GDB 18.0: SLAY THE DRAGON

If you focus on statistical categories heading into tonight’s tilt v. the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks it doesn’t look good for the Oilers. The Hawks are 15-0-3, they have ice girls, a sold out building and right now they win for fun.

Can the Oilers pull off a major upset?

Logic tells you it is highly unlikely that the Oilers can skate into Chicago and leave with two points.

The Hawks have outscored their opponents 56-32 (I don’t include SO goals).

The majority of the game is played five-on-five and the Hawks have 38 GF and 24 GA, meanwhile the Oilers ES scoring woes continue with a league-worst 16 goals, but at least they’ve only allowed 30 five-on-five. The Hawks are +14 in ES scoring while the Oilers are -14. Ouch.

The Oilers have the 4th most PP goals, 18 on 76 opportunities, but the Hawks PK is 2nd best in the league having allowed only 7 goals on 67 chances. 

LINE UP

Smyth-Nugent-Hopkins-Eberle
Paajarvi-Gagner-Hemsky
Eager-Belanger-Jones
Yakupov-Vande Velde-Petrell

Teemu Hartikainen has been put on the IR with a shoulder injury and Lennart Petrell has been activated. Smyth has four points in his last four games and he’s played much better since being benched. With Taylor Hall sitting out the final game of his two-game suspension it makes sense to put Smyth on the top line. The Oilers need to find a mix that will get them at least two ES scoring lines.

I suspect Paajarvi needs a great game to stay in the top-six past tonight, and lately he’s been either highly noticeable or completely invisible. He needs to find some consistency in his game.

Yakupov on the 4th line is a bit of a head scratcher, but Krueger had to mix up his 2nd line. They weren’t producing, and they were giving way more scoring chances than they were producing. There is no point putting Yakupov with Belanger, because Belanger has zero offensive confidence right now.

When Hall returns, I wonder if Krueger will mix up his six skilled forwards amongst three lines. The issue is that until Horcoff returns it means two of his skilled guys will have to play with Belanger. Belanger has shown he’s a solid 4th line centre, who can kill penalties, but his offensive instincts seemingly have dried up.

I’d look seriously at a Hall-Horcoff-Yakupov combination along with 94-93-14 and 28-89-83. I’m not sure any need to be labeled the 1st, 2nd or 3rd lines, but when the captain returns I’d look at that. You could switch 94 and 28 as well, since Smyth and Hemsky have always played well together.

Smid-Petry
N.Schultz-J.Schultz
Fistric-Potter

Interesting how Theo Peckham can’t get back in the lineup, despite playing pretty well against Minnesota. Maybe it is as simple as Krueger wanting to stick with the lineup that beat Phoenix. I know Struds is a huge believer in keeping the same lineup after a win. I still don’t see what the coaches see in Corey Potter, but they like him.

Khabibulin

Khabibulin has played well in every game this year; however, does Devan Dubnyk deserve to sit out an entire week? It is a fine balancing act for Krueger. He wants to win, but he also needs to find out what he has moving forward. The Oilers can’t afford to waste another year chasing the playoffs without finding out if Dubnyk is their goalie of the future.

QUICK HITS

  • The Oilers lead the NHL with the most wins when trailing heading into the 3rd period. The Oilers are 4-3-2 when trailing after 40 minutes. That’s the good news. The bad news is the Blackhaws are 12-0-1 when leading after 40 minutes.
     
  • The Hawks love fast starts. They’ve outscored the opposition 41-17 during the first two periods. The Oilers need a good start.
     
  • Ray Emery starts for the Blackhawks. He is 7-0 with a 2.10 GAA and a sparkling .933 SV%. Including tonight he’s started 5 of the last 6 games for the Hawks. Corey Crawford shutout the Blue Jackets 1-0 last night, but he’ll get the night off.
     
  • Patrick Kane is the only Blackhawk in the top-38 scorers in the NHL. Kane has 23 points in 18 games. Jonathon Toews is tied for 40th with 15 points. The Hawks have 11 players with at least 7 points. They win with balanced scoring.
     
  • “I’ve started to realize that getting hit and taking big body checks doesn’t mean you are tough or playing well, it just means you are being a little stupid and reckless. You can still go to the hard areas, and you can still get a lot of pucks and make a lot of plays without taking a big hit." Taylor Hall told me this and much more in an article about how he’s changed his game. You can read the rest here. 
     
  • Ryan Whitney will sit out for the 6th time in 18 games. It looks like his time with the Oilers is coming to an end. The debate is whether they can increase his trade value by playing him, or does sitting him keep his value constant. Moving him for a 3rd or 2nd round pick doesn’t help them now. I know Whitney hasn’t played great this year, but moving him for a pick means they definitely lose the trade now. The pick might, a big might, pan out in four years to salvage a deal, or better yet, they move that pick to another team and acquire a proven NHL player.
     
