The Oilers are facing the Stars tonight for the 2nd of 3 meetings. The two clubs are neck at neck in the standings and it might be fair to assume that only 1 of them is likely to make the Playoffs.
Last time out against the Stars Ryan Whitney was absolutely victimized by Jagr on account of Whitney’s Poor positioning and lack of mobility.
Barbaro has sinced been made a Healthy Scratch for the 2nd time in 5 games and speculation is beginning to mount that the Oilers are looking to trade him. When Jim Matheson says he thinks the Oilers would like to trade Whitney, what he really means is that he’s been told they want to trade him but not on the record. If Whitney finishes the year as an Oiler I would be shocked.
The Oilers recently put an end to their 5 game losing skid, but only off of a stellar performance by 1st year starter Devan Dubnyk. The Oilers were outshot by Columbus as they only put up 14 shots themselves. Maybe the Oilers are reading their own PR department’s releases because they seem to think they are better than they really are. I dont know if they’ve played a complete game once this year and they opt for fancy over greasy every single time. The top 2 lines need to commit to getting ugly or this season will slip away from them.
Meanwhile, Jamie Benn is ever surely climbing up the Dallas scoring chart and is now only 1 behind the ageless Jagr with 7 points in 7 games. The good news is that the Oilers still have Gagner, Hall, and Hemsky are still finding ways to contribute on the scoreboard, and Nuge has always been a home game performer.
Playing at home tonight the Oilers will have the advantage of the last change. Krueger hasnt seemed keen on diligently matching lines in the past so I’m not sure how he plans to use that advantage if at all. The fact that Horcoff is out and only Belanger can be trusted to win a faceoff hurts the case for hard matching and so does the fact that the coach blended his defense pairings. The pairs as they were last game were blended in a way that there was no single pair that stood out as the weak sister. Unfortunately it had the same effect on positive play. No single pair looked particularly good.
Oilers Keys to the Game
I always get a kick when fans yell “SHOOOOOOT” while their team is on the Power Play, not because I think the fans are being stupid, but because so many commentators roll their eyes at the fans for being so dumb. You wont catch me rolling my eyes at the fans. The fans are right and the faux experts are just being poncy. The Oilers need to shoot and they need to do it every opportunity they have. 14 against Columbus is not good enough. 1 or 2 per Power Play is not good enough. The fans arent saying “fire it into the feet of a defender” (though the Oil have proven thats a good way to put a team down a few guys), they are saying “get your shit together, stop standing still and passing back and forth, get your feet moving and put one on bloody net.”
2) Get involved early
After two snooze fests in Detroit and Columbus the Oilers need to get involved physically early in the game. Finish a check, battle against the boards, chip one into the corner and fight for it. Do it in your first few shifts in the game and get involved. The Oilers want to score pretty goals, but the prettiest goals come from broken plays, and broken plays happen because somebody is mixing shit up. The Hemsky goal is an example of that. It was a highlight quality goal because Hall attacked the defender and a Grade A opportunity came of it. If they want to be on TSN every night thats the way to do it.
3) Stop Taking Penalties
The Oilers’ PK is not a weakness by any stretch of the imagination, but the odds of overcoming the constant parade to the Penalty Box every night arent good. Edmonton has had to kill 101 minutes of penalties so far, which is by far the highest in the NHL. Ryan Smyth has been the culprit many times in the past 4-5 games and he needs to be better. The Oilers are supposed to be fast and skilled, it should be them generating penalties with those attributes, not them getting called for lazy hooking and slashing infractions.
Puck Drops tonight at 7:38 PM Mountain time on Sportsnet. Game On!