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Photo Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Lucic Delivers

“Even if you throw the three goals out, his physicality, his ability to keep plays alive, I thought he was tremendous. We’re lucky to have him at this time of the year. This is exactly what we brought him in for,” said Todd McLellan on Milan Lucic.

Lucic was a force in the biggest game of the season last night in San Jose.

Huge hit.
Dominant fight.
Strong along the boards.
Natural hat trick.

And he did it on the road, against the defending Western Conference champions, with home ice advantage hanging in the balance. What a performance.

Lucic has looked much more comfortable the past month. He has eleven goals and 16 points in his last 20 games. Producing down the stretch, when the games are more intense and harder to play, is why Chiarelli signed Lucic to a seven-year deal. The deal might be an issue in the final two years, but Lucic’s experience and combination of skill and brute force is the reason Peter Chiarelli paid top dollar to sign him. He wanted a physical, skilled forward who would show up in big games, and complement his speedy, skilled players.

Lucic is suddenly tied for 56th in the NHL in goals. He had a good start to the season, scoring 7-12-19 in the first 25 games, then only 5-8-13 in his next 35 games, but he emerged from his slump at the perfect time for the Oilers. He now has 23 goals and 48 points. Lucic’s contributions won’t just be measured in goals and points because he has the physical ability to impact games in other ways.

Last night, with 3:34 remaining in the first period and the Oilers trailing 1-0, he crushed Chris Tierney with a clean hit. Moments later Micheal Haley, the Sharks tough guy, came at him and Lucic didn’t hesitate to drop the gloves. Lucic completely controlled the fight, drew a penalty in the process and on the ensuing power play the Oilers got some quality chances and woke up from a sluggish start. They had three shots on goal in the first 16:26 of the game.

In the third period, with the Oilers trailing 2-1, Lucic took over and scored the natural hat trick. He had a nice deflection on the first goal, used his size and strength to bang home a loose puck on the second and had good positioning on the third. He has had some really strong games this season versus St.Louis, Washington, Colorado and Calgary, but his play in the final 20 games and especially last night was why Chiarelli gave him big money and a long-term contract.

Lucic is still one of the premiere power forwards in the game, and his brute force allows the Oilers to not be pushed out of a physical game, while the skill of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl allows them to never be out of a fast-paced game. The Oilers finally have diversity throughout their lineup. They can play fast, they can play physical and they can play mean.

Last night Lucic’s combination of size, strength, toughness, skill and savvy was on full display.

PARTING SHOTS

  • The Oilers only need one point in their final two games versus Vancouver to secure second place and home ice advantage in the first round. They can still finish in first place if they win both their games and the Ducks lose in regulation to Los Angeles on Sunday. If the Ducks pick up a point or the Oilers don’t sweep Vancouver then the Oilers and Sharks will meet for the second time in franchise history. That is the most likely matchup, but I doubt the Kings will just roll over and let their arch-rivals stroll into the playoffs. If Edmonton wins tomorrow, the Kings would love to play spoiler on Sunday. Which would be great, because if the Oilers catch the Ducks there is still a chance we could see the Battle of Alberta for the first time since 1991 if the Flames can stay ahead of the Nashville Predators.
  • The Oilers allowed a season-low 15 shots on goal last night. For long stretches the Sharks created very little defensively.  In the final 40 minutes, they only allowed seven EV shots against. They were excellent defensively.
  • Cam Talbot set a new Oilers record for most wins in a season with 41. He has four shootout wins, so it is different than Fuhr’s 40 wins in 1988, but there is no denying Talbot has had a very strong campaign. I expect him to be a finalist for the Vezina along with Braden Holtby and Sergei Bobrovsky, who should win it.
  • The evolution of Jordan Eberle’s game has been rather dramatic. He has improved immensely in the defensive zone and in the battle areas. He doesn’t get knocked off the puck so easily anymore and he’s much more reliable in his own end. You can tell he still isn’t as confident offensively as he has been in previous years, but I won’t be surprised to see him return to being a 25-goal scorer next season. His improved defensive play will help his offense, once he regains his offensive confidence. Over his first six seasons he averaged a 14.1SH%, but this year he’s plummeted to a 8.1%. If he was even a 10% shooter this year he’d have 20 goals. With his improved defensive awareness and increased competitiveness in battles, it will be easier for him to return to his usual offensive numbers because he’ll have the puck more.
  • I’d play Laurent Brossoit in Vancouver tomorrow and Talbot at home on Sunday. He can have two days off, play a game, then have two days off again before the Oilers open the playoffs on Wednesday. I’d be surprised if they weren’t involved on the opening night of the 2017 playoffs.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Kepler62c

