GDB 17.0: Draisaitl is Rolling

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The Oilers were 5-10 and had eight of their next ten games on the road, prior to last night’s game in Anaheim. They desperately needed a win. And they got one.

The win didn’t salvage their season, but Teddy Purcell’s reaction after scoring the OT winner illustrated how important this win was for the team. “We need to believe in ourselves, and coming from behind tonight and finishing it off — we needed this,” said Purcell post-game.

This group indeed needed it, and Leon Draisaitl, the third overall pick in 2014, factored in on all four goals. He was a beast.

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Draisaitl scored on the PP, then assisted on the second and third goals before showing off his footspeed on a great backcheck in OT that led to Purcell’s winner.

Draisaitl has four goals and ten points in six games since being recalled from Bakersfield in the American Hockey League. Last night he was the Oilers’ best player, and his skill, size and speed is something this organization hasn’t had since Jason Arnott.

I was amazed at how many Oilers fans questioned the Oilers selecting him in 2014. The doubters questioned his heart and wanted “gritty” Canadian Sam Bennett instead. I never understood that rationale, because, if anything, Draisaitl was the quintessential Canadian. He moved across the world, landed in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to pursue his dream (playing in the NHL), and yet some still questioned his determination.

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It is difficult for many Canadian 17-year-olds to move away from home to play Major Junior or Junior A, never mind to a foreign country where you don’t know a single person and your family can’t come visit you monthly. 

Draisaitl struggled in his rookie season. He tallied 2-7-9 in 37 NHL games. He wasn’t ready for the NHL, but he was rushed, because the Oilers inexplicably elected to enter training camp with only two NHL centres, so Draisailt was forced to play. The doubters said, “I told you so,” before the Oilers finally wised up and sent Draisaitl back to the Western Hockey League.

The good news for Draisaitl was he realized he needed to improve his first step to play in the NHL. His top-end speed was fine, but he needed to become more explosive, and since being recalled it is clear his hard work this off-season paid off.

Draisaitl is the big, skilled forward the Oilers have been missing. He is only going to get stronger, but he’s already able to protect the puck with his big frame and win battles that smaller players simply can’t. His one-handed pass to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins last night was a great example.

He looks very comfortable on the wing, but when he is ready I expect we will see him become a centre. He reminds me of Anze Kopitar, and in a year or two I see him as a centre. Draisaitl is much bigger than TV portrays him. He is a big man with broad shoulders and not only did he improve his explosiveness in the summer, he added muscle to his beefy frame.

Draisaitl was the best player on the ice last night, and it wasn’t just because of his linemates, Taylor Hall and Nugent-Hopkins. He displayed his complete arsenal of skills throughout the game: Quick shot, strong along the boards, great passing and excellent speed.

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QUICK HITS…

  • I loved watching Darnell Nurse not back down from Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf gave him a shove and wack and Nurse gave it right back. Nurse will be the emotional leader of this team in the future, possibly as early as late this year, and after watching the Oilers turn the other cheek for so long, his actions were a welcome change.
  • Sekera had another solid game and his stretch-pass-off-the-boards was outstanding. He is starting to look more comfortable and his improved play couldn’t have come at a better time.

  • Sometimes you have to credit the opposition for a great play. Sami Vatanen’s pinch that led to Corey Perry’s second goal of the game was a thing of beauty. Not only did he anticipate the pass up the wall perfectly, he also avoided Yakupov’s contact and was able to move the puck quickly and accurately. His play didn’t allow the Oilers defence to get back in front of the goal. Mark Letestu left the slot because he was supposed to support the winger. The play happened so fast the Oilers didn’t have time to recover, but I’d credit Vatanen with an incredible play before shredding the Oilers. Certain times we need to recognize the other team made a great play.
  • He didn’t score, but Anton Lander had a few very good scoring chances. I can’t recall him having any good chances in the first 15 games, so maybe it is a sign he might awaken from his horrific offensive slump.
  • Benoit Pouliot is sick, so the Oilers recalled Anton Slepyshev. It is rare nowadays, but the with Pouliot’s injury the Oilers now have three right shot wingers and Yakupov to play on their second and third lines, and Yakupov prefers the left side. The Purcell/Lander/Eberle line created a few good scoring chances last night, and I wonder if McLellan just slides Slepyshev into Pouliot’s spot or if he alters his second and third lines.

