GDB 73.0: HOME ICE ADVANTAGE – Playin’ the Blues

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GameDay

The Oilers’ previous eight games against the St. Louis Blues have been ugly. The Oilers lost all eight, one in OT, were outscored 34-13 and out shot 257-169. The two losses this year were improvements over the previous six —  losing 3-1 and 4-2, the shots a combined 60-50 — but they still lost.

The Oilers played the Blues twice in the first four games of the season, and Todd McLellan was hoping he could gauge if his team has improved. He admitted this morning that with so many injuries it will be difficult to get an accurate read on his team, but was also quick to mention he wants to see how his team competes against the big, skilled Blues.

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The Blues have no glaring weakness. They have an excellent D corps, and a wide array of forwards who can beat you with skill, or size or nastiness. In the regular season they are an elite team, and they’ve dominated the Oilers, but they are the San Jose Sharks of the central division when playoff time arrives. They’ve been unable to win when it matters most.

The Blues had their six-game winning streak snapped in Calgary on Monday and they were not happy with their performance. They will be in a snarly mood tonight, so McLellan should get his wish to see how his team reacts and competes against one of the upper echelon teams in the league.

“I want to see ten winning efforts,” McLellan said about the final ten games of the season. That doesn’t mean he expects ten victories, but he wants his team to put forth an effort that will give them a chance to win. The Oilers were very competitive versus the Predators on Monday, and if Cam Talbot was in goal they likely would have gone to OT, or possibly win in regulation.

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The Oilers will need a similar effort tonight or the Blues will embarrass them.

LINEUPS…

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The Oilers had an optional skate, so we won’t know the exact lines until game time, but Darnell Nurse draws in for Nikita Nikitin on the blueline and Cam Talbot gets the start in goal.

Oilers lineup courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

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Blues lineup courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

QUICK HITS…

  • I’m interested to see who David Backes plays against. He has intimidated the Oilers for years and he loves to try and get players off their game early on with an extra crosscheck of glove in the face. I’d challenge Leon Draisaitl and match him up against Backes tonight. When Draisaitl uses his size he is much more effective and Backes will make him earn every inch on the ice. It would be good to see how Draisaitl responds.
  • Listening to McLellan today, the only thing he discussed with Darnell Nurse was knowing the rules more. Ensuring he knows about the instigator in the final five minutes, and the aggressor penalty. He did not talk about being less aggressive. They do not want to rein in Nurse’s natural aggression. McLellan believes it is an important aspect of Nurse’s overall game.
  • “We don’t know what we have because we’ve never had our entire lineup. This week is the first time we’ve even practiced with our entire group,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. The Blues are tied for first place in the west despite all their injuries. Hitchcock is excited about the potential of his team, but is also a bit leery because he doesn’t know exactly what he has, since they’ve never iced a full lineup.
  • There is no doubt the Oilers injuries have impacted their team, but no one in the organization should be fooled into believing they’d be close to a playoff team if healthy. The Blues have lost many key players, but they are still winning.
  • Sounds like the NHL has almost finalized the expansion draft rules. Today’s proposal suggests teams will be able to protect seven forwards, three D-men and one goalie, or a team can protect eight skaters of any position and one goalie. Players with less than three years of pro experience, like Connor McDavid, don’t need to be protected. No confirmation on what happens for players with No Move Clauses. It might force teams to protect players with NMC. There are many wrinkles to iron out, but the number of protected players will be much lower than in previous expansion drafts and that is a good thing. The main wrinkle will be how much salary cap they need to protect and/or expose. That will make the lists much more interesting.

    The expansion draft won’t happen until next summer, at the earliest. Based on today’s rosters I don’t see the Oiler having any issues. They are likely to make a trade or two this summer so their forwards will be fine. The only issue might occur on the blueline if they add one or two proven defenders. If they add two then they could only protect one of Klefbom, Davidson or Sekera if they elected to go with option one.

    It is too early to speculate on who they’d protect, because we won’t know the roster for next season, but in July and August it will be fun to project who they’ll keep.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

St. Louis Game Time

Of course, rebuilds are slow processes, and the Oilers are still far away the worst. They were tied with Calgary at the bottom of the Pacific Division, but the Flames pulled ahead just recently. Not shocking, but the Oilers are now in prime position for the draft lottery – yet again. They have gone 5-4-1 in their last ten games, and have lost two in a row leading into tonight. They get Darnell Nurse back tonight, after serving his 3-game suspension for sucker-punching and jumping Roman Polak on March 8th. Also center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be in his third game tonight since being injured in January. Also, we’ll be seeing some former Blues in Nikita Nikitin and Adam Cracknel. He was claimed off of waivers by the Oilers around the deadline, and has yet to register a point with his new team. That’s too bad, but I hope he holds off at least one more game.

