Last night, while chatting away on Twitter, I mentioned that the Oilers winning that game would be like an early 90s Blue Jays victory where Dave Winfield hit a game winning grand slam when the Jays were down 3 runs. I mistakenly said that game ended 5-4, but it was actually a May 7th 1992 8-7 victory over the Mariners. I remember watching that game live on TV, not believing what my eyes had just seen. I had a similar feeling last night, watching the Oilers hustle back from a 4-1 deficit. Of course, the Blue Jays built on that victory through the summer, until they won their first World Series that year. I’ll just be happy if the Oilers can score more than 4 goals this season.
This is the first game all year where the Oilers had more shot attempts than their opposition. The very first game against the Canucks was a tie, and since then the Oil had been below par between -2 and -19 (twice). Well, they blew the doors off this one, until they ended up by TWENTY-FIVE shot attempts versus the Avalanche. Their first period was one of the most one-sided I’ve seen since G6 SCF 2006, directing 32 shot attempts at the Avs goal while only allowing 18 on their own (where, cough cough, 3 of them went in the net). They had a middling second period at evens, but then took over again in the third, demolishing the Avs 22-13 while scoring their way to a 6-4 victory. I’d have to check further, but the ratio of 46 shots on net at evens to only 8 misses must be the best ratio this year by a country mile.
From a fan’s perspective, this is the most beautiful shot chart I can possibly imagine. Not one Oiler was in negative figures in this game, with Yakupov’s even showing the team’s worst. RNH and Eberle’s +15 are the team’s best this year (Hall and Eberle had previously posted +11 games this year), but there were also huge showings here by Smid +13, Hall +12, and Justin Schultz’ +10.
In terms of Corsi per minute ranking, RNH had a team best 0.96, meaning every minute he was on the ice at even strength, the Oilers directed net 1 more shot at the Avs goal than they directed at his. That’s just an unbelievable number for an Oilers this year. Eberle wasn’t far behind, at 0.90. Smid, Hall, and JSchultz rounded out the top five in that respect.
Besides Yakupov’s par showing, Gagner and Hemsky had troublesome shot numbers in this one, ranked at 14th and 15th out of 18 skaters respectively. Overall their nights were positive, with multi-point games, but their even strength effectiveness isn’t quite where it could be. If they get that figured out, the Oilers possession game will be scary good.
Personal favourite number? Paajarvi’s team 6th best Corsi per minute at 0.62. Guy was going to be a healthy scratch in place of a CGI character reject from Men in Black. Oilers, God is telling you something here about playing this man.
This player vs player shot chart has more green on it than a child’s wide-angle crayon depiction of a forest. There’s a lot to look at here, but just look at the row beside Ladi Smi’d name — he didn’t end up in the red against anyone on the Avs roster. I don’t think anyone on the team has pulled that feat this year. Oh, and hey, look, Nick Schultz and Teemu Hartikainen pulled the same feat (though Harski left this one early). Well done.
The first line of Hall, RNH, and Eberle have delicious lines as well, with a ton of deep green cells against some of the Avs ‘best’ players. I especially love their undressing of Matt Duchene’s line, where RNH ended up +17 against him. I’m not sure if the Oilers were matching lines or if the Avs were, but they might want to try to get Duchene away from that matchup while he’s in the middle of getting drawn and quartered.
My favourite sequence of this game was by far Nikolai Khabibulin’s absolutely ridiculous 4-save sequence late in the third to preserve the 4-4 tie. Yes, there’s a lot of luck involved, but hell if that wasn’t the most Hasek-ian an Oilers goalie has looked since CuJo in a 10 second sequence. You can pick apart his last 4 years, but I’m not sure another goalie playing today could match those 10 seconds. Good on him. I said on Twitter it reminded me of those all-star skill drills where there’s 10 pucks lined up from the ringette line that a player fires in rapid succession. I remember one particular sequence in the late 90s when Brodeur was just stoning Jagr while moving side to side. This sequence reminded me of that. Hockey is a beautiful game, if you just stop to watch the artistry sometimes.
I hope the Oilers can continue to capitalize on their chances in subsequent games. It’s been frustrating to watch them miss some amazing chances and setups so far this year. They were due a huge bounceback from the terrible percentages they’ve been sustaining this year, with more of those shots finding twine. Is this the start of a regression back towards the mean? Count me in. If not, I still have scotch, right?