GDB 68.0: Rested and ready?

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For the 19th time this season the Oilers will play after two or more days between games. Does more rest equate to more success? It does slightly.

The Oilers are 6-11-1 (33.3 winning%) when playing after two+ days without a game, they are 12-21-8 (29.2 W%) when playing with one day between games and they are 1-5-2 (12.5 W%) on the second night of back-to-back games.

If you go by Gary’s loser-point system the Oilers have garnered slightly more possible points, not wins, when playing with one day between games compared to two plus days off, but overall more rest between games has helped the Oilers win four percent more.

The more promising news for fans still emotionally invested in the games, is that the Edmonton is 13-13-1 vs. the east as they try for their first win of this road trip in Pittsburgh.

Their next five games are against eastern opponents: Pittsburgh, Columbus, Toronto, Columbus and Philadelphia. They finish the season with ten straight against the west: Jets, Avs, Stars, Avs, Ducks, Kings, Flames, Kings, Sharks and Canucks. The Oilers are 5-25-10 against the west.

The Penguins were victorious 2-0 on February 4th in Edmonton, and it was the first game under Todd Nelson where they lacked effort. “Early on, we were standing around watching and not dictating the play. It was the time I saw this type of effort,” said Todd Nelson after the game.

Later in his presser Nelson stated he would focus on having a quick, fast-paced, intense practice to try and hammer home the importance of hard work. They flew to Toronto the next day, had a hard practice on Friday, but his players didn’t get the memo, because they got clobbered 5-1 in Toronto the next night. I’m sure that is when Nelson realized turning this team into a contender would be harder than it looked.

I think Nelson has done a fine job behind the bench, but a coach is only as good as his players. He can have quicker more intense practices and more one-on-one battle drills, but ultimately it is up to the players to decide how hard they will work on game night. I recognize this team isn’t as talented or experienced as most teams in the league, but I still believe the group has too many nights where their effort and competitiveness is not equal to their opponents.

The Oilers are have cut down on glaring mistakes, but their effort and concentration still dips during games, and often that results in goals against. They can’t afford many dips tonight against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Penguins.

LINEUP…

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The forward lines remain the same as Tuesday. I don’t understand why Ryan Hamilton is playing ahead of Luke Gazdic. I said tweeted that on Tuesday and it makes even less sense tonight. Hamilton will never be an NHL player. He doesn’t skate well enough, and he hasn’t improved his footspeed enough during the past nine AHL seasons, so why do they expect that to change for next year?

He has played 483 AHL games and 27 in the NHL. He has one goal in 27 games. He will never be an NHLer.

Gazdic has shown clear improvement in his game. He skates better than Hamilton. He is more physical, he has improved his puck skills, the play doesn’t die on his stick and he is not a liability in his own end. Why not use these final 15 games to let him play and see if he can keep improving?

Gazdic has 13 shots, two goals and is +0 in his last 12 games.
Hamilton has 6 shots, no goals and is -6 in his last 12 games.

Gazdic has much better analytics than Hamilton as well. There is no reason Hamilton should be playing ahead of Gazdic. The Oilers enforcer put in a lot of work this off-season and we’ve seen an improvement in his game and his skating.

I believe it sends the wrong message to your team. Guys who put in the work and show improvement should be rewarded. Gazdic isn’t going to be a top-line player, but he sure as hell is a better NHL player than Hamilton.

Hamilton will not be here next year, Matt Fraser likely won’t even be qualified in the summer, but both of them are playing ahead of Gazdic, despite him playing better than them.

Nelson has made many right decisions, but I completely disagree with his decision to play Fraser, and especially Hamiton, ahead of Gazdic.

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Keith Aulie draws in for Jordan Oesterle who was reassigned to OKC after the Detroit game. Nikita Nikitin might be available tomorrow in Columbus.

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Ben Scrivens starts and I expect him to play tomorrow as well, because the Oilers don’t play again until Monday and Richard Bachman isn’t a viable NHL goalie. He has allowed 10 goals on 61 shots this season.

QUICK HITS…

  • Marc-Andre Fleury is having the best regular season of his career. He has a .career-high 925sv%, leads the NHL with nine shutouts, is 6th in TOI, 6th in wins and 4th in GAA with a career low 2.14. He will need to have a solid postseason for many to stop questioning his ability, but he looks much more poised and confident ever since he started meeting with a sports psychologist.
  • Carey Price will win the Vezina, and he might win the Hart trophy as well, but it is very possible that Devan Dubnyk is one of the three finalists for the Vezina. Price, .937, is the only starting goalie with a better sv% than Dubnyk’s .928. Dubnyk has a 28-9-3 record, and since he arrived in Minnesota the Wild has vaulted up the western conference standings. It is very possible Dubnyk is a finalist along with Price and Pekka Rinne. Braden Holtby will get a lot of consideration as well, but Dubnyk is amongst the league’s best this season.
  • Crosby and Malkin are tied for 4th in NHL scoring with 62 points. They both are +6, have 185 and 189 shots respectively while averaging 19:11 and 19:50 in TOI. Their SAT’s are virtually identical as well. Crosby is an incredible player and he is the best in the game, but I’ve always felt Malkin gets overlooked. He isn’t mentioned as often amongst best in the league like Toews, Tavares, Ovechkin, or even Giroux, and I think that is because he plays on the same team as Crosby. Malkin has shown he can lead the team when Crosby is injured, and I’d argue Malkin could easily be considered the second best centre in the NHL.
  • Nikita Nikitin told Derek Van Diest his conditioning wasn’t an issue at the start of the season, “I was in good shape. That was never a problem,” he said. His GM felt different a few weeks ago, ” I don’t think he was in the best shape that he could have been, we have to get that rectified next year,” MacTavish said about Nikitin. MacTavish also praised him believing he is a top-four defender.

