January 31 2013 12:42PM
Last Tuesday the Oilers played the role of the seal as the San Jose Sharks devoured them 6-1. The feeding frenzy was over in 20 minutes. The Oilers were bloodied, Devan Dubnyk was given a seat at the end of the bench and most fans numbed their pain by crushing a few extra Rexall Place heroin beers.
It was the worst first period imaginable for a home-opener, and tonight the Oilers will be looking for redemption against the undefeated, 6-0, Sharks.
Despite playing back-to-back for the first time this year, I doubt fatigue plays a factor. The Oilers are young, they are riding a two-game winning streak, and last night's game was far from high-energy. The Oilers will want to play a much better game, and with that embarrassing first period still fresh in their minds, I expect they will be ready to compete.
The Oilers need to play well to even stay in the game. The Sharks are first or second in almost every NHL category it seems:
- They are the only remaining undefeated team.
- Second in goals for with 4.67.
- Second in goals against at 1.67.
- First in PP efficiency at 35.3%.
- 2nd in F0% at 58.2%.
- NHL-best 5-0 when they score first.
- Have the top-two leading scorers, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau each with 14 points.
The Oilers are 4-2, and despite struggling to score 5-on-5, and turning over too many pucks at the offensive blueline, they've only allowed 10 ES goals.
Edmonton has played 371:53 of hockey this year. If you exclude that awful first period v. San Jose, 5.4% of their total ice time, in the remaining 94.6% of their minutes played they have allowed only nine goals. And the team's SV% is .948 and their goals against is 1.76.
When you add in those 20 minutes, their SV% drops to .919 and their goals against almost doubles to 2.50. It is amazing how one bad period can alter their defensive statistics, especially because they've only played six games.
For the majority of this season the Oilers have had great goaltending, and their defensive zone coverage has improved immensely from last season.
The key tonight is to avoid turnovers in the neutral zone or at the offensive blueline, and ensure they don't leave Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture wide open in the scoring lanes.
Shane Doan crushed Shawn Horcoff late in the 3rd period last night. It happened after the whistle and it was from behind. Horcoff stayed down for a minute, but then skated off with the trainer at his side. He stayed on the bench, but didn't take another shift. He likely won't dress, and that will be a big hole to fill.
Anton Lander has been recalled and he will dress, but to make room for him Magnus Paajarvi has been sent to OKC. Lander will likely play between Hartikainen and Hordichuk, with Belanger between Smyth and Petrell. Petrell blocked a shot late in the game and is a game-time decision, so if he can't go the Oilers will dress seven D-men.
Corey Potter struggled last night, and while he wasn't the only one, he doesn't have the luxury of the forwards, who don't have anyone currently pushing them for icetime. When Krueger re-inserted Potter into the lineup he said, "I don't want guys sitting out too long. Corey coming in is not a reflection of how Mark played." If that was the real reason, then I'd assume he'll do the same with Fistric and put him in tonight.
The Sharks have the 2nd biggest forward group in the NHL, so Krueger should want a more physical D-man in as well.
I'd stick with the hot goalie. Dubnyk was great again last night, and you know he'd love some redemption against the Sharks.
- I feel sorry for the diehard Phoenix fans, but it is obvious that team will never flourish or break even. Jamison doesn't have any money, and he is now out as the potential new owner. The NHL should just cut their losses. They have a 10-year TV deal signed, so I don't see how relocating would impact their TV numbers.
- I'm not surprised by Dubnyk's play. I felt he took a big step in the 2nd half of last season. The key for him now is to remain consistent. If the does, the Oilers chances of being in the playoff hunt in late March increase drastically.
- My Nationdraft just went down the drain. Jason Spezza is having back surgery and will be out close to two months. Good luck to everyone else. &*(*$%!!!!
GAME DAY PREDICTION: After last night's boring game v. Phoenix the Sharks and Oilers will put on a dazzling display of up-tempo hockey. It will be more enjoyable to watch, but the Oilers will lose 4-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Marleau and Thornton combine for four points, but Hall and Eberle match that with four of their own. It will be the most exciting game thus far.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Early in the second period Sam Gagner and Scott Gomez exchange slashes in front of the net. Words are exchanged and Gomez shocks everyone by shedding his mitts for his first regular season fight since February of 2000. (Gomez fought Tom Poti in 2010 playoffs). Gagner is pumped to be fighting a guy smaller than him, and he gives Gomez the business. After the game, Gagner tweets to Ryan Whitney, "I wonder if Gomez prefers ice cream sandwiches or a right from Samwise."
If you don't get the icecream sandwich joke check out Gagner and Whitney's twitter timelines from last night..