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Photo Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 11.0: Out Like a Lion (7pm MT, SNOil)

“In like a lion, out like a lamb,” or “in like a lamb, out like a lion,” are proverbs connected to weather and the month of March. Folklore has led many to believe if the March starts off with cold, stormy weather (Lion), then it would end on a pleasant warm note (Lamb). Or if it begins with nice weather, then the cold snap would come at the end. Growing up on the farm I heard my parents utter this phrase every year and often numerous times each March.

I never tracked it to see if it was accurate, but as I got older I found myself repeating those words. I do recall years where “in like a lamb out like a lion” was legit as I froze my ass off in the barn in late March during calving season. I recall those years mainly because you expect it to be cold in early March, but when the temperature is -20 on March 24th you remember it. In 2013 I sat in the barn as three cows were close to popping. Two of them calved early that morning and both had twins. As I worked to dry off the calves, to ensure none had frozen ears or a tail, I recall mumbling something to the effect of “eff you, out like a lion.”

The 2018 Oilers began October like a lamb. They didn’t have much bite losing two games and being outscored 9-3 v. New Jersey and Boston. Oilersnation was restless, but a victory in New York, in an afternoon game no less, got the Oilers rolling and then they steamrolled through some top teams and have an opportunity to finish October like a lion if they can defeat the Minnesota Wild tonight.

The Oilers have had a steady diet of top teams in October — Nashville and Boston twice, Pittsburgh, Washington, Winnipeg, Chicago and now Minnesota. All of them except Chicago had 100+ points last season, and all of them are currently among the top-11 teams in the standings, excluding the Capitals.

A victory this evening and the Oilers will leave October with 15 points and in the top-ten of the NHL standings. It would be a remarkable feat considering their schedule, and they get another bonus from the schedule maker with the Wild losing 5-2 in Vancouver last night.

The Wild are 1-3 on the road and will be playing their backup goalie in the second game of back-to-backs. This is a great opportunity for the Oilers to keep rolling.

LINEUP

Oilers

RNH-McDavid-Yamamoto
Rieder-Draisaitl-Chiasson
Lucic-Strome-Caggiula
Khaira-Brodziak-Kassian

Klefbom-Larsson
Nurse-Russell
Garrison-Benning

Talbot

McLellan is sticking with the same lineup which means Jesse Puljujarvi will sit out his fourth consecutive game.

“We have some chemistry with lines and pairs and I sense a renewed confidence in the group so I will keep the lineup the same tonight,” said McLellan.

“It is not ideal for him (Puljujarvi) not to play, but we have to look at the entire group and you try to find a balance between individuals and the team. The NHL is a tough place to develop players. We have a lot of them and some nights some play well and others don’t. If you make decisions for the best interest of the team I think often they will work out better for the team,” continued McLellan.

McLellan knows what is at stake with Puljujarvi, but when others are playing better you are doing a disservice to your team to play someone simply because they are young and need to be playing. McLellan was saying as a coach you can’t let one player’s development be more important than icing the lineup you think gives you the best chance to win.

I also get the sense McLellan is speaking through his actions. It is up to management to make the decision to send Puljujarvi to the minors. They make the final call and if the team is winning and playing well, the right decision is to send Puljujarvi to Bakersfield and let him play.

The organization needs a plan. It wouldn’t have made any sense to send him down recently as Bakersfield has only played three games since October 10th. Starting tomorrow they get back into a more regular schedule with five over the next two weeks, but Puljujarvi would also get more practice time to work on his individual skills.

The NHL schedule doesn’t allow for a lot of individual practice time for players.

I remain steadfast in believing the best situation for Puljujarvi right now is to play big minutes in the AHL. Management needs to make that decision.

Zack Kassian also addressed the rumour the Oilers gave his agent permission to seek out a trade.

“I didn’t ask for a trade. When I got healthy scratched my agent did his job and reached out to Peter to see what was up. I hadn’t played well early, but I feel our line is coming on. I addressed my teammates before the Chicago game and I never asked for a trade. It is the business side of the game. These types of conversations happen often. I want to help us, we are in a good spot,” said Kassian.

His agent spoke to Chiarelli and what happens often is a GM will tell the agent to talk to other teams if he wishes. Usually, the conversations don’t lead to anything, and in most cases the situation never gets leaked. You’d be surprised how often a player has quietly asked for a trade, but it never transpired. I don’t see this as that big of a deal.

Kassian knows he is a third or fourth line player, regardless of which team he plays for. His situation or ice time won’t change much if he goes to a new team. If he plays well he will play EV and on the PK.

Wild

Zucker-Staal-Niederreiter
Parise-Koivu-Granlund
Greenway-Coyle-Brown
Foligno-Fehr-Eriksson Ek

Suter-Dumba
Brodin-Spurgeon
Seeler-Pateryn

Stalock

Kevin Woodley from In Goal Magazine had a great quote about the Wild’s goaltending duo.

