Sometimes we make sports more serious than they are. I understand why we do, because sports stimulate our emotions. When things are going well for your team you have an extra bounce in your step. While things are tough in Oilersnation right now, in Carolina their fans are having the most fun they’ve had in years.
The Hurricanes became the first NHL team to have a unique post-game celebration. They have ridden a canoe, played duck-duck-goose, had human bowling and more. The fans love it, and the players are having a lot of fun, especially lately as in 2019 the Hurricanes have the second most points in the NHL behind the St.Louis Blues.
1. The Canes are 13-5-1 since January 1st, but they’ve only played six games on home ice. They’ve been outstanding on the road going 9-3-1. Their hot streak has them back in the playoff race sitting three points behind Pittsburgh for the final wildcard spot, and three back of Columbus for third in the Metro Division.
2. The Canes’ success has come at even strength. Their PP has been excellent in this run at 22.4% (13 goals), but their PK has struggled at 78.7% (allowed 13 goals). They have outscored teams 60-42 at even strength. Compare that to the Oilers at even strength and they’ve been outscored 46-36.
3. Sebastian Aho continues to emerge as one of the more exciting young players in the league. He has 25 points during this streak and leads the Canes with 64 points. Teuvo Teravainen has 22 points, and with them on separate lines it gives the Canes two scoring lines.
4. Nino Niederreiter has been a great addition for Carolina with 6-4-10 in eleven games. He is playing left wing with Aho and Justin Williams. Teravainen and Micheal Ferland are producing well on the second line. Lucas Wallmark is holding down the second line centre spot with Jordan Staal still out. Staal skated for the first time with his teammates in over two months earlier this week. He was in a non-contact jersey, so he is still a ways away from returning, but if he returns in a month that would be like a trade deadline acquisition for the Canes. Wallmark has been doing his best in the second line centre spot, but he’s playing above his position chart. I could see the Canes adding a centre at the deadline. Owner Tom Dundon desperately wants to make the playoffs.
5. Dougie Hamilton has also found his game in 2019. He has 7-6-13 since January 1st and is a main reason the Canes are playing so well recently. While Elias Lindholm fit in right away in Calgary, it took Hamilton some time to find his stride. The Hurricanes top-four defenders — Hamilton, Jacob Slavin, Justin Faulk and Brett Pesce — have combined for 40 points in the past 19 games. Hamilton and Slavin have become a dominant top pair for the Canes and they will face Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl a lot tonight.
6. McDavid is riding an eight-game point streak, the second longest streak of his career. He finished the 2016/2017 season with 7-18-25 in 14 games. This is his second 8-game point-streak of the season. He had 6-5-11 from October 23rd to November 3rd and currently has 2-8-10 on this streak. McDavid has always finished the season strong. In his career during February-April he has produced 140 points in 101 games for a 1.38 points/game pace. Between October-January he has produced 1.21 points/game with 198 points in 163 games.
7. The Bakersfield Condors won their 13th consecutive game on Wednesday and will go for #14 tonight against the Ontario Reign. I spoke with Jay Woodcroft about his team and discussed both their offensive and defensive approach. First we touched on their offensive attack.
“I would say we adjusted some things, going back to the summer time that led to a little bit more of an aggressive forechecking team. I would identify our group down here as a forechecking team. Do we want to cross the blueline with possession and have four-man entries, and have a middle drive? We want to do all that. We have some skill and when we get the opportunity to enter with possession and clean entries, that’s how we do look, but I would characterize our group down here as one that is willing to lay pucks into work areas, which I believe is a skill.
We get in hard on the forecheck and disrupt the other teams rehearsed retrievals. That’s a huge thing for us down here, the ability to disrupt breakout plans for other teams, and the only way you do that in this level is having an F1 (first forward) that gets in hard and has an active stick, a second man that is right on top of him, a third man who is reading where the puck is going, and our two defencemen working up into the play, establishing an offensive gap, and really we would call this a five-man forecheck. It’s led to an increase in our pace of play, and leads us to hemming lots of teams in their defensive end, and eventually when we gain possession it allows us to grind teams down on the cycle.”
8. Woodcroft also discussed their defensive plan.
“We talk down here about playing a connected brand of hockey, and we want to be an entry team who attacks. If it’s not there we are prepared to lay it in and forecheck teams into the ground. But for us, if our forecheck ever breaks down or the other team makes a great breakout, we need a plan coming back to our end. And what we practise a lot is our sort out on our track.
