Before we get into the details of tonight’s very late contest, I want to address something that I’ve already seen taking place. The big news of the day is the Oilers firing Todd McLellan and replacing him with Ken Hitchcock. What I’ve seen in comments and on twitter so far, is that because Hitchcock emphasizes defense, offence is stifled on his teams. I’ve seen derivatives based on that line of thinking, already a few levels of them actually, and naturally we’re about a day away from someone asking What does this mean for the Maple Leafs and their young stars? The problem I have with this, is that I’m not sure if the premise is actually true.
Now, I haven’t done any hard analysis on this, but I did look at the past few times Hitchcock has taken over a team and the goals scored go up. It’s more obvious that the goals go down, and the differential consistently improves, but that alone isn’t enough reason to come to the conclusion that it’s at the expense of the offence. Now, I’m not saying the premise is wrong, either, I actually don’t know yet and will have to look into it a lot further. I just personally find that it’s counter-productive to dive into the effects of effects if we’re not even sure if the main issue is true.
The trap in itself suffers from that. James Duthie showed us years ago in a comical video that the trap was actually invented to create offense.
And that’s even before we get into the matter of if Hitchcock has consistently used that system. He’s an all-time great coach who has been in the league for 20+ years, and as long as I’ve been following hockey, a coach isn’t successful that long without implementing different systems.
This kind of thing isn’t uncommon, it’s something often seen in political coverage, or personal finance. People and opinion pieces will constantly examine the adverse effects of a policy or an investment without fully establishing whether or not the initial action actually has the desired effect in the first place.
So all I ask is that before we draw conclusions based off of assumptions, we try and make some sort of effort to find out whether or not the assumption itself is in any way valid. Until I look more into it, I can’t say definitively that it is or isn’t.
Anyway, onto the game.
Just 45 seconds into the game, the Oilers lose a defensive zone draw, Brent Burns put a shot on Mikko Koskinen, Joonas Donskoi collects the rebound and puts the Sharks up 1-0
For the better part of the next 8 minutes, the Oilers do a great job sustaining pressure in the Sharks end, and eventually Leon Draisaitl gets a pass through the slot to Connor McDavid, and that’s 100 career goals for the best player in the NHL.
Unfortunately, it took only 2 minutes for the Sharks to reclaim the lead. The beardless Joe Thornton finds Marcus Sorensen in front, and he beats Koskinen. I’ll address that blown coverage in the notes below.
Just over a minute after that, Oscar Klefbom gets called for slashing, and the Oilers are off the the Penalty Kill.
This Penalty Kill is very much still Todd’s L-formation, it doesn’t look very good, but thankfully the Sharks were held off the board.
Koskinen makes two huge saves — One on Thornton in front, and another on Tomas Hertl on a breakaway. He’s looking pretty good.
Just before the period ends, Zack Kassian gets called for hooking, and the period ends 2-1 San Jose.
On the much better looking Penalty Kill, Kyle Brodziak and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins come in 2-on-1, Brodziak gets the pass across and RNH roofs it over Martin Jones. Tie game.
The rest of the period had it’s moments, the Oilers played well and Koskinen made a number of nice saves.
Unfortunately, with less than a minute left, Logan Couture makes Adam Larsson look like an amateur, gets around him off the rush and goes high-glove on Koskinen. The period ends 3-2.
It’s late, and it appears that I didn’t take notes during the third.
Early in the period though, Draisaitl gets it to McDavid, who gets it to Caggiula and it’s a tie hockey game. 3-3
There were no penalties or scores for the rest of the period. We get at least one point.
Now, if you haven’t watched this game, and I were to give you one guess as to what happened, I would bet that you’d get that guess right.
Connor and Leon pass it around and it eventually ends up in the Sharks net. Oilers win. 4-3
- Obviously the big one is the Ken Hitchcock effect. The most obvious change was a far more aggressive forecheck, it was a nice 1-2-2 and cutting off the Sharks breakouts. It looks a bit rusty but should improve. It’s encouraging.
- I was actually also encouraged by getting scored against, no joke. The reason Sorensen was so wide open is because the Oilers were getting used to Zone Coverage instead of that asinine Man-to-Man Todd used to run. That too, should improve.
- The first penalty kill was very much the L-Formation. After the first intermission, the Oilers started on the PK and came out in a box. It apparently took one intermission to fix that. It wasn’t perfect, but looked much better, and I hope that’s a sign of things to come.
- I said before the game that I think Ty Rattie is done in Edmonton now. His game just isn’t going to work on a Hitchcock team unless something really changes. He played 8:30 in the game and that was only higher than Cooper Marody who had less than five.
- Third lowest was Milan Lucic.
- Koskinen had a solid night and made some of those saves we’ve been hoping to see our goalies make for over a year now. We might really have something here.
- Speaking of, Martin Jones definitely helped us out.
- If I were a betting man, Rattie and Marody are going to be reassigned, and the 20-year-olds are getting called up again very quickly.
- Overall, I’m feeling really good about Hitchcock, and congratulations to him getting his first win as Oilers coach.