There was joy in Oilerville last night when, thanks to an 8-2 demolishing of the Flames, fans were able to look at the standings and see their team sitting in eighth place with only a dozen games left to play. Playing meaningful games in April in something this team hasn't done in so long I can barely remember it. And so there was joy. Unfortunately the good times wouldn't last more than a night thanks to a Vancouver Canucks team that was better than the Oilers in every way tonight, including on the scoreboard where the final score read 4-0.
Michael Parkatti breaksdown the possession numbers at Boys on the Bus, here's a little of what he had to say about the game:
It’s a tale of two lines tonight. On the plus side, Horcoff’s line with Ryan Jones and Yakupov had their best possession numbers of the year, ending the game 2nd, 1st, and 3rd respectively in Corsi per minute. They all saw a majority of their time against Lapierre, Kassian, and Jensen — not world-beaters by any stretch, but they snuffed them out all night.
On the bad side, the Gagner line with Hemsky and Paajarvi were by far the worst line of the night, ending last, 4th last, and 3rd last in Corsi per minute. They saw a heaping tablespoon of Hansen/Roy/Higgins and did absolutely terribly. I realize Roy was probably a bit pumped up playing the first game for his new team, but it was just unacceptable to be dominated in this fashion — Gagner was 16% on the night!
Before the game there was speculation that Paajarvi might miss the game due to a small injury, with Lander even taking the warmups. He looked completely ineffective all night. Of course the coaches have to listen to the player in terms of his readiness, but the decision to let him play did not work out at all. Why not play Lander on the 4th line at centre, moving Smytty up to second or third line left wing?
And Dennis King brings us the scoring chances:
Chances: 12-24; 4-3 ST. Terrible spot for the Oil sked-wise and Dynasties playing with fresh HNIC revenge in mind— Dennis King (@DKingBH) April 5, 2013
Nothing pretty about any of the numbers tonight. Like I said before the Canucks were better in every way.
The first goal of the night came with the Oilers killing a five on three. The penalty that put the Oilers down two men was actually the third consecutive penalty the team had taken. The first two were questionable but then, in typical Oilers fashion, they made things worse with a sloppy change in front of their bench which led to a Too Many Men penalty. Following a Canucks faceoff win, Jeff Petry blocked a Jason Garrison point shot with the side of his foot - thankfully he'd be okay - before Kevin Bieksa's shot beat Nikolai Khabibulin low to the blocker side.
The second goal was equal parts Sedins and Oiler brain cramp. Maybe not equal parts. With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ladislav Smid each on a post Henrik Sedin moved the puck from behind the net to his brother Daniel at the circle to Khabibulin's right. For reasons I can't determine, at this point BOTH Nugent-Hopkins and Smid turn their backs on Henrik allowing him to get wide open at the left post where, wouldn't you know it, his brother found him with a tape-to-tape pass. 2-0 Canucks. General rule of thumb: Always make sure the Sedins are covered.
The Canucks extended their lead to three in the third period thanks to a quick transition in their end with Jannik Hansen moving the puck up to deadline acquisition Derek Roy who along with Chris Higgins made up the Canucks town-on-one against Nick Schultz. Roy, who had a very good debut with the Canucks, made a great pass just out of the reach of Schultz's stick and onto HIggins' who knocked it home. Ales Hemsky made a valiant effort to get back and break up the play but was unsuccessful and crashed hard into the end board for his trouble. He was slow to get up and briefly went to the dressing room but did return after just a couple minutes.
With four second remaining the Canucks would score one more time. This time Zack Kassian was the man lighting the lamp for Vancouver. There isn't much you can say about this goal. The game was all but over at this point so maybe that explains why both Khabibulin and Sam Gagner seemed uninterested in even trying to keep the puck out of the Oilers net. If you can come up with a better reason why either played that rush like they did I'm all ears.
The Silver Lining
Although the Oilers are no longer sitting in a playoff spot they are just one point back of St. Louis in ninth place tied with Columbus. Each of the five teams battling with the Oilers for the last two spots in the Western Conference were in action tonight and things went well for the Oilers. The Blackhawks fell to the Blues, which is why they leapfrogged the Oilers, but both the Red Wings/Coyotes and Blue Jackets/Predators games were decided in regulation avoiding any loser points. I don't know that you can ask for much more at this point.
The Oilers continue their road trip on Saturday afternoon with a trip to the Staples Center where they'll take on the Kings. That game should see the newly acquired Jerred Smithson make his debut with the team.