This will be a long ramble today…
The Oilers face the Dallas Stars again tonight.. this is the 3rd meeting of the season, with the first 2 games being at home for the Oilers. We haven’t won versus the Stars this year or even last year. Our last win vs. the Stars came on February 15, 2011, at home. The last win in Dallas for the Oilers came on December 5, 2009. I don’t have to say it, but we simply suck versus this team… more so than most. That has to change somehow.
Jaromir Jagr has been a big factor in the games so far. At 41 years old, he looks more like 30 against us. The Oilers are going to need to find a way to stop the line of Jagr, Jamie Benn and Brendan Morrow somehow. Benn has a goal and 2 assists in the series so far, and Jagr has 2 goals and 2 assists (including one of the game winners in overtime).
The Oilers powerplay sees them in 5th now, which isn’t bad, as it was starting to look a little scary for me, for the wrong reasons. As usual, their 5-on-5 play needs work. They have the worst 5-on-5 GF:GA ratio in the NHL currently. Their opponents nearly outscore them 2 to 1 at evens. That is absolutely horrible, and I don’t know how you can expect to win games if you’re getting beat that badly at 5-on-5. It’s clear that the Oilers need some help on this team. Ryan Jones should factor in a bit, it doesn’t help that Shawn Horcoff is injured. But the Oilers management are good at sitting on their hands and waiting to see what happens… and what has happened the last 6 years? The Oilers have consistently stunk it up.
It’s obvious to everyone that this team won’t get better without more depth.. some guys that can play gritty hockey. We’ve got the PP specialists, we need guys that can score ugly even strength goals like the young Ryan Smyth used to. I like the elevated play I’ve seen from the likes of Ben Eager, Eric Belanger, and even Lennart Petrell but none of those guys can really put the puck in the net consistently (or in the case of Eager/Belanger… really ever). I don’t think any of those guys should be dropped, but we should make them a 4th line unit for checking purposes, and build a line that can actually score some even strength goals.
A line of Smyth, Horcoff and Jones would sure look good right now compared to some of what we’ve seen this year at even strength. I don’t like the patience Tambellini has shown with this roster though. Patience sounds like a good virtue, but in the hockey world, being patient for a few weeks can be disastrous, and that’s what it’s been for these Oilers (although his patience has been for at least 4 years straight). It’s well past time for him to show what he can do. This isn’t the first time I’ve thought it, or said it. Horcoff was known to be out for a month, and I’m not sure how Anton Lander was expected to be out. Really, Anton Lander isn’t the center we need right now either (even though he’s played OK).
I’m curious when they are going to move Ryan Whitney as well too. That could be easier said than done though… it’s one thing to want to trade a player. I assume that Tambellini is at least making effort there, but there isn’t a buyer yet. The Oil really should eat some of that salary in a trade, and they’ll probably increase the chance of a team picking him up asap.
On a good note, the team will get a boost with the return of Taylor Hall. His 3 goals have all come at evens. He’ll need to improve upon that as well too, however.
“Suitcase” offers his take on the Oilers lines
Jason Strudwick had a good post on Oilers Nation about the Oilers lines. I actually can get behind this. Basically, he figured when everyone was healthy we need to change the distribution of players slightly to spark some offense from more lines. His suggestions were to keep the top line untouched, move Yakupov off line two in favor of Ryan Jones, and have Eager, Horcoff and Smyth together. This means that Yakupov would drop down to line 4. I have no problems at all with Yakupov on this team. I really like him, but I don’t think this is a bad idea at all because he does have some learning to do about the game, for example, when not to throw it blindly through the defensive zone. He doesn’t have to be on line 4 to figure that out though. It should be a quick conversation with Krueger that corrects that. But we should be able to afford to be more patient with one of these stars.
There’s some buzz that perhaps Justin Schultz is losing some steam because he is tired. It’s quite possible.. he’s up to 52 games played now this season. He hasn’t played that many since his BCHL days. That’s one of the things about College hockey I hate the most… you don’t get enough games in. He also plays heavy minutes with the Oilers. He’s actually getting the most ice time of any Oiler, currently.. averaging 22:40 per game. I’d imagine though that eating up ice time is not a new thing to Schultz. In reality, I think that the perceived drop in Justin Schultz’s play is not due to him dropping, but rather to the ridiculous bar that Oilers fans set after seeing him tear it up in the AHL and then come to the NHL and look brilliant his first few games. I fully expect him to be brilliant at the NHL level one day, but I don’t expect that today. He’ll have his ups and downs. But really, he’s doing just fine anyways and not at all an issue. His defensive game seems consistent from game to game (solid, but not otherworldly). His offense has dropped, but the entire team’s offense has dropped. That doesn’t rest solely on his shoulders. Justin Schultz is doing fine.. great, I’d say… so people can stop panicking. I actually like the Oilers defense more and more. Yah, we do run around in our own zone, but I think for the most part the defense are doing their job well.
Very interesting Oil Change sequence
An interesting take away from Oil Change Season 3 episode 2… after a loss vs. Vancouver where the Oilers blew it in overtime with 30 seconds left, Ladislav Smid was seen going back to the locker room enraged. He was on the ice with Jeff Petry, Jordan Eberle, and Nail Yakupov for the Canucks game-winning goal. He laid into a nameless player, saying they allowed a Canucks defenseman to get into the slot untouched to score the winner. They should have been playing defense first and not trying to break away out of the zone. He was very vocal and angry about it (and that’s one thing that might earn some fans in favor of Smid as captain some day).
The play unfolded like this… Dubnyk kicked a save off a Daniel Sedin shot to the corner. Henrik Sedin and Jeff Petry pursued the puck, with the puck rolling up past the hash mark of the circle to Dubnyk’s left. With Henrik Sedin gathering the puck up, and Keith Ballard pinching in, mystery forward 1 veered away from the play (he was literally in poke check range previous to this) and circled to center ice line where he waited… while Jeff Petry battled Keith Ballard and Henrik Sedin alone for the puck. Ballard got the puck loose to Henrik, who passed it to Daniel Sedin, who then dropped it to Chris Tanev who was streaking in from the right point, untouched. At this point, mystery forward 2 realizes that no one is covering Tanev, and there is now double man coverage on Daniel Sedin due to the way the play progressed. Mystery forward 2 turns and goes down to block the shot (face and all), but the wrister buzzes past his helmet and in the net.
Now of all the players on the ice, who would you think it was that was “Mystery Player 1″, hovering near center ice while the Canucks still had the puck in the Oiler zone? Nail Yakupov, right? No, it was actually Jordan Eberle. Now, obviously I won’t rip on him because.. Eberle is friggen awesome and is critical to this team. But I just thought it interesting. Most would instantly assume that Yakupov was cherry picking. In reality, Yakupov was covering Daniel Sedin, until it became clear that no one was watching Tanev. So, credit to Yakupov for at least attempting to do his job. During that play, Tanev was hovering back with Eberle at center, until Ballard broke off back to the point, and Tanev then came in from the point to score the game winner.
Hello? Where are you…. I thought you were healthy now. Why isn’t he playing? He had a good first game, and he’s been scratched the last two.
OILERS LINES (Lines per Gene Principe)
Hall – Nuge – Eberle
Jones – Gagner – Hemsky
Smyth – Belanger – Yakupov
Eager – Vande Velde – Petrell
N. Schultz – J. Schultz
Smid – Petry
Fistric – Potter