  • The 4th line had a great night. They drew two penalties and even created some chances. Also, loved Gazdic getting after Maroon after his idiotic hit on Pakarinen.
  • I know the stats suggest it is risky to start goalies on back-to-back nights, but some coaches do it and they have success. Last year Cam Talbot played both games of BTB sets three times and he went 2-0-1 in the second game. He had a combined .934sv% in those three games.

    Anders Nilsson was excellent last night, especially in the first period, and I understand why McLellan is going back to him. You can’t always go with the numbers, sometimes a coach has to go with his gut.

    I tweeted out this question after the game, and 64% of you agree with McLellan.

LINEUP…

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Oilers lineup courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

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Coyotes lineup courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Five for Howling

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Edmonton Oilers are bad this season. They currently sit near the bottom of the Western Conference, in front of only Calgary and Colorado.

The team’s fortunes seemed to be changing for the Oilers before this season. They drafted Connor McDavid, brought in Peter Chiarelli to be general manager, Todd McLellan to be the new coach, and Cam Talbot to hopefully end their problems in the crease. They also now have two former Coyotes with Rob Klinkhammer and Lauri Korpikoski. So far none of that has worked.

The Oilers may have proven themselves to be the unluckiest team in the NHL this season. Franchise draft pick Connor McDavid broke his collarbone in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers and is likely to miss a few months. Granted the Oilers are still stacked with talented forwards, but losing McDavid is a serious blow.

    TONIGHT….

    GDB17

    GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers lost all five games to the Coyotes last year. They stop that streak tonight with a 5-3 victory.

    OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall tallies two points. He has 18 points in 17 career games vs. the Coyotes.

    NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Mark Fayne has 15 career goals in 329 career games, but he lights up the Coyotes. He has three goals in nine games vs. Arizona/Phoenix and he scores his first goal in 31 games this evening.

    Recently by Jason Gregor:       


      • Mooseroni

        Couple of jokes here and there…the Oilers telecast has always been pretty lite hearted in my books ( see mean gene principe), just be lucky we don’t have Rodgers millions yawn

    • BigBadOilersFan

      Maybe an issue is all these fair weather fans ” I’m done watching these idiots till mcdcvid is back” are you guys serious? look guys I’m not happy with the oilers play either today but theres no need to go form a mob and try to find someone as the goat!

    • oilerjed

      Not taking the end of last nights game into account, would anyone else like to see Pakarinen take Purcell’s spot on the third line?

      Everytime PAKman is on the ice he seems to get or contribute to a scoring chance. Let’s be honest if the past is any clue to the future, Purcell will disappear for the next two weeks.

      Oh and by the way, I think I saw Mr.Nuge rag dolling and b!tchslapping Baby Nuge around during one of Genes spots last night. The battle for THE Nuge’s body is almost over and Baby Nuge is on the extinction list.

    • S cottV

      I know the Perry goal has been kicked around a fair bit, but in the interest of fun debate – not sure I agree with the assessment JG.

      First off – Yak is in the wrong position (no surprise), with the puck up for grabs behind the goal line on his side. Slightly too far in the middle of the ice and when it is runs up the wall, he has no chance to get to it first. Starting a few yards closer and lower – Yak might have been able to get to it first and or make a better play to shut down the pinching defender.

      Letestu is in pretty good position, to begin with and at that point – should have identified that Yak was not gonna get that puck. So – you don’t support Yak for an outlet pass – you defend. Tie call on Letestu’s part and you defend and I don’t think the situation was even close to a tie. Clearly he has to defend. A good centremen in his own zone, immediately counts to three (if he doesn’t already know where the attacking forwards are situated)and he picks up the 3rd guy – that is not being covered by his two defencemen. In this case – he picks up the threat slightly behind him in front of the net. Put on the brakes and pick up that man, as there are times when your d men are both committed away from the net.

      Oiler forwards are going to have to be able to handle this kind of thing, if the team is ever to start winning consistently.

      The 2nd Duck goal – was another failure on the part of Oiler forwards, that should be preventable. Ducks have a d man down low – attacking in our zone, with two supporting Duck forwards. Both Eberle and Purcell have their backs to the blue line, whereby Horcoff skates from the blue line toward net completely undetected by our two bonehead guys. He came from Eberle’s side – so – his fault, but an alert Purcell might have saved the day. Both were hopelessly puck watching.

      I know for a fact that you can get aaa minor hockey league forwards to execute in their own end. It’s beyond me – how NHL veteran Oiler forwards, being paid millions, can seemingly have no clue because this stuff happens all the time.

    • ubermiguel

      Gregor makes a good point, sometimes the other team just beats you by being better. Reminds me of Willis’ recent article breaking down the Chicago goals. There were a couple where Chicago was just better and it’s hard to assign fault…except to whomever turned over the puck in the first place.

