- Updated look for Hockeyzen
- Post game summaries for Oilers '12-'13 season
- Advanced analysis for the Oilers '12-'13 season
P.S. Looks to be about a 20th-10th place team. I'd go with 15th or so, and add truculence to taste.
|Are the Oilers becoming unplugged, or plugging in?|
The special teams figured prominently in the game, and while the Oilers have been a sack of Gypsy piss most of the season, their special teams have been surprisingly special. Their PP is #2 ranked, and their PK #11 ranked, and this is in sharp contrast to Chi-town, who is 15 and 27 respectively. On this night, that special teams battle made all the difference as the Oilers finished 2/5 and the Hawks 0/5. For a season filled with negatives so far, you certainly can't say much has gone wrong with special teams execution, especially considering they ended up 27th on the PP and 29th on the PK last year.
Both goaltenders had a hand in the result, with Crawford and Dubnyk letting in some stinky business, but Dubnyk ultimately made that one extra save. In terms of the other five orange and blue lotto engineers on the ice, I felt the Oilers carried play fairly well into the third period, at which point Chicago realized they might lose the game to the lowly oil droppings, and turned their game up to a 11. When they turned it up the ice became a seesaw with the fat kid in the Oilers end. The Hawks beaned Doobers with 23 shots in the third period, and he managed to redeem some of his earlier eau du fromage with a more stable, consistent effort.
In the forward ranks, it was a good news, bad news kind of night. I'm sure anyone reading this blog will be aware of the fact that Nugent took a tumble in the second that caused him to injure his shoulder, and early word is that the injury will prevent him from playing tomorrow. There is even a suggestion floating around that a forward may be called up. If I was a betting man, and I am, I would guess the first selection for call-up will be Magnum Paajarvi, who finally got a pro goal this season. His early OKC numbers are alright: 7gp 1-6-7 +3. I think expectations have been tempered somewhat with Pony, but if he ever figures it out he could be a bigger, faster version of Ryan Jones (yea, I just said that). On the good news front was Hall, and he continues to generate offence on a nightly basis. After watching him for about 100 games now, I have really come to understand the success of Hall's game. He is a relentless player in that he's constantly in attack mode for every second he's on the ice. His hunger and compete level might actually outstrip his skill levels (which are already ridiculously high), and I might suggest this is why he actually posted better numbers in the OHL Playoffs than in the regular season. If RNH is out for any extended stretch (I want that damn Calder trophy), Hall is the guy who will have to take his game to an even higher level (beyond ludicrous, perhaps Plaid).
Defensively, it was also a rainstorm with the sun visible kind of day. I'm starting with the bad news first again, and that is of course the injury to the Oilers number one defenceman, Tom Gilbert. I still see some real fucking looney tunes posting disparaging remarks vis a vis Gilbert's creamy insides or his lacy sock garter, but these are simply lunkheads regurgitating unexamined expectations from a sloppier, younger Tom Gilbert. Make no mistake, the Oilers were a Chinese fire drill in their own end with Tommy-gun playing the best hockey of his career, and it certainly won't get better with him out. He was eating big minutes in all situations, and he is a central figure in any hope the Oilers have of climbing back into a low-seed playoff race. The good news was from a strange source: Andy Sutton. The big man has shown a strange knack for timely offensive plays, and he's a mountain of muscle in the own-zone. If he was our number 6 guy with 2nd unit PK time, I think the that he has shown he wont shoot you in the foot. Playing third or fourth in the lineup, however, illustrates a continuing problem for the Oilers back end: not enough high end talent.
In the end, the Oilers gutted out an improbable victory, but I felt that it was a deserved one. The Hawks dominated the third, but score effects work strongly against the Oilers here, and the first two periods were even or possibly weighted in the Oilers advantage.
Some names and breakdown after the anchor tag.
The game tonight was basically an illustration of the kind of razors edge a team with Edmonton's liabilities has to walk in order to win. Potter's brain-dead mistake on the second goal's two-on-two was the turning point of the game for me. Inexplicably he played it as a straight, uncontested two-on-one, and when he let the Wild nobody walk into the low slot and snipe, it would have been the same result if he hadn't been there at all. The other Oilers backchecker clearly was in range to disrupt all but a perfect pass, and Potter should have recognized it and closed on Palmer immediately. That mistake was then compounded when Khabibulin let in a soft-ass goal from an obtuse angle a dozen seconds later, and I've said it many times: we need our goaltenders to play mistake-free to win hockey games. Period. Khabibulin has an expiry date, and I can't help but wonder every time he lets a cheese wheel in, that maybe we've overshot his best before.
Offensively, I think we probably played an OK game, especially in the third period when the Oilers started handling the tired-on-back-to-back-nights Minnesota Wild, and probably the biggest positive was it was the first time in a few weeks that the veteran line -- which I've identified as being absoulutely key for the Oilers success -- actually had a positive impact on the game. Hockey is a zero-sum game in that you can only put your tough-minutes defenders on the ice for so long, and the more strong offensive minutes you can get from one line simply means weaker defensive assignments for another. On the Oilers we have a couple of decent candidates for soft-minute killers, namely some mixture of Gagner, Hall, Eberle, and RNH. With Belanger playing the role of 5-on-5 boat-anchor (6 ES points in about 385 minutes of ice), and Renney's love affair for icing a fourth line that gets buried by everybody, we can't just have the three wunderkids providing all the offence. They get the toughest assignments and kudos to the kids for still managing a decent output on a nightly basis. Calling Dr. Hemsky.
