Not going to write near as much about tonight's game as the last game against Colorado as there just wasn't much happening for the Oilers tonight.
Our effort was really weak...I can probably count on one hand the amount of times we beat Flames dmen clean, we just weren't willing to work for it. This was true in the defensive end as well; we just didn't want to beat anyone tonight.
Obviously losing Eberle was a huge blow; he brings so much calm and well executed play that we suffered without him. Renney's pregame decisions (dressing Jacques, sitting 91, sending down Omark and not having him available, and playing 43 over Petry specifically) handicapped us offensively (and defensively I would argue as well) before puck drop and we really couldn't get any kind of offensive flow going. It is true that some of this was because the Flames were allowed to clutch and hold all night (we had what, 1 PP?) but we also didn't force them to take us down or hook. We weren't skating past anyone, and that's the key to drawing penalties. It's also something 91 does better than anyone on the roster. It'd be nice if we could give the young offence a rest sometimes, but we're clearly not talented enough to do so and compete.
It is clear this team has problems starting games at home with enthusiasm and focus. I'm really not sure why this is; other than that maybe through lack of competition our roster has gotten too comfortable. There is no actual pressure on the bottom lines because of the way we manage players. It doesn't make a lot of sense.
The Flames are a sorry bunch right now; they just laid back all night despite our lacking efforts in all zones. We should've been torched for 4 or 5 tonight. Our D wasn't solid and our neutral zone play was brutal, but they didn't even look interested in playing. If Jackman doesn't score a semi-lucky one this game probably goes 18 rounds in a SO before Jason Strudwick falls headfirst into Kiprusoff and takes the puck in with him. It was that BLAH tonight.
The only positive that comes out of this game is that maybe Omark gets recalled and some entertainment value comes with him. We're not exactly looking stellar right now in that regard.
The first Calgary goal was an utter debacle for 43, 45 and 13. All were out of position and made bad choices. 13 needs to learn to cover someone, ANYONE in his defensive zone. Just about every Oilers forward on the roster is better at this than he.
The second Calgary goal was an unfortunate sequence; Hemsky and Penner got tangled on the draw, then Hemsky didn't make it to the point while Penner failed to lift Jokinen's stick as the puck came through. Unfortunate play.
Our goal was a beauty; great backhand pass through Calgary D's legs to Gilbert, who sold the shot hard and then made a great pass to Jones who streaked into a perfect position and scored. One of the only solid offensive outbursts of the night.
- Wasn't really tested with tough shots tonight as the Flames couldn't jump onto offence very well. He played well enough for us to have a chance to win though, especially in the first period. No complaints.
- Though he showed some solid wheels and skated the puck alright, he struggled more defensively than during his last go round. He kept drifting out of position or playing a little too far from his man. I know playing with 43 probably didn't help, but he needs to be better. Watching him skate with the puck, I'm kind of amazed no one's ever tried him at forward. He could be a rather interesting power-winger.
- There were multiple times tonight where 43 stood, looked around, then seemed to realize that "Oh yeah, I'm playing hockey and have to move, there's also a black disc near my feet...hmmm". He was even worse than usual and certainly contributed to the loss. Every time Renney sent 45-43 over the boards on a shift with the first line, they managed to bugger up the play. This is an element of coaching logic I've seen from both MacTavish and Renney that I don't understand at all. Playing 43 over Petry might've lost us the game frankly, because with 2 more decent breakout passes, or a decent play on the PP or opposition blue, maybe we pop a goal or two and it is anyone's game.
- Struggled a little more defensively than he has in past games, but still joined the rush and made a decent pass or three. Certainly not on him tonight.
- I expected a lot more from him tonight; he didn't smack the Flames around and we needed that fairly badly. He was decently positionally and moved the puck alright, but he could've been the X Factor in this one.
- A few more stupid shots that had no chance of going in. These might as well have been giveaways. One thing I've noticed is he's becoming lazier in terms of trying to rely on his reach rather than skating to and through the puck. This is an unfortunate trend. He wasn't physical either and didn't contribute much.
- Liked the way he was moving his feet a bunch tonight, and certainly had an improved defensive outing. I was surprised however that he didn't do more offensively. There was one really nice sequence he had which I believe was late in the first, but that was it. Does anyone have any idea why we can't teach him to use his talents to become a more successful offensive player? All the elements are there except a plan...
- Stortini doesn't look near as good playing with this group. He showed some early jump but honestly got pushed around and then backed off a bit. Very disappointed he couldn't follow up last game's strong effort. I'd like to address a point that's been made about Fraser lately: I am not ignoring his defensive game, it just doesn't impress me either. He's not a guy that will go get the puck, win races, throw defensive hits or make great blocks. He literally does nothing, even when he gets the puck in clear open ice, which is just plain not good enough for anyone on an NHL roster. Jacques made his best play tonight without a stick; that says all you need to know about #22. He even got muscled off a puck he was driving down the boards into the Calgary zone by a weak-ish check from a Calgary defender he had excellent position on. What's the point of being a big forward if you can't execute that?
- O'Marra was effectively benched after the Eberle injury, which I really don't understand because he is holding his own and playing better positionally than guys like Cogliano, Brule and Jacques. He's also a better hockey player than Stortini most nights this year. Not sure what Renney thinks he's doing there. Brule still didn't show me anything; no indication that he's learned from his benching. His offensive game has degraded and he no longer shows any boardplay or physicality. If they won't let him take faceoffs, what else is he supposed to do? Jones played alright after being promoted to an offensive line. It's nice to have a guy who's versatile like that. It was also nice to see that he kept his effort level up and didn't get frustrated like many of his mates seemed to as the night went on. I would've liked more hitting, but at least he could take a pass.
- Hall missing that breakaway killed. I don't know why he went backhand, much less 5-hole backhand (I'm not sure there's a weaker combination in the game), but if he finishes that chance it's a HUGE momentum swing after Khabibulin took that STUPID penalty. He had a couple of other chances as well, but couldn't seem to get anything going. He's also firing wide again, and seemed to have trouble controlling the puck in the Flames' zone. Eberle was playing fairly well before his injury, generating a couple of our best chances. It's going to be tough watching the games without him, but maybe this will force Renney to be a little more original in his line combinations. Gagner was a little less visible than usual tonight. I've noticed he often rushes up the right side rather than the center slot with Hall and Eberle, but I'm not sure how well this play is going to work long-term as that's a hard spot for him to finish from.
- Cogliano tried to do too much again, and also couldn't take a pass. Combine that with the previously noted defensive struggles and I really hope he's off this line for my own sanity's sake. I know this might be a nice way to gain him some tradability, but it hurts to watch. Hemsky struggled more than usual in the offensive zone tonight, mainly because Calgary blocked the shooting lanes very well and he got frustrated and started to force the play a bit much. The lack of support from the blue and Cogliano certainly didn't help, but Ales needs to be better than tonight. Penner was just okay. He had some great moments of knocking Flames around and making that pass, but wasn't really interested in willing this team to a win or drilling a hole for Hemsky to score from. Even if just these guys had been going tonight, we win.
Certainly an unfortunate followup to our last 2 periods. That was the quietest EDM-CGY Saturday game I've been to in a long time.
A note of congratulations to the SSAC club that won the Mac's Cup today. A friend of a friend is their head coach and his boys survived a scary penalty-filled third to win one of hockey's finest tournaments at the Midget level. I was an MLAC man myself, but congrats to the boys on a wonderful title.
Hopefully the game against DET is better; but I'm scared of what the lineup will look like...until then, Happy New Year all!