Thursday, October 30, 2014

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 10: Western Country Blues

The Predators are probably a team that has been hurt by their own success. Barry Trotz carved out multiple successful seasons from oftentimes journeymen rosters bolstered with intelligent defencemen draft decisions. As a result of their consistently above mediocre results, the Preds have been a team that has usually been bereft of high-end talent, especially in terms of scoring prowess, often obtained by new teams via the draft.

When a team has zero elite offensive talents, often times you wonder how they would ever win the cup. Regardless of questioning their ability to capture Lord Stanley's silverware, the 2014 version of the predators with Laviolette at the helm and a couple of mercenary centers was more than enough to firmly put the streaking Oilers in their place.

The corsi graph tells a lot about the flow of the game: the Oilers were getting marginally outplayed possession-wise until the winning goal bulged the twine. Even at that point though, the Oilers were within 3-4 shot attempts at sawing off possession. Unfortunately the Oilers rode the scoring effect wave (the proven concept that teams with leads let off the gas) to begin taking over the game, which became less surprising when the Preds went up by 3. Specifically - as highlighted by the Sportsnet crew - the Nashville dmen were moving the puck quickly and smartly out of their own graveyard into the central swamp. Something which the Oilers struggled with right from the start. As Eakins said, the passes were just a bit off, and the lack of cleanliness in their own zone ultimately cost them.

The game started off with another disallowed Oilers goal against, and this one wasn't without some controversy. It seemed it was disallowed because of intent to blow (which was almost the title of this post), but mine eyes also spied that a NSH forward pushed on Scrivens' trapper which might have contributed; regardless it was a gee-whoa moment that should have signaled to the Oilers bench to get their shit together. Instead, they shambled around in a pre-Halloween stagger: passes fit for Frankenstein, and general chaos in the execution around their own net.

Two goals in the early second built the coffin and put the Oilers corpse in it, and a Weber blast early in the third nailed it shut. Unfortunately I've written half of the post by the time my mind decided to switch from a "sad cowboy" theme to a Halloween theme, you'll just have to stick it out now. Anyways, as far as specific thoughts, check them after the hop:

The Good
  • Scrivens' played a strong game to keep the Oilers in it for a while - they simply didn't back him up. The key is that Scrivens really looks like he's dialed in his game, and even in the loss, I think we should continue to feel a sense of relaxation with him in the nets. His save percentage and overall #'s (31/35 saves, .886) were not great, but he probably made only one mistake on a goal, and had big stops otherwise.
  • The kids cycled fairly effectively for much of the game. It's been a while where we've seen the kids with a half-dozen pass attempts in the opponents zone, and I'm sure some pocket-protected pillar of programming could correlate kid-line cooperation with Oilers success. Eakins broke the kids up for a while, probably because he feels like Arco+Hall has shown offensive chops in the past, and the Nugeguy could spark results from BPouls and Yak attack. The kids were responsible for the potted puck and two apples on the Oilers single scoring digit.
  • Justin Schultz had one of the more silently impressive games defensively. 2 shots, 3 blocks, and over 24 minutes of ice time, and I remember thinking that he looked pretty solid for most of the game. One of the goals was a two on one sauce and slam over his sliding stick and self, but immediately after I thought: his timing was as good as possible. I've definitely been hard on him a lot of the time, but its more because he *can* be a really good defenceman, and hasn't really lived up to the potential yet. If we see 40 more games like this from Schultz, we might even be able to talk about Schultz as a responsible defencemen. One can dream, right?
  • Perron played a strong game for the most part, had 3 shots and was seriously dangling and high-wiring around the ice. The results weren't there, but his ability to evade sticks and bodies with his cajun craftiness is bound to lead to some offence soon. For a guy missing Hemsky's drop-ya-drawers-dangles, Perron is helping alleviate some of that pain.
The Naughty
  • Marincin and Fayne had forgettable nights. On at least two occasions, Marincin fought off a couple forecheckers on the boards to give him a tiny island of calm, only to make a bad giveaway inside his island of calm. Those are the times when you wish he wouldn't be *quite* so determined to maintain possession.
  • Brad Hunt has lousy footspeed, and is very prone to being caught up ice if he makes even the smallest pinch. I don't see him as a long term NHL defenceman, even less than Marc Andre Bergeron was (I think MAB was faster of foot). Let's hope that whatever is going on with Nikitin's back isn't long term.
The Ghoulish
  • The Oilers record against western conference foes drops to 0-5-1, which y'know is slowly placing the playoff noose around Edmonton's chances to make the big show. personally, I'm with Hall in that I don't think there really is much in specific to the success in East versus West argument except in a pure west is best kind of way. No time for woe is us in this league, though.
  • Secondary scoring was non-existent the night after Yak and Pouls broke out of mini-slumps. Perron was dangling like hell, but remains goalless and we're over 12% done here folks. The Purcells, Perrons, and Pouliots on the roster need to start popping the pot stickers in the 6 by 4 pretty soon here, or it's a long walk to the golf carts.

Marginally outplayed by a team  that might be marginally better right now. We really need to show up on Saturday and demolish the Canucks to silence some of the stupid western opponent angst.