In a game that I should have found any excuse not to watch, the Oilers fell to the Minnesota Wild 4-2 on Sunday night. I’m not sure the Oilers would have won this game if the Wild had dressed a mannequin in net. There is no doubt the team missed Taylor Hall a great deal, but the stories tonight were up and down all over the roster. With the team down by only 3-2 late in the third, Jeff Petry took a goaltender interference penalty that I will politely describe as back-breaking, foolish, and totally unnecessary that lead to the 4-2 goal that tucked this one into bed.
Hey, the Oilers finally won a period for the first time in this 4 game road trip, winning 19-14 in the third. Too bad for them, I guess, that the Wild had built up such an advantage over the first two periods to end this game up 50-42 in Corsi events at even strength, including an 18-6 margin in the 2nd. The Oilers only got 50% of their shots on net, while the Wild got 74% of their shots on net, a continuing trend that seems to becoming a thing.
The game story here is the 4th line, who comprised a sinkhole of return of the jedi-like proportions tonight. Eager, VandeVelde, and Petrell were by far the worst skaters in Corsi per minute, finishing last, 2nd last, and 3rd last. Ben Eager was on the ice for 1 shot attempt for and 13 against. He was a -12 on the night in only 7:29 of ice time, for a rate of -1.60 per minute. When Ben Eager was off the ice, the Oilers actually won the Corsi battle tonight 41-37. This 4th line has been a train wreck for weeks and nothing has been done to rectify it, either in terms of personnel (couldn’t the Oilers have signed a veteran C when Horcoff went down?), or in terms of coach selection (Paajarvi would have helped a bit in that role the last two games instead of sitting in the press box).
Speaking of Paajarvi, his quick audition on the first line filling in for Taylor Hall went about as well as could be expected. He finished the night 5th in Corsi per minute at +0.35. His linemate Jordan Eberle had a fantastic night in terms of possession, leading the team with a +10, and 0.66 Corsi/minute — he was relied upon heavily in Hall’s absence and answered the bell as best he could. Sam Gagner also looked pretty good on this line and ended the night +6, just barely nipping Paajarvi for 4th place in Corsi / minute.
Hey check it out everyone, there’s the Ryan Whitney we know and love! He was outshot 8-17 at evens, good for 14th on the team and just behind his partner Theo Peckham in the race for worst Corsi rate by a defenceman. The tentative decision making was back, along with the stilted execution. Sometimes when he skates it looks like someone has placed banana peels on his skate blades, as he see-saws back and forth. I hope the Red Wings didn’t have scouts in the stands…
When you look at the player-vs-player chart, have a look at the distinct alternating bands of green and red. From top to bottom, it goes Petry through Whitney (red), Eberle through Justin Schultz (green), Belanger through Eager (RED), and then Yakupov through Smyth (green).
Eberle was only negative against ONE Wild player (TOM GILBERT), a feat equaled by Justin Schultz (SOME GUY NAMED COYLE). I’d say the top 6 had a broadly effective game, with only Yak, RNH, and Hemsky ending worse than -5 against a few Wild players. Otherwise, it was a lot of green for the top Oilers — have a look at how they did against the top Wild d-pairing of Suter and Brodin, each hanging scores of between -1 and +9 against them. Complementing them well was the pairing of Nick and Justin Schultz, who themselves put up a very consistent evening in the green vs the entire Wild lineup.
The middle band of Hades belongs to many members of the bottom 6 forwards. It’s pretty incredible that in less than 7 and a half minutes Eager could end up in the negatives vs 17 out of 18 Wild skaters… and he battled the last straggler to even. His linemates VandeVelde and Petrell didn’t end up much better. The third line had a bit of an up-and-down game — they got killed by the Matt Cullen line, but turned around and absolutely slaughtered Dany Heatley’s line with Granlund and PM Bouchard. Krueger obviously like that matchup and they proved him right.
In other news, Ryan Whitney ended up green against only two Wild players, ditto for his partner Peckham (Coyle and PARISE?@?@?!!). Otherwise it was a long and blood red night for these two.
This intra-team chart is pretty simple. Schultz + good players = freaking excellent. Schultz + 4th line = bad. Seriously, look at those dark green patches of chest hair around the Schultz’ and the top two lines. Just wonderful.
- Petry/Smid seemed to play best with the veteran third line, but worst with the 4th line. Do you see a trend here?
- the Whitney/Peckham pairing for some reason really played poorly with the Belanger/Smytty line. I’d guess it would have to do with too much immobility being on the ice all at once, with no one able to push the pace. For some reason, Whitney didn’t play all that badly with the 4th line… but this could be because they didn’t see a lot of ice time together.
- RNH ended the night -5 with his primary left winger Nail Yakupov. Curiously, he was +3 with Smytty and +3 with Paajarvi. To me this performance suggests that some of the Gagner/Hemsky Corsi problems this year may indeed to due to Yakupov being a bit fresh in his rookie year. He doesn’t seem to be complementing good players with much regularity. I think he’ll grow into it, but the coach must be having fits trying to figure out where to start the kid.