Thursday, January 31, 2013

Post Game: Game #7 Sharks 3 Oilers 2 (SO)

No Scoring

SJ Couture 5 (Unassisted) 7:32
SJ Pavelski 4 (Unassisted) 8:11
EDM Gagner 3 (Fistric, Yakupov) 10:56

EDM Hall 2 (Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins) 0:51

No Scoring

Sam Gagner Miss
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Miss

San Jose
Michal Handzus Goal
Joe Pavelski Miss
Dan Boyle Goal

Devan Dubnyk 36/38

San Jose
Antti Niemi 26/28

Game Notes:
- The Oilers are learning to love the drama this season and this game was no different. Oilers battled to a stalemate after one period, had a woeful 2nd period on two clear path goals by San Jose on some ugly execution, but to the Oilers credit, they battled back to get the game into overtime to salvage a point out of this one. Ultimately, the overtime and shootout were not kind to the Oilers as it looked like the fatigue caught up to them. The Oilers base structure of their game looks rock solid right now. No missed assignments in the defensive zone, they made the Sharks work for every inch of ice. What's needed now is to get more flow out of the forwards. Too many one and dones and no cohesiveness on the line rushes. Hockey is about adjustments and right now Ralph Krueger needs to tweak forward lines to get the well-oiled machine running a little more smoothly. All in all, a solid game from the Oilers. This was a point I wasn't expecting the Oilers to get, but its one they can put in the bank, and who knows, maybe that point is the difference between playoffs and no playoffs.

Player Of The Game:
Devan Dubnyk G - For the 2nd night in a row, Dubnyk was outstanding again. He had no chance on either of the goals, as both goals came off of egregious plays by the Oilers. The Oilers played well in front him but there were moments in the first and second periods, and again in overtime where Dubnyk was left to his own devices. I'm starting to become a Dubnyk believer. His 3rd game in four nights and they were all stellar. Especially at a time when the Oilers goals for have dried up.

Goat Of The Game:
Ryan Whitney D - I guess I could make this co-goats of the game but since Whitney started the mess, I'll stick him with the horns. Whitney was making a modest rush up the ice, but ran right into the teeth of the Sharks' pressure. The right play would have been to either flip to safety or even take an icing. Instead Whitney handed a greande to Ales Hemsky, in turn, Hemsky attempted to hand the grenade back to Whitney, all which resulted in a breakaway goal from Logan Couture. There were a few plays like this tonight that need to be ironed out, but all in all, it was largely a clean game by the Oilers, but they struggled to stay in the game at the end due to the heavy legs from a back to back.

Next Game:  Saturday February 2 vs. Avalanche @ Colorado 1 PM MT

Pre-Game: Game #7 Oilers vs. Sharks

The Oilers are streaking heading into San Jose. With the Oilers home opener still fresh in their minds, a 6-3 beatdown from the Sharks on Oilers ice, the Oilers are looking to repay the favor tonight. The Oilers coming of an odd 2-1 overtime win last night in Phoenix, the Oilers will be looking to continue to add to the win total. The Sharks come into this game 6-0 and looking to keep that streak alive. The Oilers are coming into San Jose on 2nd half of a back to back facing an undefeated club is the tall task that faces them tonight. Win or lose, each game is a building block for the Oilers. They have to take something from each game. Last night, the Oilers took the fact that the game is never over until its over. The Oilers could have folded after giving up that backbreaking tying goal. But they kept playing away, chiselling at the mental will of the Coyotes, which ultimately lead to the game winner from Nail Yakupov. This test will be a lot in the same as it was last night. The Oilers will have to navigate through the bigger bodies of the Sharks, much like Coyotes from last night. The difference lies in the potent scoring ability the Sharks possess. The Sharks are rolling, so trying to derail them is going require the Oilers draining the energy tank tonight. Shawn Horcoff got his bell rung by Shane Doan last night. Reinforcements may be on the way from Oklahoma City.

Forwards Sharks
- Patrick Marleau is an early favorite for MVP and Joe Thornton has been Joe Thornton. The kids will have to find a way to produce offense as they were effictively shutdown last night.
Defense Sharks
- Sharks have an excellent blend of offensive and defensive defensemen. To go along with most of them being veterans. Oilers D is slowly starting to find its way with some consistancy.
Goaltending Sharks
- As much as I want to believe in Dubnyk in this spot, its hard to go against Antti Niemi's 1.97 GAA and .933 S% early on this season.
Special Teams Sharks
- Oilers have the 2nd best powerplay in the NHL, so how I can I go against them? The Sharks have the best powerplay in the NHL.
Coaching Sharks
- The addition of Larry Robinson to Todd McLellan's staff looks to be paying immediate dividends. Oilers' Ralph Krueger is doing well with the mix he has.
Intangibles Sharks
- A clean sweep for the Sharks and this is going to be a tough game to win for the Oilers when they played in Phoenix last night while the Sharks had the night off.







Game Time - 8:30 PM MT @ San Jose on Sportsnet West

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Post-Game: Game #6 Oilers 2 Coyotes 1 (OT)

EDM Petrell 1 (Smyth, Gagner) 4:51


PHX N.Johnson 2 (Moss, Vrbata) 19:49

EDM Yakupov 4 (Hall, Hemsky) 3:52 PP

Devan Dubnyk 27/28

Chad Johnson 19/21

Game Notes:
- What a bizarre game. For 59 minutes this game looked like is was being played in the frozen tundra of Commonwealth Stadium. Not a lot of flow, not many chances. As a coach, this game was played perfectly. The Oilers battle level was high and they gave the Coyotes very little in terms of time and space. And when the Coyotes did have time and space, Dubnyk was there to make the saves. What's more impressive is that the Oilers essentially beat the Coyotes at their own game, which for Oilers fans should be the best news they could have out of this game. All I can say about this win, is that it was ugly, but I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty. It's time for the Oilers to build on this win and go for 3 in a row in San Jose. In recent history, the Oilers have always had a tough time winning in Phoenix against a team that clogs up the neutral zone. So the fact they played patient and ultimately outwaited the Coyotes is a big time sign that things are looking up.

Player Of The Game:
Devan Dubnyk G - It's easy to give POTGs to goalies when the team wins, but in this case its a no brainer. The Oilers played with a 1-0 for 55 minutes of the game. A lot of that was sound positioning, some was a high battle level at the moment of impact, and the rest was Devan Dubnyk. The Oilers played well tonight, it may not have looked like it but they did. Back to back solid starts for Dubnyk. Will they let him go back to back and play in his 6th straight tomorrow night in San Jose? I know I would. He's in the zone and you gotta ride the hot hand.

Goat Of The Game:
Sam Gagner C - For the 2nd game in a row, its tough to pick the POTG. Sam Gagner gets it for taking a questionable penalty, and by questionable I mean it could have easily gone to the Phoenix player as he and Gagner were fighting for ice chasing a puck. Gagner's penalty lead to the tying goal by the Coyotes with 19 seconds left in the 3rd period. But in all honesty, everyone played a role and battled hard tonight. 2nd game in a row with no passengers in it.

