Take the Hit, But Take a Number


One of the interesting little mini-battles that caught my eye in Tuesday’s 4-2 Oilers win over Los Angeles was the conflict between Kings captain Dustin Brown and Edmonton’s third line. Brown caught third-line pivot Anton Lander with a hard check early in the game, and Lander and his linemates seemingly never let that go.

The Initial Play

4.7.15 Brown 1

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The initial setup here is a routine defensive zone play. Defenceman Brandon Davidson is the first man back to retrieve a dump-in, and he’s being pressured by L.A. pivot Jarret Stoll. Anton Lander is watching, and thinking about going to the corner to get the puck.

4.7.15 Brown 2

Davidson rolls the puck into the corner, and Lander advances to get it. He’s in a race with Brown here, and while he has a step he won’t have much time; he’s going to get thumped right after he reaches the puck.

4.7.15 Brown 3

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Lander reaches the puck and makes a quick pass to Tyler Pitlick at the top of the zone to start the rush the other way. Predictably, Brown crushes him with a heavy hit.

Not Letting Go

The next shift out, Brown tries to carry the puck out of his own end. Pitlick responds by circling around in front and landing a pretty decent hit on Brown along the boards.

4.7.15 Brown 4

Matt Fraser decides to join in a moment later with the puck having moved all of a foot or so; he joins the battle along the boards and makes sure to finish his check on Brown in the process.

4.7.15 Brown 5

Fraser isn’t finished. A little later on, he sees Brown go to carry the puck behind his own net. He steams over and shoves Brown hard to the ice.

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4.7.15 Brown 6

Pitlick isn’t finished, either. A few shifts later, Pitlick sees Brown coming out of the corner with the puck in the Oilers’ end of the rink and takes advantage of the opportunity to level him with a hit.

4.7.15 Brown 7

These weren’t the only hits on Brown in the game. He had a running battle with Keith Aulie and my game notes also show that Lander took advantage of an opportunity later in the game to hit him as well (I didn’t note the timestamp and the Rexall scorer didn’t catch it, so I couldn’t go back and find that hit).

This isn’t a big thing; we can even debate how important it is to winning a game in the grand scheme of things. But the Oilers have a reputation (at least in Edmonton) of backing down when faced with a physical challenge. They didn’t do that against Los Angeles, and this particular example of Fraser and Pitlick taking advantage of opportunities to exact a little payback for their linemate is a good demonstration of what lots of hockey people like to see from their teams and what the Oilers have at least at times lacked in recent years. 

It was the exact right way to respond to the challenge. They stayed within the rules, made good hockey plays and in the process made sure to thump a guy who never passes on an opportunity to hit his opponents. It was a textbook example of smart but physical hockey and standing up for a teammate. 

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  • shanetrain

    Nice to see a line with a motive..pitlick and lander looked good just need someone to skate with them..is Joel ward someone that would compliment that pairing??

  • Rob...

    I also saw more than a few attempts to make Regehr pay, and I appreciated the effort. Both Brown and Regehr regularly ignore the puck to make the hit, and it’s nice to see the payback.

  • El Pindo

    Love it!! We definitely need more of this, helps bring the guys together and gets everyone playing for each other! I haven’t been a huge fan of Aulie (don’t mind him as a 7D I guess), but I’ll give credit where credit is due, and every game I’ve seen him play he is always one of the most physical guys out there, and I realize that alone won’t win us many games but it’s just a nice change. I also love Yak’s fire in the physical aspect, I think yesterday Aulie levelled someone, not sure who, they took exception, and if I’m not mistaken Yak was the first guy in there ready to help out (Aulie ended up dropping the gloves so Yak didn’t need to do much, but at least he was right in there).

    • camdog

      Very true but there were a couple of times where I was in awe of Marincin’s stick handling last night. I don’t think I’ll ever be sold on Schultz, I just don’t see the potential there that I do in others. I think Musil has been a bit of a surprise, I thought he was noticeable in the last two games and in a good way. Nothing special just getting the job done.