  • The new line combinations v. Phoenix didn’t result in anymore ES goals, but they did generate more chances. It is obvious the Oilers need to mix in some grease and grit with their skilled guys.
     
  • The PP has started to show some life again with four goals in their last 13 chances. Krueger had Smyth and Hartikainen both in front of the net on one unit and it led to the tying goal. The Oilers need more ugly play and less pretty plays on the PP and ES if they hope to start scoring more.
     
  • Good news is that tickets for the Nation 5th Birthday party are going well, the bad news is if you are a procrastinator there are only 50 tickets left. $20 gets you the snazzy limited edition 5th Birthday T-Shirt, a $25 Oodle Noodle GC, a $20 Pint GC, and Labatt swag. We all know you plan on watching Friday’s game, so you might as well do it at the Pint Off Whyte, help raise some money for charity and get a sweet Nation T-shirt.  click here to buy yours.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Hawks barely beat the lowly Blue Jackets yesterday, so you wonder if their streak is close to ending. The Hawks might be a bit fatigued, and could take the Oilers lightly, but I still don’t see the upset. Hawks win 3-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Eberle scores. He has 15 points in 8 career games v. the Hawks including 5 goals.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Early in the first period Ryan Nugent-Hopkins skates into the Hawks zone, but heinexplicably stops at their blueline. He then takes two hard scrapes with his blade on the bluelinem and then slams his stick into the gap his blade just made. He then dumps the puck in and heads to the bench. After the game he was asked what he was doing on the play. "Last year the blueline cheap-shotted me. It tripped me which sending me flying into the boards and it that cost me the Calder trophy and a huge salary bonus. I can stand up for myself, and I wanted the rest of the league to know they can’t cheapshot me."

  • Smytty's Jibs

    I went down to Chi-tiown and had 3rd row seats for a Blackhawks game at the United Center during the season they won the cup, and I must say, those ice girls:

    HUH-BUH HUBBA!!!!

    They were EASILY the best thing about that game!!!

    The Octane is a terrible idea, and whoever thought it up should be ashamed! I hope they see the error of their ways and adopt the rocket ice girls.

    As a side note: the second best thing about the game was that Mike Grier was playing for the Sabres at the time and he laid an absolutely CRUSHING hit on somebody in the corner, and shattered the glass. It was incredible.

    • 15w40

      In what way are hot girls in skimpy outfits a terrible idea?? The closest you’ll ever get to a rocket ice girl is sitting in your seat behind glass (like when I go to Amsterdam). A least with the Octane babes you can creep up close and even get your arm around them for a picture.

  • bwar

    Krueger must really hate Yakupov. Seems like the kid is really going to have to work and be perfect to get his chances. Last game he assists on Eberle’s goal, then has a few good shifts with the top line creating some scoring chances, then has one shift where he got himself out of position in the offensive zone and then I’m not sure he got another shift for the rest of the night.

    Krueger clearly doesn’t trust him defensively and only seems to want to give him ice time when we are losing and desperately need a goal. It seems like such a waste of talent to bury on the fourth line. The kid really wants to play. Yes he’s going to make some mistakes but he is a young talented player that is going to be part of this teams core for a long time. Krueger really needs to figure out how to use Yakupov more effectively and I just don’t see how burying him on the fourth line accomplishes that.

    • Spydyr

      All great offensive players make bone headed plays..except if their names are Crosby,
      Yakupov should be used as Hall’s replacement on the top line till Hall gets back..
      What’s Krueger trying to do, turn Yak into a third/fourth line checker?

      Give the guy a chance to succeed, Hall, RNH, Eberle were all given lots of chances to succeed in their rookie years despite countless mistakes, why treat Yakupov so differently?

      • bwar

        Exactly. Are Smyth and Paajarvi more offensively gifted than Yakupov? Better get them on the top lines then!

        If Krueger really wants to show he’s willing to change the lines (note: subbing someone in while Hall is injured and benching Yakupov for defenisive errors are not changning the lines) then he has to break up the pairs (RNH-Eberle and Gagner-Hemsky). Seems like Krueger is getting a lot of props for doing a lot of nothing.

      • A-Mc

        The oilers have depth now where they didn’t back then. Show me other 18-20yr old rookies, who are on good teams, that play on the top line. Most are on the 3rd.

    • A-Mc

      YakAttack is pretty risky when he’s on the ice. He makes lots of bad plays so i can see why he’d have 3/4th line time. Those lines usually consist of a good defensive focus over the top 2, so maybe they’ll help balance everything out.

      He’ll still get his time on the PP. And chances are he’ll see a few shifts on a different line at different parts of the game.

      • bwar

        So eliminating any offensive production he might have had to maybe cover up the defensive side of his game is the answer?

        I do like that he is getting lots of PP time but, its just seems like he’s getting punished for mistakes a lot more than other Oiler forwards. I mean Yakupov is -8 on the season while Hemsky and Gagner are -6 and -5 respectively. Its not like they are 5v5 heroes without Yakupov.

