Peter Chiarelli’s list (the one we discussed in the summer) got its first chance to impress last night in St. Louis. Let’s have a look.
CHIARELLI’S LIST OF THINGS TO DO
- Draft McDavid and sign him He had a 44% possession number (70%ZS) at evens last night. Two shots on goal, -1, for me that third period chance on the PP is the adrenalin spike. Most players jam that puppy into the goalie and it’s over, he did the wrap and damn near scored. Recognized the pass long before it happened, got into position. He doesn’t have a shot that will beat the goalie yet. Some chatter about moving Hall to another line, I’ll trust McLellan on the matter. Both men are tremendous talents, they’ll find a way with or without.
- Find a quality goalie option (Cam Talbot). .933 SP (28 of 30) and he was very good to my eye. I liked his calmness even though I was in full panic mode from the two previous opening nights (I actually watched on PVR but the sphincter gauge was on low the entire time). Long way to go, but no vomiting because of the goaler. The dog sat contentedly beside me after two years of hiding in the fetal position and trembling.
- Acquire a legit top pairing blue (Andrej Sekera) He had a 48% possession number (57% ZS) and moved the puck well most of the time. I liked his coverage for the most part but he has a slow partner and that’s going to impact. I didn’t count but would bet a lot of money Sekera led the team in tape-to-tape outlet passes to breaking forwards.
- Sign a two-way F (Lauri Korpikoski) He was 50% in possession (50% ZS) and had good and bad moments to my eye. Using him on the Lander line (for me) turns the group into a checking unit. They lose the advantage of having a third line who can impact the game in a real way offensively. Too bad, because they have the players to make it so. The player himself was good enough in the ‘veteran mentor’ checking line role.
- Ignore MacT re: Marincin (Or trade Marincin for real value) (Eric Gryba) He was exactly as advertised—solid defensively and no help at all in the other end. Gryabe went 55% Corsi for 5×5 and got it with a 70% ZS. I’m not sure of the wisdom in giving him a 70% ZS.
- Veteran two-way center (Mark Letestu) Went 67% in possession (60 ZS) but again this is the checking line—not really sure about the wisdom in giving him that kind of ZS.
OILERS BLUE BY THE NUMBERS
Here we have my first real issue with Todd McLellan. I don’t know if this is luck of the draw, but he’s using Schultz in the least effective way possible (tough ZS’s) and exposing his soft underbelly. I know Klefbom-Schultz went over 50% Corsi 5×5 last season, but they enjoyed an enormous zone-start push. Either of the other pairings would have been better in my opinion. I didn’t notice many good tape to tape passes from the pairing—that would be a good reason to have them doing the ZS dirty work—and I saw Schultz bad in the passing department last night at least two times. The tandem was also responsible for going swimming on the winning goal.
If I had to pick a ‘best D’ on what surely will be a night exceeded many times, I’ll go with young Reinhart. I can find some errors or timidity in his game early, but he settled in later. At one point he played up (don’t know if it was planned or he went walkabout) but he looked solid and finally started hitting people and delaying their progress.
OILERS WINGERS BY THE NUMBERS
Huh. Something’s funny here, all over. At the top (sorted by Corsi for % 5×5, this is via hockeystats.ca) and we see the power of St. Louis when the Backes and Stastny lines are out. Completely different equation and the McDavid and Nuge lines saw the tougher units (as one would expect). Gazdic was impressive enough to get some shifts with Pouliot and Nuge as the game wore on (Teddy Purcell looked slow to my eye) and Nail Yakupov was splendid on a night where his line saw some of the Stastny trio (and stout blue) as well.
The only winger from the top two lines who posted over 50%? The kid Slepy and he was dropped from the McDavid line before saving his night with a nice third-period push (back on that line). I’m going to suggest the takeaway for the top two lines from tonight is that St. Louis is a better hockey team. Oilers didn’t win many faceoffs, they weren’t making a strong headman pass to these lines, and the results were predictable.
If Todd McLellan chooses to move Hall off McDavid’s line, fine. I don’t think he needs to do it based on last night. There was frustration on that line, but that’s not a bad thing. Miles to go.
A note about Nail: I’m disappointed in the 10 minutes. Todd McLellan is a veteran coach who had TWO struggling RW’s for a stretch last night and didn’t give Yak a push. That’s an oversight for a coach who is known for in-game management and shuffling.
OILERS CENTERS BY THE NUMBERS
Nugent-Hopkins couldn’t get back in time on the winning goal (I’ll blame the pairing but Nuge was also in photo) but he skated miles and I’m satisfied with his effort (his wingers are another matter). McDavid got some looks but wasn’t effective at evens (70%ZS people) and we can chalk that up to an effective and veteran team. Wildly disappointed in the handling of Letestu and his line, you’re not going to get offense from that group.
I didn’t notice Lander in my quick look through the game, and here’s why: He was playing the Gordon role last night. Bring back Leon, put him on the line with Yak and use the Letestu line for the chores. Come on, Todd McLellan! Risk a little, wouldya????? Bruce McCurdy did a nice summary of each player as always, it is here.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy show! Lots to get to and of course we’ll be knee deep in Oilers chatter with some open segments. Scheduled to appear:
- Steve Lansky, Big Mouth Sports. Blue Jays need a win today.
- Antony Bent, FC Edmonton. Eddies need a win and of course it’s the Cosmos—on the road! Plus there’s a new man in Liverpool and Bent will have a take.
- Travis Yost, TSN. Two nights into the NHL season, Yost and I will figure out a way to make a trade between the Oilers and Sens.
- Jeff Krushell, Krush Performance. Blue Jays, plus the atmosphere around the postseason and how every play gets magnified. Also, concussion protocol and its importance.
- Paul Almeida, SSE. A review of last night’s game and an assessment of Talbot by the toughest marker I know.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. We roll in 90! (Cheesy I know, but damned if I can think of anything else).