But this game can’t be about revenge or making sure Manning finishes with fewer teeth than he started. That would be fine, but the Oilers are trying to re-establish their game after a bumpy return from the bye-week. It didn’t go great in the first 4 periods back, but from the 2nd period against the Coyotes onwards they were back to looking dangerous.
One of the things I’ve been interested in all season (to my detriment) has been the relationship that Kris Russell has had with the team’s ability to carry play 5v5. It wont be the 1st, nor will it be the last time, that I look into the impact that the player has on the Oilers. It’s because there is an incredibly disproportionate amount of praise being heaped on a player that seemingly causes such terrible things to happen on the ice.
There are some basic, basic truths about the Oilers and when Kris Russell is on ice that the Pro-Russell camp cannot weasel out of. I’ll just lay them out here.
-The Oilers are 14th ranked in CF% as a whole at 50.87%
-When Russell is on the ice that drops to 45.88% which would be the equivalent of 29th place
-When Russell is off the ice the Oilers jump to 52.9% which is the equivalent of 3rd in the NHL
-Russell’s most common Forward linemate is Connor McDavid
-Russell has a Goals For percentage of exactly 50%
-Without McDavid that plummets to 41.9%
-Russell has exactly 0 points with McDavid not on the ice
So, we have a problem with the fact that so long as Kris Russell is not playing, the Oilers control play to a significantly better degree. The argument that Russell faces tough opposition is really negated by the fact that Klefbom and Larsson see similar opposition and that Russell has played a lot of time with McDavid. Edmonton, without Russell, is a top 3 club in terms of puck possession. The swings between what they accomplish with him on and off the ice are massive.
He has been missing time to injury and even during losses the Oilers have outshot opponents 5v5. There is, thankfully, growing talk that Russell is pricing himself out of a job in Edmonton. The results speak for themselves. The Oilers would be best suited letting this current lineup play out a bit longer to see what it can do. All indications are that the team is better – on the ice – without Russell.
Let’s assume it’s the same as it was on Tuesday.
Maroon McDavid Eberle
Lucic Draisaitl Slepyshev
Caggiula RNH Kassian
Hendricks Letestu Pakarinen
OILERS KEYS TO THE GAME
1) Claude, Where’d You Go? Claude Giroux has 12 points 5v5 this year. For reference, that’s one less than Mark Letestu has. His Points per 60 minutes has fallen off the earth to 0.89 P/60. That’s Colton Sceviour/Matt Puempel territory. I don’t know what has happened to the Flyer’s top offensive leader but at even strength he has been a non-factor this year. Especially given the minutes he plays. Edmonton cant forget about him, but they are getting a huge boost by staying out of the box. His points per 60 jumps to the top of the pile on the man-advantage. Neutralize Giroux by playing a smart game.
2) Come On, Looch. Milan Lucic’s struggles were the subject of the last game day blog and have since been recognized more. This season is either a blip on the radar or a canary in the coal mine. I hope to god it’s just a weird season where too much expectation met with a player in a new environment and everything went to hell. The power forward has been invisible for a while and he doesn’t have to be. He needs to be a force and with Brandon Manning skating around chirping the best player on the club there is at least one reason to play angry. Lucic has 2 modes: “Also Present” and “Oh God He’s Going To Kill Me”. Playoffs are on the horizon. It’s time to see more OGHGTKM.
3) Confidence. Whatever it is that McLellan told the team in the 1st intermission against the Yotes worked. They came out, went to the greasy areas, and scored goals. This team desperately needed to score in a big bunch like that. The Power Play and the PK needed to perform. And, yes, it happened against one of the worst teams in the NHL. Now they have a chance to test their confidence out against a better opponent. The Flyers are just outside the Playoff bubble, but they are a -23 goal differential on the season. This is a better team, not a good team. Eberle desperately needs a goal tonight. His hands are dead right now but chances were coming.
Puck drops tonight at 7PM Mountain Time on Sportsnet West. Game On!