GDB 18.0: King-sized effort required

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Super Troopers GDB

(photoshop: @isuckatpicking)

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The Oilers are 2-6-1 in their previous nine games. They are in a funk, and yesterday I had numerous people ask me if playoff teams go through these dips and still make the playoffs?

I didn’t know the answer for sure, so I did some digging.

Many People, including some coaches, players, fans, bloggers and media, have at one point mentioned good teams don’t have long losing streaks. The Oilers players discussed exactly this at the start of the season. It makes sense, but it is true?

I looked for two different things. Longest losing streak (actual losses, not OT/SOL bonus point), and I also calculated their worst ten game stretch.

Here is a breakdown of the eight western conference teams who made the postseason last year.

Dallas Stars: First place, 109 points:

The Stars didn’t lose three games in a row in regulation. They did lose four in a row, once, but one game was the wonderful OTL. Their worst ten game stretch was 2-6-2. They were 48-17-7 in their other 72 games. They were really good in the regular season.

St. Louis Blues: 2nd place in Central with 107 points:

They lost three in a row once. They did go 0-2-3 once as well. Their worst ten games stretch was 3-4-3. They were a model of consistency all season.

Chicago Blackhawks: 3rd in Central with 103 points:

They lost three in a row once and their worst streak was 0-3-1. Their worst 10-game stretch was 3-6-1. They also had a stretch were they went 25-8-2.

Anaheim Ducks: 1st in Pacific with 103 points:

They never lost more than two regulation games in a row, This is a bit deceiving, however, because they did go 0-4-1 once when started the season 1-7-2 going L-O-L-L-W-L-L-O-L-L. They finished the season 45-17-9. They were good enough to overcome a brutal start.

Los Angeles Kings: 2nd in Pacific with 102 points:

They had two three-game losing streaks. Their worst ten-game stretch was 4-5-1. They never had a horrendous stretch, and their most dominant run was 13-4-1.

San Jose Sharks: 3rd in Pacific with 98 points:

They lost four in a row and in the same stretch went 0-5-1. They had one ten-game stretch of 2-6-2 and another of 3-7-0. They overcame those two bad stretches by going 41-17-4 in their other 62 games.

Nashville Predators: 4th in Central, first wildcard with 96 points:

They had a four and three-game losing streak. Their worst ten-game stretch was 2-6-2. They only won half their games, 41-27-14, but 14 OTL points really helps. At one point they won only seven of 22 games going 7-11-4, but still finished with 96 points.

Minnesota Wild: 5th in Central, second wildcard with 87 points:

They are a bit of an anomaly being the only western conference team since the SO was added (2006) to make the playoffs with fewer than 91 points (The Montreal Canadiens was only east team, 88 points, in 2010). The Wild lost five in a row in regulation — the final five games of the season, funny enough — and their worst stretch was 1-11-2 (worst ten-game within that was 1-8-1). If you combine that 14 game streak with their final five games, they were 1-16-2 during two different parts of the season. They went 37-17-7 in their other 63 games.

In case one season isn’t a big enough example for you, a quick look at the eight 2015 playoff teams reveals similar traits.

Anaheim lost three games in a row once, and another time they went 0-0-3 and they had one stretch of 3-6-1.

St. Louis had one four game winless streak, 0-3-1 and their worst ten-game cluster was 4-5-1.

Nashville had a six game losing streak and they were 6-12-3 in their final 21 games in 2015, but they still finished with 104 points. However, prior to those final 21 games they had never lost more than two games in a row through their first 61 contests.

Chicago lost their final four games in 2015, but they hadn’t lost more than two consecutively prior to games 79-82. Their worst ten-game stretch was 4-6-0.

Vancouver lost three in a row twice, and in one of those streaks they had an OTL prior. Their worst ten-game run was 4-6-0.

Minnesota lost four in a row twice, once going 0-5-1 and their weakest ten-game run was 2-6-2.

