Last night’s game was ugly. We all know that –- it was a 9-2 loss, and there’s absolutely no way to gloss that over. The penalty-kill was beyond abysmal, even by the standards of this season. With eight goals already, Joel Quenneville mercifully sent out his fourth line when given a powerplay opportunity. Craig Adams scored anyway, and despite the fact that he very rarely scores (4 goals in 75 games last season, 7 in 82 the year before) he didn’t celebrate the goal.
At even-strength, things weren’t much better. The veteran pairing of Gilbert and Souray finished the night -3, but they were actually on for six goals against –- two at even-strength, three on the penalty-kill, and one while on the powerplay. Of course, they weren’t the only ones -– there were so many problems on this team that it’s hard to know where to start. Kyle Brodziak’s 4-for-14 face-off performance sticks out of the stats sheet, and it’s good to remember that a bunch of those were own-zone penalty-kill draws. The team captain, Ethan Moreau, managed no shots, no hits and no blocked shots, which probably has something to do with his -2 performance at even-strength, along with his -2 performance on the penalty-kill (this despite the fact that he played less than a minute short-handed). In fact, virtually every member of this team was badly outplayed –- with the exception of four players.
Lubomir Visnovsky looked good for most of the game, and that’s evidenced on the score sheet as well. He blocked three shots and despite playing 20:15 ended up +1 on the night.
Aside from Lubomir Visnovsky, however, the Oilers fourth line showed up and did exactly the job they needed to do. Marc Pouliot was the Oilers’ best face-off man on the night, winning 10 of 14 draws. MacTavish used him on the penalty-kill, and he was one of the very few Oilers not to be on the ice for a goal against, even short-handed. On top of that, Pouliot managed a goal in the third. In point of fact, the entire fourth line showed up; Stortini fought Ben Eager, managed two shots on net and three recorded hits as well as a blocked shot. Liam Reddox led all Oilers forwards in short-handed ice-time; he was on for only one goal against.
It really isn’t much –- when the best thing to be said about a team is that their fourth line and best defenceman were positive factors it’s a good sign that the game was otherwise a miserable effort.
I think the Oilers win the game against Vancouver tonight. Jersey retirements often seem to have a detrimental effect on the home team (as Oilers’ fans have observed often enough), and I can’t recall ever seeing a team get hammered as badly as the Oilers and not show up for their next game. Of course, I haven’t seen a team get hammered that badly in a long time either, but the Oilers should be plenty mad tonight. Outside of a win, I’m hoping that Marc Pouliot gets elevated to the third line while Brodziak drops back to the fourth; the Moreau-Brodziak-Cole line hasn’t been effective yet, while Pouliot has been playing very well for a half-dozen games now.