    Lucic is heating up at just the right time – this is what we all expected when they signed him. Had a bit of a rough middle stretch there but now that he’s settled in hopefully this is the Lucic we get for the next 4-5 years, or at least the next 4-5 end of season + post-seasons.

    On another note – 4A for Klefbom last night. Did someone say #1 Defender? But he doesn’t do it without Larsson being a rock.

  • 99CupsofCoffey

    I watched the Sharks feed after the game and one guy in the booth tried to say that Looch’s first goal was skill, but the other two were not. The guy beside him (who played hockey) interrupted him and went over the last two goals with the poor little guy explaining that it takes a whole lot of skill to get the position he did and HOLD it while someone is slamming into your back. It was priceless. They moved on after that. lol

  • Doug Weight

    Loved it. Hat trick for the big man.
    Little off topic but I can expect we will see alot more Gryba come playoff time. I look at these past 2 games as a bit of a chance for Matt Benning to prove himself. He looked all out of sorts against LA and again tonight in SJS he seemed to be treading water. That being said though with the way the forwards are playing and Talbot at the back I think we are a dangerous match up for any team come playoffs.

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      I think Gryba will be in until he plays his way out of the lineup, or the team needs a shakeup. Benning has been a little wobbly and the coach will rest easier with the veteran in the lineup.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    For those concerned about the last two years of Lucic’s contract know that it turns into a modified NTC with NMC for waivers and AHL demotion.

    He’ll be paid $3M on July 1st going into his second last year leaving only a total of $6M owed over the final two years despite still carrying a $6M cap hit on each of those final two years.

    Chiarelli left himself wiggle room to move the contract if necessary.

    I havr a feeling it won’t be.

    • CDNinATL

      That’s for bring that up. I looked it up on capfriendly.com to see the details. He gets paid $8 million this year and next. Then it goes $7, $6, $4 million. In year 6 of the deal, he gets paid $5 million but he has to submit a list of 8 teams he’s willing to be traded to. In year 7, he gets paid $4 million and has to submit a list of 10 teams he’s willing to be traded to. And you’re right about a full NMC in relation to being sent down to Bakersfield.

  • Hemmercules

    McL might just be turning Ebs into a pretty good two way player. I have liked his game the last couple. He’s going to the corners now, not afraid. Not sure if he’s here next year but if he can start picking corners again it will be hard for the haters to bitch about him anymore.

    Looch is a beast. Nice guy to have at this time of year.

  • Hemmercules

    McL might just be turning Ebs into a pretty good two way player. I have liked his game the last couple. He’s going to the corners now, not afraid. Not sure if he’s here next year but if he can start picking corners again it will be hard for the haters to complain about him anymore.

    Looch is a beast. Nice guy to have at this time of year.

    • Oilerz4life

      So I guess vs San Hose Heads the Oil weren’t just a one trick pony, one line team as everyone seems to be trying to label them these days. Where are all the Looch haters now? Heating up at just the right time too. I think they could lay waste to the Sharks or fLames and give any team in the west a run for their money right now. The Oilers are a fkn wicked awesome team and with McD bring on the playoffs! One loose end to tie up, collect our mandatory two points through Wankoover (sisters), get the Oil and McD 100 pts and round one in EDM bitches woo hoo!

