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 

  • Rick Stroppel

    GOALIE SITUATION

    Dubnyk is a very nice young man and a “gamer”, but I see him as a “tweener”. He is not quite good enough to be your starter, too good to be a back-up. Somebody on a phone-in show said he should be a greeter at Walmart. “Capgeek” says he made nine million dollars playing hockey in the NHL the last five years. At that salary, I wish I was a greeter at Walmart.

    The Oilers are desperately hoping that Bryzgalov will play well, mostly because they would like to use him as a chip in a trade. I predict that by the end of the year his numbers will be the same or worse than Dubnyk’s. And Bryzgalov has a BIG TIME attitude problem. Don’t say he’s “fiery”. This throwing the stick and throwing the arms in the air is strictly pee-wee hockey stuff.

  • Chainsawz

    Anaheim has Fasth, Andersson, Bobkov, and Gibson all under contract for goaltenders next season.

    What kind of term are they willing to give Hiller with that stable of goalies? 3 years, 4 years maybe? Not ideal for a 32 year old goalie.

    I think a desperate team like the Oilers could come in with a 5-6 year offer and more money per year than what Anaheim is willing to offer.

    If Anaheim wants Hiller back, they have had since July 1st to get something done. It looks to me as if they are prepared to move on from him, possibly trading his negotiating rights prior to free agaency.

    • pkam

      I hate to say, but I still think its quite possible that, especially with players like Hiller (will have more then one suitor), even throwing more $ and term wont be enough to get them to come to the tundra. If I were a Hiller, I’d take a little less money or term, to play for a team with a remote shot in h3ll at competing for a playoff slot in the next couple years.

  • northof51

    We all know the Oil shouldn’t win tonight, but I’m sick of them playing tentative against the top teams, like they’re trying to lose by less. They need confidence (false or real) and maybe they’ll actually play with the Blues.

    I’m going to watch tonight’s game expecting the Oilers to win. And then I’m gonna be all kinds of pissed off when they lose, cause we’re better than 29th place and a 40 PTS% at home, aren’t we?

  • vetinari

    GDP: Unless they are still massively hungover from New Year’s, the Blues phone this one in and still win 5-2.

    OGDP: One Oiler will stand out over all the others tonight. It’s just one. And we won’t know who it is until game time.

    NSOGDP: For “fun-zies”, the entire Blues team decides to try using “trick shots” only. “Okay, I call ricochet deflection bank shot off Jones then Petry then top shelf.”

  • S cottV

    Along with our small d men, add in the heights and weights of our d zone supporting centremen, as compared to St Louis forwards.

    Easy to see we are not built to compete with the successful teams in the West.

    Eakins tries to compensate for the size disparity down low by overly bringing our wingers into that low mix. This gives up too much time and space to the points and all sorts of problems when St Louis moves the puck up top. Oilers get tired with everyone running around their own end and we look like we are killing a penalty at even strength.

    Game day prediction – this situation will cost the Oilers one or two GA’s tonight.

  • reaperfunkss

    Hall definitly shouldnt feel bad about not making the Olympic team. Eakins, Mact, and lowe maybe should but not Hall. Way to give a talented player support guys.

    6 rings and counting….

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

    Sarcasm Alert. Strange how all the sound defensive teams have not one but three good goalies…all of whom could be starters. The Blues, LA, Anaheim, etc.

    The Oilers need to fix their TEAM DEFENSE before any of these other goalies are going to look good in Edmonton! End of story.

    • Oilerz4life

      Our defence is an embarrassment, but nobody wants to come play in Edmonton. No way Weber is ever going to happen and the defence needs a complete overhaul. If by some miracle the Oilers can trade and upgrade the defence then we lose talent upfront and in a few years when our defensive prospects develop we are bottlenecked on D.

      No way are Edmonton fans hearing patience any longer and this roster is a mess. I don’t see how MacTavish is going to pull off the bold moves to make this team competitive in our conference. You read the trade rumors but honestly, what can the Oilers do at this point to improve the current situation with our roster?

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

        I am guilty like many Oilers fans of expecting/demanding perfection in a trade scenario. I wasn’t willing to settle for a Boumeester or a Phanuef type……..I’m regretting that now.

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

          Makes you wonder what trade people will be willing to “settle” for over the next year or two. I fear that we’ll find out the hard way this off-season that FA’s do not want to come to or re-sign with Edmonton, and that we’ve dawdled too long on making a genuine, big, BOLD trade to even have decent options left there. We may back ourselves into the “patience, several more years of really bad hockey until the prospects are ready for the NHL” strategy, because we actually dont have any other options other than trading away all our young stars to try to fix the whole sooner

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

        Oilers management were trying to outsmart the rest of the league by bringing in smaller skilled players for the new no clutch and grab NHL. It didn’t work out…and now there is a price to pay.

        The fix will be painful, the pain may come in the form of waiting several more years for youth to develop, it may come in the form of overpaying for what we need (overpaying meaning trading away the Yaks and Eberles and J. Schultzs and Klefboms) but make no mistake, there is a price to be paid and the pain is coming.

        And it’s not 2 or 3 bodies….it’s 8 bodies minimum…probably 10. And it’s not just positional, it’s character.

        • Oilerz4life

          I think we’re going to start seeing empty seats at some point. It seems like the Edmonton fans have been such a consistently strong market that the Oilers organization has taken that for granted. Its painful to watch the opposition cycle the puck in our end at even strength and it looks like we’re on the penalty kill, like trying to swat the puck away or sort of push against the puck holder. Hit somebody.

          There is a short supply of character players in this current Oiler’s line-up. I agree that the roster still needs major overhaul with Phanuef type players. But, when you say a price to be paid I wonder if that is also going to come in the form of empty seats at some point, because it doesn’t seem like there’s much patience left within the fan-base.

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

    I see the Oilers win tonight..gonna go with 6-4, Hatty from Yakupov and another 2 goal game for Eberle.

    Side note – Why can’t countries ice more than one hockey team for the Olympics? Your allowed to do it with any other sports there so why not with Hockey?
    Canada could probably ice 3 very legit teams, go for Gold, Silver, and Bronze.