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Monday Musings: Hits from behind, Oilers are rolling, Penguins’ terrible PP, and more…

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
2 months ago
The NHL has shown an unwillingness to crack down on hits from behind. Why? I have no idea.
Up until about 10 years ago, headshots were a regular occurrence in the NHL. But the league finally woke up and decided to crack down on headshots.
Today, you rarely see one. Why? Because the league suspended players and said enough with headshots. The players adapted, and the game is better.
They need to impose the same strategy with hits from behind.
Many minor hockey leagues have a stop sign on the back of jerseys to remind players to not hit an opposing player directly in the back. And minor hockey players don’t have the same skill or agility to stop on a dime like NHLers, yet kids figure out ways to avoid drilling guys in the numbers.
Rule #43 in the NHL rulebook suggests hits from behind are illegal, but the NHL rarely enforces them.
Louie Debrusk is bang on that is the type of hit that should be out of the game, but the NHL doesn’t want it out, because they continually don’t penalize or suspend players for doing it. That was Friday night and this Nick Cousins moronic hit occurred last night.
Slow this play down and it is obvious Cousins’ main point of contact was the middle of Gudbranson’s back, while Gudbranson was a few feet from the boards. It was a blatant hit from behind.
Cousins’s first contact is right in the middle of Gudbranson’s numbers. They even reviewed it and deemed it a minor penalty. It is laughable. And six minutes later Gudbranson takes matters into his own hands and grabs Cousins.

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Today Gubranson is getting a hearing, and Cousins gets nothing. Gudbranson can’t just jump a guy like he did, but if the NHL took hits from behind seriously, Cousins would have been kicked out of the game. And he should be suspended. But he won’t be, and the NHL will continually keep its head in the sand until a player gets seriously injured. It will happen eventually.

OILERS ROLLING…

The Edmonton Oilers were a good team when the season began, but they couldn’t score, couldn’t avoid the major giveaway and didn’t get a timely save.
They were 3-9-1 through 13 games and were 31st in the NHL.
They were 26th in GF/GP at 2.69.
They were 30th in GA/GP at 3.92.
Their PP was ninth at 23.9%.
The penalty kill was 30th at 70%.
Their goalies had a combined .866Sv% (worst in the NHL) allowing 50 goals on 373 shots.
Jeff Jackson and Ken Holland made a coaching change and brought in Kris Knoblauch and Paul Coffey. Many questioned the hires, specifically Coffey because he had no NHL experience. Some made ludicrous claims that Coffey was a rat/spy for the owner and this hiring would go horribly.
Here’s the Oilers’ record in 12 games since.
They are 9-3, which is tied for third-most points and third-best P%.
They are first in GF/GP at 4.33.
They are 11th in GA/GP at 2.75.
Their PP is second at 31.7%.
The penalty kill is third at 91.1%
Their goalies have a combined .910Sv% allowing 30 goals on 335 shots.
It would be unfair to say this was all on Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson. The Oilers averaged 34.2 shots/game (third) and allowed 28.8 (seventh) when they were here this season.
Since the coaching change the Oilers are seventh in shots for/game at 32.9 and 7th in SA/GP at 28.3.
The Oilers had the best offence in the league last year and are up to sixth this season. Their elite skill would eventually produce, and we’ve seen that. The players’ ability to finish is mainly on them. The emphasis on the D-men to make more plays helps, but much of the renewed offence is due to Connor McDavid being fully healthy and confident and the Oilers being blessed with some highly skilled offensive players.
But the coaching change did work. The Oilers are playing better. The team has found its mojo again, and the coaching change did help. Would they have found it without a change? Maybe, but no one can say for sure, and the season was slipping away, so I understand the urgency to make a change. To me the key difference will come from how Knoblauch runs his bench and matchups in the playoffs, but that is months away.
The biggest improvement has come on the penalty kill. Knoblauch hasn’t changed much of the 5×5 systems, because as he said, “They were fine.” He put more of an emphasis on limiting rush chances, but the drop hasn’t been drastic. But they changed the PK to be more aggressive, encouraged the players to play more as a unit, and he changed the personnel. He has stuck with two D pairs and runs three forward units consistently.
Woodcroft (TOI/GP)Knoblauch (TOI/GP)
Nurse 2:45Nurse 3:19
Ceci 2:35Ceci 3:11
Janmark 2:33 (7GP)Ekholm 2:33
Desharnais 2:03Desharnais 2:26
Ekholm 1:58Janmark 2:14
Kulak 1:47RNH 2:12
RNH 1:31McLeod 1:59
Ryan 1:26Ryan 1:58
McLeod 1:23Brown 1:42
Brown 1:22Foegele 1:39
McDavid 1:06Draisaitl 1:07
Kane 1:04Kulak 0:47
Draisaitl 0:58Kane 0:33
Foegele 0:19McDavid 0:29
Instead of rotating Kulak in, outside of when one of the top-four is in the box, Mark Stuart (who is in charge of the PK) is mainly using two duos of Nurse-Ceci and Ekholm-Desharnais. And up front he has RNH-Ryan, Janmark-Brown and McLeod-Foegele. They have more continuity among the forward and defence pairings.

