Posts tagged “Oilers”

Wings 4, Oilers 2

Home = Win: Apparently. It was their 18th home win in a row and came in spite of the fact that they blew a two goal lead. The Wings just have their wits about them at the Joe in a way that they rarely seem to on the road. A similar sequence of events with the blown lead might have led to overtime at least. Yet at home, it’s no problem. They’ll just score more.

MacDonald: Barely tested in terms of shot totals, but stopped a few strong chances, which was great. He’s looking solid. And if the Wings can hold opponents to 17 shots every night he’s in, he’ll be okay. Yes, that’s a tall order. But they looked solid defensively in front of a goalie not named Jimmy Howard, which is something.

Zetterberg: That goal, I hope, is the start of something for him. He’s been solid lately and a good center for that second line, but it’s time for him to start putting the puck in the net himself. Now that he’s crossed the double-digit barrier, it’d be sweet if he at least made it to 20.

The First Gagner Goal: Ben Eager’s hit on Cleary had the effect of causing just about everyone in red to forget what they were supposed to be doing. They’d gotten the puck deep, but the Oilers didn’t just let it sit there. Rather, they quickly moved it back up ice while Kindl was busy stepping off, Jonny was busy staring down Eager and the forwards were busy doing I don’t know what.

Meanwhile, Ian White took his sweet time getting on the ice for Kindl. By the time the puck was fired up to Gagner, White was on and starting to chase, but it was too late. MacDonald was completely hung out to dry because everybody was distracted by Cleary getting sent into bench door.

I guess what gets me is the indecisiveness: everybody wanted to do something to Eager, especially Jonny, but no one did anything but stand there. Presumably, they were aware the Oilers were moving up ice and had a couple moments of indecision. It cost them. I’m not saying instigating a fight with Eager would have been the route to go. Instead, I would have preferred it if the guys on the ice had covered the play and if the Kindl/White change could have gone more smoothly.

Just another addition to the Wings’ changing troubles log this season.

Cleary: Did leave the game with a lower body injury during the second intermission, apparently  because his knee flared up, not because of that hit. He’ll be out for a few games, which means Jan Mursak will get some playing time.

Emmerton: Speaking of Mursak, Emmerton’s penalty in the first earned this response:

Pretty much. But then he scored and it was all better.

Miller: Continued his little hot streak he’s got going, scoring his fourth goal in five games. I can live with that.

Holmstrom: Got jobbed by the officials on the goaltender interference penalty. He was rubbed out of the play by Whitney into Khabibulin and he’s the one getting called. Pretty lame. That was part of a span in the game where the refs seemed to be more interested in making the game their own than letting the teams play.

The Race: The win gave the Wings 74 points, which leads the League and put them five points up on the Blues and Predators. Both of them were idle last night and both play tonight: STL in NJ and NSH in OTT. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are at 65 points and don’t play until Friday, in San Jose.

Abbreviated Game Day Notes: vs. Edmonton

Since the Wings played the Oilers so recently, just a brief set up today:

… The Oilers lost their one game since Saturday, 6-3 n Toronto.

… They’re now 11 points out of a playoff spot, sitting at 14th in the West.

… It looks like the Oilers could be without Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tom Renney.

… Khabibulin is the presumed starter.

… The Wings also lost their one game since Saturday: 3-1 in Phoenix.

… Thanks to the Blues 3-1 win over the Senators last night, their lead in the Central has been cut to 3 points. The Predators are also 3 back of them now since they earned a point at home against Vancouver in a shootout loss. The Blackhawks lost in regulation to Colorado, however, and remain at a more comfortable distance.

Jan Mursak’s out and so is Mike Commodore.

… Joey MacDonald’s getting another start, which is good news relatively speaking. Jimmy skated, but didn’t face any shots. Apparently, he could be back as soon as Sunday.

… The Wings stumbled Monday, but need to get back on the horse tonight. They took the Oilers too lightly on Saturday and can’t make that mistake again.

Not with the Blues still on their annoyingly persistent trajectory.

Wings 4, Oilers 5 (SO)

First: The two highlights of the night.

Kronwall’s Hit: Kronwall’s hit. Clean, textbook standing a guy up. Perfect.

