Back at the beginning of February a few of the writers from the Copper & Blue travelled to Buffalo to watch a game between two of the worst teams in the NHL. At the time the Oilers sat in 29th spot with 42 points and the Sabres sat in 30th spot with 38 points. Well here we are 13 games later (for the Oilers) and both teams are in the exact same spot the only difference being that the Oilers now have 59 points and the Sabres now have 46 points. At least the Oilers have been able to get 17 points out of the 13 games since that game. The Sabres on the other hand have only 8 points in the 15 games since these two teams met. Wow the Sabres are brutal and that is coming from a fan of a team that has finished last 2 out of the last 4 years. When the Oilers finished the 2009/10 & 2010/11 with 62 points I thought there was no way a team could finish worse than that, well the Sabres have proved me wrong.
The Sabres came into tonight's game with a 2-8-0 record over their past 10 games and sporting a 7 game losing streak oh and they only score 6 goals in those 7 games. The Oilers on the other hand were sporting a shiny 5-3-2 record over their previous 10 games. The Oilers sat only 2 points back of the New York Islanders in the 27th spot and only 4 points back of the 26th placed Calgary Flames. A win for the Oilers and a loss by the Flames on Friday night would set up a battle royal on Saturday as both teams would be fighting to be crowned best team in Alberta and not the worst team in the Western Conference. SPOILER ALERT! No matter what happens in Saturday's game the Oilers will still be below the Flames in the standings.
Before I get to the game there are a couple points that need to be made. The day before the game the Oilers made a couple emergency call ups. Tyler Pitlick who has had a decent season with the OKC Barons was called up in what seemed to be a move to replace an injured Matt Hendricks (and if that is what you thought, then you'd be wrong) but as we'd find out later on in the day he was more likely called up to replace an injured Nail Yakupov. Hendricks on the other hand was a game time decision and his replacement? Luke Gazdic Sr. AKA Steve MacIntyre, a player deserving of a promotion after an unjustified demotion by the Oilers in November. MacIntyre has appeared in 10 AHL games and has recorded 0 points but was able to record 34 PIM in his 10 game stint (in case you are wondering OKC has played 50+ games since MacIntyre was sent down). Anyway on to the game.
0:00: Before the game started we found out that Matt Hendricks would play thwarting any chance of watching the Oilers dress a fourth line of Gazdic/MacIntyre/Jones which was the line-up in practice earlier today.
4:43: To make up for the "loss" of MacIntyre, Luke Gazdic decided to drop the gloves with Zenon Konopka in one of the best staged fights Gazdic has been in so far this season.
13:40: Ben Scrivens took exception to an earlier hit that Cory Conacher threw on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and threw his arm out at Conacher. Conacher then threw Scrivens to the ice. Both would recieve coincidental minors.
13:57: Oilers power play 4 on 3
14:25: Justin Schultz hits the post on the power play a flashback to the game before
16:48: Tyler Ennis takes a penalty after high sticking David Perron
16:52: Another goal post! This time by Taylor Hall.
16:59: The puck goes right through Ryan Smyth's legs and he is unable to score on a wide open net!
17:48 Goal: Taylor Hall scores on the power play. The play was started by Ben Scrivens after the puck was iced by Buffalo. Scrivens realized that Buffalo was changing and was able to get the puck up to Perron who skated the puck behind the net and got a quick pass off to Schultz. Schultz made a quick pass over to Hall who scored on the one timer.
Taylor Hall Played 9:40 in the first period. Obviously with the loss of another top 6 left winger in Nail Yakupov, Taylor Hall had to be depended on and was double shifted quite a lot.
The period of 5 on 4.
2:06: Mike Weber got called for boarding and the Oilers would go on the power play. In typical Oilers form they got 1 shot on net while the Sabres got 2 short handed chances.
4:09: Seconds after the Weber penalty expired Torrey Mitchell got called for hooking. This time the Oilers were able to get 3 shots on net while only allowing 2 shots against.
7:56: Hall gets called for hooking on Weber.
9:16 Goal: After 3 saves by Scrivens on the PK the Sabres finally scored after Mark Fraser made a weak attempt to clear the puck around the boards. Jamie McBain stopped the puck at the blue line and took a shot that got redirected by Cory Conacher.
12:52: Smyth takes a penalty for slashing in which the Sabres were able to get 3 shots on net
16:14: Marcus Foligno took a tripping penalty and the Oilers out shot Buffalo 3-1 on the ensuing power play.
