Winning helping Oilers and Yakupov

A three game win streak has the Oilers one game under .500 and close to a playoff spot. The team is feeling much better than they did last Thursday after losing their fourth straight game to start the season. Winning cures most things, and it also alters many perceptions.

In pro sports winning is the most important factor. No one is paid to lose, and every fan base wants their team to win.

Connor McDavid played a season-low 15:36 and Oilersnation didn’t explode with rants about the coach. When Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov had low minutes, many demanded more minutes. No one cared last night, because McDavid scored a beautiful goal and the Oilers won the game.

Winning calms even the most boisterous pessimist.

Yakupov played a season-low 12:45, and the legion of YakCity didn’t care because he picked up two assists and the Oilers won. Yakupov is averaging 15 min/game and he is gaining confidence every shift.

Yakupov is having fun, and he’s playing much better defensively. In past years, Yakupov would bristle when you asked him about playing sound defence, but last night, after a game in which he only played 12 minutes (due to the Oilers being shorthanded for 12 minutes), Yakupov spoke like a cagey veteran.

“We still made too many mistakes, but not too bad so we won’t be embarrassed in film tomorrow,” he said.

He was proud of his nice play in the D zone that sprung Pouliot and led to the McDavid goal, and he should be. Regardless of what the YakCity supporters claim, Yakupov needed to improve his play away from the puck and his decision making with it. The majority of young players go through the same growing pains, and this year Yakupov has shown great improvement in those areas.

“We (his line) are getting more chances because we are working hard, but most importantly not turning the puck over,” said the 2012 first overall pick.

Yakupov didn’t care he only played 12 minutes. He understood penalties were a factor, but winning makes every player feel better, especially when they are contributing to the wins as much as Yakupov has recently.

He even joked about his pass on Mark Letestu’s first goal of the season. “”Usually I shoot from there. For first time in my life I made backdoor pass (laughs),” he said. He told me later he always wants to shoot, and will in most cases, but feels he can also help the team by passing when teams expect him to shoot.

His game is evolving and maturing, and he was quick to point out it helps playing with McDavid. Making the smart play defensively won’t always result in a goal, but having McDavid makes it more likely. I’m not sure many other forwards would have been able to skate away from the Detroit checker the way McDavid did to spring himself free. When Pouliot picked up the pass it looked like a harmless two-on-two, but McDavid’s speed (and hands) turned it into a goal.

Yak was most excited about the win. He, like many Oilers, is tired of losing, but you could tell he was excited to contribute in ways that he hasn’t in the past. He was also very aware of his game. “I made a few bad plays. I was hurrying to make plays. I need to calm down sometimes (laughs) and not rush things.”

Todd McLellan said this about Yakupov’s play, “I believe that Yak’s offense right now is coming from good defensive positioning by his linemates and by him.”

Yakupov has been excellent the past three games and his point totals are a huge positive, but the most encouraging sign for Oilers fans should be hearing him talk about making the correct play. Winning becomes contagious, and when players see their smart plays contribute to victories it becomes even more addictive.

QUICK HITS….

  • McDavid’s play in Calgary and his goal last night had Oilers fans buzzing with excitement. He is an electrifying player, and he is only going to get better. But you shouldn’t worry about the haters from afar, or the odd pessimist/doubter from within Oilersnation. Some will refuse to see his greatness, but when one of best players of all-time is impressed by McDavid, I’d say it is okay for you to get excited about what you will see in the future.

Jagr’s life revolves around hockey. He loves it, and he clearly appreciates high-level skill.

  • Cam Talbot was excellent last night. The Oilers had a very good start, but despite only allowing five shots in the first frame, Talbot was forced to make two outstanding stops. The Oilers need to improve their puck management against the top teams, but great goaltending can cover up many mistakes and right now Talbot and Anders Nilsson are providing that.
  • It is still early, but even the biggest Justin Schultz doubter has to be impressed how much more competitive he’s been this season. He’s engaging in battles regularly. He’ll never be physically imposing, but so far he’s shown me he is much more willing to compete.
  • I have to admit seeing Letestu score last night to make my NSOGDP correct made me fist pump. The best part about it is today NHL.com has his face on his page and not Nikita Nikitin. The power of Oilersnation is strong.

Recently by Jason Gregor:         

  • Puck_In_Throat

    Nailing the NSOGDP, watching Schultz break up a break away with a hard backcheck and good defensive play, seeing Yak in a tie for team lead in points with hockey Jesus, seeing Klefbom becoming a beast, getting not just average goal tending but above average goal tending.

    I knew things were going to change eventually, but as an Oiler fan I’m not sure I know how to watch games like this yet. My buddy was getting pretty annoyed as I exclaimed everything happening that wouldn’t have happened last year, like it was a minor miracle.

