Goalies are part of the team, but often they are singled out. When they play great or horrible they are usually talked about like they are a separate entity to the team. Many Oilers fans have been asking Devan Dubnyk to steal some wins the past few seasons, and while he’s done it a few times, it hasn’t been a regular occurence. Last night, he and Ilya Bryzgalov combined to win one for the Oilers.
Bryzgalov stopped 28 of 29 shots before he left the game with an "upper body" injury after Ryan Garbutt crashed into him. Dubnyk played the final 28:41 and stopped 15 of 16 shots, including a crucial two-save sequence prior to Andrew Ference’s tying goal.
Bryzgalov kept the Oilers in the game, and so did Dubnyk coming off the bench. It was a rare display of teamwork by goalies that allowed the Oilers to pick up their fifth win in their last seven games.
The Oilers have been outshot in five of those seven games. They are 2-0 when outshooting the opposition, and 3-2 when being outshot. Dubnyk and Bryzgalov have been good to excellent during this mini-run for the Oilers, and based on the recent play of the guys in front of them, the goalies are going to need to continue to be great if the Oilers expect to keep winning.
I’ve seen signs the Oilers are starting to play a bit better defensively, but those small improvements aren’t happening often enough, and when the skaters make a bad defensive zone decision, it is usually a major ones. Case in point, Jeff Petry’s inexplicable decision to leave Ryan Garbutt wide open in the slot on a two-on-two. Mistakes are part of the game, especially in a game as fast as hockey, but Petry got caught "puck watching" and left Garbutt wide open. Those types of mistakes can’t keep happening.
Until the Oilers stop making five-star mistakes, or at least keep them to a minimum, Bryzgalov and Dubnyk will need to be the Oilers best player most nights.
- Eakins stated the Oilers wanted to re-evaluate Bryzgalov today before announcing his injury. The replay clearly showed he was hit in the neck and head area. I understand why they would wait to announce whether or not the injury was his neck or his head, or possibly both. This is the healthiest the Oilers have been in years, and hopefully for his sake Bryzgalov is just sore and won’t miss any significant time.
- Eakins is significantly more patient than I am, (watch here) and he probably should be since he is the coach. Coaches can’t show their frustration regularly, especially after a picking up a victory in your third game in four nights. The Oilers looked fatigued last night, but Eakins said, "sometimes when you aren’t winning battles it is easy not to engage in them anymore. Were we winning all the battles, no, but at least we kept in the fight."
- Eakins admitted his powerplay is struggling, and admitted they need some practice time to work on it. "We need a practice with our powerplay. It is an amazing thing. Your powerplay can be so hot and be so good, and then literally a week later we can’t seem to get anything going. We are probably going to have shake things up and get a new unit started at practice tomorrow."
- I don’t see a major overhaul of the unit, maybe just switching up positions or zone entries and such.
- "The only way you can move forward and learn lessons is by making mistakes, and believe me as a team we’ve made our fair share early this season, but we are learning from them. It was good to hang around in this one when things weren’t going our way, and end up with the two points," said Eakins. I do agree with his premise, and last night the Oilers didn’t make many mistakes, but the ones they did make were glaring. You hope if he keeps pointing out their mistakes that eventually the players will recognize what they can and can’t do.
At times coaches must feel incredibly helpless. They can point things out in video or on the ice at practice and show the players what they should or shouldn’t do, but once the play happens the onus is solely on the players. I was an assistant coach in bantam for a couple years, and I felt that was the most difficult aspect of it. You try to prepare them as best you can, but ultimately their skill and decision making overrules your instruction. I was an assistant coach, and only at the Bantam A level, and I recognize there is no comparison to the pressure of the NHL, but I suspect the pressure and angst NHL coaches feel, especially those on young or struggling teams, is immense. I wouldn’t have the patience to do it.
