Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pre-Game: Game #76 Oilers vs. Blue Jackets

Only 7 games left in the season as the Oilers continue on their cross continental journey, ending this afternoon in Columbus. The Oilers have been playing some fine hockey over the last little bit, having taken points out of the last 6 games, going 4-0-2 in that stretch. The Oilers find themselves slowly inching upward to the 28th spot, 2 points back. In what seemed an impossiblity a couple of weeks ago, looks like a real threat now. At this stage of the game, I think the Oilers have their eye on three players at the draft, so standings really doesn't mean much to them. What's more important is a feeling of going the right way and understanding what it takes to win hockey games. Even in these games that are meaningless, the Oilers are "digging deep" to find a way to make these games mean something. The Oilers defensive posture minus a slip up in Nashville, has been very strong over the last 6 games. Centers are supporting the defense, defense is supporting the goaltender, its how the Oilers need to play to have long term success. The offense will come with this team as they have great individual talent, the key is not cheating on offense at the expense of the defense. Now that the Oilers have decided on keeping Ales Hemsky over the next couple seasons, the Oilers are going to have to manufacture a line around him. A player of Teemu Hartikainen's skillset is one piece as he can be netcrasher/boardwork player on that line as long as he can bring it more often than not. The other piece is a straght up shooting two-way center, something Sam Gagner has struggled on and off with this year. If the Oilers decide to move along Sam Gagner for more of a piece that fits, the Oilers should look the way to a couple of ex-Oilers headed to UFAs, Jarret Stoll and Jason Arnott. The Oilers could use more of a veteran presence down the middle if the wings are going to be young. I think one more veteran center is needed if the Oilers are serious about a playoff push next year. Those two could be the straight up two way shooters that could be used on a line with Ales Hemsky. Columbus is coming off a 5-1 win against Carolina on Friday night. Columbus, much like the Oilers, are playing out the string, having 30th place all but locked up. The Oilers have called up Chris Vandevelde from OKC as Shawn Horcoff is likely out with back spasms.

Forwards Oilers
- With Ales Hemsky playing well as of late, it gives the Oilers a dual threat.
Defense Oilers
- Smid and Petry have done a really nice job of playing the toughs over the last few games.
Goaltending Oilers
- Devan Dubnyk is ending this year like he ended last year, consistantly.
Special Teams Oilers
- Big mismatch. Oilers #2 powerplay against Columbus #30 PK.
Coaching Oilers
- The Oilers seemed to have finally bought into Tom Renney's system, may be too little, too late.
Intangibles BlueJackets
- Weary road legs + afternoon game, may catch up to the Oilers today.







Game Time - 1 PM MT @ Columbus on Sportsnet West.

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