Next Game - vs. Sharks @ San Jose 8:30 PM MT on Sportsnet West

Pre-Game: Game #6 Oilers vs. Coyotes

Every year some bottom feeding team has a set off demons that need to be exercised in order to move up the standings and become a playoff team. That game is tonight for the Oilers. The Oilers have always had issues with the Coyotes strength, length and guile. The Coyotes essentially play opportunistic hockey, The Coyotes will wait for the Oilers to turnover the puck (which they will) and turn those odd man rushes into scoring chances. How the Oilers combat this is how many times they do this and how they will bust backside to retrieve pucks. The Oilers need to play an energy/controlled game tonight. If the game gets passive at all, they will get eaten alive by the Coyotes. The Oilers are coming off of a somewhat convincing 4-1 win against the Avalanche. I say somewhat because the Oilers defense went into prevent defense mode forcing Dubnyk to be a little more busy than he otherwise should have been. I know I like to throw the "statement game" around pretty librally, but this is a statement game. The Oilers need to find a way to beat these teams that force them to play patient hocky by playing patient hockey themselves. The Oilers need to learn that they can't score four goals on one rush or all the goals count the same no matter the style they come in. I know around these parts, people love the "pretty" goals but if you want to be a successful hockey team, you need at minimum an equal part grit. Wary game for the Oilers as the Coyotes are off to a slow start, starting 2-4, so you know they will be ready.

Forwards Coyotes
- This is a tough call. While the Oilers have better pure skill, the Coyotes have the bigger experienced bodies that will make life tough on the Oilers. Who wins out here will likely win the game.
Defense Oilers
- Close call here too. While the Coyotes have a more proven top end, their depth will get tested tonight by the Oilers. Oilers are getting spotty production from many of the defense members.
Goaltending Oilers
- Giving the edge to Dubnyk and his inconsistent ways. Only because Mike Smith is out with injury and they will roll with the Labarbera/Johnson combo. Be wary of Sean Burke's genius ways.
Special Teams Oilers
- Oilers powerplay is hotter than a two dollar pistol accounting for all four goals scored against the Avalanche. Coyotes have a decent Pk but will have their hands full.
Coaching Coyotes
- Dave Tippett always seems to get the most out of his clubs even if they are underskilled. Ralph Krueger is finding a good mix with his hand but its still a tough matchup for the Oilers.
Intangibles Coyotes
- The Coyotes have been tough at home under the tenure of Dave Tippett. He'll dictate the matchups which means some of the Oilers will have to adjust and play out of their comfort zone.







Game Time - 7:30 PM MT @ Phoenix on Sportsnet West

Monday, January 28, 2013

Post Game: Game #5 Oilers 4 Avalanche 1

EDM Hemsky 2 (Hartikainen, Gagner) 15:23 PP
EDM Eberle 3 (Hall, Whitney) 18:05 PP

EDM Horcoff 1 (Hall, Nugent-Hopkins) 9:40 PP

COL Parenteau 3 (Duchene, McGinn) 7:43
EDM Yakupov 3 (Gagner) 19:27 PP EN

Semyon Varlamov 23/26

Devan Dubnyk 37/38

Game Notes:
- Oilers improve to 3-2 with a convincing 4-1 victory over the Avalanche. Oilers powerplay ate up the Avalanche penalty kill, scoring 4 goals on the powerplay and the Avalanche having no answer for it. It marks the first time the Oilers have had the lead this season, having the lead for most of this game and coasting to victory. It was a good bounce back game. It was also a game where the Oilers go the bounces but also worked hard for position in order to get the bounces. It's a positive win but it's difficult to say it was a statement win. The Oilers need to start putting together consecutive wins in order for anyone to be considering playoffs this season. Oilers have a tough couple of games coming up in Phoenix and in San Jose. After those two games, we can evaluate where the Oilers are at, and where they are headed. The Avalanche were undermanned tonight and came out very slow, but bounced back to have a 22 shot 3rd period. The Oilers still have some work to do 5 on 5, some 5v5 line shakeups could be forthcoming. If the Oilers rely strictly on their powerplay to get things done, they will continue to be inconsistent. A positive win for the Oilers, and one they needed to have, but the work is only beginning.

Player Of The Game:
- Devan Dubnyk G - If  I could put the entire Oilers powerplay in here I would. But since this exercise is for acknowledging individual players, I'm going to give the nod Devan Dubnyk, largely for his 3rd period play. The Avalanche peppered Dubnyk with 22 shots in the 3rd period when the Oilers went into prevent defense to protect the 3 goal lead. The Oilers are going to be that great at protecting leads this season since a lot of the defensive aspect of the club is inconsistent and in other cases subpar. Dubnyk gave up one cheapie when the puck got jammed through his legs when the shooter really had nowhere else to go. But other than that he was rock solid. Stayed really square to the shooter, sealing up those leaks. When he plays like that, it takes perfect shots to beat him clean. A strong bounce back game for him after having a subpar outing in Calgary. Like the rest of the team, he needs to build off of a win.

Goat Of The Game:
- Ryan Whitney D - Tough GOTG to give out tonight. I gave it to Ryan Whitney because he failed to tie up the stick of PA Parenteau when he beat Dubnyk five hole. It was just as much Dubnyk's fault as it was Whitney's. Its tough to give this out when Whitney had one of his better games of the year. He showed an affinity for shooting the puck tonight and played a very stable game with Corey Potter who also looked better than he has in previous games. Essentially, what I'm saying is the Oilers played an excellent team game with no passengers tonight. Everyone had a role and executed.

Pre-Game: Game #5 Avalanche vs. Oilers

Oilers are 2-2 to start to the season, dropping a 4-3 decision to the Flames on Saturday. Avalanche are the next up on the agenda. The Oilers have all the signs of a young team, look like world beaters one night then can't beat the bottom feeders the next night. The Oilers have been the bottom feeders for awhile now so I guess looking at the small steps is what should matter. I've mentioned for awhile that the Oilers have fundamental flaws when it comes to building the team. Weak center play, lack of depth on defense, inconsitant goaltending all have been a part of the issue. The Oilers have burned 1st round draft picks on wingers 4 out of the last 5 seasons, not a recipe for success, at least not immediately. While the Oilers may have the most skilled group of wingers in the league they are still young and they largely help out with offense. What wingers don't do is control flow or pace of the game, and they don't help defend much 5v5 other than watching their point man and making sure the slot is clean on occasion. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is an excellent offensive talent, Sam Gagner is a useful NHLer, Shawn Horcoff is overpaid but still relied upon with veteran experience, Eric Belanger is useful down the order NHL center. Problem is they collectively don't win enough of the matchup battles game in, game out in order to win games, game in, game out. So when someone like myself says, "Sam Gagner should be moved along, and the search for another RH shooting 2nd line center should be pursued", that shouldn't be mistaken for "Sam Gagner is bad at hockey lulz!!!" The Oilers have procured the talent, but the next phase is to take the scalpel and start to build the team collectively, even it means one of the young stars might have to be sacrificed for the greater good. Tonight is another night of teaching and learning for the young Oilers. The biggest thing for them is to not let the highs get too high and the lows get too low. I know, ol' hockey cliche, but in this case, I couldn't speak more truth. This is another winnable game for the Oilers much like the Flames game was.