    All this, and Drasiasitl and Nurse are still on the farm. Wow.

  • Puck_In_Throat

    Everyone be careful, with that NSOGDP last game Gregor has outed himself as a Jedi. It is only a matter of time before he is tempted by the dark side of the force.

  • McDavid for PM

    Love seeing YakCity thrive with Connor. Really shows that once you give the kid enough rope (which Eakins did not do) he will deliver with the tremendous amount of skill that he has.

    • Saazman

      I agree with what you’re saying. But it also reflects Yakupov’s change in mindset. McDavid makes his line mates better. Yakupov is starting to play and talk like a team mate and not a special talent on a team. Credit to McDavid the future captain as well! Good to see Yak having fun and playing well!

  • McDavid for PM

    So Jultz is playing better. So is he now a league-average 1/2 or 3/4? Is that a fair comment, or do we need to see more before he is a league-average player?

    • Dwayne Roloson 35

      How does this get 34 thumbs down? All off-season we heard his new ceiling was as a third-line PP specialist, in a good line-up. Now that he is playing better he is going from one of the worst NHL defencemen last season to an average one. That’s improvement, kids. Or am I supposed to pretend that three wins cancels out the last three years?

  • Johnnydapunk

    It’s pretty minor in thr grand scheme of things, but it’s pretty freakin’ nice to see the Oilers leading in a “positive” stat category. They have the best penalty kill in the league right now and it’s been a while since the Oil led any positive stat in the league.

  • McDavid for PM

    Hey what does everyone think of miller getting sent down and Ilro being called up?

    I’m excited to see his hard forechecking up there with Hall and Nuge.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    To all of you too young to remember 1979-1988 I really regret not video taping Gretzky’s first year and every play-off game they played. Burn those DVD’s, put them in storage. You may not watch them again for 15+ years. Some day you will want to tell your kids about some of those amazing games you saw McDavid and Co play. Then you when they don’t believe you you can play those games and remember.

      • BobbyCanuck

        http://oilers.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=430583

        DVD Boxset List of games:
        June 14, 2006 Edmonton 4 Carolina 3 (Stanley Cup Final–Game 5–Pisani OT winner)

        April 29, 1997 Edmonton 4 Dallas 3 (Game 7 – Todd Marchant overtime winner)

        April 16, 1991 Edmonton 5 Calgary 4 (Game 7 – Esa Tikkanen overtime winner)

        May 15, 1990 Edmonton 3 Boston 2 (Stanley Cup Final – Game 1 – Klima 3OT winner)

        April 21, 1988 Edmonton 5 Calgary 4 (Game 2 – Wayne Gretzky overtime winning goal)

        May 31, 1987 Edmonton 3 Philadelphia 1 (Stanley Cup Final Game 7)

        May 30, 1985 Edmonton 8 Philadelphia 3 (Stanley Cup Final Game 5)

        May 19, 1984 Edmonton 5 NY Islanders 2 (Oilers win first Stanley Cup)

        May 10, 1984 Edmonton 1 NY Islanders 0 (Stanley Cup Final – Game 1)

        December 30,1981 Edmonton vs Philadelphia (Wayne Gretzky scores 50 goals in 39 games

        A lovely collection of games, this really helped me when I reached the’abandon all hope, ye who enter here’ era of the Oilers. Hopefully I will not need to watch any of them this season!

    • #97TRAIN

      Which is why Gregor wrote in the article,

      ” but last night, after a game in which he only played 12 minutes (due to the Oilers being shorthanded for 12 minutes), Yakupov spoke like a cagey veteran.”

  • orangepylon

    off topic, but does anyone else hear Mclellan in interviews and for the briefest of moments, think it’s Dallas Eakins’ voice? Thank Mcjesus the content actually makes sense and he isn’t arrogant.

  • orangepylon

    Dallas Eakins is banging his head against the wall wondering why McLellan continues to use Yak on the PP and regularly during the game. He does not have the skills to keep up in the NHL and you need to bench him for games on end in order for him to be effective. Yak is not an NHL player capable of being elite, Eakins knows all of this hahahahahahahah. What a bum Eakins was, Yak haters drink it in. Yak is unselfish and generally one of the most happy gracious guys I have ever seen in the NHL. I hope this continues and Yak gets around 60 points with 30 goals.

    • TKB2677

      Eakins and a couple of the writers here having been writing crap about Yak for the past two years. The same writers were also wrong about the former “coaching / management” and the exceptionally poor group of former “core veterans”.

    • Dwayne Roloson 35

      This x10.

