Well, I suppose we were due for a frustrating night like that...doesn't make it any easier or more fun.
I think we were all pretty pumped for tonight and to be let down like that certainly doesn't feel very good. There were a ton of reasons we lost and while the score wasn't really reflective of the game, we certainly didn't come focused or excited either, which is disappointing.
We'll get to the players and the game in a moment, but as many of you know I enjoy commenting on the game experience and things going on at the rink, both to discuss with those who attend the games and notify those who don't. A few things:
- There's a $9 Steak Sandwich on some of the concession menus. I'm strangely intrigued...
- Has anyone else been having trouble with cell phone service and especially data service from within the rink this year? It has been truly atrocious so far. This wasn't the case last year and I am suspicious that some sort of interference is being used as the actual amount of bars on the phone does not change (verified across multiple people).
- They are now announcing a sponsor (twice) when announcing every goal. It's like we're a freaking single A baseball team...it's embarassing and bush league. I don't care what they paid (and they aren't a large company so it wouldn't have been much), END IT!
- For some reason the goal/win horn is being blow very loudly as the team enters. This isn't needed and is a time for the fans to welcome the team. It should be stopped as well.
- Whoever the audio guy is that decided to play nothing but covers and re-mixes of popular songs...it is terrible.
Anyway, back to the game...we came out fairly slowly and couldn't ever seem to establish a flow. It's tough to compare to that first game I saw against Vancouver because that game was all about flow, transition and attacking in waves. This one was about getting bogged down and frustrated. To some extent, this can be attributed to tonight's strange refereeing which was more permissive than usual. That kind of game plays right into a Sutter team's hand because they hook, hold and grab as a tactic. It was painfully evident tonight. I'm betting nearly every Oilers player has a stick-sized bruise on their arm from getting slashed there at some point during the game.
We had our chances early, but once again the execution just wasn't there. The puck would go to the front of the net but wouldn't be corralled. We were constantly 2 steps from a shooting lane but unwilling or unable to get into it. Though Calgary did a solid job on D, we have the speed to break this up and rarely did after the first period (presumably we got frustrated due to the missed chances).
A key moment came when Tom Gilbert elected to shoot on a 2-on-1 instead of make a fairly easy pass to Jordan Eberle. The play was a no-brainer and Gilbert didn't even sell the pass to move the goalie. He took a weak, straight-ahead shot that didn't have much of a chance. That play came in the second period before we'd started exhibiting real signs of frustration. I think it would have changed things a bunch had Gilbert simply made the pass to Eberle. The likelihood he finishes that play was quite high.
After that I didn't see much. In a lot of ways our best line tonight was probably Stortini-Vande Velde-MacIntyre, which isn't going to win you any games.
Losing Jim Vandermeer didn't exactly help either. Our 5 defencemen struggled mightily after he was out. I'm not sure why as the only Flame who was really pressing was Iginla, but some of our D couldn't keep up.
Let's get into more detail in PLAYER REPORTS
- While he got unlucky a couple times and wasn't exactly fronted by a wonderful D unit, Nik has to be better than this. None of the shots that beat him were particularly spectacular and he looked to be behind all of them. I didn't get any indication of aggressiveness or intensity from him at any point tonight. He was very disappointing and will need to be better than this.
- Before he got booted I liked his game a fair bit tonight. He was reasonably smart with the puck, landed some hits and did a very good job of getting in Iginla's face, unltimately taking him off the ice with him. I'll take that trade every day. I'm still a bit miffed as to why he got kicked out after a fight I felt he did fairly well in.
- Probably played himself off the team tonight. He was just plain weak. In a game where physicality was needed, he didn't supply any. There were also a ton of giveaways and he was not in position much of the night. I'm still not sure why he's having so much trouble getting back to form, but laying an egg like that at the complete wrong time after Petiot has been performing decently could come back to haunt him for sure.
- He was flat out brutal. I don't know what about this guy makes him so awkward but he was beat a bunch of times in our own zone, chased pucks out of his position, lost control of the puck, made bad passes and went for a stupid hit that directly resulted in a goal. What's wrong with this guy? Isn't he an NHL defenceman? He sure didn't look it. He also looked dog-tired and had no reason to be.
- The only defenceman who I felt had a decently strong game. He controlled the puck well, made a couple great passes and asserted himself physically. too bad the rest weren't like him.
- Well that was a night to forget, specifically the third period. For whatever reason, in the third Tom kept 2 hands on his stick at wholly inappropriate times, got constantly outmuscled or outdeked, and gave the puck away a bunch. Combine that with what he did on the 2-on-1 in the second and he played a surprisingly bad game. I'm not sure what was in his head tonight.
