GDB 56.0: CONFIDENCE BUILDERS

It is amazing how quickly confidence can appear or disappear in pro sports, and right now the Oilers have some. It is difficult to quantify exactly how much it helps, but when most of your players have a healthy dose of confidence your chances of winning increase.

I felt the Oilers played well against Vancouver (at home) and Phoenix, despite losing both games, but that good play carried over to wins over Nashville and Vancouver, and for only the fourth time this season the Oilers have won two straight games.

The Oilers will try to match their season-high three-game winning streak tonight when they take on the very good San Jose Sharks.

It is crazy to think the Oilers have only won consecutive games four times all season. It is hard to build any sort of confidence when you aren’t winning, but the Oilers have played four solid games in a row, and despite only winning the last two they are starting to look like a better hockey club.

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With games coming up against San Jose and Boston that could change quickly, but heading into tonight the Oilers are feeling good.

POSITIVES…

  • In Vancouver, it was the Canucks turning the puck over at the offensive blueline, twice, that led directly to Oilers goals. We’ve all witnessed the Oilers continually turn the puck over for the past couples of seasons, but in this short string of games they have cut down those costly mistakes.
     
  • The Oilers have had excellent back pressure from their forwards lately. That has made life much easier for their defenceman, and likely why we’ve seen fewer glaring mistakes from the D-men.
     
  • The second line won them a game without needing any help from the first line. If the Oilers are ever going to be competitive they need to rely on more than one line. Perron-Gagner-Yakupov was the best line in Vancouver, and they must continue that leading into the Olympic break.
     
  • Martin Marincin continues to play smart, controlled hockey. I’d argue that his simple game has had just as much, and maybe more. of an impact on Petry’s play than Petry has had on him. It is a still a very small sample size for Marincin, but he’s played well and he has been very active with his stick breaking up plays. He’ll need to get stronger in the summer, and if he has to face Marleau or Thornton tonight it will be a very good test for him.
     
  • You need to remain cautious with Marincin. Remember Justin Schultz’ first 20 games last year compared to his final 28. It is extremely rare for any young player to avoid a time where they struggle, but so far Marincin has been a pleasant surprise.
     
  • Two games with solid goaltending. Ben Scrivens was solid against the Preds and Bryzgalov played his best game in over a month in Vancouver. They don’t have to steal games; they just need to be consistent. This team isn’t strong enough yet to overcome weak goals, and for two games the goalies didn’t allow a weak goal.
     
  • Some might not like the length of his contract, and that is a valid concern, but Matt Hendricks has increased the Oilers intensity level significantly. Not only does he play hard, he is very vocal and positive on the bench and in the room. Many of the young players have told me how much of a lift his energy and enthusiasm on and off the ice has given them. This team needs a few more vocal leaders, and it seems Hendricks is filling that void.
     
  • That type of contribution won’t show up on the stats sheet, but it is vital for success. Not every player can be measured solely on his stats line. Intangibles help. Ask the LA Kings how much Matt Greene’s off-ice leadership and humour helped them in their Cup run. He was vital to keeping Doughty focused and relaxed.
     
  • Sam Gagner is playing better. Many of us, myself included, underrated how much that injury impacted his play. I still believe MacTavish needs to change the mix in his top-six in the summer, and if Gagner can have a strong final 27 games that will give MacTavish another trading option.
     
  • Two games is still only two games. The Oilers better not relax or the Sharks will be up 3-0 before they know it. The Oilers must continue to build on their solid play. Like I said earlier, I believe they’ve played well for four games, and even if they don’t win vs. the Sharks or Bruins they must continue to play smart and with some passion.
     
  • Further to Brownlee’s article yesterday about the need for success. I agree, and the best part about it is that the Oilers can play well and not impact their draft ranking much at all. The Oilers sit 29th in the NHL with 40 points and 27 games remaining. If they go 14-11-2 they would finish with 70 points.

    Now let’s look at who they are chasing.

