In a freaking shootout...
Games like tonight make the case that ties should be reinstated. If they won't let the 2 teams play until the bitter end, deciding a contest like this with an event like that belittles the quality of the contest (and screwed us out of an eventual win).
There were many many storylines in tonight's game and I'm going to try to catch as many as I can, but be sure to chime in if I miss some of the exceptional things that went down.
The first period was pretty disgusting; the feeling in the building was definitely "here we go again" and I think if you'd polled you'd have seen about 75% believing this was heading towards a 6-0 or 6-1 kinda blowout.
The three Avs goals were all due to glaring errors on the Oilers behalf. They spent the first period clearing out of proper positioning and having D way too high in the zone when the puck wasn't moving far enough ahead. This meant the Avs had many odd-man chances and victimized Dubnyk early.
On the first, three Oilers (Foster, Gagner and Eberle I believe) closed on the Avs player but did not check. Extending a weak stick won't do anything when a guy is moving with purpose. This created an odd man situation down low that Smid couldn't play and Foster tried to rectify with another weak stick. No such luck.
The second Avs goal occurred because Gagner got owned in the corner and allowed his man to walk straight out (also Strudwick overcommitted to his man and wasn't able to assist in the recovery), causing another odd man situation for Petry, and he made a bad but understandable choice to leave his man and attempt to play the puck, so his man (Stastny) buried it. He'd have been better to let the sharp angle chance happen and guard Stastny.
The third goal happened because Cogliano made a bad choice to flip the puck when he had time and a clear man to other side, and because both GIlbert and Peckham were behind the red line. This created another low 2-on-1 that led to a goal.
Low 2-on-1s are KILLER. We allowed way too many of them.
Our goals were fairly interesting: on the first, Foster makes a good play to keep it in the zone but actually doesn't make a very good play towards the net. Fortunately Gagner was in good position, the puck popped to him, Hall smartly drifted into the open slot and Gagner found him with a nice pass that he buried. Good finish. This actually wasn't a very good shift as Hall had made 2 or 3 mistakes trying to get into the offensive zone on it. Needless to say the goal was a solid recovery.
The second was very purdy. Hemsky had started in on his mission to save the game with Penner riding shotgun. Cogliano rescued the puck from the crease, made a speedy turn up ice and found Hemsky in the neutral zone on a great pass where Hemsky and Penner ran a screen of sorts (KEY! DON'T LET COGLIANO CARRY IT IN THE NEUTRAL ZONE!). Right at the point Hemsky cuts in, not only does Penner drive the net and provide a screen, but knocks both Avs Dmen down and towards the goalie. Hemsky's wide open in the slot and shoots across his body into the open and screened net as the dmen crash into Anderson. Beautiful sequence with great plays all around. It looked like Petry made a great read and jumped in to open up for a shot and sold it as well. Nice little touch.
Our third was also nice; with another Hemsky-led rush resulting in a goal. He'd cranked it up about 8 notches by this point and Penner was along for the ride. It was good to see Cogliano figure out what to do when those 2 get going. 1) get them the puck in the neutral zone and 2) go to the slot. I loved the way Hemsky gloved the puck and strode with authority into the offensive zone. Something was going to happen on that shift. The crowd and Hemsky knew it. Penner forced 2 different guys to cover him and got the D off-kilter in a hurry. I'm still a little amazed that Cogliano finished, but am very glad he did.
Did anyone see the random line-flipping Renney on faceoffs where Cogliano and Gagner switched about 4 times while the wingers got double the length of shift? I had no idea what was going on.
Very glad Renney's decision to play the Fraser line with 2:11 to go didn't cost us the game; that was a bad move, even with the wingers on that line playing great tonight.
Where was Hejduk until that SO goal? He must really be feeling the aging process as he doesn't seem to be a feature part of the Avs' attack.
This game fundamentally changed when we (for once) decided we were going to hit at home and run the opponent out of the rink; above all else tonight proved we can do that when we decide to. It really worked as we backed Colorado off considerably and had room to play with all of a sudden.
