To be totally honest I didn’t much want to go to the Oilers game tonight versus the Nashville Predators. It was only yesterday that the Oilers decided to move Dustin Penner to the Los Angeles Kings and at the same time make the team lottery favorites for the 2011/12 season. To make matter worse it’s -30 in Edmonton right now, and if you take transit to the games like I do then you know that waiting for a bus gets exponentially worse with even degree drop in temperature. And then of course there was the opponent, nothing personal against our opponents from Nashville - in fact I’ll be seeing you in June and I can’t wait - but more often than not, Predators/Oilers games are just not that fun to watch. But I did what a season ticket holder does; I went to the game because eternal vigilance is the price of being a season ticket holder. Or maybe I'm thinking of liberty, I forget.
The game itself wasn’t great. And in a season that I’m trying to forget I’m sure this one will quickly pass from my memory. Both teams had some chances and took some shots but I can’t say it was all that exciting of a game to watch. In the end the Oilers would come away with two points thanks to a shootout victory. When you’re battling for last place that win might actually be more of a loss in the bigger picture. On the flip side I assume the Predators are less than thrilled having not gotten two points out of a game with then NHLs worst team.
The games first scoring chance would go to the Oilers on an Ales Hemsky breakaway. From my seat it looked to me as if Hemsky partially fanned on the shot - something he seems to do a lot on breakaways and in shootouts. Despite the weak shot, the puck got behind Pekka Rinne only to be turned away by the post.
Blake Geoffrion would put the Preds ahead in the game 12:45 into the first period on a pass from behind the net by Ryan Suter. Kurtis Foster looked a little ugly for the Oilers on the goal; first getting beat by Suter on the rush and then getting caught in no-mans-land between Suter and Geoffrion, taking neither player and not breaking up the pass.
The lead Predators lead would be short lived as Jim Vandermeer would draw the Oilers even with his second goal of the season less than a minute later. With plenty of bodies between Vandermeer and Rinne the Oilers blueliner simply fired the puck on net and something good happened for a change. Not the prettiest goal of the year but they all count just the same.
Aside from the goal it was a less than entertaining first period from the home team as the Predators carried the play and had the majority of the scoring chances and shots on goal. What excitement was lacking in the Oilers game during the first period was lacking even more so in the second period. Worse still for fans who just want to watch some decent hockey, was that the Predators game evaporated too.
During the second period the Oilers had two power play chances and the Predators one, but neither team could generate anything with the man advantage. At even strength things were no better. All told the two teams would combine for just seven scoring chances in the second period. As if sensing that the game just needed a break, the glass behind the Oilers net would crack with 1:11 left in the period. Rather than wait to fix the glass the referees decided to just end the misery and tack the last minute and change onto the third period.
That decision must have been just what the doctor order, for the Oilers at least, as they seemed to come to life during the third period. It wasn’t the kind of performance you’ll one day tell your grandchildren about but compared to the first two periods it was a significant improvement. The Oilers would outshoot the Preds 11-4 and out chance them 7-0 during the period.
A quick stick from David Legwand might have kept Gilbert Brule from giving the Oilers the lead with just under seven minutes to play. It’s hard to tell (even from the NHL replay I’ve included with this post) if it would have gone in but if not it sure would have been close. The Oilers other good scoring chance during the third period would come off the stick of Jordan Eberle on the backend of a nice 3-on-2 rush and passes from Magnus Paajarvi to Shawn Horcoff to Eberle for the shot. Probably the nicest play from the Oilers on this night.
Overtime would solve nothing and didn’t generate much worth typing about. In the shootout, the first shooters for both clubs, Eberle and Martin Erat, would score. Following the goals Taylor Hall and Brule would fail to convert for the Oilers, while Mike Fisher and Legwand would be turned away by Martin Gerber. In the fourth round Linus Omark slid the puck past Rinne to put the Oilers ahead. Needing to score to keep the game alive Cody Franson was unable to beat the Oiler keeper and for only the eleventh time this season the home town crown went home with a win to keep them warm on a cold Edmonton night.
- It looked to me like the Oilers intro has been mostly sanitized of Penner. I’m rarely in my seat in time to watch the starting and when I am I don’t pay much attention so I really can't say for sure just how much they changed though. Personally I miss the days when Ryan Smyth et al. racing cars through the street served as the intro.
- Gerber looked great for the between the pipes for the Oilers on this night. The win keeps him undefeated on the year with a record of 3-0. Can you believe it? An undefeated Oiler goalie. Tell your friends. I hope a team gives him a shot as a backup this summer. He can certainly fill that role and would be a fantastic insurance option if the need arose.
- I like Omark manning the point on the Oilers powerplay but he had a couple of turnovers tonight right at the blueline. If a forward if going to play that role he’s got to be aware of the defender in front of him. The Oilers power pay is bad enough without giving up goals.
- On the topic of special team Andrew Cogliano and Liam Reddox played huge minutes on the penalty kill. In a game where the Oilers were only shorthanded for six mutes they played 3:46 and 2:48 respectively and did a fantastic job. More and more I think Cogliano could become Todd Marchant 2.0.
- Also serving time on the penalty kill was Hemsky. With 1:03 spent on the kill that had to have been one of the busier penalty kill nights of his career.
- And just in case you were wondering about beer sales when the second period is cut arbitrarily short, it looked to me like beer sale continued until the puck dropped to start the official third period. If it happens again now you’ll know.