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 


    • Mikey

      So trade an underperforming, massively overpaid expiring contract for a massively overpaid, unproductive contract with an extra year of term remaining? No I would not make that trade if I were Oiler GM.

      I think the Oilers would be better off purging Hemsky’s contract for as high a draft pick as possible. The fact MacTavish chose Smid’s contract to dump tells me there is (rightfully) no interest around the league in Hemsky at his cap number.

      Prior to the season, there were rumours out of Ottawa that Murray was willing to trade Zack Smith for Hemsky. If that were true MacLooselips should have taken it.

    • pkam

      Hemsky and Yakupov are having some chemistry going lately, why do we want to destroy that with a trade for a guy who is 2 years older and half productive as Hemsky, and cost almost as much and still has one year left in his contract?

      Looks worse than trading Smid + Roy for Horak + Brossoit.

      • From another article.

        Romulus’ Apotheosis wrote:
        Dubnyk named one of the NHL’s 3 stars of the week:

        http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=693003&navid=DL|NHL|home

        So… I guess everyone predicting he had eternally cratered was being reactionary… who would have guessed?

        Ya, ok.

        You still feel that way Rom?

        If Dubnyks the answer, then why are the Oilers looking so hard for a replacement?

        Don’t answer that, I’ll come back to that after December & January.

        • Romulus' Apotheosis

          He didn’t play well, that’s for sure. Of course, Yak blowing a tire on a PP, Kane winning a scramble on their PP, Corey Potter punching the puck into the net and Shaw scoring on a 3 on 1 didn’t help matters.

          Look, no one EVER said Dubnyk was amazing.

          What they (myself included) said is that he was playing terribly but was way more likely to rebound to his historical average (which happens to be league average or very slightly better, i.e., not amazing, not terrible), then to remain in the gutter, which many were dead certain of happening.

          His play over the last 10 games was very good. And, I expect it to even out over the course of the season to league average or slightly better.

          Feel free to continue to think otherwise. You would probably be seriously wrong and if you were in charge of an NHL team you would be likely to make many very bad decisions.

          • Alsker

            Dubnyk had no help tonight…I’m not sure which of those 4 goals he was suppose to save. This team continues to give good teams many amazing scoring chances. The Hawks basically had to play hard for half a game tonight and then shut it down. This team proves once again that they are the easiest team in the league to play against.

          • Kind of like your argument that Hartikainen was a true NHLer or the one where Paajarvi was??

            Again, I’ll reference Dec & Jan and see where we stand after Dubnyk plays the Western conference big boys. I half expect him to be out played by Bryzgalov at the end of Jan though.

            A whole 10 games!!! The same 10 game span where Dubnyk won against such power house teams like CBJ,CAL & FLA? Boy, that’s impressive, sign that man to an extension right now!!

            Look at the same month of Nov, Dubnyk won against the league worst, but lost against any team around or above 500…

            I will feel free to think otherwise, and you can keep using stats to back up players like Paajarvi, Hartikainen & Dubnyk, but by my eye, and apparently from management’s eyes they don’t feel the same way you do.

    • Alsker

      Arco should of been over Gagner or Acton. Hemsky has been alright lately.

      Those who suggested Hemsky for Erat. That trade is for the taking. Washington should be kicking doors on that, however that’s not a trade you make straight across. Erat destroyed his value, and Hemsky is a lot more now. People say Hemmers made of glass, but he’s been healthy this year, and he’s still got his mojo some nights. Still think he’s a legit top 6 with 50 point potential. Frankly would not touch Erat personally.

      The greater question is what you can get for Hemmer at the deadline. Like to see a legit 3rd line type. I think he will be up for grabs for say a couple 2nds to a team going into the playoffs, cause Hemsky can be a complete X-factor player when motivated. Can’t see a first unless really late.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        CBC mentioned Ottawa as a possible target for Hemsky this past Sat. But that trade (and numerous others for Hemsky) have been talked about forever. The return wasn’t mentioned. (IIRC)

        Another report had this to say:

        “The Oilers need help everywhere, however, teams are asking for young players in return. “They want to do something but they overrate their players which means the prices are high,” said a league executive. He should be able to get a top pick for UFA RW Ales Hemsky”

        http://www.ottawasun.com/2013/11/23/phillys-captain-claude-giroux-set-for-sochi-olympics

        Not sure what a “top pick” could mean other than a 1st rounder. But that would be full value for the player.

  • 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

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Johnnydapunk

    Maybe I am just apathetic with the Oil losing but in this game, Chicago just plain were the better team. No real shame in that. I think the Oil put an effort in but just weren’t good enough.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • Reg Dunlop

    The oil with this group of players will NEVER be competitive against the top teams, the Hawks are toying with them. At least the oil can beat some of the detritus feeders so that’s progress, I guess.