The Oilers are back where everything went wrong. They were dreadful during a three-game homestand from October 9th to 17th, losing all three games and getting outscored 16-6. They played well on their recent three-game trip through Chicago, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, going 1-1-1, but to start climbing the standings they need to be much better on home ice.
They open a five-game homestand tonight against the Dallas Stars before Washington, Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Detroit come to town. The Oilers were 25-12-4 on home ice last year. They made life difficult for the opposition, and they need to bring that type of effort, determination and execution to the rink tonight.
Captain Obvious says they need to score, but it is more than that. They need to play fast, smart and aggressive and give the fans something to cheer about. It has been 22 days since the home crowd had any reason to be excited, so a good start is imperative tonight.
The Oilers players can’t control the uninspiring pre-game video (please change it — a montage does not fire up the crowd), but they can ensure they are ready when the puck drops at 7:08. Todd McLellan should start Connor McDavid’s line and go on the offensive right away. I don’t care which line or defensive pair Ken Hitchcock starts, McLellan should give McDavid the start and let his star players lead the way.
The Oilers will be facing an angry Ben Bishop. He was pulled six minutes into the second period in Colorado on Tuesday night with the Stars trailing 3-2, and he wasn’t happy about it.
“There was no reason for me to come out. I guess that’s the coach’s decision, but it is a 3-2 hockey game with more than half the game left. I’m not very happy with the decision. There was a lot of hockey left. I felt good,” said Bishop after the game.
Ken Hitchcock said this about Bishop getting pulled: “It has nothing to do with Bishop, it has to do with, ‘Wake up. Let’s get playing,’ which is exactly what we did.” Well, they might have played better in the coach’s eyes, but they still lost in Colorado 5-3.
The Stars had a closed door meeting after the game and the players said the discussion was about getting off to a better start and being smart. The Oilers should be equally upset, if not more, that they are 2-5-1. And even though they played well defensively on the road trip, their offence is still dreadful.
Bishop enters tonight with a solid .920sv% and a 2.38 GAA. Opposing goalies have padded their stats against the Oilers this year. The numbers are mind boggling actually (more on that in Game Notes article), and they need to find a way to score. They had some quality chances in Pittsburgh and didn’t finish. Yes, Matt Murray made a great save on Mark Letestu, but Kailer Yamamoto, Letestu and Patrick Maroon need to score on their opportunities.
It makes sense to load up the top line and get some goals. McDavid, Draisaitl and Maroon have produced and they will produce again. If the other lines can carry the momentum that line will inevitably produce, then the Oilers might find a way to score three or more goals, and more importantly, score the first goal of the game for the first time since their second game of the season.
Mark Letestu isn’t a long-term option on the RW, but McLellan explained why he has him there now. “Trust. I know some fans and media might not like him, but trust is a major part of the relationship between a player and coach. When he is on the ice he is going to attempt to do things the right way. He gives that group a righty/lefty in the faceoff circle. I know he isn’t going to be the top player, he will make some mistakes, but the trust factor is very high with him,” said McLellan.
We don’t have to agree with the response a coach gives to a question, but I respect when a coach is honest and outlines why he is playing a player where he plays him. McLellan acknowledged Letestu isn’t a regular top-six winger, but for tonight he feels it is the right spot for him. We’ll see how it impacts the game.
Tyler Pitlick has 2-2-4 in nine games with the Stars. He has picked up where he left off last year with the Oilers, when he had eight goals in 31 games. When I spoke to Stars GM, Jim Nill, yesterday he said, “I’ve known him since back he was drafted. We followed him. He’s had some injuries, but we liked him. We committed to him (three years) and he is still young and reminds of us Patrick Eaves when we got him. He’s played great for us,” said Nill.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
From Defending Big D:
The Edmonton Oilers were finally supposed to be turning a corner.
The high end draft picks were finally supposed to be the difference makers. Connor McDavid was going to lead this team to new heights.
Their season also isn’t off to the start they wanted. Like Dallas, if it’s not the top line scoring, they aren’t scoring. Their lack of secondary scoring might be as bad as Dallas right now.
Matching up against a team similar to them, with both clubs looking for some consistency and wins, the response to their loss in Colorado in tonight’s game could help set the tone for the next -0 games for Dallas.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers score three goals. Oilersnation is able to cheer and more pleased when the Oilers finally win a game, 3-1. I’d like to predict more goals, but until the team shows they can score it is tough to see them scoring four or more.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid and Draisaitl combine on a first period goal.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have been outscored 11-3 in the first period this season. The Stars have nine first period goals. The Oilers score twice in the first period for the first time all season. And they get a goal from their bottom six in the first period as Strome scores.
Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 10/26/2017, 12:15pm