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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 18.0: Show Up and Work (7pm MST, SNW)

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”
– Thomas Jefferson

The Oilers didn’t get lucky when they defeated top teams like Winnipeg, Boston, Washington and Nashville. They won because they worked hard and played smart. You can work hard and smart and still lose, but if you don’t put in a good effort, you rarely win. The Oilers need a blue collar effort tonight against the Montreal Canadiens if they hope to end their four-game slide.

The Canadiens aren’t blessed with a lot of elite skill, but they sit in ninth place in the NHL and are two points out of fourth place. They outwork teams.

They lead the NHL with 42 goals at 5×5. The Oilers are 28th with 25. The Habs exchange chances at even strength, allowing 36 goals, eighth most, so Edmonton needs to get some production from lines two through four tonight if they hope to compete.

Currently, three of the Oilers top-six point producers are without a goal. Oscar Klefbom, Tobias Rieder and Adam Larsson have eight, seven and six assists respectively, but a big goose egg in the goal column.

Their top line has produced very little the past five games so Todd McLellan switched it up last game and tonight he will reunite Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. When they play together, they produce. I think people have underrated how difficult it is to find someone who can produce consistently with elite players.

Just because Glen Sather once said, “A fire hydrant could score 40 with Wayne Gretzky,” doesn’t make it realistic. He had Jari Kurri, but never had another consistent winger. Sidney Crosby had Chris Kunitz, who had scored 60 points prior to joining Pittsburgh, but other players weren’t able to produce consistently with him. It seems one winger can, but that winger needs to be very good to maintain it.

McDavid and Draisaitl are a deadly duo, and with the team struggling, and McDavid and RNH unable to produce as many goals as they’d like, I see why the switch was made. If the Oilers have to run with one dominant duo for the time being to produce offence, so be it. We all know it isn’t ideal, but I don’t see many better options at this point.

They need wins and playing McDavid with Draisaitl gives the Oilers the best chance to produce. It is really hard to play with good players. You have to think like they do, and the reality is only a select few players think the game like McDavid. They can’t skate like him, but they can anticipate like him and that is what Draisaitl brings.

LINEUP…

Oilers

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

Klefbom-Larsson
Nurse-Benning
Gravel-Russell

Koskinen

The Oilers need a win and putting their best offensive players together is McLellan’s best chance at offensive success. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins only has one goal in 251 of 5×5 TOI. He’s played 233 of that with McDavid. He’s hit a lot of posts and had some great chances, but that duo hasn’t produced lately, so it makes sense to split them up for now. The long-term solution for the Oilers is to have Draisaitl and McDavid centre their own line, but for now I’d play them together.

Benning has played much better the past week, while the Nurse/Russell pair has struggled. Splitting them up makes sense.

Don’t be surprised if McDavid is all over the ice tonight. For his standards, he had a bad game on Sunday. Yesterday he stayed late after practice working on shooting and other drills. This morning he was on the ice for the morning skate. He hasn’t skated on game day mornings very often this season, but he was out there today. He holds himself to a very high standard and he wasn’t happy with his play on Sunday. He is always a must-watch, but tonight I sense he will dial it up a bit more.

Canadiens

Drouin-Domi-Shaw
Tatar-Danault-Gallagher
Agostino-Kotkaniemi-Lehkonen
Deslauriers-Peca-Hudon

Benn-Petry
Schlemko-Mete
Alzner-Reilly

Niemi

“Right now the Habs are outscoring their mistakes,” said Craig Button. They have produced a lot of goals, but they also have surrendered many quality chances. The Oilers should get some good looks, but they have to bury them. They have missed too many great chances recently.

I wrote about Price’s two-year struggle this morning in the game notes so it isn’t a major shock he isn’t playing. He has a 5-4-3 record with a .892Sv% and 3.07 GAA this season.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Habs Eyes on the Prize:

Both Montreal and Edmonton are searching for consistency from their number-one goaltenders. Carey Price has five of his team’s wins, but his 3.07 goals-against average and save percentage of .892 are far below the Vezina Trophy winner’s standards. On the other side, Cam Talbot‘s stats mirror Price’s, with a 3.09 goals-against average and a save percentage of .895.

Other interesting stats that should be monitored on Tuesday night are those for the special teams. Despite having the manpower, the Habs’ power play is ranked 29th, going in at a measly 13.6%. However, the Oilers’ penalty kill is also found near the bottom of the league, at 72.7%, which ranks them 27th.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The rink will be loud and filled with Habs fans. It creates a good atmosphere and I expect a lot of goals. Oilers win in OT, 5-4.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Leon Draisaitl scores twice.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Lucic scores. He enjoys playing the Habs and scores his 15th career goal against them. Strome picks up an assist on the goal, his first of the season.

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Recently by Jason Gregor:

    • Rufio Barcoli

      Just two weeks ago I felt the Oilers need to take RNH of off McDavid’s line as it is not getting the Oilers anywhere.
      Glad Toddy and the Cactus Club Blondies had to agree the hard way.

      • QuitForRealThisTime

        2 weeks ago they were like 8-4-1. Both McD and Nuge on a career pace points. Ya, change this up because it is not working. Oil fans. leading the world “I told you so” per capita.

