The Oilers won a measly nine of 50 games versus the Western conference last year. It was ugly, and some habits are hard to break. Despite moving to the Eastern conference after the 2013 season, the Oilers’ struggles against the Detroit Red Wings continued. The Oilers have only won once in their last 15 meetings versus the Red Wings dating back to March 30th, 2010.
Since drafting Taylor Hall, the Oilers’ lone victory over the Wings occurred at Rexall Place, on February 4th, 2012. Sam Gagner and Jordan Eberle each had a pair of goals and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored the shootout winner in a 5-4 victory.
Tonight’s tilt is one of the rare times in the past 20 years you can look at the Oilers and say they have a realistic chance to defeat the Red Wings.
I can hear you yelling at your screen, “Are you an idiot?”, or feverishly scrolling your mouse down to the comment sections to type out your disdain, but hear me out.
The 2015/2016 version of the Red Wings is not the team we’ve seen for the past two decades. They don’t have a Hall of Fame blueliner. Pavel Datsyuk is injured. Mike Babcock is in Toronto and the Wings have some of the worst possession numbers in the NHL.
They Wings are getting out shot by an average of 12 shots per game. They have a league low 21.4 shots/game and have allowed 33.4 shots/game. Outside of the Dallas game, where they were terrible, the Oilers are allowing a respectable 28.8 shots/game. They have improved their defensive zone coverage, but they still need more shots on goal. In the same five games they are averaging 26.6 shots/game.
If the Oilers want to be in the hunt for a playoff spot in February, they need to defeat Detroit when they are playing this poorly.
- The Oilers have to be aware of the Zetterberg line. They’ve combined for eight goals and 20 points in five games. Abdelkader and Zetterberg have a combined six goals on 13 shots, while rookie Dylan Larkin has looked very comfortable on the top line. They are riding a hot streak and the Oilers need to play “inside their jerseys”, to quote Todd McLellan.
- Griffin Reinhart didn’t skate again today, so Andrew Ference will take his spot on the third pair beside Gryba.
- Detroit is 19th on PP (15.4%) and 21st on PK (80%), while the Oilers are 21st on PP (15%) and third on the PK (89.5%).
- The Oilers and Wings are both struggling on faceoffs. The Oilers are 25th at 46.6% and the Wings are 27th at 46.5%.
Glendening is 53.3% (40-35)
Richards is 47.7% (21-23)
Zetterberg is 46.6% (34-39)
Sheahan is 40.7% (24-35)
For the Oilers:
Lander is 58.2% (46-33)
Letestu is 49.9% (43-44)
RNH is 36.5% (31-54)
McDavid is 27.9% (17-44)
Matt Hendricks has taken the fifth most faceoffs and is a team-best 61.5% (32-20), but he’s injured. Nugent-Hopkins needs to improve. He should be better than 36%, especially when he takes the second most draws. Once he improves in the dot, the Oilers should have more puck possession.
- 60 Minutes was in Edmonton today taping their final interview with Connor McDavid. The segment will air on 60 Minutes Sports on Tuesday, November 3rd at 6 p.m. MST on Showtime. This feature has been in the works for nine months, and their goal is to introduce McDavid to the American sports fan. They covered him at the Orr/Cherry CHL game, a few games in Erie, at the draft and now in the NHL. They’ve yet to decide which Canadian station will air the feature.
I asked McLellan about Andrej Sekera’s play. “He is still evolving, just like we all are. As the games have gone on he’s polished things up a bit more. He’s starting to understand what we ask of him and his teammates ask of him. He is a very passionate player.”
McLellan also mentioned he is adjusting to the West and how different the game is played. I asked him to elaborate on what he feels Sekera needs to adjust in his game. “He likes to have the puck. When he has it on his tape he likes to have it, but it has to get off a bit quicker. I don’t know if I’m correct or not, but out East maybe you have a bit more time to handle the puck and play one-on-one as a defenceman. We’d like him to move the puck a bit quicker, don’t get into those situations, sense danger quicker, but it will come with him.”
I’ve seen Sekera make some really good plays, most noticeably the OT goal in Vancouver, but as McLellan said we’ve seen him over handle the puck. I suspect he will adjust, and McLellan believes 20 games is the right amount of time for players to adjust and for him to get a more accurate read on their ability. I’d guess Sekera won’t need that much time to adapt.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Dylan Larkin vs. Connor McDavid.
Our guy is still just a dark horse candidate in terms of rookie of the year consideration and he’s up against the kid who’s starting to find his stride. They may not play much against one another head-to-head, but it’s a fun storyline to track and one that I honestly do think Larkin’s got a good shot on any given night to come out ahead on.
Defense vs. Defense.
Neither team has an awe-inspiring blueline corps and it’s pretty well expected there are going to be a lot of mistakes between these two squads while the scoring forwards look to exploit those weaknesses. This game very much could come down to a battle of which team makes fewer boneheaded mistakes and the blue line is the front line on that battle.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers end an eight-game losing streak vs. the Wings with a 5-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The top-two lines continue to score and they combine for four goals
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Mark Letestu has scored one goal in his last 37 games dating
back to last season. His lone goal came against the Oilers at Rexall Place on
March 18th when he was a Blue Jacket. He picked up an assist the next
night in Vancouver. It was the only time he scored points in consecutive games
all season. He tallied his first assist as an Oilers last Sunday in Vancouver,
and he scores his first goal tonight. He also wants to score so the people at NHL.com realize he is not Nikita Nikitin.
NOMINATE YOUR HOME ICE HERO!
Celebrate the volunteer, parent, coach or organizer who keeps the game going and asks for nothing in return.
Nominate your Home Ice Hero and they could win a prize worth $5,000. Nominate your hero.