So Columbus has been an NHL franchise for a Decade but I cared so little about them that I didnt even bother to inquire about their team name until I noticed that stupid bug was actually wearing a Blue Jacket. Honestly, I figured the name was in reference to some kind of native Wasp species. Apparently not, however. Its in reference to Ohio’s great tradition to killing other Americans in the Civil War. Really.
Alright, lets get a few thongs out of the way.
Last Night’s Yesterday afternoon’s game was painful and frustrating. The Oilers defied all the reports of line changes and for the first two shifts had Detroit pinned in their own zone scrambling around in panic mode, THEN for the rest of the game until only 3 minutes remained in the 3rd Krueger went with his new combinations. Those combinations (Hall-Gagner-Hemsky, Hartikainen-Nuge-Eberle, Yak-Vandevelde-Paajarvi, Smyth-Plumber-Plumber) were atrocious. The Oilers were stuck in their own zone the whole game. There was absolutely no flow. Hemsky and Yak werent getting on the ice when they needed to. Yak wasnt even given 10 seconds of a 5-3. Lets repeat that, THE LEADING GOAL SCORER WASNT GIVEN A SHOT FIVE ON THREE. In fact, Yakupov was given 3rd line duties all game.
Its bad enough that Yak has to play LW when it seems obvious he is more comfortable and dynamic coming down the right side, but forcing him down to the 3rd line where his centerman will be Vandevelde and making him play LW while Paajarvi (a natural LW) plays RW is completely insane. I hope nobody on the coaching staff was shocked their plan didnt work, it was half assed to begin with. I have no idea what the combinations will be today, but if they are the same then we should expect more of the same futility.
Scott Howson is somehow still the GM of the Blue Jackets. His team is brutal, like worse than the Oilers brutal. The fact is that their forward group is riddled with non-NHL players. It reads like the Oiler team in the Fall for Hall year. Outside of Umberger, Prospal, and Dubinsky everyone else is just trying to establish themselves in the NHL.
Their defense has more name players that a fan of the NHL will recognize, but of course that doesnt make the collection well suited to play together. The Blue Jackets attempted to strengthen their Defense via the Draft by taking even keeled defenseman Ryan Murray. The rumours of the day that Draft were that the Oilers would take Murray, much to the disdain of the Oilers faithful. Defensemen taken that high in the draft dont seen to pan out as often as forwards do and Ryan Murray did not appear to be exceptional the way Drew Doughty was in his draft year. I think 11 games into this season the Oilers are happy with the way things played out. Yakupov is a goal scoring machine with a laserbeam shot and Ryan Murray needed season ending shoulder surgery months ago.
Oilers Keys to the Game
1) Forget Yesterday
You have to have a pretty short memory when you are so thoroughly ineffective the night before. The same coaches that sabotaged themselves by creating those poorly devised line combinations hopefully already addressed what needs to be changed and have the team looking at how to beat Columbus.
This COULD be aimed at the players, suggesting they need to adapt to whatever the coaches ask them to do but that isnt what I mean. This is aimed at the coaching staff. The Coaches played their new combinations for 56 minutes after the 1st minute of the game and before the final 3. That is about 40 minutes too long. It was apparent after the 1st period that the new lines werent getting the job done. It was inexcusable to go into the 3rd with them. Experimentation is fine, its necessary even, but so is the ability to adapt when things arent going the way you planned them. And honestly, extended 5-3 with no Yak on the ice? Be better.
3) Dont play down to the Competition
The Oilers are a club that seems to rise and fall to the level of the competition. There is so much talent on the Oilers that there is no excuse for failing to push the opposition every night. The Oilers ought to be a handful every single night. A nightmare for opposition defenders and goalies. The Blue Jackets should fall in the category of teams that dread playing the Oil. Their goaltending has been poor, either option sporting a .900 sv%, and the team’s forwards are underwhelming. The Oilers have to learn to play to their potential every night or this will be a frustrating season.
Puck drops at 4:08 PM Mountain time on Sportsnet. Game On!