          • QuitForRealThisTime

            I’m not a professional hockey analyst so I probably missed what you saw but I thought 2 weeks ago that the issues the Oil did have at the time was not McD or Nuge. I was thinking zero goals for Strome, one for Lucic etc. was more of an issue but again when the record was 8-4-1 I thought things were going well and was not a time to change things up. I suppose I could also come up with a meaningless hind sight “Haha see 3 year ago I new that Oil would struggle because the did not blah blah.”

  • Ty Guy

    I Agree that putting Drai and McD on the same line could create ore offence but it could also make the oil extremely easy to shut down when the Habs only have to stop one line to stop any scoring.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I am exactly sold on the line combos but lack of scoring on the Oilers end of the equation justifies trying it IMHO. Koskinen is a good idea, Talbot need to get a little fire under him, but so does the entire team, they are brutal in their own end of the ice.

    One would hope that TM stressed the importance of playing 60 minutes of hockey but I guess we will find out when the puck drops.

    I’d hoped the Oilers would work on the PP and PK but being practice was optional, I dont think that happened, are we going to see even going back to the basics, god lets hope so because both the PK and PP have been horrible

    I am keeping my fingers crossed for an Oiler win, too tight in the west to drop points

  • OilBlood

    Why oh why would you try to load up McDavids line even more. I’m sure they’ll do great but has McDavids line been a problem or the lack of secondary anything front e rest of the team?

    Why not play Nuge with Drai on the second line and put anyone with McDavid.

    I believe McD with Chiasson and Reider and Nuge/Drai/rattie would be better overall then what they’re running now.

    Any line McDavids on will be a threat, so why not put your second and third best forwards on the second line?

    We know McDavid Drai work great but I don’t see that second line doing much.

    • Heschultzhescores

      Great point. I think Todd us desperate and it’s showing. On the other hand it’s about time McD played with the guy he most likes to play with. And…it’s about Freakin time for some other guys making millions to step up.

  • MrBung

    The Oilers better win tonights game. The Canadiens allow quite a few chances per game. If they can’t get this done, the problems are really bad and things move not just from miss playoffs territory but to bottom 5 “Lose of Hughes” territory.

  • rnj

    OGDP: After Lucic scores, several positive posts about him appear in the GDW comments. They are trashed into oblivion and derided.

    NSOGDP: Serious Gord continues his reasonable posting spree

    • cityofchampions

      Once you get past Drai-McD with Nuge centering the second line, the rest are pretty much interchangeable parts and I don’t really see much purpose in swapping them around. There isn’t a bona-fide 2nd line forward among all of them. They are all 3rd/4th line forwards. Just play the hot-hand and put someone with a little finish (i.e. not Lucic or Kassian) with our three good forwards. I wouldn’t mind seeing Strome on the wing on the top two lines with Marody centering the third. One of Caligula/Lucic/Bradziak/Khaira/Kassian can sit out a game and no one would notice.

    • A-co

      Good thing they went out and found a stop gap when sekera was injured…the defense outside of the top unit is brutal…might be time to call up Jones and throw him into the fire

  • The Immortal

    Imo the reason it took so long to farm out Jesse and little Kailer is that they aren’t the worse wingers on this team by a long shot.

    PC traded our best wingers (and the best lw in the league) and got fleeced on every trade he’s made in 2 years.

    Now given that PC and TM are both in job survival mode, i fear for what the future brings.

  • OilersBro

    Our biggest gap is 2 wingers who can score and a puck moving d-man. While Yamo, Bouch, and Jesse are exactly that, I also get that we can’t rely on kids to carry us to playoffs. The vets need to step up and step up in a big way. Strome needs to stop putting muffins on net and Nurse needs to play like he belongs in the top 4

  • ed from edmonton

    Your quote about Sather and a fire scoring 40 goals with Gretzky occurred during a contract negotiation with BJ Macdonald. Macdonald scored 48 goals playing with Gretzky in 79-80, Oilers first year in the NHL. The next year he scored 19 in 51 after some injury problems and Jari Kurri had a chance to play with Gretzky due to Macdonald’s injury. The Oil traded MAcdonald to the Nucks when they couldn’t agree on a contract. MaCdonald bounced between Vancouver and the AHL for the next two years putting up 23 then 3 goals with the Nucks. Three years later he was put of the NHL. Pretty close to a fire hydrant.

    You are right that Gretzky never found a fit as good as Kurri, but that comes along once in a career, maybe. However I would suggest that if one had the time to dig through the data that any player that got time with Gretzky had his best offensive results.

  • ed from edmonton

    I’m wondering if the reuniting of McD and Drai is a challenge to the players who asked for “more continuity” at least year’s exit interviews. RNH and McD have been a fixture and Drai at 2C pretty much as well. After three poor games it might be a way of saying, okay I tried it your way and you are giving me crap. So I’ll try it my way.

