God turns a dominant performance into a loss, and a solid night of out-shooting into pure frustration. He makes the joyous frozen pond into a place of shame for those who do not rely on him for their success
But he also turns a complete butt-kicking into a victory, and an embarrassing performance into pure joy. He looks upon long-suffering fans with compassion when they cry out to him for help.
When his blessing arrives, they can finally rejoice! They can sing, and cheer, and chant! For his blessing will come again and again! He will smile on them during the season and at the draft!
Pepsi Center, 7:00 p.m. MDT Television: Sportsnet Oilers
More analysis after the jump...
Home Team Scouting Report:
Joe Sacco is doing some odd things...
Jay McClement came over to the Avalanche after playing tough minutes reasonably effectively in St. Louis. In Colorado, he's the fourth line center, playing just 12:19 per night. In their last home game against the Blackhawks, McClement's three most common forward opponents were Viktor Stalberg, Marcus Kruger, and Jamal Mayers, and in their last game against the Flames, no one played less than McClement.
Jan Hejda was signed to a long-term contract in the off-season, presumably for his defensive ability, but he hasn't been used as a shut-down defender. Against the Flames, Hejda played for less than five of Iginla's more than sixteen even strength minutes, and at home against the Hawks, Hejda was out for just six of Jonathan Toews' fifteen minutes.
Gabriel Landeskog was described as NHL-ready before this year's draft, so it's not surprising to see him having some early success on the scoresheet - he has four goals and two assists in nine games - but it is surprising to see Sacco playing him with Ryan O`Reilly and Daniel Winnik on a line that starts an overwhelming number of shifts in their defensive zone. Landeskog has been on the ice for just 26 OZ draws so far this season compared to 41 in the DZ.
But the craziest part is that this all seems to be working out quite well. Landeskog's line is cleaning up in terms of possession. Landeskog himself leads the team with a Corsi of +28.5 per sixty minutes of five-on-five ice time. McClement's reduced role at even strength has enabled Sacco to lean on him heavily on the PK (he leads the team in ice time), and playing your top two pairings against top opposition makes it much easier to have a consistent strategy both at home and on the road.
Edmonton Oilers (5-2-2):
Smyth - Horcoff - Jones Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle Paajarvi - Belanger - Gagner Eager - Lander - Petrell
O'Brien - Quincey Johnson - Hejda Wilson - O'Byrne
By the Numbers:
Last season, the Oilers managed a Fenwick percentage of 45.6% at even strength. This season, the Oilers have a Fenwick percentage of 45.7% even though they've played seven of their first nine games at home. It's a lot of fun to win some games, but this is a team with significant problems at even strength, problems that are likely to be even more exposed on the road.
But even if the Oilers don't end up being that much better at even strength this season, early returns on special teams are positive. The Oilers are generating 53.8 shots for every sixty minutes of five-on-four ice time this season compared to 41.8 last season and 43.5 the year before that. On the PK, the Oilers are allowing just 41.1 shots against for every sixty of minutes of four-on-five ice time compared to 56.2 last season and 55.9 the year before. It's still early, but these are very encouraging results.
With Jonathan Quick finally letting in a couple of goals, Nikolai Khabibulin is now leading the NHL in save percentage at .964 as well as goals against average (0.97). Those "Khabby" chants last night were surreal, but you can't say that he hasn't earned them so far this season. His early performance is also giving him a very nice base. If Khabibulin faces 1,600 total shots this season, and manages a .904 save percentage the rest of the way (a number that doesn't seem unreasonable), he'd end up with a quite respectable .910 for the whole season.
But tonight Devan Dubnyk is back between the pipes after spending the last four games riding the pine. With Khabibulin playing so well, it's easy to forget that Dubnyk has also had a strong start with a .920 save percentage through three games.
All nineteen Oilers had a negative Fenwick number at even strength last night against the Capitals. The best number was the -2 put up by both Ryan Jones and Theo Peckham, which should be a bit of a tell that this isn't a statistic that tells you everything you need to know about how an individual player performed. Of course, sometimes it works pretty well: the bottom pairing of Cam Barker and Andy Sutton were overmatched all game and were -20 and -18 respectively.