The Oilers enter tonight’s action sitting 30th place in the NHL. Very few expected them to be here again, but they are, and now the Oilers must find a way to dig out of last place instead of wallowing in self pity and staying here all year.
It is up to the players. They have to play better. They need to play smarter.They must cut down on the major mistakes. I believe they have improved some aspects of their game, but the still make crucial errors at the wrong time.
The need to clean up their game and the wins will come.
The Oilers played well in Chicago last week, but came up short again. The Hawks’ top-two lines are very dangerous and the Oilers can’t afford brain cramps in their own zone.
They also need to stay calm in the defensive zone. The Hawks control the puck better than most teams in the offensive zone, especially Patrick Kane, and they do it against most teams. The key to limiting the Hawks chances is to not get out of position. It is easier said than done, but you can’t chase them and you can’t panic when they hem you in the zone.
McLellan wouldn’t commit to who is playing on the third D pairing. “We have a group of three players and we will decide later today who plays. One of Davidson, Reinhart or Ference will draw in on the third pair. At practice it looked like Davidson was paired up with Gryba the most, but he wasn’t there exclusively. Oilers lineup courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com
- Many people wondering why the Oilers are giving Purcell the prime minutes and not Yakupov. That hasn’t been the case all season, except for the last game in LA, and Purcell has played well recently, so it would be foolish of McLellan to take Purcell off that line now.
Yakupov has played 237 EV minutes this year. Here are the forwards he has played with the most at EV.
Mark Letestu: 40
And then a host of guys for 10-15 minutes each.
Yakupov has two goals and since McDavid was injured he only has one point.
Purcell has three goals and six points in his last seven games. Here are his 5×5 linemates.
He has played 220 min at EV
The the rest is 15-20 minutes with various players.
It is simply incorrect to suggest Purcell is getting more opportunities than Yakupov. He was moved up with Hall and Draisaitl in the Arizona game and then started with them in LA and played very well. Yakupov has been fine, but I’d argue the time has come for him to produce regardless of who he plays with. He had two great chances in LA, but couldn’t finish.
- McLellan said this about Yakupov and his current linemates.
“I thought Yakupov played well in Los Angeles playing with Letestu and Hendricks. They are straight ahead players like him. He had a number of good chances
“It can’t just be Derek Roy or McDavid, sometimes it has to be Yak who takes charge. Sometimes you have to be the catalyst on the line instead of waiting for some body else. I thought he had a good game in LA and I’m anticipating he can do it again,” said McLellan. I agree completely.
- The Oilers are more competitive most nights, but when they make a mistake it is often an errant pass or miscommunication which results in a goal against. Taylor Hall shared his thoughts on what his holding the Oilers back from winning.
“The wins haven’t come because of small, little mistakes. It is almost like when you rehab a shoulder. The big gains come
early, and at the end it is the little muscles you have to work on and get
better. It is the same with our team. We are almost there, but we aren’t a
finished product and it’s those little things in our game that are hurting us.
Once we fix them and eliminate them it will help us win games.”
Hall has made a conscience effort to be better defensively and it is showing in his statistics and analytics. “I’m not worried about scoring all the time. When we played against Crosby’s line, I realized if we don’t give up a goal it is better for the team. I feel I’m more relaxed and focused on what will help us win. Obviously I need to produce points, but some nights, against certain lines, not getting scored on is just as important,” said Hall. McLellan is hopeful the rest of the team sees the change in Hall’s game and incorporates the same changes in theirs.
- Hall is huge fan of Draisailt. “I think I have given up some more puck time because he is a
guy who wants the puck too, and he can really rag guys along with him,” Hall said about playing with Draisaitl.
it is important for me to maximize his skill set, get him the puck down low and
let him go to work. He has a really good shot. He sees the ice well and he does
everything really well. I can also see him being a good faceoff guy pretty soon
due to his strength.”
Draisaitl has only taken 43 faceoffs this year and he is 17-26. Like most rookies he has struggled, but his size and hand speed should allow him to improved quickly. The Oilers desperately need a top-six centre who can win faceoffs.
- Teddy Purcell hired Adam Oates a a skill coach and as Purcell said, “a helper.” I will have a more extensive article on their relationship later today.
- A few players in this game love playing against the other team.
Hall has 9-12-21 in 16 games vs. Chicago.
Eberle has 7-13-20 in 18 games.
RNH has 1-11-12 in 12 games including a five assist game.
Meanwhile for the Hawks:
Patrick Kane has 12-28-40 in 29 games.
Jonathan Toews has 16-14-30 in 29 games.
Marian Hossa has 6-14-20 in 18 games.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
From John Jaeckel
This game’s a little bigger than others for the 10-7-1 Blackhawks. They kick off their annual Circus road Trip, which is typically a bellwether for the season as a whole—and bring a 2-game winning streak into Rexall Place tonight. The Oilers gave the Hawks all they could handle in an earlier meeting at the United Center, bringing a strong forecheck and generating a lot of turnovers.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: I expect a flurry of goals tonight. The Oilers like playing the Hawks and fans will witness a high-scoring, exciting game. Oilers are 7-9-1 in their last 17 against the Hawks and they pull within one game of .500 with a 5-4 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall picks up two points. He tallies his first multi-goal game since December 21st, 2014.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Letestu picks up his first EV point of the season when he buries a nice pass from Yakupov. Goals from the bottom six have been scarce, but the Oilers get two of them, and the win, tonight.
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