    Nikitin looked incredibly slow at the start of the year, but he did look a step quicker prior to his most recent injury. MacTavish said he wasn’t in the best shape, not necessarily in bad shape, and I think that was accurate based on how slow Nikitin looked. As for being a top-four defender, I don’t see that.

    I view Nikitin as a third pairing defender. If he can stay healthy, he can help the third pairing, but MacTavish, nor any of us, should expect him to be a second pairing guy just because the GM paid him like one. I don’t expect players to live up to a contract that was a major overpayment.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From the Pens Blog…

Death, taxes, and terrible hockey teams in Edmonton. The Oilers come to town tonight their usual train wreck selves. Their last two games, they gave up 12 goals in a two-day stretch, following up a 7-4 loss to Carolina on Sunday with a 5-2 loss to Detroit to fall to 0-2-1 on their five-game road trip. They are 0-4-1 in their last five, and still at the bottom of the barrel with a league-worst 3.31 goals against per game.

The Pens are 6-1-1 in their last eight and coming off a successful road trip that saw them earn five of a possible eight points. The bad news for the Pens is they went 0 for 12 on the power play out West. The good news is the Oilers have the league’s fourth-worst penalty kill at 77.6 percent and have given up goals on four of their last eight opportunities against. Even without shooting the puck, the Pens power play still might find a way to score tonight.

TONIGHT…

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GAME DAY PREDICTION: Penguins are simply too good. Oilers keep it close, but lose 3-1.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Perron scores his second goal in as many games against the Oilers.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: RNH scores his 20th goal, setting a new career-high, but also ensuring the Oilers are not the last team with a 20-goal scorer. Carolina (Stall, 19), Arizona (Ekman-Larsson, 17) and Buffalo (Ennis, 17) will battle it out to see which team’s leading goal scorer has the lowest total.

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  • SourGrapes

    LOL the Oilers gave up a potential Vezina finalist. Imagine that.

    To be fair, Dubnyk wasn’t going to be that good here, not with this defense and not when your GM calls out your ability. Confidence is everything. I’m just happy he never called out Nail.

    • Prongers Promises

      As a fan I would feel bad the Oilers gave up on a vezina finalist, but so did Nashville, Montreal, and Arizona. So at the very least, the team was not alone in overlooking Dubnyk.

      • bazmagoo

        Good point. Dubnyk pulled himself out of his epic funk, with some solid coaching & mentorship from Sean Burke. I don’t think you can put that all on MacT/Lowe/Howson/Eakins. Bring back Dubby! #craigsonit

        • So the player is capable of performing at the lop level of the league except he didn’t have adequate coaching & mentorship before? Who (or what) other than MacT/Lowe/Howson/Eakins do you put that on?

          This would be like trading Yak for a bag of pucks and he competes for the scoring race the following year. As far as I’m concerned we can add Dubnyk to the long list of players that regressed under Eakins.

    • pkam

      So did 90% of Oilers fans, in fact, many of them wanted to get rid of Dubnyk for many years. And many of them blamed MacT to start last season with Dubnyk as the starter.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    Will the Oilers trade a goaltender that will become possible Vezna Candidate next season?

    If you have to ask the question I think you know the answer..

    #Craigsonit

  • Prongers Promises

    N.N. – “I heff no problum with conditioning, it is in good shape. My new 8700 Square feeted home hass two conditioners and is alweys blowing cold air when needs to. That was never a preblum”

    I dont think Nikitin fully understood Craigs reference to conditioning.

  • Randaman

    Why is Hamilton playing ahead of Gazdic??

    One word answer – McDavid

    MacT needs the phenom to save his job, plain and simple

    TANK, which I fully support! I don’t want him in any other uniform because MacT won’t trade any of the fab 5 to save his life. This is his only alternative.

    • paul wodehouse

      Well if all your hopes are riding on the Oil securing McDavid, you should give up now and save yourself the agony.

      Even IF we manage to out-tank Buffalo (still a difficult and unlikely prospect) we only have a 20% chance of selecting first overall.

      No way we see McDavid in an Oiler jersey this fall. Might as well accept that now and think about which #1 D or #1 Goalie we could trade for that first round pick.

