At practice this morning Todd McLellan kept his lines in the same trios we have seen for most of the past two months, even though he had switched up his top two lines when the Oilers found themselves trailing 3-0 less than 12 minutes into the first period of game three. It made sense to make a switch then, but I understand why he’s is going back to what has gotten the Oilers a 6-3 playoff record.
Now is not the time to panic, but I believe the leash on some players is shortening.
Today’s lines were:
Jordan Eberle played his worst game of the playoffs on Sunday. He didn’t look engaged. He is in a goal scoring funk, but in the first round against the Sharks he was competing and playing solid defensively. We didn’t see any of that on Sunday, and McLellan is hopeful a day off will re-energize Eberle.
At some point the second line needs to make an appearance on the score sheet. Generating chances is one thing, and over the course of a season the odds suggest eventually you’ll score, but in the playoffs it is all about now. A seven game series can be over before the numbers even out, so that trio needs to start producing.
At the bare minimum, Eberle must be much more involved in the game on Wednesday. Same with Lucic. He has the ability to be a physical presence and change the momentum of the game with a big hit. Eberle can’t do that, but he can at least battle hard on the boards, rub some guys out and make life more difficult for the Ducks.
Eberle needs to be more competitive. Lucic needs to be more involved physically. I recognize it is difficult to land a huge hit. They are as rare, if not more rare, than a goal, but when Lucic is on he can fend off defenders with one hand, take the puck to the net and create chances.
RNH has skated very well in the playoffs, and he leads the Oilers in shots on goal with 24, but he still hasn’t scored. A major part of the job of being an offensive player is finishing. It is the most difficult thing to do in hockey, but if a goalie doesn’t stop the puck he hears about it, and the same goes for RNH, Lucic and Eberle.
A major aspect of their job is to score. It is time they show up offensively.
- Max Pacioretty is the only forward with more shots on goal than RNH and no playoff goals. Pacioretty had 28 in the Canadiens’ six-game series loss to the Rangers. Eberle and Andrew Cogliano are next with 17 shots and no goals.
- Pouliot took some reps on the second unit PP in place of Caggiula. They were rotating, so it might just be getting Pouliot comfortable in case he has to go in, but Caggiula has yet to register a point in the playoffs. I’ve like how he’s skated and competed. He also has a good outside shot. I’d be surprised if Pouliot starts on the 2nd unit.
- Patrick Eaves was not on the ice for the Ducks practice this morning in Kelowna. It makes sense to let him rest his injured foot, and according to their PR guru, Alex Gilchrist, Eaves wasn’t wearing a boot this morning. Randy Carlyle said if Eaves can’t skate tomorrow morning it is unlikely he will play. Even if Eaves is ready, I could see Carlyle reuniting Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
- Carlyle also confirmed Kevin Bieksa will not be available for game four.
- The end result for Sidney Crosby and the NHL, because it is better when the best players play, sucks. He is out with a concussion, but watching the play numerous times — in real time, not slow motion — I don’t understand how anyone can believe the Capitals purposely targeted his head. Alex Ovechkin’s slash was a non-issue. The reason Crosby lost his balance was due to him and Ovechkin clipping skates. No chance Ovechkin is capable of doing that purposely at full speed. However, Penguins reporter Rob Rossi believes it was deliberate. Take a read. This paragraph really caught me off guard.“Makes you wonder what that closed-door meeting called by Capitals players was really about after their blowout defeat in Game 2, huh?” Not really.“If they say it wasn’t about eliminating Crosby, the Capitals are liars. And if that sounds like an unfair accusation to make of the Capitals, then please consider my decade of experience covering a sport I love and a league I really, really, really want to give the benefit of the doubt.“(Or maybe consider their coach publicly saying his players must go places they hadn’t gone before?)
“Sorry, but I cannot give the Capitals, or the NHL, any benefit. And I doubt very much there wasn’t an intent to injure Crosby when this series shifted to Pittsburgh.”
To think Ovechkin would even try it at full speed, nevermind successfully complete it, is a ridiculous notion. The game happens so fast a player doesn’t have time to try and notice where Crosby’s feet are, and then clip the skates on purpose. I understand Penguins fans being upset. They are supposed to be fanatical, and Oilersnation would be seething if McDavid was injured, even on an accidental clip, but suggesting Washington’s team meeting was to purposely injure Crosby is simply trolling.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Nikita Zaitsev to a seven-year deal with a $4.5 million cap hit. He’s only played one NHL season and scored four goals and 36 points. That is good production for an NHL rookie, although Zaitsev turns 26 in October and has played seven seasons in the KHL. He has experience, but he’ll be making more than Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Travis Hamonic, John Klingberg and others. It isn’t a massive overpayment, but Mike Babcock and Brendan Shanahan clearly are very high on him to give him a seven-year extension after only one NHL season.
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