Forwards Oilers
- Both teams are filled with young, high potential talent. The Oilers have a couple more of them at this stage. Both teams are battling consistancy issues.
Defense Oilers
- Avalanche have too many defensive defensemen types for my liking. A lot of the offense from the backend falls on Erik Johnson. Justin Schultz has played well in his role to start the season.
Goaltending Avalanche
- More of a tossup here. I have no idea what to expect from Dubnyk game in, game out. The fact that all the Oilers have to lean on after Dubnyk is Danis is where the Oilers lose the matchup.
Special Teams Oilers
- Oilers powerplay has been keeping them in games. 5 on 5 they haven't pissed a drop. Avalanche PK has been middle of the pack over the last season and a half.
Coaching Oilers
- Ralph Krueger is still trying to get feel for his club. He's figured out the powerplay, the rest is still a work in progress. I feel Joe Sacco should no longer be coach of the Avalanche.
Intangibles Oilers
- With both teams being such young enigmas, its difficult to gauge the "human element" in this game. I get the feeling one team will "crap the bed" while the other team rolls. Oilers are at home, looking to bounce back.

Oilers: (my version)






Game Time - 7:30 PM MT @ Rexall Place on Sportsnet West

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Post Game: Game #4 Flames 4 Oilers 3

CGY Backlund 2 (Cammalleri, Stempniak) 5:16
CGY Bouwmeester 1 (Giordano, Stempniak) 14:25
EDM J.Schultz 2 (Eberle, Hall) 19:19 PP

CGY Glencross 3 (Iginla, Tanguay) 3:59
EDM Eberle 2 (J.Schultz, Horcoff) 8:47
CGY Stempniak 3 (Bouwmeester, Hudler) 14:57

EDM Gagner 2 (Nugent-Hopkins, J.Schultz) 19:58

Devan Dubnyk 31/35

Miikka Kiprusoff 17/20

Game Notes:
- Another game, another learning experience for the Edmonton Oilers. Never underestimate your opponent, don't think goals will come like water out of a faucet, and every game is its own entity. Last game is done, its on to the next one. The Oilers are going to win games that they have no business winning, like the one against the Kings, and they will have games they have no business losing, like tonight against Calgary. Sure, its going to be exciting and a wild roller coaster ride, but what teams like this ultimately end up to be are mediocre .500 clubs. The Oilers are getting next to nothing offensively out of the bottom of the lineup which is putting the heavy burden of scoring goals on the top two lines, the top line more specifically. Oilers fans are going to have to approach this season a lot like the players, in one eye and out the other. There will be moments of greatness this season and moments of inepitiude. It's difficult to say which one will outnumber the other, but every game is unto itself, and its onto the next one. Tonight is not the night to crush players. Calgary needed to win this, the Oilers played with a bit of an emotional hangover that occurred versus the Kings. It will be important for the Oilers to respond on Monday.

Player Of The Game:
Justin Schultz D - Schultz is an amazing talent and the Oilers coaching staff have played him perfectly during the beginning parts of this season. When the Oilers need a goal he sees a lot of ice, when the Oilers need to protect the net, that's his time to catch his breath. Its good that the Oilers aren't giving the young Schultz too much on his plate early. It's good that the Oilers don't put the leash on him too much and his has a great understanding of when to join the rush or when to back off. His pinches always seem to catch everyone by surprise even though the whole building knows he's doing it. Schultz was great tonight. A goal, two assists tonight, leads the Oilers with 6 points thus far this season. He's the sparkplug for the Oilers offense.

Goat Of The Game:
Jeff Petry D - Tough night for Petry. Was -2 on the night but was posterized for three of the Oilers goals. On the first goal, lost position and fell down in the crease which allowed Backlund to crash the net and score a squeaker. On the 3rd goal, got puck gazing and and magentized himslef to the puck which allowed his man Glencross, to have a tap in, right in the spot where Petry should have been. On the fourth goal, he got gravitated to the boards on the penalty kill, which is a no-no, which allowed his man Stempniak to have a tap-in, once again, right in the place where he should have been standing. Learn from it and then forget about it. Move on to the next game.

Next Game - Monday February 28. 2013 vs. Avalanche @ Rexall Place.

Pre-Game: Game #4 Oilers vs. Flames

So, what do the Oilers do for an encore? It was the ol' "you want me to tie it or win it, coach?" routine the Oilers are starting to make famous for themselves. It's something as a team they should establish for themselves. They have the talent to come back in hockey games but it was the belief that was missing. In one bat of the puck, Nail Yakupov established that for the Oilers going forward. While the Oilers will have their nights of folly on defense some nights, their offense and the flair for the dramatic should make this team highly entertaining and adored throughout North America. Whether its a championship formula will have to be a wait and see, but the Oilers should be in every game. The Oilers passed the "will" test on Thursday night, but its something they will have to pass each and every night, thats what champions are made of. The Oilers take on the Calgary Flames in a 2013 version of the Battle Of Alberta. The Flames have struggled out of the gate losing their 1st three games and garnering only one point. It's a very a winnable game for the Oilers but the Oilers have had issues in the past with winning at the Saddledome. If they are to be thinking playoffs, they are going to have to feast on teams like the Flames and Avalanche. If all three teams beat up on each other, then its likely that all three teams will miss the playoffs.

Forwards Oilers
-Oilers have issues with bulkier teams but the Flames center play could very well be the weakest in the league.
Defense Oilers
- The addition of Mark Fistric gives the Oilers D some much needed balance. Justin Schultz is feeling comfortable adding offense from the defense. Flames D is balanced but lacking in depth.
Goaltending Oilers
- Miikka Kiprusoff has been the model of consistency over his career and will be a big reason if the Flames can pull this one out. Dubnyk is looking to have strong back to back games.
Special Teams Oilers
- The Oilers makes hay on the powerplay. The Flames would be wise to keep the penalties to a minimum. The Oilers PK are coming off of a strong game.
Coaching Oilers
- Bob Hartley is struggling to find the right button to puch in Calgary while Ralph Krueger likely has a better feel for his club at this point.
Intangibles Flames
- Flames have had time to work out the kinks having not played since Wednesday while the Oilers are going to have battle emotion after an emotional win against the Kings.







Game Time: 8 PM MT @ Calgary on CBC

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Post Game: Game #3 Oilers 2 Kings 1 (OT)

No Scoring

LA Carter 1 (Clifford) 13:26

EDM Yakupov 2 (Hall, J.Schultz) 19:55

EDM Gagner 1 (Nugent-Hopkins, J.Schultz) 3:01 PP

Los Angeles
Jonathan Quick 37/39

Devan Dubnyk 30/31

Game Notes:
- Wow. The game had it all. The questionable (at best) reffing, the look of defeat being near, the mad dash at the end, the questionable tying disallowed goal with a minute left to go, the payoff goal with 5 seconds to go in the game, and then the overtime winner. Wildness was the theme of the last two minutes of the game and overtime. Just trying to absorb it all in something I'm trying to do as I'm typing this. Besides winning the game, the Oilers did a lot of things a heckuva lot better than they did against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. The defense did a much better job clogging up the defensive slot. Other than the breakaway goal from Carter, the Kings were not getting any gimmies tonight. In thrid period, I was starting get worried. The will of the Oilers was starting to wane for large stretches of the 3rd period, a sign from Oilers past that they were getting ready to wave the white flag. Then the Kings ran into serious penalty trouble at the end of the third period and the Oilers found one last gasp of pressure to mount a comeback. The game was thought to be tied by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with a minute left to play but was deemed that Sam Gagner had interfered with the goaltender therefore waving off the goal. That setup the heroics for Nail Yakupov to tie the game with 5 seconds to go in the game and Sam Gagner winning it in overtime. On a side note, was impressed with Dubnyk tonight. Looked strong and comfortable. The defense and Dubnyk were in sync all night. For the first time in quite some time, I can safely say the Oilers snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. A real turning point kind of moment for the young Oilers. The next stage for the Oilers to overcome is mental toughness and not to give up on a game so easily. They persevered this time and they can persevere again.