    The 28th place Flames have 45 points and 29 games left. The Flames would need a combination of wins/OTL totaling 24 point or less for the Oilers to pass them, and that’s if the Oilers win 14 games, which is unlikely. So the Flames need to go 11-16-3 or worse.

    Florida is in 27th place with 49 points and 29 games remaining. The Panthers would need 20 points or less for the Oilers to catch them. They’d need to go 9-18-2 or worse for the Oilers to catch them.

    The Islanders are in 26th place with 50 points and 27 games left. They would really need to tank it for the Oilers to gain ten points in 27 games. The Islanders would need to go 9-17-1 for the Oilers to pass them.

    Keep in mind those numbers are based on the Oilers winning 14 of their remaining 27 games. That would be a massive improvement from their first 55.

    The only way I see them not owning a top-three pick is if a team ranked 4th-14th wins the lottery and drops them to 4th. Don’t fret if the Oilers win a few games, you should relish them, because they are still a virtual lock to finish in the bottom three and have the opportunity to draft another elite player.
     

  • An interesting read by David Staples on why people shouldn’t be that concerned about Taylor Hall’s overall game. Those who believe strongly in Corsi will say he’s having a bad year, but Staples illustrates that Hall is still producing quality chances, albeit not as many as last year. I feel Corsi can be used as a tool, but like Staples I have an issue in that it punishes or rewards a player for instances that he has no impact in.

    A D-man can stand at the point, while the forwards cycle down low and direct three attempts on goal and he gets +3, despite doing nothing. And in the D-zone a winger can be in the right spot, covering his zone, but the opposite D could lose a battle and give up three chances. Both times the winger and D-man got rewarded or punished for essentially doing nothing more than being in position. Those are just some examples, and I know they aren’t the norm but situations similar to those happen in a game. I find there are too many uncontrolled variables pertaining to what a linemate does that can impact an individual’s Corsi positively or negatively.

    The suggestion from those supporting Corsi is that Hall can’t keep producing at ES with a 43% Corsi, and that eventually the points will decrease because of it. My question is why hasn’t it happened already? It has been 55 games and despite a lower Corsi than last year his point totals are virtually identical.

    So far this season we haven’t seen his production dip. I split the season into two halves.

    According to Michael Parkatti in Hall’s first 20 games (Oilers 27th game) he had a 44% Corsi and was -60.
    In those first 20 games, Hall boxcars were: 20-7-12-19 and he was -8.

    In Hall’s next 28 games, again thanks to Parkatti, Hall had a 43.1% and was -117. His Corsi % was a bit lower, but essentially the same.
    During that 28 game stretch Hall’s boxcars were: 28-11-21-32 and he was -6.

    So Hall’s Corsi dipped, albeit only .09%, but his production went up. The argument has been that he can’t maintain his production with that Corsi rating, yet he actually improved his point production over the last 28 games. Maybe it is just too small of a sample size, or maybe, people need to look deeper than just Corsi to assess his overall game.

    I think it is great to have more avenues to look at, but I feel we need to look at all angles, instead of just one to get a a more accurate picture. If people only looked at Hall’s Corsi they’d think he was brutal, but his scoring chances for/against and actual production shed a different light.

LINEUP….

Hall-RNH-Eberle
Perron-Gagner-Yakupov
Hendricks-Gordon-Jones
Gazdic-Smyth-Joensuu

Marincin-Petry
N.Schultz-J.Schultz
Belov-Potter

Scrivens

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No need to change the skaters and going back to Scrivens makes sense after his game vs. Nashville. Shutting down the offensively challenged Predators (20th) and Canucks (21st) will be much easier than trying to stifle the league’s 5th best offence tonight.

Joe Pavelski is 2nd in the NHL in goals, 28, and while Joe Thornton is having another very good season, Pavelski has been their most dangerous threat all season. I suspect Eakins will play Gordon’s line against Thornton’s, but I think we’ll also see Nugent-Hopkins’ line match up against them.

