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

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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.

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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 


  • 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

    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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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).

  • 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!

  • 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)

  • OilClog

    Here is something to think about:

    Since the 2009 draft, Chicago has the following home grown non-first round players in their top 9:
    BRANDON PIRRI 2ND (59TH OVERALL) 2009
    BRANDON SAAD 2ND (43RD OVERALL) 2011
    ANDREW SHAW 5TH (139TH OVERALL) 2011

    On the roster, you can add:
    BRYAN BICKELL 2ND (41ST OVERALL) 2004
    BEN SMITH 6TH (169TH OVERALL) 2008
    NIKLAS HJALMARSSON 4TH (108TH OVERALL) 2005
    DUNCAN KEITH 2ND (54TH OVERALL) 2002
    COREY CRAWFORD 2ND (52ND OVERALL) 2003

    The Oilers have Petry. Hall, Hemsky, Eberle, Yakupov, Gagner, Dubnyk, and Smyth were all 1st rounders. If the Oilers did half as well as the Hawks in drafting after the 1st round this team would be a playoff team right now.

    Sigh…

    • pkam

      It is not just the drafting, but development as well. How many of our 1st round pick before 2008 is still playing in NHL?

      You can blame the previous owners for not willing to invest in scouting and development. Or you can blame the fans for not providing the financial support before 2006. Or you can blame the poor economy in Alberta.

      I am just glad that despite the difficult financial hardship in the 90, the Oilers hadn’t left like the Jets did.

      • pkam

        Pirri and Saad play in the top six. Shaw and Bickell anchor the third line. Hjarlmsson plays top for minutes. Crawford is the starting goalie. Keith is a top pairing defender. What’s your definition of a role player?

        • Romulus' Apotheosis

          Think Andrew Ference on the Bruins and Andrew Ference on the Oilers.

          Team/line effects are real. Good teams have the ability to shelter up and coming and waning players in a variety of ways.

          None of which is to say that making the most out of opportunities and succeeding in roles above your weight class can be ignored. They are big achievements.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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*

  • wiseguy

    Why is it that Perron credits playing with Gordon and Smyth for getting him the puck for more scoring chances and shots, while when Yak (a shooter) was playing with the same two players, we accused Eakins of playing him with offensive duds and was the cause of his lack of production.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Has any team in NHL history spent the last 63 games of the year trying to play spoiler?
    So far this rebuild I’ve noticed two things. 1. Good teams make us look like we have a long way to go.
    2. Bad teams make us look like we’re almost there.

    • Alsker

      Hmmm…the Caps back in the early 70`s and the Devils early 80`s..as for how we play against better teams it shows how far we have to go(or how LITTLE Kblowe really knows about winning).

  • 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.