Another Saturday night, another stinker. Just like Calgary last week, tonight the Oilers rolled over in Denver, falling 3-0 to the Avalanche. The score was much closer than the game.
Of course just when you think things can't get any worse, they do. Tonight it was Sam Gagner who limped off late in the second and didn't return, having taken another knock on his wonky knee. Too early to know how serious it is, but this seems to have been a chronic thing of late, and it may be that Sam needs some time off.
32 minutes into this one-sided affair, shots attempted stood at an astonishing 54-9 in favour of Colorado. The score at that point was only 1-0, thanks to a strong effort by Jeff Deslauriers and some equally solid work by his posts. The team in front of him? Not so much.
Around this point Pat Quinn ripped into his team during a TV timeout, and they responded by playing considerably better hockey the rest of the way, meaning they improved all the way to "lousy". Deslauriers continued to hold his team in, and the Oil did get a few bona fide chances and could have easily tied it up if the hockey gods had been in an especially persnickety frame of mind. Instead justice prevailed, the Avs got a late softie and an even later empty netter, and the better team carried the day to the tune of 3-0. The shutout was Craig Anderson's third against the Oilers this season, and in none of the three did he have a whole lot of work to do. Final shots on net were 42-20 Avs: by period 14-4, 15-8, 13-8. Final shots at net were 86-44. It wasn't pretty.It wasn't pretty on the individual level either. Every Oiler player had a negative EV Corsi, in fact only one Oiler managed a plus period in this category (Visnovsky was +1 in the third). The forwards ranged from Moreau's team-best -4 to Pouliot's -15; the "best" of the blue was Chorney at -9, while the worst was Mr. Reliable himself, Jason Strudwick, at -18 in <15 even strength minutes.
More than a few Oilers had tough nights. Strudwick was Strudwick. Denis Grebeshkov continued to make bad decisions and worse turnovers. Lubo Visnovsky had his second weak game in a row against a heavily forechecking opponent. Shawn Horcoff went -1 with a penalty, a 39% success rate on the dot, and a whiff on a glorious chance to tie the game with 5 minutes to go. Patrick O'Sullivan had an uninspired outing, and fired more shots on his own net (1) than on the opposition's (0). Dustin Penner was a no-show and had a -2 to prove it. Zack Stortini handled the puck like it was a live grenade. Marc Pouliot was given additional ice time in Gagner's absence; in his nearly 15 minutes at evens the Oilers were outshot 12-0.
There were a few bright spots. Deslauriers battled hard with 39 saves, and while the clinching goal was a weak one he is the last guy to be blamed for this defeat (of course, he's the one who gets the "L"). Tom Gilbert had a stalwart defensive game, blocking 8 shots and adding a couple of hits and a couple of takeaways. Alex Plante led the squad with 4 hits. Up front Mike Comrie was one of the few who was not only engaging but actually winning some puck battles, and was the most dangerous Oiler on the night with 4 shots. Hard-skating Ethan Moreau led the team in this category with 5 shots, including a couple that were actually dangerous, but was unable to find twine for the 32nd straight game. Still, it was one of the best efforts I've seen from thecaptain in quite some time.
The youthful Avs (6 rookies!) impressed with their overall team effort, heavy forecheck, and puck movement. They outhit the Oilers 24-18 despite having the puck 2/3 of the time. The line of Wojtek Wolski, Matt Duchene, and Brandon Yip generated 16 shots on goal, each ending the night +3. Yip, a 239th overall draft choice, was especially impressive with 5 shots, 4 hits, and was rewarded with the empty netter at the end of a terrific sequence. At the back of course was Craig Anderson, not overly tested but once again impenetrable when he was. He could have lost this game with a subpar performance, but he doesn't seem to have many of those. Especially against the Oilers.
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Next up: Edmonton at Phoenix, Monday February 8, 19:30 MST