    • yawto

      Draisatl is just staying true to form. He has struggled his first year in every league he has played and dominated in the second. Not saying it will sustain but it does appear to be a trend. Takes time to get up to speed bit hauls ass once he is there. I believe the 37 games he played last year helped set him up to know what he needed to do to be successful this year and continuing on. If he does tear it up can we actually say the oilers may have mistakenly handled him perfectly.

      Learns in the NHL through the season. Because he is in the NHL his team is able to control his destiny and orchestrates his trade to Kelowna. After struggling against men he gets to return to junior and dominates the boys. Gets all the experience of the memorial cup run. Gets a summer to train with the confidence of the dual mvp awards but the reminder of how that only partially translates to the NHL. Uses that knowledge to come to camp faster and stronger. Edmonton demotes him reminding him only his best will lead to succes in the NHL. Gets the call up and delivers as needed.

      They dealt with this with all the perfection of Inspector Gadget. Comic genius. LMAO.

    • Anton CP

      Guess the real issue with the Oilers is disciplines. Penalties, off-sides, over-pursuing, pass to no man’s land, over-handling puck, caught puck watching, unable to protect offensive blueline, over-crowding one side, and etc.

    • dach3569

      Arizona has better coaching,a better GM and better recovery then the Oiler’s despite our draft fortunes. Time for Katz to walk. We wil end up with Austin Mathews at least….OMG.
      At least Edmonton is not a hockey city like better teams like Nashville, Dallas and Phoenix./p>

    • TRAIN#97

      I like Davidson but how many times have we seen him lose a battle on the boards or in front of the net that leads to a goal. Great efforts but continued poor results.

    • Randaman

      I’ll probably get trashed for this, but I’d really like to see Draisaitl be the 2C. I know that top line is clicking with him on the wing but Letestu/Lander as your 2C is just not the way to consistently win hockey games.

      Hall – Nuge – Yak

      Pouliot – Drai – Eberle

      Or switch Yak and Ebs, don’t really care. But the Oilers looked good with 2 top lines before McDavid got hurt – now they have 1. Go back to 2 and there’s a big German just waiting to show you he can do it.

      Plus Ebs is outside the top 6 right now — leading scorer from last year…

    • Johnnydapunk

      One thing that really impressed me about Nilsson’s play is the way he seems to really be aware and control the rebounds to go where he wants them to go, that’s usually down to positioning and acting as opposed to reacting when the puck is coming. His awareness of play has been brilliant, I mean instead of taking a whistle when the puck came to him in the three on three, he kept the play alive most likely knowing that overtime now is a case of fast breaks and seeing that the Ducks were trying to change lines.

      As for numbers, I’m more concerned about save percentages than goals against. If your save percentage is high (above .900) that means you are stopping a decent amount of pucks and a high goals against means the defence is letting you down. If your goals against is low but your save percentage is low, that’s a concern as the few pucks coming to you are going in. Right now Nilsson’s 0.919 save percentage is decent and if he stops 46 out of 50 shots, I won’t complain.

      All I want out of this game is to be able to relax a bit after one period, ideally 2 but this come back or tied stuff makes for tough viewing at times.

      • Gooilgo

        I think some of the advanced goalie stats are useful to appreciate whether a goalie is playing well or not.

        Last night, the goal off of Nurse’s skate, you can’t really blame Nilsson for that one. The deflection by Horc was a tough one. The second Perry goal: you can’t leave a scorer open like that in the slot and give him all the time in the world. I don’t blame Nilsson for that one either.

        Tonight’s first goal, he was screened, so that’s a tough one for any goalie to stop.

        I think if he is letting in softies, even if he stops most of the shots he should, that’s more worrying to me. I think that’s re biggest difference between this year and last. They’re not letting in a few softies every game. They score off quality plays, screens, deflections.

    • Spoils

      given the roster, the D is set right. As for the O…
      I’d think Ebs would be top 6.

      Hall-RNH-Drai
      Purcell-Lander-Ebs
      Slepy-Letestu-Yak
      Gazdic-Miller-Pakarinen

    • TartanArmy

      Nilsson starting back to back looking like it was the wrong decision, although Talbot might not have faired much better. I feel for any goalie playing for this team.

    • Randaman

      We wanted meaningful games….they are playing meaningful games in the race for auston matthews!!!!
      Imagine our 4 centres, Nuge, McDavid, Draisaitl, Matthews.