Edmonton will be taking on the Stars of Dallas tonight in a game they desperately need to win. The fact is that the Oilers have come off the rails a little bit and they need to separate themselves from the tight bunching of teams vying for playoff spots in the West.
The timeless Jaromir Jagr is leading the Stars in scoring right now, though its only a matter of time before Jamie Benn takes over. Benn has 4 points in 5 games since returning from his contract holdout. The two old guys that Dallas signed pre-lockout have been carrying the weight offensively (both have 6 points), which doesnt really bode well for the Stars’ future, but that’s their problem, not mine.
The Stars are 11th in the West right now but that really doesnt mean much because there are all of 4 points separating 6th and 14th. As was mentioned above, its a tight grouping of teams. Many games are going to OT and the NHL still hasnt figured out that because there is a winner every night there is no reason to give points out for going to OT.
Horcoff broke his hand blocking a shot against the Canucks which has really exposed the lack of depth at C the Oilers have as an Organization. Almost as soon as the word was out that the Captain would be out long term there has been speculation about how the Oilers would remedy the issue. They have chosen to stay internal and called up Arcobello from OKC. The kid should be absolutely pumped to be playing. As Lowetide tells us, we should be cheering like Hell for this guy. He might not be trusted to play big minutes but the Oilers dont have other options available to them. Lander is already up and showing Chemistry with his Nordic line teammates, and the next best C who isnt already an Oiler is Vandevelde. So lets avoid that.
The Oilers have let a couple games go because they havent kept their foot on the pedal. Teams have been coming at the Oilers and peppering them with shots. The only saving grace is that Dubnyk is 9th in the NHL for Sv% Leaders. He is 20th only if you include all the goalies who only played 1 or 2 games, but 9th among starters. For the 1st time in a long time the Oilers are getting dependable goaltending. Dubnyk has faced the most shots in the entire NHL. Over 9 games he has faced 295 shots. As a comparison, Jimmy Howard of the lower seeded Detroit Red Wings has played 9 games and only faced 249 shots. Thats almost a 50 shot difference! I think Dubnyk is still letting in a few that he shouldnt be, but he isnt the reason the Oilers are losing games.
Another guy I think is doing an admirable job this year is Sam Gagner. Gagner has long been one of my favourites even after he lost the support of many fans for the crime of not being Lindros in his prime. We get it. Sam Gagner is not 6’6″ and 230lbs, in fact barring a Marvel-esque accident with Gamma radiation I think its safe to say he NEVER will be that big. But Gagner isnt small and he produces like a 2C should and he has since he started in the NHL at 18. He’s a 6 year vet who is still only 23. Oh, and he’s also on a 9 game point streak. Yet, he’s still a question mark in he eyes of people like Bob Stauffer. Jesus Christ, people, cut him some slack.
Gagner is just leading the team in scoring after 9 games despite this roster having Hall, Yak, Eberle, Nuge, and Hemsky. What more does he need to do before we can say, “Hey, maybe this 23 year old Kid who keeps jumping up the depth chart even when we inexplicably start him on the wing of the 4th line just might be a long term answer to the 2C spot.”???
Oilers Keys to the Game
1) Give Dubnyk a Break
As mentioned above, Dubnyk has played every game and faced more shots than any goalie in the NHL. Even the next closest guy has faced 20 fewer shots. Run & Gun is cool. Shutem Down & Gun is better. Dubnyk is early into his starting career and thinking he will be the picture of consistency is folly.
2) Where has the 1st line Gone?
The Hall-RNH-Eberle line is getting chances, they just arent going in. They are due to break out but Krueger might get impatient before that happens. The fact is those guys are expected to score. The team is built around their offense, so as it goes so do the Oilers.
3) Youthful Exuberance
The Oilers are young, we know that. But due to injury and circumstance the Oilers have 4 forwards playing who just dont have much NHL experience. Yakupov should be a Calder candidate, but then there’s Lander, Hartikainen, and now Arcobello. With Horc and Belanger out the Oilers have 3 Centres playing tonight who were starring for the OKC Barons just a few months ago. There is a lot of inexperience up the middle and that could be a bad thing. The Oilers need to tap into the energy those guys will bring tonight for a National audience and turn it into a positive. The Dallas Stars are a Veteran group with Names like Jagr, Whitney, Ryder, and Morrow. The Oilers need to make sure the Stars dont make this game look like one of Boys against Men.
Puck drops 8:10PM Mountain Time on TSN. Game On!