GDB 25.0: A TOUGHER TEST…

Fresh off a three-day break, the Oilers will try to extend their three-game winning streak vs. the defending Stanley Cup champions. Since the start of the 2010/2011 season the Oilers are 6-5-1 against the Hawks. The Oilers are 2-3-0 at home at 4-2-1 on the road.

The games in Edmonton have been blowouts. The Oilers have won by scores of 9-2 and 8-4, while the Hawks won 4-1, 5-0 and 4-1. The Oilers have outscored their opponents 15-3 during this short winning streak, but beating Chicago should be more difficult than beating Calgary, Columbus and Florida.

The Oilers’ are playing their best hockey of the season, but so are the Hawks. Chicago is 10-2-1 in their last 13 games and they’ve scored 4+ goals in nine of those games. Patrick Kane is on a ten-game scoring streak and has 16 points in 13 games, while Jonathan Toews has 15 points in that same span, and they are on different lines.   

LINEUP

Hall-RNH-Eberle
Yakupov-Gagner-Hemsky
Smyth-Gordon-Perron
Jonesuu-Acton-Gazdic

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

Dubnyk

No reason to change anything when you are winning, although at some point you’d like to see more from Jesse Joensuu. He hasn’t done much, and once they lose I could see Ryan Jones and Marc Arcobello re-inserted into the lineup.

Marian Hossa is in Chicago taking care of a personal matter, so look for Brandon Saad to play with Toews and Patrick Sharp. Kane has Brandon Pirri as his centreman, and recently acquired Kris Versteeg will play the other wing.

QUICK HITS

  •  This is the healthiest we’ve seen the Oilers in years, and if they can stay healthy we will get a much more accurate assessment of who they are as a team. The Blackhawks have 12 skaters who have played every game. Their top-five D-men; Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, Oduya and Leddy, and forwards Toews, Sharp, Kane, Shaw, Saad, Kruger and Bollig. Hossa had missed four games and Bickell has missed two. Being healthy, especially when it is yoru best players, gives you a much better chance to win.
     
  • Look for the Oilers to attack Kane when he has the puck and not give him time to set up. If Kane has time to set up in the offensive zone he will embarrass you. Eakins said he’d rather see the puck on Kane’s linemates’ sticks.
     
  • Ken Hitchcock moving close to Hall of Fame, a goalie the Oilers have to look at in free agency, and a major blunder by the CFL. Read here.
     
  • Marc Arcobello has been a good surprise, but anyone who felt he was the team’s MVP in the first quarter of the season wasn’t watching close enough. It is great to want him in the lineup, but don’t overestimate his contributions.
     
  • After reading Willis’ solid piece on Perron’s spike in shots on net, I asked the winger about his increased totals. "I’ve always liked to shoot, and right now I’m getting a lot of chances to shoot. I’m not sure if the system allows me more chances, or if I’m just getting more right now. It is early, but it seems every game I’m in a good spot to shoot. I really like playing with Gordo (Boyd Gordon) and Smitty (Ryan Smyth). We work well together and they get me the puck in good areas. I don’t think I’m doing anything really different than I have in the past, but I noticed I have almost as many shots this year than I had all of last season, so hopefully I can keep it up," Perron said.

    He said he wanted to shoot more the past few years, but this year he said he has tried to shoot the puck quicker, and felt that he had more shots blocked last year. Interesting.
     

  • The Oilers PP is now 9th in the league at 21.5%. After going 6 for 49 (12.2%) in their first 15 games, they are a sizzling 11 for 30 (36.7%) in their last nine games. The Oilers are 18th in PP chances, but if you went by games played, they’d be closer to 23rd.
     
  • The Oilers PK has moved up to 15th overall at 83%. In their first 15 games they allowed 13 goals in 55 attempts (76.4%), but in their last nine games they’ve only allowed 2 goals in 33 kills (93.9%).
     
  • The Oilers still take too many penalties. They’ve been shorthanded 88 times thus far, tied for 7th most in the NHL. Eakins has no problem with aggressive penalties, but he feels his team still takes too many stick infractions. They’ve been one of the most penalized teams for the past four seasons, and eventually that needs to change if they want to start winning.
     
  • A big thank you to everyone who came out to DJ Suitcase party on Friday. It was a great night and we raised over $15,000 for the Inner City Children’s Program. Nice work.

LOOKING AHEAD….  

