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GDB Game Notes: Canadiens @ Oilers

The NHL landscape changes quickly. A week ago the Edmonton Oilers were 8-4-1 and playing well, but suddenly they have lost four straight, are 8-8-1, and things aren’t nearly as rosy as eight days ago.

Having the fewest wins in the NHL since 2007 doesn’t allow the Oilers organization the luxury of staying calm and having the confidence and knowledge they will turn things around. Make no mistake, they are feeling the pressure and after consecutive sub-par efforts v. Florida and Colorado they need to rediscover their work ethic tonight.

1. Edmonton has scored only six goals during their four-game losing streak, and they’ve allowed 17. A perfect recipe for losing. They need to find some offence and their team defence, and goaltending, must improve or this losing streak will continue.

2. The Oilers were noticeably outworked by Colorado on Sunday. It was their worst performance of the season. No question. The fourth line was good, but every time they had a solid momentum-gaining shift, the next lines were unable to maintain it. I thought they had “good losses” in Tampa and Washington, as far as they competed, but Sunday was ugly. Maybe it was just a speed bump. Tonight’s effort will tell you a lot about where this team is going.

3. Milan Lucic studies the history of hockey and knows a lot of players statistics. He is acutely aware of his struggles. He spoke about what his frame of mind and what he is doing to try and stay positive.

“Just having a smile on your face coming to the rink, and being happy coming to the rink and making it a positive place to be. I understand the numbers and the goals, but if I focus on my overall game I feel like it’s been pretty good. If I just stick with it eventually it’s going to go in. Maybe it’s just the year 2018, it’s just hasn’t been my year. Everything that could bounce the other way has, so just stay with it until 2019 rolls around maybe…”

4. He smashed his stick into pieces at practice yesterday. He took a shot off the knee during a powerplay drill, which irritated him, and set him off, but as he smashed his stick repeatedly over the net, breaking into more pieces, I’m sure the frustration of the past 60 games played a part. How could it not? He’s in the worst scoring funk of his career. This season his effort has been fine, but his execution and finish has been almost non-existent. He did get an assist on Ty Rattie’s third period goal on Sunday, so that should give him some solace, but he admitted the past 11 months have been tough.

5. I asked him what he is trying different to emerge from his 2018 scoring funk.

“Sometimes shooting harder, gripping different part of your stick, taking it on your back hand, switching the way you tape your stick, I don’t know. You try different types of things to try and get something to work for you. Sometimes even changing gloves, washing your gloves, changing your laces, different types of things, Just trying to find something to work off of. As far as drills go, yeah just shooting from different spots, shooting off a different foot, shooting off different stances, trying all those different things to see if something will work. And like I said, just try to find something to build off of and stay positive about.”

6. He tried explaining what has gone wrong, but admitted there is no clear answer.

“I wish I could put my finger on it and have an answer for you, but I don’t know. You look at last December and I was really getting going, but like I said, once the calendar changed it’s like the taps shut off and nothing’s going right for me. Even in my worst times before this, I never went on a stretch like this.  I’ve even gone back and looked at myself score goals back in Boston, and even my Vancouver Giants days. Finding videos of yourself scoring goals and feeling good about yourself.  I can’t let it bring the team down, I can’t let it bring down the most important thing with this team moving forward and that’s getting wins. So I’ve got to find something heading into tomorrow’s game, and if you look at my personal stats, I’ve had success against the Montreal Canadiens so I’m feeling good about that going into tomorrow, but saying that, it’s not going to be easy against them and a top goalie,” said Lucic.

7. Lucic has 14 career goals v. Montreal, the most against any NHL team. Ironically he scored the last time they played on December 23rd at Rogers Place. That gave Lucic 26 points in his first 36 games. Since then he has two goals in 63 games. Could a game against the Habs end his funk?

8. Connor McDavid had an interesting take on Lucic’s goal scoring funk. “You know what, it doesn’t matter if he scores, at all. He’s a guy who brings so much to the team, so much in the room. When he’s playing hard and he’s playing mean like he has been, it opens up so much ice. He’s been a guy who’s been a leader in this room since he’s gotten here. If he scores, great, If not, whatever, he still brings so much to the table.” I understand where he is coming from, but a few goals from Lucic would be a big boost.

