Oilers top line hits a big bump in the Road

 

The Nuge, Yak and Ebs trio were taught a pretty stiff lesson last night by the Washington Capitals top line. Ovie and his two line mates outscored the Oilers top line and that was the difference in the game.

Nuge’s line was minus four on the night. That really hurt the Oilers. For the most part that line was pretty solid but if they are going to match up against the top lines of the league they must recognize how dangerous these lines can be. Let’s take a look at the goals they were on for.

The first goal was a defensive zone face off to the left of Dubnyk. Nuge wins the draw but the puck ends up going right back to Ovie who is set up for the one timer in the slot. As Yakupov goes out to his point man it is his job to make sure Ovie doesn’t get the puck. Yakupov goes behind Ovie and BOOM, one to nothing.

On the second goal I fault the pair of defencemen for the Oilers more than Nuge’s line. The pairing of Anton Belov and Justin Sschultz need to box out at the net so that Dubnyk can see the shot. I will give a pass to Nuge’s line.

On the third goal this line gets outmuscled by the Caps’ top line. It is a longer shift for the Oilers trio but those shifts happen and you need to be able to handle it. In the end Backstrom outmuscles Nuge for position in front of the net. He gets a perfect pass and it is an easy redirect for him with Nuge on the wrong side of his man. Nuge needs to battle to get better body position.

For their fourth minus of the night, Eberle takes a risk at the Caps blue line that doesn’t work, it becomes a turnover. It is a two on two that isn’t played well by the Oilers d pairing. It ends badly for the Oilers when Chimera gets a breakaway and scores.

Three of the four goals last night are a result of a direction action by each member of the Oilers top line. It takes only a split second for things to go badly and result in a goal.

Head coach Eakins can chalk this up to a rough night for this trio. Maybe it won’t happen again, maybe. But at this point in this teams development these three need to see how razor thin the margin for victory is every night in the NHL.

If you take away these four goals a case can be made that they played a pretty good game. For the most part when out against the Caps top line they were able to contain them and even generate some chances and good offensive zone time. But you can’t look at the game that way. If this trio is going to be playing against the top lines around the league they cannot be outscored. They need to win this battle within the game.

Each shift against top lines in the NHL is important. They can seemly be sleeping through a game and then explode for a quick goal out of nowhere. I remember playing against Brett Hull and thinking "wow this guy isn’t that hard to play against?" He never really hit or forechecked. He would just hang around and then just when you thought he was totally asleep he would get a pass in the slot and score. He would push the snooze button and go back to sleep knowing he had just scored the winning goal.

These are lessons that can only be learned by playing the game. Someday Oilers fan should hope these young players are the ones doing the teaching.

The Power Play

The Oilers PP hasn’t been clicking so far this season. I think they look to make one too many passes instead of just firing the puck at the net with traffic in front. There is no doubt that Eakins can put an extremely talented group on the ice for both PP groups but so can the Washington Capitals.

I was very impressed with the Caps PP last night. They are currently leading the league in percentage. Although they didn’t score last night with the man advantage it is obvious why they have been successful.

Their goal is to get pucks to the net. They spend very little time dusting the puck off on the side way or the corner. They move the puck quickly with the purpose of getting the puck to the point. Once the puck is moving high, the low players attack the front of the net.

This isn’t rocket science. The Caps have just as much skill as the Oilers do on their PP but they keep it much simpler.

Pitlick

I was part of the Oilers for his first camp and boy did he impress me. He has three things I like in forwards… size, a hard shot and good skating. I figured it would only be a matter of time until he was playing in the NHL.

So far his career path has gone slower than I expected. He is up with the team now and getting a chance to make an impression. In the games he has played he has been solid, doing what I expected from him. He is keeping the game simple by getting the puck out on the wall, dumping it in and getting in on the forecheck. These are all areas the Oilers need their bottom to lines to do.

Pitlick has been pretty good but I think he needs to add one more element to his game that could be the difference between his being a long term NHL’er and not. He needs to bring more edge and attitude to his game. Be a little cockier, chirpier and get underneath the other teams skin like a Brad Marchand or David Perron. If he can do this he NHL career path might be back on track.

