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Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

McLellan Remains Loyal; For Now

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:

Maroon-McDavid-Draisaitl
Lucic-RNH-Eberle
Caggiula-Letestu-Kassian
Pouliot-Desharnais-Slepyshev

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.

QUICK HITS

  • 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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  • WhoreableGuy

    With no Eaves and no Bieksa in the lineup it’s crucial the Oilers win tomorrow’s night game as I have a feeling they all will be back in for Game 5 in Anaheim. Take advantage of it.

    • Reinman

      I love ebs, but agree that ypu haters have distroyed his confidence here. Anyway, we cannot afford ebs anyway, and poolparty will hopefully be ready to go next season. Or slepyshev. Either way it will give us more skilled size in our top 6. Too bad we cannot get rid if Lucic too. But then i guess if poo can play on our 4th line for 4 million Lucic wont be a ridiculous overpay on our 3rd line.

  • Disappointed. Lucic can not go wandering looking for a big hit, because there is only one other player on the line, the third guy contributes nothing and prevents the other two from doing what they are supposed to. Eberle should be eating popcorn. I hope the end of that leash is near, I certainly would not give him any more chances, and rip that A off his chest. A letter is supposed to be an indication of fire and compete. He has none. I certainly don’t want the rest of the squad playing like he does.

    • Big Jacks Meat

      Lucic needs to step up now. Net Front nasty presence. Piss them off.
      He knows how important this game is. Do what brought you here.

      Eberle , ahh never mind. Nuge ! 4 leaf clover in my pocket for you and Kassian.

      Unite as ONE ARMY Wednesday Boys.

  • RJ

    I’ve watched the Crosby play a few times, and as an impartial observer, it didn’t look intentional to me. With the lack of supplemental discipline, I’d have to say the NHL got it right. I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  • Bagged Almond Milk

    Big game tomorrow brother. Cmon EBS get going brother you can coast for another 6 years if you only try for this series and 2 more. Maybe Todd should point that out to him. It worked for him since the World Jrs, and I’d be OK with that now if they can win it.

  • Natejax97

    While the fan base and media (to some extent) ponder what to do with Eberle, Todd just calmly takes his hockey team out to practice the items they need to get better at to be successful. I believe we have one of the best NHL coaches, and I fully support rolling with the team that got us here. Go get them Oilers!!! if we win tomorrow, math says 3-1 and Anaheim would need to beat us 3 straight! I also hope Eberle and Nuge both score Wednesday, we need some sanity in here.

  • Natejax97

    Get a load of Carlyle’s comments about McDavid…what an absolute moron that guy is, what tapes, exactly, is he watching? McDavid has drawn 3 penalties in 9 playoff games. I hope McDavid draws 6 penalties tomorrow and scores on each one of them. Randy Carlyle…good grief you idiot.

    • cherry picker

      Ya that photo has made its money and been used alot. Maybe someone could take some shooter photo’s with oilers jerseys on the arms and send it in. i’m not a shooter guy nor my circle.
      Anyways great content in these articles. don’t sweat the pictures i’m sure you guys are working lots of OT.

  • Ten Long Years

    So Crosby gets slashed then cross-checked….whats the big deal? Those are legal plays now a days aren’t they? Seriously, what % of slashes and cross-checks are called as penalties? 5%? If Crosby wasn’t seriously hurt there wouldn’t have even been a penalty on that play, let alone 5 minutes and a game. I’ve been trying to figure out what is and what isn’t a penalty all playoffs and this is what I’ve come up with: Anything goes – you can commit as many infractions as you want, however 3 or 4 will be arbitrarily chosen per game to be penalties so that each team has roughly the same number of power plays. The only exception is that if someone is seriously hurt, then an extra penalty will be assessed.
    Its only a matter of time until more injuries to star players happen. I’m shocked McDavid hasn’t been taken out yet. And the NHL has no one to blame but itself.
    I don’t think Ovechkin or Niskanen tried to hurt Crosby, but when slashes and crosschecks are allowed 95% of the time, this is what happens.

    • slats-west

      It’s a good assessment and unfortunately I think you are correct. With that logic then why does Thompson go and clip MCD skate or worse (the dreaded) slew foot. What could you get 5mins? But you take out the other teams best player.

      Manson did a slow foot on Lucic – and then skated back to the bench not answering the call to drop his gloves. It’s pathetic. That’s not a hockey play.

  • OnDaWagon

    Most people complaining about Eberle, and I agree, this is to rough for him.

    But, what about McDAVID? Does he get a free pass, just because he’s lightening on skates? He was directly responsible for 2 goals against in that buttspanking, and the last one was Kesler’s. I love the kid, but i also see huge deficiencies in his defensive game. Connor, YOU need to be better.
    They got through the Shark series, and you were not an impact player.
    Draisaitl was the reason the team won game 1 of this series. Talbot was the reason they won game 2. Time to be what you’ve been advertised as. Step it up!

  • SRELIOFAN

    Speaking of Pouliot…. What has he done lately?? He has been next to invisible IMO and I would hope he will be unprotected in the expansion draft. Good teams cannot afford to have spectators like him and Eberle.

  • rivid

    Sorry, disagree with you 100% about the Crosby hit. That’s not a hockey play, ov’s two hander should be a suspension. As for what the team meeting was about, stick to the facts both reporters unless you are in the room or have a source. When you speculate you are no better than the people on here who claim to be experts.

  • madjam

    Randy playing the officials hoping players like Kessler , Manson , Perry, etc. can continue getting away with penalties they have been so blessed with this series . One thing he knows how to do is play the officials , because it almost always works .