  • Oiler Al

    Yes, Lucic has had some decent games lately.Looking beyond rosed colored glasses…….. his 5X5 numbers are not stellar relative to his contract! 50% of his points and goals are “Penner Points” from the power play.He is big and tough, but dosent bring it enough.He only has 48 min. in penalties is telling. His blast with Haley last night was well done but Lucic was challenged and had no choice but to go.

    • Danglishish

      He has more goals than Taylor Hall this year. You know, the guy that all the corsi folks consider a top 3 winger in the game? Instead of focusing on breaking a player’s points into sub-categories to find things to criticize, just step back and look at the big picture. He’s completely changed the identify of this team, outscoring our previous “franchise player” and appears to be showing up right when we need him the most. Enjoy it.

      • Oiler Al

        I dont think Lucic is the identity of the team. You know better. He maybe doing some pumping in the dressing room,but the fact is with a $42 mil. contract he needs to score more at evens. Hix 5X5/60 = 1.14,lowest of all top six forwards.jEven Nuges is at 1.65 and #97 is tops at 2.85.

        • Lucic has the highest 5×4 /60 on the team… 7.24 5×4/60. Mcdavid is down at 5.84 5×4/60. And if you compare the other two 2nd line players, Ebs is 4.56 and RNH is 4.12. Hes one of the reasons our PP has been so successful down the stretch. Not pulling his weight though, I guess he should focus on only scoring 5×5 to make you happy…

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      You can not play crazy physical all year and have a healthy body in playoffs. Everyone kicks it up a lot this time of year. I really do not care one bit if he is softer all year and then hits the Nuclear mode come April. If he does this during the playoffs and we get to the second round I for one will be totally sold on the whole Lucic contract. PS I did not know he had more goals than Hall, I would think that is more a depressed Hall that Lucic doing more than normal though. As far as all your 5X5 ,50%,Penner Points” stuff we all know that in playoffs goals tend to become much more difficult to score and in the blue paint is where it happens. Speed is not a factor there but having a nose that could care less if it has a new design the next day does.

      • Oiler Al

        I hear what you are saying and to a point agree, however if you are a top six forward you have to do your part during the regular season to help the team get to the dance.If he was signed on as primair;ly a pump and grind guy for the playoffs @ $42 million, is bad asset mgmt.

        • He’s basically got 50 points and 23 goals….how is that not doing your part to get into the playoffs? Aside from so many other intangibles that don’t show up on the scoresheet. Get real Oiler Al…enough is enough. Gregor said it best yesterday on his show. If you have your 1st line scoring the way we do, the NHL just isn’t built for 5 goals every game. the 2nd line isn’t going to have 60-70 points each.

          Oilers in 2nd place and home ice advantage and the haters still sing the lowly song of their people…

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    How good was Lucic? He beats the crap out of Haley their toughest guy and then goes on to get a hat hat-trick. Who else in the league can do that.

  • BobbyCanuck

    No has mentioned this do far, but I believe that our lack of significant injuries this season can be attributed to having our very own nuclear deterant LLLLLOOOOOOUUUCCCCC!!

  • Randaman

    The day they signed Lucic, I knew what jersey I was getting. Bought a #27 & a #97 in the home blues. Last night he basically earned second place by himself. That pays 1/3 of his salary right there. He’s worth every dime.

  • Rob...

    As a huge Eberle critic over the last several years I’d be thrilled if your prediction about him becomes reality. This team would be feared with two consistent scoring lines along with 3rd and 4th lines that can compete with those of anybody else.

  • Bagged Almond Milk

    Gregor any chance we see Benning sit a few and bring up the Veteran Fayne? Is fayner really that bad that he can’t play 3rd pairing? I thought he was supposed to be solid defensively