GDB 56.0: Oilers need to win with defence (7:30pm MT, SNW)

Photo credit:© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 month ago
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Many have incorrectly attributed this quote to Albert Einstein. The real wordsmith was Civil Rights campaigner, Rita Mae Brown. In her book Sudden Death, which was published in 1983, Brown attributes the quote to fictional character Jane Fulton.
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The quote fits well with the Edmonton Oilers. The team’s inability to play sound defensively remains the bane of its existence. When the players turnover the puck too often, they end up playing defence more, and giving up goals. We’ve seen this unfold for years.
However, the Oilers have shown they can play sound defence, when they commit to it. For Kris Knoblauch’s first 32 games, the Oilers allowed the second-fewest goals/game at 2.28. They were third in shots against/game at 27.7. They were either first, second or third in xGA, depending on which site you use. They were first on the penalty kill at 89.3%. They allowed two goals or less in 21 of 32 games and only allowed more than three goals six times.
They were consistently good defensively.
Then they went away for the bye week and All-Star break, and upon returning they’ve been disappointing defensively.
What changed?
“I think it is a mental thing more than anything,” said Mattias Ekholm. “When you go into a break on a heater like that, then you come back and you think it might be easier than you remember it, so it takes a bit of time to get back into it. At the same time, there have been games where we’ve played well defensively (Dallas), or games where we played well for stretches, but then give up an odd chance that goes in. We have to stop those. I believe it is a mindset and a process about bearing down and getting back to the mindset we had before the break.”
They need to find that mindset quickly. They are 4-5-1 in February. Not terrible, but not good. They’ve lost the first three games on this homestand and face the surging LA Kings tonight. Both teams are tied with 68 points, only three back of second-place Vegas. It will be a battle for second place in the Pacific division. The final two games of February are huge. There is a significant difference in finishing the month 6-5-1 or 4-7-1.
Zach Hyman, who set a career-high with his 37th goal on Saturday, outlined a very simple cure for their defensive woes.
“We need to just keep things simple,” said Zach Hyman. “The more you turn the puck over the more you have to defend. When we were playing well defensively, we were just playing less defence. When you are playing defence, the longer you play the more tired you get and the more mistakes you make. So eliminating and ending the time we spend in the defensive zone is important, and then eliminating turnovers will lower the rush chances against.”
The players know how to defend, but they need to commit to it. It can’t be all talk and no action.
Head coach Kris Knoblauch has noticed one key difference lately.
“We have been in survival mode too often,” said Knoblauch. “We are flipping the puck in the neutral zone and giving up possession. It is the safe play, but it is not giving us possession. We didn’t get hurt on that play (dump out), but we have to come back and defend. Now we are on the defensive side again, rather than being on the attack, and the more you have the puck the easier it is to play and defend. We need to control the puck more.”
The coach and players know what they need to do to win. Now they had to execute it.
***From the Game Notes: The Oilers franchise record, spanning over multiple seasons, is 36 consecutive assists without a goal. The Answer: Grant Fuhr*** 




Draisaitl – McDavid – Hyman
Kane – RNH – Janmark
Foegele – McLeod – Perry
Holloway – Ryan – Brown
Nurse – Ceci
Ekholm – Bouchard
Kulak – Desharnais
Knoblauch is looking for a spark and outlined a few new line combinations. I don’t think it matters who plays together if the Oilers continue to turn the puck over as often as they have recently. Their top players have been on the ice for too many goals against in February, and that must improve.
Knoblauch did mention he liked the Kane-McLeod-Janmark line on Saturday, and thought about keeping them together, but opted to put RNH there so there would be less disruptions in lines after the PK or PP. Watch to see how the second and third lines start, and if they aren’t going, don’t be surprised if RNH and McLeod switch lines. Mattias Janmark has three goals in his last four games and had one hell of a scrap with Blake Coleman. He isn’t a long-term solution on the second line, but he’s playing his best hockey of the season right now.


Laferriere – Kopitar – Kempe
Fiala – Danault – Mooore
Byfield – Dubois – Kaliyev
Anderson-Dolan –Lizotte – Lewis
Gavrikov – Doughty
Clarke – Roy
Englund – Spence
Mickey Anderson will miss his second consecutive game, and that is a big blow to the Kings’ blue line. He is one of the better defenders and always plays well against Edmonton. Quinton Byfield continues to impress and he leads the Kings in goals since returning from the break and is third overall on the season. They put him with Dubois to get Dubois going and it is starting to pay off.


Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers play better defensively, but lose 4-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid scores two points.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Vincent Desharnais scores his second goal of the season.

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