season could be a disastrous one: the weaknesses remain, the play thusfar confirms it, and the coaches thusfar have not demonstrated that they have found tactics to minimize them – to the contrary – thusfar they seem to have exacerbated them.

            Fans who continue to disregard all of the above aren’t doing the team any favours. Just ask cub fans how they have made out doing the same.

      • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

        I could be way out to lunch here, but you may have misread his comment too. Team 1260 was bought by TSN, buddy was making a joke.

        I think anyway. You crazy kids and your rap music and Pac Man video games

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    I’m not judging you, Gregor, but I’m just kinda curious about this statement…

    “Due to my job, I’m not a fan of the Oilers…”

    • Jason Gregor

      If I’m emotionally invested I don’t think I can report accurately or without bias. I love hockey, but don’t cheer for the team. Just part of the job for me.

      Best part of being a fan is the emotional investment, IMO, and I don’t have that due to my job. That it the negative.

      I find I’m more of a fan of hockey, because I watch every team. That is the positive.

      There are still teams I can’t stand though. That will never change.

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      He’s a reporter/sports personality, they have to do their best to remain impartial to give an unbiased view of whatever it is they’re reporting.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Imagine losing on HNIC, in front of the whole country, even the rock mountains won’t be big enough to hide under. Hope the fact that it’s the Leafs we are playing fires up the boys.
    6-1 Edmonton.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Hall – Nuge – Yak as the first line, do it up Eakins! Give the Russian dynamo some skill to play with.

    Has there ever been a line of 1st overalls playing their natural positions, for the team that drafted them?