9. The Canadiens lead the NHL in 5×5 goals with 42. Brendan Gallagher has seven, Tomas Tatar and Max Domi have six, Paul Byron and Jonathon Drouin have four while Andrew Shaw, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Charles Hudon have three. The Oilers only have four forwards with three 5×5 goals as McDavid and Drake Caggiula have three, Alex Chiasson has five and Leon Draisaitl has six.

10. Lucic isn’t the only player in a long funk. Carey Price has struggled since January 1st, 2017. It is almost two full years and he hasn’t been close to the goalie he was prior. In 96 games he is 40-45-11 with a .906sv% and a 2.83GAA. In that same span Cam Talbot is 60-50-6 with a .910sv% and a 2.80sv%. Since January 1st, 2017, only 17 goalies have had 90+ starts. Price has the lowest sv% of the 17.
Name                       GS      W-L-OTL      SV%      GAA
John Gibson            97      49-31-12     .930        2.30
Pekka Rinne             100     66-23-8       .927       2.26
Sergei Bobrovsky   107    59-40-9        .922       2.39
Andrei Vasilevskiy    107    66-32-9        .920       2.60
Connor Hellebuyck  104    64-23-13      .918       2.59
Frederik Andersen   117    65-34-13      .918       2.73
Devan Dubnyk         106    64-31-11      .917       2.53
Robin Lehner             91    33-44-13      .914       2.90
Henrik Lundqvist      105   47-44-12      .913       2.92
Tuukka Rask              95    56-31-7        .911       2.46
Braden Holtby          103   66-26-8        .911       2.72
Cam Talbot               119   60-50-6         .910      2.80
Martin Jones            106    54-37-12      .910      2.61
Mike Smith               100    42-44-12     .910       2.86
Jake Allen                  98     48-39-8        .909      2.71
Craig Anderson         91     43-35-12      .906      3.10
Carey Price                95      40-45-11     .906      2.83

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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 11/13/2018 – 7:00 am MT

  • OldOilFan

    Cam vs. Price:
    I’d take Price.
    Too bad nobody can afford Price’s salary, because he might like to get out of Mtl…and Edm would be closer to home for him. In the precap era, such a trade might have been doable. Not anymore.

  • ed from edmonton

    Other than the 1st game of the season when the Oil lost to the next to last place Taylor Hall lead Devils, Sunday’s game was the worst performance of the year. The Oil are completely dependent on their stars, i.e. McD, RNH and Drai carrying the team. They all stunk on Sunday. Let’s hope is was mostly just the first game back from a road trip syndrome. After tonight the Oil play 5 straight division opponents. If they don’t get things straightened out, their season will be over and Tmac will be hanging out with Joe Q.

    • tkfisher

      Have you seen the roster? Outside of those 3 players the GM has done a pretty good of gutting the rest of the team and destroying any hope of secondary scoring and support. The coach has coached pretty much the rest of the offensive flair out of the group. Marody for example. He’s an offensive guy, you’d think the way to have him succeed is put him in offensive situations. Instead, he will play 4th line minutes and be sent down with little success here. He’s not a 4th line guy, don’t play him like a 4th line guy. It’s not like Connor or Nuge or Leon (choose whatever combo you like) has been paired up with pure allstars (Rattie, Cag, etc, etc.). My vote would be throw the kid on one of the top two lines, give him a chance, see what happens if he plays with talent. If he flounders, move him down and send him down. If he looks good, leave him for now. Put offensive guys in a place where they can play their game. Don’t judge a talent guy on his ability to grind on the 4th, or playing with Lucic.

  • Hemmercules

    I would take Price all day over Talbot if Price didn’t get paid so much. Hopefully the Oilers can improve the goaltending next summer. I have a hunch Talbot heads back to the states in free agency if he can.

    I really want to like Lucic but that contract is just so gross for so long to not be scoring more than he does. Great in the room, tough on the ice. Good things for sure but isn’t there guys that make like 2 mil that can do that??

