I’m happy to report that I had the pleasure of being at this game tonight in person. I was expecting a loss — I can’t actually remember witnessing an Oilers victory over the Red Wings since the onset of puberty. But after having the unstoppable momentum garnered from a season franchise-best two game winning streak, I at least was willing to give the home team a chance to win this game. I mean really, winning two games in a row??? This is a freight train with the brakes out, amirite?? Well, no. We blew a 2-0 lead in the third period to lose this one 3-2 in overtime. And I can’t say we didn’t deserve it.
The Wings out Corsi’d us in this game 44-41 at even strength, which is quite the feat considering the Oilers were winning this battle 34 to 20 after 40 minutes of play. A clusterfuss of a third period and an overtime that would discourage Petr Klima would nullify that good work, and once again prove that loser decisions lead to loser results.
I know a lot has been made of the coach’s decision to double shift Mike Brown in the third period, but I’m not really sure what you can defend the decision with. Nail Yakupov took one shift with his regular linemates Gagner and Paajarvi to start the third period, while the game was 2-0 Oilers. He didn’t even see the ice again until 17:40 in the 3rd, well after the Wings had tied things up at 2-2. None other than defensive juggarnaut Mike Brown was being DOUBLE-SHIFTED in his spot on that line, while also seeing time in the third with his normal linemates Petrell and Smyth. Ryan Smyth, on the other hand, was busy being DOUBLE-SHIFTED with those players and his new adopted line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. For those counting at home, that makes 2 members of the 4th line of the Oilers being double shifted in place of clearly superior players while the Oilers were trying to maintain a lead. I know some like to defend Krueger, but I’m going to call this one out: this is just absent-minded coaching and cost this team two points. The Oilers were comfortably winning the possession battle in this game with reasonably effective lines through 40 minutes — why on God’s green Earth would you decide to sub in two poor possession players on two of your top three lines? Because of some perceived defensive benefit of Smyth and Brown? You’re really going to talk me into the nuance of having Mike Brown, noted face crusher, take a twirl on a line in place of Nail Yakupov, consensus best player in the world in his age bracket to hold a lead? I could really care less if Yakupov has some perceived defensive shortcomings, what matters is that he was very effective in this game and was pushing the play towards the Red Wings end. Has Mike Brown even played with Gagner at all to this point? You’re harnessing a one goal lead against the best team of this generation and decide to ‘test out’ whether Mike Brown and Gagner can find some chemistry? What the hell is this? Junior High Science class? You’re trying to win a hockey game, save the stereotyped, ineffective, frankly juvenile coaching decisions for 4-0 game against the Avalanche.
Have a look at this fun chart. Dead last for Corsi per minute in order were Gagner, Paajarvi, and Mike Brown. Do you see where I’m going with this? Nail Yakupov, meanwhile, having played 2+ periods with Gagner and Paajarvi, managed to end this game +2 and with the 4th best Corsi per minute. I wonder what happened here. What could possible account for Gagner and Paajarvi ending the night so terribly while their linemate sat on the bench with the 4th best Corsi…. ? … ?
Best in Corsi were Horcoff, Eberle, and Hartikainen. It’s too bad the latter player only had one shift after a third period boarding penalty, while Eberle needed to boot around Ryan Smyth on his line for the final 25 minutes. This was a very even game, but what makes me angry is that it didn’t need to be. Why willingly ice line combinations that by their very design will allow more shots against when you’re trying to protect a lead? Professional hockey culture can really be amazing to me sometimes. These are men who supposedly are professionals in succeeding in this endeavour, yet somehow regularly make decisions that run counter to that goal. In what other profession would this be tolerated? Hey, I’m a football coach trying to protect a lead — I know! I’ll play my wide receiver at linebacker! I haven’t tried this before, but I have some serious ‘gut intuition’ that he might succeed in that role in this critical point in the game. I haven’t actually looked to see if he’s ever played defence before, or if he even knows how to tackle someone, but the fans sure seem to like him and I like his energy!
So what jumps out at you here? To me, it’s those deep red marks under Datsyuk’s name beside Gagner and Paajarvi. So pretend you’re coach Krueger. You’re at home, and you have the last change. It seems like the Hall/Horcoff/Hemsky line is playing Datsyuk’s line well, but Gagner’s line is getting buried. You’d like to think that you’d try some line matching in the third period to get Horcoff out against Datsyuk instead of Gagner. In the third period, I roughly count 7 Datsyuk shifts against Gagner’s line, 2 against RNH, and none against Horcoff. Mike Babcock ate Ralph Krueger’s breakfast, lunch, and evening buffet in this one. Krueger had last change and kept throwing Gagner out against Datsyuk, even though Babcock was obviously matching against that line. YOU HAVE LAST CHANGE. Is it any surprise the Overtime goal was scored with Datsyuk out on the ice against, yep, Gagner? Silly.
Please don’t judge me too much for pointing out small sample sizes, but in about a minute and a half in the third period, Mike Brown was -2 with Gagner. Yakupov was even with Gagner through 2+ periods and almost 9 minutes of work.
Lost in the blind rage is a wonderful game by Taylor Hall, who managed to play well with everyone not named Corey Potter and Nick Schultz. He scored a wonderful goal and pushed the pace on a number of occasions. Good thing Krueger kept him away from Datsyuk though!
Why is Justin Schultz not playing with Nick Schultz? Why is Ryan Whitney playing with Justin Schultz? I’d like a smart person to answer this question for me, using English words.
Yeah, I’m done with this one. I had a sweaty ride home on the LRT with a bunch of green novelty St. Patty’s Day Oilers jerseys.