I’m going to throw a stat out at you: 30.2%. What does this number reference? The Edmonton Oilers‘ power play percentage? No…close, but no. Sadly, this is the percentage of faceoffs the Oilers won against the Vancouver Canucks last night. The big reasons – Injuries to Eric Belanger and Shawn Horcoff and, to be honest, a shocking lack of depth at center.
The Oilers already don’t win a lot of faceoffs as it is, but when your best faceoff guy goes down with an injury that will keep him out at least two weeks, and when arguably your second-best faceoff taker–Horcoff–comes back from an injury and apparently breaks his knuckle and will be gone for an indefinite period of time, things are only going to get worse.
I mentioned in yesterday’s preview that playing without Horcoff and Belanger could spell disaster for the Oilers because of how weak they are at winning faceoffs, and last night’s tilt with the Canucks showed just how much teams will be able to exploit this problem if it continues long-term. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins still needs to improve greatly in this department, Sam Gagner is wildly inconsistent, and Anton Lander and Lennart Petrell are game if underwhelming replacements at this position, so any extended absence for Horcoff and/or Belanger will spell serious trouble for the Oilers.
The Oilers did an admirable job on special teams–Ales Hemsky scored a power play goal, Ryan Smyth managed to score a shorthanded trickler on Roberto Luongo and the penalty kill kept Vancouver scoreless in four tries–but it wasn’t enough to offset the Canucks’ attack, even if it came largely from unusual suspects like Chris Tanev.
The Oilers fought valiantly to overcome their deficiencies and a slew of injuries that are starting to mount up, but they couldn’t hold on in regulation and lost the game in overtime. So they got a point out of the game, but they missed a golden opportunity for two against the Canucks. The Oilers have now lost three in a row and are already starting to look tired and thin. Is it time to push the panic button in Edmonton yet?