Well, on one hand you've got to beat this Dallas team. Their roster is weak, old and they're missing important players. They didn't show very much tonight that was impressive in any meaningful way. They're not dynamic or particularly effective at anything. They do have a strong goalie which helped them out for sure. Jagr and still do a couple of the things he's always been able to do (win the battles when he has the puck and shoot it when he has any room) and that made the difference for them tonight.
On the other hand, our roster going in to this game stunk. It stunk even more when we lost our fourth center of the year to injury. Get these men some adequate padding or something already...wow. Did we cope very well with the losses we sustained? Well...sort of. The players themselves did a fairly good job of adapting and not getting lost of confused during the game and dealing with ever-changing arrangements. 5-on-5 at least. The powerplay was scary-bad at times this evening. They couldn't get puck control off of a zone entry without great difficulty. The coaches did not adjust so well. It was already bad enough to pull a MacTavish and simply plug Mark Arcobello in a spot where he had no possibility of succeeding to begin with...then to stick with him after a couple periods and an injury to Lander was pretty terrible decision-making on their part. This probably cost us at least one 5-on-5 goal and ultimately the game.
It feels odd to say this about a 3-2 loss where our forward lineup was depleted and generally bad, but the defence really let us down tonight. There were mediocre to bad performances for most of the crew and I can't figure out why exactly. Hmmm.
Let's turn to our goals for a moment.
Our first game after a superlative effort by the Yakupov-Gagner-Hemsky line. There were at least three beautiful shooting chances during this sequence that just didn't turn out. It wasn't for lack of effort or desire to fire the puck though. Eventually Yakupov got the puck in a really nice spot, took a shot that easily could have gone in but deflected to Hemsky who made no mistake on a shot that turned out to be harder to cash than it initially appeared. Great all-around effort to get the 1-0 lead.
The second Oilers goal was an even more beautiful thing. It started with an Eberle pass off to Hall. Rather than simply stand idly, Eberle worked his way down low and behind the net. He then motioned with his head to Hall that Hemsky was open. Hall fired a hard, flat, excellently timed pass across the whole zone to Hemsky, who was WIDE open and had about three years to decide what to do. The made a little fake then teed one up just right for Justin Schultz. All this while, Teemu Hartikainen was battling away in front of the net, and had set up a perfect screen for anyone who needed it. Schultz made no mistake. Perfectly executed powerplay sequence.
We'll look more at the Dallas goals while discussing specific players.
- He was really good tonight and made some nice stops. He was positionally solid; save for an approximately 10 minute stretch in the second where he was AGAIN dipping his blocker side shoulder and Dallas was simply not able to take advantage. Chabot needs to get a bloody taser and train this out of him during practices. It is going to kill games at key times. Luckily for us he returned to form subsequently. Definitely gave us a chance to win.
- Easily the worst game I've seen Jeff Petry play in a long time. He was wandering around his own zone out of position, turned the puck over routinely in every zone, deflected a goal into our net and generally looked terrible. He's lucky Smid was there to bail him out with shot blocks and strong defensive plays for most of the game. I do give Smid a hard time regarding the Benn goal as he was out of position, but that is partly because Ryan Smyth was in the middle of nowhere and threw everything off. Petry usually is, and has to be much much much better than he was tonight. I was starting to fear the times he got the puck. Just ugly.
- Similar to what I've seen so far, Nick had a quiet game but his tentativeness cost him at times. Just not aggressive enough on the opposition blue line. He also screened Dubynk pretty badly (along with Ryan Smyth) on the Roy goal. Not good. Also no physical play again tonight. Justin was pretty great. Solid defensively. Worked hard. Skated well. Made crisp passes for the most part. He could have been a little more aggressive to try to augment the Hall-Arcobello-Eberle line's offensive potential but oh well. Really nice goal he scored and could have had another earlier in the game.
- Potter wasn't very good in that he couldn't gain puck possession and make solid passes. The guy who was a pretty decent puck mover at the beginning of last season appears to be long gone. He was the guy who was doing some of the bailing out on this line tonight line. I've run out of ways to feel bad about Ryan Whitney. His game just isn't there. The only thing he can do at this point is make a decent pass and take a slapper on the powerplay. There was a sequence in the second period where he got beat by a Stars player to the corner. He took several strides. The Stars player only had to glide (and hadn't been flying in the zone either). That's just not going to work in this league. Then he goes and messes up badly in overtime after several miscues at the offensive blue line in the third period. This is sad but it is reality. We need to replace Ryan Whitney and we need to do it soon. To watch a player fall from the best skater on our team at times to not even able to make a proper hockey stop is just crushing.