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Fans will be entertained with nine goals, but this won’t be a blowout…The Hawks pick up their second 5-4 victory over the Oilers this season.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall picks up two more points. Hall has 7-10-17 in 11 career games vs. the Hawks.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Sam Gagner scores the first goal of the game, and a few people suggest he’s on his way to another 8-point night. That won’t happen, but Gagner picks up an assist to finish with two points. Gagner gets rocked by Andrew Shaw early in the 2nd period, and can’t drop the mitts because his jaw isn’t 100%, so Andrew Ference rushes in and he and Shaw have a spirited tilt.  

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

  • 24% body fat

    Hmmmm, oilers PK and PP turn around once 89 was back in the line up.

    No saying it is him, but Yak has been playing better since too. Is this what a little bit of depth feels like?

  • S cottV

    Probably 5 to 4 like Gregor says because the Hawks will be thinking that a personal points night and 2 points in the standings are both achievable. Progress would be a 3 to 2 loss, with reasonable control demomonstrated by the Oilers. Regularly giving up 4 or 5 GA’s has got to go away at some point. Will be interesting to see how the Oilers take their 3 game win streak, up against the top end of the league. Hope the Oilers take the lead and scare the Hawks into full gear, so – we can really see where the oil leaks show up.

  • A-Mc

    Re: Gregors Edm Journal Article “…Andrew MacDonald…UFA…excellent partner for the Oilers’ Justin Schultz.”

    I read an interesting article on Forbes (US Taxes, Great for Canadian Teams) that suggests Calgary and Edmonton (Flames and Oilers) have the lowest tax rate of any other NHL team. Players on these teams will make more money than any other FA signing option. Sometimes the difference is negligible but other times it’s significant.

    I wonder if that will help the Oilers in making some FA signings this summer?

  • CellyHard

    This is a huge game, a win tonight could really get the ball rolling. I don’t want to admit to myself that i will have no playoffs again. If theOilers can roll 13-3-3 till end of December, they give themselves a slight chance to make it. So essentially they must win 2 of every 3 games.I am a sad and pathetic and cant let go of my over optimism.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Agreed, Perron has very quickly become one of my top favorites on this team. It’s been said before, but he appears to be the most playoff ready of them all.

    More please!

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Did Perron really say he loves playing with Smitty and Gordo? Gawd love him and his attitude any everything else about him. If we had to pick an Oiler MVP today it would be him without a doubt.

  • A-Mc

    If someone like Dave Tippett had Taylor Hall as a rookie I think he would be in the conversation for the Olympic team and perhaps a lock to make it.

    Oilers philosophy has always been run and gun, we will outscore you. Obviously that has not worked for the Oilers and it hurts the development of players.

  • CellyHard

    @Gregor

    “Marc Arcobello has been a good surprise, but anyone who felt he was the team’s MVP in the first quarter of the season wasn’t watching close enough. It is great to want him in the lineup, but don’t overestimate his contributions.”

    Isn’t he really the team’s MVP by default? No one else deserved it.

    Personally I think it is Gordon.

    • Jason Gregor

      I agree Gordon has done more, and he’d have been close in first 20 games…which shows how bad their best players performed…

      Their best players have played better the past 6-8 games and not surprisingly they are wininng more.

      • Absolutely. The age old thought that your best players have to be your best players to win consistently cannot be overstated for the Oilers first quarter.

        The last few games have shown this to be the case. I think the biggest difference to me in last few games has been that they have been able to get more flow into the game by completing series of passes regularly, whereas earlier in the season the play was often dying in the neutral zone with only one or two touches by the Oilers.

  • A-Mc

    Oh christ, I’m nervous. I think I’m more nervous about the Oilers actually winning. If they win, that means I’ll be returning to the land of “The Oilers CAN make the playoffs with this squad!” but if they lose, and continue to lose, I’m in the comfortable position of “alright, MacT needs to do something…”

    It makes me nervous because i think the team needs to make moves, no matter the outcome of this season. Losing just helps to ensure change happens. Winning could mean some Tambo-like dithering.. and I’ve had my fill of that.

    *sigh*

    Oilers win 4-1.. sadly? *nervous*

  • Citizen David

    Edmonton wins a few games in a row against non playoff injured teams and they think they have turned a corner.

    Goaltending can steal games
    Chicago not showing up.

    Those are the only way Edmonton wins

  • Truth

    The Oilers should trade the entire Octane roster + the current ice cleaning squad + Omark to Chicago for those Ice Girls. I’d consider a mid-level pick too.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    “Marc Arcobello has been a good surprise, but anyone who felt he was the team’s MVP in the first quarter of the season wasn’t watching close enough. It is great to want him in the lineup, but don’t overestimate his contributions.”