TONIGHT…

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have won three consecutive games only once this year when they defeated Calgary, Columbus and Florida in a six-day span. This is the Oilers final home game until February 27th and they give their loyal fans a surprising 5-2 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Sharks outshot the Oilers. San Jose has outshot the opposition in 38 of 53 games. They’ve only been outshot twelve times all season. (The shots were even in three games)

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: For the first time all year I buy a 50/50 ticket. If I win, I will give $20,000 of it to Nation readers. (four winners of $5,000 each). My question is do I buy the ticket pre-game, first intermission or 2nd intermission? Answer in our poll question.

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RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 


  • TSN calling it the ‘best goaltending performance in the expansion era’.

    How exactly were we dominated by the sharks? How was Eakins out-coached? That was the best freakin Oiler hockey game I’ve seen since 2006. Guts, heart, grit and tons of creative skill from guys who give up scores of pounds and feet of height and years of experience. Those lads played their balls off, the coach kept them focused when it looked bad and Scrivens gave them what they needed and if you can’t see that then your blind, a hater or a troll. Get a grip.

    MacT is making KLowe look good. We are getting harder to beat.

    • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

      Unreal good game by Scrivens. The Oilers first line and 4th line had some good moments, but San Jose directed 100 shots at the Edmonton net.

      They outshot the Oilers nearly 2-1 and they’re missing some of their better players (Couture, Hertel). I hate to be a downer, but watching this game really highlighted how far the Oilers are from competing with the truly elite NHL teams on a nightly basis.

      But tonight should be all about Scrivens. Great story for a great guy and a highlight in a forgettable season…

      • toprightcorner

        I understand, we haven’t arrived yet and I’m not disputing that. Lots of shots yep. But those who see 1,543 shots on net are not looking at the score board, which was 3-0 for the Oil, or the 3 straight wins, all against playoff teams. It’s about mood and compete and we are getting there quickly. Eakins haters may have to eat it. It was Ben’s night, sure, and I hope there are many more nights of his saving our ass while the kids flail around. But the last time I looked, the goalie was part of the team. The team won against a Panzer Division with nothing but dysfunctional kids with skill. I see good things ahead.

        Quinn the Hopeless Optimist

  • pkam

    “I felt the Oilers played well against Vancouver and Phoenix, despite losing both games”

    I am pretty sure we beat Vancouver.

    Edit: My apology. I just realize JG meant the earlier home game vs Vancouver, not the most recent road game.

    • ocean

      How about let’s try looking at percentage of team points, last year Hall made up 14.58% of the teams total points. This year he makes up 13.35% of their total points. Last year Steven Stamkos made up 13.73% of Tampa Bays total points and Martin St Louis made up 14.46%.

      Are you going to try and tell me that you don’t think a person who accounts for the same percentage of team points as two of the best players in the game is somehow “hurting” the team? So other guys are actually scoring goals on the roster…congrats…your team is developing depth.

  • Serious Gord

    Best goaltending performance for the oil this year.

    Were it not for that the score would be 5-1 sanjose.

    Scrivens was deemed a back-up by two other nhl teams so this one game really needs to be discounted. And the lack of competitiveness of the rest of the team against elite teams remains.

    • Zamboni Driver

      Oh come on.

      Devan “I hope it hits me because I’m tall and can’t move a lick” would have had at least one of the saves that Scrivens did.

      He would also have leaned WAAAAAY over and pulled it out of the cage about 7 times by now.

      And Debrusk would have seen a tip on each one.

  • Spydyr

    +Eakins -Hemsky +Ference = Where are we now?

