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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 38.0: Home Ice Struggles (7pm MT, SNOilers)

The @Edmonton Oilers won their first five home games this season and they were 7-2-1 in their first 10 on home ice. It was an excellent start, but they’ve struggled mightily since. They are 1-4-2 in their previous seven home matches and they’ve been outscored 29-16. They are 25th in home points, but most concerning is they have allowed 3.47 goals/game at home. Only Detroit is worse at 3.73. Their penalty kill is 27th at 76.5%.

Their offence is middle of the pack at home, sitting 16th at 3.11 goals/game, but they need to tighten up defensively, and when they do the wins will likely follow. Their powerplay is excellent at home, 32.1%, and a league best 28.6% on the road. Their PK is a ridiculous 92.1% on the road where they have the sixth most points in the NHL.

Dave Tippett has spoken often about how they play tighter on the road. If he had an answer as to why they don’t at home, I’m sure they would have fixed it by now. Maybe it is just a statistical anomaly. I do think the PK is one reason, because the Carolina game dropped their home PK numbers significantly. The Canes went three-for-four on the PP and if you take out that one game their home PK is 81.2%.

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But overall there is no doubt the Oilers have played a tighter game on the road. They’ve allowed 2.6 goals/game, while scoring 2.7. They don’t score as much, but they are giving up almost one fewer goal per game. They are fourth in the entire NHL in GAA on the road, compared to 30th in GAA on home ice. It is an oddity, and while I don’t expect the Oilers to suddenly surge to top-five in GAA on home ice, I think their road results prove they are capable of playing a more responsible game.

Overall the Oilers are 19th in the league in GF/game at 2.89 and they are 15th in GA/game at 3.00.

Meanwhile, the @Pittsburgh Penguins are seventh overall in both GF/game (3.29) and GA/game (2.65). Their home and road splits are opposite of each other.

They are 15th at home in GF/game, 3.20, and 3rd in GA/game at 2.25.
On the road, they are third in GF/game, 3.63, and 15th in GA/game at 3.21.

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They score more and give up more on the road. With injuries to Brian Dumoulin and @Justin Schultz on the backend, their defence could present more scoring opportunities for the Oilers, but Edmonton needs to protect the puck better. If they can eliminate the turnovers at the offensive blueline, which have been an issue at home, then maybe they can grind down a depleted D crops in the offensive zone.

If the Oilers want to stay ahead of Calgary and Vancouver, and keep pace with Las Vegas and Arizona, they must start playing better at home, and it needs to start tonight.

LINEUP…

Oilers

RNH-McDavid-Kassian
Neal-Draisaitl-Gagner
Nygard-Haas-Chiasson
Khaira-Sheahan-Archibald

Klefbom-Larsson
Nurse-Bear
Russell-Jones

Smith

@Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has struggled to produce offence at 5×5 this year, so moving him up with McDavid and keeping Draisaitl in the middle makes sense. Draisaitl is more capable for providing offence right now, and RNH should be able to produce more with McDavid than Joakim Nygard.

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I’d like to keep Drai going on his own line. That line was pretty good in both road games,” replied Tippett when asked about the top two lines. It makes sense and the lack of 5×5 production from the Oilers second line this season has been an issue. Draisaitl provides the best potential to kick-start that line.

“Mikko played really well in two tough road games and then we got in really late from St. Louis. The last time Mike played really well was against Pittsburgh. They were going to split the weekend, so you look at different things to decide who plays when,” Tippett said when I asked him about his starting goalies this weekend. For the most part, Tippett’s decision on when to start a goalie have worked out.

Penguins

Guentzel-Malkin-Rust
Aston-Reece – McCann- Kahun
Simon-Blueger-Tanev
Galchenyuk-Blandisi-Lafferty

Johnson-Letang
Pettersson-Marino
Riikola-Ruhwedel

Jarry

@Matt Murray had a very good October, but he has struggled immensely since, while former Oil Kings goalie Tristan Jarry has been very good all year and has started six of the Penguins seven games in December. Murray’s splits are quite astounding.

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October: Ten starts he went 7-3 with a  .923Sv% and 2.20 GAA
November and December: Eleven starts going 3-2-4 with a .870Sv% and 3.53 GAA

Tristan Jarry:
October: In three starts he was 1-2 with a .939Sv% and 2.02 GAA.
Nov/Dec: Ten starts he was 9-3 with a .940Sv% and 1.81 GAA.

I wondered if Jarry, who is from BC, would get the start in Vancouver tomorrow, but Penguins coach Mike Sullivan is going with the hot goalie.

The Pens blueline is really banged up and Jack Johnson, who played 22 minutes in Calgary, will play on the top pair with Kris Letang, and I assume that means they will see McDavid’s line a lot.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers bring their road game home and win a low-scoring 3-2 game.

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OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers score on the powerplay. They are goalless in their last eight powerplays over two games after Leon Draisaitl scored in the first period in Dallas. It is only second time all year they have gone more than five powerplays without a goal.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Sam Gagner scores his first career goal against the Penguins.

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MONTH OF GIVING…

Thanks to Darrell and Jerry for their bids yesterday. We have two days remaining in Month of Giving and thanks to all who have bid.

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Day 15: Oilers/Flames Party

  • A watch party for 20 people in the private room at Atlas Steak +Fish in Grand Villa Casino. It will be on Saturday, April 4th for the Oilers final game of the season against the Calgary Flames. Could a playoff spot be determined by the outcome?
  • Struds and Gregor will host the evening and it includes food and beverages, and likely a few of Struds’ favourite China Whites. There will be appetizers and a few beverages at Match (inside Grand Villa Casino) before the game and then we will go upstairs to the private room where you will order your main course and we watch the game and have a few more beverages.
  • There will be a special gift package for each of your guests.
  • Also $1000 in Gift Cards to Atlas and Match. **You will receive the GCs right away so you can use before the party.**

You can bid by listening to TSN 1260 between 2-6 p.m. today and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260. Proceeds will help the Alzheimer’s Society.

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