Buffalo Sabres: 3
Edmonton Oilers: 1
After a strong performance against Ottawa, the Oilers weren’t as good tonight against Buffalo. Second games in back to back nights are often like that, and while nobody wants to make excuses it would have been remarkable had the Oilers won this game.
Oilers Three Stars, According To Me
1. Nikolai Khabibulin. Played a very solid game in net, and the save that comes to mind in particular was the stop on Thomas Vanek when the latter was all alone in the slot. Looked very solid on the evening.
2. Dustin Penner. Aside from the late-game combustibility of his sticks (what was up with that – seriously, three sticks in ten minutes?) he had a solid game, particularly on the penalty kill.
3. Denis Grebeshkov. A solid night was spoiled by a late game knee injury.
The biggest issue coming out of this game are injuries to Liam Reddox and Denis Grebeshkov. First, here’s the hit Reddox was injured on and which Clarke MacArthur got a five minute major for:
It’s a dirty hit and well worth five minutes and the game misconduct, but it didn’t strike me as one where MacArthur meant to injure Reddox. Watching the play, it was a split-second decision and I’m inclined to give MacArthur the benefit of the doubt here. Pat Quinn emphatically disagreed, saying "he knew exactly what he was doing" after the game. He also said that Reddox’s wrist "was all blown up" and that "his head was smacked too". I’d suggest a short suspension (one to three games) is a reasonable outcome here, but feel free to discuss that.
As for Grebeshkov, the Oilers tweeted that he is done for the trip with a knee injury and on his way back to Edmonton. They didn’t say but it seems almost certain that this came on a knee-on-knee hit towards the end of the third period.
People will (rightly) criticize the powerplay tonight (Quinn was livid in his post-game conference) but it’s worth noting that the Oilers did manage 13 shots and their lone goal came with the man advantage. At even-strength they have just seven goals in their last six games. Buffalo also carried the play against them tonight while at five on five; only the power play kept the Oilers close.
For all the whining about Hemsky’s negative impact on the power play, let’s keep in mind that since the lockout he’s been the Oilers’ best player with the man advantage. Yes, the power play sticks too close to the perimeter and passes too much, but Hemsky’s greatest strength is his passing and on-ice vision. Asking him to charge into the slot, bull his way to the net, and so forth reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of his role on the unit. The problem is that everyone on the team seems to think they have that same role. For example, Cogliano had a strong game but with Craig Rivet down behind the net and Penner manhandling the defenseman in front, he just passed the puck back to the point – he needed to take advantage of the opportunity, either by going to the slot or giving the puck to Penner. Instead, the opportunity was lost as Rivet got up and the Sabres covered the point man.
Steve Staios had a strong game (on the first goal, he blocked the shot twice) but got turned inside out by Derek Roy late in the game.
A game after both callups looked strong, Ryan Potulny was the goat on one goal with a lackadaisical back-check that allowed Steve Montador to walk in all alone. As for Reddox, it sounds like he’ll be around for a whilke but "around" will mean hanging out on the injured reserve.
What did everyone else think?