Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Inexplicable coaching decisions cost the Oilers a point.
Blowing a 3rd period lead always hurts. Blowing a 3rd period lead the way the Oilers did also makes you angry. The Oilers let a rather dominant first 2 periods go to waste because their head coach has absolutely no clue how to run a bench, or how to tell which lines are working versus which ones aren't.
The Oilers had all 4 lines (yes, even the Lennart Petrell, Ryan Smyth and Mike Brown line), controlling possession through 2 periods. When you face the Red Wings, you have to deal with 2 fantastic players in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The Oilers line of Taylor Hall, Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky played a fair amount of time against the Zetterberg line and won the possession battle handily. The Oilers countered the Datsyuk line with Nail Yakupov, Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajariv. Datsyuk came ahead in the head to head battle, but that line was at least keeping it close through 2 periods. That wasn't an idea matchup for the Oilers, but they don't quite have the horses yet to do much differently, aside from maybe switching Hall and Paajarvi.
About halfway through the 2nd period, Mike Brown fought Jordan Tootoo right after the faceoff and I believe this is where the game went south for Ralph Krueger. Generally speaking, when your 4th liner fights you sacrifice the rest of the 4th lines ice time, or at the very least double shift someone to play on that line. Ralph Krueger, rather inexplicably, decided he would rather move Smyth and Petrell up into the lineup, occasionally taking a shift away from guys like Yakupov and Hartikainen. Further to that, once Brown got out of the box, Ralph Krueger made a conscious decision to increase his ice time going forward. Prior to that, Ralph Krueger sent the 4th line out immediately after an Oilers penalty kill, not knowing that Detroit was going to put out either Datsyuk or Zetterberg.
The third period was even more strange. Both Hartikainen and Yakupov sat for a large portion of the 3rd period. Hartikainen got dinged for a boarding call and I don't think he saw another shift. Yakupov sat from about 3 minutes into the 3rd until just after the Red Wings tied the game. Who took those shifts? Why Mike Brown and Ryan Smyth. I like Ryan Smyth, but he's not what he was and Krueger has to recognize that. He can't handle the tough opposition anymore, so if you are going to bump him up you've got to do it against 3rd lines. For some reason, Mike Brown got put up with Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajarvi and basically sewered their night possession wise. They went from sawing it off at evens to being a heavy minus. Further to that, Mike Brown takes a penalty with less than 7 minutes left in the 3rd period. I was alternating between the Oilers and Red Wings feed last night and the Red Wings feed didn't have a good angle, so it looked like a high stick. The Oilers feed had a better replay and in slow motion it looked like the stick missed Ericsson... but the game isn't in slow motion and Brown got a penalty.
In an effort to save his coach from scrutiny, Jeff Petry accidently knocked the puck into his own net to tie the game. There was a bit of talk in the Oilers broadcast about how he tried to do something with the puck, but on the replay it was pretty clear that he instinctively put his stick down and it went off it the wrong way. Jeff Petry stood up for his teammates later on in OT by being the victim of a dirty inside, outside move on Datsyuk. So instead of the post game press conference being about why coach Krueger would give his 4th liners extra ice time in the 3rd while protecting a lead, it became about Jeff Petry and why he would be playing late in the game.
I don't often pin losses on coaches, because I am a firm believer of the notion that the players have to execute. In this case, I'm willing to make an exception because the players the coach put out weren't capable of executing what needed to be done. This loss is on Ralph Krueger's bench management and the worst part is he didn't learn a damn thing from it.