I had to let this one marinate for a while after the game before sitting down to write. Lately there's been a lot of inspiring things happening on Rexall Place ice and tonight was sadly devoid of them. So, I enjoyed a post-game cigar (originally intended as a 'victory dance' for all you ID4 watchers out there) with a friend, had a chat and then set out for home. Now, here we are and I think it is pretty clear what happened to the Oilers tonight.
First of all, we just weren't very good. Passes were not connecting in any zone really and rushes were very hard to come by. This team thrives when it is able to generate a rush and either score directly off that rush, or force the opposition to make a mistake as the result of the rush. Tonight none of that was happening and we were unable to improvise anything else. In reality, we probably shouldn't have even got the one we did.
Major credit to Colorado tonight. They were standing up very well at their own blue line and forcing the Oilers to slow down upon entry, and when the home squad gained the zone, they forced the play to the outside and were very disciplined about keeping it there. The Oilers are not a team with a lot of strong perimeter attack players, so when you take away the play to the slot, you take away most capacity to generate offence unless our defencemen are having a good night getting the puck on net. They were not getting shots through tonight at all and thus there were no rebounds to pounce on. That's the book on how to play the Oilers right now.
It didn't help that our powerplay looked shaky and defensive efforts were not resulting puck possession. We were simply beaten tonight, no more, no less really.
- He wasn't great and it appeared that he made a rather massive blunder on the Johnson goal that changed what would have been an even first period into an excuse to lose one. If you're going to wander, you have to be able to reset yourself and it appeared he never did. The defensive coverage wasn't great on that play, but it still shouldn't have resulted in a goal. There was not much he could have done on the Olver and Landeskog goals, but we needed him to make at least one of those saves if there was a hope of victory tonight. While Colorado played a strong defensive game, they weren't offensive dynamos by any stretch.
- Once again, the effort of this pair was pretty bad. Neither used their size effectively throughout the game and turnovers were the order of the evening. I'm still trying to figure out where Barker was shooting in the second on the powerplay when he fired what appeared to be a pitching wedge way up high into the netting. I've hit lower flop shots. He is eager to shoot the puck, but on a night like tonight when Colorado is clogging the shooting lanes so well, his attempts are nothing but glorified turnovers. Defensively he was weak. As for Sutton, he was also weak defensively, couldn't move the puck to save his life, didn't have any effective offensive sojourns and also didn't stand up for Hall when he was crosschecked in the back. Leaving that job to Horcoff when #25 is on the ice is pretty sad.
- This pair struggled mightily tonight and I'd put most of the blame at the foot of #6. While the goal scoring plays appeared to feature #77 in the vicinity of the puck, Whitney spent his night lunging for pucks and getting beat without taking the man or the puck (at the opposition blue especially) which was creating all kinds of havoc for Gilbert and whichever forward (most notably Paajarvi and Hemsky on a number of occasions) to deal with. This is no way for a guy who can be our best defenceman to play. He also had absolutely nothing to contribute offensively tonight. Gilbert was just okay, but as I said, that appeared to be mainly because he was busy covering up for Whitney. One interesting thing was that the Paajarvi-Hemsky-Whitney trio rushed in again and Magnus did indeed go back to Whitney again, but this time they got the shot off and there was a much tighter gap between the group.
- These guys were easily the best of the three defensive pairs tonight. The eyes and the stats showed that quite clearly. Both were on their games defensively and did what they could to gain possession. They moved the puck okay and did some nice things at the opposition blue. I'm not sure why Petry isn't getting powerplay time with #s 13, 77 and 6 struggling as they as, because he certainly deserves it at this point. I'm not sure enough could be said about what Smid does for this team right now. He's been a rock back there all season and is even improving his offensive reads and shooting decisions. Lock that man up.
- 2/3 of this line really didn't see much ice at all. I can recall one quasi scoring chance for Lander and not much at all from Petrell. Eager had another positive game aside from the penalty he took. He was jumped up to the third line on a number of occasions and made the most of it, getting in on the rush, making a few passes and actually beating Varlamov on a couple of shots (but missing). This is probably the most effective way to use Eager. I would have liked to see him take more shots at both Wilson and Winnik, who each tried to cheapshot our guys in addition to their previous indiscretions, but I guess there's only so much you can ask.
- This was a better game from Jones as he showed a decent amount of jump, drove the net well and actually managed to corral some passes from time to time. Smyth was pretty mediocre and seemed to have an issue with falling to the ice at times during the game. I think he may have been trying a tad too hard to draw a penalty. Belanger was nearly comatose in the offensive zone. I don't know why they don't have him simply stay as the high guy in the zone all the time, because he never does anything when he gets a puck down low. It is pretty ugly.
- Not near as good of a night from this group as against the Leafs. I'd still say #s 91 and 83 were a decent bit better than #10, but they weren't able to generate the kind of pressure, rushes or chances that their speed allowed last game. I will give all of them credit for defensive efforts as they were forced to backcheck hard on several occasions, but this line has to produce offensive pressure at the very least. Magnus wasn't the driving force he was last game and didn't really get away any great shots, but he was moving with some authority. Ales struggled to find open men and forced the shooting situation a little too much tonight. There seemed to be something in the neutral zone shutting down the natural flow that existed for Paajarvi and Hemsky last game. I'm guessing they'll find it again against Vancouver. Horcoff is having a real tough time right now when the puck comes to him and he's standing still. For whatever reason, he isn't able to pass the puck quickly at the moment and it is causing him to turn it over and get caught out of position. He's also gotten away from screens and a supporting role in the offensive zone, which is causing him some difficulty. On a semi-interesting note, I finally got to check out a couple of Hemsky's sticks tonight at the Oilers' store to see what Renney and #83 are busy bickering about...I too can't see how he's able to use the thing. The blade is incredibly short, with very little curve and the stick is also extremely short and somewhat weak-feeling. If I leaned into a slapper with this thing I'm pretty sure I'd snap it in half. Weird. It is very different from the stick that Ales started with, which I quite liked and featured a strong curve and longer blade.
- This is as shut down as I've seen this crew at home this year. Aside from some chances for Eberle that were largely self-generated in the first period, they didn't have much of anything at all. Hall wasn't beating people on the wide drives, Gagner was getting the puck taken away from him, and Eberle couldn't get to the slot for a shot. Gagner looked like he had his first 'off' game in quite some time, getting frustrated at the lack of shooting lanes, passing badly and peeling away from plays too early. Hall didn't have any real passing game, which is always what shows in his strongest efforts. Eberle was probably the most consistent Oilers forward tonight, but wasn't able to will goals tonight.
A pretty simple loss where we were simply outclassed. It is frustrating because you know the team is better than that, but hat tip to Colorado, they wanted it more tonight.