The only other note I have from the game is that the zebras were typically lousy. Instead of having the guts to make the correct calls and send off the singular infracting player, the refs just fence-sat and carted off everyone in cute couples. I have no idea what RNH said, but if he was complaining about the obvious missed call on the Smytty trip, time to take off the panties ref. How thin must your skin be when a 165-soaking-wet gets under your skin that easily? They capped off their indecisive night with perhaps the worst call: the Falk interference with 1:23 to go. I realize that I'm a biased Oilers fan, and truly I wasn't mad about the call, but I know if the situations were reversed, I would have been livid. If that's an interference call, pack up your bags and go home, because hitting has been removed from hockey.
Post-mortem after the hop.
|Here we have Lidstrom after the|
The Detroit Red Wings are a team that will probably mummify before they fall out of the truly elite ranks. The eventual loss of cybernetic Lidstrom -- who to my eye is clearly declining on the ice these days -- will leave a hole that it's doubtful any winged wheel will be able to fill. Don't take my mild slam of Lidstrom too seriously though, he was still integral in the Detroit victory tonight (lethal shot pass on the GWG), and even a depleted uranium version of Niklas is still a solid #1 guy.
So, why did the Oilers lose? They lost because like usual they didn't spend enough time in the opposition zone, or maybe more importantly, they can't seem to chomp down on the bit when the games are at crucial inflection points. We had 5 shots in the third period, and 23 overall, which flat-out is unacceptable. Belanger got a point tonight but is going to remain tied to my whipping post because of his basic lack of ability to make anything happen in the offensive zone. He had two shots, and coach Renney has finally woke up to the fact that Belanger belongs on the powerplay like a pickle belongs in icecream.
Horcoff, Hemsky, and Smyth have gone ice cold. If they were beer cans their mountains would have turned a shade of blue, and whatever infectious disease has infiltrated formerely known as Hemsky seemingly has taken root in Smyth. To be fair from day one his surprising production was almost assuredly heavily bolstered by riding side-saddle with our young gun-slingers, but to go from white-hot to coors-can-cold in the space of 10 games or so is a bit more then that. The bounces that were seemingly in the right place at the right time early in the season are now skipping out the wrong way -- Horcoff's near goal for instance. Hemsky, don't get me started with Hemsky. His game was a bit better tonight; I think he was emotionally engaged and that is something that I want to see from him every night. It's kind of like we've seen with Taylor Hall, once you put a burr in his saddle, Hemsky has a bit of pick-me-up in his game that is refreshing and more importantly productive.
I don't have much to say about the kids except that they bring it most every game these days and while Gagner/Nilsson/Cogliano perhaps had as much success as this kid line, they did it playing against lesser D-pairings and weaker line match-ups. With the kids together, they seem to get the bulk of the top defensive pairings and often times the opposing top trio. What opposing teams quickly find out is that the kids, while prone to some what the fuck moments, are voracious fore-checkers and capable puck cyclers. Their dog on a bloody steak attitude is the primary offensive catalyst on most every night, and like I've said a billion times, they would be exponentially more effective if our veteran line could actually draw some heat to themselves. They've been so inept, however, that I sense most coaches are simply line matching the kids and rolling with the rest of our lineup. Perhaps the odd extra attention because of Hemsky's reputation, but even that is falling by the wayside.
As far as the defence, Whitney wasn't total garbage, and Petry continues to have possibly the best stick in the league. I watch plenty of hockey, and I don't think I've seen a single Dman in the league who uses the poke and sweep check more effectively than Jeff Petry. He literally has the best stick in the league for Dmen, and even if our entire D-core was dressed in monkey suits, I'm convinced I could recognize him simply based on how he handled his stick. He still has his gaffes and is not physical enough yet, but look at how long it took Gilbert to settle into the top pairing guy he is today. Speaking of Tom Gilbert, he remains one of our best players by a country mile. He played 21:54, and aside from Eberle/Hall was probably the best Oiler on the ice. I also think that the return of Potter has been positive, and I actually didn't think the Oilers were particularly outchanced. They may still have some of the defensively sound DNA that brought them such success early in the season.
Onwards to some one-offs and a bow.
|All I want for Christmas is a capable D-core|
On the flipside was a team that does not look especially like a team that is a western conference heavyweight. CBC had a graphic that showed some ridiculously daunting goal-drought statistics. Over the last month, Havlat, Thornton, and Marleau had combined for something like 3 goals before coming into tonight (they each potted one). Thornton has never been a huge goal scorer -- pass first mentality if there ever was one -- but he's on pace for 14 goals this year. That would be his lowest total in the NHL since he was a rookie and potted 3 in 55 (clearly playing a player at 18 who is not ready for the NHL does not 'ruin' him -- wheres the evidence?).
