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Photo Credit: © Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

GDB Game Notes: Oilers @ Bruins

Coming off a lacklustre effort against New Jersey and travelling from Sweden, the expectation is the Oilers will struggle in Boston tonight. Despite a less-than-ideal start to the season, effort and schedule wise, the Oilers might have more confidence than you think when they face the Bruins tonight.

1. The Oilers have won six of their last seven v. the Bruins, including their last three visits to Boston. Since Connor McDavid was drafted the Oilers are 5-1 against the Bruins, and two of those wins came with McDavid out of the lineup.

2. McDavid has 0-7-7 in four career games v. Boston. Even though he had two assists v. the Devils on Saturday, McDavid’s overall play was, by his standards, average. Look for him to be more involved, and more dangerous tonight, especially since he will see a lot of Boston’s excellent top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.

3. The Bruins top line has combined for 18 points in the first three games. Marchand has scored 0-7-7, Bergeron has produced 4-2-6 and Pastrnak has 3-2-5. McDavid, along with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ty Rattie, will need to be very aware defensively, but the best way to slow down Bergeron’s line is to possess the puck, something McDavid excels at. These two lines going head-to-head should be a fantastic matchup.

4. The Oilers have to improve their defensive play. There are only a few ways to play in your own zone. They aren’t that different. But the players need to commit to doing it properly. If they want to start winning consistently again, this group needs to demand more from each other. As Jason Strudwick said yesterday, “You need to commit to wanting to make the right play, and be in the right spot. The systems aren’t very complicated. There will be mistakes, every team makes them, but the winning teams don’t make the same mistake repeatedly. The coaches will point out the mistakes, but ultimately it is up to the guys on the ice to make the right read.”

5. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins needs to be more involved. He played 21 minutes, second most among forwards, in Sweden, and did very little. He is playing in the most preferred spot on the Oilers, McDavid’s left wing, and he will get a lot of icetime. He has been very quiet, except for one preseason game. The Oilers need much more from him.

6. “We need more from our third and fourth lines,” said McLellan. “They didn’t give us much the other day. It’s a four-line league and they have to be more productive (providing) momentum, physicality, defending, pace and energy. We need more from those lines.” That is a fair assessment, and we will see a few changes tonight in the bottom six. Drake Caggiula will debut on the third line with Ryan Strome and Jesse Puljujarvi, while Jujhar Khaira will play centre between Tobias Rieder and Zack Kassian. As I tweeted yesterday, freaking out about practice lines the day before a game can lead to a lot of undo stress. Strome and Puljujarvi are still together. Relax.

7. Jesse Puljujarvi’s development is a hot topic. Any comparisons to Nail Yakupov are way off base in my eyes, but so are the suggestions Puljujarvi is ready to play in the top six. His draft status means very little today. I still believe you won’t see the best of Puljujarvi until he is 22. Players develop at different rates, and while he isn’t as developed as Leon Draisaitl was at 20, that doesn’t mean he won’t be a good player when he is 22. I don’t see his developmental curve having a sudden surge, instead I see a steady progression. I believe he will be better in January than he is now and next year he will be more prepared to be a regular top-six player. The benefit for Puljujarvi of playing in the bottom six is he won’t be pressured to get the puck to Leon Draisaitl or Connor McDavid. He won’t defer to Caggiula or Strome, instead he will want to make plays. That is the main reason he was put with Strome to start the season. I find certain players are beloved more in Edmonton than others, and Puljujarvi is that player for many fans. I understand why many like him. He is a very personable and friendly young man, but his situation reminds me of when many in Oilersnation ripped on Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, but never heaped the same scrutiny on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, despite him having the same salary, and less production. Puljujarvi isn’t the player many believe he is. I think he can become that player, but right now I believe using him on the third line makes the most sense. As he gains confidence they can move him up.

8. Oilersnation and Twitter were up in arms yesterday because Puljujarvi practiced on a line with Khaira and Caggiula. I tweeted out that from past experience I wouldn’t put too much stock in line combos the day before a game, especially after many days of practice. Strome and Puljujarvi have practiced together for a month, so one 40 minute practice, with about ten minutes of line rushes, won’t suddenly ruin their chemistry. Some times a coach tweaks things in practice to keep players sharp. Too much of the same can be mundane at times. It also can be a subtle message to not get too comfortable. I don’t see it as a major deal. Yesterday many wanted McLellan fired because of switching a line in practice. I think four days off between games is no good for anyone including media, players, coaches and the fans.

