When you think about it, following and cheering for a sports team is simple consumption of time. We could all be doing something else with our lives, but we’ve adjudged that the hours we spend watching a team provide us more utility than any other replacement activity. For instance, I could have volunteered my time to charity, or choreographed a dance routine for my pug. When we start watching each game, our expected utility of that 2.5 hours must be higher than any replacement activity, or else we wouldn’t watch — assuming you believe in expected utility theory. However, there’s a lot of research showing humans are inherently irrational — we do not act like dispassionate actors, we make choices that consciously run counter to increasing our utility in the most efficient pattern. Continuing watching the Oilers this season is irrefutable evidence of this phenomenon. We’re all case studies in irrationality. Congratulations!
For the 29th time in 31 games, the Oilers created less Corsi events than their opposition. Yes, it was close, and the third period featured a strong push back in an attempt to tie the game, but ultimately this one ended with a score of 3-2 for Nashville. The shot clock may have been even, but it seems that high-probability scoring chances are few and far between. I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that Pokey Reddick could have started this game for Nashville and come out with a win. It was only in the third period that the Oilers severely tested Rinne, and even then they seemed to pass up opportunities to shoot in dangerous spots for the frustrating pattern we’ve seen all year: players passing away in the slot, trying to walk through an entire line to score, or fumbling the puck on the rush.
I thought Dubnyk played well tonight, turning away many in-tight chances and not really having much hope on the ones that did go in. If the Oilers’ offence is frustrating, their defence is outwardly insulting at times. You can point to every goal against as being the direct product of sloppy or brainless decisions in the defensive zone. Part of this is surely due to having the wrong players, but it’s unbelievable that the coaching staff hasn’t sat Fistric down to explain when it’s appropriate to go for a hit. Fistric was caught hit-hunting the puck carrier as the lone man back — when he missed his mark, the opposing player simply walked in all alone and ripped it over Dubnyk. This is not the first time he’s done this kind of thing this year. Why hasn’t the coaching staff addressed this with him? Why have a super complex video system and technical staff if no one can identify this tendency, which cost them a chance at this game tonight? Fistric would be a serviceable defenceman if he cut this aspect of his game, I honestly believe that.
These numbers are incredibly altered because of the late game push with a shortened bench. Hall was having a middling game until he was reunited with RNH and Eberle. Eberle ended up leading the team in Corsi per minute, with Hall ending up second. They created Corsi events, but didn’t really threaten with a golden scoring chance in the game’s final 1o minutes.
The improvised line of RNH, Yakupov, and Smytty was not really clicking, with Yakupov ending in the caboose with -8 Corsi events tonight and Smytty ending second last in Corsi per minute. I don’t really want to analyze this too much, as the game was so generic and nonthreatening until the Oilers got within a goal midway through the 3rd that identifying chemistry would consist of finding which lines got 5 shots on net from the outside versus which line got 2 shots on net from the outside. This team is not creating enough quality chances. They aren’t forcing enough mistakes from the opposition. They are relying on flukey goals like the one Horcoff scored in the third period. This isn’t good enough. And that’s what makes this year so frustrating — we all expected more from this group, considering the natural evolution of a maturing team. We all thought scoring would be up and chances against would be down. Scoring is down, while chances against are up. Throw all the labels and stereotypes the media have affixed to this team out the window. They need to start earning those labels.
Shea Weber was matched against Taylor Hall tonight no matter which line he was on — he spent 14 of his 22 even strength minutes against him. What should make us happy is that Hall ended the night +5 against the Weber, quite the feat considering how bad Weber was owning the Oilers in the first two games this season. In fact, Hall only ended in the red versus one Predator, especially dining out on Kostitsyn’s line.
Smytty and especially Yakupov had tough games tonight, with Yak ending even or below against every Predator.
Here are the Corsi per minute measures for each player-vs-player pairing. You can see that the Oilers played very well against Martin Erat’s line tonight, with Horcoff’s line biting them off to even in the majority of Erat’s minutes and the RNH/Gagner lines ended in positives in limited minutes. Gagner’s line was primarily matched against Legwand tonight, and you can see they did ok versus the veteran centre.
The player-with-player chart shows some distinct trends. Hall was +3 with Horcoff, but was +7 with Jordan Eberle and +5 with RNH — he played about 10.5 minutes with Horcoff vs 7.5 minutes with RNH. You can tell there must have been some whacky line combos going on, as Hall was also +4 with Gagner.
The Schultz pairing played very well with Hall… and, well… Hall. Otherwise, they had a pretty poor night, especially with the Gagner line and Yakupov.
I understand RNH was being broken softly back into the lineup, but he’s shown pretty poor performance with Smytty all year. I’d hope he finds his regular linemates soon and leave that pairing in the ‘failed experiment’ pile.