On to PLAYER REPORTS
- Not much chance on any of the three goals really as he was just screwed over defensively. Once they played half-decent in front of him, he was really solid. Some big saves in the third (as the breakdowns were still there, just less often) kept the team alive long enough that they should have been able to win. Good performance where he looked really calm. Start him against CGY.
- His first period was atrocious, but this was still probably his best game of the year. He had several defensive stops and was very aggressive tonight. What he needs to figure out though, is that his shots aren't going in. I don't blame him for the OT PP failing to produce a winner, his teammates (and likely the coach) were forcing a play that wasn't going to result in a goal. Why they don't go back door with the game Penner and Hemsky had been having I have no idea...we woulda won right there. I suspect if Whitney's around we alter the plan and do indeed win it. Foster fired wide when he nailed his shots, and took too many weak wristers that couldn't go in. These need to be low if he's going to take them. This may seem critical for a guy I said had a good game, but the fact that he got himself into all those positions was impressive. I liked how decisive he was, the decisions just needed to be better. Also love the revenge shot for the Hemsky elbow. Well done sir. (even though the elbow just pissed Hemsky off and made him play even better than he was).
- Last game it took him a period to get going, whereas tonight it took him about 2 shifts. I liked a lot of what I saw from him, includng a little play in OT where instead of just firing a blind stupid shot at the net, he faked and waited for a lane to form as well as his forwards to get in position, then took a great low shot that could've ended the game. Beautifully simple play that required thought and poise. He did it with ease. Also loved when he knocked Koci's stick right out of his hands in the corner. Koci looked stunned. Petry was tough in the corners all night, skated very hard and made fewer defensive mistakes. This kid looks like a fast learner and a guy who can elevate his game to the NHL level without too many bumps. Exactly what we need. Very nice game being that he's thrown into a big role, yet seemingly has very little pressure on him in the traditional sense. Could be ideal for development. With the amount of times I noticed him, I'm rather surprised he only got 16.5 minutes.
- He was Strudwick. I nearly cried in OT when I saw 43 on the ice but thankfully he survived while Peckham did some tremendous work to keep the game tied. His shot on net later on in the third was one of the sadder things I've seen. I'd gladly challenge him to a hardest shot competition (wrister at the very least).
- Quieter game than the last one for him tonight but still rather brilliant. He's the rock now and aside from that brief moment on the Colorado goal he was excellent and in position for most of the night. I honestly thought he'd contribute more offensively once they really got rocking and rolling but for some reason he didn't. Oh well.
- He did some really nice things tonight, mainly skating the puck out of trouble after the first period several times with Avs players draped all over him. This is one of the few unique skills he shows on pretty much a nightly basis. Defensively he made some mistakes along with the rest of the crew but they were certainly minimized after the first period which was good to see. One of these days he's going to score a goal as well.
- I loved the way Theo both took it to the Avs physically even talking all kinds of smack to Koci after the Hemsky incident. I was surprised they didn't get into it later in the game. Theo's at his best when he's ornery and adds a little offence to his usual game which is what he did tonight, jumping into a couple rushes and letting another quality shot go (he needs to use it more often as I've said previously). I only wish Theo was able to learn playing a role more appropriate to his current level of development. He's coming along well despite the less than ideal situation.
- They couldn't seem to decide which wings 67 and 91 should play as they kept switching all night. I didn't really understand what was going on there. Magnus didn't get a lot of touches and wasn't a big factor in this game. He's in a bit of a slump right now and I'm not sure we have the horses to haul him out of it with better linemates and such. Hopefully he can figure it out on his own. Brule was one of the few guys who didn't start hitting tonight; and he needed to. Being that he's doing nothing offensively (even when they inexplicably had him on the PP) he needs to bring other elements and the most obvious one on a night when everyone hit would have been to play physical. he didn't. O'Marra on the other hand did. I kept wishing for Renney to wake up and bench Fraser allowing O'Marra to play with Jones and Stortini. That would be a nice fourth line if we'd just pick up a third line C and boot Fraser. O'Marra's playing generally smart hockey and knows when to pick his spot and go for a nice hit. There was a particularly good one in the high Avs zone in the third. Really think he's progressing. Certainly won't ever be a 2C, but could be part of a future if he's blooming late and continues to build his game.
