Three Thoughts: Halfway There

To borrow from that old Bon Jovi tune, the Edmonton Oilers are halfway there and living on a prayer after beating the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 in a shootout at Rogers Place Thursday before hitting the road for a five-game swing that begins Saturday in Dallas.

The Oilers hit the Lone Star State with an 18-20-3 record for 39 points through 41 games, meaning they’ve still got plenty of work to do to get back into the Western Conference playoff picture – they’re eight points out of a playoff spot after last night as they face tough back-to-back matinees to open the trip. They’re in Dallas Saturday afternoon and in Chicago Sunday afternoon.

Waxed 5-0 by Winnipeg and Los Angeles in consecutive games before prevailing against the Ducks, the Oilers are 10 points off the pace they set last season – they were 21-13-7 for 49 points – on the way to 103 points thanks to a torrid finish that saw them win 12 of their final 14 games. The Oilers are going to need that kind of winning stretch at some point in these final 41 games if they’re going to climb into the top eight.

The Oilers compiled 54 points in their final 41 games last season and history tells us they’re going to need right around that many points the rest of the way to vault past the traffic in front of them and get into the post-season again. After Dallas and Chicago, they’ve got Nashville, Arizona and Las Vegas in the final three stops. They’ll give it a shot.

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Oct 30, 2017; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price (31) congratulates goalie Al Montoya (35) following his win ove the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers addressed their backup goaltending with the acquisition of journeyman Al Montoya from the Montreal Canadiens last night. He’ll get the opportunity to cheerlead from the bench while Cam Talbot carries the mail, as he’ll have to if he Oilers are going to climb back into contention. That leaves Laurent Brossoit with a ticket back to Bakersfield of the AHL.

Back at the 2004 Entry Draft, Montoya was coveted by a handful of teams, including the Oilers. The New York Rangers selected the University of Michigan product sixth overall. Had Montoya been around when they Oilers picked 14th, they likely would have taken him. They instead took Devan Dubnyk from the Kamloops Blazers. The shine long ago came off Montoya. Simply put, he’s just never been what teams thought he might be back then.

That doesn’t mean Montoya can’t be a more effective back-up than Brossoit has been, but the 32-year-old is at a different place in his career now. Montoya, who never did play for the Rangers, hasn’t seen action since Nov. 4 because of a concussion. He has played in just four games this season. Career-wise, Montoya’s been a nomad, making NHL stops with Phoenix, the New York Islanders, Winnipeg, Florida and Montreal. Through 159 games, Montoya is 65-47-22 with a .908 save-percentage, 2.63 GAA and seven shutouts. Take a seat, Alvaro. Welcome.


Nothing sounds more homer-ish than complaining about bad officiating after a loss, so I’ll take the opportunity to throw in my two cents now about what we saw from the zebras last night. All players want from the referees is consistency in setting a standard about what’s OK and what’s not. We didn’t get that, yet again, from Garrett Rank and Gord Dwyer last night.

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Milan Lucic was called for slashing late in the second period after delivering a tap to the hip of Rickard Rakell. Ryan Kesler of the Ducks converted on the ensuing power play early in the third period to tie it 1-1. Later, Kesler took two more far significant hacks at Leon Draisaitl right in front of the referee in the offensive zone and the whistle stayed in the pocket. No call. Set a standard and stick with it.


Nov 28, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates his overtime goal against the Arizona Coyotes at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins likely won’t ever be the kind of offensive catalyst people thought he might become during a rookie season that saw him tally 52 points in 62 games and make a run at the Calder Trophy, but he’s having a nice bounce-back season. One of the details involved in that is his success in the face-off circles. RNH was 70 per cent on the dot against the Ducks and now sits at 50.25 per cent on the season. Back in his rookie season of 2011-12, he was 37.5 per cent.


  • Spydyr

    After every game I note what goalie played better. Most nights the team with better goalie wins. Ask yourself how many games did the Oilers have the better goalie this year?

    Keep track yourself moving forward.