    McT brought in Eakins (I assume that was because they’re of the same mind, and he thinks that Eakins can take us further than Krueger), wanted to trade Hemsky, and also brought it Ference. I know that he got involved in other trades but I want to focus on the past two games where both Hemsky and Ference didn’t play.
    In the first games of the year (on top of the infamous “swarm defence”) Eakins played Hall as centre (Nuge was injured, and many people agreed with it because he was going to be the new Messier). Things didn’t work as planned, but there were also some extra side effects. One of them is that in order to protect Hall, he played him with Smyth and Hemsky and that resulted in to being dropped to the third line. One can see that Yak is a young guy who excels when given confidence (e.g. Krueger) but struggles otherwise (I know…it’s a youth issue!). However, that was the “killing” of Yakupov tho year…and together with the swam defence, the “killing” of the Oilers options to improve in the standings with respect to last year.
    With respect to Ference, if one understands his signing as coming in for Whitney it can be considered a vast improvement. However, Ference has being named Captain and played two or four top minutes. In a way that made expendable Smid (who was a solid component of the team…full disclosure, I’m one of the few guys who own a Smid Oilers shirt, and I like a lot his approach to the game, although I understand his shortcomings). The trade of Smid had a collateral consequence in sending Petry on a bad roller coaster ride (which in fact has ended only when joined with another european denfenceman, M.M., who is keeping things simply in defence and helping Petry that way).
    The issue is that Eakins is getting things right now by simply using his common sense, so he’s going with the first two lines of last year (with the improvement of Perron for Pjaarvi), uses solid third and fourth lines (congratulations to McT for his work on that), and on defence Petry-Marincin are doing Ok, and so are the Schultzs (at this point J. Schultz likes to be “the guy”, and he can do it easier with N. Schulz covering his ass, than with Ference who feels that he needs to be the guy too -he’s the captain and has one ring-)….although the Belov-Potter pair has a lot of issues (that’s where we need Ference!).
    I’m not surprised that the team won two games with Hemsky and Ference out. Now, these two players still can contribute a lot to the team, mostly if Hemsky accepts (like Smyth did) his new role in the bottom six, and if Ference makes his main job to cover J. Schulz’s ass (and nothing else), or well if the Schultz’s are playing together and Ference accepts a minor role playing with Below or Potter (or perhaps Fedun or Klefbom…please).

    • Zarny

      Wow…delusions like this explain the meltdowns you see here.

      In the real world, Eakin’s played Hall at C because both Nuge and Gagner started the season on IR.

      Hall’s TOI for the first 5 games was 23:30, 20:02, 25:44, 25:07 and 23:48. He wasn’t dropped to 3rd line; he was being double shifted.

      Confidence isn’t something that is “given” to a player. Players are always better versions of themselves when confident. Yak’s “killing” this year is that he still has way too much junior in his game. He was holding on to the puck way too long, getting boxed out of options and turning the puck over.

      The Oilers never had a chance to improve in the standings this year. It doesn’t matter who the coach is or what systems you play; you can’t get around the fact that for over half the game the D are playing way above their head.

      Trading Smid did not send Petry for a bad roller coaster ride. Petry had been playing poorly all year.

      Eakins is not getting things right now by using common sense. The line-up is simply healthy and Scrivens doesn’t let in beach balls from the blueline. Otherwise nothing has really changed.

  • bazmagoo

    I’ve seen some horrible hockey from the Oilers over the last few years. We all have… But this performance, other than Scrivens, transcends the concept of bad.

    Worse than bad… Worse than terribad… Not even ultrabad describes the ineptitude the Oilers are showing tonight.

    No… This… This is Eakinsbad.

  • Zarny

    I’m a fan of advanced stats. I love chatting with my bud Rob Vollman about it.

    They are one tool, not the tool. And it’s going to take a 5 years or so to really see what stats are relevant and how best to apply them.

  • Rick Stroppel

    Is there a way to get rid of Big Louie D on sportsnet. The guy is a moron. He loves every player that’s not on the oiler team. I can’t stand listening to him.

  • Serious Gord

    It would be a very big breaking of serve for the oil to beat – beat in regulation – an elite team like the sharks. To do so could be seen as a positve sign that the team is actually improving. The sharks are a bit nicked up so that would temper ones judgement a bit.

    I have posted earlier that the oil could conceivably win four of their last ten before the Olympic break. They have two wins already and would need just two more to meet that expectation.

    Tonight’s game will not be one of them.

    5-2 San Jose.

  • Muji

    I totally agree with you about advanced stats, Jason.

