I looked up toward they sky. I couldn't believe my eyes! Right in front of me was a Flying Fridge! And then an angel from heaven asked me, "What do you see?" What could I say? I told him, "I see a flying fridge, over six feet tall and almost as wide." And then the angel said, "This Fridge is a sign for you. You have read the number twenty-seven on its back and this is the meaning of the number: your team will win exactly twenty-seven games. But do not despair, for this season will root out evil and faithlessness. I have sent this Fridge into the dressing room. Through its eyes and ears I will pay attention and those who have lost faith and no longer believe that they are a part of Yahweh's chosen team will be banished forever."
St. Louis Blues (23-22-8) @ Edmonton Oilers (16-29-6)
Rexall Place, 7:30 P.M. MST
Television: Sportsnet West
More analysis after the jump...
Visiting Team Scouting Report: On January 2nd the St. Louis Blues fired head coach Andy Murray for failing to meet the expectations created by a huge stretch run at the end of last season. Since changing from Murray to Davis Payne the Blues have posted a 6-5-2 record and have a goal differential (no SO goals included) of +1 (+34 -33) compared to a record of 17-17-6 and a goal differential of -11 (+101 -112) before the change. So it seems that the results are at least a little bit better. In terms of outshooting, the results have actually been a little bit worse. Under Murray the Blues were outshot 924-900 at EV but managed to "outCorsi" their opponents 1692-1663. Under Payne the Blues have been outshot 297-275 and have been outCorsied 570-530. Nonetheless, their results at EV have improved significantly because of the percentages. The Murray Blues had a PDO number of 99.5 (and an EV goal differential of -7) while the Payne Blues have had a PDO number of 102.0 (and an EV goal differential of +4). Now, my opinion is that the percentages are mostly luck and that the Blues can't bank on them. Even if they could, they aren't a particularly good team at EV. On top of that, the power play continues to struggle (26th overall in the NHL) and the penalty killing continues to do well (5th in the NHL) but this team just doesn't look like it has the chops to be a really good club this year. And the coaching change hasn't fixed it. This is one team that should probably be selling at the deadline.
Expected Starting Lineups:
St. Louis Blues (23-22-8):
Perron - Tkachuk - MacDonald
Kariya - Oshie - Backes
Steen - McClement - Boyes
Winchester - Berglund - Crombeen
Brewer - Johnson
Jackman - Polak
Weaver - Sydor
Edmonton Oilers (16-29-6):
Penner - Gagner - Nilsson
Moreau - Horcoff - Pisani
Comrie - Potulny - Brule
Jacques - Pouliot - Cogliano
Souray - Gilbert
Grebeshkov - Visnovsky
Strudwick - Chorney
Behind The Numbers:
- Worst Oiler teams ever leaderboard: The "Ryan Smyth Deathmarch" Oilers: 2-16-1 with an 11 game winless streak. The current "AHL Goaltending" Oilers: 1-16-2 with an 11 game winless streak. The "Shame Corson" Oilers: 1-18-3 with a 14-game winless streak. Four straight losses puts a stamp on this season: Blues, Flames, Canes, Flyers. I believe!
- The Blues have five defenders with 30 or more games played that have a +/- of +1 or better. Among the forwards, there's only one (Brad Winchester). I find that downright odd.
- The Oilers really aren't this bad. Through this 19 game freefall the Oilers have an on-ice shooting percentage of 5.0% at EV and an on-ice save percentage of .894. We can expect at least one of those two numbers to get better and, as bad as J4D has been, that .894 number probably should be a baseline for the next ten or twenty games. Dustin Penner is like a microcosm of this problem. He's scored three goals and four assists for a total of seven points over this stretch which is pretty terrible for your main offensive weapon. The team's shooting percentage with Penner on the ice? 3.6% (and the goalies are just awful, with a save percentage of .858). His line is actually massively outshooting their opponents at EV (166-113) but they've been outscored 16-6. So... I don't really think he's doing too much differently from the start of the season. And I kind of doubt there would be a whole bunch of moaning about him looking "more like last year" if the percentages were even halfway reasonable for him over this stretch.
- The Oilers have outshot their opponents 17 times this season. St. Louis has done it 22 times. Believe it or not, three teams in the NHL have been worse than the Oilers: the Atlanta Thrashers (16 times), the Colorado Avalanche (13 times) and the Florida Panthers (12 times). At this point, it might be time to declare the Avalanche the most successful team ever to be outshot by more than 5.0 shots per game (they're actually at -5.7 per game).
- The Blues are playing their second game in two nights. They played last night in Vancouver. One would think this is an advantage, but the last five times opponents have made the trip from Vancouver to Edmonton for a back-to-back - all during this 19 game slide - the Oilers have lost, being outscored by a combined total of 23-12.