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GDB -7.0: Better Defence Doesn’t Mean Less Offence (7pm MT, Streaming)

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
6 months ago
One constant refrain I keep hearing is how the Oilers need to sacrifice some offence and play better defensively. I agree they need to be more consistent defensively, but it doesn’t have to come from limiting offence.
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Up until the All-Star break last season the Oilers were third in goals/game at 3.71, but 19th in goals/against at 3.23. They wanted to tighten up defensively down the stretch, and they did.
In their final 34 games, they were first in offence at 4.32 goals/game and 14th in GA/game at 2.97. They were 12 in shots against/game at 30.4. They reduced their goals against, but scored more.
The Boston Bruins were second in goals/game last season, while being first in goals against.
The 2022 Cup winning Avalanche were fourth in goals for and eighth in goals against.
The 2021 Lightning were eighth in goals for and sixth in goals against.
The 2020 Lightning were first in goals for and 10th in goals against.
I agree Edmonton wants to lower its goals against, but it doesn’t mean the players need to be less offensive. Their best weapon is their offence.
Over the past four seasons the Oilers are tied for the third-most goals/game at 3.49. They have the ninth-most points in the NHL over those four years.
Here are the top-10 teams in points the past four seasons and where they rank in GF/GP and GA/GP.
Boston 415 points (10th in GF, 1st in GA).
Colorado 402 (2nd in GF, 4th in GA).
Carolina 390 (12th in GF, 2nd in GA).
Toronto 384 (tied for 3rd in GF, 12th in GA).
Tampa Bay 375 (5th in GF, 8th in GA).
Vegas 373 (11th in GF, 7th in GA).
Florida 371 – (1st in GF/GP and 19th in GA).
Minnesota 368 (9th in GF, 13th in GA).
Edmonton 368 (T for 3rd in GF, 16th in GA).
Pittsburgh 357 (8th in GF, 11th in GA).
Eight of them are top-10 in goals for and five are top-five in goals against. The Oilers don’t need to be top-five in GA, but they need to sit around 8th-12th in the regular season. Of course you’d want them to rank higher in GA, but I’m not sure it is realistic to expect that much of a jump.
Their biggest improvement needs to occur 5×5. They were 25th in GA at 5×5 in 2020, then 21st in 2021, 19th in 2022 and 18th last season.
Their goals for at 5×5 have increased the past four seasons, as they’ve made small gains in reducing their GA. They were 17th in 2020, eighth in 2021, 11th in 2022 and fifth in 2023. Their goals for has gone up while their goals against, albeit slightly, have been reduced at 5×5. Even with scoring up across the NHL last year, the Oilers allowed fewer goals 5×5 in 2023 (169) than they did in 2022 (173).
They are far from a defensive juggernaut, but I disagree with the notion that in order for them to improve defensively they need to sacrifice offence. If they control the puck more defensively, and limit the opposition chances, then they should have the puck more, and the Oilers’ speed and skill on the rush is one of their strengths.
Many coaches believe the best defence is a good offence because you are spending less time defending. I agree, as long as you aren’t making glaring giveaways when you have the puck. Edmonton’s most consistent weakness has been its ability to gift “easy” goals to the opposition. That is the main area I’d want to see improved.

PRESENTED BY BETWAY

LINEUP…

Oilers

Kane – McDavid – Brown
RNH – Draisaitl – Hyman
Holloway – Pederson – Foegele
Erne – Malone – Lavoie
Nurse – Bouchard
Broberg – Ceci
Niemelainen – Kemp
Gleason – Dineen
Skinner
I know for certain the top two lines are playing. Ryan McLeod did skate this morning, but I’d be surprised if he plays so that leaves Pederson and Malone to play centre. Derek Ryan stayed out late after practice, which usually means he isn’t playing. So four of Holloway, Foegele, Erne, Lavoie and Janmark will be the bottom-six wingers. Holloway might get a night off and Janmark could play.
On defence, Nurse and Bouchard are for sure playing. After that this is a best guess scenario. Niemelainen didn’t play Monday, so I suspect he will play. Desharnais has already played five preseason games and was out late with Ryan, so he isn’t expected to play. Ceci has yet to play at home, so we could see him. We will find out for sure in warmup.
Stuart Skinner will make his third and final preseason start.

Flames…

Sharangovich – Ruzicka – Dube
Klapka – Schwindt – Duehr
Ciona – Hunt – Pospisil
Honzek – Zary – Pettersen
Oesterle – Zadorov
Poirier – Gilbert
Solovyov – DeSimone
Vladar
The Flames are dressing very few of their regulars tonight. It is difficult to evaluate players when one team dresses a road lineup like this, but that is the norm now in the NHL preseason. It used to be the final two games were mainly NHL rosters, but that isn’t always the case anymore.
Dan Vladar should face some quality chances and will have an opportunity to show the Flames he should be the backup over young Dustin Wolf.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers will score more than two goals for their home crowd. They win 5-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers’ powerplay scores twice.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Lane Pederson scores a nice goal, is good on the penalty kill and shows Jay Woodcroft he wants to be in the conversation for the 12th forward spot.

PIZZA PIGOUT…


Our fifth annual Pizza Pigout is in one week.
  • Date: Wednesday October 11, 2023
  • Time: 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Location: Rogers Place, Molson Hockey House (2nd floor, 18+ only venue)
  • Ticket price: $65 per ticket
  • Ticket bundle: $250 for 4 tickets (saving you $10!)
The event ends and then we will have a Watch Party for the Oilers season opener v. Vancouver at the Ice House, right across the street.
Pizza, Kidsport and hockey. A great mix. Hope to see you there. Get your tickets here. 

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