Bertuzzi’s 2nd: Bertuzzi’s 301st. Made this guy look like a pylon. Beautiful. Now if someone could just make Andy Sutton look like a retired hockey player…

The Game: In summary, this was a classic Red Wings trap game against a lesser opponent. They came out flat and the Oilers took advantage. They gradually improved over the course of the game and were able to mount a successful comeback in the third period, which was slightly off script.

But they wrote that new script into a blown lead in the final minute. So, they got a point that didn’t seem likely after a 1-3 first period, which is great. But.

Conklin: They may have blown any chance they had of relying on Ty Conklin in Howard’s absence. Conklin appears to be a goalie bereft of all confidence and being hung out to dry by teammates that can’t be bothered to play from the first whistle is not going to help.

Neither is his being yanked one period into his brief tenure as emergency starter. I get that in the microcosm of this one game, pulling the goalie is a way of shaking things up and maybe the best choice. But I wonder if it didn’t just put the icing on the Conklin-is-shot cake. We’ll see.

MacDonald: Meanwhile, Joey MacDonald acquitted himself quite well and looks like a goalie that can handle being hung out to dry by his teammates, because he still has some measure of confidence in himself. He kept the game close and made a number of strong saves that boosted my confidence in him, and from what I saw on Twitter, I was not alone.

It would not be surprising at all to read that Babcock is going with Ty Conklin again tomorrow night, but Joey MacDonald probably should be the guy. At least in a test capacity. Conklin has had time and time again opportunities to show he has what it takes to spell Howard with a competent outing, and he’s so fair failed to do that more than about once. Without that background, I’d say it’d be unfair to leap to conclusions on MacDonald after just one game, but it’s hard not to. Joey just looked better.

The Shootout: I was afraid MacDonald would be a bust in the shootout, because he hasn’t looked good in them while in GR, but he showed up pretty well. The Oilers have some real skill, so I’m not going to hold those goals he did allow against him. I will, however, hold Cleary’s attempt against him. What was that, Danny? The Wings are used to winning these things in just a few rounds, so maybe it’s to be expected that when other guys are put on the spot, it won’t turn out well.

Thug Oilers: What a bunch of children. The Kronwall hit elicited the trademark sign of a dumb team, then Smid runs Zetterberg into the boards like a donkey.

The Power Play: Remains pathetic. The Potter/Smid sequence should have been an automatic goal or two, but they came up completely empty-handed. It’s seriously embarrassing.

I’m going to try to make it a policy to stop complaining about missed calls that would have given the Wings a power play, because it’s not like they would have done anything with it anyway.

And I added a new entry to my new site/Twitter glossary. See “PP”. Right?

Breakaway: Helm had a breakaway that he totally Helmed in the first period. Of course.

Where Confidence Meets Arrogance: I tend to think these trap games that we can so easily predict are a sign of an attitude problem. The Wings know they’re better than just about anybody and they know they have the talent to pull victory from the jaws of defeat on short notice. The old “slow start, frantic finish” model we see. So. Often.

I don’t know if last night is specifically a case of that, but another, related angle on this is the fatigue excuse. I say related because I’m starting to wonder if some of these nights where the storyline can be “they’ve played x games in y nights, they’re out of gas” are really nights where the storyline is “they’ve played x games in y nights, so they’re proactively holding back until late because they know they can.” See the difference?

I love a Wings team that’s confident and has swagger. What I don’t love is a growing suspicion that they’ve crossed over to at least a mild form of arrogance that says they don’t have to take anyone but the most skilled opponents seriously. As Babcock himself has pointed out, teams these days are far closer than they’ve probably ever been before. I guess it would be great if the Wings could play like they believe that more often, even against teams as far back in the standings as the Oilers.

Because that “slow start, frantic finish” model? It doesn’t always work.

The Race: The one point put them at 72, which is 4 over Nashville (regulation winners at home vs. St. Louis),  5 over the Blues and 7 over the flagging Blackhawks. They’ve got a buffer and can afford a game like this in terms of The Race, but they need to get their defensive house in order around the current goaltending situation as soon as possible. Meaning, tomorrow night in Phoenix.