“I would say that for us our track begins with our forwards’ commitment to work back and hunt pucks down, to try and catch teams before the red line so that we deny clean possession entries for the opposition. So that mindset is not optional, it’s a mandatory mindset.
“I think if you would talk to any defensemen who has ever played professional hockey, when forwards are committing to back-checking hard, that encourages D-men to maintain tight gaps which allows us to defend lines and contest lines much better. We want to deny possession entries coming into our end. We want to test team’s ability to lay pucks in, and we believe our breakout plan is good enough to beat most team’s forechecks, and as a result we’ve done a really good job of contesting our blue line. It has forced teams to lay pucks in and we’ve done a really good job breaking out as a five-man unit, but I’m going to back to the beginning of the question, and we’re trying to play a connected brand of hockey that starts with entries. It goes to forecheck, it goes back to your track, and eventually leads to your break plan as well.”
When the Oilers forwards back pressure is good the overall team defence is better, but when it isn’t, it allows teams easier zone entries and Edmonton ends up spending too much time in the D zone.
9. Woodcroft also spoke about Andrej Sekera. He will play his fourth and fifth AHL games this weekend.
“The one thing he does exceptionally Jason, is he talks out there. You can hear him on the ice, and I believe that talk equals speed, but a lot of these young guys forget they have a voice. And so this guy, who has played 700 games in the NHL, comes in and he is talking to everybody. He lets everyone know where he is on the ice. He has the ability to make poised plays with the puck, little pops in the defensive zone, by passes off the glass that you don’t see at this level. I think he has helped settle us down defensively and he’s been excellent.
“I think he is much more confident coming off of this injury than he was when he returned last year. He has been able to come down here and gain some confidence with the puck, but also know he can move around the ice better.”
10. Sekera will travel back to Edmonton on Sunday and likely see the doctor on Monday. Based on conversations I’ve had it sounds like as long as the Oilers are cap compliant before Tuesday’s game, so likely around 3 p.m that afternoon, the NHL won’t have much of an issue. They won’t rush them into being cap compliant by Monday.
11. I mentioned on Wednesday I would use Jesse Puljujarvi as one of the four AHL recalls. I wanted to outline how that would need to occur. In order to be sent down to the AHL at the conclusion of the NHL season, a player has to be on the AHL roster on February 25th. So the Oilers could make a paper transaction. They could send Puljujarvi down, and then recall him later that day. He could count as one of the four recalls post-trade deadline, but he would be eligible for the AHL playoffs. I expect the Oilers to do this with Brad Malone for sure. Malone has been excellent for Bakersfield this season and they will want him in the playoffs. So don’t be surprised if you see the Oilers send Puljujarvi down on the 25th, and then recall him later that day.
12. It is Positive Friday and I love positive stories. I received an email a few weeks ago from a listener to my show and reader of the Nation. He sent me the following note.
“Jason, I had a good 2018 and all that you do for charity has inspired me to want to do something. I was hoping you could help. I’d like to challenge your listeners or readers to raise $5,000 and I will match it and we can raise $10,000. I thought maybe we could entice people who haven’t donated often to chip in $25 or $50 and they’d feel part of something good….And please honour my request for anonymity. I have nothing to gain from your listeners or from getting my name out there — and I really don’t want that little “fight of vanity in my head” that might crop up if I were to have my name on your show. Call me Rufus McPlaid from OilersNation. I rarely ever comment, so I doubt you’d remember me, but I love reading the site. In our family, Rufus is a man of all ages — the world’s first engineer — but he vehemently avoids the spotlight, preferring instead to give credit to Archimedes, Einstein, Edison, and General Electric. Just a quiet hermit who loves watching hockey when he is not curing disease and building 2 x 4’s out of renewables.”
So I reached out to the Alzheimers society and they made a webpage for this. You can go to www.gregor10kchallenge.ca and donate. I want to ensure we make Rufus donate the full $5,000. So if you can today, please donate. Essentially if you make a $50 donation it is really $100 because Rufus will match it. When you donate you will receive a tax receipt. Thank you and let’s rack up Rufus’ credit card today.
From peewee to the pros, Albertans loves the atmosphere, energy, and life lessons that take place at rinks across the province. And where there’s an arena, you’ll find an ATB branch nearby—with our team members cheering and fundraising along with you. See more information at ATB.com.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- GDB 56.0: Just Win
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- Monday Musings: Chiasson, Sekera, Development and More
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- GDB 54.0: Defence First
- The UnAmazing Race
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 2/15/2019 – 7:00 am MT