Friday, November 4, 2016

Great starts often cool

Wow, that was a hell of a start.  Haven't seen that since .... 1986!   Flashes of Gretzky+Kurri started happening and then at the Heritage Classic we saw them play together again with Smytty and Messier and Anderson and Semenko and Roloson and Cujo and MacDonald and Huddy and it was oh so glorious.

Before I continue let me give props to Matti Hagman--still one of the best Finns the Oilers have ever had and blessings to his family on his passing.  I'll never forget how really good you were.

During the hype and hoopla of the new arena, McDavid killing Calgary, Talbot standing on his head, his wife having twins, Adam Larsson proving himself quite worthy, and Kris Russel showing he's got (wait... we'll see), I was very concerned about the team PDO% (goalie save % + team shooting %) being at 106%.  The Habs were at 107%.  That had to come down naturally at some point. (100% is the norm and average.)

During the win streak, they were shooting the lights out and Talbot was crazy good.  And McLellan knew it wouldn't last, so he began emphasizing shooting... which for all you CorsiLovers and LA Kings fans is like the best thing ever.

So what do the players do?  They shoot from everywhere.  They, how did Eberle put it a year and a half ago after Eakins was let go, "Shooting for the sake of shooting."

After that win streak and three losses in a row, the Oilers PDO is down 4 points now to   0.922 + 0.101 = 1.020.

A big culprit in that has been the powerplay.  We'd have beat Ottawa, the Leafs, and Rangers if the PP was better.  It's been the absolute shits.  I just don't understand Woodcroft's plays.  I don't mind the drop pass to charge the blue line and gain it, but after that, like WTF?

A big part of that are the defensemen bringing up the puck and I'm sorry to say but Nurse and Russell are better than Klefbom and Sekera.  And Lucic needs to plop himself in front of the net, cause havoc a la Ryan Smyth (who I am meeting on Thursday at his new Bar94 in Lux... eeeee!).

Anyway, here's how I'd deploy the PP units:

PP Unit #1
[ n e t ]

Puljujarvi -- Lucic -- McDavid


Or switch Nuge and McDavid.

PP Unit #2
[ n e t ]

Eberle -- Maroon -- Pouliot or Pitlick


Then the key here is to pass and attack the net to look for a give and go and to pull defenders in.  We used to do this and it worked often. There was so much movement happening, but the key was to ensure we still covered the points.

Pool Party
On Puljujarvi, I am surprised he wasn't sent down after 10 games.  I thought the organization had learned from the past about player development.  Perhaps singing Versteeg was to fill that hole, then trading Yakupov really opened it up and the #4 draft pick is here to stay.  He needs to stay on the 3rd line though.

4th Line is Tops
The 4th line will be the difference-maker in a lot of games as they have.  Lander is playing right where he should. Letestu plays better than a 4th liner but it's a 3rd liner, and
And whoever doesn't think Tyler Pitlick should stick should take a stick and shove it.  "He's like a dog after a bone." -- Dave Lumley on 630CHED.

Oilers now sit 7-3-1 and are tied for first in the West.  They need to plug up their defensive positioning (as always) and they could beat the Islanders, Pittsburgh, and Detroit, but I get the feeling they'll only win 1 of 3 and go 8-6-1 after this road trip, which would be a fail and not living up to the hype that the start of the season provided, but more of the reality that many of us would expect--a team that perhaps squeaks into the playoff picture.

For that, they will need to be better than 8 wins in 15 games (.533).  Hopefully, a weak division can keep them in the top 3.

Go Oilers!

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