Game Day Notes: @ Edmonton

… This is the third of four games between the Wings and Oilers this season. The Wings won both previous games, beginning with a 3-0 shutout in November and following that with a 3-2 decision in December.

… The Oilers went 4-7-2 in January, but started February with a bang, defeating the Blackhawks 8-4 at home Thursday night.

… That win was their 20th of the season, but they’ve already lost 31 games (5 of which came in OT/SO). They’re 13th in the West and 12 points out of a playoff spot.

…  Bigger than the fact of the 8-4 score Thursday night was that Sam Gagner tied an Oilers team record for points in a single game. Given the Oilers’ history includes Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey and other 80s super-scoring heros, that’s quite a feat. Those points accounted for almost a fourth of his production (30 points) this season.

… The Oilers points leader is Jordan Eberle, who’s notched 20 goals and 30 assists. Taylor Hall follows him with 38 points. Then it’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with 35, Ryan Smyth with 34, and then Gagner. They’ve got some guys who can score, with their top five not far off from the Wings’ top five. Their scoring thins out as you go down the list, however, which puts them at 18th in goals-per-game (2.57).

… Their goals differential is -15 and they’re 20th in goals-against-per-game at 2.82 (compare to the Wings’ goals-per-game of 3.10). But still, their young offensive skill’s enough reason to take them seriously, even if their inexperience has led to more failure than success.

… It looks like they’re going to be fully healthy, as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is scheduled back.

… Devan Dubnyk is the presumed starter for the Oil tonight.

… The Wings are two games into a four game road trip  and are looking for their third win of this swing. They kicked off this post-Break trip with a win over the Flames on Tuesday and followed that up with a win over the Canucks on Thursday.

… They’re now 35-16-1 overall, and working toward improving their road record, which now stands at 15-14-0. Their 71 points is League-leading, and puts them four points over their nearest rival in the Central Division, St. Louis.

… The big news yesterday was the Jimmy Howard injury, which apparently took place here.  He’ll miss at least this game and Monday’s matchup with Phoenix, after which he’ll be reevaluated. He could be back as soon as the next time we see the Oilers: Wednesday. Or not.

… Less important from a team survival standpoint, but more important in just about every other way, was the news yesterday that Patrick Eaves may have a concussion. His jaw is healed but he’s unable to get back in the workout saddle  thanks to symptoms he’s experiencing. Once again, the insidious specter of head injuries rears its ugly head.

… The team had a casual non-practice day of broom ball, so there’s no lineup news yet. Kindl was in Thursday as a means to aid in the Wings’ puck possession game, but that may not be as much of a consideration against the Oilers. Mursak’s speed may help him get in at Emmerton’s expense, though.

… Ty Conklin gets his first chance to demonstrate that he still has something left in the tank while Jimmy’s out. He’ll be backed up by Joey MacDonald.

… The Wings are walking into a trap here if they’re not careful. The Oilers can be a very dangerous team, as Chicago found out the other night, and if the Wings don’t come prepared, it may not end well.

They’ve got a good lead in the Central built up, but the Blues won their first game after the Break last night and seem to be picking up where they left off. Chicago lost in Calgary, hilariously, but they don’t have room to relax. Jimmy, their season-long crutch, is out. It’s time for them to stand more on their own.

Wings 3, Oilers 0

Three in a Row: More distance added between the six-game losing streak—enough that we’re about to the point where I can stop mentioning that.

The Oilers: Stuck with the Wings in the first pretty well. They lost their grip in the second and never got back to where they’d been in competitiveness. Probably a 3:1 mix of fatigue and inexperience, I’d say. There’s no doubt their long road trip and playing the night before were factors, but also think running into the immovable object that the Wings can be when they want to cost them their edge.

Jimmy: Continues to impress. His second shutout of the season and it wasn’t one of those powder puff things where the defense does all the work. The Oilers were dangerous enough to make him earn it.

So whether you think the All Star Game is about getting the League’s big names together or about awarding excellence in the first half, Jimmy by rights should be on his way to fulfilling either requirement. He’s looking on track for a big season, maybe a name-making one.