    I was a big fan and supporter of the advanced stats guys before, but have found them to be REALLY annoying lately.

    Advanced stats don’t tell the whole story. Traditional stats (e.g. points, goals, assists, etc.) tell part of the story. “Seen him good” tells part of the story. There are too many variables and nobody has cracked the code, so the best we can do is consider ALL of the information we have available when evaluating players.

    I feel that some of the advanced stat guys are putting FAR too much weight (or ALL of the weight) on their advanced stats. That’s what leads to statements like, “Taylor Hall is having a disastrous season!!1”. Perhaps this is in response to the trolling done by the traditional mainstream media guys like Spector? Don’t know. Don’t care.

    Here’s the thing. You can watch the frigging game to evaluate players. Or you can stare at a spreadsheet to evaluate players. I’m not sure which one is the right way to do it – probably a combination of the 2 – but I know which one is more fun and entertaining; and isn’t that what it’s all about?

    • Grant fuhr

      I think advanced stats are often reactionary and do little to prove much except history. If I get lots of good shots, from scoring areas, I will probably have good offensive numbers. I have yet to see many advanced stats that are a true representation of skill in hockey. Baseball is completely a different story as it is a much more one on one game.

      Any stat that can have Petry as more valuable than Taylor Hall cannot be trusted. I know people say that’s an anomaly, but how many slight anomaly’s does this stat put forth.

      It’s like face-offs. For years Todd Marchant was a sub 50% draw man, but in his last season before UFA his numbers went up. In watching that season I could watch him bear down on neutral zone draws like a mad man. Still couldn’t win an important draw, but to an outsider it looked like he had improved.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Wasn’t planning on going tonight. I have to work very early tomorrow morning.

    Looked on Kijiji to see what the tickets are selling for…. fifteen dollars…. FIFTEEN!!

    Guess I have no choice but to go.

    Two things:

    1. I’m leaving after the second if the Oilers are losing.

    2. I’m bring an old Oilers jersey just in case………………………..

  • pkam

    Another high 1st round pick being locked? I ain’t even mad. However, if we got rid of Lowe and Tencer then maybe we all wouldn’t be so mad. Or beer, just give us beer.
    CHEERS ALL

  • Benny Botts

    Hey Gregor,

    I have seen rumblings from bob mckenzie and dreger that contract talks have completely fallen apart with the rangers and callaghan. In my opinion, I think he would be an absolute ideal fit here in Edmonton, not big but a great leader and he plays big.

    What are your thoughts on callaghan and if MacT is picking up his phone to talk to sather?

  • oilersd

    Taylor Hall is now tied for 10th spot in the league for points with Kunitz. And to think he doesn’t play with Crosby and is on the second worst team in the league. So another head scratcher to why he’s left off the Olympic team. Imagine the points he’d have if he played on a top 10 team. And please tell me about all the giveaways. But the numbers don’t lie he’s one of the best and shouldn’t be overlooked because of the crap he’s forced to play with.

    • There were multiple incidents where Hall carried the puck BACK IN to the oilers zone and then promptly turned it over resulting in sustained pressure and scoring chances against. He was directly responsible for many of the saves Scrivens had to make last night.

      Until he gets this kind of thing out of his game he is not going to be called upon by team Canada for much of anything.

      • S cottV

        No question Hall takes a corsi hit with who he plays with.

        The ideal compliment for Hall would be a mature RNH, a bigger version of Eberle and backed up by legit first pairing d men that push the play up and out.

        That being said – Hall also takes a corsi hit by the way he plays. Too much carrying, too many turnovers, too many errant east west passes, not enough risk vs reward balance, not enough back pressure, failure to pick up trailer threats thru the neutral zone, too puck focused in the d zone, clears the d zone prematurely – etc.

        Don’t get me wrong – excellent young player – no question.

        However – with the right complimentary players around him and with his own commitment to improve on his weaknesses, Hall has the potential to become a truly great hockey player.

        You cant judge solely or even primarily on corsi but you cant ignore it either.

