Every season there's a few games where you can just look at the schedule and chalk one up in the L-column. This was one of those games: a tough home game one night, a ridiculous overnight flight, and an earlier start in an easterly time zone the next. Nothing that all those teams rolling in from Vancouver and beating the Oilers haven't been doing, except for two things: 1) those teams are all better than the Oilers, and 2) I never heard tell of one travel itinerary that was near as bad as what the Oilers faced last night, arriving in Minneapolis at 04:15. When the tired team is also the inferior team, the result is fairly predictable. As in this case: Minnesota 4, Edmonton 2.
I'm actually fairly upbeat about this game. The writing is on the wall w.r.t. playoffs, and there's no percentage in going on any sort of a major winning streak. I was bloody sick and tired of losing Every game, but now that that crummy streak is over and the boys have got a couple wins on the board, there's no point in getting carried away. Win the home games and we'll be fine. :)
There were also some positives to be drawn from this outing. I didn't think effort was lacking despite what was surely a terrible night's sleep. Oilers twice fought back to tie the score, and were prevented from taking the lead only by an absolutely miraculous save by Josh Harding which is certain to be a Save of the Year candidate. Harding reinjured his wonky hip making the diving glove grab off J.-F. Jacques midway through the third, forcing the Wild to put raw rookie Anton Khudobin to finish up. A couple minutes later Guillaume Latendresse took Kyle Brodziak's pass and walked around Jason Strudwick to pot the winner, and a few minutes after that Latendresse and Martin Havlat pounced on Patrick O'Sullivan's brutal neutral zone turnover to put it away. The Oilers meanwhile, peppered the youngster with 9 shots but were unable to get one behind him, so just like that Khudobin had his first big-league Win. Somewhere, Devan Dubnyk (demoted today) is very, very jealous.
On the bright side, Jeff Deslauriers put in another strong effort despite the loss, making a number of first-rate stops to hold the Oilers in the game almost 'til the end. This was a game with the potential to get ugly real fast, and it is largely to JDD's credit that it didn't.
After the jump: the effect of sleep deprivation on faceoffs.
Between the babblings of the SportsNet "experts" and the Copper & Blue's feature article on ex-Oiler Kyle Brodziak, this was a natural night to track performance on the faceoff dot. The results could hardly have been more extreme. As a team the Oilers won just 17 of 62 draws for a pathetic 27%. Their record in meaningful faceoffs was even worse, if you can believe it:
Offensive zone: 5 / 21 = 24%
Defensive zone: 4 / 23 = 17%
Neutral zone: 8 / 18 = 44%
On the individual scale results were brutal (almost) across the board:
Stortini 1/1 = 100%
Pouliot 2/6 = 33%
Horcoff 6/19 = 32%
Potulny 3/11 = 27%
Penner 2/8 = 25%
Gagner 3/16 = 19%
Moreau 0/1 = 0%
Meanwhile, Kyle Brodziak took 20 draws and won 16 of them ... one fewer than the entire Oilers team. Mikko Koivu's very good 11/18 = 61% was the lowest on the Wild.
Brodziak finished the night 0-1-1, +3, as a third wheel on a line with Havlat (2-0-2, +3) and Latendresse (1-1-2, +3). On the Oilers side of the puck, Lubo Visnovsky (0-1-1, -3 in just 18:27) had a very tough night. The first line of Gagner, Penner, and Cogliano generated just 4 shots among them in about 19 minutes work including primo powerplay time; meanwhile the fourth line of Pouliot between Jacques and Stortini produced 10 shots in about half the time (9+ minutes each), all of it at even strength. Pouliot had a very strong night, leading the Oil with 6 shots, scoring the 2-2 goal on a very dogged effort, and later making a great play to set up JFJ for the sure goal that Harding stole. Not surprisingly, Pouliot and Stortini co-led the Oilers in EV Corsi at +5, while Penner was rock bottom at -13.
Next up: Edmonton at Colorado, Saturday, February 6, 20:00 MST