Despite getting the hook against the Flames, it will of course be Jake Allen in goal for the Blues. The Oilers will have the option of starting their number one goalie Cam Talbot (17-24-4 record, .918 Sv%) or their new backup Laurent Brossoit (0-2-1, .882). That’s another position that they will have to shore up someday. There’s gotta be somebody that they can turn to for netminding once the rest of the team gels.

TONIGHT…

 

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Blues are simply too deep. Talbot keeps the Oilers in the game, but they drop a 3-2 decision.

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OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Kevin Shattenkirk shows off his elite offensive zone skill. He is so dynamic and creative inside the blueline, and he picks up two assists.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: RNH scores a PP goal, but unlike his PP goal against the Blues earlier this year, he actually shoots this one himself.

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Recently by Jason Gregor:  


      • RJ

        Putting aside the Oiler wish list for a #1RHD, trading Pietrangelo doesn’t make much sense.

        If you read the Blues blog listed above, they’ve seen a significant drop-off in defensive play without Pietrangelo. If you go back, they saw a significant drop-off in their PP play when Shattenkirk was injured.

        Quite a few people have noted that they can’t afford to keep all of their high-priced defensive talent. If they could sign Shattenkirk, then they’ll move Bouwmeester before they moved Pietrangelo.

  • McRaj

    “There is no doubt the Oilers injuries have impacted their team, but no one in the organization should be fooled into believing they’d be close to a playoff team if healthy. The Blues have lost many key players, but they are still winning.”

    Thank you for mentioning that Jason. There are many fans who continue to say it’s difficult to assess the team when there are so many injuries. Even with a healthy line-up the Oilers would have sucked.

    And to answer the question of why the blues would consider trading Pietro. Let’s say hypothetically the Oilers win the lottery. The Blues want a franchise #1 Center, Auston Matthews plus Mark Fayne for Pietro is a deal I could see the blues doing. They could re-sign shattenkirk as he is a #1 RHD. Parayko would move to the #2 RHD slot and Fayne is a great option at #3. Other then that, the only possible player I could see the blues trading either Pietro or Shatty (signed) for from the Oilers is Drai.

    • Oilerproud

      Lol love the optimism but I can assure you that no Gm from any competitive club will be trading us their best dman. Lol give your head a shake. Teams don’t spend decades developing Defence so they can trade them for undeveloped fwds.

      If Oilers land a trade that sees Pietriangelo or any other top D it will be a trade including proven players from the Oil.

      BTW these trades happen about once every couple lifetimes soooo..

      Nice to dream but if we had Pietriangelo would you trade him for an 18 year old kid?lol

      • McRaj

        I respectfully disagree with you. St. Louis desperately needs a franchise center (like Nashville did) who can score. They can replace Pietro from within with Shatty.

        Secondly, with the upcoming Expansion draft, players with 2 years or less of pro service will be highly valuable since they are exempt from the expansion draft.

        When you combine those factors, there is a great chance for the Oilers to grab a D-man like Pietro, and if not him, than Shatty.

        Edit: Lastly, if we do win Auston Matthews, he would be on a cheap salary, something that cannot be understated for a team like the Blues.

  • CBK

    Just finish strong. Like McLellan said 10 winning efforts.

    I think we all can agree the Defense is what it is but don’t give up after the 1st period.

    That’s all I can really ask for on another long lost season.

  • BlazingSaitls

    Nurse/Clendening pairing? Oh boy, this is gonna be tough to watch.

    Wait a sec… the choices are from Fayne, Clendening, and Reinhart for a defensive pairing?

    Forget I said anything.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    I think the oilers should be fine on defence with the expansion. Teams that have good depth on D should be worried.

    ST.Louis is usually a snoozefest. Oil win 2-1

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    “I’m interested to see who David Backes plays against. He has intimidated the Oilers for years and he loves to try and get players off their game early on with an extra crosscheck of glove in the face. I’d challenge Leon Draisaitl and match him up against Backes tonight. When Draisaitl uses his size he is much more effective and Backes will make him earn every inch on the ice. It would be good to see how Draisaitl responds.”

