Oilers/Wild Postgame: Night of Lousy Power Plays

The Edmonton Oilers played a hockey game on the road against the Minnesota Wild earlier this evening. As with most games the Oilers play on the road against the Wild, this one ended in a loss.

Martin Havlat’s a beautiful player, and after a rocky start with his current team he has been nothing but quality for the Wild. His first goal came off an ugly change by the Oilers; he zipped right by Tom Gilbert, who tried to stop him at the blue-line, and put it past Khabibulin. Havlat also played a key role on the game-winner; while Taylor Hall’s disengagement in the defensive zone and Andrew Cogliano’s blown tire seemed to grab the attention of the commentators, it was Havlat who drew two defenders (Vandermeer was the one sucked away from the right side of the net) and left all that room for the other Wild forward to go in all alone and score the winner.

That other Wild forward? Who else but Kyle Brodziak, twisting the knife in as he has ever since the Oilers shipped him off in that minor little draft-day deal a couple of years ago (the Oilers got a 4th round pick (Kyle Bigos) and a fifth round pick (Olivier Roy) for Brodziak and a sixth round pick (Darcy Kuemper)). Not only did Brodziak put the winner in, but he also provided the screen that Jared Spurgeon’s seeing-eye shot penetrated for the insurance marker, played major minutes on the Wild penalty kill, and took 18 faceoffs, winning 75% of the ones he took against people not named Shawn Horcoff (Horcoff went six-for-six against Brodziak). To this day I have mixed feelings watching him play for the Wild; on the one hand it bothers me that he’s so good against the Oilers, on the other I don’t mind at all that the team is reminded every so often how silly they were to ship off a 6’2” right-handed checking centre who is still just 26 years old 316 games into his NHL career. But I digress.

Andrew Brunette was his usual greasy and effective self. Cal Clutterbuck was a pain and his hit to Tom Gilbert’s numbers led directly to the Wild’s fourth goal: Ladislav Smid came way across the ice to exact revenge on Clutterbuck, leaving Bouchard to streak in alone on the far wing.

The Oilers’ lone goal came from Kurtis Foster at even-strength off a nice pass from Linus Omark.

Other Minor Points

Someday, when the Oilers finally give up on Jean-Francois Jacques and he goes off to ply his trade in the LNAH, I’ll be able to forget about him. Until then, I’ll simply have to grin and bear it as he loses the puck in his skates, mishandles nice passes, nails the boards two seconds after his intended target has skated off with the puck, and takes gratuitous and idiotic runs at players without the puck who were hit moments before. He was having a miserable game even before he flew off the handle at Brad Staubitz, who hit him high and caused him to turn over the puck (which, it should be noted, is the point of hitting the opponent).

Speaking of that particular play, I know conventional wisdom has it that throwing big hits and dropping the gloves helps to protect the skill players; still I couldn’t help but think that Clayton Stoner might not have drilled Ales Hemsky’s head into the boards with such ferocity if Jacques and Staubitz hadn’t had their little run-in. Also, good on Dustin Penner for responding in kind without getting penalized.

It was nice to see the Oilers try the low play late in their lengthy 5-on-3 penalty. It beat the heck out of the earlier strategy of passing the puck around in the hopes a magical lane might open for Kurtis Foster’s point shot. Speaking of other power play positives, I love the respect opposing teams give Hemsky on the half-boards; I’ll miss that if the Oilers trade him.

I’ve been watching the play-by-play/colour tandems from other teams on NHL Game Center (I like the different perspectives every night), but twice in a row now I’ve listened to DeBrusk/Quinn. The first time was because after five minutes I couldn’t handle Atlanta’s TV crew, and then today I couldn’t get the Wild feed. They really aren’t bad, but I think I’ll have to start taking a shot of something every time I hear the word “momentum.”

  • Kodiak

    I’m definitely puzzled with a lot of Renney’s decisions. Not putting Hall and Hemmer together on the PP after the Atlanta game seems pretty asinine. Line matching is Coaching 101 and for some reason Renney can’t be bothered to do that either.

    What’s your take on that Willis/Brownlee?

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I agree, although many on ON think that Renny is above criticism. We may have a lousy team but we still have individual talents. Why is the PP so bad ? When is it the players and when is it the coaching staff. Perhaps we need better special teams coaching ? Perhaps our players are better than our coaches ?

      • Kyle Brodziak’s perfectly executed screen last night kind of illustrates the problem. Renney has been preaching this sort of thing all year. Once in a while Penner gets motivated and does a great job of screening, and we often score a goal.

        It seems the PP unit as a whole doesn’t seem willing or able to do it on a regular basis. Probably alot of it comes down to a lack of PP specialists on this team, and trying to get guys to do something they haven’t done in their whole career. Chalk it up to the Tambellini imposed lack of balance – all part of the race to disgrace.

        • Crash

          Precisely, I’ve been preaching the same thing on here over and over. The Oilers PP will for the most part struggle until they figure out you need to get in front of the goaltender with at least one guy and sometimes more than that.

          They need to deflect pucks, bang in rebounds, screen the tender so he can’t see where the puck is coming from and shoot the puck in there from every possible angle. And not just on the PP…this goes for EV strength too.

          And it doesn’t have to be the big guys, it can be anybody…just watch the highlights on TSN on any given night and see how many goals are scored because of traffic around the blue paint. It’s numerous and there are guys like Pavel Datsyuk right in the grill of the goaltender. Just last night San Jose scored a 5 on 3 goal by having 4 guys around the blue paint and banging in a rebound. They didn’t try to make the perfect back door play or the perfect in the slot pass, top shelf shot. No, they screened the goalie, got the puck in the crease and plowed it home.

          It’s not going to matter if Hemsky and Hall play together or not if the Oilers continue to refuse to create traffic. This is why the PP is so bad and why the Oilers are near the bottom of the league in offense.