And we're back!
ST. LOUIS 4
Hello again everyone. A long period of relaxation combined with the changes that have come to the Edmonton Oilers has inspired me to begin doing the Report once more. I hope that this season reignites the fun we've had in this place for many years before.
For those of you who are new to this thing, a quick note - this is mostly intended as my immediate reaction and take on the game. I don't sit down and watch the game 3x over, I don't try to dampen emotion, I don't try to be a journalist. This is here for fun, for discussion and hopefully you happen to enjoy the way I break down a game. You'll likely see a bunch of regulars show up - if they've managed to hang around through the recent disasters - and we like it that way, but don't be intimidated or think this is a closed discussion. The more the merrier. Please always feel free to share your thoughts and make this a place to share your one-line, brief, or extended take on what the heck our team did on a given night. It's often more focused on one thing or a few things than the scattershot, easy-to-get-lost-in GDT.
Well, that didn't go as I had hoped. After watching the Oilers game in St. Louis on TV, my expectations weren't amazing, but usually the first game at home in a new season means a high energy level, some early success and a higher likelihood of victory. That obviously didn't happen tonight.
It's early - and I really want to like McClellan because we're going to be watching him coach this team for a long time - but tonight's game showed some early flaws that he's going to have to correct urgently if this team is to have any success.
When it comes to the forecheck and zone entries, the chip-and-chase system that McClellan used in San Jose will not work for this squad. Even just through a few games this can be seen. Giving the puck away when it is being carried by the likes of COnnor McDavid, Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is insanity. The support players won't be crashing the boards with speed and getting the puck back either. This team is unfortunately not very fast and isn't a bang-and-crash squad. I lost count of the amount of times tonight that St. Louis simply grabbed a dump in and started to transition. While not every team will be as good as STL in transition, the system itself is flawed.
Next, the powerplay. The horrid, ugly powerplay. I remember a couple of chances late and that's about it. The units are incorrectly put together. Schultz can't QB the powerplay himself - at least not a first unit. Yakupov needs to be playing with McDavid. Pouliot needs his role simplified. Even with these changes, if they don't change the break in - which appears to be slightly modified version of the 5-on-5 - they will have no success. They need to attack the middle of the ice with speed. Full stop.
The Oilers haven't scored a goal yet off the rush or through sustained pressure in the offensive zone. These are the keys to winning. Why is this not happening? It was on display tonight - they can't transition and they can't attack with speed because of it. This is because 5 of their 6 defencemen couldn't make a tape-to-tape pass. The forwards are being asked to drop WAY back into their own zone, supply all the speed and then dump and get the puck. This doesn't work.
The goals they scored? Korpikoski driving hard and taking advantage of a sleeping Bouwmeester, then Hall getting a bounce of the draw after finally waking from his season-opening sleep. That's not good.
The goals they allowed? Lazer shots from scoring areas. At least twice McLellan had made what he thought was a defensive substitution and the team couldn't win the draw or clear the zone. The puck should have been out three times on Stastny's goal. The final one was a frustrated and fumbling team.
The Oilers didn't control the play at any point tonight. That's a huge problem. They had small bursts of energy, but nothing that could be sustained. It was too little too late again. They didn't win a puck battle until the third period. They were always reaching with their sticks instead of getting to the man. These are signs of a bad hockey team.
I'm not saying it was all bad. They are staying in games. They're making fewer mistakes. They have goaltending which really helps and gives you more chances to take leads. That they haven't taken advantage is a problem, but less of one than being hopeless.
Where it might be hopeless is the defence. I see no way that group can supply the puck to the forwards and begin to attack from transition.
- He didn't light the world on fire, but made some nice saves at times to keep the game close. Big key - no stupid mistakes or bad goals. The puck was ripped by him from high-quality scoring areas. Did exactly what was needed from him but his team gave up too many pucks and didn't supply the offence.
- The only half-decent defenceman in the lot. Even he struggled early. Backes owned him at least twice in the first period. He got much better as the game went on, settling in and making some nice plays. He's being misused not playing with the first PP unit.
- Possibly the worst game I've seen him play. He had a brutal giveaway that was nearly an assist on an STL goal, got beat to pucks routinely and just looked lost. When you're a defenceman who's the good kind of boring, this is not the type of game you need to play. He also joined the "bounce it out and give it away" club tonight. That's bad. Fayne is not a world class passer, but he's okay most of the time.