18:28: Jeff Petry's shot cracks the glass behind the Buffalo net
Taylor Hall played 7:41 in the second but also had to serve 71 seconds in the box.
Things got pretty messy at this point so if you have a sensitive stomach then you may want to just skip to the end of this post.
1:09 Goal: Schutlz taking a tip from Fraser decides to make a weak clearing attempt. The puck goes right to Cody Hodgson and he shoots the puck on net. Conacher is right there to tip the puck past Scrivens and the Sabres are up 2-1.
4:44 Goal: Drew Stafford scores after Ben Scrivens tries to keep the puck alive and pass it up the boards Fraser style. Conacher gathers up the puck and gets the puck to Ennis who is stopped on his initial attempt. At this point Scrivens is completely out of position and Stafford has an empty net to shoot at and score.
7:03: Matt Hendricks (who is wearing an A for some reason) fights Mike Weber.
8:49: Ennis gets another chance to score but the puck trickles wide and Scrivens is able to make the stop
9:20: A quick whistle nullifies an attempt to score on a wide open net for the Oilers
13:18: Conacher gets another penalty but on the ensuing power play the Oilers are unable to set up and don't even get a shot on net. BTW Buffalo was able to get a short handed shot.
16:26: Philip Larsen makes a really bad pass that ends up in an icing and makes any push to score by the Oilers a futile attempt.
17:11: Dallas Eakins pulls Scrivens and the Oilers are unable to do anything
20:00: Oilers lose to the worst team in the NHL 3-1
Game Rating: 2 out of 10
The Oilers 5v5 was horrible, with the exception of a few chances in the first period they couldn't get past the Sabres defence. 5v4 the Oilers played their regular game they allow too many short handed shots against and couldn't capitalize on their chances with the exception of the Taylor Hall goal.
The second power play unit. The only real NHL players on this unit were Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jeff Pertry. The rest of the unit featured Anton Lander, Ryan Jones and Philip Larsen. They were unable to generate shots, unable to set up and allowed short handed attempts against. I am praying for Nail Yakupov & Jordan Eberle to return and soon.
Taylor Hall. The only reason I'd even give Hall this "horour" is because he played 27:10 in this game and was able to muster a 44% Corsi. In fact the entire first line of Hall, Perron and Gagner all played more than anyone else on the team. Hall played in every situation and played decently.
Yesterday I put out a request via Twitter and in the comments to give me suggestions on who you would like me to profile. The winner was Anton Lander but in an attempt to be funny Alan Hull asked me profile Mark Fraser. So I promise I will profile Lander next game but after his performance tonight I have to profile Fraser.
Fraser was directly responsible for the tying goal tonight. It was his fault that McBain got the puck. Unlike Oscar Klefbom, who I profiled last game, you know when Fraser is on the ice and it makes a person nervous as hell. He doesn't have the foot speed and he can't make up for his foot speed with hockey smarts. The only thing he can do is stand in front of the net clearing out the opposition and he doesn't even do that well.
Fraser is part of the mini boys club from Toronto. He is part on an elite Marlies club that has made its way to Edmonton and the only one that has proven himself has been Scrivens. This club also includes Will Acton and Ryan Hamilton. Why Fraser hasn't been sent down to OKC is baffling to me. Fraser is not a NHL player, I'm skeptical that he is even an AHL player. What he brings to this team isn't what this team needs.
Sorry for the rant but I had to get this off of my chest. I promise Anton Lander next game.
MSM Fail of the Night
I haven't really been on Twitter all night but this one caught my eye earlier. I'm pretty sure Matheson had something to say about Drew Stafford but Tencer's comment takes the cake.
The Oilers might score 7 tonight.— Dan Tencer (@dantencer) March 21, 2014
Well 62 just got a lot tougher to get to. I've been saying for a while now that the Oilers' best chance to hit that mark rested in today's game and Saturday's game. The Oilers are still at 59 points a win against Calgary this weekend only gets them to 61 and then its a tough schedule after that point. So we'll see.
As I mentioned above it's another Battle of Alberta. The Oilers take on the Flames at Rexal Place and they don't even have the opportunity to surpass them in the standings.
One Last Thing
Did you see Ales Hemsky's goal tonight? Classic Hemsky! He must've been the problem in Edmonton.