GDB 46.0: BLUES ON A HIGH NOTE…

Ken Hitchcock’s St. Louis Blues come to town on a five-game winning streak, and they are the 2nd highest scoring team in the NHL. That’s right, the Blues are no longer just a great defensive team; they are a scoring machine.

The Blues have scored 150 goals and they are averaging 3.56 goals/game. Only five teams in the NHL score 3 goals/game: Chicago is at 3.62, the Blues 3.56, Anaheim 3.27, Pittsburgh 3.16 and San Jose is at 3.14.

The Oilers are in the midst of playing those five teams in a span of six games. Ouch.

The lost 5-1 and 5-2 to the Sharks and Ducks last week, and they face the Blues tonight, Pittsburgh on Friday and Chicago on Sunday.  When you are the 29th place team, every game is a challenge, but you can make the argument that the Blues are currently the best team in the NHL.

Not only are the Blues the 2nd highest scoring team, they are the 3rd best defensive team in the league allowing only 2.27 goals/game.

The Blues are a league-best +55 in goals for/against.

The Oilers are currently -39 in goals for/against, only Buffalo is worse at -44.

On paper this is a major mismatch, and when they met on December 21st the game on the ice mirrored the stats. The Blues crushed the Oilers 6-0, and outshot them 28-9 in the final 40 minutes.

The Blues don’t need many shots to score. They are 18th in SF/game at 29.1, yet they are 2nd in the league in goals.

Some statisiticians will argue that the Blues can’t keep scoring at this pace.

Backes has a 21.3 SH%.
Steen is at 20.5%.
Schwartz is at 17.9%
Stewart is 16.9%
Tarasenko is at 15.7% and even 4th liner Ryan Reaves is at 20%.

Boyd Gordon leads the Oiler at 17.1%, while David Perron is at 13.5%.

The Blues are getting some puck luck, but they also score a lot of goals from in close. The Oilers blueline will be in for a huge challenge, literally and figuratively, tonight.

Look at the size difference between the Blues forwards and the Oilers defence.

 

Blues Forwards    
Chris Stewart    6′ 2"  231
Ryan Reaves    6′ 1"  224
David Backes "C"   6′ 3"  221
Vladimir Tarasenko    6′ 0"  219
Patrik Berglund    6′ 3"  217
Maxim Lapierre    6′ 2"  215
Adam Cracknell    6′ 2"  210
Magnus Paajarvi    6′ 3"  208
Brenden Morrow    6′ 0"  205
Vladimir Sobotka    5′ 10"  197
Jaden Schwartz    5′ 10"  190
T.J. Oshie "A"   5′ 11"  189
Derek Roy    5′ 9"  184
     
Oilers D    
Nick Schultz    6′ 1"  203
Jeff Petry    6′ 3"  195
Brad Hunt    5′ 9"  188
Martin Marincin    6′ 4"  188
Justin Schultz    6′ 2"  188
Andrew Ference    5′ 11"  187

The Oilers have one D-man over 200 pounds, while the Blues have eight forwards, who will dress tonight, who are 205 pounds or more. That makes a significant difference when you are trying to battle for pucks in the corner or move guys from the front of the net.

LINEUP

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

Ference-J.Schultz
Marincin-Petry
N.Schultz-Hunt

Bryzgalov

It is clear that Bryzgalov has become the starter. Eakins said they plan to play him a lot leading up to the Olympic break. What does this mean for the Oilers moving forward?

Both Bryzgalov and Dubnyk are UFAs. Will they re-sign one of them, none or both? No chance both are back and how they play in the final 40 games will decide if one of them returns. It is going to be interesting to see how the goalie position unfolds over the next eight months.

Many have said the Oilers should go after Jonas Hiller in the summer. That makes sense, but why would Anaheim let their proven starter leave for free agency? I know they have depth in goal, but none of Fasth, Andersen or Gibson is a proven NHL starter.

If you were the Ducks, would you let Hiller, who turns 32 in February, walk away for nothing and start the season with three unproven goalies? I don’t see why you would. I think the Oilers have a better chance of acquiring Fasth than they would Hiller in the summer.

