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 


  • Stack Pad Save

    The top line should never be broken up. All things considered, they were excellent tonight. Held their own against a top 3 team in the league. Now if we could just add two minute munching defenseman, a more complete second line center, and a two way winger, we’d be on to something. Duh.

    Also, Scrivens was superhuman tonight. Honestly. Best performance by any player in the NHL this year.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    Scrivens had arguably the best single game performance by an Oilers goalie ever. But since it takes two to tango, either the Sharks can’t finish or the Oilers defensive play really sucks.

  • 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.

  • bwar

    Hendricks’ cap hit is only $1.85 million. I recall MacTavish saying something along the lines of the last two years not being an issue if we get good value this and next season. I agree and I love the trade!

    • Zarny

      Being out coached?

      Good grief.

      More like half the Sharks roster are just better players than the Oilers.

      Which hobbit or mythical top pairing D should Eakins put out against Thornton, Marleau etc.

      • But the Oilers can compete vs other teams like Pitt and Van for example but get crushed vs the Sharks?

        The system the Sharks are using are pressing the Oilers down low,the Sharks defense then moves in on the Oilers forwards, the Oilers needed to figure it out, send the forwards out, this stops the Sharks from pinching down low, make a quicker outlet.. stretch there team out so they can’t press.

        86 shot’s have been directed at the Oilers net, you don’t see this as a system issue then sorry bout that!

        • Zarny

          It is not the Sharks’ system that is pressing the Oilers down low.

          It’s 6’4″ 230 lb Joe Thornton and 6’2″ 220 lb Patrick Marleau etc. The Sharks are a big, strong team and the Oilers can’t knock them off the puck.

          Thornton skates around the Oilers zone like a dad playing with the kids.

          Yes, the Oilers can compete vs teams like Pit and Van because neither is a big, physical team and both play skill based games. Pit vs NYI was a track meet last year in the playoffs. That’s what the Oilers like and it’s the only style of game they excel at.

          SJ, Anh, LA, StL, Chi, Bos…big, strong, physical teams with 6’4″ 220+lb C always give the Oilers fits.

          It isn’t systems. It’s little people pushing against big people.

          • Do you recall the score’s of those games you just mentioned?

            with the exception of the Blues and this game the Oilers never got dominated this bad.

            Sorry, the reason Joe can move around with impunity is because the forwards are standing still watching what the Sharks defense is doing.

            Pit is a big team or does Malkin and Neal not count?

          • oilersd

            Actually it’s both. Sharks system puts the puck behind the d and they use their size to bring the puck to the middle and fire away. They just come in waves. For the much smaller oilers it is an impossible situation. They gotta get bigger to compete. Gagne and yak were invisible tonight.

          • Zarny

            The Sharks are hardly the only team to dump and chase. It’s only a problem because the Oilers don’t have anyone that can knock guys like Thornton off the puck. He just coasts around blocking guys with his a** looking for Sharks streaking into the slot. Very effective.

            Gagner doesn’t have the foot speed to compete against guys like Thornton and Marleau. SJ is way too disciplined for Yak.

            No arguing they need to get bigger that’s for sure.

          • toprightcorner

            Yak was lost but Gagner, small as he is, showed some guts and made some smart plays. Looks like he’s finding his game. But it’s true our boys looked very small out there. The Oiler top line was dangerous every shift and that might cause cocky teams to be wary which might give the D some time and room. If macT gets us a real NHL defenceman, this team could get good very quickly. The subtle trades he’s made already have made a big difference in edge and mood. I may be on crack, but I’m one happy fan right now. Cynics should loosen up and enjoy this.

        • S cottV

          The Oilers failed to identify how rule changes meant to open up the game, involving obstruction and interference – would really favor bigger players.

          A lot of people including the Oilers thought that the smaller skill players would benefit the most.

          Others like Anaheim, LA, SJ, St Louis – correctly identified that bigger players would benefit the most.

          Bigger is normally equated with being tougher and more intimidating, but its a lot more…

          It’s – tougher, more intimidating, greater strength, more reach, stronger sticks, more effective puck protection, easier to take space, easier to keep space, easier to clear space, easier to limit space, easier to win puck battles and a lot more.

