In a stinking shootout...
I haven't seen a game where the Oilers have played that badly and yet had seemingly endless chances to win against a non-joke opponent in a long time.
If they cash on the PPs in the first, they win.
If Perron scores on the breakaway (always go forehand kids), they win.
If Perron scores in the shootout, pretty sure they win.
There were others as well. Just couldn't push it over the top with that little bit of individual effort that sometimes bails out a truly bad performance. Make no mistake, I'm not saying the Oilers were good. They were far from good.
Have to go to Eakins' approach before we get to the players. Just to clarify - when I talk about Eakins and criticize his decisions, I am not saying "IT IS HIS FAULT AND IF WE JUST CHANGE EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE!", but what I am saying is that he makes a lot of mistakes that mean the team doesn't start from an optimal position to win, or adjust properly within the game. The lineup he used tonight handicapped his squad to start with - especially that he is still playing Yakupov on the 4th line, still had Lander in as well, and reverts incessantly to 4-93-14. His failure to adjust properly lay with his D. He did not trust the only pair that had a reasonable night - Belov and Marincin. Their icetime needed to be elevated in order to maximize the Oilers' chances tonight and Marincin only played 11+ while Belov got 15+. Unacceptable.
This team is so bad at home, and so bad against the sad sack East...It is truly amazing how bad they are against teams that all of their competitors are beating. Only Nashville also has a losing record against the East. Stunning.
Another stunning thing is the Oilers powerplay - specifically their complete inability to enter the zone. How do you effectively neuter a powerplay driven by skilled forwards and puck possession? Tell the D to bring the puck into the neutral zone and then tell the forwards to dump it. This "system" they are running is disgusting. They can't win the battle for the puck because the timing is completely off. Even when the puck is carried in, they are clearly all directed to stop and attempt a sideways or backward pass, despite the idiocy of trying to make a play where the defenders are concentrated. All that has to happen is for the forwards to drive deep into the zone after receiving the puck near their own blue line. This is in no way difficult.
I will say this for the Flyers - they make breakouts look easy. Theirs move at lightning speed when compared to the Oilers. The wingers carry that speed and gave the D fits trying to slow them down all night. Part of this was because the Oilers were clearly not playing a high pressure system (unlike, say the Philly PK) but still, the skill, timing and positioning involved made the Oilers look like children by comparison. Sad.
- An Oilers player shot the puck softly into the bench. Dubnyk went to catch it. It came out of his glove. I'm not joking. He can't even catch a softball.
- Very good night where he was completely left out to dry and still nearly won the game. Many impressive saves including a breakaway pokecheck followed by a sprawling dive. Lots of glove work. A great stop on a shot that hit an Oilers defenseman in front (Dubnyk is still frozen in place looking for that puck). Several stops where he made himself big and it worked out. The only disappointment of the night was the SO, where he was clearly scared of Giroux and guessed wrong on Raffl (moved his blocker under instead of up). Got plenty of applause and deserved it. Didn't come out for his star, which I respect.
- As I said, the only pair playing decently well. Marincin made two dangerous passes up the middle that were bobbled, but was otherwise quite solid and again a strong presence in the corners. He does this better than most of the roster and has shown so over several games now. Belov broke up a bunch of plays in the neutral zone and was definitely one of the best Oilers over the final 40 when most of the team was out back taking a dump. Not the offensive presence I'd like him to be tonight but solid in the other two zones.
- Playing this pair for so many minutes is likely what cost the team the game. I blame Ference in a way for all three regulation goals against. He took a stupid penalty that set up the first PP goal. On the Flyers second goal, both he and Schultz were covering nothing. Specifcally Ference because he had to block the passing lane and instead just stood around debating which forward to take in an odd-man situation. On the third Flyers goal, which I know was a 5-on-3, there was zero excuse for whatever the hell Ference was doing in front of the net. Pushups? Squats? I don't freaking know but it wasn't playing hockey and it was pathetic. The only positive things he did were two rush breakups in the third period. Eakins trusts him and he really shouldn't. Right now Corey Potter, Martin Marincin, Taylor Fedun and a number of others who are not regulars would be a much better option any time the play goes to the front of the net. Far from the positive that many thought the addition of Ference might be, unless he is relegated to #6/7 and quick, this contract is going to be a huge blunder. The defensive defenseman who can't play defense. Brilliant. Speaking of defencemen who can't play D, Justin Schultz had an "off in the wilderness" night tonight. Despite a few brilliant passes, his reads were wrong, his pinches ill-timed and his defensive coverage effectively useless...yet he gets 28+ from the coach. This is the state of the D on this team.
- Well, that last pair was bad. These guys were only better in that they didn't get lit up. Petry made so many boneheaded plays I can barely count. When he wasn't icing the puck, he was putting a lazy wrister on the opposing goaltender's stick, setting up a horrid line change. He gave the puck away multiple times, got burned clean multiple times and took two penalties to boot. Lovely. Nick Schultz made a number of defensive mistakes and wasn't good with the puck either.
Have to cut this one short guys as I have a long day ahead tomorrow. Please add what you thought of the forwards. I basically thought Yakupov was brutally mishandled, Lander needs to sit, Gazdic didn't get to do his job, the vet line was just okay, Perron was quiet but solid, Eberle had an off night, Gagner is still wandering, Hopkins was better but still not strong on the puck, Hall never quit but couldn't quite pull through and Joensuu needs to be playing fourth line minutes. The forwards weren't great, but they can't work with the guys who are keeping it out and moving it up. They have no hope.