GDB 70.0: THE HOME STRETCH

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Ten of the Oilers final 13 games are at home. If the Oilers were in the playoff hunt this would be a great schedule, but sadly that isn’t the case. The Oilers are playing for pride, contracts and a roster spot in the NHL next season. The play the Predators, Sabres and Flames this week, but then they get a steady stream of the playoff teams in the Sharks, Ducks, Rangers, Ducks, Avalanche and Kings. They need to pick up some wins this week.

The Predators are sandwiched between four non-playoff western Canadian teams. The Preds are 12th in the west with 68 points, 7 and 11 points ahead of the Flames and Oilers and 3 and 4 points back of the Jets and Canucks.

The Preds have two games in hand on the Jets and three on the Canucks. If they win two of three we could see western Canada dominating the basement of the west division. I’m sure I’m not the only one who longs for the Smythe division when three Canadian teams had 100+ points.

LINEUP

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Hendricks-Gordon-Lander

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Fraser-Klefbom

Fasth

Jesse Joensuu is done for the season. Eakins said he is out for about four weeks with a high ankle sprain. Joensuu has one year left on his contract, but I don’t see him as anything more than a 13th or 14th forward next year.

If you are going to be a #6/7 veteran D-man I think you have to be comfortable playing both sides. Fraser is the veteran, but the rookie Klefbom is the one who has to play the right side. That is a concern for me.

Hall has worked hard at creating more back pressure the past ten games. He has forced more turnovers by using his speed, and then transitioning the play back up ice. He has also spent more time working on his one-timer in practice lately. “That is something you can never practice too much on. You have to be comfortable getting pucks in awkward spots, but still be able to one-time it. Also you work on different angles and release points. They are a huge part of the game and they can get you an extra three or four goals a year,” said Hall.

Hall is the heart and soul of this team. He will be the guy who leads them out of the losing streak in the future, and will likely be the guy who challenges his teammates to improve, mainly by how hard he works on every aspect of his game. He isn’t perfect, but he’s the best player they have by a large margin.

QUICK HITS

  • I’ve went back and compared many parts of last year’s PP to this year and I see four major differences.
    1. Eakins switches his PP combinations up too much. Last year they had two units and stuck with them the majority of the time, except for injuries.
    2. The 2nd unit was very productive. Nail Yakupov and Ales Hemsky led the team with 5 PP goals, while Gagner had 15 PP points. The 2nd unit will often face the 2nd PK unit, and you need to take advantage of that match up.
    3. Justin Schultz was shooting the puck way more. His refusal to take a slap shot hurts a lot, but at least last year he was shooting wrist and snap shots. In 48 games he had 29 shots, but this year he only has 24 shots in 61 games. He had 15 points last year, but he only has 9 this year. He needs to shoot the puck, and his teammates have been encouraging him to shoot more.
    4. They miss Horcoff’s puck retrieval ability. They haven’t been great at getting rebounds or winning battles for loose pucks in the corners. Hall agreed. “For a lot of this year we haven’t been very good at getting pucks back, whether when it is dumped in or after a shot. When you have the man advantage you have to out number their players every where on the ice.”
  • Hall added, “We aren’t getting a lot of goals on the PP, but if you watch we are getting more set up time and now it’s about making the right decision when we get the puck.” We’ll see if the PP improves in the final 13 games.
  • The Oilers PP has been great at home, 22%, but awful on the road, 10.3%. Some will suggest it shouldn’t matter where the game is played, but it seems to matter in the NHL. Last season, 26 of the 30 teams had a better PP% at home than they did on the road. In 2012, 18 teams were better at home, in 2011 and 2010 21 teams were better at home. 
  • The better question is why are the Oilers so bad on the road this year. Last year ,the Oilers were 21.2% at home and 19% on the road. So they’ve basically been the same at home this year, slight improvement, but they are 8.7% worse on the road. You could look at two great games in Calgary and Chicago, combining 6-for-9, as changing their stats last year, but there has to be more than that. The Oilers PP needs to improve, and if they can get a consistent point
    shot that would help. It would also be nice if Eakins stuck with two
    units for an extended period of time.

  • If we see a 4-on-4 situation tonight there is a good chance we’ll see a goal. The Oilers lead the NHL with 12 goals scored, but they’ve also given up the most, 10. Last year they didn’t score once at 4-on-4 and gave up five. I have no idea why they scoring more at 4-on-4, but with all the PP struggles, the Oilers might be better off taking a penalty and playing 4-on-4.
  • I’ve noticed many people comparing the Avs young forwards to the Oilers young forwards. I’m sorry but the Colorado has the advantage today. The Avs centres are Duchene, Stastny and MacKinnon. They also have Ryan O’Reilly who is an excellent two-way forward. The Avs have massive advantage down the middle and they have some very good two-way players. They also have five 20-goal scorers. They have a better mixture of skill, size, experience and two-way forwards than the Oilers do. Not to mention their blueline is better and their goaltending was much better in the first 50 games.
  • I am very proud to announce we have started The Gregor Foundation. Our first project is to gather suits for graduating students who can’t afford them or young men looking to get back into the workplace. Read here for more info, and thanks in advance to those who donate suits.

TONIGHT…

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GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers win their 13th home game of the season. It’s true they’ve only won 12 home games thus far. They send the fans home happy with a 5-3 win.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers go 1-5 on the PP and continue to baffle everyone with their successful home PP , but woeful on the road.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: In the second period, Seth Jones gets whistled for a tripping penalty. After the whistle Matt Hendricks skates over and slashed him. Both go to the box. The Oilers score on the ensuing 4-on-4 situation. The Predators take a penalty four minutes later, and when no Oilers takes a penalty the fans boo. They’d rather watch 4-on-4 hockey.

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