GDB 15.0: The Early Hole

The Edmonton Oilers are in New York to play the Rangers on Sunday. A win tonight would move them to 2-2 on their current five-game road trip and give them a much needed boost up the standings. A loss, on the other hand, would make it all too easy to dismiss Friday’s win as an aberration and bring yet more pressure down on the coach and general manager.

Dallas Eakins 13

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One of the things I wonder when I look at this team is whether Dallas Eakins was doomed by the fifth game of the season. I say that because the Oilers aren’t a terribly good team – I pegged them 12th in the West – and so even playing 0.500 hockey is pretty tough to do for a sustained period of time. When a team loses its first five games, even if it goes 18-18 over the next 36 it’s still going to be sitting at 18-23 on the year by the halfway point of the season.

That’s sort of what’s happened to the Oilers, who are 5-5-0 over their last 10 games. Unfortunately for the club, that 0-4-1 start means that despite winning half of their last 10 games the club is 5-9-1, seven points out of the playoffs and seeing torch-and-pitchfork wielding mobs on social media after every loss (and sometimes, if the opponent is Buffalo, even after the wins).

I thought the Oilers played better than an 0-4-1 mark would indicate over their first five, but even if that’s true the dice have no memory – the team doesn’t get to demand the bounces go their way for five straight games to even things out. Somehow, Eakins needs to find a way to get this team to play at better than a 0.500 pace for a while or he needs to get some friendly bounces. Otherwise, the team is going to stay near the bottom of the NHL standings.

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No changes up front; the biggest question is how much time Iiro Pakarinen gets. Eakins has been double-shifting Nail Yakupov and the Russian winger has looked pretty good, but Pakarinen’s own play has been a strong argument that he deserves more minutes. There isn’t a wrong answer for the coach here.


Andrew Ference is back, which means that Martin Marincin gets to join Oscar Klefbom as a healthy scratch. Eakins has opted to reunite last year’s wretched Ference/Justin Schultz pairing, and we’ve seen enough of it to know how that’s likely to go. The other two pairings are unchanged, as Nikita Nikitin is given another game with Jeff Petry as he tries to overcome his own struggles and shutdown defenceman Mark Fayne draws Keith Aulie once again.

It’s an ugly position, but the personnel choices here aren’t helping. 


Viktor Fasth played well against Buffalo, so he gets to try again against New York.

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Game day predicition: New York played on Saturday, with Alain Vigneault opting to start his backup against Toronto – presumably under the belief that with Henrik Lundqvist in net the Rangers stand a good chance even tired against the Oilers. It’s a reasonable bet on his part, but it won’t work out, as the Oilers manage to squeak out a 2-1 decision.

Obvious game day prediction: Keith Aulie likes playing, and fighting doesn’t hurt his chances of staying in the lineup, so he and Tanner Glass will square off at some point in the first half of the game.

Not-so-obvious game day prediction: While much of the focus will be on Benoit Pouliot returning to New York, he’ll be outshined by Nail Yakupov. There have been suggestions for years that Glen Sather’s love of elite talent might make him interested in Yakupov, and the 2012 first overall pick won’t hurt that talk with a goal and an assist against the Rangers.



  • TheBirdOfAnger

    Very nice extended pusuit by Nail.

    Someone tuned the volume up on the Shoote-totor in practise ,it looks good.

    Lets see deep some penetation off the rush on the PP and try to suck em into another penalty.

  • If it aint broke dont fix it,things look good so far.

    The breakouts have been well executed, the defense is showing nice decision making when they come up into the play-action and how they stick with it when they do commit.Nice support from the forwards as well stying back to support those up-ice movements.

    The o-zone possesions are being well managed,the shots are getting off quick but not to quick,the support is timed well,everything has been hurried up a bit in the o-zone and it looks excellent,the quick pointshots have been replaced by short quick penetrations with nice well placed shots, the offense is shooting after they force the defense into just one transition,they are hitting those first holes and are not overpassing or extending the zone-time before they convert the possesion into a shot,outstanding work.

    The sticks were down and active in the 1st period,they came up a bit in the second but the feet were moving well and it compensated.

    The lateral o-zone shot support positionally has been very well managed and well timed.

    The shot selections and placements have been well managed to keep the pucks in the zone and create nice rebound numbers.

    There is nothing to tweak right now.

    Nuge is Huge and Yak is on the Attack, all looks good. Nikitin makes me nervous when he turns it into the middle,they are keeping their 3rd forward hovering high in the n-zone just a few feet out of the Oilers zone looking to scoot in,and their forecheckers are looking to just break pucks loose from the middle of our zone so their high n-zone support can attack.Keep it to the outside when their 2-man forecheck hovers in the mid-zone keeps the 3rd man hovering and refuses to commit to aggressive penetration.They are trying to get the d-men to turn it into the middle when we break out of the zone.Keep it outside or horse it out,no funneling it to the middle for them in our zone.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    Excellent to see every line looking to score,nice job by the 4th line.

    Super excellent work on managing the zone transition speeds and keeping everyone involved and together. Not to fast not to slow,perfect.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    They are sending the forecheckers in together now some of the time. One man deep and are swarming the net trying to funnel things to the middle, if they keep it up look to speed up the exit and catch 3 of them deep with their defense cheating up to support them and burn them deep with a 200ft breakout rush.They are cranking it up and bringing the 3rd forward into the zone now.

    Steady as she goes,keep looking for offense,dont sit back.Keep penetrating their zone deep and getting shots on net,keep em on their heels.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    In the 1st period they were entering the zone and trying to drive it around the net and just toss it out front,it looked like they were setting up the cycle,but the puck carries just wnted to get it behind the net then take it himself and create a shot option for himself,there was no intention to carry through with the cycyle,it was just setting up the 1st shot by coming around the net sharply. Look for this NOW,it is their Primary push,they should fall back on it now under pressure.Watch them on those drives around the net looking to bank it in off the tenders back or legs.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    Nice job by Joenssu late in the game to get the big body moving and keep the pressure on.

    Keep the shots in the o-zone LOW no high angles. Keep it in the zone like you were doing all game,try to drive it closer to the net.

    Lets see this PP close out the game,just penetrate deep and be a cautious defensively no shortys,drive it in like Ebbs did last time and try to close this one out.

  • The unwashed

    Late in a game like this,drive it to the net by skating it in,make them grab you and take another penalty,jack the pressure up.Driving it 200 feet by skating it forces them to all come back and eats up time.

  • Kevwan

    Purcell deserved that one he has been taking it to the net this season but not been rewarded.

    Nice job of finishing it into the open net.

    Very well managed and played game.

    Now go home,relax knowing you are doing the right things,and get ready to rinse and repeat.

    Kudos to the much improved o-zone tactics and shot management tactics,especially mixing it up and keeping it down .Its getting there now.Just cht about the timing of those high angle shots late in games that exit the zone to fast on the glass.Nice nights work.

    • Petry was good until that major brainfart giveaway to Hayes…

      Those are the plays that kill this team, but luckily Fasth bailed him out. I like Petry, but he makes some awful decisions at key times in the game.