    Backes is a UFA this summer, and my understanding is the Blues need to shed salary. Can we please, please have him? It can be my birthday AND Christmas present!!

  • Oilerchild77

    If they can get 10 winning efforts in their last 10 games, then we know the coaches are finally getting through to them. If not, we know for damn sure what the problem is… leadership.

  • McRaj

    Hey Jason, how can a person outside of Edmonton call into your radio show. I always want to call TSN 1260 (I live in Calgary) and have my 2 cents but I don’t know the out of town phone number.

      • NoisyNufe

        Well, for starters, the media keeps talking about that high powered offense in Edmonton. I keep wondering if there’s another team in E-Town that I don’t know about. It’s sure not the one I’ve been seeing on NHL ice.

        And some “high IQ” Nobel Peace Prize winners on here, keep spewing verbal diarrhea about 3, that’s right, THREE, scoring lines. The Oilers don’t even have ONE scoring line.

        John Shannon is one of the worst. But he does have a lot of company when talking about the “high powered offense of the Oilers”.

        I think they are about 26 – 27 in league scoring. About the same in goals against, and in their usual disgraceful position in the standings, again.

        I do hope Peter Chiarelli and Todd Mclellan has the audacity to make major changes. That group of players causes a lot of embarrassment to Edmonton.

        Because, in Canada, Hockey Matters.

      • Jason Gregor

        McDavid is already a point-per-game player.

        Hall has been top-ten twice and has top-20 this year.

        Eberle has seasons of 63, 65 and 76 points in last five years.

        You can hate the players, but suggesting they don’t have offensive players is simply wrong. The entire team does not score enough, but that is due to a lack of overall skill and depth.

        • McPucker

          That numbers still don’t make Edmonton an offensive team. Those 3 can be considered offensive players, but as a team the Oilers suck as an offensive team.

          (and as a defensive team).

          Sadly enough, they’re still my team.

          • McPucker

            It’s also tough to pick up points when you can’t pick up a pass. Or win a fore check. Or make a pass in the offensive zone.

            The other misnomer is that the Oilers are a fast team. They aren’t. They’re continually beat to the puck.

            Given room, they’re good off the rush and that’s about it. They’re problems go way deeper than just the D.

          • Word to the Bird

            A lot of their faults stem from a losing culture. They don’t have the confidence to go deep into the corners and put in a winning effort.

            This stems from losing a lot of hockey games which is due to a lack of adequate defensemen.

            Fix the D, everything else will work itself out.

          • McPucker

            You got 3 centers any team would be please to have. RNH with about 300 games then two more essentially rookies.

            Hall. I Like him. I think he’s has a coming out season this year but he doesn’t use his team mates and turns the puck over a lot.

            Eberle is a very good complementary player.

            Pouliot is good. Maroon looks good to me.

            Then you have Hall, Ebs and maybe RNH probably leading in the dressing room. Connor too. All very limited experience.

            You need to make changes there. You need a Horcoff or a Stoll. Experience. Grit. Ability.

            It’s not the players fault. Once you fix the D, there still needs to be a lot of fixing with the forwards. Of course that may sort itself out as they go through the process of fixing the D.

            It’s going to hard for the Oilers to win a trade involving a top 1/2/3 d-man.

          • Jason Gregor

            That is what I just wrote. I said not offensive team. He said their best offensive players are pop guns. Not the case. You seemed to miss that key part.

          • .

            Exactly. 26th over all in goal scoring and 27th on the pp is not an offensive team.

            As much as folks (rightly) bemoan the weaknesses on the D, “anemic” aptly describes a GF and PP in the 26-27 range.

      • Lofty

        The Oilers do have a goal scoring problem.

        That could be a result of poor D but it’s a problem none the less.

        IMO, it’s not enough offensive net presence and and a defense with poor gap control which allows teams to gain zone entry too easily.

        I would love to see what the Oilers offense could do against there own D.

  • Oiler Al

    Shaky defense or not, about time the boys up front had a breakout game and score some goals beyond their normal one or two.

    Tall order against a tough defense,
    but get it done. Not only is the Blues defense strong defensively, they can also score points. Their Top 5 D-men have 120 pts. [compared to Oilers 62pts.]

  • Gadgets

    Regarding an expansion draft…Keep in mind that there is currently no timeline for when an expansion team will enter the league. It certainly won’t be next season, most likely 17-18, but there’s a chance that it would be the season after too, and the expansion draft wouldn’t take place until the summer leading into the new team’s first season.

