The Edmonton Oilers started slowly and the San Jose Sharks started fast last night on the left coast. The official scorer saw more than 40 hits in the first period, and perhaps also saw the swallows return to Capistrano. The Oilers? They were all business, especially after the first period.
THE WHO BY NUMBERS
- After 1: 0-0 score, SJS had the edge in shots 13-6 and they dominated Corsi for 5×5 26-12.
- After 2: 0-0 score, EDM had the edge in shots 12-4 and Oilers dominated Corsi for 5×5 23-10.
- After 3: 1-0 EDM, SJS had the edge 6-4 and 15-12 in Corsi for 5×5.
- Final: 1-0 EDM, SJS had the edge in shots 23-22 and in Corsi for 5×5 51-47.
That was some game, the Oilers chased in the first but their structure held better than Game 1. In the second period, it was the Sharks who were forced to swim, and the third period was fairly even. Every playoff shutout is a big deal, for me Cam Talbot was busier last night than on Friday. What a game! The Sharks brought a lot of effort and a giant Thornton, but were once again bested by the northern upstarts. I cannot wait to get to the next chapter!
- Todd McLellan moved Leon from the 97 line (I believe) in order to get bigger, stronger down the middle. I counted several good chances for this line, including a McDavid wrap, two Maroon chances where he shot the puck 10 miles wide (good lord, man!) and a couple of reasonable if rushed shots by Slepyshev. I would like to see this line again.
- Maroon may be illing.
- McDavid faced Vlasic-Braun (12-15, 13 minutes) and went 10-8 against Marleau-Couture-Ward in nine minutes.
- The best chance for 97 might have been on the PP, a fine pass to Mark Letestu could easily have cashed.
- I have five (Maroon net front, Maroon two on one, McDavid wrap, McDavid right point and Letestu PP) good looks provided by 97, that’s a good night in spite of the scoreless entry in the game summary.
- Nuge had five shots on goal, including a very good shot off the faceoff that had a chance.
- Nuge and Lucic are coming on now, seems Lucic is the passer and Nuge the cannon, which is bass ackwards but I’ll take it. Maybe Eberle can screen the goalie. Don’t care, it’s working.
- Nuge line went 5-5 in eight minutes against Martin-Burns and 3-2 against Karlsson-Thornton-Pavelski. This is yuge, folks. RNH played 5:25 against Joe Thornton and it we see a Mike Peca result. Sheesh! That’s good! I am loving it!
- This is the only line that stayed intact, after a winter of eyebrow raising.
- I really liked the line, even without the goal. As you can see, going 8-6 together and ending with these Corsi’s tells us their previous line wasn’t working. So credit to McLellan, he found a nifty trio here.
- Leon gets some credit for creating havoc just before the turnover that led to Zack Kassian’s goal.
- Zack Kassian is at the pinnacle of life now, and we’re all thrilled. What a fabulous story. I love it. Nice Elvis sideburns too. If he makes an album of Elvis songs, I’ll buy that thing in every format: 8-Track, cassette and vinyl.
- Leon went 3-4 against the Hertls.
- This line had some good things. Pouliot and Desharnais went 10-7 5×5 Corsi events and had some promising moments. I think this might be something that can work.
- Letestu had (to my eye) one of the best chances in the game, pass from 97 and a strong shot on the power play.
- Letetu went 6-7 against the emerging Meier line, Desharnais went 5-1. The line was in and out with alot of other forwards, but the results were generally good for an Oilers 4line.
- Pouliot had a selfish penalty and a point-blank chance provided by 97 in which he didn’t get a shot. Not good! Burns drilled him at the blue line and there was a lot of jack assery from San Jose, but you can’t do that in a big game that close.
- Desharnais has a lot of things that have kept him in the NHL, and we saw several of them on display last night. Anticipates well, wonderful passer, and he gets in there despite size difference. He was back to early levels last night.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Klefbom-Larsson went 13-14 together, and played some heavy minutes. Went 5-6 against Karlsson-Thornton-Pavelski line, also 3-3 against the Hertls. Oscar moved the puck (mostly) well, and Larsson was Mr. Clampdown along the wall all night. The man is a menace, but in a good way. I am loving this pairing now, and they can get the puck out under control.
- Nurse-Benning went 10-11 in 12:28. They went 4-6 against Meier-Tierney-Sorensen and 3-6 against the Hertls. Darnell is not making good decisions with the puck but is defending well, and that is a sign of maturation. Just as a young hitter can sometimes let offensive slumps impact his play in the field, that malady can strike NHL defenders. I think Nurse has overcome that issue, or at least at this time. Needs to make better plays with the puck . Benning was in chase mode much of the night, we didn’t see his savvy play with the puck near enough. He’s a rugged player, caught a couple of Sharks with hits that hurt. I’m going to love watching him play.