“They might be the most opposite pairing there is in the NHL. Dubnyk is all positioning, and tracking, and efficiency. Alex Stalock is just a bag of fun to watch play goalie, because he’s all over the place. He relies on reads, he’s athletic and aggressive. Personally, I’m taking Dubynk’s style, but from an entertainment stand-point, you might have fun watching Alex,” said Woodley.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Hockey Wilderness:

As I mentioned above, the first 10 minutes of this game will be crucial. The team played last night, has a goalie that hasn’t played in 10 days, and plays a team that is one of the hottest in the NHL. You will be able to tell how the night will go for the Wild solely based on the pace of the game, and how the Wild start, in the first half of the period.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers win their fourth in a row defeating the Wild 5-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers get more powerplays than the Wild. Minnesota is -12 in PP-PK ratio. They’ve had 36 PP chances, but have been on the PK 48 times, meanwhile the Oilers have had 36 powerplays and have been shorthanded 33 times. And McDavid picks up a 5×5 point.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: In their last 19 games v. the Wild the Oilers have averaged 26 shots. Only twice have they had 30+ shots. The Oilers fire 35+ shots tonight and Lucic and Strome combine on a goal.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Gravis82

    The NHL is not a place to be developing players, I agree. That is the AHL.

    Turns out Puljujarvi has already played there, so give him a consistent spot in the NHL now perhaps? Send Yamamoto back.

    Can anyone say that Yamamoto is a better player than Puljujarvi right now?

    Todd makes these decisions with too much emphasis on off-ice aspects. He needs to go. This is crazy.

    • Jason Gregor

      49 games means he can’t play in the AHL now? He has very little confidence now. No player can play well without it.

      As for Yamo, yes he is better today in how he thinks the game, sees the ice, creates turnovers and can penalty kill.

      • Kepler62c

        I agree with your first point, and the 2nd to an extent — I think Yamo needs AHL time almost as much as Puljujarvi. He’s not contributing a whole lot out there. Just because he’s keeping his head above water right now doesn’t mean some AHL time wouldn’t be good for him.

        • 99CupsofCoffey

          But he is contributing (Yamamoto), just not on the scoresheet. He is instrumental in defence, getting pucks, all that, that helps that first line. Even Rishaug this morning argued these points on 1260.

          • btrain

            True, but could Caggiula/Khaira/Chiasson/or Reider not accomplish this as well? Not saying Yammamoto hasn’t played decent, but its not unreasonable to think another internal option could have done as well or better over a 5 game stretch with McDavid and Nuge. I think if it is the case, that another internal option can do as well or better, than let your top prospect develop properly in the AHL until he is ready to grab the role and run with it. Same goes for Puljujarvi.

      • Gravis82

        A spot in the lineup would give confidence

        Absent from the things you listed are scoring goals and assists and points per time spent with best player in the world. There are many star players who don’t do those things you listed and still have a huge impact on the game cause they simply produce. Doing those things makes coaches love you, but it doesn’t mean you have more influence on winning than someone who doesn’t do those things but can score and generate offence. But it will get you played, and that is exactly my point.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      “Yamamoto is a better player than Puljujarvi right now” there, I said it….
      JP gets in the way when he loses confidence. That is why he’s not playing now. The team is successful. Full Stop.

  • EzraElliott

    I’m going to this game tonight, and it’s the first time I’ve been to a game in 16 years (and that game was the only game I had been to before tonight). It’s my birthday today and my wife got the family to pool together for lower-bowl tickets (prices are mighty rich these days…), so I really hope that the Oilers show up tonight. They’ve looked like a playoff team for the last eight games, and I see no reason why they can’t keep it up. Go Oilers!

  • Leichs

    Yam really seems to be hurting the 5 on 5 play of McNuge. Since Rattie was injured and he was put on that line he only has 1 even strength point in like 5 or 6 games now? How is that even possible playing with those two guys. Sure he creates the odd turnover and will draw the odd penalty but its not enough to make up for 15 minutes of ineffectiveness (0 shots against the Hawks) Id like to see Drake and Yam swap as Drake is faster, far more aggressive and harder on the forecheck and stronger and by my eye he has been the much more dangerous player so far. I feel Drakes game would complement McNuge very well right now has very rarely does Yam win a puck battle in the corner. Yam can get his soft minutes playing on the third with Luc and Strome.

    • Leichs

      Ill take this directly from the blog earlier today:

      Over the past six games he (McD) has skated 97:46 at 5×5 and has one point. I’d bet pretty much everything I have he won’t have a similar stretch all season. He is currently tied for 38th in 5×5 points with six. He led the NHL with 71 last year. McDavid still scored 17 points despite not doing much over the past six games at 5×5. That is damn impressive

      Case in point about Yam bringing down the top line at 5 on 5. Maybe its not fair to throw the blame on him but to me he is just too ineffective on a top line for a club trying to make playoffs.