    I don’t know about MVP, but I’m not sure that is the relevant question.

    The relevant question isn’t “is he the MVP on this team”, but rather “is he good enough to be playing on this team,” i.e., one of 12 forwards.

    I think the answer to that is pretty definitive and it would be hard to overstate it when the question is put in its proper light.

    Boxcars: 20 2 10 12 -3 (6th on the team; missing 4 games)

    CorsiOn: -0.90 (3rd of Fs on the team)

    Faceoff%: 52.2 (34th in the league)

    This guy belongs among the 12 forwards every night on this team.

    • Jason Gregor

      It was relevant because the journal website had a poll asking who was MVP and those who voted had Arcobello 3rd. Ridiculous.

      Your boxcars mean little considering that if Arcobello gets in the lineup it will be on the 4th line. No one knows if he can be effective playing 7 or 8 minutes a night. It is much harder to stay in the game.

      Playing fewer minutes is hard on guys and many can’t succeed in that role. Just like players who produce with 14 minutes, don’t produce more automatically when they play 17 or 18…

      So your “proper light,” isn’t as clear cut as you assume it is.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        Sorry, I missed the EJ piece and it wasn’t linked in your article so I had no context for the question.

        http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2013/11/23/who-has-been-the-edmonton-oilers-best-player-so-far-this-year/

        3rd does indeed seem high. I’d include him on the list, but I share your surprise to see him doing so well. Then again, fans love an underdog 🙂

        I think you have a point about Arco in limited minutes. But I’m not sure how compelling it is.

        Arco doesn’t just have nice boxcars, he is winning the shot metrics race too against significantly higher competition than Acton/Gazdic/Joensuu are seeing.

        He has also demonstrated very good PK ability so far something neither Gazdic, nor Joensuu offer.

        Moreover, there is no reason he has to usurp Acton, or play only 7-8 minutes.

        Eakins could easily sit Gazdic or Joensuu and place Smyth on the 4th line and put Arco just about anywhere in the top 9.

        Not only does having Arco in the lineup give you another competent and defensively reliable center he gives you another PK option.

        Finally, I’d like to see at least Arco fail at Acton or Gazdic’s minutes before deciding it won’t work (which is not what you are doing, I’m not saying that).

    • ubermiguel

      Plus Arco was 3rd in team scoring when he got sent down.

      I don’t get how anyone can trash this comment. Arco has earned a lineup spot. I don’t see any criteria that says he didn’t. Unless you include size, but by that criteria Martin St Louis and Todd Marchant are career AHLers.

  • JJmorrocco

    If the fourth line was tearing it up…………then I would buy having Arcobello sit over Acton.

    I think most people would agree that Arco, Jones, Gazdic would be a good fourth line?

  • Citizen David

    Hall is the key to this game. During our three game winning streak everyone was on fire except Hall. He still played well. But he has another level. If he reaches it tonight and we play how we did the past seven periods, we’ll win.

    • DarkLinkCosplay

      Actually, I would argue the opposite. Blowout games like the ones against the Blackhawks, the Jackets, and so forth suggest that if the Oilers are on their A game, you’d be hard-pressed to find a team that could stop them. Consistency is a big problem for us. I would also argue confidence, since the kids have been immersed in a losing culture for so long.

  • Craig1981

    I’m thankful the winning streak has filled the team’s fans with positivity. Coming on here and seeing DSF’s comments with 50+ props a few weeks ago show just how bad fans had turned. I hope they can get to 20th overall by Christmas (baby steps)

  • Spoils

    Hall is not even in the conversation right now for the Olympics. I think he’ll crush it on the big ice, but the book is – he doesn’t play Canadian style hockey because he falls down too easily, and the bad giveaways really hurt him.

    Chicago sent a bunch of players to 2010.

    I wonder how much it hurts us that players like RNH, Ebs, Hall aren’t going to get that early career experience in the big show.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Funny how I get trashed for the truth.

      Hall can play well against most teams in the NHL, but once you have the best in the world competing Hall’s dominance fades and he gets exposed for his lack of a 200ft game. He can hide it in the NHL but not the Olympics.

      If he was as good as you think then he would be in the conversation.

      Hall does have potential to become an All Star in the NHL but not yet.

    • Craig1981

      Very little. The Canadian Olympic team is most likely the hardest hockey team in the world to make. It will be the next 2 0r 3 years those players will be in the age category to make the team

      I believe Hall, if asked to play a supporting role, would tweak his game to cut down on giveaways. He plays hard and tough, which is the type of style anyone would want.