TANDEM STEALS WIN…

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.

QUICK HITS…

  • 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:

    Sidney Crosby           151
    Evgeni Malkin            132
    Steven Stamkos       125
    Martin St. Louis         108
    Alex Ovechkin            107
    Henrik Zetterberg     107
    Patrick Kane              106
    John Tavares             103
    Ryan Getzlaf               101
    James Neal               101
    Taylor Hall                  100

    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.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

  • Mikey

    Is Hall any worse than Neal on D? What about Patrick Kane? Maybe putting Hall with a more defensive minded C would work.

    Maybe as an extra he could make it. Him with Logan Couture would be fun to watch.

  • PutzStew

    I think it funny you mentioned the Avs turn around this year considering they didn’t make many changes….they just CLEARED OUT THE HEAD OFFICE AND COACHS, THUS CHANGING THE WHOLE CULTURE AND ATTITUDE OF THE CLUB.

    Hello…..Mr. Katz…..Might I make a suggestion…..Helloooooo…..Anyone In there???????

    • Jason Gregor

      Didn’t the Oilers also hire a new GM and head coach?

      Also you do realize that the Avs changed the majority of their blueline…

      Last year their top-6 D in games played and minutes:
      Hejda, 46 games 19:41
      Zanon, 44 games 19:19
      Hunwick, 43 games 21:31
      O’Byrne, 34 games 18:51
      Barrie, 32 games 21:34
      Johnson, 31 games 20:45

      This group combined for five measly goals and 54 points.

      Compared to this year’s top-six:

      Hejda, 25 games 22:54
      Johnson, 25 games 21:51
      Guenin, 25 games 17:50
      Benoit, 24 games 20:28
      Sarich, 24 games 17:31
      Barrie, 11 games 16:28
      Wilson, 10 games 16:48

      Barrie played the most minutes last year in 2/3 of their games and this year he is 6th/7th D-man…

      Benoit already has 11 points, and he has given them some offence. Hejda led them in D points last year with 10.

      The already have 8 goals and 45 points. That is massive difference.

      Suggesting they haven’t made changes is incorrect. They have revamped their blueline significantly. I think you are the one who has been Dominoed, to use your lame term.

      • PutzStew

        LMAO.

        Really…

        Your right. Edmonton did change coach (multiple times) and GM and yet they are still bottom dwellers because THE CULTURE AND ATTITUDE STAYED THE SAME.

        KLowe is still here. There is no accountability anywhere on this team and The Oilers are still sucking pond scum off the bottom of the tank.

        Here the only fact that matters. Edmonton are out of the playoffs and it is only December 3. They have been the worst team in the league since 2006. There are no positives. End of argument.

        MacT had a great line last year. Something about to many players not being good enough, or something like that?????

        This is a team where the management and people responsible for developing and putting the team together aren’t good enough.

        • Jason Gregor

          I noticed you ignored the facts that were presented to you about the Avs.

          They made changes to players and that helped them win…stop pretending culture is what wins games. Good players win games. The Oilers don’t have enough of them. I’ve said it for years, and it is still the case. You can keep believing that changing coaches or GM will solve it, but it won’t. You need players to win.

          • PutzStew

            No I didn’t. Fact is the changes on the ice had less to do with the change of attitude of the team.

            If your boss was like Mr. Six Rings and was not holding himself accountable, how would you perform.

            Mr. Sackic and Mr. Roy came into the Avs organization and brought a whole new attitude. Mr. Roy is not going to let his players float and is going to push them. And Mr. Sackic has won it all, is a gentleman and is going to hold himself accountable. If the players aren’t going to play a system, or give it their all, they aren’t going to be playing.

            In the end Mr. Sackic and Mr. Roy did make some player changes but they are also getting their players to give it there all to play to their full potential.

            Mean while in Edmonton….The Media is too busy making excuses, trying to get sound bits and or pointing out positives instead of holding, The players and Management, of their supposed beloved team, accountable for being a bottom feeder.

            Good job guys. Keep collecting a pay check. Keep it up and maybe the organization will offer you a job.

          • Jason Gregor

            Sakic is going to hold himself accountable? You mean by getting fleeced in their first trade. Downie for Talbot?

            Keep believing that the attitude of the coach magically makes players better.