  • srbuhr

    Relax on yakapov

    He has 32 points in 57 games in the NHL

    Hall had 42- 65 games played his first year

    Eberle had 43 – 69 games played

    I think yakapaov will pick up some points over the next game and he will be almost on part with hall and eberle. Relax , this guy has yet to play a full season , and thinki positively he hasn’t been hurt yet LOL

    • srbuhr

      You haven’t watched many games if your saying relax wrt to yak. Last night was possibly his worst game this year. I don’t think the top line would have done much worse playing short handed in our defensive zone. Yak was generally out of position and if you watched the game standing still. Painful to watch and has to be frustrating to play with. I would send him to OKC but pretty sure he would simply say no and return to KHL. At this point his trade value isn’t very high but when gagner returns he should me traded or demoted.

      • Jason Strudwick

        Yeah he has no trade value, probably right there with omark. You are an idiot , he was a first overall pick with less then 60 games in the NHL. He has tons of value, he is a kid and its going to take time for him to adjust , he is more raw then any rookie we have had . You have to consider how much junior he missed due to his injury too. You can’t tell me you dont remember all the give aways and mistakes hall and eberle had at first???? We should have traded them too right ?? The whole no value thing in a joke too , look what colorado gave up for johnson and he was terrible. Way worse value then yakapov

        • srbuhr

          Time will tell I guess. So tell me which teams will be willing to part with a valued asset for a player really struggling who has already shown he will do what he wants not what the team wants. You do recall he played in the KHL last year and not in the CHL even though Edmonton wanted him to play junior. Further how did yak do at world juniors against his peers – seemed to me he wasn’t a standout but then again you have stated your so much smarter then me. You honestly think Montreal would trade Alex Galchenyuk even up for Yak. Whose the idiot here?

    • Jason Strudwick

      It’s not Yak’s lack of points that’s worrying, it’s that he seems lost out on the ice. He’s floating around waiting for the puck, and when he gets it he skates straight at the defenders and turns it over.

  • srbuhr

    Everyone including me is frustrated as hell. We are tired of this rebuild going on so long with no real improvement. Yes, we can chalk it up to youth. But we are not the youngest team any longer. Look at The AV’s, very similar teams for the most part.

    We either be patient for as long is it takes, or one or two of our key
    pieces of youth will need to go to speed this up for good seasoned
    help on D or top notch bottom 6 , or bigger talented forwards.

    Are you willing to wait for the “KIDS” to develop ? or do you want to
    win and compete now.

    i am tired of being the laughing stock of the NHL, a year or 2 i could handle, no more. Do want needs to be done without mortgaging
    the entire future. The time for a competitive team is now. No more waiting.

  • Spydyr

    Thanks Jason, great analysis. I would add that the mistakes made by different members of the top line were not equal. Yak’s flyby of Ovi on the first goal is absolutely terrible, and the worst transgression by far, particularly because it creates the first goal of the game and because of who he skated and failed to check.

    Nuge made a big mistake but it wasn’t a question of being outmuscled. He simply went to the wrong place on the ice, leaving Smid two players to cover. When he realized his mistake he was on the wrong side of Backstrom and there was no time to get to the right side. It was a costly mistake but not as irresponsible as Yak’s.

    I would only say about Eberle’s that down 3-0 with time ticking off a low percentage gamble to try and create something is somewhat understandable, in a way it would not be in a tied or one-goal game.

    My question is, how does Eakins address these shortcomings, particularly the first two?

  • Jason Strudwick

    I sometimes wonder how much influence (mostly negative) we – fans, message board posters, etc. – have on how bad this team performs.

    Hearing how guys have rejected Edmonton in the past is starting to make a bit more sense to me now.

    Yes, I understand, we are paying their wages and that gives us the right to say whatever we want, but maybe we should collectively take a deep breath for patience.

    A large source of positive energy might do some good. It would certainly be better than dissecting every move a 20 year old Russian makes.

  • Jason Strudwick

    I don’t understand all this talk about the Oilers power play. The Oilers aren’t in last place in the West because their power play isn’t clicking, the Oilers are in last place because they let in 4 goals every single night.

    Does the power play suck? Yes. But it’s the least of our worries. 43 goals against in 11 games is disgraceful. This team needs to learn how to keep the puck out of their own net.

  • S cottV

    This whole run and gun, offence first, draft small scorers, swarm defence, and all that goes with it – to me, stems from a throwback to the historic glory years that the present day Oilers have to put far behind them. Hockey is a game of balance and patience, where appropriate risk and reward is woven into systems that players follow. Opposition teams will often beat themselves, if you build reasonable patience into a gameplan and dont do stupid things to beat yourself in the meantime. The Oilers seem to be in a hurry to lose 5 to 4 rather than to evolve into a team that can consistently win 3 to 2. One day in the future with considerable evolution, please bore us from time to time, with some locked down plain and simple wins.