  • Keg on Legs

    The puck seems to be sticking to RNH’s stick this, he stick handles in a phone booth numerous times/game this year, now he just has to go over his adoration of hitting the post all the time

  • Derian Hatcher

    From my point of view there is a certain arrogance and smugness from a significant portion of the officials. This makes sense as the the NHL executives in general, starting with Bettman are full of arrogance and superiority in every aspect. Why wouldn’t this filter down to the employees of the league. The ironic part is, they have no reason to be smug, most do not do their jobs well on a consistent basis, as Robin asutely pointed out. The slashes on Drai were terrible, and stripes turned a blind eye, because…why???

      • I am curious on RB’s take on this. I used to just think that good teams can overcome bad officiating. The level it is at now , is dangerously close to blatant cheating slanted towards US franchises. He did touch on a couple of them, but they could have called 6 or 7 legitimate penalties against the Ducks . When we commit the same infractions, but we get called for them.Makes you wonder what is the point of busting your ass to make the dance, only to have crooked officiating take it away, as we saw last year, the Ducks did not win that series, the officials handed it to them.

        • My take? I think you’re reaching with the conspiracy theory. I don’t see “crooked officiating,” I see wildly inconsistent officiating that just isn’t good enough on many nights — including in the EDM-ANA playoff series you referenced.

          • Thanx for the reply, that is a term my Flames buddy used when we were watching the overtime. Still appears to me that the NHL will do anything to ensure the cup never comes north of the 49th parallel as long as Bettman is in charge. Conspiracy theory, perhaps. It just seems with each passing year it gets worse and worse. Have to agree to disagree. The CFL to me looks like bad officiating period, whereas to me NHL officiating sure looks rigged. Applies to all Canadian franchises , not just the Oilers. IMO.

        • Mark Lesser

          The Bruins had to score three OT goals against Ottawa in the playoffs last year before one counted. In another game, Bobby Ryan took a cheap shot at Riley Nash, and the refs somehow put Ottawa on the power play, where they won the game. The officiating is bad. But it’s not biased toward US teams.

          • Mark Lesser

            And as an Oiler fan, I’m still disgusted by last year’s officiating in the playoffs. Nashville also got hosed by the refs in the Cup final against the Pens.

      • Mike Modano's Dog

        Not just the Ducks, it’s all the California teams. Just watch Anaheim, L.A. and San Jose’s games. There is a noticeable difference vs. other teams.

  • BringitbacklikeSlats

    Notice how dangerous the 4-3 looked in OT with Nuge out there. Now I know the dynamic of a 4-3 lends itself to more looks than a 5-4 but still. Immediately we looked dangerous.

    I see LT bemoaning the fact that the coaches weren’t given the tools to build the team this year but I’m not so sure I agree. I think they’ve underachieved and part of that is obviously on the coaches for their uninspired tactics. Sitting RNH on the one unit PP night in night out while absolutely nothing clicked was tough to swallow.
    Then there’s the overused and telegraphed absurdity that’s the false
    Breakout on the PP where Klefbom skates it through to the neutral zone and back passes to the rusher. Half the time it looks like a blind play where the opposing PK forward has at least a chance at a steal. It’s very lame. But yet it persists. I’m sorry, I used to believe in TMAC but if you’re a big boy getting paid the dough to coach at Thisbe highest level you better damn well fix things that are broken or at the very least attempt to fix them. I’ve seen enough now that if they shoot him out of a cannon to the moon I won’t be surprised.

  • Boom76

    I feel like RNH is our Hossa –– and our like our version of Toews/Kane more –– and Hossa was absolutely critical to those 3 Stanley Cups. I think I might write Chia a letter pointing that out to him.

    • Crakupov

      Sure you could compare RNH to Hossa and RNH is having a good year, but it is time to stop comparing the Oilers players to those on winning clubs who have won cups and acutally done something. Maybe RNH is to the oilers as Tobias Reider is to the Coyotes is a better analogy.