- Until Fraser had a chance to win the game on a great pass from Hall I didn't notice him aside from his feeble attempts to hit as Stortni and Jones were doing. I really don't know what he does and I'm going to keep repeating that until he does something. Jones was running around making the Avs' life hellish tonight which is exactly what he needs to do on a line like this. I loved the hits he laid out. He also made some nice defensive stops including backing up Dubnyk in the third on a particularly dangerous chance. Got to respect when he puts out an effort like that. Stortini was also good. While he didn't land as many hits as Jones, he got in peoples faces and won races to loose pucks. This is something he did very well in the preseason and tonight was the first time I saw him playing that game with some force. He also drove the net effectively on a couple occasions and got into proper offensive position on his rushes. Very nice.
- Jordan Eberle started the hit parade. Yes you heard right. He got two Avs with really solid hits along the far boards in the second period and then his teammates started bullying the Avs around and suddenly we had offensive room. i didn't think it was his best game overall but those two hits made a difference that lasted until the end of the game. I really liked the move he made around an Avs dman with a quick deke to his backhand that JUST missed (can't recall third or OT). He also played a part on the Hall goal as two Avs defenders were playing him to some extent. He showed his smarts well tonight. As I noted above, Gagner screwed up bad on one of the Avs goals and was indeed horrid in his own zone for most of the first half of the game. He was getting outmuscled but the perplexing part was that the other guys weren't too big. Sometimes he was overcommitting physically to a compromised defensive position, while other times he was trying to make the play with too much stick. This contrasted with his rather excellent support efforts in the offensive zone including some time with Hemsky and Penner on the PP that looked rather golden. He had a lot of jump in the offensive zone. The Oilers certainly win this game if either Hall or Eberle scores on their chances during the mad dash to the end of the second period. I really thought Eberle's shot from the slot would go in. I also thought Hall generated plenty near the end of the game, but the chances were more B chances than A chances. Too bad, would have been nice to see him win another COL game. Certainly better than his last 2 nights.
- Ales struggled a little in his own end early on, giving up the puck a couple times. After that though, he was flying in all zones. He'd already stepped it up when he got elbowed on a dangerous rush, but after that he was just excellent. He set up numerous chances and forced the Avs D into all kinds of bad situations for the rest of the game. He got through some excellent shots including on a little drag move that nearly went in during the third period. He's still our best player and certainly worth the price of admission. Hemsky and Penner work magic together because they know how to use each others' skillsets and how to weave effectively between each other on the ice. Penner was calm and smart all night long. I was getting really annoyed at these guys above me in a skysuite who were actually berating the guy despite the fact that he was bullying the Avs D all night.These efforts make me think that the most important thing we could do to get back winning would actually be to sign both 83 and 27, then focus on finding them a C. A big C would make that line indestructible. Cogliano did a pretty decent job after the first (where he was much like Gagner in the defensive zone) and certainly had one of his better nights this season. We'll see next game if he learned from the experience and continues to go to the proper areas. I agree with the approach of some though, who would trade him at the deadline or draft if he drums up some value playing with 83 and 27. They're so good they can make him look rather excellent despite the fact that he's still not confident. I saw some good boardplay from 13 that I hadn't seen in a really long time, which was refreshing. He actually believed he could keep the puck tonight.
Certainly an entertaining game. We deserved a better fate aside from making too many mistakes in the first and not being able to close in the third. There were so many chances too which made it rather heartbreaking.
Suggested lines vs CGY:
Hall-Gagner-Eberle (though I actually wouldn't mind trying Eberle at C with 83 and 27)
Paajarvi-Fraser(blech, call up Reddox)-Omark
Crazy game. Not what I expected to be writing after period one!