GDB 17.0: BRACING FOR THE BOLTS

When you are a 28th place team every game is tough. Two days after a 4-3 OT victory over the 27th place Florida Panthers, the Oilers at least have some momentum heading into a showdown with the 10th place Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Oilers, most likely Andrew Ference and Jeff Petry, will have the pleasure of trying to shut down the dangerous duo of Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis. Stamkos is 2nd in NHL scoring with 20 points, while St. Louis is tied for 17th with 16.

Those two have scored 40% of Tampa Bay’s goals, and only twice this season have both of them been held pointless. The Bolts lost both games, 3-1 and 5-0, and both losses came against the Bruins.

The Oilers don’t have a Zdeno Chara, so it is unlikely the Oilers can shut out Stamkos and St. Louis, but they will need to contain them.

The Bolts have five players with 4+ goals, while the Oilers only have two, Gordon and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Twenty different players have scored a goal for the Oilers this year, but they need get a few more players scoring consistently. It is difficult to win regularly without a few go-to players, but the Oilers will get a huge boost as Taylor Hall returns to the lineup.

LINEUP…

Hemsky-RNH-Eberle
Hall-Gagner-Yakupov
Omark-Gordon-Arcobello
Jones-Smyth-Gazdic

Hall will play his first game since being injured in Ottawa and Eakins is hoping Hall can jumpstart two struggling players, Gagner and Yakupov. Hall is the best option to do that.

The only aspect of the line juggling that I question is moving Ryan Smyth to centre. Smyth struggled mightily last season playing in the middle. He excels on the wall, not in the middle of the ice. You can’t expect him to contribute when he is playing centre.

There is no way you could demote Mark Arcobello or Boyd Gordon to the 4th line. They’ve arguably been the two most consistent forwards all year. There is no way Eakins could retain respect within the room if you demoted them, yet played struggling players like Yakupov, Gagner, and recently recalled Linus Omark ahead of them in the top-nine.

Smyth at centre has to be a short-term experiment. He is better on the wall.

I’m most interested to see who Eakins will use to try and contain Stamkos and St. Louis. Gordon is his best defensive forward, but with his wingers I’m not sure that is a matchup Eakins wants to run. I’m guessing he’ll try to get the RNH line out against them.

Ference-Petry
Smid-Larsen
N.Schultz-Fedun

There is no reason to switch up the D pairs. Petry and Ference are the Oilers best option to face 91/26. I liked Larsen’s game in Florida, especially on the PP. Fedun and Schultz won’t outmuscle many players, but both play smart, positional defence.

Dubnyk

Tampa Bay is getting solid goaltending. Dubnyk needs to match Ben Bishop’s play to give the Oilers a chance. 

YAK SUPPORT….

Yesterday head coach Dallas Eakins and Craig MacTavish made it clear that Nail Yakupov wasn’t being shopped.

“Nail Yakupov is not being shopped, he’s not going anywhere and I wanted him to hear that from me, look me in my eye, and let him know that we’re attached at the hip," Eakins said after he had a heart-to-heart chat with Yakupov on the ice in Tampa Bay that had some speculating the first pick in 2012 might be a healthy scratch.

While scouting the Rangers/Pengiuns game, MacTavish said this to the media, "We very much believe Nail will evolve to become that dynamic, electric player — become one of the most entertaining guys in the game. I told that to Igor (Larionov) (Yakupov’s agent) and I told that to Yak. Development is very rarely a straight line. It has ups and downs.”

It was smart for the coach to tell a young player who is struggling he believes in him, but the harsh reality of pro sports is that if you aren’t performing you likely won’t be playing much. Yakupov didn’t see the ice for the final 9:30 or regulation, and the 1:55 of OT, while the Oilers were trying, unsuccessfully, to protect a lead.

That isn’t surprising, considering he’s not a defensive stalwart just yet, but if he continues to sit for long stretches, and continues to struggle offensively, will the Oilers consider a stint in OKC?

