GDB 8.0: Miller Time Is Over

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There haven’t been many games over the past years where I felt the Edmonton Oilers were an obvious favourite, but tonight they are. The Oilers’ speed, size, goaltending and confidence will have them leave Vancouver with a 7-1 record.

I don’t see them being over-confident or lackadaisical. Milan Lucic and Kris Russell are the only current Oilers who played in the NHL playoffs last year, and Russell had to be traded at the deadline to get on a winning team. They are tired of losing, and according to their head coach they have taken it upon themselves to demand more of the group.

I asked Todd McLellan if his expectations of what his team is capable of on a nightly basis is different than last year?

“Ingredient wise, it is different. Tactic wise and game-plan wise, there are a lot of similarities, except our group comprehends it better. We have been together longer, we can make adjustments quicker, those parts of the game we are further ahead than we were last year at this time for a couple of reasons,” said McLellan.

So what are those reasons? The main one comes from the players. Every coach wants his team to have it, but he can’t instill it. The group needs to want it and demand it, and according to McLellan, his group has it now: accountability.

“Last year I talked about establishing boundaries. Right now the players are in control of their boundaries. They hold each other accountable on the bench. When a shot is blocked they reward each other. When somebody catches somebody from behind and strips a puck like we did a lot of Thursday, they recognize it. They are paying attention to the details it takes to win and they reward each other on the bench with it (though encouragement). When it doesn’t occur, there is a little tap, ‘Hey, let’s get this going, you can be better in this area.’

“When they take over the team and they start controlling the boundaries, it becomes more valuable,” said McLellan.

They will eventually lose some games, but against a slow, somewhat inexperienced and injury-riddled Canucks team, I don’t see it happening.

The Oilers’ lineup is better than the Canucks’ in every area. I, like you, have watched bad teams the past decade. I know one when I see one, and without their best D-man in Chris Tanev, the Canucks blueline will struggle with the speed and size of the Oilers.

LINEUP

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No reason to change anything for the Oilers.

Canucks

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This roster looks similar to many the Oilers have iced in previous years. Some solid players, but not enough proven NHLers. 

QUICK HITS

  • The Oilers have 17 goals at 5×5 while the Canucks have eight. Vancouver has only scored 14 goals in seven games. They’ve only allowed 16 thus far, but ten have come in their past three games. The Canucks can’t play run and gun with the Oilers, and their defence isn’t stingy enough to shut them down in a 2-1 game. 
  • McLellan wants the Oilers to shoot more on the PP. They are 22nd in the NHL in PP TOI at 38:23, yet they are 16th in PP shots with 32. If you look at the top powerplays from past seasons they usually average close to one shot per PP minute. Here are last season’s top-five powerplays.

    Team         PP%       PPTOI        PP SHOTS
    ARI            23.1        398:52             391
    CHI            22.6        402.11             318
    SJS           22.6         449.00            430
    DAL           22.1         419.42            391
    WSH         21.9         405.13            392   
    EDM         18.1          415.27            348 (18th in NHL PP%)

    Chicago was an outlier, but the others were close to a 1:1 shot to minute ratio. The Oilers didn’t shoot enough last season and finished 18th in PP%. So far this season they have 32 shots in 38 PP minutes. If they maintain their current shot/minute ratio they will finish the season with 352 shots in 418 minutes, which is almost identical to last year. Not surprisingly, their PP% this year is right on par. They are 18.2% and were 18.1% last year.

  • McLellan is also concerned they are allowing too many shots on the PK. The most successful penalty kills allow fewer than one shot per PK minute. Here are last year’s top-five.

    Team         PK%       PKTOI            PK SA
    ANA           87.2        500:18             401
    WSH          85.2        433.35             352
    STL           85.1        469.52             415
    NYI            84.5         384.51            330
    PIT            84.4         419.07            380  
    EDM         81.1          438.04           400 (18th in NHL PK%)

    On the surface, the Oilers’ PK looks very good, sitting sixth at 88.5%, but when you dig deeper you notice they are allowing way too many shots. In 46:50 of PK time they have allowed 55 shots, well above one shot per minute. Only Anaheim has allowed more PK shots, 58, but they’ve had 65:39 of PK time. Cam Talbot is the main reason their PK is at 88.5%. He can’t maintain a .945sv% on the PK, so the Oilers need to start limiting the oppositions shots.

  • The good news for the Oilers is so far the Canucks’ PP has been dreadful. They only have 31 shots in 40 PP minutes, and not surprisingly their PP is 24th at 12.5%. The Oilers can’t allow the Sedins to kill them on the PP, so they need to pressure and not let them set up and create quality shots.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From CanucksArmy.com

This group of players is going to be dangerous. There doesn’t have to be anything said for Connor McDavid, he can change a game by himself. Looking to line 2 with Leon Draisaitl and Jesse Puljujarvi you just have to shake your head and think “How do they continue to draft such amazing talent?” You have to tank pretty hard for a long time to get this team but man oh man at some point it’s going to be a cake walk for the Oilers.

Our boy Zack Kassian is having a great start to his season and he fits right in there so good for him.

And then there’s the defense. It’s anemic. Read aloud these names: Kris Russell, Adam Larsson, Oscar Klefblom and Darnell Nurse. There is a joke there and if you happen to be an Oilers fan reading this, it’s not very funny. Thankfully, there’s too much talent up front that the Oilers don’t need to worry about that full time quite yet.

TONIGHT

GDB

GAME DAY PREDICTION: It is rare to predict a blowout, but the Oilers win big 5-1.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Eberle scores. He has 12 career goals versus the Canucks, the most against any team, and he pots his 13th tonight. And McDavid ends his PP shot drought and records two PP shots.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ryan Miller, who is 12-0-1 in his career versus the Oilers, gets shelled. When he is pulled from the game, he tries to slam his stick in frustration against the boards, but his oversized chest protector gets in the way when he swings and the knob of his stick gets caught up in his jersey and he ends up buttending himself. Somewhere Ray Ferraro chuckles, after earlier this week Miller publicly chirped him for questioning the size of Miller’s goalie gear.

Recently by Jason Gregor:   

  • Stat that could scare the NHL
  • GDB 7.0: Capital Gains
  • What does it mean?
  • Nurse spent the summer working on puck skills
  • The Oilers are improving
  • GDB 5.0: A real test
    • T Ambrosini

      Wow! The Oil continues to play 60 minutes of hockey and once again rewarded a “W” for the effort. And that McDavid kid… We are lucky as hell to have him.

    • PlayDirty

      I’m lovin the d-men. Just doing their jobs.

      There were a couple close calls where Talbot couldn’t find the rebound right away but, because the d-men were tying up their man properly, it gave Talbot or the forwards a second to find the puck and make a safe play.

      This goes back to Gryba putting Tanev on his ass in the 3rd period scrum at the outdoor game. There are a lot of things going right these days. Let’s just keep doin what we’re doing.

    • Shameless Plugger

      Nuge looks possessed out there. Patrice Bergeron in the making? He’s still just a kid.

      I am so giddy.

      This is fun.

      A Edmonton sweep tonight. What a Friday.

    • Joy S. Lee

      What’s with the Canucks Army guy calling the Oilers defense a joke?

      The ‘Nucks haven’t scored for over two games after tonight’s blanking, while the Oilers have given up the grand total of TWO goals in their last FOUR games… Talbot being the star of the week is on him, but it’s not ALL on him by any stretch… and if that’s some kind of joke, then I hope they keep me laughing. And especially at Vancouver. Ha ha ha. See ya (in the standings).