- The Oilers have moved up to 28th place, and they are within four points of 24th, where they finished last season. They have 20 games to be ahead of last year’s spot in the standings, if they want to say they’ve improved. It isn’t saying much, but at this point of the season, looking for any sign of improvement is a necessity for the Oilers.
- The Avalanche finished 29th last year with 39 points in 48 games. This year, the Avs already have 38 points in 25 games. Their turn around has been remarkable. They were on pace for 66 points last year, and today they are on pace for 124, which won’t happen, however, the Avs could play .500 hockey the rest of the way and still finish 30 points ahead of last year’s pace.
- Colorado, Phoenix and Tampa Bay are the only teams in a playoff spot today who weren’t in the playoffs last year. Vancouver, Ottawa and the New York Islanders have dropped out. The Canucks are only one point back of Phoenix, and likely will overtake them by the end of the season. It shows how difficult it is to go from being a non-playoff team to a playoff team. Each year there is usually only one or two spots in each conference that are realistically up for grabs. That is why the Oilers have to use the final 54 games to get close to a playoff spot, and then take another small step next season, otherwise they would need an Avalanche-like improvement next season to end their 8-year drought.
- I didn’t like the Denis Grebeshkov signing in the summer, and I don’t now. He can move the puck, but he’s always been prone to the major giveaway. That part of his game hasn’t changed. Corey Potter is a much safer player.
- Some are wondering why Taylor Fedun wasn’t recalled instead of Grebeshkov. Fair question. I think it is best to let him keep developing his game in the AHL. Allow him to gain more confidence and come to camp next season ready to compete for a roster spot. If he comes up now, he won’t play as much as he would in the AHL, and he’ll struggle. He’s only in his 2nd season of pro hockey, so I’d rather see him develop his game in the AHL than come up here and play on a 28th place team.
- Many fans want Ales Hemsky moved, and the main complaint it that he is too inconsistent. I can understand why people feel that way, because some games he completely dominates and then in others he is a non-factor. That is fair, however it proves he isn’t elite, but he’s still very good and much better than most skeptics think.
Since the start of the 2005/2006 season until now, Hemsky has scored the 58th most points (401) in the NHL, despite missing 157 games due to injury. That is almost two full NHL seasons of missed time, yet he is still the 58th most productive player in that time span. Hemksy’s point-per-game of those top-100 scorers in that span ranks 42nd. You can dislike Hemsky all you like, but suggesting he is a bad NHL player is asinine and grossly inaccurate.
- Some feel Taylor Hall has no chance of making the Olympic team. I’m not so sure. Of course, his 200 foot game could be more consistent, every 22 year-old with fewer than 200 games could be more consistent, however, only ten NHL players have been more productive offensively in their last 100 games than Hall.
Courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau, here is the list of active players with 100 points in their last 100 games, effective December 1st, 2013:
Crosby, Stamkos (injured), St.Louis, Tavares, Getzlaf and Neal are the other Canadians on that list. Hall’s defensive game isn’t elite at this point, but he’s working on it and like most elite young scorers he is getting better away from the puck as he matures.
However, his scoring totals are elite, and the Olympic brass should think long and hard before discounting Hall. He can score, and when surrounded by the best of the best, I think his overall game would only improve. In the Olympics you need game breakers, and Hall is one.
DAY THREE….MONTH OF GIVING
On Friday, we raised $4,200 for Santas Anonymous for the Messier Jersey/party for 10 package. Robert won the package, but when I met up with him on Saturday to get his cheque, he shocked me and re-donated the jersey to auction off again and make more money for charity. UNREAL.
Today we will auction it off again. People like Robert inspire me to want to do more. What a guy.
Today’s package includes….
- A signed Mark Messier jersey courtesy of Robert.
- The jersey will be framed courtesy of Pro Am sports
- A party for 10 at The Pint
You can bid by calling 780.444.1260 or 1.800.243.1945. All the proceeds will go to Santas Anonymous. Thanks in advance to all of those who make a bid.