  • Still Hate the Flames

    The most troubling thing about the Looch situation is that neither he, nor anyone else, has any explanation for his performance. It’s nothing that changing the way he tapes his stick or simply waiting for a new calendar year can solve. I wish it were an injury, that’s concrete. A lack of confidence just doesn’t explain this drop off either, unless he’s uniquely psychologically fragile compared to his peers (everyone in the league goes through periods of heightened and diminished confidence). A long enough period of time has passed to where, unfortunately, I think we can say that this just is the player he has become. I don’t see things changing.
    And although I worship the ground he walks in, I’m going to have to call BS on McDavid. Team cohesion is absolutely key for success which is why you nearly never hear a player publicly criticize his team mate. Can you imagine the upheaval of McD had said that Lucic ISN’T valuable unless he’s scoring? That will never happen, even if it’s actually true, so we will get endless comments on how good he is in the room how much he adds to the “team toughness” and so on. We all know the truth though: a player who is accounting for that much of the salary cap better be bringing a heck of a lot more than being good in the room and being tough. And we all know, including McD, that that just isn’t the case, and I just don’t see why it will change just because the calendar says 2019.

    • MrBung

      The explanation is twofold. His age and the game has got faster. He is not a top six player. He needs to be accepted as what he is NOW not what he was several years ago. It doesn’t help that he is being paid as a top six player. I think that is where a lot of the frustration is coming from. This is not some temporary funk or being “snake-bitten”.

      • Still Hate the Flames

        But this started when he was 29. And has the game really changed that much over the past year and a half? If so, how do you see it as having happened-the players getting faster or style of play changing that dramatically?

        • MrBung

          This trend has been going for several years now. Look at how more 3rd and fourth lines are seeing relatively smaller and skilled players. Less bump and grind type guys. This is a new compared to 3-5 years ago. And the two factors are not mutually exclusive. A guy like Lucic has already passed the average a lot of players have in the NHL. It has changed enough for him. When guys hit the cliff – it drops precipitously.

          • Still Hate the Flames

            Fair enough, but I still don’t think age and the game getting marginally faster can explain the drop off. If it were just a combo of those things, there ought to be a whole group of players currently in the same situation as Lucic- formerly “skilled” but not speedy players, who now can’t seem to put the puck in the ocean, but his situation seems pretty unique. He’s not a 35 year old former sniper who just can’t keep up any more. It’s not just in situations that require speediness that the change is noticeable. His passing has deteriorated, actually making tap-on-tap passes, which players equally slow as him can make with regularity. He misses wide-open shots that he used to make more regularly. To me, his skills definitely seem to have deteriorated and the “age” and “speed of the game” explanations just don’t really seem to cover it. But that’s neither here nor there. We have the player we have. The question is what to do with him.

    • The future never comes

      Yeah, the conversation went from snake bitten, to questioning if he fell off a cliff, to now confirmation that we know this is the player moving forward. It’s almost been a hockey calendar year at this point. The conversation should now turn to how could this contract be rid of, if at all even remotely possible, yes I know the whole NMC, buyout proof part. Is there any possible way/ loophole to get out of it at all?

  • Lucic and his situation reminds me more of golf than hockey. How many times have you become exponentially worse for a round only to bounce back and crush everything after changing nothing

  • hagar

    I didnt know making the nhl had factors like changing skate laces and washing gloves!! I always ran the same laces and never washed my gloves. Dang.. I knew it wasnt my skill level!!!

  • Abagofpucks

    This is such a jekell and hyde team i have no idea which team is showing up.
    2nd and third lines gotta step up or they have very little chance of winning.
    I think the fourth line generates more chances, and probably is out scoring lines 2 and 3. All i can hope for them is that they figure it out soon.

    • hagar

      Its a jekyll and hyde team because the accountability is always the same.. The roster has been fully changed a few times, the coaching staff like five times, only a few constants still remains after all these years, and they arent on the ice.
      Not sure why so many people choose to believe the oilers are telling the truth about who has a say in major decisions.
      The history of this franchise for the last 12 years is 100 percent built by people who failed and got promoted inspite of the failure. It even shows with contract signings.. Get in the door, get your money locked in, then play well at random without worrying about losing your job.