- Got caught out of position a few times but wasn't near as bad as Gilbert. I'm surprised he didn't assert himself physically in a game that featured a fair bit of hitting. He wasn't strong on the puck either. The D crew as a whole wears a lot of the blame for this one.
- Easily his worst effort. Taylor is going to need to learn to stop overskating areas where he's dangerous. For whatever reason he is in the habit of cruising around and past danger spots, where the puck usually comes to him as it's too late. If he'd just pause, he could have had 3 simple goals tonight. I won't question his effort and he fought like hell for the puck along the boards. The other thing he did that was utterly frustrating were his constant attempts to soft dump and soft pass. He probably gave the puck right to CGY 5-8 times doing this. It is one thing when talented guys try to make a talent play and can't do it yet like they could in junior...these were stupid plays which will never work when he either had a shooting lane or another player open. Unacceptable. He still hasn't looked like a #1 overall to me. If he doesn't come around and you're still intent on keeping him, he must start the year on the 3rd or 4th line. I will note he looked fine on the PK.
- Hard to tell how he did tonight. He didn't get many opportunities to use his speed to make anything happen. I'm inclined to think he didn't play that bad, but also didn't see anything really good.
- This had to have been a frustrating game for Jordan. He got some offensive chances (including a nice shot in the third where Gilbert cruised to far to adequately screen and the 2-on-1) but could not convert. He didn't do a lot of puck carrying and with Hall going the turnover-machine route, was often de-railed. Though he didn't play great and gave the puck away more than he should have, I would like to note that Jordan showed a solid 2-way game tonight. He rarely allowed a mistake of his to go unfixed and broke up several plays. He looks very solid in his own zone so far, and I really like him on the PK. I hope he stays there.
- Had many chances to lay solid hits and just didn't. He needs to do that sort of thing if he wants to get anywhere now that his talent seems to have evaporated. I'm quite surprised he didn't have more interest in that type of game tonight.
- If only he were 6'2". Reddox tapped into his inner pest tonight and put forth a rather excellent effort. He laid several hits and got into an awkward fight as one of the only Oilers to play a truly assertive game. It's a shame he couldn't capitalize on his breakaway, which came off a solid read and a good pass reception. In contrast to Peckham, Reddox may have played himself onto the team with this effort.
- Total mixed bag. He skated well and tried to be physically but was literally hit and miss when it came to that. He took an utterly stupid penalty deep in the Flames zone and couldn't do anything with the offensive chances he garnered. He was also not able to effectively shake the Flames as a pest. Not good enough.
- Not a lot of flash in Stortini's game tonight but he was reasonably solid. MacIntyre overshadowed him and he was not called upon to fight. I continued to like his skating and positioning though and his improvement does not appear to be a one-game story. That's a very good thing for this team.
- Probably the best game of his life? Won a tough fight, scored a goal and had 22 PIMs. The spear should never have been a 5-minute major...
- Continued to show why he's a strong contender to be on the team sooner than later. He skated very well and made his presence known in the corners. Even with his linemates he managed to generate scoring chances which means something. I don't know what it is about him, but he seems to be able to make things happen. If contracts weren't a consideration, maybe you keep him over Fraser and Jones. He looks like a better hockey player than either by a fair bit.
- Had a whack of solid chances in the first and just couldn't capitalize. It looked like the puck hopped over his stick a few times (something I remember happening at the beginning of other years). I think he should switch to a stick with a bigger blade personally. He was the only Oilers player that really hit the offensive holes and had the type of chances we need. In the second and third he pressed for the shot more and this didn't work out. No complaints, just not a great game. Good PKing.
- I honestly didn't notice him much. I believe it was he that made the nice pass to Reddox, but he wasn't able to get any real offence going. One thing that frustrated me was that a couple times Sam had a free lane to carry the puck behind the net and instead took a weak shot with no chance to score or rebound. This is useless. I'm also not a fan of using Sam on the PK. His skillset is not suited to it.
- Tonight was the first night that he stopped moving his feet rather than just blowing by people. I'm not sure why this is, because when he actually did he continued to blow right by them. He made a nice play to Gagner down low after taking a feed from Hemsky that should have resulted in a goal, and had a couple nice shooting chances but did not capitalize. He got hit harder than we've seen but seemed to bounce right up. The nice thing about he and even moreso Eberle, is that even though they weren't good offensively, they did some other things well.
I guess we're not going totally undefeated...oh well. It will be very interesting to see who gets one last shot in CGY and takes advantage. I really hope Omark takes charge so that he as a more experienced pro can take on more of the offensive responsibility. It can be tough for guys like Hall on nights like tonight.