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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 21.0: Searching for Consistency (6pm MST, SNW)

Cam Talbot will make his 19th start this evening, tying him for most in the NHL with Toronto’s Frederik Andersen. Unlike last season, Talbot has struggled to find consistency in his game.

In 204 games he has averaged a .920sv%, but this season he’s only finished five games with a .920sv% or better.

He had an opening night shutout versus the Flames, a .968 at Chicago (stopping 30 of 31), he made 42 saves on 44  shots (.955) in an OTL in Pittsburgh, stopped 36 of 37 (.973) in Brooklyn and posted a .941sv% (32 of 34) in a 3-2 OT win in New Jersey.

In his past two games he has allowed ten goals on 60 shots, and made two gaffes on the first two goals to spot both St.Louis and Dallas a 1-0 lead. The Oilers need their starting goalie to find his game. What is missing this year?

I spoke with Kevin Woodley from In Goal Magazine yesterday on my show. Woodley has been on the ice with many NHL goalies the past few years, and talks to NHL goalie coaches frequently. He is very good at discussing the technical aspects of goaltending. He shared this about Talbot.

“What made him so good was his ability to beat plays to the next position, most often on his skates and be set, square and ready to go. The phrase we used to hear from Benoit Allaire when he was with the Rangers, ‘Beat the pass, solve the equation.’

“When you watch him (Talbot) moving now, he is either behind, in terms of when the pass is made and getting to that spot. We have talked about it a lot on low, high plays or coming off the wall where he is still down in the reverse VH off the post and then slow coming out of it. Or arguably down it in too long and that delays the movement,” said Woodley

“Part of that can be tied to more lateral puck movement, in terms of things that are being allowed, the sort of permissive nature of their (Oilers) defensive play early, not all of it, but some of it, and once a goalie doesn’t trust that, in terms of your reads and beating plays on your skates, it can become a bit of a downward spiral,” continued Woodley.

Talbot hasn’t forgotten how to be an effective goaltender, but if your technique is off, just a bit, like Woodley explained, many goalies can suddenly look average. Confidence is a massive factor for any player, and I don’t think there is any doubt Talbot is not playing with the same attitude he had last year. He made saves look easy. We’ve seen that in spurts this season, but not as often as last year, or even from December 2015 to April 2016.

Lately, the early bad goals have really hurt. The Oilers don’t have enough firepower right now to outscore mistakes, especially ones from behind the net.

“The irony of the goal from below the goal line versus Dallas is that is what they hammered John Gibson on in the Anaheim series. That is the sloppiness in a play coming down the wing and getting caught outside your post and that is something they specifically targeted on Gibson in the playoffs. That is not something we are used to seeing from Talbot,” said Woodley.

Talbot is capable of more. He’s shown it throughout his career, and he needs to find his game and find it quickly. I’d argue that after Connor McDavid, Talbot could be the Oilers most important player. He is better than he’s played, but he needs to find his game quickly.

Of the 24 goalies who have started 14 or more games, only Craig Anderson(.899) has a lower sv% than Talbot. Ben Bishop is tied with him for 22nd. Talbot can be better and the Oilers need to him to be starting tonight.

LINEUP

Oilers

Maroon-McDavid-Caggiula
Lucic-RNH-Draisaitl
Cammalleri-Strome-Puljujarvi
Khaira-Letestu-Kassian

Nurse-Larsson
Klefbom-Benning
Russell-Gryba

Talbot

I don’t agree with the notion that Connor McDavid is the main reason the Oilers are losing. He is producing. Now, does he need to protect puck better and not turn it over at offensive blueline, leading to odd-man rushes? Yes, but that is about it. He’ll fix that, but it isn’t the main reason they are losing. It is okay to suggest he can improve that one aspect, but let’s not make it anything more than that.

Oilers need to play more north-south tonight, less east-west. The Blues ate them up in the final two periods last Thursday, when the Oilers stubbornly kept trying to go side-to-side. The Blues stripped pucks and forced numerous turnovers. To beat the Blues the Oilers need to go straight ahead.

Patrick Maroon is playing at home and hopefully that ignites his game. He had a very good first 12 games, but he has struggled the past eight. He has played a bit more snarly lately, and that could help him get involved in the game more.

Blues

Schwartz-Schenn-Tarasenko
Sobotka-Stastny-Steen
Paajarvi-Sundqvist-Jaskin
Upshall-Brodziak-Thorburn

Edmundson-Pietrangelo
Bouwmeester-Parayko
Dunn-Bortuzzo

Allen

The return of Bouwmeester means Carl Gunnarsson comes out. The Blues have a lot of depth on the blueline and they’ve been very happy with the play of rookie Vince Dunn. He turned 21 in October, and after putting up 45 points in the AHL last year, the Blues love his puck moving and play making skills. And they have the luxury of protecting him in the third pair. Mike Yeo has used him on the second PP unit and played him 15:08/game at even strength.

The Blues have the second most points in the NHL, despite struggling on special teams. Their power play is 26th at 15.9% and their PK is 23rd at 78.3%. Bouwmeester will help their PK. He is a very good penalty killer, but their PP struggles are surprising considering the talent they have and how much confidence their offensive players have at even strength.

Jaden Schwartz leads the NHL in EV points with 22 while Brayden Schenn is fourth with 19. Paul Stastny is on their second line and he is third in the NHL in EV assists with 12. The Oilers need to be alert at even strength tonight or the Blues will skate them out of the rink.

Lineups (subject to change) are courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From St. Louis Game Time:

The Oilers come into Scottrade having lost back to back games to St. Louis and the Dallas Stars. They’re second to last in the Western Conference and aren’t looking like they’re improving much. Connor McDavid is still incredible, but the team’s flat start to the season isn’t getting any better, and his battling a flu bug might put the Oilers in a tight jam tonight.

Tonight’s game is a NBCSN broadcast, presumably so the network can stop denying the United States McDavid. It seems about right that he more than likely won’t be on his A-game tonight, but McDavid even on an off day is dangerous. The rest of the team? Considering that they’re second to last in the NHL in scoring, the Blues probably need to just focus on keeping McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins off of the scoresheet and take care of the scoring on their own. Maybe Bouwmeester can get into the act.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The bleeding continues for the Oilers with a 3-2 loss.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Blues defence contributes a goal and an assist.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The drought ends for Zack Kassian. He scores his first of the season, but the goal comes off his body, not his stick.

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Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 11/21/2017, 1:00pm MST