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Off the Top of My Head

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
8 months ago
Any team serious about getting something done in the playoffs shouldn’t have to put six pucks in the net to win a game by a single goal, but that’s exactly what the Edmonton Oilers needed to beat the St. Louis Blues 6-5 in overtime Friday.
Yes, a win is a win, and the Oilers have nine in a row at Rogers Place thanks to @Connor McDavid’s second goal of the game on a night he pumped 11 shots at the St. Louis cage. Still, I know I’m not alone in cringing at some less-than-stellar defensive play and rolling my eyes at yet another bad goal allowed by Mike Smith.
I thought the 4-3 goal by Braden Schenn, a snapshot from the circle that beat Smith five-hole, had cheese all over it. So did many of you, judging by your response on Twitter. I wrote, “Need that save, Mike. 4-3.” Over on Jason Gregor’s feed, he wrote: Smith needs to stop that.” Very little disagreement in that thread.
Smith allowed five goals on 36 shots (.861) Friday. On the season, Smith is 8-9-2 with a 3.49 GAA and .894. These numbers aren’t the only way to measure performance, but they’re a pretty good place to start. Was he terrible Friday? No. But how many of those “need a save there” goals have you seen? Too many from Smith, and from Mikko Koskinen for that matter.
With the trade deadline having come and gone, Jay Woodcroft can go with Smith or Koskinen or put a call in to Bakersfield for Stuart Skinner and use him in the rotation. Raise your hand if you like the third option. Me too. We know the Oilers can win when they score five or six goals. We just saw it. What they’ll need to get anything done the rest of the way is to be sound enough defensively and in goal to win when they score two or three.
“Anytime you give up five goals against, you haven’t done what you wanted to do,” Woodcroft said. “We’re going to move on. It doesn’t mean we’re burying our heads in the sand to some of the errors that crept into our game. We’ll address them and we’ll work on them in practice.”

GETTING IT DONE

Mar 21, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Edmonton Oilers right wing Kailer Yamamoto (56) celebrates his second period goal against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena.
I wrote about getting UFA @Evander Kane and RFAs @Jesse Puljujarvi and @Kailer Yamamoto signed to new contracts this off-season in last Sunday’s edition of OTTOMH. Over at The Cult of Hockey this week, Bruce McCurdy narrowed the focus down to Puljujarvi and why it’s important for GM Ken Holland to make him a priority this off-season.
If you’ve got the time to make your way through the charts and information in McCurdy’s item, it’s as comprehensive as you can get. The bottom line is McCurdy and the numbers he uses bring him to the same place my eyeballs and I are at when assessing Puljujarvi’s value. By the way, despite zeroes across the board vs. the Blues, Puljujarvi had another good game.
McCurdy’s conclusion: “Finally we return to Jesse Puljujarvi, restating the data previously derived but in the sleeker format used for the other wingers. What do we see? An absolute wall of green font stating every single forward he has played with has produced better results across all four categories in our study.
“All of which provides a resounding affirmation of our initial observation that J.P. has improved whatever line he happens to be on. It also makes a compelling case that re-signing this player should be among Holland’s top priorities in the months to come.”
No disagreement here.

BANNER NIGHT

The Buffalo Sabres held a banner raising ceremony for long-time play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret, who is putting the wraps on a wonderful career at the end of this season, before Friday’s game against the Nashville Predators.
Jeanneret had many memorable moments, notably his “May Day” call, but I’ll always remember him for making the ass-whupping Georges Laraque put on Rob Ray sound like a toe-to-toe slugfest. “Laraque and Ray pounding away at each other,” my eye. I had the punch count at 23-2 for BG. Ray was a mess after the game.

WHILE I’M AT IT

A big tip of the cap to the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation for directing proceeds from Friday’s 50/50 draw to the Humboldt Broncos Tribute Campaign. The fourth anniversary of the crash is this Wednesday, April 6.
You can learn more about the HBTC and ongoing plans to build a Tribute Centre here. It really is a wonderful, timeless project and one the EOCF funds will have a significant impact on. Well done.

AND . . . 

Ben Stelter completed his latest round of radiation Friday and then headed for Rogers Place to watch the Oilers take on the Blues. So far, Ben’s been a good luck charm for the Oilers, who are a tidy 4-0 when he’s in attendance.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

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