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Oilers 4, Blue Jackets 1 post-game Oil Spills: The defensive shell works to perfection

Were the Oilers good? Or are the Blue Jackets just bad? It’s hard to say, but the Oilers nicely executed a defensive shell to shut down the Blue Jackets before a third-period explosion that led to a commanding 4-1 victory.

What happened?

Let’s just skip ahead to the middle of the game, because not a hell of a lot happened until then. David Savard opened the scoring for the Blue Jackets midway through the second, but the Oilers answered back quickly when Joseph Gambardella found Kyle Brodziak in the slot. Gambardella won a battle along the boards and fed a pass to Brodziak between a Blue Jackets’ defender’s legs to pick up his first point in the NHL.

The Oilers would kick the door down in the third period to let in the flood. First, just seconds into the period, Connor McDavid fed Zack Kassian with a nice saucer pass over a diving Seth Jones for an easy tap-in.

A few minutes later, Leon Draisaitl and McDavid got sprung on a two-on-one and Draisaitl fed a shockingly wide-open McDavid for a gorgeous goal. Keith Kinkaid is still looking for that puck this morning. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would also add a power-play goal to make it 4-1, setting a new career-high in goals with 25.

By the numbers

The Oilers really took control about halfway through the game. They played it tight and wore the Blue Jackets down before pushing on the gas in the third period. All told, the Oilers heavily outshot and out-chanced the Blue Jackets and were the better team last night.

Thoughts…

  • Boy, what a miserable effort that was from the Blue Jackets. It’s sad to see a team play this poorly after their general manager went all-in at the trade deadline. They went out and added Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingle, and Adam McQuaid, and they looked nothing like a team battling for a playoff spot.
  • The Oilers nicely executed a defensive shell against a struggling Blue Jackets team tonight. They played a neutral zone trap in the first 30 minutes of the game, lulling the Blue Jackets to sleep with tight, boring play. It worked to perfection. The Oilers took Columbus out of the game, then pounced on their opportunities when they came. This is the Ken Hitchcock style that resulted in him having so much success at the NHL level as a coach. It’s boring, it’s hard to watch, but, against teams like struggling Columbus, it works.
  • That said, this doesn’t work against every team. The defensive shell, sit-back-and-slow-the-game-down, wait for your chances approach doesn’t work in today’s NHL. You can’t sit back against teams like Vegas and St. Louis, as we saw last week, because they push and force you to make mistakes. You can easily mitigate the defensive shell style if you have speed and skill, can bust the puck out of your own zone quickly, and can effectively set up in the other team’s zone. As I said, this works against a burnt-out, lower-skill, gritty team like Columbus because they lack the skilled depth to get past a neutral zone game. It’ll work again on Saturday against Ottawa but I can’t see it working against teams like San Jose and Calgary.