- I really wanted to like the guy who came out wearing #62 tonight. They made the right call in asking him to play instead of Vandevelde and I appreciated that. It is always good to see a guy who clearly has a lot of respect from his minor league teammates get the call. That unfortunately was the last good thing that happened to him today. He was very unfortunately placed with Hall and Eberle in a way we've seen guys like Toby Petersen and Liam Reddox placed with the equivalent line of their day by other coaches. He looked completely overmatched the whole game. He turned the puck over nearly every chance he had. He actually made a pass in the third period but the fact that this was surprising was also scary. He couldn't keep up with the speed of the game and if you're as small as he is you actually have to be faster than average NHL speed. Not happening. To give him 18 minutes was absolutely insane. His spot was a giant hole in the middle of this line who was immediately outnumbered as they tried to put up a goal or two. For their parts, Eberle and Hall gave it what they could. Eberle is struggling to find his shooting (or tipping for that matter) rhythm at the moment. He had a wide-open net on a beauty feed from Schultz and missed. He missed on feeds from Hall. He could have tipped at least two pucks in but missed on both. I do give him credit for continuing to fight through though, and making some nice plays including on the powerplay goal and on the feed to Hall in the second after battling like hell and forcing a turnover deep in Dallas territory. I'm not going to bag on Hall for going between the legs there. It must have been the only option he saw. I'm also sure he was intending to go high and failed. If he'd thought he could get across the goalie and finish, he would have. Great pass to Hemsky before the Schultz goal as I noted earlier. He's having his best time on the ice right now whenever he and #83 are together. They really make things happen. Did Hall have several chances he needed to finish tonight though? Yes. The good news is that these guys weren't making defensive mistakes, unlike a player on this next line.
-Obviously these guys didn't stay together long but it is still easiest to keep them grouped for discussion purposes. Hordichuk at least didn't take a stupid penalty in his incredibly limited ice time. He's a complete waste of a roster spot as well but the coaches and management don't seem to want to acknowledge that. Petrell played okay, especially when penalty killing, shot blocking and on the forecheck. No offence from him tonight though. And so we turn to Mr Smyth. What a horrible joke of a game he played. In addition to generally being slow to the puck, taking a horrible penalty, getting beat clean by defenders or forwards and not doing a damn thing offensively, Smyth made two of the laziest giveaways (one offensive and one defensive) that I've ever seen during the third period. He's just lazily flopping the puck wherever his stick happens to be pointing. In addition, his laziness (and whatever the heck this lean over and hopelessly half-lunge at the puck thing he's doing right now is) led to missing attempts to grab the puck on both of the goals Dallas scored in regulation. Neither of those would have happened if he wasn't slacking and/or out of position. Once on the boards and once in the middle of the ice. He then committed a double error by also screening the goalie on Roy's slapper, while not being near as close as he should have been to prevent the play in the first place. The way #94 played tonight, on a night when we needed veteran leadership, was absolutely embarassing. He should be sat out next game. I don't care if he can fake playing center. That effort should not go unpunished. What a flipping joke.
- Now on to the mostly positive. Obviously Lander getting hurt is not positive, but before the injury he looked to be continuing what he was trying to do last game and I have no complaints with that. Magnus played a fine game. He used his speed to get in on the forecheck, draw a penalty or two, carry the puck effectively and even hit people. It was really like watching something important finally click in that hockey brain and getting to enjoy the results. He also didn't cheat for defence as much which makes me happy. I really hope he can continue this level of effort and get some good shots away as well. Remember this is a man who can rifle the puck when he puts his mind to it. Hartikainen also did very well for himself. In addition to clogging the front of the net effectively on the Schultz goal, he worked well in the corners, threw some hits and brought the puck to the front of the net for shots. I would take the opportunity during the next couple games while chaos takes hold with injuries and such to elevate #56 to a line where these efforts would be better utilized.
- The only consistently dangerous line on the ice tonight for us. They were why we had a chance out there. Hemsky was going as he has been for several games now. The goal was very nicely done and he made the right decision on the Schultz pass. He also checked hard along the boards, made some nice plays to both Gagner and Yakupov that could have wound up in the net and got several really strong shots away himself. I liked that he looked off Eberle and then fired on a 2-on-1 chance that he had. It is too bad that he blocked the puck with his mouth along the boards in the third period. He was in alone and likely would have finished if he'd blocked it with anything else. Gagner was a little medium tonight but effective enough. He was being asked to do a lot as the only decent offensive center on the team and certainly did enough. I don't blame Yakupov at all for the OT goal against. He can't be responsible for guarding Jagr because our former #1 Dman now has zero good feet. Really liked that he was responding physically with a hit and even the penalty to some extent. Can't take any garbage from that loser Morrow. He rang an absolute lazer beam off the bar in the second. Kari is still looking for that puck. Really thought he'd scored an absolute beauty there. Oh well.
In the end, we couldn't get it done with only one consistent offensive line and a rickety PP. Not surprising.
Management will reveal its plan for the year by how they respond to this. There is time to pick a C or two and several decent ones that could stay with the team later and help out are available for nothing or practically nothing. We also need a defenceman badly. If they make moves now, they want to make the playoffs. If they don't, they are on board for another year of failure. We shall see.