- I remember a sequence distinctly where he overskated his check twice in a row and turned the wrong way both times. These are not things you can get away with in the NHL. While I admire his effort to carry Gryba around, he has to be more efficient and better with the puck. Gave it away multiple times into the neutral zone and showed none of his supposed passing or shooting skill.
- He's really got no business playing, but has been firmly placed in the #5 spot. Multiple times he wasted chances to clear the zone with a simple pass. He wasn't positioned well enough or moving fast enough to hit anyone. For a supposedly defensive defenceman, he really didn't control his man or the puck in his own zone.
- Oh boy...I was optimistic after the preseason. I guess he hit someone tonight and had a couple good pinches. Defensively and in terms of transition passing he was a disaster. Another guy chasing around rather than controlling his gap and taking his man out of the play. I don't know when he became so overwhelmed, but that's the main image he projects on the ice.
- Rough night for him. I remember one strong play early on and then a lot of little mistakes. It's hard to figure what he should be doing because he's stuck with Schultz, but he should still be better on his own. One positive note - he showed tonight an increased ability to get the puck to the net. This is something he seems to have been working on.
- Kind of all over the place with these guys. Nail got some strong shots away that could have paid off but also had some spin-outs, fall downs and misreads. I like the way he's skating with the puck but think he needs to focus on giving the puck to McDavid and getting open. McDavid really struggled tonight as he just couldn't seem to get anything going. I don't recall any great scoring chances or shots. He did smoke a Blue with a pretty good hit but that's not what we're looking for. I keep waiting for him to grab the puck at the blue line and blow by three defenders. I'm thinking it is the lack of passes from the D that is causing this not to happen. This unit kept getting stuck with Gryba and Reinhart - which doesn't work. Pouliot finally made a couple things happen in the third, but was rather invisible. I expect him to be a physical presence and got to the net but he just wasn't doing it. The big slapper isn't there yet either. Not sure we'll see these guys together much longer, though I really like the McDavid-Yakupov dynamic.
- Very low expectations going into the game for this line and up until the third period they certainly delivered. Hendricks can be all the try-hard he wants - he's a boat anchor on this line. The puck can't go to him and the defenders don't bother to defend against him. You can't have a primary offensive line with that big of a hole in it. It's nothing against Hendricks really - he did what he could - but that is very limited. I do have a problem with the game Hall played. He turned it on in the third period late - there's no doubt on that. Before that he was playing like a tired, frustrated rookie who thinks the game owes him something. He must be better than he was, both with and without the puck for this team to succeed. Hopkins was Hopkins - pretty good and moving well, but he had to try to do it all himself so the Blues simply keyed on him and shut him down. Hopkins needs Eberle back so badly - hell they all do.
- A big MEH for this group. They had moments. Lauri got his goal which was nice to see. I think he did more in this game than in the preseason and regular season games to date combined. I see why he gets chances but not really why he lasts. Lander needs to be better than this. Tonight's game reminded me of many others in his career where he just seems to drift around. On the PK he wAS fine enough but the team needs more than that from him. Purcell's possible contribution is really limited at this point so again my expectations are low. He should still be better about both puck pursuit and getting his shot away. Didn't see a lot of that tonight.
- Maybe the one line that over-achieved. I've already let it be known that I'm a huge Slepyshev fan so far and he had some really strong shifts tonight in terms of driving into the corners. He drew a penalty and had a couple chances. If McClellan was in the mood he should have been promoted. Aside from a couple crucial draw losses, Letestu also impressed me. He seemed much more into the game and using his skating ability than I've seen previously. Gazdic is Gazdic - I barely watch him really.
Thanks again to everyone for coming back and giving this another shot. I doubt there will be a Report every single game as I simply don't get to as many as I did in say, 2006 when I attended every preseason, regular season and playoff game as well as game 5 in NC. I will do what I can and hope we have great discussions.
Disappointing result. Some good. A lot of questionable. Some bad. I think it is going to become very obvious very quickly that this team needs a re-tool on the back end and/or a strategy re-think and FAST. That and Eberle. They need him so badly.