QUICK HITS….

  • Taylor Hall shouldn’t fell bad he didn’t make the Canadian Olympic team, when you look at some of the other names who didn’t make it.  Marty St. Louis has scored the most points, 271, of any Canadian player since the start of the 2010/2011 season and he didn’t make the team. Claude Giroux has scored the third most, 255, and he also was snubbed.

    Based on Canada’s decision to keep Nash, all Giroux or Hall need to do is light it up at the World Championships for the next few years and they are a lock to make the team. That is the only explanation why Rick Nash is on the squad.
     

  • Canada has a lot of depth. For fun this is who could be on Canada’s B team:

    Goalie: Crawford, Fleury, Ward

    Defence: Beauchemin, Boyle, Campbell, Giordano, Letang, Phaneuf, Seabrook, M. Staal.

    Forwards: Couture, Eberle, Giroux, Hall, E.Kane, Ladd, Lucic, M. Richards, Neal, Seguin, Skinner, St. Louis, E. Staal, Thornton.

  • The Blues have won five straight without their leading scorer. Alex Steen hasn’t played since December 21st. 

TONIGHT….

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers keep it respectable, but lose 4-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall continues his hot streak with another two points. He had 13 points in 9 games entering tonight.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: In their last meeting David Backes challenged every Oiler and none of them did anything about it. Tonight the Oilers will at least show some push back. Ference engages with Backes to show the kids you can’t let teams intimidate you even if they are bigger and stronger. Sadly, very few of his teammates will follow his lead.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

  • Serious Gord

    A tale of two cities.

    The year St. Louis traded Pronger to the oilers they finished dead last in the west and the oil got to game seven of the finals.

    This year at the halfway point of the season the blues have the best half-season record in franchise history.

    The oilers have had their franchise worst first half.

    There is a masters thesis in business management that can be written explaining it.

    Perhaps MacT can do it if he ever decides to get a real MBA when he’s no longer GM. I hear there are still openings at Waterloo this coming fall.

      • Serious Gord

        True. a Waterloo MBA and all other real MBAs do require a four years degree as a prerequisite. The fluffer type MBA – an executive correspondence MBA that MacT has (and that every media person I have ever heard or read calls an “MBA” not an “executive MBA”) does not require that and the amount of course time and work is a fraction of a real MBA.

  • Rob...

    The more I think about the T.J. Oshie ‘injury’ play the more ticked off I get. If a player accidentally gets his stick into someone’s face, it’s an automatic high sticking penalty, regardless of intent. How is a knee-on-knee with the puck carrier anything but a penalty? I don’t flipping care if the player gets hurt on his own stupid play, it should have been a penalty.

  • Rob...

    The Oilers are not a large team. They are in fact a smallish team. It therefore begs the question why they try to ‘cycle’ the puck in the offensive zone against larger opponents. Sooner rather than later the larger team is going to overpower the Oilers and regain the puck. Secondly, cycling the puck wears down the opposition. Why then would the Oilers, with all their supposed talent, want to cycle the puck against bigger teams? I realize that a lot of good teams cycle the puck but the Oilers simply are not equipped to compete. On defense, the Oilers are not able to stop or break the cycle. As a result they are trapped in their zone expending incredible amounts of energy to simply get the puck back. Until somebody explains the value of the Oilers cycling I will continue to shake my head.

    • S cottV

      There is only so much room in the offensive zone and cycling has to have some role in offensive tactics to create scoring chances.

      Otherwise you are forced into too many low chance one on one moves and too many passes thru seams that are too tight – both of which result in turnovers.

      The key to cycling is to execute at a high level in order to create additional time and space. You are trying to shake off and move around the defensive alignment to create lanes to the net, more time and space to go one on one and or wider lanes to pass the puck.

      I agree – the bigger teams have an easier go at cycling, but teams like the Oilers can still cycle with crisp and quick execution. They key is to get into a cycle formation, when it makes sense and be so good at it, that you can quickly get out of it, with a scoring chance.