While the Oilers finished off their California road trip, Oilers fans in Alberta were likely just finishing their shoveling. Doesn't seem very fair now does it? Thankfully I don't think that team had time for a trip to Disneyland to ride the teacups, this was the Oilers third game in four nights. You knew with the back to back games that it was more than likely that Nikolai Khabibulin would start in net.
The funny thing about how the matchup between these two teams so far this season is that the away team always won. If we want to look at past games we all know the broken record story of the Oilers season, poor special teams, and lack of faceoff wins. Going into this game the Oilers were 8 games removed from their last power play goal. The last one scored was the game where Ryan Whitney went down with an ankle injury. Is it a curse? Or is it just plain bad luck?
If there is an ex-Oilers curse, it might be working hard against the Oilers when facing the Ducks. Joffrey Lupul, Todd Marchant, and Lubomir Visnovsky all at one time or another were players that you enjoyed watching. Now you worry they will score a hat trick against their old team. Visnovsky earned two points and Lupul one, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been.
First period, once your eyes adjusted to the dim lighting in the Honda centre you [I] couldn't help but remember how much I really don't like the team's away jerseys. Some colour would be a huge improvement. Not colour like on the Ducks' jerseys though. While they are slightly better than the "V" Canuck jerseys and the Flaming Horse I loathe, they are still worse than the old Mighty Ducks uniforms. Alright, let's talk about the game; you didn't stop by to read my version of what not to skate in.
The Oilers looked tired and sometimes lost out there. This is their third game in four nights, on the road no less, but the Oilers should be energized knowing that they will be going home soon. Most of the period was boring. I'm sorry, it had to be said. This was especially true if you are an Oilers fan, which obviously you are. Steve MacIntyre who still isn't having the effect on the game that I would like to see took a high-sticking penalty nearly halfway though. The Oilers PK is either hot or not. Right now, its a not. Scoring his second goal of the season was Luca Sbisa. It was one of those moments when as an Oilers fan you think to yourself "Great, at least the Oilers are good for allowing every player to have that feel good moment of scoring in the NHL, not just those household names." Maybe it's not that bad, but this is on a Sunday night. You just had a great weekend and now you're thinking about heading back to work in the morning, and your team is going to give you nothing but bad dreams.
Just before the period ended Teemu Selanne hit another milestone, his 1300th career point. Good for him, bad for the Oilers. It's not like Oilers fans expected many of those 4 shots for the period to go in. Still, that's four shots and zero goals through 20 minutes of play. Going down by two seemed to take the wind out of the sails completely. The good news of the period was that no one left the game with an injury. Oilers fans are especially grateful for that. During intermission Oilers' manager Steve Tambellini discussed Ryan Whitney. It looks like Whitney will be out for a very long time if he needs surgery, which is what is being discussed right now.
The second period was much like the first. Bad turnovers, no scoring on the power play... There was a scary moment for hockey fans however when Curtis McElhinney received a cut on his neck. This took the Duck's netminder out of the game for a few minutes while it was attended to. Jonas Hiller didn't have much to worry about however, as the Ducks were able to keep the puck in the Oilers end for the most part. Jeff Petry was able to show off his blocking skills, and what skills they are, when Nikolai Khabibulin came out of his net and had difficulty controlling the rebound and finding his feet again.
The next excitement was sadly another Ducks goal. It seems Selanne was not done on the scoreboard tonight, no, the well seasoned NHL vet scored on the Duck's powerplay. Here's where things got interesting though, Magnus Paajarvi had been looking for opportunities all night, and did he ever find one now. That elusive first goal of the night put the jam back into many players' games. Sam Gagner was one of those players. With just 26 seconds separating the goals, the Oilers were down by one thanks to a beautiful pass by Linus Omark. With a single line providing that kind of fire power in such a short amount of time, I'm sure many Oilers fans were hoping that line could just stay out a bit longer to tie the game up. It didn't happen.
The third period had energy as both teams were competing for the win that was possible for either team. Suddenly my Monday morning wasn't looking as bad. Theo Peckham found his way to the penalty box for the second time of the game with a high sticking double minor against who else but Selanne. Thankfully, the Oilers had some good luck on their side, killing off their "second" penalty for the night. Hooray! The two Anaheim Ducks power play goals made the difference in this hockey game.
The final minutes of play saw the Ducks take two penalties within a minute and a half. With Khabibulin on the bench, this made for a very busy ice surface. Most people at home were likely screaming "SHOOT!" much like I was, I mean a 6 on 3 isn't a very common ending to a hockey game and something had to slide in for the Oilers didn't it? The Ducks successfully killed their first penalty, then their second sadly enough. The Oilers were so close it seemed but of course this was not horseshoes and without that tying goal it didn't matter.
I'm not sure whether or not to call this exciting last place hockey. I want to, because in the end, that's what it was. Maybe we need to change this up to exciting third place hockey though. Or can we go with Exciting Lottery Hockey? I shouldn't be surprised that the Oilers were not very exciting for the first 30 minutes of play, that's just the way they roll most nights, and they made it up for me in the last 3 minutes.
The faceoffs for this game were much better than the last few games I've had a look at. The Oilers won 46%. Colin Fraser, Andrew Cogliano, and Dustin Penner each won approximately 60%. JF Jacques went 0 for 1, but Taylor Hall was 4 for 15, 27%. I'm not seeing a huge or significant change in Hall's game in his move to centre. This is still his first season in the league, and he is facing some veteran competition on the dot. I'm sure this will not be a onetime only experiment; we'll just have to see how things shape up going forward.
It is now 11 games without a power play goal. With the Oilers' penalty kill in the condition it is, something has to give. The Oilers cannot keep struggling with both special teams and expect to win many games. Maybe that's the point but Oilers fans are expecting, or at least hoping for a little more.
My favourite line for the night was the Gagner, Omark, Paajarvi line scoring both goals and generating chances. Petry of course had some solid shot blocking with more than the one I mentioned, Petry in fact had 3. Hemksy, oh Hemsky. This guy still has talent, but I really want to be able to stop shouting at my television for him to shoot. I think the neighbours are starting to talk.
Next up are the Minnesota Wild. The Oilers need to find a way to fix their PK, or play all 60 minutes to be successful.