      • El Pindo

        While they call Scrivens the Professor in some quarters, his handling of the puck out of the net is totally moronic. On a regular basis he contributes to opposition scoring chances and has either killed momentum for the team or outright caused a loss for the Oilers.

        Kids that always lose their mitts have strings attached and run through their coat sleeves. These are referred to as idiot mittens. How can the Oilers do the same to ensure Scrivens stays in his crease?

  • ubermiguel

    Package up this piece and send it to the rest of the team with the message “This is what truculence looks like, do more of this”. And dear god I hope Pitlick can stay healthy. There’s a real player there if he can.

  • camdog

    There’s room on this team for Aullie as a #7. He’s not always very good, but he brings something different to the group. Problem is the Oilers already have 2 expensive #7 guys already signed.

  • camdog

    To think Anton Lander was on waivers earlier this year.Love what he has brought to the team.He has definite captain material.
    Aulie may not be the most gifted but he certainly is’nt afraid of dropping the gloves.Another nasty player on the backend and one up front could go a long way for this team.
    Musil has definitely opened my eyes.
    Please please ………..please playoffs sooner than later.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    You state it is not a big thing that the line stood up for each other but I would disagree on that. So many times we have seen a player pasted by a body check and the rest of the line stand there and watch. Playing as a team is central to being able to win in the NHL. In some sports Skill far overrules teamwork and so one player can have a far greater influence on the games outcome night after night. Hockey however is much more team than individual. I feel this is due to the physical factors in the game.

  • Reg Dunlop

    It must be just a coincidence that the 3 players mentioned were AHL players. We all know that the high priced help would have been all over Brown if they only had the opportunity.

    I wonder how the complete Oiler squad would fare against the Barons in a best-of-7?

  • freelancer

    For this team, built as it is, is to have any chance of competing they need to play like this much more consistently. You don’t necessarily have to have 220+ lb players on every line. Just finish your checks.

    On the topic of Pitlick, I’ve been a big fan of him on his callups. If he can stay healthy he could turn into a great third line player. I see him and Fraser battling it out for the 13th forward position going into next season.

  • Always nice to see this kind of thing. Also nice to think the Oilers might have some decent depth call ups if the situation arises. Between Pikarinnen, Pitlick, and Fraser, that 3rd line winger position will likely have someone who can play a hard game.

    Also nice to see Hall so productive in the face off circle. I just wish he could learn to back check at that position.

    I have said it before and I will say it again, I hope the Oilers spend some money on defencethis offseason, as to my eye that and some decent goal tending could make all the difference.

    Also on that note, has Bachman done enough to merit some consideration?

    • He’s a solid number 3 guy. If he performs well for the rest of the season, and has a lights out training camp, he might have a slight chance of getting backup duties in the NHL somewhere.

      • freelancer

        Considering the recent events Bachman has had to deal with I am inclined to give him a pass on that goal. He was able to shut the door for the rest of the period and has been solid for the Oilers since being called up. I would not hate the idea of Bachman as a backup IF we go out and can get a true #1 goaltender who can play 50+ games.

          • Silver Streak

            That was a terrible goal. He whiffed one. That happens. I kept expecting another bad goal. It didn’t happen. Good on Bachman.

            I haven’t seen enough of him to form much of an opinion. I do think the team has been playing better in front of him and only recall the one soft goal.

            I’d like to see him finish out the season. So far he’s earned it. Scrivens certainly hasn’t.

      • pkam

        That is a good point. And the Kings were certainly tired and not shelling out goalie at will like they normally do. But, I’m just asking the question really cause that’s twice now Bachman has been able to help the Oilers beat the Kings. Though last time they lost in a shoot out.

        If last night’s game is any indication, average goal tending and good defence will win games far more than great goal tending and terrible defence. But that’s just my opinion.

