Was I watching a different hockey game tonight? I'm really not understanding all these post game comments about Calgary "getting chances" and "taking it to us at points". They really make no sense to me. There was hardly any time tonight where this game wasn't under our control. We also didn't start all that well...even after Schultz had scored we were sitting back a little bit. After Hall's goal that changed. Calgary was terrible all night. They had nothing...especially in the defensive zone where they could not be bothered to stay in strong defensive position. This was glaringly obvious on the first two goals where the defenders essentially backed away from both Schultz and Hall. They did nothing to impede progress whatsoever.
Actual conversation right before the Oilers first goal:
LMHF#2 "You know who hasn't done anything lately?"
LMHF#1 "Justin Schultz?"
He scored about 15 seconds later. You could kind of see what was going on in the play, but it was still really funny the way that worked out.
Another game where we get hosed by a lack of powerplays. We should have had them (not to the extent of the Vancouver game) and were not getting any calls. This has made a difference in the feel and indeed the score in the last couple of games. They're going to start again eventually as we're still doing what we need to in order that the penalties should be drawn.
Definitely a different feel in the building right now. You can tell people are getting excited again. The thing is that this excitement is fragile. Taking it for granted would be a major mistake, just as taking for granted the steps forward some of the Oilers players are taking by not getting them some reinforcements would be a major mistake.
Calgary fans are at least more respectful than Canucks fans in Edmonton. I love beating them, don't get me wrong, but man that was a horrible roster they had to watch tonight.
- The first period was probably his worst in a few games. He didn't allow any goals which is largely a credit to his defencemen. There were a ton of semi-juicy rebounds and no one got any of them in the open. They simply resulted in weak shots on net which he stopped. After the first though, he was very good. He settled in, controlled the puck and was ahead of the play rather than reacting to it. That's huge for a goalie and most evident on a save in the third period where he was across the net well in advance of a solid shooting chance. Great stuff. Not first star great (Schultz), but still exactly what we need.
- Very solid. Petry had one bad sequence in the second period where he got turned around and gave the puck away pretty badly (oddly right after nailing somebody) but other than that he was aggressive, well positioned and moved the puck. Can't really ask for much more from him. Smid was really good tonight. He was after all the Flames and especially Blake Comeau for some reason. He didn't take any crap and punished when he could. He was also solid with the puck and shut the play down effectively a number of times. Even blocked a tough one off his foot which the crowd gave him solid props for. Well done #5. Glad you'll be aboard for a few more years.
- Nick was probably as good as I've seen him play in a long time. He was a lot more decisive with the puck and didn't get caught out of position defensively. Calgary didn't really push the play so he didn't have to deal with intense pressure very much, but he did what he needed to. Justin was really good. He scored a really nice goal, making a good read to jump into the play, then took advantage of the time to make a nice little move and finish with authority. His assist on the Hall goal was a great little read which teed the play up perfectly. I didn't catch his second assist. What I did catch was a few defensive plays he made, especially in the second period, which were excellent. He was using his body to separate the man and play the puck just like Joni Pitkanen used to. I suspect this will become a larger part of his game as he matures and improves. Really strong and important game for him that will hopefully get his offensive game rolling.
- Whitney had some positive moments tonight mixed in with some instances where he got caught standing around pretty badly. He didn't really make the offensive effort to balance it out but also didn't cost the team so I'd call it just a mixed bag. Potter was pretty much the same way, though more physical in the corners than #6. Good enough, yes, but we need to improve on these two if we're going to get anywhere.
- Generally quiet night for these guys. They had a couple productive offensive shifts in the third but were otherwise not particularly interesting. Less physical play than in previous games. Smyth was probably better than he has been lately. More skating to pucks and less reaching out his stick...though he did make some absurdly lazy efforts in the second period. Petrell got a slapper away but otherwise didn't stir up anything interesting. Brown made a nice pass at centre ice that I remember, but otherwise I spent the evening laughing at some of the plays that he made in the corners. Really, really weak puck retrieval.
- Very glad to see #64 get a goal. It wasn't the greatest shot in the world but it was strong enough to get through and that is all that matters. He was going to the right places more often than usual tonight and was rewarded with some nice shooting chances. He nearly beat MacDonald clean on a good, hard shot in the second period. Picking up an assist on Jones' goal was largely just a bonus I imagine. He is still having some trouble reading the play to use his acceleration and beat people. Too often he waits too long. Sometimes this is just out of caution and trying to be defensively responsible (on one of the shift specifically he dropped back low, stole the puck, then skated it out of trouble very nicely), but other times it is because he is too late to make up his mind to be aggressive. The coaches will hopefully catch this on tape and make a suggestion that he fly the zone every now and again...but I don't exactly think Buchberger will catch that. Horcoff was pretty solid tonight. He was in good position, moved the puck okay and had a couple chances. That full windup slapper he took was pretty weird to say the least. He actually got some power behind that. Those of you who've read for some time know that I am far from Ryan Jones' biggest fan. I will give credit to him for a 2-point night, and especially the quick little pass he made to Yakupov to set him up. The thing is, he was still leaving the zone too early and playing the wrong spot in the offensive zone tonight. He also botched a ton of clean chances to move up ice when the D or one of his linemates got him the puck at center. He had serious problems controlling the puck. Replacing him with a higher quality option could make this line go in a big way.
- Another quiet statistical night for this line but for the most part they were quite strong. They were only credited with 4 shots but that seems really low. Positionally, they were solid in all three zones, not losing the puck in any dangerous spots. They moved the puck around effectively, drove in effectively but just couldn't pull the trigger on the chances they were getting. Magnus was skating well, but does need to keep his head up as the Flames started targeting him to some degree. Gagner was a little out of his usual lanes and that meant that he didn't get the free space to shoot that he usually does. He was very strong on the boards, both in the offensive and defensive zones, clearly making an effort to get there and make plays. Hemsky was pretty decent, getting shots away and moving the puck forward. I don't know what is wrong with him but if it is true he has a nagging injury I'm glad the coaches took the opportunity to get him some rest at the end of tonight's game. He's been hit fairly hard in a couple recent games and I'm hoping it is nothing major. We need #83 and the leadership role he plays on this line going down the stretch.
- A bit of an off game for these guys, but certainly good enough which is what matters. I figured Hall would simply one-time the puck or make a quick release play on his goal-producing chance in the first. It was almost awkward to take that backhander but he took a great one so it didn't matter at all. Hall also missed on a great little wrist shot chance in the first, and had Eberle inexplicably rush a pass and miss him later that period. He was free and clear. #4 has definitely been reading these chances to go on the fast break much better as of late. His play calmed down after the first and it looked like he as well as his linemates were rushing passes a little bit for the rest of the game, but you also got the impression that energy was being held back a little bit. I'm fine with that to be honest when the game is going like this one did. Eberle was pretty solid aside from that pass. He got to the slot and had some really good chances to score but just couldn't make it happen. No worries now that he's playing better again. Hopkins was a bit of a mystery. Somewhat like Yakupov, he wasn't beating anyone clean and had more problems getting his shot on net tonight. I hope he's working on that. Defensively though, he was excellent.
No complaints from me. If we want to spend the rest of the year getting out of the gate like the last two games we'll be fine. Either we'll score a small bunch and then make the other team take the game from us or we'll just keep the pressure up until we collapse them.
One thing to remember is that good teams do indeed ration energy. They take easy wins and often back off a little bit. We've basically played two hard periods in the last two games. That could really pay off in the coming games. The only counter to that is not picking up bad habits. I didn't really see any on display tonight.