Player Of The Game:
Nail Yakupov RW -  Even before Yakupov tied up the game, I thought he was the Oilers best hope to tie up the game. He had great speed going through the neutral zone and seemed very into the hockey game. While the kid line faded down the stretch in the third period, Yakupov kept his nose to the grindstone, kept plugging away, kept trying to make things happen. Looked like the heroics was going to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but his goal was ultimately disallowed. Yakupov didn't show that aura of frusteration or quit on the game like we have seen from some of the Oilers past. Sam Gagner deserves some kudos for potting the winner and having fantastic bounce back. Dubnyk as well, for having a strong bounce back game.

Goat Of The Game:
Nick Schultz D - Kind of a soft GOTG but Nick Schultz had two blunders on play that allowed the Kings to score their only goal of the game. First, he gave away the puck at the blueline leading to an odd man rush, but then instead of trying to defend a 2 on 1, tried to intercept the puck and it ended up in a breakaway for Jeff Carter. All in all, it was a very clean game for the Oilers defensively. Dubnyk faced more shots than he should mainy because their were a lot of powerplays in this oddly called game.

Pre-Game: Game #3 Kings vs. Oilers

Welp, through two games the fanbase has gone from playoff aspirations to painful depair, all within the duration of two hockey games. The fact is the Oilers are 1-1 at this point with 46 games left to go and a lot of things to tie up in order to become a respectable hockey team. Through 2 games, we saw a tale if two teams, a telling sign that this team is still learning on the job but has an immense amount of offensive talent. The offensive will win them some games, the attention to detail in the defenive zone will cost them some games. I think that's what we can realistically expect from the Oilers this season. Which one happens more, will dictate where the Oilers are in the standings at the end of the year. The Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings come to town but they have issues of their own. Kings have dropped the 1st two games of the season, losing by a combined 8-3. The defense depth is going to be tested with the Kings being without Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene due to injury. The heart of the Kings is being tested early on this season and whether or not they can handle being an upper echelon team. I expect the Kings to come out fierce in this one but I also expect the Oilers to challenge the depth of the defense of the Kings. I'm expecting attention to detail to be much, much better from the Oilers side.

Forwards Kings
- Good depth and balance to the Kings forward crew. Anze Kopitar is back in the fold after missing the first game of the season.
Defense Oilers
- Gave a slight edge to the Oilers but they need to play better than they did on Tuesday night. Kings still have Drew Doughty but the bottom end will get tested by the Oilers speed on the edges.
Goaltending Kings
- Jonathan Quick has proven himself to be a top flight goaltender in the NHL despite the Kings shaky start. On the other side is Devan Dubnyk, who gave up 6 goals in the first period against the Sharks.
Special Teams Oilers
- The slightest edge to the Oilers. Oilers have a vaunted powerplay while the Kings have a strong penalty kill. Will be a deciding matchup.
Coaching Kings
- It's difficult to go against the guy who just won a Stanley Cup in Darryl Sutter while Ralph Krueger still tries to figure out the temperature of his club.
Intangibles Oilers
- Oilers looking to right some wrongs after the debacle on Tuesday night. But on the other hand the Kings are looking for their first win of the year.







Game Time - 7:30 PM MT @ Rexall Place on TSN

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Post Game: Game #2 Sharks 6 Oilers 3

SJ Boyle 2 (Pavelski, Thornton) 3:17 PP
SJ Couture 1 (Marleau, Pavelski) 4:30 PP
EDM Yakupov 1 (Gagner, Hemsky) 8:25 PP
SJ Marleau 3 (Thornton, Stuart) 10:02
SJ Marleau 4 (Thornton, Couture) 11:07 PP
SJ Couture 2 (Havlat, Galiardi) 18:09
SJ Vlasic 1 (Wingels, Galiardi) 19:20

EDM J.Schultz 1 (Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle) 14:25 PP

EDM Hall 1 (Eberle, Smid) 3:34

San Jose
Antti Niemi 26/29

Devan Dubnyk 11/17
Yann Danis 14/14

Game Notes:
- The more things change, the more they stay the same. We all know the Oilers are a work in progress, but that 1st period had to be the worst period of hockey I have ever seen the Oilers play. Blown coverages, turning away from the puck, Sharks having free reign to do whatever they wanted in the Oilers slot, it was a disgusting display. The Oilers patched things up in the 2nd and 3rd periods, but the Sharks did their damage and were half way to the airport when the 2nd period started. The same things plagued the Oilers as they have in the past, shaky defense and center play, less than stellar goaltending, not enough muscle, and a lack experience all hurt the Oilers at some point in this game. Sharks biggest strength is working the puck down low and the Oilers had no answer for it as the goals came fast and furious. On the bright side the Oilers got some firsts tonight. Newcomers Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz tallied their first NHL goals, a highlight mired in an ugly game. Next game offers new hope and hopefully a different result but the Oilers need to look how the structure of their team and start cutting down on the weaknesses. I feel like a broken record.

Player Of The Game:
Yann Danis - Not because he necessarily played well but everyone else was so bad in that first period that there was no escaping that. It's hard to pick out someone and say they played well after everyone was culpable for being down 6-1 after the 1st period. Yann Danis played alright in mop up. Sharks didn't mount much pressure after the 1st period. Dubnyk actaully faced more shots in the 1st period than Danis faced in the 2nd and 3rd periods. So take it all with a grain of salt. Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz provided some fleeting feel good moments in an otherwise ugly game.

Goat Of The Game:
Sam Gagner - I feel the urge to say everyone, but for the sake of consistancy, I have singled out Sam Gagner in this one. A disturbing trend I have noticed through 2 games is Sam Gagner's defensive zone coverage. To say that it is lacking is an understatement. Gagner far too often turns his back to the player he is covering, essentially taking himself out of the play. And since he covers the slot most of the time, bad things will continue to happen for the Oilers. The defensive slot should be sacred ground for the Oilers that should be battled for on a continuous basis. Tonight, the Sharks had free reign and free looks in the slot tonight and the result was inevitable. Patrick Marleau had free looks in the slot tonight and with the way he shoots, thats just asking for trouble. Gagner NEEDS to clean up this facet of his game, otherwise the Oilers are looking for a 2nd line center.

Pre-Game: Game #2 Sharks vs. Oilers


The Oilers start the season 1-0 with a 3-2 shootout win in Vancouver, now take their show to home ice for the home opener against the San Jose Shakes. Each game will be a sort of litmus test to see where the Oilers are in their team development and how far away they are to being a comptetitive team, game in, game out. The Oilers really used their speed in Game #1, keeping the board battles to a minimum, a formula they would be wise to keep trying to produce. The Sharks come into this game 1-0 as well, beating the Calgary Flames 4-1 on Sunday night. The Sharks have been a team that is strong on paper but leave one wanting more for quite some time. The Sharks are no different this season although the depth is slowly starting to erode, a sign of a team that has been highly competetive for a long time. For the Oilers, its another game to prove themselves and prove that they just aren't just a team that is building but a team that is starting to emerge. Every game will prove a new test for them.

