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.”