Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 16: One Step Forward, Two-Step Back

This is also a diagram of Nikitin's skating stride.



Like a freckle-faced country girl invited to her first ball, the Oilers were shy and timid lady to start, and a big strong cowboy swooped in and swept her off her feet. Smothered with swagger and speed, the Oilers were nailed to their own zone's boards, and the Predators racked up an impressive 25 shot attempts to the Oilers 8. It was triple-E Ugleee, and in stark contrast to the fast, vicious upstarts that embarrassed the Blueshirts in the previous game.

The preds scored a good goal - Cullen's rebound swipe off he post, a bad goal - Riberio cleaning up Neal's long-range loose change, and an ugly goal - Flippies obtuse in-close offering. The last goal in particular stung; like Remenda said, there was a feeling that if the Oilers could escape the initial frame down a deuce that they might be able to fashion a game out of the first period wreckage. Alas, Fasth ended the goalie controversy with about a minute before the intermission, which eventually ended his night, and ultimately was all Sabercats needed.

The Good

Benoit Pouliot had another strong game, including a turbo-charged bolt to the top shelf that eluded the towering Rinne. He had 4 shots, almost 20 minutes of ice, and finished +1. If the Oilers are going to be able to sustain success long-term, Pouls will need to maintain this level of consistency. This was another good game, he seems to be making a habit of them recently.

Ben Scrivens was perfect in relief. Granted, the Oilers decided to show the cowboy a thing or two about how to dance, but in general Scrivens was solid from post to post, and made a super save on a Neal solo-shot to keep the Oilers in it right till the final whistle.

Nail Yakupov continues to stick to his game, and was rewarded on the night with a Perron power-move and pass. He had a glorious chance on the PP to tie up the game, but alas his timing failed him. It's positive he's sticking with the process, and Nail received 18 minutes of ice, essentially confirming the coach is happy with his contributions. We would love to see him connect on that one timer though - he hasn't scored a lot of goals from any distance in a while. In case you were worried about Yak, here's the coach after the game:

"It looked scary coming off but he just had a couple stitches in his wrist." - Coach Eakins on Yakupov, cut near the end of the game

David Perron continues to be the straw stirring the shit in every game. His quick, sticky play continues to pace his line; aside from his absolutely massive pass to Yakupov for the "slam dunk", he's able to drive possession consistently (44% on the night when the team was 39%). In case you were curious, his metaphysically joined brother, Paajarvi, is 6gp 0-1-1 -1, and the pick after Magnus was Ryan Ellis, a guy playing well for the enemy in this one.

The Process that the coach is employing seems to actual be sinking into the domes of the desperate Oilers. They aren't straying from the game plan - merely occasionally offering up ugly execution of said plan. If they can really get it in their thick, long losing heads that they need to play the same way regardless of score, that will be the biggest step they've taken as a team since Tambo sent them presents on the draft-tank train.

Some villains after the hop...

The Bad

Viktor Fasth as mentioned above, remains consistently inconsistent. You have to expect the odd bad goal from every stopper, but when the Oilers are only scoring 2.5 goals a game, they don't have large margins of suck to work with. One fumble by Fasth, and he's once again watching Scrivvy from underneath a ballcap brim.

Leon Draisaitl might have deserved the ugly stamp, but when you only play 7:25 in the game, it's hard to do that much wrong. What he accomplished was one part zip and one part zonk. It's hard to understand how the uber empties out of him like that, but it's likely due to him being a teenager, and a couple of low-bar shifts echoing in his mind. He's looked much better than this, so no towers out of toothpicks from this writer. He's bound to blow the Blechenbitz once and a while, and suck the Schlippenschaft occasionally too. On this night, he happened to do both. Unless it becomes a pattern, we can give him a couple of free passes.

The Fourth Line hounds were not howling on this night. Hendricks barely touched the puck, Jonesuu got super-glued to his seat, and Gordon lost a couple key battles in his own zone. It might have been their least effective outing since they have become a fixture for the team. Like Leon above, no panic until a period or two of poo-poo becomes persistent patterns. If anything, the hounds have been the most consistent quarter of the forward lineup, so I expect a better game from them moving forward.

The Ugly

Nikki Nikitin continues to make me curse at my plasma more than a dumb Moon landing denying documentary. He is the epitome of clutzy chaos when he's retrieving pucks. Often during his retrieval you'll notice he immediately goes full-on frantic, desperate to move the hot potato so he can avoid the shock of the incoming-hit-timer expiring. I'm just kind of getting fed up with his over all game, not just the defensive gaffes. He's no ace defender, no blessed biscuit bequeather, and definitely not the guy who should be pushing the PP puck up the ice. Here's a wild idea, put in Marincin for Nikitin...


The Oilers steadily improved as the game went, and in the third, actually outplayed the Preds for significant stretches. The only problem was that they started the game with the pop of a wet firecracker, and got a sloppy stretch from their second goalie. After that, it was all over but the crying.

P.S. They still haven't beaten a Western conference team...


  1. Nikitin was a bad pickup, they play him so that upper management don't look like fools for signing him to big money. If the younger kids (Klef or Mic) gave the puck up as much as he did they would have been demoted to the AHL so fast. Nikitin was a healthy scratch on a crappy cbj team, why did management think it was good to sign him? On a side note...the d is looking better and better but since the oil are pretty much out of the playoffs, they should see what they have with the kids, play both klef and Mirc and waive Gazdick back to the a where he belongs.