Forwards Sharks
- Might not have the depth they once did but the high end, proven talent is still their. Might have the best top 6 in the Western Conference when healthy.
Defense Sharks
- Sharks have an excellent blend of puckmovers and defensive defensemen. Adding Brad Stuart to this group makes them much stronger.
Goaltending Sharks
- Slight edge to Antti Niemi and his body of work over the last few seasons but Devan Dubnyk is starting to prove he is no slouch either.
Special Teams Oilers
- Though the Sharks have high end talent, their penalty kill has been poor over the last couple of seasons. Oilers had an off night on the powerplay on Sunday but the penalty kill looked very strong.
Coaching Sharks
- Brian McLellan has garnered an impressive regular season recod over his tenure with the Sharks but not a lot of playoff success to show for it. Addition of Larry Robinson should tie up loose ends.
Intangibles Oilers
- No real advantage as both teams played their first games of the year on Sunday. Oilers do have home ice advantage and with it being the home opener, might give the young Oilers an extra boost.







Game Time - 8 PM MT @ Rexall Place on TSN.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Post Game: Game #1 Oilers 3 Canucks 2 (SO)

VAN Edler 2 (Unassisted) 10:58

VAN Kassian 1 (D.Sedin, H.Sedin) 14:18
EDM Eberle 1 (Hall) 19:56

EDM Hemsky 1 (Gagner, Whitney) 14:05

No Scoring

Sam Gagner Goal
Ales Hemsky Goal

Alex Edler Miss
Alex Burrows Miss

Game Notes:
- The Oilers started the game like they ended last season. Slow, lethargic, unsure of themselves, the Oilers took their time getting into the game. Jordan Eberle scored with 3.1 seconds left in the 2nd period that gave the Oilers life heading into the 3rd period. One dangerous rush by Ales Hemsky tied the game just like that and then the Oilers won it in the shootout. The Oilers came around and looked good in the last half of the game. The things that plagued the Oilers last season are still there. Lack of depth on defense, have to take the good with the bad on the 2nd and 3rd lines, but all in all Ralph Krueger did a great job of deploying his players in his 1st NHL game as the Oilers full time head coach. Devan Dubnyk recovered to have a clean period  plus overtime when the Oilers needed to have that in order to walk away from two points. I expect Dubnyk to have a strong start to the season, what will define him is how he finishes it playing the bulk of the games. All in all, it was a great start for the Oilers. The strengths are starting to define themselves, the weaknesses are still there, but if the prize is finding the playoffs, then this game was a step in the right direction.

Player Of The Game:
Ales Hemsky. He was flying tonight even though he had little chemistry with his linemates. He had little issue gaining zone entry most of the night as the Canucks D gave him room to navigate because he attacked with speed. Scored the big goal late in the 3rd period to tie the game at 2 and allow the Oilers to win it in the shootout. Also scored the winner in the shootout with a cheeky forehand, backhand, 5-hole move. Hemsky looked more dedicated to the cause in this game more than at any point last season. Looks refreshed, hopefully sticks with "it" through the good and the bad a little longer into the season. He was still -2 on the night even though he came through with late game heroics but the goals against had little to do with him.

Goat Of The Game:
Corey Potter. Was also -2 on the night but the difference was, he had little positive impact on the game. Potter had issues with mobility and gap control early on in the game. Potter needs to find a way to utilize his stick more effectively. Too often he doesn't attempt to get his stick in passing lanes, allowing pucks to get into danger zones without impunity. Newcomer Mark Fistric was a healthy scratch tonight. It will be interesting to see how long he stays up there. My guess is that it won't be long before he gets a call with how Potter played tonight.

Pre-Game: Game #1 Oilers vs. Canucks

Here we go again. Time for another wild and wacky ride that is the Edmonton Oilers universe. Expectations are higher than usual around these parts, with whispers of playoffs trickling off some people's lips. Whether they are valid or not will lay in the results. Personally, my expectations with this club are tempered. If they win, its because the youngsters have emerged amongst the most exciting in the NHL, the vets have taken on more secondary roles and are relishing those roles, the goaltending has been solid/specatcular, the defense has held up pitching in all areas, and the Oilers injuries would have been kept to a minimum. If they falter once again, its because the kids are having to be in survival mode, the vets haven't bought into roles, the defense will have broken like a weak dam, the goaltending will have faced far too much rubber, and injuries galore. The Oilers have a lot going for it heading into this game. Most of the Oilers are already in mid-season game shape, the Canucks come into this game already dealing with injuries to Ryan Kesler and David Booth. It will essentially be the Oilers youth and energy versus the Canucks experience and guile. It will be interesting to how easily the will of the young Oilers will be broken or how long it will take. The longer they battle, the better they will be for it. The Oilers have struggled with the losing many times over the last handful of seasons. It's a pretty big statement game for both sides early on in this shortened season.

Forwards Oilers
- On paper the Oilers have the advantage, but we'll have to see how the Oilers 2nd and 3rd lines produce. Injuries have hurt the depth of the Canucks but they do have the Sedins.
Defense Canucks
- Canucks are more proven and deeper on the backend. Top 4 of Edler, Bieksa, Hamhuis and Garrison are very formidable, although they looked out of sorts last night.
Goaltending Canucks
- Debatable that the Canucks have two goaltenders better than what he Oilers have, at least that's what history tells us. Devan Dubnyk gets his chance to run with the ball right out of the gate.
Special Teams Oilers
- Ryan Kesler injury gives the Oilers a slight edge. Both teams have excellent powerplays.
Coaching Canucks
- Alain Vigneault has been with the Canucks for quite some time and has an impressive record with them. Ralph Krueger enters his first season as the full time head coach of the Oilers.
Intangibles Oilers
- The Oilers get the Canucks on a 2nd half of a back to back to start. The Canucks got thumped by the Ducks last night. This game will likely tell us more about the Canucks than the Oilers.







Game Time - 7 PM MT @ Vancouver on Sportsnet West

Thursday, January 17, 2013

NHL Regular Season Standings Predictions 2013 Eastern Conference

Here are my predictions for the upcoming 2013 shortened season for the Eastern Conference.

Eastern Conference
1. New York Rangers
Forward - The Rangers have a great blend of superstar forwards, emerging youngsters and strong role players. Injuries are going to be the only thing stopping this group. Newest Ranger Rick Nash will help in the goals for category.
Defense - No high end superstar, but a team filled with all around, solid defenders. Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto and Dan Giradi eat up most of the minutes.
Goaltending - Henrik Lundqvist is one of the top 3 goaltenders right now in my book. With the Rangers improving the offense, they will be tough to handle.

2. Boston Bruins
Forward - A fresh Nathan Horton will enhance this forward group that includes the likes of Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin. A great of blend of strength, skill and grit.
Defense - If Zdeno Chara isn't the best Dman in the league, he is the 2nd best. A lot of returning vets for this group that will break in highly touted prospect Dougie Hamilton.
Goaltending - Tim Thoams is taking a break from hockey meaning Tuukka Rask gets a chance to tend twine on most nights which isn't much of a downgrade. Anton Khudobin will back him up.

