featured image courtesy of Meg (@loveandhydrogen)
The Oilers are back in action tonight in Raleigh, as they take on the Carolina Hurricanes. With only 10 games remaining, the Oilers are hoping to end the season with some of those moral victories they were so good at in years past.
Since the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals, the Hurricanes have only made the playoffs once (2009) and are not faring much better than the Oilers this season. Just weeks after firing their GM, the Hurricanes are searching for someone who will do the job for a ‘paltry’ $400K. If what they’re looking for is someone to say yes to whatever the owner wants, I’ll do the job for half that.
Keys to the Game
- Score first. Score often. Keep the puck with Connor or Leon because there’s not much else to hope for.
- Stay out of the box and try not to force the Carolina to take penalties either. The penalty kill is still real bad, and the power play isn’t much better.
- Force the Oilers to take penalties. It’s a strategy that has worked for most other teams in the league this season.
- Honestly, keep the Oilers to the perimeter. They can’t seem to get too many pucks through from the outside, so it’s easy to defend.
Players to Watch
- Again, keep an eye on Ty Rattie. He’s got 3 points (2 goals) in 2 games, and has been a spark in some otherwise lacklustre efforts. Sure, it’s only been 2 games but he’s scored more goals in two games than some other players have scored in 40.
- Both Jeff Skinner and Jordan Staal are Oiler killers, so look for both of them to score on Cam Talbot. Possibly off an Oiler defenceman’s outstretched stick.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Ty Rattie
Drake Caggiula – Leon Draisaitl – Pontus Aberg
Milan Lucic – Ryan Strome – Jesse Puljujarvi
Anton Slepyshev – Jujhar Khaira – Iiro Pakarinen
Darnell Nurse – Adam Larsson
Kris Russell – Ethan Bear
Yohann Auvitu – Matt Benning
Sebastian Aho – Jordan Staal – Teuvo Teravainen
Brock McGinn – Elias Lindholm – Justin Williams
Jeff Skinner – Derek Ryan – Lee Stempniak
Valentin Zykov – Victor Rask – Phil Di Giuseppe
Jaccob Slavin – Brett Pesce
Klas Dahlbeck – Justin Faulk
Haydn Fleury – Trevor van Riemsdyk
Hockey culture is such that superstars are appreciated solely for their on-ice abilities but are expected to speak in vagaries and cliches when it comes to their performance. It’s rare that a player will talk about his great game on its own without making reference to how that goal/assist/point/shot block was for the team.
Thanks (but not really) to Tyler (@wunderbar) for alerting me to today’s Oilers Now, where Stauffer and Spector talked about how the Oilers team culture is the reason they aren’t performing this year, despite saying that the new crop of ‘kids’ is poised to lead. They talked at length about the leadership that Milan Lucic showed last season (but is somehow inexplicably not displaying this year), and then of course menioned the absence of Matt Hendricks (!) as THE THING the team is noticing the most.
Here’s my take: If the Oilers were winning, there would be no talk of culture. There would be no discussion about players being ‘bad in the room’ because the scoreboard would speak for itself. Instead, the team that had virtually no major injury issues last season has shown that luck does, eventually, run out. Playing Cam Talbot in 900 games last years seems to have backfired a bit, and there’s an absence of secondary scoring that wouldn’t exist had there not been some specific offseason moves.
If there’s a culture problem within the Oilers organization, it isn’t inside the locker room. It starts at the top.