Well, I could see the narrative coming in this one from some time before the game. The Oilers, in a coach-led quest to avoid being "pushed around" as Renney incorrectly believed they were early in the season in Dallas (they just stunk is all), iced a lineup designed to avoid this sort of fate. Problem? Well yes, because the crew on the ice tonight was left with very little in the way of scoring options.
It is blatantly obvious that every time you've got 28-93-14 on the ice, a half-way intelligent coach will stick 3 players to 93 and 14, then simply challenge Jones to get open and the remaining 2 to get him the puck in a position where he can't screw up. This is a really difficult way to play hockey. 56-89-83 was okay and at least consistent. 37-10-94 is a disaster of epic proportions from the get-go, because there is almost zero chance they will get in behind the D, almost zero chance they'll win a cycle game and very little chance they will score from anywhere else (long Petrell shots, Smyth crashing the puck through the goalie and Horcoff using his face to bash one in remain possibilities). The fourth line is so bad I might just exclude them from the break down. Completely and utterly useless.
BUT, you say, our powerplay is the key to our success! And right you are...unless you have a coach who has no idea how to deploy his slightly altered lineup. A mightily struggling and possibly still injured Horcoff remains plastered to 14 and 93. Jones gets time even though he showed more talent in taking his idiotic holding penalty than he did at anything else all night. Hemsky, despite having strong shifts with 14 and 93, never finds himself with them on the PP. 89 can't win a faceoff? Send him out there AGAIN! Hartikainen is driving the net, winning draws and hitting people? Pine young man! Old man Smyth is having a rough night? Meh, he'll figure it out.
Seriously, what the hell???
Another great example of things I just can't understand from our coach was the PK at the end of the game. Down 3-1, the only sensible thing to do is get your talented players out there, cheat some, and try to force a break. Did we see any of this, even in a game where Jordan Eberle generated a SH breakaway? Nope.
By the end of the game everything was on blend and double-shift and bench and spinspinspin around...it was weird.
I could go on. The point is, we were set up to fail tonight. Of course we didn't score against the Stars...we barely had a hope as things were arranged. Throw in a really rough night in our own zone for the defencemen and some average goaltending and you've got yourself an easy loss. What a waste.
- He was okay tonight, but just okay. Bit hard on the first Ryder goal but it never really should have gotten that far. The Ribeiro goal would have taken a highlight reel save and he almost got it. The second Ryder goal I'm not sure. The thing I noticed most tonight was that Dubnyk was missing pucks everywhere. Whether that was knocking them down with his stick behind the net (whiff!), blocking them at the side of the net (ooph!), or trying to catch them in his glove (bamph!), he failed at this everywhere. Lack of focus? Lack of confidence? Lack of skill?
- Yikes. Ya know, these guys have been so good for such a bad D group for so long, I've got to give them a pass tonight. Petry made a couple ugly, ugly plays on the Dallas goals, but it was bound to happen. This is one reason why Stauffer shouldn't be talking about how he's already ascended to the ranks of a top-2 dman. He's a long way from establishing himself there. Smid pushed the issue offensivelv in the third, which was good to see because it reveals some of the "take your team on your shoulders" mentality that most really good defencemen have. They'll be better against the Kings for sure. I wouldn't want to be one of the forwards that has to face them all night.
- Whitney started off the game quite well, but as things wore on he either got tired or lost focus. From the middle of the second, his passes were ugly, he didn't hold the line in the offensive zone and he kept bobbling the puck. There was a footrace in the third that revealed most of what we need to know about how his feet are doing...he wound up getting the icing, but what should have been a nice coasting skate turned into holding the Dallas player off with all he had. Not good. Schultz had another quiet game save for the one foray into the offensive zone during the 2-on-1 he took part in. He got a shot on net, but peeled away far too quickly as he could have gotten his own rebound very easily. Aside from that, he was not bad but not great either.
- Potter was to blame on one of the Dallas goals as well, but otherwise played an okay game. He wasn't asked to do a lot and got a couple of shots through. Sutton struggled with the puck tonight and gave it away on a number of occasions. He also screwed up the chance he had to create an odd-man rush coming out of the penalty box.
- Yeah....no. Not worth the effort.
- Ill-conceived answer to a problem we didn't have combined with generally poor efforts. Horcoff's game was by far the worst of the three and likely left everyone wondering why he was allowed to play tonight. Some of the effort was there, but he lost the puck on a number of occasions, made bad passes, couldn't get shots away and took a couple dumb penalties. Really unacceptable game from him. He even did a double-spinnerama behind his own net...Smyth was better, though not great. He needs to play a support role for a line where players are attacking, which is something he did late in the game with a combo I can't remember. He can't be the attacker anymore. The most useful thing he did was the big ugly slapper he took that hit Lehtonen in the chest that impacted his reaction time and allowed Hemsky to score a tiny bit later. He struggled with the puck some but didn't make a lot of mistakes. Petrell did his job. Landed some hits, moved the puck forward, skated hard. The thing is, that is a fourth-liner's job description, not the guy playing against some of the other team's best.
- Aside from a point in the second period where they struggled with giveaways to some extent, I liked what this group brought. They consistently moved the puck up the ice and at least created some offensive opportunities. Gagner wasn't able to pull the trigger tonight, Hemsky didn't get a lot of shooting lanes and Hartikainen drove the slot well but couldn't knock anything in. The thing about Teemu is he always moves the puck to the net. Whether it is his oddly accurate and evasive shot that somehow always finds its way through, or bulldozing through defencemen (he owned Souray on a number of occasions and should have drawn multiple penalties), the guy just gets it done. He even won every draw (I don't agree with the 1 loss he was credited with) he took. Ales got boosted up to play with Eberle and Hopkins for a time, and they looked dangerous other than the fact that Eberle looked uncomfortable on the left-hand side. It was a fairly medium game from #83 though, as he was getting by the initial Dallas line but not the secondary line. Gagner as I noted couldn't pull the trigger and didn't utilize the complementary parts of his game enough. Still, these guys were at least decent.
- Jones was terrible. Seriously, for a guy receiving no defensive attention to not be able to get open, keep up or avoid taking stupid penalties (that hold at the end was clear as day, on the PP and a couple hundred feet from our net and he whines?!?!) is brutal. He's got a really easy job playing with those two and showed no signs of being up to that task tonight. While Hopkins and Eberle weren't exactly dynamite either, they were at least doing the right sorts of things. Hopkins had the puck on a string and made the Dallas D look silly. He also fired unexpected shots on a couple of occasions and was just off the mark. Eberle generated a breakaway where he made a great move and simply didn't get the puck over the pad. He also made a play in the third where normally he would have faked the shot and backhanded to Hopkins for an open goal, but Dallas actually read it. I was impressed because that move has worked all year. 14 and 93 never quit tonight, and I think it would have been at least 3-2 if not for the penalty late.
I heard some of the post-game comments talking about effort and even though they were from the players I don't really agree that was their downfall tonight. Bad planning at every turn (including Kelly freaking Buchberger diagramming the play with the goalie out...) led to their loss and their effort led to 32 shots (though not great shots) and a number of powerplays generated.
Bad plan + no execution = loss. Simple.