March 01 2009 03:00PM
I visited my folks last night and watched the game with the old man; enjoyed it too, which is unusual for a game involving Minnesota. In any case, I wasn’t especially pleased by the performance, although two points is always good to see.
Ethan Moreau’s Injury
Very few people have been as harshly critical of the captain as me, but what an awful break. Moreau’s a gamer; always has been, for that matter, and seeing him being helped off the ice was an instant sign that Antii Miettinen’s stick had hit more than the bone right above the eye. Craig MacTavish confirmed that suspicion after the game:
”The stick looks like it gashed the socket and the doctors say it raked across the eyeball. It looks pretty serious.”
Hopefully the injury isn’t as serious as it sounds.
The Tough Minutes
One of my minor obsessions are line matchups; last night Jacques Lemaire’s top line was Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Here were Craig MacTavish’s top-two lines and defence pairings for use against Koivu & Co., along with their total ice-time against the trio:
Reddox: 7.3 min Horcoff: 7.1 min Hemsky: 5.7 min Brodziak: 4.5 min Pisani: 4.5 min Moreau: 4.3 min
Grebeshkov: 8.1 min Gilbert: 7.7 min Staios: 7.1 min Souray: 7.0 min
Brodziak shows up ahead of Cogliano because MacTavish seemingly doesn’t trust Cogliano to take faceoffs in his own zone, and sneaks Kyle Brodziak in instead, as well as occasionally sending Brodziak and Horcoff out together for defensive zone draws.
As a side point, it’s always a bit of a minor irritation to me to see Pouliot – Gagner – Cole listed as the second line in a game like tonight; as a general rule, the checking line sees more ice-time than that trio, since MacTavish likes to give easier matchups to his second scoring line, and he evidently feels confident sending out his checking line against any opposition. Usually it’s close in terms of total minutes, and obviously it depends on game situation, but as a general rule the checking line gets more minutes than the soft-scoring line – and that’s not just a MacTavish thing, it’s prevalent around the league.
An Undeserved Win
Excepting Dwayne Roloson, who was phenomenal and richly deserved the first star last night, the Oilers did not deserve a win in last night’s game. You may recall the disgust of Rob Tychkowski after the Columbus game; one of the things that he (correctly) pointed out was the Oilers being outshot 17-5 in the second period. Last night, they were outshot 18-3 in the third and 45-30 overall. For the final frame, they barely ventured outside of their own zone with the puck.
The first line in particular were lucky (although Liam Reddox had a surprisingly strong game), scoring two goals despite being outshot and out-chanced all evening long. The worst chance against (IMO) came when Shawn Horcoff picked the pocket of a Minnesota player but then lost the puck, leaving it wide open near the faceoff circle. Horcoff actually had the worst Corsi number of any player on the team last night (-9) which looked very much deserved to me.
Of course, they did pick up a bit after Dustin Penner was replaced by Liam Reddox; Penner earned any of the anger that was misdirected at him after the Columbus game tonight, with the Oilers getting outshot 7:1 with him on the ice. In my opinion, MacTavish’s decision to demote him to the 4th line was correct in this instance.
Outside of those players, Ladislav Smid had a surprisingly good game by all measures, while Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov were outshot (15:6 and 15:5, respectively) and outchanced (7:12 for both). Moreau, Pisani and Cogliano were also having good games, something made more surprising by the high level of their opponents (Cogliano excepted).
In any case, had the Oilers emerged from last night’s tilt with less than two points, they undoubtedly would have taken harsh (and deserved) criticism, but despite sloppy play in the third and two power-play goals against, they got away with two points. They needed it; as of this morning, there are four teams currently outside of the playoffs within three points of the Oilers. This race is going to go down to the wire.