  • A-co

    What about sitting Strome and lucic and calling up Benson for a look…
    Benson-jesus-rattie
    Nuge-draisaitl-chaison
    Caguilla – Marody – reider
    JJ- brodziak – kassian

    Klefbom Larson
    Cross your fingers
    Cross your fingers

  • Deezy

    ‘It is really hard to play with good players. You have to think like they do, and the reality is only a select few players think the game like McDavid.’ It’s difficult to stomach this statement. So, Draisatl is the only one capable of playing with McDavid. Back in Connor’s rookie season, he looked pretty good playing with Yakupov and Pouliot. Maroon looked pretty damn good with Connor. Nuge and Rattie seemed to do well with Connor to end last season and to start this year. I think Oilers fans are smarter than this. Let’s stop supporting Todd’s head scratching decisions with statements like this. Right now, we’ve got a coach desperate to prolong what will be an inevitable firing. Chiarelli and McLellan are incapable of taking this team to the next level. Fire these idiots and grab Coach Quenneville while he’s available.

  • OldOilFan

    McD/RNH/Drai..

    Trash it if you like, but the line configuration above would free McD to go [at warp speed] to whatever area of the ice he wants, opening up all kinds of holes in the coverage and subsequent potential passes to/from him. Meanwhile, RNH is an excellent center who covers defensively, and Drai is an excellent finisher.
    If nothing else, the line would throw a different look at the other team, which is something the overly predictable Oilers just can’t seem to do.

    • cityofchampions

      We do this already at key points in games. It would be the best line in hockey, and good for McD, Drai and Nuge, but since it’d be followed up by three 4th lines it probably wouldn’t result in many wins. The other three lines would combine to give back more than the top line could produce.

      • Natejax97

        The 4th line is holding their own. The Strome line doesn’t get scored on much…so really we would only need 1 competent center to play between Reider and Chaisson for this to work…1 guy.

        • cityofchampions

          I agree that we are in dire need of one more decent forward, but if we had him I’d pair him with Nuge and have two lines that could do something. That guy was supposed to by Puli…but he hasn’t developed as quickly as hoped (still time, but he’s not yet a top 6 player).

    • Heschultzhescores

      Only problem is they would have to pass it into the net. Might even send Drai pass it along the goal line to McD on the other side if the net for the forced tap it

  • Serious Gord

    Teaming Drai with mcd is a panic move. Short term potential gain for negative long term results.

    A better attempt would be to move rnh onto Draisaitl line.

    Tmc is showing some serious flaws here – likely the same ones that got him canned by San Jose.

    • Natejax97

      Who did draisaitl play the entire year with when the oilers made the playoffs? Is the drop off so significant between Nuge and Drai? Cripes…if it works let it rip and go get Maroon back from St Louis while their at it…he is in the press box anyways. Would love to put that trio back together for another kick at the can

      • Serious Gord

        Maroon is in the press box for a reason- time for him to retire.

        And the proves the point – putting Drai with mcd leaves THREE LINES with RNH and a bunch of guys named “who?”. With Strome and lucic looking like their best days are far behind this move will put the whole team far behind the playoff cut line.

    • cityofchampions

      I don’t know if it would work, isolating McDavid from talent isn’t ideal, but at this point its probably something that should at least be tried. If we did it, I’d throw the trio (McDraiNuge) together once a period so McDavid doesn’t feel quite so lonely out there.

    • jesse says yep

      I’m curious, most agree that the NHL is not a development league. That is why they sent down Yamo and JP so that they could get the development that comes with the AHL. Drai hasn’t shown that he is ready to play a 2nd line center role, why use his spot in the roster as a development spot when there is an excellent option available in RNH?

  • Total Points

    RHN and Drai should be on a line and McDavid with anybody on another line. That is the only way the Oilers will have a chance to create 2 scoring lines.

  • OriginalPouzar

    The Oilers have exactly ZERO goals with McDavid on the ice at 5 on 5 over the last four games. I am confident that putting Leon as his winger has as much to do with getting McDavid going as anything else.

    • cityofchampions

      I don’t see where either of them has done much on the top line. Neither are the “answer” and I’m agnostic as to which one plays there. I’d be willing to try Marody, Benson or even Strome in that position. Just find someone, anyone, who can put some chances away.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    Excellent article Jason.

    Anyone can say what they will about management and coaching but there is no reason for that sloppy game Sunday. It was on the Oilers players and only them. I have counted 6 of those games last year (winnable but zero effort). Win those and they would’ve been at 90 points. Not enough for the playoffs but a hell of a lot better than where they finished.

  • Heschultzhescores

    What is wrong with bringing up that entire AHL line? Send down any of the other non producers who don’t have it in their contract that they can’t be sent down. Now that’s a message that might actually shake things up.

  • toprightcorner

    I like putting Draisaitl with McDavid for 2-3 games max. McDavid hasn’t been his usual dominant self the past couple games and he is chomping at the bit. McDavid will make magic and get them both on a hot streak again. Then I move Draisaitle down but keep Nuge on his wing and see if they can get on a roll.

    Having Nuge centering his own line for a few games will get him pushing offense on his own instead of deferring to McDavid. Last season when he went on a tear, he was just shooting from every angle every chance he gets, lately, he seems to keep wanting to give it back to McDavid instead of being McDavids go to guy.