9. The NHL’s early scheduling is perplexing. Three of last season’s top six scorers, and the reigning Hart and Art Ross winners — McDavid, Nikita Kucherov and Taylor Hall — have played once in the first eight days of the season. Why have three of your brightest stars virtually invisible for the first week of the season? Odd.

10. One final thought on the Ethan Bear situation: I believe Bear deserved to start the season here, and he could have if the Oilers hadn’t signed Alex Chiasson. Chiasson could have remained with the team, similar to Chris Kelly last season, and in a few weeks if the Oilers wanted to sign him, they could. I realize signing Chiasson, and having Bear on the roster last Tuesday, allowed the Oilers to maximize their LTI space. But I see it as once again looking down the road too far, instead of focusing on the next step in front of you. Is the extra $650,000 in LTI space that important? Are they for sure going to use it later this season? I doubt it. Wouldn’t icing your best possible lineup be more important? Had Bear dressed, the Oilers would have most likely still lost the game v. the Devils, because the team was not very good. But the Bear decision, for me, illustrates once again the organization looking too far ahead, rather than focusing on the now. Will Evan Bouchard playing five to nine games impact his future that much? It might, but winning now should be their #1 focus. Bouchard didn’t cost them the game, far from it, he was actually pretty decent, but it is the continuous trend of looking down the line instead of right now that concerns me.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Coach Rick

    I am soooooo tired of being dismissed as negative towards the Oilers. I can live with many things when it comes to my 80K investment in my Oiler tickets for this season. What I cannot stand is being called negative towards the performance of this squad. If If If the effort matched New Jersey, the speed matched and the intensity was there…….I can live with a loss. Without those three things sit back and listen to my whining,,,,,the team deserves it.

    OUT!

    • McChamp

      Mr. Katz’s butler thanks you from his gold plated computer in his 85 million dollar mansion in Malibu, also do not forget to purchase your Oiler’s swag and drink up those $12 dollar beers! -signed Katz’s #28 Butler

      • Reg Dunlop

        It doesn’t really affect anything but does Katz ever attend Oiler home games? Pocklington sat amongst the unwashed every game at Northlands and was reviled even after bringing 5 Cups here. Katz is reputed to be a fanboy yet there is never any media coverage, not even a screenshot of him holed up in his palatial Rexall sky suite. The little guy is a bit of an enigma. When his ownership tenure is up I wonder how this time will be remembered? Lovable lugs who somehow never got the lucky break OR the single biggest affront to professional sport management since Art Modell.

    • Towers-of-dub

      it’s important to mention how much you spend on tickets. The tickets just get you in the door. you should know that by now. The oilers have your money. they don’t need to do anything else. You’re not entitled to a winning team.

      • Goaltender Interference

        Yikes. My two seats up in the nosebleeds were costing me some financial strain at $10K and I finally cancelled them this season after the Oilers brass raised prices roughly 7% – 10% after last season.

        I can’t imagine what someone paying $80K would be going through right now…

        Cancelling my seats was a really difficult decision in the Spring. But now that I’m here at the start of the season it just feels like a weight off my shoulders.

        I love the Oilers. Just not a big fan of their management team.

  • Hemmercules

    I hope the Oilers come out flying tonight. Ready to kill everything in their path. Show us grumpy Oiler fans that game one was just an off night in another country. The real season starts now boys. Show us some heart and give us something good to talk about. Give us the Oilers, not the Coilers.

    • ubermiguel

      How many times over the last decade have we had to say this? They’ll not try for a few games, have one excellent game that keeps everyone tuning in, then stink for a few more games, etc etc etc.

      • Hemmercules

        No kidding. Sad they we have been expecting full efforts all these years and still have only see a flash of it for one season. We can only hope they have some pride this year. They looked like fools last season after looking like they had the biggest hearts in the league the year before.

  • The Immortal

    I love Struds but i swear he reflects on his career like he was the 2nd coming of Larry Robinson lol

    Only issue i have with jp getting pushed down in the lineup is…wtf has yamamoto done to deserve top 6 ice time? Unless he gains 30 pounds and 2 feet i know who I’d rather give more ice time to and that’s jp.