        • camdog

          Last nights game was nice, however it wasn’t long ago that Lowetide would refer to this game as a scheduled loss, 3 games in 4 nights on the road in the west is killer.

          • pkam

            And that would be a fair point if not for the fact it was a must win for LA. And, the Oilers have not been so lucky on other scheduled loss nights. I refer you back to one of the first games of the season when the Oilers played the Flames who were on the second game of a back-to-back, had their back up goalie in net, and had some key injuries. I believe they lost that game 5 – 2. Point being, it’s been a while since Edmonton was able to win those games, especially in their own division, and especially against a desperate Kings team. (not that the Kings played like it).

        • pkam

          Good defense? You said we had good defense last night?

          Without any veteran defenseman, our most experienced defenseman is Schultz with about 200 NHL games. I believe the whole group combined for less than 400 NHL games. That group is made up of 2 AHLers, 2 very young defensemen with less than 80 NHL games each, and a #7. The only one whose resume is more like a NHL defenseman is Schultz.

          On top of that, we missed our best 2 way forward RNH and our best defensive forward Gordon.

          Isn’t it a bit illogical?

  • Didn’t expect a win, on this one. Great to see the Oiler come out knockin and sockin em. They shocked the Kings with their play, and they lost their cockiness and never regrouped. Give the AHL Oilers credit for this one.

    Other than letting one goal from the parking lot, BTO, played solid and gave the team confidence to stay with it.

    Is there a more useless knob than Gazdick, cant skate, handle the puck or make a pass.His hits are baby bear hugs… get him off the team.

    Here’s three teams on my “don’t make the play offs’ wish list: Kings , Canucks, and Bruins.

    Pulling for Jets big time.

    • El Pindo

      I’m a fan of heart, and physicality, but also of advanced stats, Gazdic/Fraser/Klink have all the heart in the world but you ice 12 of them up front and you’ll end up with an even worse record, let’s try to not make this an anti-advanced stats argument, you can have great possession players that still stick up for each other, they are not (and should not be) mutually exclusive

  • ATL Oiler

    I didn’t see a lot of the game but what I did see suggested this was one of the Oiler’s best physical efforts in recent history.

    Hall and Pouliet we’re banging bodies getting some LA Zone time.
    Erberle threw a pretty good check on someone behind the net (might have resulted in a goal).

    I seen Doughty holding/tying up Gadzik, then Gadzik took a two hander to Doughty’s stick breaking it.

    It wasn’t the best LA team out there last night but the Oiler’s did look kind of like a team. That’s a improvement!

  • Silver Streak

    Last night`s game was without a doubt the best game the Oil have played this and maybe the past 2 years ! Gotta have the physicality to be effective…and to see the guys taking care of each other was like a flashback to the cup years. Very noticeable to me was Musil`s minutes when the game was on the line with 5 minutes left….no Jultz !

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    Brilliant pick up Jon, thanks for the insight.
    I like how you were able to include both analytics and non-analytics views in the piece. Remember, a lot contributes to good corsi, hits included.

    thanks again.

  • I will bet you anything that what you just wrote about in this article barely made an impact in terms of winning the game, but in the long run, over the course of a season and even a few years these things add up. If the Oilers could be consistent with this, some day soon other teams might start wishing they were playing some other team instead.

    I also like that the Oilers didn’t stop at getting even. In my mind a good hockey team doesn’t care about revenge, they take things way further than that. If someone on the other team lands a huge, you make the rest of their night hell, clean hit or not. It’s not about revenge or dirty hits getting street justice – it’s all about being the big kid on the playground.

  • Lander is a smart kid usually making the right play even if he knows he will pay for it.

    Todd Nelson continues to impress I hope he is our guy moving forward. Can you imagine if MacT decides to go with a higher profile coach and it doesn’t work out while paying someone like Babcock 5 million per? it would be anarchy.

    The team is starting to look like a team sort of.