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Powerless PP Sinks Oilers

Oilers waste a strong start by Khabibulin in loss to Detroit

Gregory Shamus

If I told you ahead of time that the Oilers would get 8 power plays vs Detroit, including over a minute of 5 on 3, you probably would have guessed that the Oilers would score more than 1 goal in the game.

You'd have guessed wrong.

The inability of the Oilers power play to generate scoring chances was the story all game long as the Red Wings scored 2 power play goals of their own to beat the Oilers 2-1. The power play struggles involved everything from zone entries, to puck support, to terrible configurations. The lone Oilers goal came off a PP where the Oilers were finally able to set up and move the puck around.

It's amazing that going into this game that Detroit's PP had struggled so much. They still move the puck with speed and use all areas of the zone. I'm not sure they've just been unlucky up to this point, or whether they were able to do it in this game because of how the Oilers kill penalties.

The Good

Khabibulin started and gave the Oilers a chance to win the game. In a season that is going to be this tight, it's very important that he doesn't waste his starts. He looked very uncomfortable early, but some of that can be contributed to having not played in over 10 months. He made an excellent save on a cross crease one timer to keep the score 1-0 and a few minutes later the Oilers were able to tie it up. I don't think he played the 2nd goal particularly well, mostly because he was way too deep in the net and didn't give himself much of a chance to be able to stop the puck. This has been one of his major issues (along with rebound control) in his time in Edmonton. That being said, he gave the Oilers a chance to win the game.

Justin Schultz's ability to create a lane for his shot is just an amazing thing. After spending years watching the Oilers PP bury shots into shin pads or have shots constantly get deflected into the corner, it is a lot of fun to watch Schultz be able to get quality shots on net no matter how much traffic is in front. The play he made on Zetterberg to get his in zone breakaway showed a lot of hockey IQ, especially on a defensive player the calibre of Zetterberg.

Eberle had a couple of fantastic shifts as well. He managed to generate his own chance with Datsyuk all over him, and his play on the Schultz play mentioned above was pure skill. He's a bit snake bitten, and he's getting frustrated, but there's still a lot of good things happening for him.

The Bad

The Oilers had a rough game in terms of moving the puck, and no one had it rougher than Sam Gagner. He was either receiving passes while being heavily checked, or he'd get a pass with a little bit of space and take too long to make a decision. It was also the end of his 10 game point streak, so Wayne can breath a little easier knowing that his Oiler (and NHL) record is still safe.

Nail Yakupov got dinged with a technical unsportsmanlike penalty for I believe arguing a terrible offside call. Ryan Smyth either continued arguing the offside or got upset about the penalty to Yakupov (it's hard to tell), and ended up getting a ten minute misconduct.

The Ugly

The Oilers PP was just completely out of sorts. When they did gain the zone, they often lost battles or had players react to the play way too slowly. Early in the 3rd period, after Andersson and Kindl took penalties within a minute of each other, the Oilers had a chance to take the lead on a 5 on 3. I liked the timeout called by Ralph Krueger, but whatever they drew up was just awful. Aside from the obvious (i.e. scoring) the objective on the PP, especially on the 5 on 3, is to get the penalty killers to move so that you can create a shooting or passing lane. The Oilers came out onto the ice with Justin Schultz (a right shot) manning the right point and Taylor Hall (a left shot), manning the left point. This left the Oilers with no one timer option across the top, which allowed the Red Wings to stack 2 PKers on the side with the puck without having to about the other side. If you have the one timer option, the PK either has to play a triangle with 2 guys at the top (allowing you to make a play down low), or the top guy has to set up a little further out so he can cut off both the shooting and passing lane. Essentially, the Oilers were playing with both sides having the same side, low to high one timer, except that was never available because the Red Wings were stacking 2 defenders on the same side as the puck all the time.

Ladislav Smid has to learn to stay on his feet during the PK. Yeah, he got picked a bit by Franzen, but if he doesn't go into desperation mode he might be able to get a stick on Datsyuk. The key word here is desperation mode... that seems to be Smid's default mode.