PENGUINS’ TERRIBLE PP…

The Pittsburgh Penguins are mired in an 0-37 slump on the power play. It is mind boggling that Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel and Erik Karlsson can’t produce together on the man advantage. The Penguins are mired in the ninth-longest PP drought in NHL history.
SEASONTEAMPPGPP OPP
1977-78CLE056
1997-98TOR056
1997-98TBL056
1997-98CGY047
2013-14FLA043
2020-21DET040
2002-03NJD040
2011-12CHI039
2023-24PIT037
2015-16OTT037
2017-18CGY035
The 2003 Devils and 2012 Blackhawks were the only teams who made the playoffs. Pittsburgh’s PP roster has more skill than all of those teams, except maybe the 2012 Blackhawks. There is no reason the Penguins can’t figure out how to produce on the man advantage. It is costing them games. They’ve outscored teams 58-46 at 5×5, but their inability to produce on the PP is why they are 4-6-3 in this 13-game drought. They’ve lost five games by one goal and allowed an empty net goal in three others.

WHAT IS REAL IN THE METRO?

The Metropolitan Division has had the most unexpected results thus far.
Philadelphia is in second place with 32 points followed by Washington and the New York Islanders with 31. New Jersey and Carolina have 29 points while Pittsburgh has 25. The Devils had a rash of injuries and with Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Timo Meier back, they should start moving up. Carolina can’t get a save, but they only have seven goals scored in their four-game losing streak.  They had a players-only meeting after their loss to Vancouver. I have to think they will get going soon, but they’ve yet to find any consistency between the pipes and now their offence is floundering.
Is Philadelphia for real? They are 6-3-1 in their last 10. It’s not like they had a hot start and have cooled down. They continue to play well. Washington’s PP is actually worse than Pittsburgh’s, and they are 30th in goals for, but they keep finding ways to win. I still think New Jersey, Carolina and Pittsburgh will play better, but at some point maybe we have to consider Philadelphia a legit playoff contender? Do you?

MONTH OF GIVING…

We set a one-day record for funds raised on Friday. We raised $25,350.00 for Adopt-A-Teen in our Pyramid of Giving. Thanks to Nex Gen Transportation and All-star Construction for matching the $7500 pyramid, to Ken for his $2000 donation and to all those who made donations of $1000, $500, $200 and $100. Outstanding.
DAY Seven: 🎁 A luxury suite for the Oilers game on January 18th v. Seattle.
  • A 12-person suite
  • Two parking passes (underground)
  • $750 food and beverage credit to use in the suite.
You can bid via text between 2-6 p.m. on Sports 1440 by texting 833.401.1440 (can call same number) and include your name and donation amount. Money raised will support the Christmas Bureau.

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