        What it shows is the tremendous potential that exists for Hall. Address the factors that are bringing his corsi down and watch out – this guy is going to be awesome and the Oilers are going to start being contenders.

  • S cottV

    Yes, 89 is playing so much better lately, he’s up to a WHOPPING 6 goals in 42 games.

    Give me a break.

    Yak, who’s been healthy scratched and buried in the bottom 6 a ton, has 10 goals.

    Smytty, who’s “so done” according to most, has 7 goals playing a lot of bottom 6 mins as well.

    89 had one game on the 4th line, otherwise he’s been on the top 2 lines constantly.

    Perron was getting beat 2-on-1 in the 1st period tonight and Gagner stood beside that for about 5 seconds doing nothing.

    If we want to keep being in the basement, he’s a perfect 2C.

    On a good team? Doesn’t do enough for me. Not even close.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    It’s hard to argue with success, but I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop……call it very cautious optimism.

    Hendricks is a godsend right now and I for one do not care how long his contract is for, as long as his legs do not fail him he will be fine. JG if you look at the games ( by the eye) this year as compared to last year and the year before, ……..it’s rare that we get badly outplayed. This is a good sign but winning that is sustainable will only be had if we can get a top-two defenceman.

    I for one believe that this will come through the draft and NOT trade or UFA……..sorry to say but thems the reality in the new NHL.

    As far as Staples goes and his compulsion to continuously use metrics to state the obvious……he is irrelevant as are his stats!

  • Benny Botts

    Gregor,
    The reason Hall’s Corsi is a problem is because the team is scoring 0.6 goals per 60 mins this year less than last year when he is on the ice. And this is despite his increased shooting %.

    It’s no surprise with that decrease the Oilers are having a worse year. And it’s safe to say a large reason for the decrease is his low Corsi (not having possession enough when Hall is on the ice).

    • Jason Gregor

      Hall SH% is 11.5… Last year he had 10.4. The year before he was 13.0.

      If you look at Hall SH this year…

      He has 18 goals in 156 shots.
      Last year he had 16 in 154.

      Is that really that big of a gap to be concerned about for him?

      My point was is it fair to consider that other factors, not involving Hall are resulting in his Corsi and goals/per60.

      Just asking the question. I wasn’t ripping Corsi, I was pointing out that the concern that Hall can’t maintain production with that Corsi has yet to transpire. I was curious what their answer is to that.

      • Rick Stroppel

        “Just asking the question. I wasn’t ripping Corsi, I was pointing out that the concern that Hall can’t maintain production with that Corsi has yet to transpire. I was curious what their answer is to that.”

        It might not “transpire” at all. Hall might continue to have a higher than normal (for him) on ice shooting percentage (the shooting percentage of all Oilers when Hall is on the ice) through the rest of the year and get away with his lower than normal Corsi number.
        He might end up with 80 points and I hope he does.

        Corsi doesn’t predict what will happen over the rest of the year. It just does a better job of predicting performance than other indicators. History shows that on ice shooting percentage tends to regress to the mean.

        If Hall beats the odds, that is not an indictment of Corsi as a valid stat. If you average shooting percentage across the league for all NHL players it will tend to regularize. That doesn’t mean that some players can’t have years where they have higher or lower on ice shooting percentages than normal.

        Still concerning that Hall’s Corsi % dropped this year though IMO.

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

        All I know is that Hall is 15th in league scoring (pts) and is sandwiched between Patrick Kane and Cory Perry for points per game. If you ask me, that Corsirific! And Fenwicktastic!

      • My point was is it fair to consider that other factors, not involving Hall are resulting in his Corsi and goals/per60.

        Just asking the question. I wasn’t ripping Corsi, I was pointing out that the concern that Hall can’t maintain production with that Corsi has yet to transpire. I was curious what their answer is to that.

        To be honest I am not worried about Hall at all. The guy is a beast. THIS¹ shows that once you take into account the quality of competition faced, relative to the rest of the team this year Hall is 3rd best, behind only Jeff Petry and Ales Hemsky.