Ya know, I should really be happy after a win like that. We went out and pretty much shut down the highest scoring team in the league through a combo of great goaltending and some really nice play in all aspects of the game, but I'm just angry right now.
Part is that because I've had an angry day for some reason. Seems like just about everything that came up today was positively rage-inducing. If the Oilers had lost I don't know how I would have made it home without screaming or breaking something (not valuable and my property rather than anyone else's).
But we did, and if this had been a game during a playoff race and we'd put forth that effort I would have been absolutely overjoyed. From top to bottom tonight that crew knew they could win and went out and did it. That was plain great.
I am really angry at the lack of reaction to the Scott Hartnell play though. That damn coward ran and hid on multiple occasions, dodged shifts and evaded any kind of justice for the cheapest of cheap plays. Let there be no doubt that knee was in response to a hard hit earlier by an Oilers player (Potter I believe). Where were the Oilers when #91 got hit? Where were they when he left the penalty box and never should have made it to his own bench? Why did Ryan Whitney let the refs intervene? Why did the coach clearly keep Hordichuk off the ice? Talk about a horrendous reaction to a horrible play that could cost a young man who was really getting his game going, significant time and possibly serious damage. You do not let that go unanswered and if you don't want to go after Hartnell, you go slam Voracek or Schenn or someone else. You take a shot. You don't take that garbage sitting down. We are not marching to the playoffs here and to let that go because you're scared of taking a penalty is complete and utter BS.
Most of the rest of the net the Oilers actually handed the Flyers playing style quite well. They gave Simmonds the business even as he tried to hide behind that jaw guard and wouldn't shut his yap. They defended against the speed players, push the defence and managed to score on our old pal Ilya despite the fact that he appeared to be on tonight.
It is obvious that if we're able to run multiple effective lines out there, and get a decent effort from the defence, we're probably going to do well. The recent changes that we've seen in Calgary and that stayed in place tonight (until Magnus got cheapshotted) appear to be working. We're able to attack routinely with two effective offensive units and are getting strong efforts from most of the support players below them. That third line could be better, but we'll see who they call on to replace Magnus. I suspect it will be Jones in which case we'll be back to having an ineffective third line as the dynamic just doesn't seem to work there.
Lastly, and almost as rage-inducing as the Hartnell situation was the officiating. What an absolute joke. I'm surprised Taylor Hall didn't skewer a linesman and get himself suspended. He was abused more than I've seen just about any player get in that building in a long time. There were hacks, slashes, tackles and plenty of other BS all night. Nothing. Our goalie got whacked in the head and crosschecked in the back. Nothing. Multiple players tripped, blocked, held, everything you could thing of. Nothing. Blown icings (which are totally inexcusable). Blown offsides. Total and utter BS. That crew should be fined for that effort, and our coach should've gotten himself fined talking about them (he didn't).
I was distracted by some personal stuff a couple times during the game tonight, so I apologize if I miss something (predominantly in the second period) and please fill in any crucial stuff you noticed.
- Fabulous effort. His positioning was great, he didn't wander and he never overplayed the shooter. His reflexes were good and rebound control was much stronger than usual. The only time I saw him waver a little was at the end of the game when he appeared a little distracted and missed a couple easy to retrieve pucks. One of his best efforts.
- These guys were tough, skated the puck well, passed well, held their positions and got just a little bit of retribution on the Philly players tonight. I'm still not sure exactly why this pair is working (though it might be because Smid has become the kind of guy who can play with anyone) but it certainly seems to. They did a great job of tilting the ice in their team's favor pretty much all night. My favorite thing about Petry lately are his confident rushes and that continued tonight. He protects the puck quite well when he makes these plays. I only wish Smid had dummied Hartnell by the end of this. Seemed like a job for #5 if the coach wouldn't let #16 off the bench (though I'd have had no problem with Hordichuk taking a 10-game at the end when Hartnell couldn't get away).
- If one pair struggled for the Oilers tonight, it was these guys. Sutton struggled with the puck some, lost track of his position and added absolutely no toughness whatsoever. You'd think he'd drip into the rage stash tonight but then I remember that's not who he is. I'm wondering if he comes out for Peckham one of these nights...but I don't know they seem to really like him there. Gilbert was better than Sutton but also got caught wandering and wasn't as effective with the puck as he can be.