    • What proof do we have that it is Nelson’s decision? The entire organization is micro managed by the three stooges. Lowe, Howson, and Mac-T all spotted scouting (Although K Blowe claims to have nothing to do with day to day operations) What are the scouts doing while these three do their jobs? POHO,ing and GM,ing? I would love to see all three in someone else’s Colors. Same management team=same result next year (ad naseum).
      What Macocia was to the Eskimos= What Mac-t is for the Oilers.

  • pkam

    gregor, so what exactly do the flames do that makes them “the hardest working team in hockey”?

    these guys are grown ass men, i’m pretty damn sure they all try pretty god damn hard.

    • bazmagoo

      YOU THINK THE OILERS ARE TRYING HARD?

      Mark Giordano was lost for the season on February 25. Since then the Flames are 4-1-1, playing five of those games on the road.

      Here in Edmonton, Stauffer and Michaels are constantly whining about how “beat up” the Oilers are. Right now they are only missing one significant player (Nikitin is not a significant player).

      Amoung all their other problems, the Oilers need about 12 heart transplants. Not 20, about 12. This team does NOT play hard.

    • SSB1963

      Thank god I am so tired of hearing how they are the hardest working team in the league! Pretty sure that all the professionals in the league might take issue with that as well. What I see is that they as a team have bought into what ever kool aid Hartley is serving.

    • Jason Gregor

      Not sure why you asked me. I didn’t mention them in the article. They work hard in hard areas, but they have to work hard because they don’t have the puck enough.

      The have been grossly outshot all year, I’ve never claimed they were the hardest working team in hockey. The thing they do well is they compete in the tough areas, regardless of size. Gaudreau doesn’t shy away from traffic.

  • R U Kidding Me!

    “I believe it sends the wrong message to your team. Guys who put in the work and show improvement should be rewarded. Gazdic isn’t going to be a top-line player, but he sure as hell is a better NHL player than Hamilton.”

    Our whole team is one giant wrong message.

    “Devan Dubnyk is one of the three finalists for the Vezina.”

    THANK YOU JASON! Finally someone gives Devan the respect he deserves. Other than Price, there isnt a goaltender who has done more for his teams than him. He should definitely be in the final three and i think he should win it should the voters give Price the Hart and not want to give him the Vezina.

  • Craig1981

    The entire Oilers roster needs to see a sports psychologist in my mind……no body has the mental stamina to of played on this team any length of time and not have it affect them.

    The GM could use some sessions too

    …..I’m not really even joking

      • Craig1981

        I’m sure that helped, but in my mind Eakins destroyed him…..there is just too many players on this team that went downhill with Eakins and uphill after, for it to be random.

        I would be more than happy if there was anyway he signed here in July….its wishful I know

      • Craig1981

        I’m sure that helped, but in my mind Eakins destroyed him…..there is just too many players on this team that went downhill with Eakins and uphill after, for it to be random.

        I would be more than happy if there was anyway he signed here in July….its wishful I know

  • Spoils

    good for Dubnyk btw. Awesome return to form. Reminds me he was a 14th overall pick for us in 2004, and the gold medal winning backup on the WJC team…

    still it is taking everything I’ve got not to vomit at the turn of events from an Oiler fan’s perspective!

    I guess it should give me hope that it is possible to go find a Goalie that can push us over the top.

    hmmmm… be nice to have that for the start of 2015.

  • The Oilers are 5-25-10 against the west.

    Geez. We’re so far from being a team that sniffs the playoffs. Too busy sniffing their own jockstraps. I don’t see much changing next season, maybe 26/27th place finish, and who knows after that.

  • Gordie Wayne

    TSN is reporting that Johnny Boychuk signed to 7 year deal by NYI…no salary announced as of yet.

    One more option down…

    Sigh…

    EDIT:

    Sounds like he will receive $42 million over the deal, Newsday reported.

    • Craig1981

      Oilers fans have to wake up and start supporting the players that we have. We will not get good free agents coming here.

      It is not because Edmonton is a bad place to live (because it is a great place to live). It is because good players want to go to teams with a chance to win.

  • Gordie Wayne

    Winning sure makes signing players easier…first Leddy and now Boychuk (but due credit does go to Garth Snow to trading for both of them in the first place).

  • tileguy

    Richard Bachman isn’t a viable NHL goalie. He has allowed 10 goals on 61 shots this season.

    Purrfect, he should start every game to play out the string. With buffalo and arizona still having to play each other twice (dreaming they each get 3 points) we are not out of the Mcdavid race yet.

  • CDNinATL

    Johnny come home. No, Johnny is going to the island. The Boychuck dream ends. What now? Did MGT think they could get him for 4.5-5 Million/3 years like Nation fans?

  • 99CupsofCoffey

    ONE free agent signing is not going to turn the Oilers around. Just like ONE draft pick isn’t going to turn them around.

    The folks running the organization have fundamentally flawed plans (or lack thereof).