GDB 64.0: Streaking in St.Louis

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Game Day

(Photoshop: @isuckatpicking)

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The Edmonton Oilers have a three-game winning streak versus the St.Louis Blues. It might seem insignificant, however, I believe it is the ideal illustration of how this organization has finally turned the corner. Over the past five and three-quarter seasons, the Blues have accumulated 563 points. Only Chicago (573) and Pittsburgh (575) have more.

St.Louis was 13-1-0 versus Edmonton since January 5th, 2012, and outscored the Oil 51-23. They beat the Oilers for fun, but times are changing in Oilerville. They’ve outscored the Blues 12-7 over this three-game winning streak, and the Oilers enter tonight seven points up on the Blues.

The Oilers are no longer the doormat of the NHL, while many in St.Louis are wondering if their window to win the Stanley Cup has closed.

Last night the Blues traded defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk and goalie Phoenix Copley to Washington for forwards Zach Sanford, Brad Malone, a 1st round pick in 2017 and conditional picks in 2019.

Shattenkirk is set to become a UFA July 1st and since last summer it was clear the Blues were not going to re-sign him. They still have a lot of depth on the blueline with Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Joel Edmundson and Jay Bouwmeester, but Bouwmeester turns 34 in September and he has 10 points this season after scoring 19 and 13 the previous two years.

The Blues will remain competitive, of course, but they are in a transition period, and with new contracts set to begin next year for Alex Steen ($5.75 million), Jake Allen ($4.35 mill) and Patrick Berglund ($3.85 mill), I don’t see where their new young talent is coming from.

This was their last year to take a run at the Cup with their core, but moving Shattenkirk last night has closed their Cup door in my mind. They will begin a new chapter, and I’ll be stunned if they have the same success over the next six years as the six they are finishing.

I see the Oilers and Blues on different escalators in the NHL standings. The Oilers are on the way up, while the Blues are going down.

However, that doesn’t mean tonight is an easy game. Tampa Bay traded Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle before their game versus Ottawa last night and the Bolts responded with a dominating 5-1 home victory. The players won’t just roll over even if their GM is selling off because they are out of a playoff spot.

The Blues currently occupy the second wildcard spot in the West. They are three points back of Calgary with two points in hand, and four back of third place Nashville in the Central with a game in hand.

The Shattenkirk deal, which many players knew was likely, could inspire them to prove everyone wrong and let the league know this group’s best before date has not past.

I expect the Blues to be ready to play, and the Oilers need to match their intensity. While the Oilers are on the rise and the Blues are taking a step back, but not plummeting to the NHL basement, tonight represents an excellent opportunity for the Oilers to show a killer instinct and defeat a weakened opponent.

LINEUP

Oilers

Anton Slepyshev draws back in for Drake Caggiula and the other lines remain the same. Caggiula hasn’t done much lately and the Blues have a bigger lineup so going with Slepyshev makes sense.

Eric Gryba draws in for Matt Benning. I suspect we will see Benning get the odd night off down the stretch. He is a rookie and the NHL schedule is a grind coming out of NCAA. 

Blues

Nail Yakupov and Scottie Upshall are the scratches for the Blues. It sounds like the Blues see Sanford as more of a centre, not a winger, but he won’t play tonight. He arrives tomorrow.

QUICK HITS

  • I love the Capitals’ trade for Shattenkirk. They are going for it, as they should. They will be hard to beat, but there are no guarantees. As Alex Ovechkin said this morning, “Every year we talk about this is our year, this is our year. But enough talk. It’s time to do something.”
  • I believe the most overrated asset in hockey are prospects and draft picks, excluding top-15 picks. The odds they pan out are low, even as early as 2nd round, and while they are better than potentially losing a player for nothing, I think far too often people over value them when a trade is made.

    Last year at the deadline many claimed the Calgary Flames made a great deal for Russell. They fleeced the Stars by getting Brett Pollock, Jyrki Jokipakka and a second (Dillon Dube). Fast forward a year and Jokipakka, considered the best prospect of the three, was placed on waivers today. Pollock is playing in the ECHL and Dube is having a solid season in the WHL with 40 points in 31 games. He is now considered the best prospect. There is no guarantee the teams who’ve already made deals like this, or will before tomorrow’s deadline, will win the Cup. But I think we need to pump the brakes on declaring teams who add picks and prospects as making great deals. It often takes many years to determine if those picks/prospects help them.

  • Of course, it is important to have depth, and it usually comes through the draft, but teams need to make good picks, and then develop them properly, in order for it to work. Quality over quantity.
  • I still think Oilers need a centre and a winger more than a backup goalie. There is no backup goalie, Nilsson or Kincaid, who could win them a series. With 18 games remaining after tonight the backup will likely play four at the most. I’d rather add a winger or a centre who will play every game and play in the postseason. Talbot just came off his best quarter of the season, posting a .924sv% and 2.14 GAA. Don’t let one game in Nashville make you believe he is “fatigued.” It was one game. The previous 18, and the entire season for that matter, tell a much different story.
  • Jaroslav Halak makes $5 million next year. Even if the NYI eat half of it, then the Oilers, or whichever team acquires him pays him half. If Talbot is starter you expect to play 65 games the next few years, does it make sense to have a backup who makes over half of what Talbot does and will only play 17-19 games? My other issue with Halak is his size. I don’t believe you can win with a small goalie in 2017. 

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From St. Louis Game Time

One look at the NHL standings may leave you scratching your heads. The perennial playoff-missing Edmonton Oilers are 33-22-8 and have a solid hold on the third place slot in the Pacific Division. Are they Cup favorites? No. Do Oilers fans give a damn? No. Their team is about 100% sure to make the playoffs barring a catastrophic meltdown.

The Blues, on the other hand, are currently in the second wild card slot after a three game losing streak/bye week allowed the Nashville Predators to pass them in the Central Division standings. Only two points keep the Los Angeles Kings out of that spot.

To add salt to the wound, the Blues just sold power play quarterback Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals at a rental’s price.

So what are the Blues doing? Do they know they’re supposed to be a playoff team? Are they content backing in this year after going to the Western Conference Finals last season? Do they know that they were never a true Cup favorite and are just focused kind of on the future, but not as much as they would truly like to be in order to halfway placate a fanbase?

Hell if we know.

TONIGHT

GDB

(Photoshop: @TomKostiuk)

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers and Blues play an entertaining affair, which ends with the Oilers winning in OT, 4-3.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Neither team has scored a PP goal in the season series thus far, but both get a PP goal tonight.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ten different goal scorers have scored in the past four games. In order from last to most recent: Pakarinen, Klefbom, Kassian, Nugent-Hopkins, Russell, Draisaitl, McDavid, Lucic, Letestu and Eberle. Patrick Maroon stretches it to eleven as he scores the Oilers first goal in his hometown.

Recently by Jason Gregor: 

  • Oilers 3rd quarter report card
  • GDB 62.0: Capital Challenge
  • Talbot chasing a record and Oilers trade options
  • GDB 60.0: Battling the Bolts
  • Monday Musings: Home ice advantage
  • Trade Options: Right Wing