  • 99CupsofCoffey

    “Set a standard”… lol! That cracked me up right there. One thing that the NHL refs have NOT had in quite some time is consistency. If you’re a “good” team like the Ducks, you get calls. If you’re a “not good” team like the Oilers you don’t. It’s insane some of the calls they let go and don’t let go.

    • WillyWonka

      except the Oilers spent the beginning of the season being the “cup favorite” so your theory of “not good teams” getting the shaft falls apart.
      I watch most of most Oiler games, and can say as ‘third party’ i see lots of things the OILER guys get away with as well. Yes the officiating is stupidly inconsistent, not just game to game but period to period and it is one of the major faults of the sport, but please – put away the “our team is the victim, poor us” stuff… it is silly.

      • Disappointed

        Willy, I have nevered cheered anything you have had to say here and get tired of trashing you, but, you got the cheer today, you are right on the money.

  • camdog

    If the refs don’t want to call penalties that’s fine, if they want to call everything that’s fine as well. Just don’t call everything in first period and then nothing in the third. I understand why the fuzz turns a blind eye to speeders at 40 below, never understood why NHL takes same approach to infractions ocurring in the third period.

    • Or the overtime, again it seems like the officials think they are not allowed to put a US based team down two players, again affecting the outcome of the game. We should have had a 2 man advantage the entire overtime, but again the whistles are put away while the Ducks commit 7 infractions that should have been penalized.

  • RJ

    I have to say, over the past few seasons, Ive been critical of Nuge for his lack of success in terms of FO%. If you’re going to base your game on being a two-way Centre, you have to have success at the dot.

    There is a large enough sample size now to say that Nuge has greatly improved his ability in face offs, and I think that has also improved his overall play. He’s not having to chase the puck as much and he looks more dangerous every night.

    Good job.

    • FlamesFan27

      I think Nuge, along with other smaller centres, has a better percentage because they don’t let the big guys cheat and lean in anymore because they have to stay behind the hash marks.

  • Natejax97

    Anyone catch the post by Patty M’s Girl Francesca? My god if it is true what an embarrassment for those people to be called Oiler (or hockey) fans. Good grief. And if it is true, good for her to call these jokers out…they should be banned from all things hockey until they can grow up. What…..a….complete….embarrassment. Makes me sick to my stomach. Honestly. No wonder stars don’t want to sign here.

    • How do you ban keyboard cowards hiding behind fake names and spewing crap on the internet from all things hockey? I’m with you on the sentiment, but losers who talk tough and threaten people behind a curtain of anonymity are everywhere. What’ would you be banning them from — going to games, commenting on websites, buying jerseys?

      • Natejax97

        I was looking at a planet earth ban…over the top? And yes Camdog I would hope it would have been, at the very least an imposter. Even so…its wrong, I am pretty sure Big Rig would love to meet these guys in person. I guess it’s just tough because I think Patty loves it here and stuff like this just smears more crap on a tough year. That’s all.

        • camdog

          All I know is Maroon was hated in LA when he was a member of the Ducks, long before he came to Edmonton and with the trolling on here I have trouble figuring out what bridge some of these troll are hiding under.

    • camdog

      Were these Oiler fan trolls or La King fan trolls? I’m confused. Usually when you hit somebody with questionable hit the other teams fans trolls go a little wild. I’ve never seen this fan base come off on their own for a hit like that…

  • Fuhr Satan

    How were these alleged Oiler fans positively identified? I know when I threaten people on the ol’ web I prefer to use my real name Bonar McSquid. The list of suspects would be fairly lengthy seeing as Pat Maroon second favourite thing to do after playing on a line with McJesus, is to piss people off. That’s what makes Big Rig awesome. I have started to develop a suspect list.

    Every other player that is not on the Oilers.
    Joe Thorton’s beard
    All Canadian hockey fans when he represents the States
    Donald Trump
    Bonar McSquid
    Castaways, Wilson
    Anahiem’s game puck

  • JimmyV1965

    It’s surprising how effective the league’s crackdown on slashing has been. Those two handers by Kessler are the nastiest I’ve seen since early in the season. Shocking he didn’t get a penalty.