3. Washington Capitals
Forward - Group still being led by superstar Alexander Ovechkin. Different supporting cast with the addition of Mike Ribeiro and Wojtek Wolski. Lost Alexander Semin to free agency.
Defense - Another year of John Carlson and Karl Alzner will help this group. A healthy Mike Green would also help matters. Roman Hamrlik plays the role of battle tested veteran.
Goaltending - Braden Holtby has emerged as the go-to netminder last year in the playoffs. Michal Neuvirth is still around if Holtby falters.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins
Forward - The Penguins forwards are among the most skilled in the top 6, but over the years it has started thin out. Will rely more on the health of Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin is an excellent 1B option. James Neal has emerged as All Star with the Penguins.
Defense - Not as deep as it once was either. Will rely heavily on Kris Letang mobility and puck movement. Have servicable defenders in Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik to play roles.
Goaltender - Marc-Andre Fleury has his moments of greatness and his moments of flakiness. Pens brought in Tomas Vokoun as the insurance policy.

5. Carolina Hurricanes
Forward - The addition of Jordan Staal to go along with brother Eric is a huge. It gives them legitimate 2nd line pivot. The addition of Alexander Semin will help enhance the offense.
Defense - Essentially the same group from last year. Looking for Justin Faulk to really emerge as an all around defender.
Goaltender - Cam Ward has really played well over the last few seasons even though the defense hasn't been as strong as they would like it to be. Dan Ellis looks to back him up.

6. Buffalo Sabres
Forward - Could use a little more production from its stars. The addition of Steve Ott will help out in the grit factor. Mikhail Grigorenko looks to break camp with Sabres to start the season. Cody Hodgson gets his shot at being the 1st line center.
Defense - The 2nd year for Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr should help them find comfort and therefore help the Sabres. Could use a rebound year offensively from Tyler Myers.
Goaltending - Speaking of bounce back year, they could use one from Ryan Miller. Miller needs to start the season strong for the Sabres to have success. He is backed up Jhonas Enroth.

7. Philadelphia Flyers
Forward - Claude Giroux established himself as one of the top players in the game last season. Super youngsters Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier look to make bigger impacts this season. A forward group filled with big bodies that are hard to play against.
Defense - The loss of Chris Pronger really hurt this group and leaves them short on all around defensemen. Kimmo Timonen is as close as it gets. Otherwise it has, for the most part, a defensive defensman type flavor to its group.
Goaltending - Need a bounce back season from Ilya Bryzgalov. It will be interesting to see if the defense holds up enough to allow him to do so.

8. Ottawa Senators
Forward - The duo of Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson are back again for another season. The top end is decent enough but its a group that lacks depth overall.
Defense - Erik Karlsson is the straw that stirs the drink on this team. Looking for another big season from him. Addition of Mark Methot will help out defensively.
Goaltending - The inconsistant goaltending of Craig Anderson returns for another season. Times he has been great and times he has not been great. He's a goaltender that faces a lot of rubber. Ben Bishop will likely back him up.

9. Tampa Bay Lightning
Forward - Essentially its Steven Stamkos, Martin St.Louis, Vincent Lecavlier, Ryan Malone and whole bunch of forwards that don't score much. High end talent with not much in the middle or the bottom.
Defense - The Lightning desperately need Victor Hedman to emerge as the all around defender that he was projected to be. Without it, their just isn't enough to cover all the bases. They added Matt Carle and Sami Salo to the fold.

10. New Jersey Devils
Forward - The departure of Zach Parise really hurts this club as he was the leader by example. Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique return as the core of the forwards.
Defense - Not sure how they got to the cup finals with this defense. Bryce Salvador played out of his mind during that run as did Anton Volchenkov. Marek Zidlicky picks up the slack on the offensive side of the puck.
Goaltending - Battle tested veteran Martin Brodeur comes back for what might be his final hurrah. Between Brodeur and Hedberg, they are a combined 79 years old. Has to be the oldest tandem in the NHL.

11. Florida Panthers
Forward - A lot of returning players with the addition of super prospect Jonathan Huberdeau. A good blend of forward without having anything I would consider high end. Peter Mueller also joins this group.
Defense - A lot of the offense flows through defenseman Brian Campbell. Filip Kuba and Ed Jovanovski provide experience and defensive depth.
Goaltending - The returning tandem of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen should give them goaltending that will give them a chance to win, night in, night out.

12. Montreal Canadians
Forward - 2102 #3 Overall Draft pick Alex Galchenyuk will likely make his debut with the Habs. Vets such as Erik Cole, Rene Bourque, Brian Gionta will be reiled upon to create offense. A group that is still trying to find its identity.
Defense - The Habs may be starting the season without P.K. Subban who remains without contract. Without him they will rely on the oft-injured Andrei Markov to play big minutes. A D corps without a lot of physicality.
Goaltending - Carey Price is now starting to establish himself as a top flight goaltender. He figures to face a lot of pucks this season. Peter Budaj will back him up.

13. Winnipeg Jets
Forward - Forwards are a work in progress with stop gaps such as Olli Jokinen, Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponakarovsky holding down spots. Looking for more of the same from Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd.
Defense - Led by the enigmatic Dustin Byfuglien. Tobias Enstrom also creates offense. Still looking for Zach Bogosian to emerge as a legit top pairing defenseman.
Goaltending - Ondrej Pavelec looks to build upon his numbers from last season after playing a career high 68 games. Al Montoya looks to back him up.

14. New York Islanders
Forward - Another year for John Tavares to attempt to establish himself as a superstar. The supporting cast is looking to get better albeit, it is getting younger. Matt Moulsen had a career high 36 goals last season.
Defense - Not having Lubomir Visnovsky report to the club really hurts the depth. It will be up to Mark Streit and Travis Hamonic to be the cornerstones of the defense this season.
Goaltending - Evgeni Nabokov returns for a 2nd season to tend twine for the Islanders. Should give them stable goaltending.

15. Toronto Maple Leafs
Forward - Blessed on the wings but very thin at center, to the point where newcomer James Van Riemsdyk may get some looks there. Phil Kessel is the clear offensive leader of club and Joffrey Lupul looks to repeat last season's success.
Defense - Dion Phaneuf is the main man of this group, although his play is fleeting. John-Michael Liles will pitch in on the offense with Phaneuf. Jake Gardiner is dealing with injury and may not be ready for the start of the season.
Goaltending - James Reimer and Ben Scrivens will be battling for supremacy of the Leafs crease. Whomever wins figures to see a lot of rubber.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NHL Regular Season Standings Predictions 2013 Western Conference

Here are my predictions for the upcoming 2013 shortened season for the Western Conference.

Western Conference
1. Los Angelas Kings
Forward - Great blend of speed and physicality. Found a way to score goals in the playoffs when the well was dry for most of the regular season. Not deep but skilled at the top end. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown took their games to another level in the playoffs.
Defense - Nice blend of grizzled defensive defensemen and young offensive minded defensemen. Drew Doughty leads this cast that could be the strength of their team. Doughty is the only player they cannot replace.
Goaltending - Jonathan Quick emerged as a bonafide star last season. Quick should continue to post miniscule number this season.

