Should we wait until the season ends to give Shawn Horcoff the Hart trophy or can we just give it to him now? Yes, I kid, but only slightly — Horcoff showed rust at times in his return after an extended absence, but his presence in the lineup fills so many holes beyond just his own. The powerplay rekindled its former magic with Horcoff planting his posterior in the goalie’s kitchen. And he was out there late in the third to batten down the hatches for a 6-5 Oilers win against the best team in the league. Who doesn’t love that dirty ol’ Russian?
The Oilers lost the Corsi battle 55-32, a deficit of 23 — but I’d say this is one of those games that should be taken with a grain of salt. If ‘score effects’ exist anywhere, they sure as hell existed in this one. Has there ever been a more perfect experiment to find out what happens when the worst team in the league plays with the lead from the very beginning of a game versus the undisputed best team in the league? After the Oilers shot out to a 4-0 lead after the first period and a 19-13 lead in Corsi events, the Hawks absolutely rolled them the rest of the way 5-2 in goals and 42-13 in even strength Corsi events. I absolutely could not believe the Oilers hung on to their one goal lead in the third period with their backup in net and a Hawks powerplay late in the third period.
The even strength shots on net only ended 27-20 even in the face of a 55-32 Corsi score — meaning the Hawks missed the net and had their shots blocked quite a bit. The Oilers fell back into full-on defence-only mode, but give them credit for not breaking all the way — whatever they did worked, just barely.
With a game so polluted by score effects, it’s hard to gauge the true performance of the team, but the overall Corsi table is interesting nonetheless. The only Oiler to end the night outside of negatives was Ladislav Smid at even, which is kind of interesting considering his partner Jeff Petry ended at -8. We’ll have to see what happened a bit later on. The pairing of of Justin Schultz and Ryan Whitney worked so poorly in the last loss vs the Preds that Krueger went back to it, to predictably terrible effect — both dmen ended the night with the worst raw Corsi and the worst Corsi percentages among Oiler skaters.
Best on the night for the forwards was the line of Paajarvi/Gagner/Yakupov, who ended 3rd, 2nd, and 5th in Corsi per minute. Even in the face of a crushing onslaught by the Hawks, the Gagner line held fast and even created some chances. I was NOT a fan of Yakupov being taken off the line for Lennart Petrell in the third period during crunch-time — that new trio got completely manhandled in a late third period shift.
The score effects truly make analysis of the RNH and Horcoff lines’ performance tonight difficult. Their Corsis were pretty bad, but at various points in this game they were near the top of the pack. Heavy icetime against the Hawks’ best attackers in a motivated situation were incredibly hard to swim against. I’d like to see these combinations again to get a better sense of what we have here.
A few observations:
- Pat Kane’s line had their way with most of the Oilers lineup, especially the Whitney/JSchultz pairing and the Horcoff line. However, they were battled to near even by the Gagner line, while NSchultz and Potter were actually +1 against him. Amazing.
- Michael Frolik only ended up ahead of one Oiler, Nick Schultz. Daniel Carcillo and Jamal Mayers didn’t end up ahead of any Oiler. Our bottom forwards didn’t lose a matchup tonight!
- The best single Oiler matchup tonight? Ladi Smid was +7 against Oduya. If you remember last Hawks game the Oduya/Hjalmarsson pairing put the boots to the entire Oiler lineup. In this battle of stay-at-home defenders, Smid represented the Oilers very well tonight.
- Stalberg/Bolland/Kane/Hossa really gave Schultz the younger troubles tonight. Justin seems to be having some issues with asserting himself in the defensive zone this year. He’s got good footspeed, but can’t seem to keep up with the in-zone transitions sometimes. This is part of the reason why putting him with Ryan Whitney makes so little sense.
- Sam Gagner – +1 against Jonathan Toews, -5 against Andrew Shaw. Shawn Horcoff: -6 against Toews, +1 against Shaw.
So first let’s see what happened with Smid and Petry. They were -2 together. But Smid played some of this game with Corey Potter, in which he was +2. Petry was paired with Ryan Whitney for periods of this game, in which he was -5. Is there ANYone Whitney plays good with? Well, yes, he was +1 with Potter in this game.
Justin Schultz ended the game -12, but was -10 with Whitney, and only -2 with Nick Schultz. Can someone explain to me why Krueger doesn’t stick with the Schultz/Schultz and Smid/Petry pairings? I just don’t get it.
Am I the only one who sees that RNH was +1 with Taylor Hall in this game, but -7 overall? I really would prefer Hall stays on that top line and to put Hartikainen in with Horcoff/Hemsky as my optimal line combinations suggested.