In what will likely not be commemorated on LaserDiscs sent to the outer solar system in case of extra terrestrial contact, the Oilers lost 3-1 to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night in a fashion that can only be described as “the opposite of entertainment”. I’m not one to nod along to any talking head on TV, but I could get on board with Spector’s idea to contract the Wild out of the league. They could have Bobby Orr passing to Phil Esposito on this team and they’d still be next to unwatchable. Systems! Structure! Boredom! They’re masters of all three.
For the 15th time in 16 games, the Oilers lost the shot attempt battle, this time falling by a relatively slim margin of 50 to 53. While -3 is better than the -31 they posted against the Kings, this was a game they were winning the possession battle in until a comically bad start to the 3rd period tilted things in the wrong direction. Usually teams start to pour it on after getting down by a goal, but the Oilers spent much of the third looking like they were waiting for their moms to make them breakfast.
Surprise, surprise, Hall and Eberle lead team in shot attempts, with Eberle at +10 and Hall at +9, good for first and second in Corsi per minute. The best defencemen on the night were Nick and Justin Schultz, ending 4th and 6th respectively in Corsi / minute.
Have a look at the curious nights by the men who started on the 2nd line. Gagner and Hemsky ended the night tied for a team worst -12. This is, of course, now the 9th time in 16 games Gagner has ended in the bottom 3 skaters for Corsi. But the young Russian who started on their wing somehow ended the night +4, for the 3rd best Corsi rate on the team. At some point it seems like Hartikainen was slotted onto the second line whereafter the entire trio got scalped at even strength.
Petry also had a rough night, ending up 15th for Corsi/min, while new guy Theo Peckham ended up 14th.
Who had (another) good night? Magnus Paajarvi, again in the positives at +1. Who’s taking bets on who gets sent to the farm once Jones can play?
The shot chart vs the Wild looks like it has almost equal parts green and red. The RNH line was absolutely owning the Parise line at even strength, with Hall ending up +10 against him. In fact, Hall ended up no worse than -1 against any Wild player.
It looks like one of these teams really wanted Kyle Brodziak’s line to play against the Gagner line, because Sam ended the night -12 against him. This was also the only line that gave the Schultz pairing any real difficulty. Clutterbuck also was having a whale of a game vs the Oilers, ending up against every single player except Hall (who played him to a draw). Good thing they took him out, that’s some smart coaching!
Also, it seems like a good idea to keep Smytty away from the other team’s best players, as he got ripped apart by the Wild’s top line with Parise. You can, however, play Smytty against monkey spunk samples like Nate Prosser or Clayton Stoner.
It seems funny that Krueger tried to switch up the second line to put Harsi in Yak’s place, even though their results with Nail weren’t really all that bad, in fact they were both positive with him. When Harski tagged in, things hit the skids and never got better.
The RNH line’s favourite D-pairing was Petry/Smid, though they pulled most anyone they played with into the green. For the second game since I’ve been paying attention, that same pairing performed terribly with the Gagner line (though not one defencemen actually ended up in the green with either Gagner or Hemsky). Petry also played very poorly with the Belanger line, though curiously the Schultz pairing had another strong game with them (Justin Schultz was +5 while on the ice with Smytty, for instance).
This was the kind of game that a better team would simply win. A close shot clock, at home, about to embark on a 9 game road trip, with any hint of keeping up with the playoff pace on the line. It was the kind of game where the RNH line may have won the possession battle handily, but they never really flirted with scoring goals while allowing one on their own net. Sure, the were able to get themselves into scoring position, but either muffed their chances or stickhandled their way out of it. RNH in particular had 2 or 3 fantastic scoring chances in the first that a true NHL star player must be able to count as goals. I’m watching a lot of games in the Eastern Conference this year and it seems like 5 minutes doesn’t go by without a goal being well executed. The Oilers top line really gives no indication that they are capable of executing much of anything well beyond cycling in the offensive zone at even strength. It’s just not good enough.
And this second line has gone beyond point critical. We can’t just smash some emergency glass and find the good 2nd line — it’s just simply not there. Without any major personnel moves, Krueger probably had the right idea in drastically changing the line combinations to see what can come out of it. With Hall likely gone for a few games for doing the entire league a favour, trying new line combinations will now be out of necessity and not by choice.
Dubnyk is letting in semi-softies again. None of the goals against made my eyes bleed, but you can say that a starting goalie in the NHL should be able to stop at least one and probably two of them more often than not. There’s a lot of luck involved with goaltending, but Dubnyk didn’t give his team a chance to win.