Despite an outstanding performance from goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, the Edmonton Oilers found a way to continue their ugly winless streak in Minnesota. With Thursday nights 2-1 shootout loss, the Oilers have now gone a mind numbing 17 consecutive games (0-14-3) without a win against their division rivals on the road.
Edmonton carried the play throughout the first period and were full marks for their 1-0 lead on the first of the season from Ryan Smyth. The second period was when it all came unraveled. Ales Hemsky left the bench after only seven shifts in the first period and did not return with an apparent shoulder issue. Not sure what the problem is at this point but the club said Hemsky would be reevaluated tomorrow.
The Wild took over the game the last 45 minutes, out shooting the Oilers by a 26-10 margin. Matt Cullen was the only player able to beat Khabibulin, just past the eight minute mark of the second period, on a brutal give away at the blueline by Andy Sutton that was compounded when Eric Belanger and Smyth deciding to take one another out of the play against the boards, instead of picking up a Wild player. Cullen broke in on a helpless Tom Gilbert and made no mistake burying the puck past the Oilers netminder on the short side. The rest of the way was the Khabibulin show. The Russian goalie followed up Devan Dubnyk's stellar performance on opening night, with another great effort from an Oiler netminder. He was able to hold the fort and earn the club a point, that they had no right collecting.
- The performance of Khabby between the pipes. If there was any doubt heading into the season about the Oilers goaltending, it no longer seems to be the case. Both have been standouts to this point and have carried their solid pre-season performances into the regular season.
- The penalty kill was a perfect 4 out of 4 on the night and appears to be headed in the right direction. It helps when your goaltenders make some saves when short handed and both Dubnyk and Khabibulin have been up to the challenge.
- Jordan Eberle is becoming Mr. Automatic in the shootout
- Obviously the injury to Hemsky is concerning. If it is nothing more then soreness from scar tissue breaking up, that's not a big deal. If it is anything more then that, then the Oilers have a huge problem on their hands and an asset that they will get very little for in a trade.
- The decision to scratch one Linus Omark sure backfired. I would say the outcome was just, as there was no need to bench the Swede after his game one performance. They decided to role the dice and it blew up in their face. Not only did they lose Hemsky but without Omark in the lineup, their "depth" upfront becomes a lot thinner on the creative side of things.
- Considering that the supposed "give away machine" that is Linus Omark was in the press box, you would think the team would have been better with the puck. They did nothing but turnover it over the final two periods and it cost them dearly. So does someone else get a turn in the press box or is that just reserved for a certain player that wears 23 on his back? Don't get me wrong, I realize Omark has deficiencies in his game but he does seem to be the one that is continually singled out and it is rather confusing. They have to except what he is as a player and work with him. He has become a lot better tracking back into his own end and he fights a lot harder in the defensive zone. Either coach him through it while he plays or move him to a different organization. He is the player he is and if they want him to turn into Ryan Jones with skill, it is not going to happen.
- What exactly was the point of dressing Darcy Hordichuk tonight? Minnesota gave Tom Renney an easy out to get Omark in the lineup by not dressing Matt Kassian but the Oilers coach had to be stubborn to make a point, that frankly did not need to be made. There is a purpose for Hordichuk against certain teams, one being this coming Saturday against the Canucks, but there is no reason for him to be in the lineup when you have a perfectly healthy body in the press box, who shouldn't be there to begin with. If this team wants to try and make the playoffs, then they can't just give points away to show they can rule with an iron fist.
- For the love of god, can this staff please play someone with Eberle that can get him the puck? Either put RNH back with him and Smyth or get Omark in the lineup and playing with Jordan. The kid as a bloody sniper and playing him with Belanger and Smyth is the stupidest thing I have seen this coaching staff do in some time.
- I don't have an issue having vets seeing more ice time on the road in close games but I do have an issue with the teams top three forwards being Horcoff (22:49), Jones (19:31) and Belanger (19:21). Sorry but there is no excuse for this, especially when the Wild had all of four power plays on the night. It is not hard to see why they generated no offence over the last forty minutes. Horcoff and Belanger I can somewhat understand, as they sat Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a bit but Jones should never be seeing that much ice. It's bad enough that they decided to put Horcoff out on the PP but they make matters worse by putting Jones on the power play for 1:19????????? Again, no excuse!!! That being said, karma is a bitch and the club nearly got what they deserved but their goalie made sure it wasn't a total waste of an evening.