2. St. Louis Blues
Forward - Blues already had a pretty good forwrda group but that gets enhanced by the additions of super rookies Vladmir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. David Backes and Patrik Berglund are the keys at center for the Blues.
Defense - Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk emerged as the leaders of the defense last season for the Blues which helped them ascent up the standings. Barret Jackman plays the role of the grizzled veteran.
Goaltending - Jaroslav Halak gives the stable goaltending. Brian Elliott gave them ridiculously low numbers last season if Halak falters.

3. Vancouver Canucks
Forward - The Sedins could be the best tandem in the NHL. Depth at forward may be a concern especially with the uncertainty of the availability of Ryan Kesler. Depth will be tested early on this season.
Defense - No household names but a very deep group all the same. Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa lead the group at both ends of the ice. Jason Garrison is the replacement cannon for the departed Sami Salo.
Goaltending - Essentially they have two #1s. Cory Schneider figures to get the bulk of the games while the Canucks figure out what to do with Roberto Luongo

4. Phoenix Coyotes
Forward - Big, honest, hard-working players all over their lineup. Shane Doan leads this motley crew into this season. Not overly skilled, but just finds ways to score more than they give up. Makes them very difficult to beat on most nights.
Defense - Keith Yandle and the emerging Oliver Ekman-Larsson bring the offense from the defense. They have a few solid vets to round their defensive unit.
Goaltending - Mike Smith is latest goaltender to emerge under the tutelege of the Phoenix Coyotes. It will be interesting to see if he can duplicate the season he had last year.

5. Chicago Black Hawks
Forward - High end talent on the front end but little depth throughout the forward spots. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews lead the high end group which includes Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. Trying out some rookies and sophomores on the third and fourth lines.
Defense - Duncan Keith's offense has been on steady decline bt his plus/minus returned to the stratosphere where we are accustomed to seeing it. Ditto for Brett Seabrook. Defense is a little deeper than it was last season with the addition of Michal Roszival.
Goaltending - Corey Crawford is coming off a tough season statistically. Was it the lack of depth on defense or was it Crawford?

6. Minnesota Wild
Forward - The additions of Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund give the Wild depth at forward like they have never had before. Additions of Torrey Mitchell and Zenon Konopka give them depth at the bottom end.
Defense - Ryan Suter, along with Parise were two of the bigger off season signings. Gives the Wild a legit #1 Dman. After that, not a lot of depth, so Suter will need to stay healthy.
Goaltending - The good ol' somewhat reliable tandem of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding gives them formidable goaltending. Backstrom has been consistant through the Wild lean years, while Harding has had an injury plagued career and is now recovering from MS.

7. San Jose Sharks
Forward - Another once high end team that is watching its depth being slowly eroded away. Still have a very formidable top 6 being led by Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Bottom end of the lineup has a lot of fresh faces to it.
Defense - Defense is in good shape with Brad Stuart coming back into the fold. A good blend of offensive puck-moving Dmen and rugged defensive Dmen.
Goaltending - Antti Niemi has emerged as the workhorse for the Sharks after posting 60+ games in each of the last two season with solid numbers.

8. Detroit Red Wings
Forward - Much like the Sharks, the Wings are watching their talent slowly slip away. Still have Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg as the core of the team. Last years 4th liners are moving up to the 3rd line.
Defense - It was time, but the loss of Niklas Lidstrom is something that cannot be easily overcome. Red Wings brought in Carlo Colaiacovo and will bring in Brendan Smith up from their farm club to offset the loss.
Goaltending - This is the year we will find out exactly how good Jimmy Howard is. Likely will see an inflation in the numbers due to the losses of Lidstrom and Stuart.

9. Nashville Predators
Forward - Nashville has never been particularily deep at forward. Same style as before. Hard-working, defensive conscious types fill their roster. Question is will they score enough to matter?
Defense - Managed to keep Shea Weber but lost Ryan Suter to free agency. Youngster Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis will get chance to make an impact. Will they?
Goaltending - Pekka Rinne has been one of the most consistent goaltenders over the last 4 seasons. No reason to see him having any kind of a setback.

10. Dallas Stars
Forward - Forwards are filled with aging vets in newcomers Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney. Much better depth and blend than in years past. Jamie Benn has emerged as the #1 C of the Stars.
Defense - Defense is thin and the chances of playing some unprovens is likely. Defense is far from spectacular but also far from weak.
Goaltending - Kari Lehtonen has given the Stars spectacular goaltending over the last two seasons. Will have to see how the defense holds up to see if Lehtonen's skills will matter.

11. Edmonton Oilers
Forward - Oilers have a unique blend of high octane youngsters and underachieving vets. It will be interesting to see which overcomes the other. Nail Yakupov is latest high pick to make his debut. Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle all being a year older will only help this club.
Defense - A blend of underachieving vets and players looking to emerge. If things fall into place, it will look great, if not, it could be ugly. Justin Schultz will make his NHL debut after impressing at the AHL level.
Goaltending - Devan Dubnyk figures to get the bulk of the work this season. If Dubnyk falters Nikolai Khabibulin, likely his last season, will be looked upon for veteran relief.

12. Colorado Avalanche
Forward - Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene highlight the offense. Veterans Milan Hejduk and P.A. Parenteau figure to bring in secondary scoring. Nice blend of skill and ruggedness.
Defense - Tough but not enough offense from the backend unless one of their rookies emerge. Eric Johnson figures to put up the majority of the points from the backend but he has yet to emerge consistantly.
Goaltending - Once again they will go with the tandem of Semyon Varlamov and J.S. Giguere which is middling at best.

13. Anaheim Ducks
Forward - Veterans Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne will provide the bulk of the offense. Booby Ryan will chip in as well. After that the team is not very deep. It will be interesting to see what happens if this team starts slow.
Defense - Cam Fowler will need to emerge as a legit top pairing Dman for this team to have a chance of thinking about playoffs. Rest of the D consists of past their prime defenders.
Goaltending - Jonas Hiller is an above average goaltender that won't get a chance to look the part. He figures to see a lot of rubber this season.

14. Calgary Flames
Forwards - Center structure is weak. Have solid forwards but they are all wingers. Even Mike Cammelleri, who has been a winger for most of his career, might get a chance at center. Jerome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Cammelleri and newcomer Sven Baertschi will give the team some offensive punch.
Defense - The defense is middling. Mark Giordano has emerged as a decent top pairing Dman. The world is tired of waiting for Jay Bouwmeester to emerge. Spent a lot of money on Dennis Wideman. Defending could be an issue for this team overall.
Goaltending - Like Jonas Hiller, Miikka Kiprusoff figures to see a lot of rubber this season. 7 years in a row of 70+ games. The guy is a workhorse.

15. Columbus Blue Jackets
Forward - Team is in full rebuild mode. Team is filled with youngsters and castoffs. Bulk of goals figure to come from R.J. Umberger and Derrick Brassard. No more Rick Nash but instead have Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky.
Defense - L.A. castoff Jack Johnson leads this motley group. Have a nice blend of offensive and defenisve defensmen but its largely unproven.
Goaltending - Sergei Bobrovsky comes in to push incumbant Steve Mason to see who gets the bulk of the work. It probably won't matter in the end.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My Perceived Line Combos: Oilers January 2013

Alrighty, time to fire this baby back up and get ready for another (albeit shorter) season. NHL Lockout put a damper on the spirit of hockey but hockey lives in all of us and it won't be long before we are back in the swing of things.