    Frankly I miss Slepy..speaking of bigger rw’s…now there’s player development clusterf…some of it on the player for sure, most of it on the coach imo…

    • Big Nuggets

      Being 6’4 doesn’t make you more likely to make the right play with the puck. Size is irrelevent if you can play. I think Yam is better at using his linemates than Puljujarvi, but its a long season so Pulj making his way up the line up and Yam getting sent down are both possibilities.

      When Sleppy wasn’t scoring he was only good for absorbing big open ice hits.

      • Heschultzhescores

        The games has become less contact and more wimpy little penalties, so a guy like Yamo has a chance, but when playoff time comes all those rules change so if you want to win, you can’t have severely undersized players. The goal is the CUP, not just scoring points during the regular season. See Jordan Eberle, Johnny Hockey etc, who tower over Yamo btw.

        • The Immortal

          The irony is that we supposedly traded from an area of strength (wingers) to address other areas of supposed weakness (defence and centers????)…the issue being that PC got completely and utterly fleeced on these transactions and now our defence is still inadequate at best and we have no wingers with whom to play with 97, RNH, or Leon…and hence they have to play with each other.

          Considering PC came in and said we have to play big heavy hockey, I’m not sure why we have featherweights like Yamamoto and Strome in the lineup…this team is mess any way you look at it.

          Frankly KLowe built a team that was so close to winning a Cup, and he was a better gm than PC is.

    • Jason Gregor

      Not sure what you listen to, but Strudwick has said repeatedly…”I was low on depth chart.” Never once has he overplayed his ability in the NHL, but he was in the NHL, and I’ll respect his opinion on little difference there in defensive systems. Feel free to disagree by having actual counter points, rather than taking cheap shots, which are completely unfounded. It adds nothing to the conversation. And missing Slepyshev. He has two goals and six points in the KHL. I guess his coach in the KHL is why he isn’t scoring. Whether people want to admit it or not 90% of a players success comes from them.

  • Rebuild3.0

    rnh was point per game in preseason and id bet that gregor didnt watch all stream games. someone should go through his articles to see how often he takes ill-informed shots at rnh its crazy

    • Jason Gregor

      First off, he had three points in one game. Did very little in the rest. Ty Rattie was much better. You are right I didn’t watch all the games on stream, because I watched the four home games live in the building, where you see more of the game.

      My concern with RNH was he played 21 minutes v. Devils and did virtually nothing. You think he is above being asked to do more? I disagree. And go look at the numbers when Hall and Eberle were here. RNH was paid the same, but didn’t come close to production.

      In five years as teammates. Hall produced 286 points. RNH had 222. Hall was -18 and RNH was -32, for all those who claimed RNH was so better defensively. Then go look at possesion numbers. Compare how Oilers did with Hall on the ice compared to without him. Hall was ripped endlessly by many.

      Eberle and RNH were teammates for six years. Eberle produced 339 points and RNH had 265. Eberle was ripped on five times as much.

      What has RNH done to this point in his career that makes him immune to criticism?

      You don’t have to like it, but the reality is many in Oilersnation hold RNH in a much higher regard than they did others who were paid the same. Yet his production does not match how they view him. Simple.

        • Jason Gregor

          You are comparing Draisaitl to RNH? Last two years Draisaitl has scored 147 points. And I wrote he wasn’t great in preseason, but he produced two points in the first game. He wasn’t great, screwed up on first goal, but at least he got on the board.

          Bias against RNH? Oh gawd. I say he needs to do more and that means I’m biased. I guess you should be content with him doing nothing in 21 minutes. Gotcha. You just proved my point. The minute anyone questions what RNH is doing all his fans can’t handle it. I have applauded him a lot, but facts are facts. He didn’t do as much as Hall or Eberle and never received same wrath from fans.

          You ignored entire response and then tried to switch topic to Draisailt. The prime example of you not having anything to rebuttal the actual point, so you try to deflect somewhere else…Hilarious.

