I made a pretty decently sized effort to get home from skiing to attend this game tonight and was really expecting my team to attend as well.
I'm not sure if it was just one line (which I'll discuss later) or the whole squad, but I have a feeling at least some of the Oilers really tied one on last night. That's about the only explanation I'd imagine for an effort that utterly strange; we had about 5 minutes worth of GO and that was it.
Buffalo never really did anything out there tonight. Every goal they scored was weak and they were missing their biggest pieces other than Vanek and Miller, yet we laid a big enough egg and lost a big enough piece of our own to come out on the short end. That's pretty sad.
If you missed the first few minutes of this one you wouldn't have seen very many positives. In the first few we looked way too talented and fast for this Sabres team. We should have run them out of the barn kicking and screaming if we'd kept that pace for even another period. We didn't.
I'd give Renney a massive minus for yanking Linus off the PP in favor of Magnus on the first PP of the game. Doing that to a rookie after a puck gets stuck in some water and your apparently sleeping goalie lets in a total floater is bad coaching. That PP unit Omark-Penner-Hemsky is probably one of the few positives out of this game. They needed to get more of the overall share on the PP, but Renney kept rushing 4-89-14 out there. I didn't like the way Tom coached tonight's game at all. For one, when he saw how bad the first two goals 35 let in were, he shoulda yanked him. Anyway...on to PLAYER REPORTS
- As discussed, he was putrid. The first goal, while awkward, went in because he triple clutched rather than just covering the most area possible. The second has no excuse, and the third was from an angle where it should be impossible to score on anything but a perfectly released deceptively quick shot (which Hecht's wasn't). When your goalie is having to turn around and check his angle on that play, he's having a bad night. He made probably 3 good saves, though they were recovery saves and he was late on a bunch more shots that came at him. He was completely asleep out there tonight. Even with as bad as we were, if he plays well we win this one.
- I really hope he didn't get seriously hurt...once he was gone we really couldn't move the puck to the forwards and were just handicapped something fierce.
- Was very interested to see this kid play. He really struggled in the first; at least 2 bad turnovers and while I liked the boldness of his first pinch, his others weren't so good. One thing you need to be able to do to pinch well in the NHL is either make perfect reads or be able to skate your butt off back into position (Pitkanen was the best I'd ever seen at this), he wasn't doing either. After he made a nice play to stop a partial break in the second, he settled in and started looking before he passed. I liked what he brought after that, including a couple passes that created nice rushes and a beautifully timed LONG bank pass. His PP positioning and shot choice is pretty good as well. He 'skates big' as well; that's about as well as I can describe it (it's a good thing). There are D his size who go unnoticed when they're not hitting but he isn't like that. I think despite his rating tonight he had a solid first pro effort and that we likely have something here. Likely in the Gilbert (good Gilbert) mold.
- Much better from him tonight. On several occasions he skated the puck to safety and beyond, plus he actually had a shift with 2 shots which is something I can't really remember him doing. His defensive zone play could've been a tad better, but the way he broke up that breakaway without taking a penalty even though the BUF player defended the puck wonderfully was beautiful to watch as a former Dman. Great play.
- Needs to remember he does have some offensive skill. He backed off 2 open rush chances before getting his one solid slapper away. He needs to get some aggression back into his game. I didn't like that he got beat wide a couple times, including once by Grier who shouldn't beat anyone wide. I'm not singling out Theo, but the entire Oilers unit was off in their coverages of the high men tonight, and this led to several odd man and breakaway (including a 2-on-0 where bonehead didn't pass to Vanek) chances. This can't be happening.Theo made a great aggressive play to break up one of the 2-on-1s (always take a shot at the puck-carrier near the blue line if at all feasible, they choke under the early pressure).
- Wasn't impressed as he was pretty weak defensively and his shot remains haywire. I don't know if we really have anything to work with which is sad when you consider his physical attributes.
- Tom has returned to form. He carried the mail for the D tonight and was excellent. His effort to skate past and through one BUF defender then make a perfect pass to Jones through 2 more was just sublime. He also joined a couple rushes very successfully and certainly could have scored. I think he got caught on one, which isn't usually terrible. He broke up several good chances and should be commended on a night when not many should be.
- Easily their worst home game. They were terrible, creating nothing after the first 5. Eberle had a couple decent moments, but also more screwups and sequences where he was behind the play than I've seen combined in all the other home games. Hall was getting knocked around and not bouncing back up. You could see him back off of pucks after a couple big hits. That's unacceptable for a guy who plays his best after a couple hits. No decent shots on net either...why does he keep missing? I've also noticed that he screws up the cross-crease feeds due to overskating more than a scorer should. It might sound like I'm being really negative but I have a reason. Gagner couldn't do much either, and whiffed a couple nice Eberle feeds. I really think these guys at the very least looked like they went out boozing last night and hadn't recovered. That would explain 14's totally inexplicable performance and the general malaise that was their PP effort. They even looked wiped standing there while the anthem played. Very disconcerting.
- I really thought for a moment that 13 would just play his role on this line like he did in the first couple shifts. I suspect it was Whitney or Gilbert feeding Hemsky and Penner, which resulted in productive rushes highlighted by a nice little stick-lift hard work play by 83 getting Penner a clean look that he finished. They really looked good briefly back together. After Cogliano started getting the puck in the neutral zone (which seemed to happen a TON in the third) the line was dead because 13 kept giving it up. Hemsky worked really hard this game and definitely had his quick step (which you'd worry about after a groin injury). It was certainly a joy to watch him play again. Penner was good and okay depending on the point in the game. He needed the puck more tonight (the formula for their success is Hemsky-to-Penner-zone entry-to-Hemsky on their best nights) and that just wasn't happening for some reason. He did take a while to get used to reading 83's zone entry style on the PP, but as noted earlier, they didn't get enough time.
- They didn't look great but the 2/3 benching that took place in the third was idiotic. Not sure if you could see at home but Omark's turnover was the result of some water on the ice (which was in a spot that seems to be a constant problem spot, I'm amazed they havent fixed it) rather than a screwup. Those of you bagging on him tonight don't know what you're talking about. He wasn't good but he certainly wasn't bad on a night when many forward were bad. Looked solid with 27 and 83, which is the line we would've seen 5-on-5 late needing a goal if Renney was actually watching the effing game...O'Marra didn't really do much but again, I didn't see any screwups really and he didn't deserve a benching. 91 struggled to get momentum tonight and I imagine he'll bounce back next game. Still want to see him on the PK.
- Fraser missed a rebound chance in the third that should have tied the game. He really shouldn't have been on the ice, but again, Renney lost his coaching brain tonight and played the heck out of him. Jones worked hard but this line combo doesn't suit his game. If he's the physical presence on his line it works; he's expected to be the scorer on this line which doesn't work as well. Good of him to be in the right spot and beat a BUF defender for his goal though. Jacques didn't do much other than nearly kill Jones again. How you don't demote him I have no idea.
Very frustrating night. We should've schooled a bad team who didn't put forth much effort and instead we lose. Sad.