I was worried even though I missed an utterly pathetic sounding game Sunday; I apparently didn't have to wait long to see a putrid game in person.
Make no mistake, the Oilers could have won this sucker in the first period. There were openings and chances just like when they pasted the Leafs in Toronto not so long ago. The difference was this time the Oilers missed their chances and got frustrated thereafter.
The second and third periods were a complete and utter disgrace. This team didn't look into it at any point after the blown chances. I don't particularly know why the individual players would get down on themselves as they were playing a truly horrible hockey team, but I think one can look to the lineup and the system in some ways tonight. Renney's line combos were not working and did not change. The decision to dress MacIntyre and Stortini backfired horribly, placing a line on the ice that could really do nothing. They were bad and even though the stretches they played in the second and third were short, the distracted hockey they played put the game off course in a lot of ways. Some will say Renney had to play Strudwick tonight; but he didn't. He could have recalled Belle in time to dress tonight, but instead gave the guy who's only good in the room with skates off a chance; he was terrible and couldn't provide the Oilers with near enough minutes to help out the other 5 D (who were having a rough time themselves tonight). More on some of Renney's decisions in PLAYER REPORTS
- This line doesn't work; Gagner tries to carry the puck too much. Pretty much every time Sam attempted to lug the puck instead of feeding Hall and Eberle (who did a good job of getting open for a while) things went wrong. I know Sam got the assist on Eberle's goal, but that pass probably shouldn't have made it through anyway. He throws off the groove that 4 and 14 have in a big way. Hall could have won this thing early. I'm not sure exactly what he thought he was doing on the two partial breakaways he got in the first period, but what he did gave him a low chance to score. By the third he was trying to do way too much and paying a physical price for it, but also giving up the puck. I know he got his shots on and I liked how he pissed off Miz Dion a little bit, but this was not one of my favorite games from Taylor. Eberle played alright; and he certainly got himself to the right places (but didn't receive passes) and made some good decisions in the offensive zone. It wasn't enough tonight.
- Even though they didn't generate a ton of offence, I didn't mind Penner and Omark tonight. They put in a decent effort and made some nice things happen in the corners and behind the net. There needed to be more finish and someone supporting from a solid position which should be where Cogliano comes in, but this didn't happen. I don't know what has happened to Andrew, but if someone were watching for the first time they sure wouldn't conclude he was any kind of NHL player or even a vet (which he almost is). He's just not generating anything and seems to have forgotten basic positioning. Not helping the team win at all.
- This line was a pretty big disappointment; and it starts in the middle. Brule looked like Cogliano #2 all night tonight. He wasn't physical, took one half decent shot (which needed to be perfect to be the right choice off the rush) and generally just skated around a bunch. He's not very good positionally so he cannot play this way. Jones tuned down his physical game on a night when he needed to hit, but did get himself into some decent offensive situations. The disappointment comes from the fact that he didn't score and didn't show a lot of jump to make up for it either. I can understand why Magnus would struggle with these two, but he was probably the best of the three, certainly showing some good things with his skating. I didn't have a good view of the penalty he took on Kessel; did 81 embellish? (I'm assuming he would)
- Writing any more than these two sentences would be a waste of virtual breath. NEVER AGAIN.
- One of the stronger defenders tonight. He at least played his position most of the time, though I didn't like what he did on the second Leafs goal at all. Gilbert's been better lately and I'd mainly attribute that to his increased skating time with the puck. He's just just getting it away from himself anymore.
- A ROUGH night for Theo. He didn't really smack anyone around and kept getting caught flatfooted or late to his position. He could be way better than this and we certainly need him to be if there's any hope of hanging on to this season.
- All you need to know you saw on the third T.O. goal that was the backbreaker. NHL defencemen don't do that. AHL defencemen don't do that. You don't stand there like a goof in front of your own net and essentially score on yourself. This guy is defensive poison. I feel bad for him on some levels. Also cannot believe there are still those out there who defend him. Will Fraser certainly expressed my thoughts on 1260's post-game show (I think his is by far the best show on the station actually).
- Also a rough night. I'm not sure what precisely he was trying to do on the Leafs third goal, as that play was telegraphed 80 miles away and he still got caught surprised. He didn't have any particular help but really should have made a better play. Didn't carry the puck, didn't hold the offensive zone and didn't fight in a game where I think he needed to. Not good enough. Then again, when Smid and Peckham are keys to the game, it's a problem.
- Not one of his best. I'm not actually sure why he jumps into the rush to attempt shots anymore. He's got to know by now that he'll whiff or miss or something. It's just not his year for goals. He should join the rush of course, but focus on passing. In the defensive zone he was not as locked-down as he usually is and when he's off, we're screwed.
- Didn't see him much other than some spots where he was out of position and struggled to get back. He's best when he was a little physical and he wasn't tonight. Bergeron would be a better PP QB.
- Not good, not utterly terrible. Certainly didn't face a deluge from the Leafs though. Can't allow 4 no matter how they get in on a night like that.
It's not like the Leafs were good tonight; don't get that misconception. Their rushes and zone play were mis-mashes supported by the bad play of a confused and uninspired Oilers team.
The "cheerleaders" were boring. I don't agree with cheerleaders in hockey (it's not football dammit!) but if they'd have called them something else, ditched the pom poms and had them essentially replace Scholz, it could've flew. People's reaction was essentially none. I don't see this lasting too long; the event team is a better vehicle.
Leafs fans who attended tonight: too many of you were jerks in your own class far and away. Booing the home team and abusing fellow fans is not the way to act. Calgary and Montreal fans don't act that way in our barn. You're very similar to VanFan in a lot of ways, but with a special arrogance that makes it worse. You act like it's the Stanley Cup when you win in Edmonton...talk about sad.
Props to everyone who stayed to the end; that was hard to take.