December 23 2009 10:43PM
Edmonton Oilers: 1
Minnesota Wild: 3
Another game, and yet another loss. That's five in a row, and it's been a long time since... nevermind, this happened last year too.
Oilers Three Stars, According To Me
1. Robert Nilsson. The only goal-scorer was an easy selection for one of the three stars. His goal was a combination of good timing, a willingness to go to the net and quick hands, and came off a smart Tom Gilbert wrist shot. Nilsson showed some passion and has played a lot better since coming back from concussion.
2. Dustin Penner. Penner quietly had a very good game, although he turned it up a bit in the third period and became more visibly dominant. It was interesting to see the passion from him and Horcoff during a 4-on-4 shift in the third, and of course that's always nice to see.
3. Jeff Deslauriers. Deslauriers is a heck of an interesting player. The size and reflexes are undeniable, and he was very sharp all night. I would have pegged him higher except that every game he seems to toss the puck away - on the winning Minnesota goal it wasn't just Grebeshkov's giveaway, but also the Deslauriers giveaway about ten seconds earlier that led to the goal against. That said, it was a strong performance.
I think I've figured out why people pick on the Oilers' rather adequate power play. It's because their penalty kill makes every other power play in the league look so good that we just naturally expect more. At 76.7%, the Oilers PK is actually almost a full percentage point worse than last season; I guess Kyle Brodziak (who was noticeable killing penalties and defending a lead with one minute to go) wasn't the problem after all.
The Oilers struggles this season have gone a long way towards rehabilitating the reputation of Craig MacTavish. I look at a game like tonight, where:
- Ryan Potulny got to play on the top line
- Horcoff, O'Sullivan and Jacques were put together yet again despite their ineffectiveness as a line
- Ethan Moreau got to play with Cogliano and Nilsson despite the fact that it's hard to argue any of the fourth liners have been worse than him
That's just from tonight. I'm not actually criticizing Quinn here because I see the roster, but had MacTavish done those things he'd be getting called an idiot for them so it seems only fair to point them out.
Some people talked a lot about Ethan Moreau's cross-check the other night in the context of "leadership" and "passion". I'd advise them to watch Steve Staios if they're looking for that; he still seems to live and die on every play. I do question his effectiveness relative to cost, but there's no arguing his heart. It was a pretty good game from a heart standpoint for the Oilers, actually; most of the forwards in particular were physically involved.
It was pretty funny seeing Denis Grebeshkov flatten Derek Boogaard.
Martin Havlat sure looks good, doesn't he? It was only a matter of time until he rebounded, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Minnesota go on a late season charge. They got killed by the percentages early but they're a much better team than their early season record indicated.
Finally, a quick glance at the league standings shows the Oilers tied for 29th in the NHL, ahead of only Carolina. It's been a steep drop for the two 2006 Stanley Cup finalists, but at least Carolina had some ups along the way.