      I think Nail is with Nuge and Conner McDavidsky in the Oiler top 3 elite passer category.

      Nail is unselfish with the puck,a shoot first aggressive threat to Goalies , elite vision , underrated playmaker,a energetic puck-magnet.

      I would love to see Nail running the 1st PP unit off the half-boards with permission to be a shoot-first guy like Weight could be ,he and Dougie are a lot alike IMHO .Nail should watch some of Weights tapes and how he works it from the blueline down to the 1/2 boards.

      Mac-L is right IMHO that the defensive positioning of all 3 men is driving their offense,they force mistakes from the opponent because they are consistantly all on the right side of the puck supporting each other.

      If Yak stays with McDavidsky he could hit 40 goals and a PPG ..IMHO he and Conner are both physical uber-aggressive kill-shot Barracudas and think the game as quick as one another……like lightening,both are urgently UNSELFISH and 110% GOAL orientated, they both look to execute a high% offensive thrust ASAP urgently… they already execute beyond simply playing the game together, they think it together now.They both aim through and past the back of the net not just in it.

      Good times ahead.

      • #97TRAIN

        I have to totally disagree with you. Yak is nothing like Doug Weight. Doug Weight liked to carry the puck through the neutral zone. He was a great set up guy and I don’t think Yak is that.
        Yak is a guy to dart in and out of traffic looking for a place to set up and finish it off with a nice one timer.

    • #97TRAIN

      Last year Yakupov played 1:58 on PP/game.

      This year he is at 2:09/game. You think 10 seconds difference is why he is producing?

      Yakupov is playing with McDavid. That is biggest difference, and he looks like he actually wants to play some defence. Eakins was a clown, but smart fans realize Yakupov needed to improve.

  • The Future Never Comes

    This hasn’t really been of focus yet, but our penalty kill has been outstanding. I think when players see McDavid’s dedication and passion for the game it helps to transpire others to put in a little extra work. Especially, players like Hall and Yakapov that are so competetive and don’t want to be left behind in his shadow. They are visibly getting improving game by game.

  • PimKing

    Gotta say ive been a hardcore Shultz hater, but i saw a heavy stick in his hands last night! Couldn’t believe my eyes when he broke up that play coming back to the net. What is this new Shultz?!? Defensively responsible defenceman??Whaaaaa? If he gets in a fight protecting the house i might just come back around full circle! Nice to see some compete level out there from all those guys.

  • TKB2677

    Yak gets a few points in a 3 game stretch and his acolytes are in full on euphoria. Like Rob Brown playing with Lemieux, Yak will get some points playing with Mcdavid.

    The Oilers would be wise to move him when he is hot if there is any interest. I admire his effort so far this year, but he’s just not a very good NHL player.

    • MacT's Neglected Helmet

      I’m not going to argue against trading Yak. That might very well be the smart longterm play, albeit a risky one (you don’t get picked 1st overall if you don’t have serious raw skills).

      But you’re WRONG to suggest that Yak’s recent success is purely because of McDavid. Yak has stepped up and is playing well. He’s generating a lot of offence and not giving much back.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    Yak’s assists last night were very nice.

    It’s too bad the highlights only focused on Connor’s sick deke and finish. Yak’s no-look backhand bank pass was also very nice and was the catalyst for that rush. Of course, Poo also made a nice play on his pass to Connor too.

    • Randaman

      You weren’t paying attention then because John Shannon mentioned both of their efforts that led to the sick goal.

      John Shannon is way too smart for Sportsnet

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    If these pairs keep working. And as long as these pairs keep working. Would it it be worth it to trade Eberle? Put him on a team that can’t score. Thoughts?

  • Been there

    Everyone is commenting how Yak’s game has upped since he started playing with McDavid, but I also see McDavid’s game has improved since he was put with Yak.
    He had no chemistry with Hall, Purcell and all the other attempts to find him a partner and sometimes it is just chemistry, Styles that compliment each other.
    McDavid is a playmaker and needs the puck, Yak is a shooter with finish, they compliment each other.
    Think Gretzky/Kurri, both good players on their own but together they just exploded.
    They made each other better and that is what I am starting to see with this new tandem, albeit it in its infancy stages.
    Yak’s defensive game is way better but again that started last year playing with Roy and has slowly grown since.
    I would not be trading Yak until I see how this plays out further, the potential there is too great and if they keep growing at this rate or a rate close to this and we might be witnessing the birth of the next great combo in the NHL.

  • #97TRAIN

    Off topic somewhat but with our defense this year just goes to show you that team defense can also work if you don’t have the big number 1 guy.
    Very impressed on how they have played so far . Still making some mistakes but so improved from last year