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GDB Game Notes: Oilers @ Capitals

After losing their first two road games of the season the Oilers have picked up victories in New York, Winnipeg, Nashville, Chicago and Detroit. They will try to extend that tonight against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

They do so riding the hot stick of former Capital Alex Chiasson.

1. Chiasson has six goals in eight games with the Oilers, but it is not the best start he’s every had with a team. The Dallas Stars drafted him 38th overall in 2009. He spent three years at Boston University before turning pro in 2012/2013. He played 57 games for the Texas Stars in the AHL and was recalled for the final seven games of the season. He scored 6-1-7 in those seven games. He was in Dallas’ starting lineup on opening night for the 2013/2014 season and scored a goal in each of the first three games. In his first 10 NHL games Chiasson produced 9-1-10. Unreal. But it didn’t last. He scored 10 goals in the remaining 76 games that season and finished with a career high 13 goals.

2. “Things went pretty well my first ten games in Dallas,” said Chiasson when I asked him if he’d ever made such a great first impression. “I have learned a lot from that. I was young back then with no experience. I learned you have to still work on your stuff all the time. The NHL is a hard league to score in. I try to bring different attributes to my game now. I think I can score and help the team offensively. I believe in my shot, or creating rebounds and being good in front of the net. I am a much more consistent player now,” said Chiasson.

3. Last season was great for him, not only winning a Stanley Cup, but learning from one player in particular.

“I learned a lot from TJ Oshie. He is a guy who scores in a lot of different ways. Obviously, he is a super skilled player, but he creates offence in various ways. He helped me a lot with my game, not even by talking to me, just by watching him play in how he creates chances. Not everyone is going to score 50 like Ovie, and Connor (McDavid) is going to create his own chance because not a lot of guys have his speed and skill. A lot of guys score on the powerplay, but it is a hard league to score in five-on-five. The more tools you have in your toolbox the better you are going to be and I feel I know how to use my tools now.

4. Chiasson won a Stanley Cup. He just turned 28 in October, but no one signed him this summer. He signed a professional tryout (PTO) with the Oilers on September 10th. He had to earn a contract, and so far it is looking like the best off-season signing for the Oilers, and arguably across the NHL if you consider his value per point. He signed for $650,000 and already has six goals. Is he playing with a chip on his shoulder?

“I’m not sure it is a chip on my shoulder. Last year may have been a bit like that, but this year it is a little different with the experience I had last year, and I learned a lot from the playoffs in how to play the game. I’m trying to bring that experience into my game now. Getting the opportunity to play on the top two lines really helps. Sometimes the game might not go as well as you want, but you still get the opportunity to go back for offensive draws. A guy like Leon is going to create offence no matter what. He is one of the best players on our team and one of the top centres in the NHL. I’m just trying to grab the opportunity by the horns, and do the best I can and have fun with it.”

5. Chiasson is older and more experienced than the red-hot rookie he was in 2013. He knew how to make an impression once he got in the lineup on the fourth line, and his solid play earned him a promotion. He feels he is more prepared to take advantage of this great opportunity. “Every day I take pride in my work, whether it is on or off the ice, you will see my trying different things to play with, shooting from different angles…it is nice to get rewarded,” he said.

6. Chiasson leads the Oilers with six even strength goals, although the one in Detroit was a 6-on-5 delayed penalty, but his production at 5×5 has been outstanding. I’m sure many of you noticed him scoring off a one-timer from McDavid on the delayed penalty. The coaching staff gave Milan Lucic the opportunity to start the season on the powerplay. They wanted to get him going, but it is 13 games and Lucic, while being competitive at 5×5, has not helped the powerplay. They only had one PP in Detroit, but Lucic has to be near the end of the line to remain on the top unit. Chiasson can be the net front guy, and he shoots right, so he could slide out off the net and get in a spot for a one-timer now and then.

7. The fourth line has played really well the past three games. Jujhar Khaira was really fighting the puck Thursday v. Chicago, but then he made a great pass to Drake Caggiula shorthanded, and it seemed to relax him. He was excellent in Detroit, picking up assists on both of Kyle Brodziak’s goals.

8. It took the Oilers 23 games to reach eight wins last year. This season they are 8-4-1 in 13 games. Same wins in ten fewer games is a nice bounce back start for the Oilers. In 2016/2017 the Oilers needed 12 games to reach eight wins, 8-3-1, stretched it to 9-3-1, then lost five in a row. They were 9-8-1 in their first 18 games, but proceeded to go 38-18-8 in their final 64 games.

9. Listening to Chiasson talk about working on his game reminds me that Milan Lucic should be doing the same with his. When they are practicing at home I haven’t seen him out early, before practice, doing shooting and scoring drills with the coaches. You need to work your way out of a funk, and it is up to Lucic to take control of his career. Put the work in at practice usually leads to success in games. It is something I’ll be monitoring.

