Remember a week ago when people were thinking the Oilers had a chance at making the playoffs? Good times.
Most fans knew that the odds weren't great, after all there was only a couple of points separating more than a half dozen teams battling fore the last couple of playoff spots, but there was a chance and that was exciting. Fans were calling into the local sports talk shows asking about the Oilers chances at making a run if they did make the playoffs. Obviously this was some serious cart before the horse thinking but it was understandable after six years with little or nothing to cheer for that the fans would be desperate for something, anything, that they can cheer for. Sadly for them, and I count myself among them, that isn't going to be this team.
After tonight's 3-2 loss on the road in Nashville the Oilers find themselves in 13th place in the Western Conference, five points back of the now 8th place Predators. With 17 games left on the schedule, five points doesn't seem like an insurmountable lead but after watching this team float for two periods in a game they needed to win it's becoming painfully obvious that this team is not going to challenge for a playoff spot this season. In fact, with the team only five points ahead of 30th place, I'd be willing to guess they finish closer to 30th than a playoff spot.
For the 29th time in 31 games, the Oilers created less Corsi events than their opposition. Yes, it was close, and the third period featured a strong push back in an attempt to tie the game, but ultimately this one ended with a score of 3-2 for Nashville. The shot clock may have been even, but it seems that high-probability scoring chances are few and far between. I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that Pokey Reddick could have started this game for Nashville and come out with a win.
- The Oilers would score first tonight, the goal coming on the power play with Patric Hornqvist in the box for interference after he channeled his inner Detroit Red Wing and picked Nick Schultz in the Oilers crease. The Oilers won the draw cleanly and the Preds never even touched the puck. Corey Potter and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins exchanged a couple of passes before Potter fired a one-timer which Taylor Hall tipped past Pekka Rinne for the first goal of the game.
- Near the midpoint of the period Rich Clune hit Jordan Eberle as the Oilers winger entered the Predators zone. Clune lunged at Eberle and nearly hit him knee-on-knee. It was an awkward looking hit and one that probably could have been called a penalty but wasn't. The immediate reaction from the announcers was not surprisingly that Mike Brown might have to say something to Clune about the hit. Barry Trotz thankfully kept the Clune away from Brown for most of the night and that stupidity was avoided. Brown would catch Clune with a great hit in the third period but the revenge fight never materialized.
- The Predators tied the game before the end of the first when the Oilers got outmanned on the boards after Hall was knocked to the ice. Mike Fisher was able to grab the loose puck, moving it quickly to Sergei Kostitsyn, who had found an opening in the slot between Ales Hemsky and Jeff Petry, and he made no mistkate on the shot beating Devan Dubnyk to even the score at one goal a piece.
- The Predators added to their lead four minutes into the second period on a play that started with Martin Erat getting around Justin Schultz at centre ice. Schultz was simply going the wrong way and a great backhand pass out of the zone from Fisher caught Schultz flat footed. Give Schultz credit though, he caught up to Erat and knocked the puck away on the breakaway that followed. Erat picked up the puck in the corner and circled getting it to Kostitsyn to Dubnyk's right and when the Oilers netminder opted for a poke check, Kostitsyn moved the puck to Kevin Kline slot who probably couldn't have missed the net if he'd tried.
- The lead would be extended to two goals when Mark Fistric decided to go for a big hit rather than playing hockey on an otherwise harmless two-on-two. With Brandon Yip carried the puck across the Oilers blue line and move to his right towards Chris Mueller. Potter followed Yip like he should have but was cut off when Fistric stepped into his lane to hit Yip. The only problem was that Yip moved the puck to Mueller who Fistric had simply let skate past him seconds before. Mueller had an open lane to the net and beat Dubnyk over the glove and under the cross bar. This might have been the single worst play of the Oilers season so far. In a sick sort of way it's fitting that it ended up as the game winner.
- In the third period the Oilers looked a lot better. I'm not sure what exactly Krueger told them, maybe it was that teams come back from two goal deficits in the third period all the time. In the eighth minute Hemsky skated into the zone with the puck and passed it to Shawn Horcoff who was tied up with Shea Weber on his way to the net. The Oilers caught a break with the puck deflecting off Horcoff's foot and then ever so slowly dribbling through Rinne's five-hole. It certainly wasn't pretty but it gave the Oilers a chance.
- Two power plays in the following six minutes would give the Oilers their best and final chances to even the score but neither man advantage was particularly effective. Magnus Paajarvi continues to play well in his role as the Oilers newest Ryan Smyth screening the goalie and taking a few whacks to the back and legs for his trouble. This was especially evident on power plays earlier in the game but since the Oilers had trouble even getting set up on these chances he wasn't able to do much on these power play opportunities.
The Oilers are back in action tomorrow night in St. Louis, which should be fun because, you know, that went so well on Saturday night.