Well, I think I was cautiously optimistic heading into the game tonight and LMHF#2 was thinking win...but we found out pretty damn fast that wasn't going to happen.
I think this homestand was for whatever reason contingent on that Toronto game. They fought off a lot of things and should have been able to get a win that night. In the two games since we've pretty much been listless.
I still don't understand why 4-89-14 don't get the starting shift at home. I apologize for those who listened to the radio on the way home and already heard Rob Brown go on about this (I think it is one of the first times we've agreed about anything), but we were talking about this in the first period. We were losing before that line even saw the ice. It might not have mattered with the effort they put forward tonight, but on a given night I can't see how starting that unit is a losing proposition. If you're going to lose at least do it with your guns blazing a bit.
I'm starting to question Krueger's ability somewhat. Last year he appeared to have some interesting ideas, but these games he's had responsibility for seem kind of iffy and he has trouble making adjustments. It was blatantly obvious that the Canucks were being left open in the high offensive zone and nothing was done to adjust to this reality, so it cost us the game. I think I actually saw a couple players checking their watches before remembering it was time to shoot from the point. When it wasn't the point, it was guys left totally alone in the slot. Combine this from tonight with what he was saying in the media, and he certainly doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who should be sticking around after this year is done.
Vancouver played okay. They were strong in terms of standing up defensively and got enough offensive chances to win. They certainly were off their game in the early second and combined with a stronger and more disciplined Oilers effort, this was a time when the tide could have turned but the Oilers were not up for taking advantage of this shift in momentum, so the game eventually turned back on them. You never got the feeling tonight that the team was going to get rolling. Not once.
A lot of the lack of flow to our game was on the defence once again. Not one pairing were making consistent passes. All blew defensive coverages. Once again I'd say that Smid-Petry were the strongest followed distantly by GIlbert-Whitney and Sutton-Barker. We're not going to win games where that is the case.
Up front, when you've got one line including a center who should be in Oklahoma City leading the charge, you're not going to outscore the Canucks. This didn't have to be the case, but it was.
Throw on top of all that some seriously mediocre goaltending and you've got the recipe for a lopsided loss. Those don't smell very good coming out of the oven. It was a generally crappy sports day as I watched Phil lose in a playoff on a day when no putts would drop, then watch the Oilers embarrass themselves and all of their fans against the Canucks. If you haven't been to the games or encountered them in person, you have no idea how much it stinks to watch your team make it that easy for Canucks fans to cheer. Talk about a crummy long weekend Sunday night.
- Left with an injury but didn't look to be on his game. I'm not saying he is responsible for what happened but he certainly wasn't locked-on tonight.
- For a big goalie, he sure doesn't do a very good job of making himself big. He gets beat clean on shots that have no business getting right past him and tonight was no exception. You never got the sense that he was in control. If I ran the Oilers, I'd trade both goalies away and never look back. Neither seems capable of elevating to be the kind of guy who consistently gives the team a chance to win.
- Seriously disgusting. I didn't know Barker could get worse than he has the past couple games but he managed it tonight. There was a sequence in the second period on the Canucks fourth goal I believe, where he made at least three mistakes going into the corner with an edge on the Canucks attacker and basically generated a goal himself. When he wasn't busy passing to the guys in white, he was getting out of position or getting passed with minimal effort on his was back into his own zone. With Sutton, aside from the obvious mistake on the fourth goal by Barker, you could pretty much say the exact same things and add in the stupid slashing penalty he took against Lapierre. Talk about pointless. I guess #25 at least landed a pretty big (and clean) hit in the second period, but that's the kind of thing he needs to do all night against this opposition.
- This pairing doesn't work. Seriously. Separate them. Now. Gilbert turned the puck over at least 5 times in the first half of the game, with most of those being totally unforced plays where he just made a horrible pass. You don't usually see that kind of play from him. He was also over-chasing Canucks attackers and didn't hit as much as he has in other games this season where the club has needed a boost. Whitney did a whole lot of nothing in all zones all night. This was certainly the most blah game I've seen from him since his return.