    • Jason Gregor

      Some valid points, but I will say this regarding that line. McDavid had four breakaways v. Pitt/WSH and didn’t score on any of them. That really alters the numbers. I agree Rattie would be better option when he returns, but factor that can’t be overlooked is that 97 and 93 trust Yamomoto to make the right play. Very small sample size also, six games, so I won’t go as far as to say Yamamoto is to blame for other two not scoring, also have to consider the teams they played, but when Rattie returns I would play him there.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    I LOVE that picture. It’s like Lucic is telling Pete something and Pete is giving that look if “you’ve told me a thousand times already”. I love it!

  • OilCan2

    We are in a good position with Yamamoto being able to slot into the top line. Jesse will improve with age. The team is doing well and he is getting practise time in no matter where he plays. Injuries will cause roster moves and we have done well to navigate a winning record through these changes. I wonder how the Sekera LTIR will play out for a roster move.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Yamo is the first guy I’ve seen Not produce with McD. Not sure how he earned that spot either. He has been all but invisible IMO. He has potential, don’t get me wrong, but he should not get a pass when he passes from the slot two times now. JP has never had a sniff with McD and yet it might be what he needs most. Learn from the best to be the best.

  • theJason

    Come on ppl!!! Rishaug (who I rarely agree with) made the point this morning, you have to look at the quality of competition that McDavid’s line has faced the last 6 games. Okay, so Yamo has not “produced” with McDavid. They went head to head with Johansen twice, Crosby, Ovechkin, Toews, oh and Bergeron! Are you really surprised they weren’t producing 5×5? This are the best lines in the NHL the last 6 years! And not only did they survive, they can out with a winning record. I’ll make a GDP: Against Staal’s line, Yamo will get two points and one of the will be a goal.

    • CTP66

      Agreed. If Puljujarvi played like Yamamoto, he would not be sitting right now, even without scoring. You have to find a way to help your team win, and Yamo is doing that. Anyone saying he is invisible is clearly not watching very closely, or at all. Just looking at the stats. Yamo, despite his size, plays well defensively, kills penalties, gets good body position in traffic, plays tenacious (goes to the net more than a lot of the bigger Oilers), checks (both getting into the corners and stealing pucks) and draws penalties. If Jesse did half of that, with his size, there wouldn’t be discussion about him going to the AHL. Yamamoto will need to start producing to hold that spot above Rattie, but he can still help the team on any of the first three lines.

  • Hemmercules

    “The NHL is a tough place to develop players. We have a lot of them and some nights some play well and others don’t.”

    I think Todd is trying to tell you something Chia. Send down the kids. Press boxing them isn’t going to help them.

    • Hemmercules

      Also, The Wild suck!

      My most hated Oilers rival over the DOD. I don’t think the Oil won more than 1 or 2 over them over all those years. Maybe it was more wins than that but It felt like a sure loss no matter the situation when these teams met.

      • Natejax97

        That’s because the Wild put them to sleep with the most boring hockey that anyone has ever watched in the history of ever…Gawd I hated when we played the stupid Wild. They would play trap until finally a mistake, then they would score. Effective, yes, brutal disgusting boring stupid hockey – also yes.

  • Natejax97

    It’s nice to come on the comments section these days…no trolls and everyone in a good mood. Only 2 or 3 “fire the coach” comments…good read guys!!

  • Natejax97

    I don’t feel sorry for Jesse. Play like everything matters or play like nothing matters, just play better. Nuff said. He is 19 or 20…lots of lessons left in this young mans career. It’ll all work out, or it won’t, I am definitely cheering for him, but no…not sorry for him.

  • CMG30

    Too many people seem to judge players by who they imagine they are (both good and bad) vs how they are actually playing right now. It’s critical to keep an open mind when evaluating players. Try to see them as they are right now, not how we would like them to be or how they were in the past.

    It’s also important to realize that when people say that a player needs more time in the AHL (or junior), that is not the same thing as saying they don’t like the player!

    Having said all that, if the coach is not going to be playing Puljujarvi then management HAS to send him back to the AHL. Get the kid some minutes, let him build his confidence and continue to adapt to the NA style of game. I challenge Oilernation to name a player who was ruined by spending extra time in the AHL…

  • Bills Bills

    JP needs to be playing games period. All players that play in the NHL also develop their skills here, so to say it is not a developmental league is factually incorrect. But those are players that are able to keep up and play regularly. I still think JP can but he needs to be planted on the 3rd line and left there. He had a couple good games with Strome, then was moved up to line 2 and was inconsistent from shift to shift. Then they pulled him out of the lineup. Doesn’t make any sense to me. He was playing well on the third line so leave him alone there and let him develop his game on a line he is comfortable with. Sure you can send him to the AHL which is better than him warming a seat in the PB. But playing regularly on the third line

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      I had that thought last game when I saw that, the one positive thing I can say is that Benning wasnt at fault for once ( and I am not a Matt Benning fan ) The Oilers got out hustled on that PP, it’s that simple

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Ugh okay, Benning adn Garrison on for another goal, I will slight Benning for not being harder on the man, he was doing his just following routine, and Drake was weak on the man, that was a terrible goal

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Chiasson drinking out of Mc D’s water bottle still…nah, he has some hands. I have liked the Chaission Reider Draisaitl line, they have been very good