Khabibulin: Played very well. If giving up three goals and losing in regulation for the first time this season don’t derail him, and if he can keep his 38-year-old body healthy, he’s going to have a heck of a season for the Oilers. And could make a playoff series unsettling, if not outright scary.

Nugent-Hopkins: Just one comment on him: what’s with young players choosing birth year numbers? It seems to me, players used to go the “if it was good enough for Gordie/Wayne/Steve/Modano/Whoever, it’s good enough for me” route, or something like that. But it seems a little self-centered to pick a number that’s just about you. Unless Nugent-Hopkins is honoring Crosby’s theory of number picking, which would also be weird.

Miller: Lucky goal. But way to finish.

Kronwall: Awesome cannon blast for his goal. Let’s make it official policy to make sure Nik gets that much time to step into the puck on every shot, shall we?

Lennart Petrell: Dumb first name. Dumber player. Abdelkader laid a perfectly clean hit on a guy and had to answer the bell just because this donkey decided he had to. I do not exaggerate when I say this is probably my biggest pet peeve about the League today: misguided teammates swooping in to fight guys who laid on a lean hit. I get that it may be hard to determine if a hit was clean in the moment, but unless your guy is on the ice obviously injured, you’ve got no business dropping the gloves. If you want, take the hitters number and try to return the favor next time you’re both out there. It’s that simple.

But if you insist on being a jackass, take off your visored helmet. Good work by the refs to nail Petrell with double minors and a misconduct. Idiot deserved it.

Bad Refs: Lest you think I approve of the full library of referee decisions last night, I should say that they otherwise sucked. The Oilers got away with a ridiculous number of stick infractions last night, the most serious of which were a large number of high sticks. It’s one thing to take us back to pre-Lockout days and ignore hooking or whatever, but I like to think calling high sticking should be a priority.

Maybe the refs were thinking the Oilers as a group are still new to this whole NHL hockey think and deserved a break. I say no.

Best Moment: Zetterberg’s angelic pass across to Filppula for the Wings’ 3rd goal. And this is why I love hockey fans: this video, with that title, exists. We love goals, but it’s the pass that’s the highlight on that play.

Next: The Wings get to face off against another hot team, the Dallas Stars. Their heat was somewhat diminished last night by a loss to Pittsburgh, but they’ve still won four of their last five and are second in the West with 22 points. Should be a hard-fought game.

Game Day Notes: vs. Edmonton

Update (12:31 PM): Looks like the official Oilers site misled me: Ryan Smyth and his 16 points are team-leading, not Nugent-Hopkins’ 13. - Matt

… This is the first time we’ll see the Oilers this season.

… The young Edmonton team has jumped out to a 9-4-2 record, which is good for 20 points and third in the West.

… This’ll be the next to last game of a six-stop road trip that has taken them from LA and Phoenix to Montreal and Boston. They’re 2-2 so far in the trip.

… Their second loss of the trip came last night against the Bruins, who took them out 6-3.

… The Oilers are healthy, with the exception of Ryan Whitney, who’s out with a knee injury.

… Everybody’s talking about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and his team-leading 13 points, four of which have come in his past five games. Guess we should watch out for him tonight.

… Nikolai Khabibulin will be in net for the Oilers. He’s off to a ridiculous start: 7-0-2, .964 save-percentage, 0.98 GAA and a pair of shutouts.

… The Wings are on their way back up from a six-game losings streak that they cut off on Saturday with a win over the Ducks (contributing to the Ducks being on a path to a closed-door meeting). They followed that up with a somewhat less convincing win over the Avs on Tuesday.

… They may have to do it without Henrik Zetterberg tonight. He left practice with what Mike Babcock called a “middle body injury”, a possible reference to his old back problems flaring up again. He’s a game-time decision. His absence will obviously mean some changes, which Babcock thinks out loud about in Khan’s reporting.

… Todd Bertuzzi remains out due to some non-concussion head issues, and Mike Commodore will be a scratch in favor of Jakub Kindl.

… Jimmy Howard gets another start.