        • A-Mc

          I think its safe to assume the Oilers are looking to jumble up the lines a little to get the Offense going. There needs to be a few fresh looks to how our lines are composed.

          I don’t think Nail on the 4th line is about him being punished. I think, atleast partially, he’s just the victim of having to mix up the top 2 lines by inserting some net front presence.

          Plus I dont think we should get too excited about what the lines are in practice. Ralph has shown that he’ll change up lines several times mid game to adjust to the tempo of the game. The lines listed in this post could see changes before the end of the 1st period.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    The Oilers have a better record when trailing after two rather than leading?

    They’re like a baby Hercules. Maybe they’ll grow up one day…

  • SmyttyForMayor

    So heres an idea for a trade to make this team better…or rather two or three trades. 1st:Hemsky+Whitney+2014 1st rounder to Boston for Dougie Hamilton. 2nd:Eberle to Philly for Simmonds. Then some combination of prospects+picks to Ottawa for Ben Bishop. This then makes the lineups: Hall-RNH-Simmonds, Hartikainen-Gagner-Yakupov, Jones-Horcoff-Paajarvi, Smyth-Belanger-Eager, Schultz-Schultz, Hamilton-Smid, Petry-Potter/Fistric, Dubnyk, Bishop. This decreases cap spending, freeing up room for other signings, mainly RNH Yakupov and Schultz. I also adds that player with size, grit and a scoring touch to the top 6 that we so desperately need. Any thoughts, or am I completely out to lunch?

    • Jimmeh

      While Dougie Hamilton is the next coming of Christ, that is a lot to pay for a rookie.

      Whitney, +2-3 propects/picks would be the better option. Then Hemsky to Philly instead of Eberle.

  • Ducey

    I still don’t see what the coaches see in Corey Potter, but they like him.

    The math says that among Dmen, has the 6th best Rel Corsi (-3.0) while facing the 5th toughest competition with the 8th best teammates.

    For you MSM guys, that means he is the best option for the 3rd pairing.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Oilers are due for a WTF game tonight. 4-1 Oilers, a good start to what will be a difficult roadtrip.

    Love to see one more premium selection this summer added to the fold. It won’t be so bad if the Oilers can lose the lions share to teams they measure up better against, and beat someone they’re not supposed to once in a while.

    WTF win tonight boys……2 goals for Yakupov tonight in the Blackhawks first regulation loss.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Early indication was Kreuger would go with RNH-Eberle and Hemsky-Gagner. The rest of the lineup would change as the game went on depending how things were going. Yak plays well I suspect he’ll find himself on the 1st line at the end of the night. He plays poorly we’ll, he’ll get benched again.

  • The 'Real' Ron Burgundy

    Jason,

    Does management need to prove the injury? TH’s shoulder was hurt a few games ago and played on Saturday, quite well actually.
    This kind of seems like a sneaky way to avoid sending someone down.

    Thanks,
    Ron

  • Spydyr

    “The Oilers can’t afford to waste another year chasing the playoffs without finding out if Dubnyk is their goalie of the future.”

    Perhaps they have.Seems like he lets in a soft goal every second game.Goalies that do that don’t win in the playoffs.I don’t care if he has a high save percentage.Weak goals change momentum and cost games.

  • Spydyr

    Ralph mentioned before the start of the season he would go with pairs in his forwards.

    It has not happened. Might be time to look at that. Break up the scoring a bit , both ways. Some more balance in the forward lines. Perhaps when Horcoff gets back.

  • Oasis

    Man I am looking forward to seeing Paajarvi get some playing time in the top 6 for once. If the current top 6 isn’t scoring anyways it doesn’t hurt to try something different and see what happens. I like his size and I like his defensive play, perhaps will a little more confidence he might start taking the puck hard to the net like we know he is capable of.

    Lets go Oil !

  • A-Mc

    I’m feeling pretty good about the Oiler’s chances of ending the Chicago point streak.

    If it were any other team, i might be shaking in my booties, but i’m comfortable with this match up.

    GDP: Oiler’s win 4-3 in regulation

    OGDP: Nuge will continue to flub shots to the net. He goes into this game with 7 points, he’ll leave this game with 7 points.

    NSOGDP: BELANGER scores a goal tonight! As seen in warmup on Oil Change last night, Belanger takes Horcs advice and uses a snazzy tight angle roofer that he’s been working on, to score a goal tonight. The immediate effects of scoring the goal are seen as all his gray hair suddenly goes away.

    #GOILERS

  • ubermiguel

    “I’ve started to realize that getting hit and taking big body checks doesn’t mean you are tough or playing well, it just means you are being a little stupid and reckless. You can still go to the hard areas, and you can still get a lot of pucks and make a lot of plays without taking a big hit.” Taylor Hall

    Yay! I was mentally prepared for a career full of injury and heartbreak from Hall based on his (fun to watch but) reckless style of play.