Winnipeg lost four in row twice, with one of them being a 0-4-2 run, and their worst ten games totaled 3-5-2. They finished with 99 points

Calgary lost seven in a row once, but only three consecutively one other time. Their worst stretch was 2-7-1 and they finished with 95 points.


WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

I don’t think anyone expected the Oilers to win the division or be a 100-point team when the season began, and a great 7-1 start shouldn’t have changed that. However, a bad ten-game stretch happens to most teams with fewer than 100 points, and even some with 100+ like Anaheim last season and Nashville in 2015.

The key will be avoiding multiple bad streaks, and trying to avoid really bad ones. A 2-7-1 run won’t crush their chances to make the playoffs, but the bleeding needs to stop and playing a Kings team without Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar would be a good place to start.

LINEUP

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After a solid game in Anaheim, Anton Slepyshev remains in the top-nine alongside RNH and Lucic. Lander is out and Puljujarvi draws back in beside Draisaitl. Pitlick and Kassian add speed on the fourth line. Gustavsson will get his 2nd start of the season. You can’t play Talbot every night, but Gustavsson will need to control his rebounds tonight. The Kings crash the net and he can’t kick out juicy rebounds or bobble the first shot, because the Kings will be right there.

KINGS

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Even without Kopitar and Quick the Kings are a formidable foe, but their lineup isn’t as scary and the Oilers should not be intimidated.

QUICK HITS

  • LA is winless in four, 0-3-1, and similar to the Oilers their offence is struggling with five goals in four games, with all of those loses coming on the road. Tonight is their first game back home after a five-game road trip.
  • The Kings are 5-2 at home and they’ve won three in OT and once in a SO. They are 25th in goals/game at 2.29 and are 14th in GA/game at 2.59. The Oilers are 14th in GPG at 2.71 and 16th in GAG at 2.65. Not much separates these two teams through 17 games.
  • Klefbom missed the net seven times in Anaheim, but he still had four shots on goal. Prior to last game Klefbom had 13 missed shots in 16 games. He’s improved his shot on goal production significantly this season. In his first 107 games he had 160 shots, 1.49/game. In 17 games this year he has 37 shots, 2.18, per game. Last game was a bit of an anomaly for him when it comes to missing the net, and it looked like he was trying to be too accurate.

    The bigger issue regarding Klefbom is the overall play of him and Adam Larsson. They have struggled recently and need to be more consistent.

  • Kris Russell took the morning skate, on the road, which means he’s getting closer because usually injured players with no chance to play don’t go on the road. Dallas maybe, but probably next week. Matt Hendricks also skated and Todd McLellan said Hendricks could make his season debut on Saturday in Dallas.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Jewels from the Crown

if you’re a Kings fan: Being home is nice. Avoiding a five-game losing streak (and a full-blown crisis of confidence) would be nicer. Darryl Sutter is sticking with That 70’s Line and the Brown-Dowd-Setoguchi combo; one of them needs to take over this game.

if you’re an Oilers fan: As it turns out, someone is leaving with a five-game losing streak. Edmonton’s offense has cooled off significantly, and so has Cam Talbot; the Kings often provide a tonic for struggling goalies, but not for struggling offenses.

if you’re a hockey fan: Milan Lucic is coming back to Los Angeles for the first time since leaving for a big contract in free agency. He became a fan favorite quickly enough that the reception shouldn’t be too harsh, but it’ll create an interesting dynamic.

TONIGHT…

GDB

(photoshop: @TomKostiuk)

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Three goals by either team would be a breakout and likely enough to win. McDavid can’t go goalless in ten straight, can he? Often a sign a losing skid is coming to an end is when you play fairly well, but still lose. I thought that was case, at least for first 40 minutes, on Tuesday. Oilers score three — THREE! — and finally win again, 3-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have lost nine in a row in LA. McDavid hasn’t scored in nine games. Tonight he scores his first NHL goal in the month of November. He hasn’t scored since October 28th, and he only played one game in November last year. He’s due. Oilers are due.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Lucic scores his 165th career goal in his 665th career game.

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