The Oilers return home to play the Phoenix Coyotes tonight. The Oilers have won 5 out of their last 7 games and hope to continue momentum as they start a 5 game road trip tonight. The problem is that home cooking has not been friendly to the Oilers. This season they have won 3 games at home, last year they had a grand total of 9 wins at home.
If the Oilers want to start climbing the standings they must stop laying out the welcome mat for visiting teams and make Rexall Place, or in 2016 Rogers Place, a difficult place to play. This home stand would be a good place to start.
News and Notes:
Ilya Bryzgalov has an upper body injury. This injury is obviously a concussion but the Oilers haven’t been forthcoming in how long he is expected to be out. Jason LaBarbera has been called up in the interim. Corey Potter was assigned to Oklahoma yesterday.
Boyd Gordon missed the 3-2 shoot-out win against the Dallas Stars and is doubtful for tonight. Philip Larsen skated yesterday for the first time since his injury and is inching closer to a return.
Today it was announced that “Rogers Place” will be the name of the new Edmonton arena expected to be ready for the 2016 season. Northlands Coliseum, Skyreach Centre, Rexall Place have been the previous names of the current arena. Frankly I could really care less what the arena is named or what company buys the naming rights
Taylor Hall and 1st Line Production
I have to admit that I get a kick out of listening to various callers on radio shows, or tweets on twitter, wondering when Taylor Hall will sit out a game because he gives the puck away too much. Hockey is all about producing more than you give up. Hall has played 21 games this season and has 19 points for .090 points per game percentage. If he had played every game this season he would be in the top 20 in NHL scoring. In his career he has 164 points in 192 games. These are excellent totals. Players as offensively talented as Taylor Hall tend to handle the puck more. When a player has the puck more they will have more giveaways. Hall has the best point per game production of anyone on the Oilers team. He is not going to sit any time soon and frankly it is laughable to suggest that he should.
I have also heard criticism about the first line production. Eberle is 34th in the NHL in points and producing .82 points per game. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is 50th in the NHL in points and producing at a .81 points per game pace. 1st line production has not been the problem
So What Is The Problem?
The Oilers have two major problems. One is keeping the puck out of the net. The Oilers are 28th in goals against. Everything in hockey is related; when you have trouble in your own zone if effects offensive production. The Oilers get hemmed in their zone far too often. Obviously when a team is in their own zone, they are not creating offence. The Oilers have the talent to be a top 10 scoring team, but until they solve their defensive problems, they will continue to struggle
There is really no easy solution to the problem. The Oilers could use a top defender, a player like Shea Weber. So could a lot of teams. Those defenders are almost impossible to trade for. The Oilers must continually improve their d-zone coverage and work hard in their own zone to move the puck. They have improved from the beginning of the season but they have a long way to go.
The Oilers have played much better lately. The need to continue that trend at home to capitalize on the momentum their recent success has given them. Having an excellent home stand is imperative. It starts tonight.