      • You seem to have forgotten he was used as a defensive third line forward. Just like I dont expect JP to produce, playing with plugs gives RNH the same result, miscast, misused , whatever terminology you desire to use. He should be stapled to McDavid’s line period. Poor decision after poor decision after yet another poor decision. Hey , lets hire a guy away from the Swift Current Bronco’s to run the powerplay. GG is running the powerplay( That was so successful in Calgary) . More propaganda or outright lies from the organization. Manny probably wishes he wasn’t here already except for the paycheque. I would wager half the posters on here could run the franchise better, almost impossible to do worse. Reminds of a clown car, how many more clowns are we going to pull out of that car before some idiots still employed are actually held accountable for the horrible, almost laughable jobs they have done?

        • Hemmercules

          Train has a fire under him today. More so than usual. I share your distain with much of the front office, lets just hope the guys on the ice sort this out tonight and moving forward for all our sakes. Im pretty sure the new coaching staff isn’t giving up after one game, pretty pathetic if they have.

      • boil-in-the-oil

        When looking at those years when Hall & RNH played together, one needs to take into consideraction quality of goal-tending. Simply put, it was terrible; very difficult to look good defensively, when your ‘tender is swiss cheeze. Math.

    • Been a country club atmosphere for far too long, Vets come here for big money and big term and then slip into retirement mode and collect paycheques for very little effort. It slides down the line up and permeates the entire roster. This is where 0 accountability bites them in the ass and deservedly so. Still # 1 on no trade lists, at least they 1st in something besides first shot goals.

      • The future never comes

        Exactly, the Oiler’s are a junkyard of other organizations scrap heap on the downturn or a failed project altogether. Where is the guilt for not being able to put in 10-20 minutes every 2-3 days while making millions. That would burden my conscious.

  • Heschultzhescores

    60 minutes of 100% effort is broken down into much less time than that per player. Is it too much to ask them to earn that boatload of cash in their 10 to 20 minutes of actual ice time? How many of us non spoiled brats would give 110% given the same opportunity

  • dsanchez1973

    The problem remains as to how you get Puljujarvi confidence playing on the third line when his linemates are weak. Is he somehow supposed to learn how to play with skilled players and generate scoring chances while playing with Caggulia? Khaira? Strome? Those are all limited players in terms of generating offense. I’d also add that miraculously none of this confidence building third line work is required on the part of other rookies such as Yamamoto. You mention that some players are especially liked by the fan base; it also seems that some players are especially disliked by the coaching staff.

    • Hemmercules

      So let say you throw him on the first line against the toughest competition and he misses a bunch of McD passes and barely scores any goals. Is his confidence better or worse?? It goes both ways. Maybe JP just isnt as good as every thinks/wants him to be, maybe he’s just a slow developer. I have a feeling he gets a turn throughout the lineup throughout this year. I would be more worried about him if he was 23 but he just turned 20. There time for him and playing against lesser players might be best for him at the moment. If he’s awesome as some people think it shouldn’t matter who his line mates are.

      • IRONman

        Boston wins this one. Oilers defence will show how bad they really are. Compare each oilers defenceman in how they rank against all other d in the league. No surprise. Be realistic. Sekera was our best D

        • Cowbell_Feva

          I have to agree. Our defense is abysmal. I didn’t like the look of it with Sekera in the lineup. To my eye, it is the achilles heel of the team. The puck movement out of the defensive zone is rarely made in stride. I find there are a lot of pucks flipped off the glass, or passes to be deflected into the opposition end, with zero speed, and thus zero forecheck. Good teams break out of their own zone with speed. It literally flips the ice. We have forwards with speed and talent, yet they rarely get fed the puck in good spots to allow them to use it.

  • chezzychez

    Completely agree with puljujarvi. Still don’t understand the rush with this guy. He’s shown lots of flashes of what he’s capable of but it makes a ton of sense to give him a regular spot on the third line to give him more confidence to step up when the time is right.

    Also, don’t see the harm in giving Bouch the 9 games and letting Bear get a few games playing big minutes before being recalled.

    • Big Nuggets

      Down in the line up is the right spot for Puljujarvi. A lot of people seem to think because a player has some skill he will suddenly click while playing with other skill players. I’d say the most important thing for a player is too make the right play with the puck, as far as their abilities allow. That is what allows a grinder to occasionally fit in on a skill line, that is also why Puljujarvi isn’t ready for the top line, because he doesn’t always know what to do with the puck, and he doesn’t yet know how to best use his abilities.