  • Zarny

    Jason, interesting that you take the time to only point out the short falls of forwards, or first line in this case. Are you suggesting that the D men and Goal tender played an outstanding game? As far as I am concerned Dubnyk had a clear view of Ovie taking his shot
    [first goal] and should have stopped in from 40 feet out. Time the D men learned to clear guys out infront of the net.

    Yes needed more scoring, how about the second and third line popping a few goals.

    Also the first line ran out of gas in third, they played 20 minutes , while Capitals team no one forward played more than 15 min.

  • Jason Strudwick

    Do the Oiler have a coach? Eakins is horrible… Puts the 4th line on to respond to the 3rd Capital goal….

    I think I could out strategize this guy.

    This will go down as the worst Oiler season in history. There are more injuries coming, more poor play coming and more confusion coming.

    Also, if they are sooo in shape on their doughnut free diets… why they always so gassed in the 3rd period of games…. Good job Eakins.

  • Jason Strudwick

    I expect the Oilers to lose the next two games…

    You know why? Because they’re losers.

    Oh and the opposing coaches can coach their teams.

    We’re like 0/20 on the PP and can’t kill a penalty.

  • Jason Strudwick

    An 8 year rebuild that’s gone nowhere . Took almost 4 years to call it what it was all along . Not the players fault , but you might want to look at whom is responsible for what talent is on this club . This year unlikely different from the last 7 years of futility .

  • Zarny

    Question – Does Katz even want a winning team/cup?

    He makes money now for doing little. Oh sure, he goes through the motions like paying to the cap limit and having 48-50 contracts and having a bunch of managers/executive assistants running around. And he uses the Oilers as leverage for getting a new building to make more money.

    But he doesn’t do alot and still makes money.

    Let’s say he makes $10 million a year right now. If he has a winning team he makes $20 million. But it’s a lot of work and effort to make that 2nd 10 million. So he takes his $10 million and could care less that this losing team affects the fans a lot more than his bottom line.

    Just wondering… is it 5:00 yet?

    • Zarny

      Daryl Katz’ net worth is $2.6 billion…with a ‘B’.

      Billionaires don’t buy sports teams to worry about $10 or $20 million. It’s about bragging rights. It’s about winning.

      Out of curiosity what do you expect Katz to do? Pull off a trade? Fund a biomedical experiment that produces power forwards and shutdown D?

      The best thing any owner, including Katz, can do is stay out of the way. The last thing the Oilers need is a Jerry Jones of hockey. Hire good people to run your business.

      Now whether you think he’s done that is an entirely different debate.

      IMO…MacT is good. Kevin Lowe…not. Regardless of your opinion it’s the right approach.

      • Serious Gord

        In my experience some of the wealthiest people are the biggest skinflints. There have been plenty of sports team owners like that (bud Selig being one) Katz sure negotiated that way during the arena deal.

        And Katz has been very much a hands-on owner – keeping one of his best friends/Heroes as president and several others – MacT et al – on the payroll.

        What Katz can do is kick the crony habit and hire a new, veteran but Unaffiliated president to Clean house and hold people to account. And then get out of the way.

    • Jason Strudwick

      I am pretty confident Katz wants a winning team. Not everyone would agree, I suppose, but I think he is an owner more for the fun and the winning than the money.

      • Zarny

        Not as much as he wants to pay for bad management cause their his buddies.

        If this team lost 30 mil a year, and stinks as bad as it does. Does Lowe, MacT, Bucky and Smith have jobs. NOPE!

      • Quicksilver ballet

        how much possible extra work on his end could not be worth an extra profit of 10 million dollars, virtually doubling his money, most nutty comment i read all day

  • Jason Strudwick

    “If you take away these four goals a case can be made that they played a pretty good game.”

    HAHAHaaaaaaaaa…. Oh man, its hard to be an Oilers fan.

    • Spydyr

      You beat me too it.

      When is the spin going to end.It is plain to see the Oilers are a small team with an average or slightly below average goalie.A below average defence and forwards that don’t hit.A coach that has no NHL experience and it shows.A rookie GM and a President of hockey operations that knows what it takes to win.In the eighties.

      Man, it is a hard time to be an Oilers fan.