- Sekera-Russell went 7-6 against Marleau-Couture-Ward and that’s some good business.Went 16-18 together.Russell was very effective on the PK and was a whirling dervish against the Sharknado. Sekera made good decisions with the puck on a night when the blue had very little clean air.
- I wish the Oilers could be more consistent with their breakout passes, but the Sharks are partly responsible and there has been improvement over the season.
- Talbot stopped all 23 shots and is on a roll. Goalies man. Two late stops were especially key, both probably better than 50 percent to find the net when the rocket launched. A strong night.
- Numbers via NHL.com, NaturalStatTrick and HockeyStats.ca.
AFTER THREE GAMES
I picked the Oilers to win this series, but in a lot of ways it looked straight up from here. Part of the issue involved SJS injuries, and we’ve seen Logan Couture play well (Game 1) and fade (Games 2 and 3). I thought Joe Thornton had a fine game last night, really added to the fearsome forwards on the Sharks. It wasn’t enough, and that’s a tell.
It is borderline treason it seems to credit Todd McLellan with making a smart move, but I’ll give credit on several fronts. He attacked the matchup issue (raised with JT’s return) by moving Leon onto the third line as a center, and didn’t shake up the impressive Nuge line while doing it. It would be no surprise if we see the same forward lines as listed above in Game 3. It’s also possible Patrick Maroon gets some time on lower units (meaning possibly Drake Caggiula gets the push).
DARMOK, IN WINTER
Sometimes, when I’m especially angry at a specific thing and have been raging about it for an hour or a day or a week, Mrs. Lowetide sends a verbal knife between my third and fourth rib. “Don’t you ever let it go?” she’ll ask, sweetly. Dammit! Can’t you see how angry I am over this thing that has no real impact on my life!!?!?!?!! We’re all prone to these outbursts, but there’s a real chance my house has seen double the norm over the years. The phrase “you’re like a dog with a bone” has also been mentioned a few times in those same years.
Folks, I think it’s time for me to let it go. That doesn’t mean you, this is for me. When the trade occurred on June 29, I reacted to it emotionally and intellectually, and both reactions had the Oilers trailing on the transaction. That doesn’t make me special, it makes me typical. I did take the time to find out about the other guy and knew a little of him too.
In order to free himself from the chains of that deal, Peter Chiarelli needed to cobble together a team good enough to make the playoffs and compete once there. After last night, that milestone has been passed. I think the trade was a loss in talent, and a win in balance and structure. Made necessary by the Jeff Petry trade, the addition of Adam Larsson has proven astute, it is a very good fit. Lots of other things have been added (including health) and talking about progress without mentioning Connor McDavid would be insane.
Peter Chiarelli solved one problem (RHD who can play the tough minutes) and added another (he needs someone to push the river on a line that doesn’t include 97). I absolutely believe one problem is more difficult to solve than the other. That is his challenge, but this season gives him the right to find the solution. In my opinion.
ZACK KASSIAN, LEGEND
During the 2005-06 regular season, Fernando Pisani was an effective two-way winger who often mentored some of the talented youths on the Oilers. An eighth-round selection (1996) from the St. Albert Saints of the AJHL, Pisani posted his best offensive year in 2005-06 (18 goals and 37 points) while serving an important role on the 3line. Those 18 goals (80 games) did little to prepare us for his brilliant offensive outburst in the playoffs, where he scored 14 goals (!!!) in 24 games. If you listen closely, you can still hear the drums of Fernando from the fields in the distance.
Zack Kassian is a little younger than Pisani was in 2006, and his career high in points (14-15-29) is probably still to come (along with a large contract). It appears the hockey Gods have chosen Kassian as this year’s Pisani, as his two game winners suggest a starring role for him. Music! What a tremendous story, I think Jake Gyllenhaal will play him in the movie. Redemption songs are the sweetest, and Kassian’s genuine humility is an added piece to a wonderful story. This is why I love sports.
We’ve seen Griffin Reinhart and Nick Ellis get the call, I imagine we hear about Jesse Puljujarvi sometime in the next few days. Sail on, Timra Red Eagle, you are bona fide. I wish you had come to us in a time when management had a mind for knowing.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
I’m on the round table at nine this morning, so tune in (TSN1260) early if you can. We bring the crazy at 10, scheduled to appear:
- Scott Burnside, ESPN. Some amazing stories across the NHL playoffs, we’ll make stops in Edmonton, Chicago and St. Louis.
- Jake Sundstrom, Fear the Fin. Sundstrom is wicked smart and has given us great insight into the Sharks before and during the series. We’ll get his read on this weekend’s games.
- Jason Gregor, TSN1260. What does Jason think of these line changes?
- Sunil Agnihotri, Copper & Blue/The SuperFan. Leon in the middle opens this up, should Todd McLellan keep things this way?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!