- Something observers might not notice about #44 is that he can be mean. When he gets angry, the hitting steps up, the sticks slash across people and the gloves go into the face. This is when he's in many ways his most effective and we saw that tonight through hits, toughness in front of the net, several scrums and other sequences as well. He wasn't perfect with the puck, nor did he create as much offence as he could've, but it was a good effort. Seeing this play from Whitney is a much more common sight. Aside from his under-reaction to Hartnell, he played really tough, stuck it to the Flyers and chipped in with solid offence from the opposition blue line. He was commanding the puck, which is something you haven't seen from him as much since his return. Another positive night for #6 is always a good story.
- I didn't see much at all from #s 57 and 37...they were quite invisible to me to be honest. I remember a Petrell hit or two and a PK shift or two from Lander but maybe I missed something. Hordichuk did what he could with the limited time he had. The effort against Shelley was a decent one and I can only imagine his frustration at being plastered to the bench in a game like that.
- These guys seemed to be going along pretty well until the BS play on Magnus. #91 used his speed well on both the forecheck and several backchecks, Eager was getting open in attack lanes and getting scoring chances (unfortunately he didn't cash on two that were pretty simple-looking), and Belanger was moving solidly in a support role without getting in his linemates' way. Things didn't look near as smooth after #91 left because of the loss in speed, but the efforts of the other two were still pretty solid.
- There's no question in my mind that Hemsky's game has come around in a big way. Once again tonight he was moving quickly with the puck, dangling, making plays and going to the net. The only thing I find alarming is that he doesn't seem to be finishing the plays he usually does; specifically the play where he drives the net and backhands around the goalie. Perhaps he's just being defended well but for whatever reason he couldn't score tonight. Hall's speed and better than normal reading of the play as the Oilers headed into the attacking zone resulted in some chances from some rather mundane-looking sequences which is always impressive. It was also impressive that despite take the abuse I noted above, Hall didn't get frustrated to a large degree, kept after the game and didn't give an inch until the final siren. He showed the competitor that he is tonight and I just wish he could have got an empty-netter or whistled a puck by a ref's ear to let him know he's there. On the goal he did score, I'd been bemoaning the fact that Hall was stuck at the point and the dangerous passes kept winding up on Horcoff's stick, then Hall slides down and buries one from the office. Classic. Horcoff was decent in a supporting role 5-on-5, but missed out on a ton of chances due to iffy puckhandling and bad shooting decisions. To his credit, he did actually have Ilya moving on the penalty shot attempt, I just wish that he and Hall would abandon that damn move that sacrifices all the strength and advantage you have on a goalie. It almost looked like he changed his mind half-way into the penalty shot. He's got to bear down and finish some of the chances he's getting as a result of the plays by #83 and #4. To his credit, the positioning and work are there, but he's just horrible with the puck right now.
- I've pretty much run out of superlatives to describe Eberle, who had another night where he showed you that he is the best Oilers forward. He was excellent in all areas, scored the second goal and led the absolute domination that is the Oilers PP. With this guy on the ice the game is just under control and if not for superb Philly efforts to stop him, he gets three or four tonight. Smyth was strong-ish. More okay than good. He did a lot of hustling, but was making some plays quite slowly (the pass to Potter at the side of the net after the brilliant Eberle feed springs to mind) and didn't get a lot of effective pucks to the net. He also didn't really make mistakes though. Gagner couldn't seem to get much going but the good news I suppose is that he didn't need to. There were shots directed at the net and a few nice passes, but not the hyper-dynamic game we've seen from him lately. Nothing wrong with these guys tonight, just didn't pop your eyes out. Gagner was pretty good on the PP though.
Unfortunately I have to face the reality that tonight's game may have been the last time I see Ales Hemsky at Rexall in an Oilers uniform. I will be missing the PHX game and thus tonight was it. I was hoping for magic, but I also believe it would be a massive mistake to let him go when the asking price in terms of a contract seems so reasonable compared to the open market. I truly hope my next piece of writing won't be a tribute to the guy who inspired my name, and that I can just continue writing about him in these game reports, but I guess only time will tell. I just hope that sanity, which has been so lacking with regard to this team for many years when it comes to their best players, prevails in the end. We've had too many good ones ripped or thrown away. Let it end here.
Hope you all enjoyed tonight's game. Imagine it was part of a playoff race or us chasing the division crown. Would have been an utterly amazing night. I'll take good...but amazing beckons.