The Oilers come back to work tonight against the Nashville Predators. After letting a regulation win turn into an Overtime loss the Oilers are desperate to keep their opponents from gathering points.
I felt that this string of games would go far in determining the fate of the Oilers and I stand by that. There is very little separating all the clubs in the West but the prevalence of 3 point games will make climbing the standings more difficult that it would seem. The Oilers are 14th in the West as of this morning and hopping over 6 teams to a playoff spot will be all but impossible if they are allowing those teams a chance to pick up points.
Friday’s game against Detroit was frustrating to watch from the moment the 3rd period started. The Oilers sat back and allowed the Wings to dictate the pace of the game. Jeff Petry had a Poti-esque evening as well. The young defenseman is only in his 2nd year as a full time NHLer and was playing tough minutes against world class players like Datsyuk, and Pavel made sure that Petry looked every bit as inexperienced as he really is.
Petry showed that all the Steve Smith coaching was rubbing off when he fired home a beauty one-timer into his own net to tie the game. Instead of firing the puck up ice he instinctively tried to fire it around the boards behind the net but found twine instead. Considering the Red Wings were pouring it on strong at the time it felt as if the game was lost right there. It wasnt though, it was lost when Pavel Datsyuk completely undressed young Petry in overtime then buried his shot. It wasnt a good game for Dan Petry’s son. The only saving grace is that if Coaches got angry with every defenseman that Datsyuk made look stupid then they would have to form a Support Group. A World Class player made a World Class play. It could have been against any Oiler defender, unluckily for Petry it was against him. It just goes to highlight the fact that the Oilers lack a high end option on Defense that can match up against the best players in the world.
Nashville DOES have one of those players in Shea Weber. Weber has all the tools that one would want in a Franchise Defenseman. Size, physicality, a Howitzer of a shot, leadership, and the ability to play against the best Forward lines in the World. It started slow after his separation from Suter but he’s had 6 points in his last 5 games and is trying to push his club into Playoff contention. Considering the Oiler trend of breaking bones while blocking shots, maybe they should avoid the 100+ mph slapshot that Weber will be directing their way. Just a thought.
Oilers Keys to the Game
1) Pedal to the Metal
The Oilers sat back and watched the Detroit Red Wings dominate the 3rd period. Watching the Oilers protect a lead is frustrating. I think its safe to say that no lead is safe with the Oilers. It doesnt just seem to be a player problem either. Nail Yakupov, whether he has done anything wrong or not, can count on sitting during the 3rd period of a close game. Perhaps since Krueger doesnt seem to give a hoot about line-matching maybe it’s just easier for him to sit Nail altogether. The result ends up being predictably underwhelming. I like Brown, but in what world is he a better option than Yakupov? This team cannot afford to sit back. They arent that good.
2) Take Advantage of Weary Travelers
Nashville is 5-9-2 on the Road and 3-6-1 in their last 10. Of course one of those wins came against the Oilers in 6-0 fashion, but the fact remains this is a struggling team. The Predators are a beatable team. There is no reason for the Oilers to lay down to this team. In fact, the embarrassment that Nashville served up to the Oilers just a few days ago ought be enough motivation for Edmonton to come out guns blazing.
3) Keep the streak
The Oilers cannot afford to finish the night without any points. Giving up points to Nashville is bad enough, but losing in Regulation could be disastrous. With the trade deadline less than a couple weeks away the team is still in no-man’s land. They are so close to a playoff spot, but if they cant take advantage of all the home cooking they have until the deadline then a few Oilers might see their time with the club come to an end. I think the 2 most likely names are still Hemsky and Whitney but a string of losses can change the perspective management has for a few other players that arent “untouchable”.
Puck Drops at 6:08 PM Mountain Time. Game On!