10. Jesse Puljujarvi has played the past two games, but he doesn’t look overly comfortable. With Ty Rattie waiting to get back in the lineup, the only RW who could come out is Puljujarvi. That means the Oilers could have two 20 year olds in the press box tonight. One of them has to be sent to the AHL when they return from the road trip, and I’d strongly consider sending both Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto to Bakersfield. Get them playing a lot of minutes, and in a few weeks if Chiasson and/or Drake Caggiula slow down, or the production on the right side slows down, then they can consider recalling one of them. They are the future of this team, but it is clear they aren’t ready to be contributors in the present. There is nothing wrong with that, they are only 20, but Peter Chiarelli needs to make the right decision. Get them to Bakersfield.

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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 11/07/2018 – 9:00 am MT

  • Rob...

    4th line players finished at a 0 +/- last game, and seemed to be playing a weak game in their own zone. Twice their goals seemed to be in response to letting one in. I’m happy with that response, but I honestly expect a better ability to break the cycle in their own end from Brodziak and Khaira. Hopefully this is just a matter of them still getting used to each other.

    • Jason Gregor

      You think they played bad defence on the Wings 2nd goal? A shot that goes wide of net and bounces off end boards, hits Koskinen’s skate and goes in is bad defence?

      On Detroit’s first goal. Darnell Nurse can complete control of puck, but turned it over and Detroit ends up scoring. Again, I don’t fault the forwards for shoddy defensive play. I always recommend when you see a stat you don’t like to then look at video and see if it matches what it says on paper. It doesn’t in this case.

      I definitely didn’t see them making bad defensive plays/reads on those two goals against. Also Kassian was +1, because he changed as puck was dumped in, and Caggiula came on and got a cheap -1 for it.

      • Rob...

        So beyond the 2 goals, did you think the 4th line had a good night in their own zone, supporting the D and breaking cycles? I was happy to see them push back and get two goals, but I saw struggles in their own zone.

        Maybe you can ask Struds whether or not shoddy defensive play can always be laid at the skates of the d-men or if it can be the result of poor support from the forwards. I’m sure his response would be quite passionate.

          • Rob...

            I tried listening on the commute home yesterday but must have missed it if it was discussed. I did catch him raving about their forecheck, and no arguments from me there. They’ve been good on the forecheck. Last night’s game though seems to have caught the attention of a few people in MSM for the fourth line in their own zone.

  • The future never comes

    Lucic has rightfully been taken off of the first two lines, which was the first step. The second step is taking him off of the PP, Chiasson definitely deserves a chance. He has the hot stick, has the big body, gets in the goalies sight lines, and can step down for the one T. Lucic’s contract is what it is, stop forcing issues based on what he makes.

  • Hockeytalkguy

    Mr. Gregor how long do you think TMc keeps putting Lucic out on the 1st unit PP? Personally I would have tried somebody else 3 games ago. I like the toughness that Lucic brings and his effort has been pretty consistent, I just find the play dies on his stick more often than not. It’s got to be frustrating for 97, 93, & 29.

    • mccash

      I agree with everyone about Lucic 5v5, but I don’t think he’s been a problem on the PP. He’s still one of the few guys on our team that can own the front of the net almost uncontested. That’s worthwhile on the powerplay. He hasn’t had any bounces, but the powerplay hasn’t been the problem.

      • The future never comes

        He hasn’t been a major problem but he sure has not been a solution. Why not try someone with better hands and a better finish? Often times getting that one extra PP goal is the difference in winning and losing. Why not give your team the best chance to score every opportunity? He doesn’t really get in the goalies sight either. Now of days defense are not fighting and battling with the forward in front because that might draw another penalty. Usually that net front presence sits there unchallenged by the D. Besides Chiasson is big anyways and has 6 vs 1 goal in 5 fewer games.

    • Jason Gregor

      I think he is coming to the end of the line. Essentially he is playing himself off the PP. He is a big personality in the room and a veteran and I understand the coaching staff giving him an opportunity, but he hasn’t taken advantage of it. Unless he suddenly starts screening the goalie more frequently, and making better plays with the puck on the PP I think his time on the first unit is near the end.

      • Oilman99

        Chiasson looked like he new Letestu for the PP with his one timer on Saturday. Lucic’s hands of cement need to changed sooner than later if they want have success on the power play.

  • godot10

    Lucic has four more years after this season at $6 million with a full NMC in a buyout proof contract. Why should he work harder than he has to?

    The spot at the head of the table would be empty if he spent extra time pre and post practice on the ice.

    • McPoilers

      Lucic’s only got 2 more years with a full NMC. In the final 2 years it turns in to a modified NTC where he can selected 8-10 teams he can be traded to. His salary also drops towards the end of his contract, meaning that it should be easier to offload to a budget team not spending to the cap ceiling anyway. I don’t like his performance this season so far, but I’m also not that worried about his contract.

  • Hemmercules

    Disappointing to hear that about Looch, If anyone needs to brush up their puck handling and shooting its him. I guess we don’t have the whole story, maybe he does work on that stuff more than we know but still concerning that he doesn’t put in much or any extra time on home ice.

  • Alberta Ice

    Chaisson has been the best pick up for any team this year in the NHL. Talk about helping the web of cap salary space for the Oilers, this one has been the real deal.