          Without being able to interfere, push, clutch, grab and hook, a big guy like Joe Thorton is going to have a field day vs a guy like Gagner and our smaller D men.

  • 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!

    • justthestatsman

      How can you forget Khabibulin!

      Corsi’s stats weren’t actually that bad for the era he played. The big deadline deal for the Oilers that year brought in Ron Low who went 8-2-1 with a 3.42 GAA down the stretch. Corsi’s W/L wasn’t so hot at 8-14-3, but his GAA wasn’t much worse than Low’s at 3.65.

      Of course they didn’t have save percentage or other fancy stats back then. Dave Dryden started the season as the Oilers starter I think and while he had a pretty good career he didn’t have it any more and I think he ended up retiring during the season with a horrible W/L record and a GAA well over 4.00.

  • Stack Pad Save

    Epic win, Epic goaltending performance. Clutch play by the first line. The third line missed Hendricks, the 2nd line couldn’t move the puck the right direction and the 4th, who cares the Oilers won!

    3 game winning streak never felt so good as an Oilers fan!

  • Taylor Hall¹ is 567th in the league for CF% 5v5, close.

    Jake Muzzin² is #1 in the league.

    Do you trade Hall for Muzzin? Obviously, no.

    This is because, as Gregor argues, Corsi is not the only way to observe the value of a hockey player. Hall might be suffering from a low Corsi because his teammates can’t get him the puck.**** You will notice from the link above that the Los Angeles Kings have 4 of the top 5 Corsi-getters in the league. This just shows that hockey is a team game, and individual corsi doesn’t always account for that. It is possible to have a below average player with a great corsi on a great team. Similarly it’s possible to have a good player nevertheless with bad corsi on a horrible team.

    The problem, however, is that from day 1 that Hall entered the league, he has had good corsi on a horrible team. He is the guy ‘pushing the river’ so to speak. He is the guy who makes people around him better.

    When looked at through the Corsi lens, he isn’t doing that this year. The Oilers aren’t getting as many shot attempts when he is on the ice this year (that’s all corsi is, shot attempts). His shooting percentage is higher though, so his production remains similar.

    If Hall and his Oilers fail to attempt more shots, what happens when (and there is a very high chance that it will happen) Hall reverts back to his career 8% shooting percentage?

    Production drops. This has some people³ slightly concerned, and they are trying to figure out (by carefully watching the games) why this is happening.

    **** EDIT: There is a stat called Corsi Rel, which shows that this is most likely not the case.

  • 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

  • Serious Gord

    These next two game are a big step up in competition. It’s imperative that we play well in them or we’re back to square zero. As far as tanking for a draft pick, I’m done with that garbage. Even if we could catch anybody, I would be hoping for the Oilers to win. Like it or not, the core that this franchise is trying to build around is in that room and they need to start feeling what it’s like to win games.

  • **

    I actually thought Potter had been playing pretty well since he got back in the line up, makes a lot of sense to put a 160lb Larsen in against the biggest forwards in the league.
    ” Good FFN Grief”.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Also….

    Exactly what the hell is Principe doing on top of his head?

    Bad enough he acts like a clown, he’s really starting to look like one.

    Someone should tell him Sportsnet is going to start doing ‘real’ hockey pretty soon.

  • Zarny

    This is the first time all season our goalie has stolen the game. Nice work Scrivens that’s a big F U to all the rats that said he isn’t a starting goaltender. It’s funny how people expect goalies to just magically become great over night. Scrivens has shown a lot of character and his numbers back him up. Sweet stuff

  • toprightcorner

    Mike Smith had the previous NHL record for an NHL regular season shutout with 54 saves.

    The best shutout ever?? The Dominator had a 70 save shutout in the playoffs agains the Devils in quadruple overtime.

    59 save shutout ranks 1st in regular season and 2nd all time.

    Congrats to the Professor!!!!

  • Spydyr

    Well advanced stats are fun, but I remember an article called, “Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics” – who cares about any of it. Hall is a good player, anyone who watches him can see that. The only stat that matters is wins.

  • Randaman

    So set me straight on Scrivens. Is it because the media portrays him as a back-up that he can’t be a starting goaltender? Is it because he played in the minors for a while? Maybe because he was a back-up in L.A. You never know is all I’m saying. Stay tuned