As for the Edmonton Oilers, renewed optimism has set in as is usually the case at any season's beginning. This Oilers club feels different with the likes of Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov joining the young guns. The excitement surely should follow. We'll have to wait and see if there will be enough wins or if the Oilers will miss the playoffs for the 7th straight year.

We'll have a look at how the Oilers might shakedown.

1st Line:
Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Nail Yakupov
- It's critical that Yakupov hits the ground running. The more comfort Yakupov feels, the more he is likely to produce. Will have to deal with the ups and downs that comes with any rookie new to the NHL, but I think this is a better idea than have him wallowing at the bottom of the lineup. This line will be a boom and bust line so its critical to make sure the bottom of the order is sorted out and roles are defined in short order. Hall will be Hall, Nuge will be Nuge, we know what to expect from those two, but we pray for no injuries on that front. Interesting combination as they are all 1st overall picks.

2nd Line:
Jordan Eberle - Sam Gagner - Ales Hemsky
- 1st line has three left handed shots, 2nd line has 3 right handed shots. Interesting dynamic, but it leads to the possibility of quick shooting plays in the offensive zone. Ales Hemsky needs a triggerman and what better player than have Eberle be that guy. Eberle is a player that can fit in up and down the lineup and still produce. Eberle just ripped apart the AHL so he should be ready to roll. Gagner will have to continue to morph his game into more of a shooter as Hemsky figures to be the player that carries the rock most of the time. The key to success might be having a 2nd line that can score consistantly. The Oilers need to find a way to win a matchup and having Eberle's experience/skill blend could be that trump card. The biggest concern is how light and how non-physical this top six is. Winning puck battles will be a concern.

3rd Line:
Ryan Smyth - Shawn Horcoff - Ryan Jones
- This line will be under the most amount of scrutiny because its a line the Oilers need to succeed the most in order to even think that playoffs are a possibility. It's a line that will be doing the heavy lifting and gettinga close look at opposing top lines. Keep it simple hockey is required here. Keep the puck moving forward and working hard in trenches, pushing the puck towards the opposing net. Essentially there role is to eat time. Kind of like having a running game in football lingo. Ryan Jones may have an eye injury that may keep him from starting the season. Lennert Petrell may have to sub in for the duration.

4th Line:
Magnus Paajarvi - Anton Lander - Ben Eager
- After years of observing, I know how the Oilers conduct their business and I have a hard time believing they will make Eric Belanger a healthy scratch. I would but I know they wouldn't. Paajarvi and Lander got left behind in OKC when the wonder kids got called up once the lockout was over, leaving me thinking they will be staying there once the season starts. I'd have them on the club because I think they are better options now and heading into the future. Todd Nelson has done a nice job of getting those two to buy into a more defensive/PK style game. Ben Eager gets to ride shotgun with these two. A chance for Eager to play with more skill, in return Eager needs to put his body on the line more for the Oilers. If Eager slips up, I wouldn't hesitate to put Hordichuk in the lineup.

Darcy Hordichuk - Eric Belanger - Lennert Petrell
- These are the extras although it could very well be that all of them could be in the starting lineup by season's start. With Jones' return up in the air and Paajarvi and Lander still in OKC, I wouldn't be surprised if all 3 were in right off the bat. I'm not sure the Oilers are any better if these three players are in the lineup.

1st Pairing:
Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry
- This is the sink or swim pair. This is the pair that I would be feeding to vultures night in and night out. Heaviest lifting and toughest matchups for these two. Might be a little soon to try Jeff Petry in thos role but he's the option on the right side and has the right frame tools to be able to handle it. The Oilers cannot handle a regression from Smid. He broke through last season as a legitimate shutdown defenseman as he led the Oilers in block shots and hits. He will continue to lead in both departments for the Oilers to have success.

2nd Pairing:
Ryan Whitney - Justin Schultz
- Whitney gets the task of looking after Justin Schultz as he breaks in the NHL. J. Schultz ate up the AHL offensively but struggled at times with the defensive side of the game. Ryan Whitney struggled last season as he was dealing with ankle issues and questions on whether his mobility will ever be the same again. It's a pairing that could end up heaviliy in the minus, or really feast on 2nd tier competition. I'm more worried about Whitney rebounding than Schultz emerging. For this to work, Whitney will have to be chomping at the bit to go. Otherwise, the Oilers may have to dip into the depths of their defense which at this stage is very thin.

3rd Pairing:
Theo Peckham - Nick Schultz
- With Andy Sutton potential on the shelf for good recouperating from knee surgery, It will leave Peckham and Nick Schultz as the 5/6 Dmen for now. The Oilers may be looking for a veteran Dman to bridge the gap in order for some of the OKC prospects to get more seasoning. I brought up the name Mike Commodore as a vet who is looking for a team. He and Schultz could make a decent bottom pairing that could do some PK work, at least until the likes of players like Colten Teubert, Taylor Fedun and Martin Marincin are ready for primetime.

Andy Sutton, Corey Potter - I expect the Oilers to make a move by bringing in a Dman.

Devan Dubnyk
- Sink or swim time for not so young anymore Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk is the player that can mask all the deficiencies of this club in one felt swoop. But there is a difference in "playing well in a win" and "having to steal games" as I think Dubnyk will fall into the latter category. If Dubnyk can survive the shortened season as the starter, he will likely be stronger for it.

Nikolai Khabibulin
- Word around the water cooler is Khabibulin dealing with a hip/leg issue. One that has him mulling retirement. I'm thinking if he can still stand, he'll likely still be around. He has one more year left on his deal. It'll be very bad Dubnyk and likely bad for the club if Khabibulin gets more starts in than Dubnyk does.

Eberle - Nugent-Hopkins - Hall
J.Schultz - Petry
- A slightly different wrinkle to the powerplay they ran last season. Eberle plays closer to net on the left side while Schultz takes up his old spot. Petry plays the point on the umbrella setup. Hall mans the lower right side of the ice. The Nuge sets up in his usual spot on the half wall on the right side. Hall and Eberle will have to dart in and out of the low slot in order to create traffic for point shots coming through and potential for picking up rebounds. A unit that requires a lot of movement.

Hemsky - Gagner - Yakupov
Whitney - Paajarvi
- Same setup as PP1 but flowing right to left instead of left to right. Hemsky sets up on the left side half wall as usual. Gagner takes up the low side left side of the unit, while Yakupov sets up on the low right side. Whitney plays the top of the umbrella and Paajarvi plays on the opposite side of Hemsky on the right side awaiting one timers. If Paajarvi doesn't make the club, then the Oilers may have to go with Smid or Nick Schultz, or......Eric Belanger like they did last season?

Smyth - Horcoff
Peckham - N.Schultz
- This is where a Mike Commodore would come in handy and he does block a lot of shots. But this will have to do. Smyth and Horcoff need to be meat and potatoes type players. Need good reads from them but also need a high battle level. Peckham and N.Schultz just need to battle and get in the way.

Paajarvi - Lander
Smid - Petry
- The Oilers need more speed on their PK and Paajarvi could be that threat that other teams have to respect. The overall unit is a bit young and may get burned a time or two but they may also get their chances. I put Smid and Petry on the 2nd unit so to not overburden them with icetime. As it is Petry may end up playing 25 minutes a night.