    Meaning that the three years of pro experience would be at the time of the expansion draft. If that’s not for two years, then yes, McDavid, Nurse, and Draisatl would indeed have to be protected. Add Hall, Klefbom, Nuge, and the hopefully to be added d-man and things get tight for that last spot.

    I do think, however, that the team would enter for the ’17-’18 season so we should be okay.

  • 99 NOW 97

    Who would hate us worse if we win the Lotto ?

    Tarana ?
    Calgary ?
    The Entire Hockey World ?

    Man , i will be embarrassed but will take it and laugh my butt cheeks
    off if that happens.

    What Number will Matthews wear > Lol…

    • Seanaconda

      If we won it while being ahead of Calgary/ Toronto hopefullly being even higher than that in the standings I wouldn’t be embarrassed it’s not like we made the system. It would be a hilarious use of the oilers draft rule
      .

      Our place in the standings after all this time is embarrassing yes but winning something by chance I don’t think should make it more embarrassing .

      • Hockeyfan

        How can fans not be embarrassed for the past 4 years the way your powder puff team has performed while being given golden tickets. if you do win the lotto and pick Mathews, still need something resembling a defense and no premier dman is going to Edmonton if he can help it. Rebuild: Round 4. Good luck with eggshell ebs, nancy nuge and halfway hall. Can’t wait to see Yak somewhere else, he is gonna be GOOD!

        Blues 3, coil 1

        • Ned

          “How can fans not be embarrassed for the past 4 years the way your powder puff team has performed while being given golden tickets”

          Easy, by not having anything to do with the state of the on ice product. Why would I be embarrassed when I have nothing to do with the performance of the team?

          You on the other hand should likely be a bit embarrassed by showing just how obsessed you are with a team that you obviously don’t support. You really don’t have anything better to do with your time? Now that’s pathetic….

    • S cottV

      Kassian has to get going.

      Not sure that I like the way McLellan is handling him.

      Yeah – he gave the puck away a few times and took a dumb penalty or two, but – there is a lot on the plus side, that you would like to see cultivated.

      McLellan puts him on the first line, wanting more possession hockey in the o zone, and to me – Hall does almost nothing to give that a chance. It seems like the Coach ought to be putting more pressure on his better players, to get with the program.

      But no – 1 1/2 games to get something structurally going in the right direction and you’re outta here Kassian.

        • K.Pal

          Odd…. Everyone wants to talk about how every NHL head coach has handled Yak but nobody wants to name all these coaches.

          Two ways to look at it. 4 coaches… Kruger, Eakins, Nelson and McLelland. Two of which actually got production out of Yak.

          Or 1 coach…McLelland, other three are not in the NHL now, so calling them NHL head coaches might be pushing it.

          Either way seems a strange argument

  • Ed in Edmonton 1

    If the Oil do indeed put forward “10 winning efforts” in the final 10 games I think that would be a first sine I don’t know when, 2010 at least.

    Expanding on this theme its like the Oil only play a 60 game schedule each year. There are probably 20 games a year when they don’t even show up to compete or give up early on after the 1st bump in the road.

  • Max

    I only get to watch live games a few times a season so I pick my games usually for teams I haven’t seen that often. I’ve seen the Blues live at Rexall twice, the first time we won 4-1 about 4 or 5 years ago, and our home season opener this year. I feel we can do it tonight. I also think that there might be some serious scouting being done by both teams – Shattenkirk, Eberle, Hall, Yak and Nuge etc. all being evaluated. God knows we need a top D and if we could get Shattenkirk AND Hamonic, I sure would be happy. As for the top picks? I’d much rather get a team together for the NOW, not for somewhere down the road – we’ve tried that for years and it hasn’t worked, has it.

    • Max

      Hell, I predicted a win, and we did it!! I’m going to buy a few lottery tickets this week and when I win will buy season seats (or a box) at Rogers Place and a fancy condo in Ice District! WHOO HOO

  • Seanaconda

    I didn’t say it wasn’t embarrassing. But other teams have finished in the bottom 3 enough to of picked 4 first overalls in the last 30 years too.(and I mean in the span of time the oilers took so in an 6 year section of time between the 4) I can think of two off the top of my head. Pittsburgh and Florida

    It’s just cuz we happened to be crazy lucky it’s a way bigger deal.

    And really exept for the mcdavid l and hall draft years they weren’t the strongest drafts of all time.