Jan 142010

500px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers The Edmonton Oilers started their final 38 games tonight knowing for sure that goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin is officially done for the season as he has opted for back surgery to try and correct his herniated disc problem. The Oilers GM Steve Tambellini has also come out and said that the team will not be going out to look for a new goalie to get them through the rest of the season. With both Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk both needing to clear waivers next season if they get sent back to the minors this is the smart thing to do. One of these guys will be the Khabibulin’s back-up next year and the Oilers need to see which of these goalies is going to be their goalie of the future and which guy they can take a chance on losing by sending back down. As I said before, these 2 young goalies have to be started on a rotating basis no matter what. Let’s see what they are made of.

The first period tonight had to be one of the most boring periods of hockey I have seen in a while. There were only 7 total shots (4 by the Oilers) and no goal and very little in the way of action. Other than some good work by Robert Nilsson and Andrew Cogliano and a great hit late in the period by Dustin Penner it was booooorrrrring hockey.

The one thing I was impressed with in the first period was the defensive work (yes, defensive) by Robert Nilsson especially in taking the puck away from a much larger Michael Rupp in the defensive zone. The Oilers did some good work and ended the period getting a 5 on 3 powerplay as the Pittsburgh Penguins were guilty of taking 2 penalties at the same time with 12 seconds left. The Penguins played the period like they thought this game was going to be a gimmie.

The second period started on the 5 on 3 powerplay and finally with 14 seconds left, Cogliano was able to pop his own rebound into the net after a great save by Marc-Andre Fleury. If I remember correctly, that was the first PP goal for the Oilers at 5 on 3 this year. If it wasn’t then it was a really long time ago. Speaking of a really long time ago, that was the first goal for Cogliano in 28 or 29 games. He has had the jump lately but just hasn’t had the scoring luck.

The second game then went back into booorrring mode for a while with neither team doing a lot of anything. Half way through the second the Penguins Rupp was nailed for a penalty (stupid offensive zone Oilers type) and again the Oilers scored with Lubomir Visnovsky finding the twine with a point shot after Patrick O’Sullivan had hit the crossbar but followed up and passed the puck to the point for the shot.

The Penguins got their first chance on a powerplay 2 minutes after that goal. Ranked 29th in the league on the powerplay is really hard to fathom with the fire power this team has but watching them it is easy to see why. Other than a breakaway from Bill Guerin the Penguins did very little and most of them were standing around. I don’t care how talented you are but if you are going to stand around then nothing is going to happen. 

With 25 seconds left in the period Robert Nilsson took the puck away from a Penguin just inside the blue line and he drove the net 2 on 1 with Cogliano and made the deke which Fluery saved. In the process, Nilsson was bumped a little by Evgeny Malkin and he embellished it a bit as he drove over Fleury. Fleury took exception to the collision and immediately pounced on Nilsson leading to a small melee in the net and both Nilsson and Fleury with minor penalties. After the really boring first period the second period had 32 shots with 18 of those by the Oilers. That was probably one of the better periods of play by the Oilers since their 5 game winning streak in early December. I was also reminded that during the Penguins last game in Edmonton in December, 2007 the Oilers were leading 2-0 after 2 periods and ended up losing 4-2. Not again right?

The third period started with a couple of Oiler type giveaways by the Pens resulting in breakaway chances by Penner then Pisani. Fleury with 2 pretty good saves on both chances. The Penguins then started to look like they might get interested in playing and with just over 3 minutes gone the Oilers goaltending bug bit them. After 2 good periods, Devan Dubnyk allowed that weak goal at the wrong time that has plagued the team all season long. The old softie under the arm on the short side by Tyler Kennedy. 2 minutes later it was Ryan Stone taking one of the Oilers trademark weak-assed lazy penalties to give the surging Penguins their second powerplay of the game.

And for the upteenth time this season that dreadful penalty cost them. This time it was Matt Cooke who punished Stone for his stupidity. The Pens had probably played hockey for 5 minutes in the game to this point and they were tied at 2. The Oilers continued their “Fall for Hall” as again the defensive zone coverage was dreadful as Smid, Visnovsky and Cogliano are all beaten to the puck and with Ethan Moreau out picking his nose in no man’s land in the slot and no Pen within 15 feet of him, Jordan Staal’s centering pass deflects off Pascal Dupuis’ knee and behind Dubnyk. Last time these teams met in Edmonton it was Sidney Crosby with 3 points in the third period. Tonight it was Jordan Staal’s turn to pull the feat. 3-2 was the final score with Crosby and Malkin going pointless.

So, why did the Oilers lose again? This team has 4 or 5 (ok maybe 10 or 12) things that cost them every game and tonight was no different. While Pittsburgh was getting NHL calibre goaltending from Fleury, the Oilers were giving up the weak goal at the wrong time of the game. While Fleury was making 2 breakaway saves early in the third to keep his team in the game, Dubnyk was allowing the softie to let the Pens back in. I know he is a rookie but with both him and Deslauriers fighting to keep a job with the Oilers next year, you have to be better than that.

Then it was the penalty that killed the game. Ryan Stone started the season as one of the Oilers better players but since he was injured he has been average at best. Tonight he sunk himself officially into the doghouse as he took that lazy penalty that the Oilers weren’t able to kill off (as is the case with most of those lazy penalties) and that tied the game. The Oilers then failed to win the puck on a dump and chase in their own zone and that too ended up in the net. Captain Ethan was on the ice for less than a dozen minutes tonight, ended up –2 and had zeros in every other stat line. No hits, no blocked shots, no shots…nothing. Good job again leading by example.

I guess the one positive to come out of the game was that the lose helped take them further behind 28th place Toronto as the Leafs won tonight. The “Fall for Hall” is still working in the Oilers favor but as is normal with the team they will either not get the first pick or will go “off the board” with their first overall pick if they do get it.

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