I’d like to say I have some hope left for this season — to say that if the Oilers made a couple of small tweaks here and there they could pull this one out from the tailspin. I’ve been waiting to have optimism like that past the mid-way mark of a season since, well, maybe early 2009? But games like tonight’s absolute bruised carcass of a game vs the Blue Jackets help quench any hope we fans have left. This team sucks.
For the 20th time in 22 games, the Oilers were out shot-attempted by the opposing team at even strength, this time 50-43 against the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets. This margin may not seem all that embarrassing, but reports on Twitter were that the team was outchanced 15-6 in this game at evens. And I’d have problems trying to recall any significant chances in this game — hell, even the goals weren’t all that dangerous. Jordan Eberle had the game on his stick twice in overtime, wide open at the side of the net with time to calibrate his shot, and twice missed his spot. The first was especially egregious, as he only needed to raise the puck 12 inches to get it over Bobrovsky’s outstretched pad. Considering the net is 4 feet tall, that means he had a space 3 feet by 6 feet to shoot at, or approximately 18 square feet or 2,592 square inches. A puck is one inch thick and 3 inches wide — meaning that, when shot, it has a side profile of three square inches. This means that you could have stacked 864 pucks in the space Eberle had to shoot at there. This is not acceptable. But wasn’t it a great ‘road game’??
This might be the most neutral team table I’ve ever posted here. It’s just so damned boring. The team leader was Corey Potter for God’s sake, with +5, leading in Corsi per minute and in Corsi% (the percent of Corsi events the Oilers had while he was on the ice). The lines were wonked out right from the start of this game — RNH, Hall, and Eberle comprise one of the more dominant lines in the league, and are the sole consistent threat on this team. Why break them up? Paajarvi had just played a great game on the 2nd line with Gagner and Hemsky last week. Why not give them a whirl again? Instead, Krueger decided to break everyone up. We’ve tried the Hall with Hemsky thing already this year with disastrous results — why produce a sequel? The result was that the top 6 forwards ended up in a range between -3 and +3, meaning a whole lot of ‘blah’. Reminder, we were playing the Blue Jackets — if the best any of our top 6 can muster is +3, we’ve got fairly large problems.
I also really hated putting Smytty in at centre with Ben Eager and new guy Mike Brown. Smytty somehow ended the night 3rd in Corsi per minute, but Eager was predictably 13th and Brown ended 17th. But he probably led the team in hits! I say probably, because I don’t have the effort to look and don’t care. That line was on the ice for the Jackets’ first goal, a nothing play that defined ‘lackadaisical’ defence on Eager’s part giving his man way too much space to set up a play.
In any case, I’d say a lot of the Oilers’ actual shots were flutterbugs shot from way outside the danger areas, and Dennis King’s chances count would seem to verify that. Make no mistake, Bobrovsky had perhaps the easiest game of his career until Eberle swept that OT chance into his kneecap.
Commenting too much on this player-vs-player matrix would imply that I know more than half of who Columbus’ players are, so I won’t. I will comment on how Justin Schultz and his big brother Nick had a horrible game at even strength, being outshot by guys named Cody Goloubef and Matt Calvert. Justin only ended in the green vs two Jackets, Nick three. Conversely, Corey Potter may have had his best game (I use the term ‘best’ loosely here), who only ended in the red vs 3 Jacket players.
Otherwise, there’s not a lot of trend here, with a lot of light red and green and no distinct matchup wins or losses. This is likely one of the results of blenderizing the forward lines as Krueger seemed to do most of this night. No one can get in a groove and exploit a matchup.
In my last game post, there were three distinct deep green patches almost exactly where the deep red patches are tonight. Of course, I’m referring to the Schultz pairing’s play with the Oilers skill players, which was off the charts good in the last game and now very poor in this one. Out of the 12 Schultz-top 6 forward matches, only one of them was out of negatives, Hemsky-NSchultz at +1. The rest were all red and deep red.
Smytty seemed to enjoy his time away from B & E (Brown & Eager). He was -3 with both of those players while at centre, but hey, check it out, he was +4 with Belanger, and +1 with RNH, presumably playing wing. Again, just an indefensible roster deployment tonight on Kruger’s part.
Dubnyk again didn’t really play especially well. He had a 0.933 even strength save percentage, but I think both of the Jacket goals at evens were stoppable. On the first goal he was playing much too aggressively for a goalie of his style, allowing an easy tap-in on a cross crease play. He needs to look around and see where the threats are, because it certainly wasn’t coming from the passer from the point. I sometimes fear whether or not Dubnyk has that innate intelligence to take stock of where the threats can and will come from. That was one of those goals where everyone says “he had no chance on that one”, but if you think about how he approached the bad angle point shot/pass and left a wide open net, you realize that there was a way to avert the scoring chance by understanding what the likely play will be.