Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pre-Game: Game #55 Oilers vs. Senators

End of a spread out 3 game road trip. The Oilers are in a string where they only one game in a week. They don't play again until Wednesday after today's afternoon tilt. The dreaded afternoon game. The Oilers are 1-2 in afternoon games this year. Beat Minnesota 5-2 but lost to the Stars and the Islanders 4-1 earlier in the year. The Oilers have made amends on home ice this year going 15-8-3, but have struggled mightily on the road going 6-20-2. Part of this is the vets struggling on the road, part of it is the Oilers are getting exposed in the matchups due to depth, part of it is the younger players trying to establish themselves against the best in the world. All in all, up to this point, the Oilers are where I thought they would be. They have improved home their home ice record, improved the special teams even though the PK has been slipping since early January, and the kids continue to grow and become a formidable force. The place where Tom Renney and his staff has gone wrong this year is relying too heavily on the vets all year, not giving enough ice time to the 4th line spattered through out the games forcing the vets to play more and mismatching the lines to the point where you could chemistry bring an issue from the outset. The thing I would do for the rest of this year is play Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger exclusively on the PK and 5v5 in checkling line roles, make Anton Lander and Magnus Paajarvi a duo and give them PP2 duties to see if they can find extended chemistry with each other. The keys to the offense needs to be handed to the kids while the vets do the heavy lifting exclusively. Having the vets try and cover everything has burned them out to the point of ineptness. Without the vets, very little can function and the losses will pile up especially on the road where they are needed to win their matchups while the kids face the tough competition. As much as I'd like to demote Ales Hemsky to the 4th line or even the pressbox, they need to continue to roll him out like the trojan horse he is, in order to sqeeze whatever trade value they can. My plea to Oiler fans everywhere, don't fret when hemsky plays better elsewhere, he's better off without us and we'll be better off without him. Don't try and force this relationship. Ottawa comes into this game winners of their last game, 4-3 versus Nashville. Prior to that, they were losers of 7 in a row. Ottawa is a fragile team but the Oilers have been known to be slumpbusters.

Forwards Senators
- This is a game where the Oilers could use the Nuge. Alfredsson and Spezza will be a handful.
Defense Senators
- Erik Karlsson has established himself as one of the best puckmoving Dmen in the NHL.
Goaltending Oilers
- Both sets of goaltenders have been flaky this year. I have a little more confidence in the Oielrs goaltending which isn't saying much.
Special Teams Oilers
- Oilers special teams in the top half while the Senators special teams are in the bottom half.
Coaching Senators
- Paul MacLean is a coach of the year candidate for turning around the Seantors so quickly.
Intangibles Senators
- Oilers on the road and afternoon games are a double whammy.

Oilers: (my version)
Hall-Gagner-Eberle (Sc1)
Paajarvi-Lander-Hemsky (Sc2)
Smyth-Horcoff-Jones (Chk)
Eager-Belanger-Petrell (Eng)






Game Time - 12 PM MT @ Ottawa on CBC.

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