MacTavish wisely said development is rarely a straight line. Yakupov isn’t the first sophomore to struggle, but due to his age they could let him gain some confidence in OKC. Yakupov has high-end skills, so he could score tonight and no one will worry about his offence, but if his slump continues the Oilers should consider OKC a viable option.

QUICK HITS…

  • Unless they acquire another goalie the Oilers need to stick with Devan Dubnyk. Jason LaBarbera is not going to perform better, so tell Dubnyk he’s your guy, and tell him to stay focused the entire game. Challenge him to be consistent.  
     
  • The Oilers have actually played pretty well at ES on the road this year outscoring teams 26-25. They’ve been decent at ES, but they’ve been outscored 9-3 on PP. Their PP is only 9.4% on the road. Their PP looked much better in Florida, and if it can get going, they might start to pull out some wins away from Rexall.
     

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Four of the last five games between these two teams in Tampa have ended in 3-2 scores with each team winning twice. In those four games Oilers won, Tampa won, Oilers won and Tampa won, so based on extensive scientific research (none whatsoever) the Oilers continue that trend tonight with a 3-2 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Omark scores, because Oilersnation thrives on drama/debate.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After opening the Florida broadcast with a muscle shirt and shorts, Mean Gene Principe starts his segment standing along the boards at the zamboni entrance. He does a quick spin-o-rama then walks towards the camera talking about the return of Hall and Omark’s recall from OKC. As he gets closer, he tosses it upstairs to two guys who are "classy" and "no joke", Louis Debrusk and Kevin Quinn, and then stares into the camera and drops the mic. BOOM.

** Principe was playing off the words of the Tampa Bay Lightning players after Omark’s infamous SO goal on December 10th, 2010, when they whined about his move being a joke and Dan "cancelled my twitter account" Ellis claimed it "wasn’t very classy."

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

  • Johnnydapunk

    If Oil can out-shoot first place Lightnings and lost, I think I am not as disappointed as they got shut out back to back games to the Leafs and Red Wings. As usual, if the opposing Goal keep plays for the Oilers, they would have won the game tonight, we’ll not be sitting here bashing the Oilers! I just hope I am not the only person to see that, is all!!!

  • Admiral Ackbar

    @Gregor

    Some of these comments are in serious need of moderation.

    On another note, Yak made a great play to get the puck to Gordo who was stoned by Bishop in the last 3 mins. Great hustle and good on him to out-muscle the dman. I think Gordo looked great from what I saw in the 3rd.

    How did Omark look?

    Hemsky is a giveaway machine! Seriously. So much upside and downside all at the same time. I blame past coaching for not whipping him into shape.

  • Dubnyk is some kind of bad! Awful! He’s an overrated hack! A back up goalie who single handily lost the Oilers another game.

    So after the Oilers lose to one more weak eastern team they get to start playing the western conference teams……….This is where you get to see just how bad the Oilers are.

    If you think this has been tough to watch, just wait till the Oilers start playing SJS, STL, LA , VAN, CHI on a regular basis.

    • Serious Gord

      Ya…the atrocious giveaways with almost no Tampa pressure on either of the first two goals had nothing to do with the loss…

      Giveaways, poor defensive zone play, and bad goaltending have led to this team’s demise…not just goaltending.

      And Edmonton is also 22nd in the league in scoring…although I’m sure we can somehow blame that on Dubnyk as well.

      • camdog

        You can add poor coaching. Why on earth was Yaks on that second line with Gags to start the game. Stamkos must have been licking is chops, knowing full well that his coach was going to take that line match to the bank. Why on earth would any coach set up a young developing player to go head to head with the best sniper in the world, knowing full well what was going to happen. Maybe Eakins is trying to teach Yaks a lesson or two, but that is painful to watch, when you know exactly how it is going to turn out. I guess Yaks crying about not playing with skilled players has helped him get some more minutes, but it sure hasn’t helped the team win games.

  • jbogus

    Hey mates just finished another session thanks to another L, thanks oil. Raining now and spewing I just washed car by hand anyhow, dipsh@t toe drag Hall thanks for your continued selfishness et al, you wankers.

