I sat down to watch this game expecting a bit of a snoozer and I wasn’t disappointed. This was quite the neutral zone nail-biter through 40 minutes (also known as a piece of trap), but things opened up in the final frame with both teams trading actual chances and the Oilers converting more of theirs. Petrell scored short-handed on perhaps the worst defensive play I’ve seen this year by Sergei Kostitsyn when he decided to go off for a change instead of picking up the 2nd man in what immediately turned into an Oilers 2 on 1. This beats that shift by Gagner early this year when he took a penalty and then let his man go while looking skyward by a slim, but hilarious margin. Eberle helped turn his pretty terrible shooting percentage around with a lovely little top corner shot off a rush that ended up being the difference in a 3-2 final.
For the 26th time in 28 games, the Oilers lost the Corsi battle 49-33 tonight and were behind in every period. I can’t be as judicious in blaming score effects, as the game was tied for large portions of the night. However, I would say that the Preds had some sustained shifts of pressure in the final 7 minutes or so that likely tipped the scales in the 3rd in what otherwise was a very good period for the Oilers.
Interesting in the event mix is that the Preds blocked more shots than the Oilers even though they won the Corsi battle handily. The Preds also tended to miss a much higher proportion of their shots, and I can recall a few of those being in prime scoring situations. Dubnyk played well tonight with a fantastic Ranfordian kick save mixed in with some ridiculous stops in a late third period Preds powerplay. The Oilers made a two goal lead count tonight where it did not vs Detroit, so I’ll give some credit for that as well.
There are some numbers here that make your eyes bleed a bit. The primary open wound here is the Ryan Whitney / Justin Schultz pairing that ended with the two lowest raw Corsi numbers of the night. Those two had a Corsi% of 31.5% for the season before this game, and I’ll give you a hint that that number will go down by the time hockeyanalysis.com refreshes in the morning. Krueger has continued going to the well with this pair and I still do not understand why. Justin and Nick Schultz are 46.6% together this year. Is playing Nick Schultz with Potter or Fistric really worth getting 31.5% from Justin Schultz and Whitney?
The Gagner line had a bit of a collapse here tonight. I’ve supported this line from its inception but you can’t get around the reality of poor results — Paajarvi was +3/-17! Yuck. All three members of the line were in the bottom 7 skaters in Corsi per minute — Gagner did get some decent shifts in with other players, which we’ll get to in a second.
The RNH line finally had a strong game here and it feels like it’s been awhile. Eberle lead in raw Corsi and in Corsi per minute, while RNH was 2nd in both. They obviously pulled Ryan Jones along for the ride, as I can’t remember Jones doing much of anything positive tonight even though he ended with the 3rd best Corsi. Horcoff had a bit of a tough night at -7, but his linemates Hall and Hemsky were +2 and even, respectively. Let’s see what happened there…
So Hall ended the game +2: he was -3 with Horcoff, +1 with RNH, and +4 with Sam Gagner. The latter is entirely due to a masterful sequence at the end of the 2nd period in which Gagner/Hall/Hemsky put 4 shots on Rinne in 11 seconds. I wasn’t sure where that shift came from but it felt like Oilers were teleporting all over the ice. I loved it.
Other than that shift, Gagner had a tough night with his normal linemates — he was -13 with Paajarvi and -8 with Yakupov. Hilarious small sample size of the night has Petrell ending -5 with Gagner. -4 of that was on one 89/91/37 shift with 7 minutes left, and the other -1 was a shift with the same players with one minute left.
Pulling a ‘Ryan Whitney’ in this game was Ryan Whitney, who ended up in the negatives with every single Oiler he played any time with tonight. Justin Schultz actually was +2 with Ladi Smid and -1 with Nick Schultz, but the large majority of his problem tonight was a -12 with Whitney.
Petry/Smid had a strong game with RNH’s line, but got beaten around when with Gagner’s line. Fistric and Nick Schultz played pretty well tonight, ending +5 together, and Nick ended in the negatives with any other partner. Fistric connected on a huge hit on a Predator entering the zone for a nice turnover but caused a 3 on 1 against with his patented foolish attempt to hold the line in the face of too much pressure. But you have to give that pairing some kudos for their results.
Martin Erat and Mike Fisher just eviscerated the entire Oilers roster tonight — Erat ended ahead of every single Oiler and especially had fun against Whitney/JSchultz.
On the opposite end of the scale, Ryan Whitney just got eviscerated tonight. He was in the red versus every Pred, while his partner JSchultz did end even against one Pred.
In a pretty unremarkable game for Gagner, he somehow was the only forward that ended this game ahead of Shea Weber at +2. Weber was on the ice for that late 2nd feeding frenzy by Hall/Hemsky/Gagner, and it would seem he went +2 against Gagner the rest of the night.
If Smytty was intended to be used in a checking role vs the opposition’s best, it didn’t really work out that way — he was deep in the red vs Fisher/Legwand/Erat. The 4th line in general had a pretty terrible game, but I will give Petrell credit — for an invasive species he can release a decent one-timer.