Monday, January 28, 2013

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

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