Firstly, I must apologize for attending this game in person. This was my 5th game of the year and my 5th loss, extending my multi-year talisman streak of in-person Oiler losing to at least 4 years. For a guy who loves stats and analysis, I’m also a goalie, which means I’m superstitious as all hell. I should have known better, accepting an invitation to watch the Minnesota Wild practice their witchcraft over the Oilers. Is any team more happy about another team being moved out of their division than the Oilers about the Wild? Not having to see PM Bouchard alone will be worth this divorce. Sure, they may score more goals than they used to, but the underlying product is as boring as cleaning a bathtub.
So the Oilers lost the game 5-3 (almost 5-4 after a tally just after the final fog horn-thingy blared), and lost the game 37-35 in terms of even strength Corsi. If you added the empty net time at the end, however, the Oilers would have won 44-37, making an insanely high 9 shot attempts at the Wild net in the closing minutes. It was a welcome sight to see some zone/possesion domination for a change, even if it really meant less than nothing. As more time passes, we get a clearer picture of what is happening with this Oilers season — as long as they have a man advantage, this team can score goals. Their powerplay opportunities feel like they’ve tailed off massively since the start of the year, so they are getting less and less opportunities to address the crutch they have in continued terrible even strength play. When considering they scored on their only powerplay chance last night, I’m tempted to write a piece on how much the influence of receiving less powerplays has had on their fortunes this season.
My favourite part of tonight was how Brodziak scored twice against his former team. He’s a bona fide third line center in the NHL, a big guy who can win faceoffs, play against tough opposition when called for, and contribute at even strength. This was a guy that Tambo deemed expendable in preference for Marc Pouliot, and who we traded for two late round draft picks in 2009 who became Olivier Roy and Kyle Bigos, two guys who aren’t all that close to NHL play. Oh yes, and if you needed reminding, we also sent a 6th round pick along with Brodziak to the Wild that turned into Darcy Kuemper, who was sitting on the Wild bench last night as their backup goaltender. That trade is such a perfect representation of the Tambo era that I need to go drink some bleach.
I’d say some players earned their Corsi scores tonight in full, and some were a bit unlucky to end up with the marks they did. Yakupov was my favourite Oiler last night, and by the sounds of it, a lot of other people’s favourite as well. Late in the third when we were pressing I was telling everyone around me that I hoped Yakupov was going to be double shifted, and sure enough he was. His scoring plays showed two very different strengths of his — the first was a goal that showed his ability to be in opportune places at opportune times and to shoot the puck at a dangerous spot on net without even needing to look up. The second was a rush where his open-ice puck skills were on full display, finished with an outside-inside move that beat Ryan freaking Suter in a fashion that even Taylor Hall could only dream of. He nailed it (haha!!!) off the post, leaving the garbage for Paajarvi to neatly put into the trash can. Yakupov ended with a -5 Corsi, but was by far the best Oiler on the night.
The 2nd best Oiler by Corsi per minute was Lennart Petrell, who left the game early after a hit by Cal Clutterbuck. It was right in front of me, so I want everyone to know that Petrell hitting the boards sounded like the T-1000 Terminator hitting Arnold in the face with a crowbar. I’m telling you, it was not of this Earth. I hope he’s ok, but I’m sure the advanced technology of his race will be of great benefit here.
Leading all Oilers was Mark Fistric, who I’d say had a pretty damned good game. This is a guy clearly playing for an NHL job as a UFA this summer. His head hunting hits were kept to a minimum, but he still got a couple of nice, legitimate NHL hits in there to boot, one right in front of me. I could see him lining up the Wild player for about 15 feet in the neutral zone just staring at the guy like a driver with tunnel vision. I guess he’s pretty lucky it was on a dump-in play, as he likely would have been out of position otherwise. And really, it’s kind of a pointless hit anyways — “Yeah, you can’t dump the puck into OUR zone and then go off for a change without paying for it, Bub!”
I won’t comment too much on these at this point in the season because I really don’t care anymore, but I have a couple of observations.
Look at Ryan Suter’s line down the chart here. Two of our lines actually did well against him, the RNH line and the Smytty line. Not bad.
Koivu/Parise/Coyle had very good nights, basically ending up against every Oiler. In Koivu’s 18 minutes he say over 8 minutes of Hall and almost 7 minutes of Paajarvi, so he was playing against the best the Oilers could throw at him and ended up a combined +6 against them.
The first thing that jumps out at me here is that Taylor Hall was +5 with RNH (remember, in non-empty net situations), while he was -3 with Gagner. He’s now 40.5% in zone adjusted Corsi% with Gagner for the year, and 55.7% with RNH. It’s time to stop playing Hall and Gagner together, and I thought we had all learned this earlier in the year.
Justin Schultz had a pretty atrocious game in terms of his involvement in the goals against, but his possession numbers are weirdly decent. He ended up -2 in 16.7 mins with Nick Schultz, but +4 with 1.5 minutes with Fistric and +1 in 3.2 minutes with Smid.
The Fab Four were all in positives with eachother tonight — Hall, Eberle, RNH, and JSchultz.