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GDB 16.0: Oilers Need to Up Their Emotional Intensity (7pm MT, SNW)

The Winnipeg Jets had their way with the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. They were more physical, more engaged and deserved the 4-0 lead they had through two periods. Slow starts have plagued the Oilers lately. They’ve allowed the first goal in six consecutive games. It is a disturbing trend they need to stop. Slow starts and porous play at 5×5 are the main reasons Edmonton is 2-3 in their last five games after starting the year 9-1. They scored first in six of those 10 games.

And it isn’t just giving up the first goal. They have trailed 4-0, 3-0, and 4-1 in three of their last six games. They managed to come back and defeat the Rangers after trailing 4-1, but in their last six games, they’ve only led to start the third period. They held on to defeat the Blues, but in the other games, they have had to play from behind. Many coaches call that chasing the game, and Edmonton has been chasing far too often recently.

We’ve written a lot about the Oilers recent woes defensively at 5×5. We all know that must improve, but their lack of emotional and physical energy against the Jets on Tuesday was noticeable. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are the offensive leaders, but against the Jets they were also arguably the most involved physically. That is great for them, but where was the rest of the team? I didn’t see much pushback from their teammates.

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I know hits can vary from rink to rink, and they aren’t the most accurate stat, but Pierre-Luc Dubois, Neal Pionk and Brendan Dillon combined for more hits (15) than the entire Oilers team (14). Darnell Nurse (4) and Kailer Yamamoto (3) had half the Oilers’ hits. Their smallest player was involved, but where were Zack Kassian, Warren Foegele, Zach Hyman, and Jesse Puljujarvi? They can all skate. They are all big and when that game became chippy they weren’t engaged enough. The entire team wasn’t.

You don’t have to be big to get involved. It doesn’t have to be fighting either. There is very little fighting in today’s game, but when the Jets kept going after the Oilers two superstars the rest of the Oilers team didn’t respond. I’d expect a more emotional investment from Edmonton tonight.

Sometimes you have to go outside your comfort zone. Look at Alex Debrincat last night. He didn’t like Yanni Gourde harassing Patrick Kane all game and finally had enough. I love it.

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DeBrincat handled himself well and the Blackhawks bench was fired up. No one expects him to do that regularly, but when players do unexpected things their teammates really appreciate it. If a stay-at-home D-man scores, the bench erupts, and when someone like DeBrincat drops the mitts his teammates get amped up.

Again, Edmonton doesn’t need to fight, but they need to match the Jet’s intensity tonight in the corners, on the boards and in front of the net. I don’t expect their defensive woes at 5×5 to disappear instantly. It will take time, but there is no reason they can’t match the emotion, intensity and physicality of the Jets tonight.

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Hyman – McDavid – Puljujarvi
RNH – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Foegele – McLeod – Kassian
Benson – Sceviour – Turris

Nurse – Barrie
Keith – Ceci
Koekkoek – Bouchard

Skinner

Stuart Skinner gets the start. I like this decision by Tippett and outlined why yesterday.

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Derek Ryan wasn’t on the ice this morning as he had concussion-like symptoms. Tippett said Ryan is getting more tests today. Colton Sceviour will play centre and Tyler Benson draws in for Brendan Perlini. Benson and Sceviour have been better on the forecheck and have played with some grease. That might help the fourth line against an aggressive Jets team.

Jets

Copp – Schiefele – Ehlers
Connor – Dubois – Wheeler
Harkins – Lowry – Svechnikov
Toninato – Nash – Vesalainen

Morrissey – Schmidt
Dillon – Pionk
Stanley – Demelo

Hellebuyck

No lineup changes. Winnipeg is only carrying 22 skaters for cap reasons, and Paul Stastny didn’t make the trip. He can’t get a skate on after his foot swelled after blocking a shot.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Jetsnation.ca:

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Among the many line changes that were made halfway through last Saturday’s matchup against the Los Angeles Kings, one of them saw Copp, Scheifele and Ehlers paired together – a trio that proved to be extremely effective against the Oilers on Tuesday.

Though they weren’t the only line to enjoy a considerable amount of success, so too did the Connor-Dubois-Wheeler line, this newly formed pairing instantly started to click early on and was responsible for the two goals scored at 5-on-5 in the second period. Additionally, they also generated seven scoring chances and four high-danger chances, resulting in a team-high 59.4% xGF percentage.

Starting with Ehlers’ fourth goal of the season, after regrouping in the neutral zone, Schmidt sent an outlet pass cross-ice for Copp, who displayed some impressive patience while waiting to locate a passing lane over to the left-wing. Once a lane opened up, the versatile forward passed the puck over the Danish sniper, allowing him to explode into the offensive zone before blasting one home for the score.

Then with under a minute remaining in the middle frame, building off a strong shift from the club’s fourth line, Copp won a puck battle down low and began cycling it to the blueline. With it eventually coming to Logan Stanley, he attempted to send a shot on net, although Scheifele was able to gain position in the slot and ultimately tipped in his second goal of 2021-22.

Even after just a game and a half, it’s already becoming very clear that this talented trio is a force to be reckoned with, making for a fairly balanced attack regarding the Jets’ top-six forward group.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton bounces back and splits the home and home with a 4-3 win.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton allows two 5×5 goals. And they score another power play goal.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: It is lucky career game #13 for Tyler Benson as he scores his first NHL goal.

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