            Good players win games, and the Avs have upgraded their D substantially. And do you honestly expect Lowe to fire himself? I’m sure he’d just walk away from his salary. Katz will need to fire him, and since Katz is good friends with him, so that isn’t happening. I’m not into beating the same dead horse every day…fire Lowe, fire Lowe. It won’t change Katz’ mind.

            As for your lame and inaccurate comments about media excuses…

            Please show me where I made an excuse for the Oilers.

            I’ve said for four years they aren’t big enough, aren’t strong enough and aren’t mature enough. They don’t have the right mix of forwards or blueliners to win.

            Why don’t you show us how it is done. Start your own blog, many others have. Show the world how Stew Putz will be hard hitting and accurate. I’ll even promote your site on here. We will be waiting for your first post, that will force the Oilers to change their losing ways.

          • pkam

            Didn’t Avs finish 28th in 08-09, then finish 12th and make the playoff in 09-10? What management change did they make at that time to change the attitude of the team?

            Wonder why that change of attitude only lasted one year and they missed the playoff the next 3 years and were bottom 2 in 2 of those 3 years?

      • PutzStew

        You Bet…

        From the Avs Site:

        Former Avalanche captain Joe Sakic was named Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations on May 10, 2013 and begins his first season of overseeing all hockey-related decisions for the club.

        Sakic’s first move as executive vice president was to name Patrick Roy as Head Coach/Vice President of Hockey Operations on May 23, 2013. A month later.

        So what you meant to say give Sakic more power, hired Roy as coach and let him be in charge of Hockey Operations. Right.

        So you are welcome for me doing your home work.

        I say Good Day

  • Zamboni Driver

    Grouse grouse. Gripe gripe.

    Hall isn’t going to make it. Petry is god awful. Oilers need to sack up when their goalie gets clobbered…

    All of these thoughts running through my head until right at the end of the article. Instead…

    Robert for MVP.

  • 24% body fat

    Why does Eakins not go back to the PP units that worked last year. 89-14-64-19-94, and than 4-93-83-57-77 (57 subs in for 10).

    Numbers were of the charts.

    • Jason Gregor

      YES. THANK YOU! Hall NEEDS to be on 2nd line PP, not the 1st. He is one of the best 5v5 players in the league. But he struggles in close quarters puck control situation. If the Oilers giveaway the puck after setting up the PP, its usually Hall.

  • Truth

    Hall just doesn’t “look” like an elite talent. Always falling, looks like he has a 12 ft stick, far from Eberle-type hands. He had to prove to the Team Canada suits at the World Championships last year that he makes up for his lack of flash using speed and determination. Unfortunately Lindy Ruff didn’t give him a shot. To Oilers fans there is no doubt he puts up the points and is a force out there.

    Can’t see Hall making it unless he scores 2 pts/game from now on out.

    Grebeshkov will not be able to make a KHL roster after his contract expires this year. What was MacT thinking on that one? You can only claim to have defensive depth when the depth is comprised of NHL defensemen. Grebeshkov and Potter do not qualify.

    Also, where do we go to vent about Nurse being snubbed from the WJC? You’d think a huge, mobile, mean defenseman that puts up points would be desired by team Canada. I suspect, like usual, that there is more behind the scenes going on than we all know about.

    • Newj

      Watching the Subway Series, Darnell struggled at times. Maybe Sutter and company saw something they didn’t like during those games? On the other hand Nurse has more points to date than a number of the d-men that were selected to the tryout camp.

  • Johnnydapunk

    Yes. Good point.

    I seen it and initially thought ‘oh boy. Grebeshkov!’. Then thought, what was he to do? At least it wasn’t a pass up the middle. Good play by Dallas.

    I didn’t think about being a man up and no one else being back. It’s the Greb’s syndrome!

  • pkam

    Finally someone thinks like me regarding the 1st goal last night. Everyone here last night blamed Grebeshkov for turning the puck over. He didn’t, the puck was taken away from him. He was checked by two Stars and he got no support from the other 4 Oilers on ice.

    I thought it was Stars not us who were shorthanded so we should have more players on ice, how can Greg got checked by 2 Stars with no help from his teammates was beyond me. And everyone here blamed only Grebeshkov and nobody else was also beyond me.