So, Fan Appreciation Night huh? Otherwise known as guaranteed loss night? Yeah...not good. I was not optimistic heading into this one. By the end I was just disappointed that more people hadn't prepared for the loss by loading up on free popcorns to litter the ice with.
This one was bad. Really bad. Listless and sad bad.
They didn't deserve two points tonight. That is for sure. Neither did Phoenix really though. This game was one of those that in the old days could have ended in a zero-zero tie and you'd have just said "Yep." and headed on home.
There was no push from practically anyone on the ice until the third period. I don't know what precisely it is about this team that turns the switch off if they don't set the other team on fire in the first period. There's no reason they can't be winning games in any and all periods, but this group seems to have only one way of getting it done and if that doesn't work out they pack it in for the night.
What exactly did they do to that confident team that left the building not that long ago to take on the world on the road? Did they all just jump off the damn pier in Vancouver or what? Have they been replaced with a bunch of drones who just sort of drift through games? To go this silent and listless, when you're finally in the position where you MIGHT make the playoffs is appalling. It's been appalling to watch on TV and I figured at least it would get better at home. If anything it got worse.
I'd like to also highlight what happened to us in the third period. I still don't know exactly what happened with Taylor Hall that inspired such wrath from Phoenix. I saw Michalek, who was perfectly fine after rolling around on the ice like he'd been shot. I saw when he, Yandle, Hanzal and others playing like little whining children afterwards that should have all been sent to the penalty box. I saw our team do...pretty much nothing in response. That was embarrassing. Completely and totally embarrassing. I'm not a guy who says this team isn't big enough and all that like others do, but there are times when you really have to question the players on the ice and especially what the coaches are telling them/who is being put on the ice. Having no response to PHX's chippy play is unforgivable. You send guys out there and you take a run at Ekman-Larsson. You dummy Doan. You go after their skill players. You don't leave the Taylor Halls and Nail Yakupovs of the world to do it on their own. Just stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
And I'm so tired of having to point out the refereeing, but I must again because it was that terrible. Things were bad enough when the two weak tripping calls came in succession, but what went on in the third, where players weren't being protected during a dangerous situation was really upsetting. This league wonders why it has problems...well letting Michalek chop away with his stick for 3 straight shifts with no penalties called is a pretty good example to look at.
Getting back to more game details - does anyone know why the Oilers defencemen insist on simply shooting the puck out of our zone and giving it away so often? They all did that an absolute ton tonight. Almost no solid passing to be found anywhere. When they weren't dumping the puck away, they were letting the PHX forwards skate right by them with the puck...sooo...yeah.
- He was terrible. Sure he had stretches of smooth sailing where he made some decent saves but those goals were unforgivable. He's played enough strong games this year that the team should be in a playoff spot so I don't hold that reality against him, but no excuses for tonight's effort. Unfocused and cost us.
- I did actually see Whitney skate into the corner well and beat an opposition forward in a battle for the puck tonight. That was good but the rest of the night for both of these guys was pretty horrible. Fistric was having a really hard time moving the puck and making any kind of decision. He got caught standing still several times. Whitney had some decent moments with the man advantage but otherwise spent the night passing to the wrong team and making coverage mistakes. He'd just stand around for no apparent reason.
- Certainly one of Petry's worst games of the year. He kept passing the puck tape-to-tape to the opposition. He wasn't even close to making plays. I can recall maybe one good skate in the offensive zone that ended in nothing. Smid didn't play well either. He got caught in the offensive zone after giving up an easy possession and creating a Phoenix 3-on-1 the other way that thankfully came to nothing. He was just okay in the defensive zone, which is well below his usual standard. No big mistakes that went in the net but several that could have.
N. Schultz-J. Schultz
- No fireworks from either of these guys and both got caught standing still or out of position several times during the game much like the rest of the D group. Not a lot of crisp passing either.
- I was somewhat looking forward to watching Smithson's first game at Rexall to see if maybe there was something I'd missed in past looks at him where he really seemed like nothing special at all. I was disappointed. Smithson seems so far to be Eric Belanger without the positioning or the goofy shooting technique, plus some hit attempts. I stress the word attempts because tonight he couldn't really direct his momentum in any meaningful way and ran into people but didn't really do anything. Petrell at least showed a little bit of fire, skated some and played a decent game. Brown was basically invisible save for a tip in front of the net. I don't know what it is about the Oilers' culture or coaches or what but he sure has toned things down since the first couple games.
- Watching this line was really strange. The thing that was most striking was how incredibly slow and out of it Yakupov made Horcoff and Smyth look. They were constantly behind the play. #64 had to freelance all over the ice for the unti to get anything done at all. When they did it was a credit to him and pretty much nothing else. Nail was fairly quiet early, but came on crazy in the third. Loved that he was trying to put the team on his shoulders and didn't take any crap from anyone. Not having him out there at the end of the game, after being the only guy on the ice all night who looked like he might actually win us the game, was a travesty. Horcoff wasn't too bad even if he did look like an ocean liner at times. I don't blame him for the penalty at the very end of the game. It made no sense based on what I saw live or on the replay. If anything Mike Smith should have gotten a penalty for losing his crap. Horcoff did get a great feed from Eberle that needed to be converted. He had all the time in the world and almost looked like he was so shocked he couldn't decide what to do with it. Horrible. Smyth at least took on Doan at the end a bit I guess. The rest of the game he looked useless, slow and uninterested. People give #94 the benefit of the doubt when it comes to effort. If that's all he's got, then he needs to hang em up. Badly.
- Nothing from these guys tonight. Hemsky's obviously hurt and while the spirit was willing, as evidenced by second and third efforts all night to make SOMETHING, ANYTHING happen out there, but the body is not cooperating. He didn't have a very good game and couldn't get passes through where he'd normally have been able to. Still a couple moments that could have swung things but not enough of them. I don't know what's up with Gagner. He's gone completely silent all of a sudden, losing pucks and not playing the compensatory physical game that usually accompanies his offensive lulls. He's just not creating anything and hasn't adjusted to getting open either. Magnus at least hit some holes with speed, hit a couple people and was okay tonight. He really didn't play well with the puck though. That whiffed slapper he took that wound up in the corner was just sad.
- I'd say early on Eberle was getting the chances and driving the bus a little. Hall took over this role at the end. The thing was, none of these guys were much good for any more than one shift in a row tonight. I don't know if it was effort with them but their execution was WAY off. Imprecise shooting, sloppy passing, carrying no speed out of our zone or into their zone...just nothing going tonight. Why they also took a bunch of lazy shots from the outside with no drive to the net and no chance of scoring was rather baffling. I'm not sure why these guys have suddenly lost the touch, but this looks eerily similar to earlier in the year when they just sort of short-circuited. They lost their roll at the absolute wrong time.
I'm not sure whether this team is tired or lazy at this point. It has to be one of them because that effort was pathetic. It is one thing to lose when a team shuts you down...that wasn't this game at all. They had nothing to give, didn't execute on anything and were outcoached badly once again. Way too many mistakes. This team has no excuse for being where there are in the standings right now...much less where they are likely to wind up.
I was never too optimistic that the Oilers would make the playoffs. Management has passed up to many chances to add depth to survive injuries and gives vets and rookies alike a kick in the pants when necessary. There are so many guaranteed jobs on this team right now. It really shouldn't be that way for a squad that has been easily the NHL's worst in the past few years.
And for the record...bouncing up 3 or 4 spots from the very bottom because some of your draft picks aren't 18 years old anymore is not progress.
Ugh...just sad and frustrating at this point.