    Honestly our beer hockey has more heart and accountability.

  • jbogus

    Doobies career sent him a “Dear John letter.”

    After that 3rd goal tonight, It has decided to move on.

    Also, I think Eberle needs to be traded. Buy low, sell high. He will never be worth more than he is now.

  • Serious Gord

    In other words, you were the typical spoiled, myopic, deluded Oiler fan.
    Which under-nourished winger are you hoping to draft in the Top 3 this year?

  • jbogus

    I have the solution for change, fellow Oilers fans!
    You deserve better!
    Do not go watch games at Rexall
    Do not buy merchandising.
    Do not watch games on TV.
    Katz is happy: as a businessman, his coffers stay full with all the money he sucks out of Oilers suckers.
    He is happy: he makes money. His bottom line is great therefore the team is doing just fine.
    Boycott the Oilers now!!!

    • Serious Gord

      They beat the oil to it?

      With several teams struggling – and several if them having postponed making changes last year due to the strike/lockout – and the unique cap restrictions in this year preventing much in the way of trades, we can expect lots of action in the management ranks.

      Likely to be conspicuous in not making any changes will be the oil, though they probably need change more than any other team.

      • camdog

        I think that there will be some changes at the trade deadline and not before then. I would like to see how they play with a full staff if that is even possible. If they compete like they did yesterday at least it would be fun to watch.

        • Serious Gord

          As I stared earlier, I think that Tampa is playing over its head – they aren’t as good as their record implies. So even with a full roster, against the true elite teams. – all of which are in the west save Pitt – the oil is going to lose and lose badly most nights.

          • DSF

            Interesting that the Lightning are getting scorched for how they played last night.

            Damian Cristodero ‏@LightningTimes

            After Thursday’s lazy win over the Oilers, nothing but 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 puck battles so far at Friday practice.

  • CaptainLander

    Goaltending is broken, MacT have you seem the goalie depth in Anaheim? Please make a move I would rather see the Oil lose with a 20 year old John Gibson, then a 27 year 3.7 mil failed experiment. Or how about that Anderson guy,? Fasth? Hiller?

    • camdog

      Why would the Ducks help the Oilers out after what we did to them with Justin Shultz and Dustin Penner? The reality is no other organizations are going to help us out. Other organizations feel that Lowe/Katz’s plan to intentionally nose dive to get high draft picks was a joke. They love us losing, there is no help coming without a massive over pay.

  • CaptainLander

    Interesting , Eakin loses and says they played a pretty good game, Tampa wins and their coach says they played a poor game.

    The real point is that Dubby sucked the big banna again, and Bishop outplayed him 2 to 1.

    Dont know if this is good news or bad, but Nuge was on the ice for all six goals.

    • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

      Everything you said is true. I think the reason is that Eakins has to be concerned about his own job, and publicly trashing his starting goalie (when he has no viable options in the organization) who is already suffering from a lack of confidence, or even trashing his team who is obviously down on one knee, is not going to help anything…..from a coaches point of view.

      Would like to hear what he’s saying behind closed doors…..I doubt very much that it’s the same message we’re hearing publicly.

  • Rob...

    11 games last night and in 9 of them the winning team scored 3 or more goals. As pissed as I am that Dubnyk let in 3 goals last night, I guess he is an average goalie.

  • Serious Gord

    Some of you guys are sure on the Ben Bishop parade. Bishop has some very good numbers this year, no disputing that. Funny thing is that they mirror the numbers that Dubnyk posted last year. And what’s your opinion on Dubnyk?

    Two real bad turnovers when I’m sure the message going into the game was to absolutely not turn over the puck with Stamkos or St Louis on the ice.

    The Oilers were chasing the Lightning on the scoreboard as a result and that’s not how you win games.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Looking for small positives…..for the first eight games or so, Eakins stood on the bench like a frozen statue…saying nothing…….in the last few games his facial expressions have gotten a lot more animated ….and at times he’s been seen swearing like a Drunken Bazmagoo!