GDB 44.0: St.Louis, start of a tough stretch

http://toomuchonherplate.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/warning-challenges.jpg

Over the next 35 days the Oilers play 15 games. In that time they will have a week off between January 20th and 27th for the All-star break, but 12 of those 15 games are on the road, and only two of them come against teams not in the playoffs or a playoff race: New Jersey and Ottawa.

The honeymoon is over for Todd Nelson. We’ll see how his team fares against some tough road competition starting tonight against the very good, and big and heavy, St. Louis Blues.

Taylor Hall mentioned the Blues last week when he brought up the challenges of facing heavier teams. “We aren’t built to play along the wall against teams like the Kings and Blues. We have to use our speed and force them to play an uptempo game,” said Hall.

It won’t be easy. The Blues are experienced, big, mean and skilled.

Vladimir Tarasenko is top-ten in scoring with 44 points in 42 games, while Jaden Schwartz has 34 points in 35 games, and they are on the second line with Jori Lehtera centering them.

The top line features the trio of David Backes, Ales Steen and T.J Oshie who have been on fire the past 12 games.

Backes has 7-7-14 in that span.

Oshie has 7-7-14.

Steen has 5-10-15.

Paul Stastny centres their third line, and their blueline has three Olympians in Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Kevin Shattenkirk.

I don’t think there is a worse matchup for the Oilers than the Blues. Tonight will be a major test for Edmonton, and I’m curious to see how they play after Sunday’s turnover-fest against Florida.

After Friday’s performance against Chicago you wondered if they were turning a corner, but they lost control on the bend and headed straight for the ditch on Sunday. They have to cut down on giveaways, especially in their own zone, if they want to avoid getting blown out tonight.

LINEUP

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 12.11.03 PM

Matt Fraser comes out and Klinkhammer gets promoted to the 3rd line, while Luke Gazdic draws in. Nelson wants some size and a physical presence in his top-nine, so the feisty Klinkhammer gets the promotion.

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 12.11.11 PM

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 12.11.29 PM

Scrivens starts again, and it is obvious he is considered the starter in the eyes of the organization.

Blues lineup via Dailyfaceoff.com.  The depth of the Blues shows you how far the Oilers need to go before they are a Stanley Cup contender. It is disheartening even for the most optimistic Oiler fans when you compare the rosters.

QUICK HITS…

  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leads all NHL forwards in TOI/game at 21:15. Only eight forwards average over 20 minutes a night. RNH leads with 21:15, followed by Claude Giroux 21:06, Nicklas Backstrom 20:38, Ryan Getzlaf 20:29, John Tavares 20:26, Alex Steen 20:24, Alex Ovechkin 20:21 and Sidney Crosby at 20:02.

    RNH is playing a lot and he isn’t getting clobbered. He is only 21 years old, and while his offensive totals are down, he is learning how to be a solid two-way player and play against tough competition. He has been the Oilers best forward this season.

  • Why are people talking about trading Matt Hendricks? He is the vocal leader in the room. He plays hard every night. You want to trade him for a prospect or picks? Why? So the team can get younger and have more players who don’t know how to be competitive on every shift? This team does not need more youth or inexperience. You can’t keep trading for picks/prospects and hope they magically change the fortunes of this team.

TONIGHT….

KlondikeBrodeurSpeedo

GAME DAY PREDICTION:  This is a bad matchup. Oilers lose 4-1.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION:  Backes gets in Nugent-Hopkins’ face all night. RNH doesn’t shy away, but Backes plays the role of bully tonight.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION:  Tarasenko and Backes got into a fight in practice recently. During the second period Tarasenko bumps into Scrivens. Nikitin skates over to say something, but Yakupov skates in quickly and the two young Russians exchange stinky gloves. The camera pans to them in the penalty box yelling at each other in Russian. A diehard fan, who happens to be taking a Russian language course at university and PVRing the game, spends the next 30 minutes lip reading and translating what they said. He then posts it on the Nation, but admits the only line he could decipher was Yakupov yelling, “I betcha Plums will put us on Hockey Night in Canada this Saturday.”

Recently by Jason Gregor:      

  • YFC Prez

    Pouliot was left alone against three blues in a scrum at the end of the game for way too long. He was the only oiler who showed any fortitude that game. The rest of the team roiled over and died as soon as scrivens let in the softie.

    Man this team is fragile. Their confidence is totally made of glass. They were starting to support each other a little better. But not this game, someone should have helped out pouliot. That was unacceptable.

      • Serious Gord

        That they are right and the hit stat is misleading by implying that both teams played equally physical games?

        I would love to see a hits per minute of possession stat. That would far better reflect how this game was played.

  • Serious Gord

    Craig’s on it.trade the pick for an every day er. We don’t need another spectator. We got enough of those. McD would need shoulder surgery after a period with Backes. Poluiot got punched repeatedly by Backes while two blues and a ref are holding poluiot. Ebs Hall Schultz were spectators. RNH was there in the scrum. He should be captain not Hall or Ebs. McD would be watching as well in the hospital.