Archive for 2016-10-30

Game 12: No Sleep Till Brooklyn

The Oilers will take on the Islanders on Saturday in what is being looked at as a must win. Really, if Edmonton loses, they're still 7-4-1 and in the playoff picture, but this win is more about not letting the team go on big losing streaks and ruining all the good work they did in the month of October.

8-3-1 is so much better than 7-4-1 at this point that this game is critical for Edmonton in a lot of ways.



Kris Russell


Looks like Russell is out tonight with an injury. Eric Gryba will come in to take his place. I don't want to say this is a good thing, because an injury to a good defenseman is never a good thing, but Russell and Sekera as a pairing were struggling as of late. If Russell's injury isn't severe, perhaps this is a quick break needed to get these two back on track.

Russell has been one of Edmonton's stronger defenders to start the year. He's been a pleasant surprise and for a while led the Oilers in a number of defensive categories. He's started to slow a bit, but he'll still be missed. Edmonton has struggled with some effective puck moving out of the zone over the last couple games and this is an area Russell seemed quite effective with.

Shaking Up the Lines

Coach Todd McLellan is shaking things up. He's not pleased with the way things have been going the last few games and in an attempt to jump-start his group, he's moving some pieces around.

In his pre-game avail, McLellan said:

"we need some individuals to get jump-started. We need some threesomes to get going a little bit more. In fact the most consistent line and the one we're most pleased with is our fourth line. They seem to get the job done night in and night out. But there are some individuals who need to pick their play up to make the group work."
As is stands Milan Lucic has been bumped from the top line and is moving down to the third line. He and Patrick Maroon will be switching spots. Maroon has some chemistry with Connor McDavid so I can see the logic behind this decision.


Jesse Puljujarvi

Tonight will be the ten game mark for Puljujarvi. It seems as though he's here to stay. The Oilers like his progression and his ability to get better and more involved in each game he plays. McLellan has gone on record to say that he sees Puljujarvi creating as many chances for himself and his teammates as anyone on the team and that he's deserved more ice time.

If Puljuarvi has a good game tonight against the Islanders, expect to see him more and more and in situations where he's relied on a bit more heavily. This isn't to say that McLellan won't continue to ease him into the lineup, but with the growing confidence, Puljujarvi will be given more opportunity to excel.

Versus the Islanders

It won't get as much hype as some of the other match-ups, but the McDavid versus Tavares story line is still relevant. The Oilers are 7-3-1 and the Islanders are 4-6-1. This is a game the Oilers should win. Having said that, so were the Ottawa and Toronto games.

The Islanders are in the top six for goals against in the NHL. They are also top 10 for shots against. It is important for Edmonton to get an early lead in this hockey game because the Islanders are not a good team at coming back from behind so far this season. Of their six losses, when trailing after one period, New York has lost four of those games. If Edmonton can get the lead and hang onto it after two periods Edmonton has held onto five of their seven wins after two periods.

In a season that is still fresh, this is a must win. Not doing so could start a tailspin of sorts and the last thing Edmonton needs after gaining such confidence from a hot October is to have that confidence shattered with four consecutive losses.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.





Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.




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Game 11: Limiting Scoring Chances

The Edmonton Oilers will face a New York Rangers team that is tops in the NHL in scoring. They average four goals per game and are a pretty good team at 7-3-0. They are also 6-1 at home.

If Edmonton hopes to make the Rangers go 6-2, one of two things needs to happen. The Oilers have to either get off this lack of scoring in a big way or shut down a team who to date, no one has been able to shut down.

Photo By Anna Enriquez


Goaltender Duel


The game will start in net. It will be a match up against two of the best and former Rangers teammates. Henrik Lundqvist is potentially the best goaltender of the past decade. He'll be taking on a tender in Cam Talbot, who while he doesn't have the pedigree Lundqvist does, has put together a nice start to the 2016-17 season.

In eight games, Lundqvist has a .917 save percentage and has let in 17 goals. With a goals against average of 2.14, he's going to make it difficult for an Edmonton team, who is having troubles scoring, to score. Talbot meanwhile has let in 21 goals in 10 games with a .932 save percentage. He has an identical 2.14 goals against. It should be a fun battle to watch.


Scoring

When the season started, both of these teams were among the best in the NHL at scoring goals. Edmonton, despite getting out-shot in a number of games, were capitalizing on their chances and scoring 4-7 goals a game. Predictably, with such a high scoring percentage, the numbers were bound to drop and they unfortunately did. The Oilers have two goals total in their last two games.

All the while, the Rangers have scored in bunches. They've yet to be shutout and only had one game where they didn't score more than one goal. The games the Rangers have lost are those where they've failed to score, and those games were one goal differences. Meaning, even when New York doesn't score much, they won't let you score much either.



Another Test


To date, this short season for the Oilers has been a series of tests that require a young team pass in order find success. This two game losing streak is the first time that Edmonton is having trouble finding the solutions. Some have suggested juggling the lines as a way to find chemistry. I prefer this alternative to playing Connor McDavid every minute of every game.