As far as the outing tonight, the Oilers basically played the Sharks even aside from a few lulls where our 4th line got totally outclassed (Hordichuk is not going to help Renney stay employed). The kid line had a number of dangerous shifts and Eberle's goal was absolutely magical. That was a world class goal and unfortunately it was wasted in an Oilers effort that basically had three major defensive gaffes. Each gaffe gave up a premium scoring chance: 2 goals that had a 1000% chance of going in, and another where Khabi went against Jumbo Joe 1v1 and lost. The first goal would have made me mad during one of my division 8 ball hockey games. Any time there is a clear cut 2v0, someone has to have really fucked up.
I thought Khabibulin basically played a solid game, with only the Thornton goal being stoppable, and it was still a bang bang play with Khabi left out to dry. He maintains a top-level save percentage, and I still think he actually has played his best hockey since coming to us as a dubious ST signing. Gagner and Hemsky both looked like lost sheeples out there, and Hemsky especially is seemingly melting before our very eyes. His best asset is passing and I can't be the only one that has noticed how poorly he has been passing the puck recently. He rarely seems to be making saucer passes, and while he's normally good for 10 tap in helpers a season (pro-rated, he's not exactly made of stainless steel here), I think we've seen maybe one this year. Rumours of him being on the block are heating up and I can't help but wonder if maybe the time to trade him is now, while he still has much of his value (a tad less because of a slow start to his season). It would break my heart, but at the end of the day it's a business, and Hemsky remains a commodity that you know some teams will be very interested in (Kaberle got traded to Montreal, typical shit move by their shitty GM, and yet Jacques Martin gets fired). On a mildly smile-inducing side-note, PRV went pointless and scored a shootout winner in the Barons 3-2 shoot-out win in his AHL debut. Pony power.
So now we really need to ask ourselves, is this Oilers team awful again? Well I'll give you one statistic that should at least give you a tiny bit of Christmas-miracle hope. The Oilers are currently 24th in the league by points (it's still pretty bunched up though), and yet they are 13th by goal differential. Granted they have earned much of that positive differential when they climbed to as high as second in the league, but regardless, there are plenty of teams in the playoff picture that are at least on a level field with the Oil drop when it comes to GD. In the East, for instance, there are three teams currently above the playoff cut with negative goal differentials. While goal differential isn't exactly the same as team performance, it is pretty close, and by the end of the season sorting by goal differential or points invariably leads to two very similarly ordered lists. I think the correlation between GD and Points is something like 0.85 -- but don't quote me, look it up.
The primary weakness this current batch-load of blue has is the basic inability to dominate stretches of hockey offensively, and the bottom 4 defenders. Until Tambo gets serious about bringing in some elite defensive help (Ryan Suter would sure look good in Oilers silks), and figures out a way to pick FA players that won't rob Katz blind, I suspect we will have plenty of more downs before we have an ascent into the stratosphere of the league.
A few individuals after the hop, and then quotes from Oilers as they try to explain why this team can't buy a fucking win.
|Yes, calling ToArray() in a for loop is inefficient -- thankfully |
the calculations happen faster than I can perform a GET on the page
Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has a theory about the NHL playoff race that makes a lot of sense. He believes that after Thanksgiving weekend, NHL teams move in a pack.Basically I wondered if I took a look at standings data in a step-by-step process, at which point would the point pace/win percentage became valuable for early prediction. Thankfully my day job is programming the infernal machine, and as you can see from the code snippet above, I wrote a quickie web-spider/data processor to scour standing data from http://www.shrpsports.com and this gave me a nice set of data points for every day within a given season.
If they were good early, chances are they'll be good the rest of the way, or at least good enough to make the playoffs.
He also believes that if a team struggles in the early going, it'll probably struggle the rest of the way to make the playoffs.
Once in a great while, a team rallies all the way back to make the playoffs. The San Jose Sharks did it the season they acquired Joe Thornton on Nov. 30, when they were mired in 10th place.
Mostly, though, teams that get out of the gate well are usually the ones left standing as May turns into June and the Stanley Cup playoffs get down to the final four. - Erik Duhatscheck, Toronto Globe and Mail, 12/02/2008
Charts and methodology after the hop.
|I would have titled this post Ass Bandits in closer relation to how the Oilers played but this is a family site.|
And folks, they laid a dinosaur egg tonight. Not the normal kind of egg you might see coming from underneath a Jewish caricature in the Borat movie either. We are talking Brontosaurus sized, brown and blue speckled, feed-the-village-for-a-month egg. It was reverse night, as Gilbert made a number of critical mistakes, and the top-two lines sucked more knob than Monica Lewinsky circa 1997. This has been a trend recently, as the Smyth, RNH, and Eberle line have managed a goal here and there, but no consistent 5v5 offence or momentum generation. Of course there will be lulls in the season, and no doubt they have been the Oilers best line by a Siberian mile, but you just hope for a bit more consistency at this critical juncture of the season.
Here are three primary junknozzles I want to point out that I think are harming the Oilers immensely (after the hop).