    • Jason Gregor

      If last in the league I could see it. That would awful. If they are within one point or two, then no. Most look at their October schedule and if they are 5-5-1 it would be deemed a success. That likely won’t have them in a playoff spot, but they’d be close.

  • CMG30

    One game in and this team already has things to prove in both the effort and desire camp as well as the goaltending camp. Lets see if they respond in Boston.

    • BlackJesus

      *With the lack of size, depth and skill Leon will have to play on the RW, either with Nuge or McD, this year.
      I would like to see Nuge with McDavid but it’s not going to work until JP or Yams can actually step in.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    “Nuge did very little”

    1. There wasn’t much Nuge could do lol
    2. He actually did do something. A few times, he would swing back into the defensive zone to give support to the defenceman and give them an outlet to pass the puck to.

  • daryl

    You are an idiot JP should be on Leon’s line. The coach is also an idiot for not using JP properly we all sat JP could do in the preseason and what does our idiot coach do puts Kailer there.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Oh, man, they better not use almost all of that LTIR space – using LTIR space is fought with risk on so many levels. Not to mention, from various accounts, Sekera will be activated this year and that LTIR cushion goes away immediately – imagine the disposition the team would have to make if they’ve got a cap hit nearing $84M at that time?

    Anyways, super excited for the game tonight, as always. Looking for a great performance and the waters to calm….. until Saturday early afternoon at least.

    • CMG30

      The LTIR space is pro-rated. As long as he’s out for half the season or more they should be fine… unless Chirelli decides to make some dumb moves to save his job…

      • Redbird62

        That’s the way I see it too. If Sekera is out 41 games, then the direct effect of his salary impact coming back on the roster is $2.75 million minus half the salary of whoever comes off the roster.
        Just as an hypothetical, as I understand it, if the Oilers were to trade Matt Benning for Justin Faulk (something many on here would seem to favour), then the immediate impact of that trade on the cap hit would be plus $4.833 million for Faulk, less $1.9 million for Benning, or a net increase of $2.933 million (I believe this will decrease with each passing game of the season before any trade is made). If Sekera came back in game 42, the Oilers would still have $2.567 million annualized of cap space banked from the LTIR (Sekera’s $5.5 million minus the $2.933 million extra paid to Faulk for a full season). Since Sekera’s hit then would be $2.75 less half the annual salary of whoever came off the roster (Garrison, the lowest priced D @ $650,000, would lower Sekera’s added cap hit to $2.45 million for the remainder of the year which would fit under the remaining LTIR relief that was banked. Every game Sekera is out longer, the more room the Oilers would have (and the opposite is true if he is back sooner).
        If my understanding of the math is incorrect, I would appreciate someone explaining how the use of LTIR works. Even if my math works for this season, it still creates an added $3 million problem for 2019, since Faulk’s contract runs thru 2020.

  • TKB2677

    Is this how this season is going to go? Oilers fans flipping out about things on an hourly basis. The whole Puljujarvi thing. The Oilers because of their stupid schedule had way, way, way too much time between games. So, they practice and practice. So, in 1 practice, ONE, they switch the lines a tiny bit swapping out a player. A practice is what 45 mins and they might do line rushes for 5-10 mins. So, for maybe 10 mins in 1 practice, they split up Strome and Puljujarvi and the fan base and media go nuclear!! The next day, they go back to normal. The only difference being they took out Brodziak and put in Caggulia. Big deal. So, then I head into my truck at 7:30am this morning and there is Nielsen ranting about the lines. For the next 2.5 hrs, he basically ranted about the lines. I have no doubt he was ranting earlier than 7:30am. I bet he ranted almost his entire show about 1 -45 mins practice. Once he realized Puljujarvi wasn’t on the 4th line, he ranted about putting Strome on a different line for what 10 mins in 1 practice and how stupid and useless it was and how the coaching staff shouldn’t be doing this, they shouldn’t be this hard on the players and they shouldn’t put this kind of pressure on the players this early.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      You provided the answer to your own frustration. Want to know why the media drone on about non-issues on the radio for 2.5 hours? Because fans (like me and you) tune in and listen. Turn the radio off dude… Simple.