      For people that sarcastically say the sky is falling.No it has been falling since 2006.

      Lotto team for eight years coming up.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      This line caught my eye too. I’m not sure Jason realized just how ridiculous it sounds. “We’ll, if you take away the 50 games we list, a case can be made that the oilers had an undefeated season!”

  • Zarny

    I thought the difference was Holtby was Vezina quality while Dubby, who you could not fault on most of the goals was average. Holtby found ways to keep the puck out. Oilers out chanced the Caps like 2 to 1 I thought.

    I like Dubby, hope he finds his game.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I thought the difference was Holtby was Vezina quality while Dubby, who you could not fault on most of the goals was average.

    “who you could not fault on most of the goals”

    So you blame the goalie even though you say it wasn’t his fault on most of the goals. Even though we have an ex-NHL player breaking down the very basic defensive lapses (that the other team did not commit) that lead to the goals in the first place. Maybe if this team wasn’t constantly putting Dubnyk in a position where he has to steal every single game we play, we’d be winning more. Maybe if we put more responsibility on ‘kids’ who absolutely should be taking more criticism on their play, or lack thereof, they might feel more pressure to change their game.

    Don’t get me wrong – when (IF, at this rate!) this team starts playing better and we’re still losing because of bad goals, I’ll join in on the Dubnyk hatefest. But it’s really hard for me to focus on him when the rest of the team is playing as irresponsibly as they have been. We’ve been so lenient on them for the past three years, it’s time we start being equally hard on the other kids as people have been on the goaltending this year too.

  • Zarny

    It is too early to panic. Or is it?
    How many other teams had 4 or 5 super stars on the making in one franchise? Why cant Edmonton turn things around?
    Pittsburgh did it in less than 4 seasons.
    Hell Ottawa just did it in two seasons (the jury is still out for this season) while Montreal seems to be back up where they belong.
    Edmonton are dead last in the west. Again.
    Every team has injuries.
    What is going on?

  • Spydyr

    Eberle, Nuge, Yakupov, on paper is a potent line with fire power in each position, except they didn’t produce, why? Well, if the whole line got push over the entire night, how are they supposed to perform to their capabilities!!! On the other hand,if they try and put a bigger and stronger line mate on every line they should create more skating room for the skill players like them; Someone once suggest that because Black Hawks succeeded with a finesse line and similarly small forwards as the Oils, but circumstances are different, copying the success of others almost never works!!! In order for the Oilers’ smaller forwards to feel brave enough to venture through enemy lines, they need a tougher and bigger forward on each of every line; at least, that’s what have shown us so far!!!

  • Anybody who thinks we have anything that can counter Ovechkin’s line when they’re on like last night is drunk.*

    We have average (at best) D and goalie and our top players are still a couple of years from being able to square off against top level lines in the NHL.

    What bothers me is that the Caps are considered a middling team compared to the powerhouse squads in the west. I’m really worried we’ll be buried by November.

    *Not that there’s anything wrong with that

  • Quicksilver ballet

    When Katz first mentioned the term rebuild, and the fact continued fan support was required for this to work out in his favor, few knew this would last most of a whole decade. They’re still 2 or 3 yrs away from being a playoff team. This is what we deserve when we expect so little.

  • Spydyr

    If your player(s) are trying to clear the blue line and someone shoots from outside onto goalie and scores does it count ? Secondly , if goalie hangs onto it for a faceoff is it outside blue line ?

  • Spydyr

    Yesterday I watched the “MacT is the new GM video” again and noticed some interesting things. MacT is the only one of the three-man managerial “dream team” that consistently has his head up and is looking at the media with confidence. Howson has his eyes down and his body language reeks of low confidence. Low also looks un-confident, and when he does address the media he becomes belligerent and aggressive (mentions his 6 rings) and insults the fan base. I’m not a psychologist but I think people that act this was are trying to hide their lack of confidence and know-how.

    From an Oilers fan perspective, that video was more frightening then Paranormal Activity.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Also I hate how we have been using our goalies for the passed few years.
    we need to play the better goalie at the time and use the backup when the time is right.
    When we want to make another team inferior by playing the backup goalie,kind of like every other team does to us.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    For the most part I liked Nuges game. These goals all seem like small things that they can work on. As for Yak he has zero confidence. I never thought that would be a problem for him but it is. He needs to get a goal soon so he can get some swagger back and start playing the way he needs to. He is way too passive.