… The Oilers are near the end of a long road trip and should be tired, which in theory should make them an easier task. But they’re young and no doubt will be looking to add a feather to their cap with a win over the Wings. I expect they’ll be at their best, which, given their fresh talent and a hot goaltender, is pretty dangerous.

That said, the youth thing cuts both ways. If the Wings stifle them and take ownership of the game early, the Oilers’ inexperience could cause them problems. Meeting real adversity could derail things for them.

So, here’s hoping the Wings offer them some serious resistance.

H2H2 Weekend

The Party: Like last year, the party was a blast. We got around a bit more this time and saw more people. I met Andy, JJ, Graham, Brad, Sara, Natalie and Brian for the first time and got to talk to Petrella, Baroque, Ellen, Jen and George at differing lengths. There were a ton of people there and we missed a lot of people, but it was just great to be there.

The door prize announcements were a blast, though we didn’t win the Osgood-signed Sports Illustrated Megan had her eye on. But the best part came before that with the finally fundraising tally: $14,272. As someone wrote on the check: awesomesauce. That’s an incredible number.

The Game: We ended up seated next to George and behind the Triple Deke crew, so that was great. Tyler and Brent got “Lets Go Red Wings!” cheers going periodically, as did another group at the other end of the H2H2 seating area, so we did our part in keeping the atmosphere in the Joe elevated.

The crowd in general was a good one. It was an announced sellout and I can confirm that it was mostly filled the whole game, with seats presumably empty due to occupants being stuck in lines at the bathroom or concessions. Or just not there. Whatever.

As for the game itself, at times it was incredibly frustrating. I was pretty annoyed for a lot of it, but as it progressed, I started to realize that the Wings mostly owned it from the last third of the first on and that they just weren’t getting any bounces. They had an Oilers team that got its lead and then clamped down remarkably well—if you watched it, you know how it seemed like 2 out of every 3 passes hit an Oilers stick, for example. Some of that was the Wings, but a lot of it was the Oilers’ hustle. Those kids played the Wings very close.

It wasn’t until a penalty kill late in the game, when a puck went over an Edmonton player’s stick at the blue line that I finally felt the Wings got a break. That was the kind of game they had.

The waived off goal was tragic, because the arena had exploded only to be punched in the gut. After seeing the replay in HD last night during the Blues game, I’m not convinced it was the right call, but it worked out in the end.

I was very impressed with a few players: Bertuzzi, Stuart and Modano.

In the arena, you could see Bertuzzi working very hard on every shift and you also got a sense of his strength when he shrugged guys off.

Stuart also worked very hard and made some great defensive plays. I think I know why George is so high on him: you see more of what he does when you’re at the rink that you typically do watching him on TV.

And the same goes for Modano. I noticed him a lot more when I could see the whole play. Not sure what he looked like on TV, but he lead his line big time and looked really, really good.

I’m glad Datsyuk scored in the end, because I didn’t think he had his best game. He seemed to be trying to force it even though he was having an off night and all too often his efforts just fell flat. Even he can have an off night.

Jimmy mostly made up for his pathetic showing on the Oilers’ goal with a strong game after that. But Dubnyk really stole the show.

Once the Wings tied it up, the blood was in the water. It was exciting a finish as I’ve seen in any game I’ve attended. There’s nothing like high-fiving fans around you as the Joe erupts. As frustrating as the game was, an ending like that definitely colors it in a different light.

The Rest: The rest of the night included a walk back from the Joe to the Grand Circus area with a group of H2H2ers who didn’t want to wait for the shuttle bus to show up. It was a good walking tour of the area at night.

On Saturday, Megan and I went to Ikea before catching up with a group skating at a rink in Farmington Hills. We caught Petrella, Discher, Hollis, Serven, Drew, Casey, Sara, Stevie and others skate for a bit before we had to head home.

It was an awesome weekend. It was great to see everybody and be a part of such an incredible fundraising effort. We’re thankful we were able to go.

The Blues Game: I didn’t watch as attentively as I should have, but I’m both disappointed with the blown lead and impressed that they still managed to pull ahead again and close it out. I think they’re on a good trajectory, as long as they bear down and stay focused.

They stayed ahead of the Sharks, which is important, and now have a four-point buffer. They’ll need to be on top of that going forward.