Don't get me wrong, I'll take that over the Calgary or Phoenix games any day. Tonight featured entertaining efforts, some highlight plays and a nice amount of goals. Tonight was also a much closer game than it should have been for a number of reasons, but one in particular. He's the first player reviewed in tonight's report.
Getting away from the goalie, let's talk about the powerplay. Yes it produced the winning goal, but it is making too many mistakes. The default play is never to skate it deep or drive the net. This is insanity and when it is this consistently observable, it means that play is coached. They have all kinds of trouble getting into the zone and set up because of this. Once you miss that first window, it only gets more difficult. Even sometimes when they do get set up, they make horrible passes in the direction of the point, where either an opposition player is standing or an unprepared and ill-equipped Oilers defender is ready to bobble the puck or miss the net with a weak shot. That isn't going to work. This powerplay also doesn't move. I couldn't believe I was watching a 4-on-3 PP in OT, stand there in box formation making itself easy to play against and not attempt to break into the middle. They are incredibly fortunate that Eberle got three whacks to score the winner. That design was terrible and gave no secondary passing options.
Did the team back off? Probably late. I didn't see it before the latter part of the third. Instead they'd reverted to some old, bad habits and also got horrid goaltending. You do get nervous when you think you cannot allow a SOG. They stopped trying to drive into the slot, which gave them success and chances in the first and second. Why you'd revert back to the Calgary gameplan I have no idea. Should it have mattered? Probably not. Carolina is a pretty bad team with subpar goaltending at the moment, a weak D and not enough offense to bail them out...they remind me of another team just on a different scale.
Not many penalties tonight but a couple of ugly ones. I didn't see the Potter play, but Hopkins nearly got himself hurt by turning his back to the play. Not worth a two minute powerplay to have your neck busted but these guys keep doing it. I'll never understand what made that play acceptable and removed the need to protect yourself at all times on the ice.
But hey, we did win.
- This man is simply incapable of doing the job asked of him. I had a guest with me tonight who doesn't get to a lot of games. I explained to him that the Oilers problems this year have been centered around defense and goaltending. Too many times, they need 4, 5, or even more goals to win. Mid way through the game I said that they'd win so long as that guy (point to Dubnyk) doesn't cave. He did. This has been way too common this season. On the fourth goal, a Skinner slapshot that was never headed low, Dubnyk went down. All he had to do was stand up and not be so far back toward his net. On the Eric Staal goal, he had a defenseman that while not back far enough to make a proper play, did still take away the drive to the net. All Dubnyk has to do is stand tall while cutting down the angle and Staal can't beat him. Instead he plays his angle wrong, something that he's done many times throughout his career, and flops down. Absolutely terrible. This Jordan Staal goal started with a terrible effort in the corner from Gagner, who also missed his assignment in front of the net, but again Dubnyk is down, back, and blocking nothing. Ruutu's goal was less his problem, but he did allow a big rebound, then a shot that went right through him because he was flopping down rather than in good fundamental position. He probably made 3-5 very good saves, and a nice play to get the rush going before the OT winner, but the team never should have been in that position. For this team to have any hope against a squad that can keep forwards out of the slot most of the night, Bryzgalov needs to come back and be the clear cut starter. Way too many nights like this for Dubnyk.
- Ugly effort in front on the first Carolina goal. He was doing nothing and covering no one. You cannot get caught like that and especially on the powerplay. There is a very specific job description for the Dman in the low box, and it doesn't involve staring at your feet. He settled down somewhat the rest of the night, but looked to be scrambling on a few occasions.
- I feel like a broken record, but overmatched in front of the net again tonight. He never has position and allows far too many tips/screens/rebound chances. Better moving and skating with the puck tonight though. No glaring opportunities generated by guys skating by him.
- Fairly typical Potter game since the injury. Good in the corners - the man can win battles, bad in front of the net because he's too passive and gets in too close to the goalie. Just mediocre at moving the puck and no getting the puck to the net.
- Aside from a semi-sloppy play on the Jordan Staal goal, He had a fairly strong defensive game. Didn't see him do too much on the opposition blue line though, which he needs to do to be effective.
- Did I miss something or did he have a really quiet night on the ice tonight? Just didn't see a lot of, well, anything.
- Quieter night from him as well. Made a mistake on the Skinner goal for sure and was pushed around by the Carolina forecheck at times. Also struggled to reconnect with the powerplay. Hall specifically couldn't find him as he tended to drift on the blue. Liked that he tried to go to the net but didn't like the execution. He just doesn't have the shot for it.
- Not much going on here. Both Jones and Lander are getting their icetime PKing right now and that didn't happen tonight. Not effective on the forecheck.
- I liked this line despite the fact that #s 26 and 6 both deferred to Hemsky for most of the night. He had to solo a number of his offensive chances because the other two weren't keeping up with the play. A couple of these efforts were highlight of the night material if finished off, but unfortunately Cam Ward stopped a wonderful deke and a Carolina defender made an excellent whirling pokecheck save to prevent a gimme for Hopkins from Hemsky. He played a really solid game and moved the puck in the right direction all night. Arcobello was quieter, but got to the slot from time to time and set up Joensuu's goal with a great little forecheck, move on the defender behind the net and pass out front. Good on #6 for driving to the high priced real estate. He read that sequence perfectly and capitalized for what should have been the key put away goal. I hope this line stays together for next game, but that Joensuu and Arcobello take it upon themselves to play a little more assertively. Hemsky will find them if they get open.
- Not the most rambunctious game from Perron but it just wasn't needed tonight I suppose. His effort was certainly there and he went to the right places including winning battles on the forecheck. He was fairly out of sequence on the powerplay though and never really got anything going. Eberle and Hopkins also struggled here, especially #14 who made some horrible passing choices. Hopkins was going to the scoring areas with intention to shoot more than I've seen him doing in a long time. It paid off with a nice goal and there could have been more. This line did get to the front of the net early by focusing their play to flow to the slot, but back off that later in the game. I'm really not sure why. It was working very well.
- Bad game defensively for Sam Gagner. He got burned on two of the Carolina goals and also contributed to the puck heading the wrong way on the PP on several occasions. Hall did this as well. Yakupov actually kept things pretty simple. Hall's goal in the first cements for me that we can place a check mark next to "beats goalies clean with wrist shot" on his review. This wasn't always the case for #4 and he missed high a ton during his first 2 seasons. Now he has the thing under control and hides his target selection until quite late. He beat Ward very smoothly after Yakupov pressured and passed the puck to Gagner. Yakupov's goal wasn't as clean, but came from the Oilers getting the puck and man to the high scoring area. They did this more in the first 10 minutes than the whole game against Calgary. This line led the charge. Yakupov also rang a slapper off the post on a similar set up later. These guys were certainly good enough offensively, but drifted as the game went on and couldn't deliver the finishing blow on the 5-minute power play. I like what they do as a combo, and Hall does cover up some of the mistakes, but Gagner really needs to get to work on his game everywhere but in front of the opposition's net.
In the end, an ugly win. If this were the playoff race I'd probably be jumping up and down. As we're a long way from that, I'm kind of disappointed. They made an easy win look very, very difficult.