- These guys were the best of a bad bunch as I noted. Smid made some nice physical plays and actually passed the puck well from time to time, but also hit some rough patches where he was beat clean but Canucks players, bobbled the puck, didn't keep the puck in the offensive zone (thinking of a specific, easy play in the second) and generally looked a little bit off his game. I liked that Petry stepped up physically and was decent in terms of his positioning, but he wasn't as effective with the puck as he has been lately.
- The thing about Belanger that has me absolutely rattled is his offensive positioning. He simply does not know where to skate. On several occasions tonight he had the opportunity to get set up for plays created by the work of his linemates and instead looped off into some completely useless space on the ice. The few chances he did get with the puck were wasted as he slowed down and took way too much time to get that stupid snap-shot off or missed the net with his backhand. The coaching staff needs to sit down with some old game tape from his previous seasons and figure something out here. Petrell skated hard on some shifts but didn't really accomplish much. Eager took a stupid penalty and wasn't really hitting people. In a game like this, you need the Canucks to be intimidated by #55 and they were not in the least.
- Despite the goal they generated, this was a pretty bad night for this line. Smyth was sort of off and on all night. He'd have a strong shift where he'd get speed through the neutral zone and drive in deep, or make the nifty play with which he set up Horcoff, but he'd follow that up with a horrid pass to no one, getting beat to a puck badly, or getting totally out of position to create a situation where all three Oilers forwards were on one side of the ice. Not good. I know he's tired from being overplayed, but they need to figure out some method to maintain his effectiveness. This was one of the worst games I've seen Horcoff play in a long time despite the fact that he scored. He gave the puck away in the defensive zone and routinely was out of position which are two things you just don't see from him normally. Horcoff also backed away from several opportunities to hit people, and was having to chase the puck around a bunch tonight. Yuck. Jones at least made an effort and took a bit of a beating, but he should really be hitting more people and even fighting on nights like tonight. This line was bullied around by the Canucks and nothing at all was done in response even though all three of these guys should be able to take care of themselves.
- Certainly our best forward line tonight. I was skeptical of playing Lander here and I still think they'd have been better with a different C supporting strong efforts from both Paajarvi and Hemsky, but the problem is the guy they need might be Jarret Stoll or Kyle Brodziak and they no longer play for this team. Lander stepped up decently, staying mostly as a support player either playing high or driving the net. Paajarvi made a strong effort on most shifts including jumping ahead of the play more often and of course getting open in the slot for his goal in the second period. He very rarely goes to the slot so that was good to see and also good that he was rewarded with a goal on a strong shot and screen by Lander. Hemsky and Paajarvi had actually switched sides on this rush and that should be a formula that works. Hemsky nudged Paajarvi with the best performance on this line tonight, as he was routinely able to skate through and around the Canucks D, mostly passing as they were actually respecting his shot in their positioning for most of the night.
- Well, if it wasn't time to break them up when they started allowing goals in Toronto, it certainly is now. This group had a whole lot of nothing tonight and in fact seemed to get frustrated very early. Hall, who was having a decent game but not finding any results, starting attempting (badly) to hit people (which isn't so bad) and flicking the puck all over the place (which is) when he had open men. It wasn't pretty. I'm not trying to jump all over the guy and be angry, but he has to take a rough night in a different way than that. Trying to do it all yourself or having a physical fit aren't going to turn anything around. Gagner seems to have lost the magic as he was not getting through Canucks defenders, couldn't get his shot away quickly, and routinely made bad passing decisions. He was hesitating with the puck on many occasions tonight when he wasn't a few games ago and this gave all the time the Canucks defenders needed. Eberle was probably the best of the three, but couldn't get open with the puck in the slot or drive wide around anyone. Just nothing doing for these guys.
I will give the Canucks defenders credit for excellent stickwork in front of their own net. Many times tonight when a dangerous pass or shot came through, it was tipped or a stick was lifted at just the right time to stifle a would-be scoring chance. Not a good night for our crew. Hoping it is better against the Flyers.