      • Serious Gord

        There has never been true accountability- Read: firing – at the highest levels of this org. And the Hirings of fogs and foks have not been ended.

        That attitude rolls downhill as it were.

      • ed from edmonton

        I agree, if the Oil can get out from under the Lucic contract free and clear and LTIR Sekera things would be better. For clarity its not that I think Sekera wasn’t a good player, but I don’t think there is any chance he play well at an NHL level after two major legs injuries.

      • OriginalPouzar

        A lock out is not necessary for compliance buyouts – those can be negotiated in the CBA negotiations and can be agreed to without the need for labor stoppage.

        • Dapper Dan 3099

          yes I know, the lockout is more to not have to stress about this team for a year…. the new CBA they negotiate during said lockout hopefully has a few compliance buyouts

          • corky

            Should make it like NFL where a contract can just get ripped up whenever. I know it will never happen but it might smarten up some guys from cashing in coasting long term. Just a thought.

  • Rama Lama

    If the Oilers play Cam Talbot over Koskinen……..shame on them. Let Koskinen play until he serves up a stinker. I for one like Cam but his style of play ( flopping around on the ice) has been observed by every scout, and players adjust by shooting high on him.

    As for Lucic, he is in a funk but his style of play is needed and the deterrent he provides has no stat to go with it. He has a lot of company with the entire team ( except Dri and McDavid) not producing. Ryan Strome for one could not hit an empty net if his life depended upon it.

    If anything will change this teams fortunes it will be a coaching change. TM is a good coach if you give him nothing but veterans. Other teams know how to play against his style and continually adjust by stretching the play out…….he has no response. This has been observed by many a professional commentators and writers, not to mention all the armchair critics like myself.

    Time to admit we hired the wrong coach for the team…….it appear they have tuned him out.

  • Serious Gord

    How long does the slump have to be before it is seen as the new ceiling of his abilities?

    To my lay person’s eye lucic is standing too close to the net on the power play – he does very poorly with the puck near his feet.

  • Odanada

    If they come out flat again tonight you can draw one of 2 conclusions:

    1) Todd isn’t firing them up like he needs to
    2) The players have tuned Todd out and are underperforming to get him fired

    Either way, Todd is in panic crossover mode and nothing but winning will save his job.

        • Heschultzhescores

          Agreed. It’s the dreaded long-term contract again. When will we learn. Good players and good coaches always come available every year, but you need the money to pounce when that happens. There will be no Queneville in Oilerville.

    • MrBung

      Also – I always like this coming out “flat” argument. Don’t forget the other part other equation. The other team is just playing better and making the other team look flat (e.g. breaking up passes, stifling transition, etc)

    • Spydyr

      “Since January 1st, 2017, only 17 goalies have had 90+ starts. Price has the lowest sv% of the 17.”

      So now the excuse makers are finding goalies that have $hit the bed worse than Talbot. Too funny.

      • corky

        Price is overrated now. Just living off his past rep. This is a lesson for other teams not to grossly overpay a goalie. Ken Holland has said a success for the Wings was to never overpay goalies. Worked out pretty good for them for a long time.

      • Leichs

        Well, there are only two goalies in the league who look worse and we get them tonight (Price) and Saturday (Mike Smith). Although Im guessing the Flames start David Rittich against us. David Rittich is rocking a .935 SV right now with 1.91 GA wow.. Why the heck are those guys even letting Smith play games when Rittich has top 5 goalie numbers in the league right now..

  • Heschultzhescores

    Given the Oilers history of slump busting. Expect Price to look like an allstar again. Damn I want them to light him up like a Christmas tree and give us all a well deserved present

  • Heschultzhescores

    Pay less and get more. Our motto going fwd. Why? Because we have no money to do it any other way. No more long term deals! McD is the only one we should have signed long-term. Keep guys hungry, that’s the key.