The Oilers need to get more than one person running their offense. Undoubtedly, the success and failures of McDavid will largely dictate the success and failure of the Oilers, but even in the Gretzky era, the Oilers had secondary help.

So far, when McDavid isn't scoring, the Oilers aren't winning. This test against the Rangers tonight will show us if the Oilers can change that habit. Sure, McDavid could get two or three points in a high scoring affair. That would be great. But, it would be nice if the Oilers went in with the mentality that McDavid won't score and to beat this high powered Rangers offense, other Oilers will have to pick up the slack.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.





Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.




Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.




Game 10: Matthews Versus McDavid

I was wondering Oilers fans... is there anything worth watching on tv tonight?...

The Match-Up


It will be a match-up closely watched by almost everyone in hockey. Last year's generational talent versus this year's potential superstar. Who comes out on top? It's a contest among teams who are loaded with young offensive talent.

The Oilers have McDavid, Eberle, Draisaitl, Klefbom, Nurse, Larsson. The Maple Leafs have Matthews, Marner, Nylander and Rielly. The biggest difference so far this season seems to be the Oilers much improved defense. Toronto's is still struggling.

Auston Matthews

He is everything he was painted to be. He has 10 points in nine games, but like a rookie, he's a bit streaky. Four of those 10 points in came in the first game of the season. That means he has six points in eight games. Still good, but it shows how tricky the NHL can be to consistently score night in and night out. He along with rookie William Nylander have been the backbone of the Maple Leafs offense this season.

Connor McDavid


He's tied for the NHL lead in scoring with 12 points in nine games. He's put the Oilers on his back and carried them to their best start in many years. The Oilers lost a squeaker to a hot goaltender in Ottawa on Sunday, but they played well enough to win and as of today are now consider 10/1 favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

McDavid was also awarded first star of the month in the NHL. It was an obvious choice.

The Road


This game kicks off the Oilers first multi-game road trip of the season. They'll play five games in eight days and against some pretty good competition. This will be a real test for the Oilers, who if you asked a skeptic, would say the Oilers had a very favorable schedule to start the season. That their 7-2-0 is not indicative of the kind of the team they really are.

If the Oilers can go 4-1 or 3-2 they'll shut a lot of people up. The best way to start is by beating the easiest team on paper to beat.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.





Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.




Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.

Game 9 Recap: When Hockey Transcends the Game

Despite losing last night, the final chapter that was the Ottawa Senators versus the Edmonton Oilers story on Sunday ended exactly as it should have. Both goaltenders played well, it was a competitive game and Ottawa netminder Craig Anderson got a reminder of just how much the hockey community can look out for their own.




Before the Game


Craig Anderson wasn't going to play in Edmonton. He's been granted a leave of absence by the Senators to be by the side of his wife Nicholle, who'd been diagnosed with cancer. When backup netminder Andrew Hammond went down to injury, Nicholle urged her husband to call the Senators and let them know he could join the Sens to play against the Oilers.

Sens-GM Pierre Dorion said of the decision:

“Nicholle was the one who wanted Craig to come back. She was the one who said, ‘Craig, your teammates need you right now.’ We made this decision after consulting with Craig and Nicholle, their doctors, and we all felt because of this time frame it was all right for him to rejoin the team,” said Dorion.
The Edmonton Oilers were 7-1-0. The Sens were 4-3-0. If the Oilers had won this game, it would have been the best October they'd have had in the NHL in years.

During the Game

Edmonton had been winning games and built their record to 7-1-0 by out-chancing their opponents, but not out-shooting them. Often the Oilers had the ice tilted the wrong direction unless Connor McDavid was on it and Edmonton badly needed a performance where they came out and shot the lights out of their foe. 
Edmonton achieved their objective. They out-shot the Sens by a margin of 37-21 and had some great opportunities to score. Ten players, led by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with five, had more shots on net than McDavid. If the Oilers had won, it would have been a team victory.

The issue was, Edmonton ran into Craig Anderson who had the support of his Senators teammates, fans in Rogers Place and the entire NHL. His performance was something beyond that of a regular netminder on any given night. He was playing for something more — something bigger.

After the Game

I'm sure Oiler fans wanted to see Edmonton go 8-1-0. I would have too. But, if the Oilers were going to lose to anyone, this was the night and this was the team with the netminder who deserved the win and deserved a piece of happiness, if only for a moment.

Anderson's teammates had a little something extra behind their congratulations of their goalie. Oilers fans stayed to show their warmth, compassion and appreciation. And the opposing netminder, Cam Talbot, stayed on the Oilers bench to see Anderson off the ice and give him a nice round of applause. It was a showing of respect, not only among goaltenders, but among people.



This is just one of the many things that make hockey and hockey players great. It's not to say that in other sports, the warmth and caring among players and teammates doesn't exist, but it's definitely evident in games like the Senators versus the Oilers.

The Oilers had a great October. Craig Anderson, despite what's going on at home and with the health and wellness of his family on the back of his mind, had a great night. That's the way it should be.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.





Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.




Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.