I’ve watched more than a few Oiler games this year where I felt they weren’t close to scoring a goal. Those games would feature the same kind of zombie play we saw tonight, with the team going through the motions and displaying the coordinated hockey skills of a baby giraffe. But they’d always pull through to at least get one goal, and sometimes even two goals if they weren’t feeling sleepy. Tonight, they didn’t have such luck and ended this one down 3-0, their first game being shut out this year.
The Oilers lost the Corsi battle at even strength 60-42, or a deficit of -18, a score which flatters them. They lost in every single period, but the back-breaker was a listless second period in which the Wings seemed to be cat-pawing them for the duration. The largest issue is scoring chances, or having a lack thereof — there were less than a handful of occasions where I honestly felt they had a chance to score. Ales Hemsky had a wonderful little inside move to the slot in the first that tested Howard. Gagner got off a nice slapper on a rush that forced a great blocker save. RNH had a chance in the 3rd where he wrapped around the net to get a clear shot off on Howard. Yep, that’s it. Otherwise, this was all Wings.
Only four Oilers ended the night in positive territory: the pairing of Petry/Smid, and the forward duo of Eberle and Gagner. These four pretty comfortably had the best Corsi per minute rate, with the only close skaters being Paajarvi and RNH who both ended with a -2 and -0.11 Corsi per minute. Taylor Hall ended the night with a very uncharacteristic -4 — it’s almost as if the forward lines were ill-conceived from the outset, but more on that in a second.
No member of the bottom 6 forwards ended better than Yakupov’s minus 6, while Ryan Jones was the low marker at -10. I kind of forget how Ryan Jones scores goals, because he’s not even approaching the circumstance that would result in a goal this season. His fourth line with VandeVelde and newcomer Mike “Miami Vice” Brown was in disarray almost every shift they had — Jones was only on the ice for 2 shots for all game, while giving up 12 against. This is a Corsi percentage of 14%. 14%. Say that a couple of times. 14%. The Oilers fourth line is an absolute wasteland of hockey ability right now, and it’s not trivial to concentrate on it. Good teams have fourth lines that can hold their heads above water. The Oilers are employing some of the worst players in the entire league to play their fourth line minutes.
It also has to be disconcerting that 4 out of 6 defencemen in this one were all below -8. Whitney of course brought up the rear at -12, but the Schultz pairing seems to be all over the map these days. Justin’s execution seems a bit sloppy and half-assed, and I’m beginning to wonder if the NHL schedule is catching up with him. I’d also guess this long road trip is scaring some of the younger kids who just want a night in their own beds!
The player vs player chart is all kinds of fun tonight, at least if you’re a cynical sort like I am.
- Ryan Jones and Eric Belanger both ended the night without being in the green against any Wing
- Petry/Smid had their way with Datsyuk’s line. However, NJSchultz got castrated against Datsyuk’s line.
- Only one Oiler ended in the green vs Zetterberg’s line: Nick Schultz. The Smid/Petry pairing didn’t have the same luck.
- Taylor Hall & RNH seemed to have a ton of problems with the Smith/Quincey pairing, while Jordan Eberle played very well against them.
There are some important things I’d like to point out here. Taylor Hall has not played well with Ales Hemsky this year. They’ve tried it, it hasn’t worked, but for some reason Krueger continues to try to force them together. Hall ended the night even with Hemsky and -2 with his other linemate RNH. Smytty subbed in for Hemsky a bit after he left the game, and promptly put up a -5 with Hall. What I don’t understand is why Hall wasn’t playing with RNH *and* Eberle from the start of the night. Those three have shown a ton of chemistry together and form the Oilers’ only legit outshooting trio. When Hall played with Eberle, he was +2.
Eberle started on a line with MPS and Gagner, who he ended the night +2 and -2 with tonight. But when Eberle was paired with RNH, they were +5. Again, why is Eberle not playing with RNH? It’s mystifying with the Oilers would break this line up — absolutely no evidence supports a case to play them apart.
Ryan Whitney, Nick Schultz, Chris VandeVelde, and Ryan Jones pulled the not-so-rare feat these days of not being in the green with any other teammate. Why Ryan Whitney is playing sizable minutes while the Oilers passed on Roman Hamrlik via waivers is beyond any attempt of logical analysis.