After thinking about the game for a while over some pizza I needed as I had skipped dinner, I came to the conclusion that this game was a little bit like an extremely weird football play. It's a broken play and the ball's be been fumbled. For whatever reason, all of your team's hands are covered in grease and every time you think you have the ball it just slips out again. The other team is fat, kinda lazy, not really looking at what's going on or trying to grab the ball, and then the dumb guy with the dry hands has it bounce into his lap.
They really needed to win that game. For a bunch of reasons but mostly to stomp on Calgary's heads and show that this year is different right from the start. They failed. I would have actually considered a 5-4 win a failure as well. That is a putrid Calgary team with no goaltending that's capable of generating nothing off the rush. They're brutal. The Oilers should've smacked them around all night and coasted to this one.
Instead they put themselves behind the 8-ball early. There's really no excuse for that two games in a row. Especially after the last game was a win. They had to know the opportunity was there to make a statement on Saturday night on HNIC against the Flames and they flopped. That's really sad.
With that said, they still had this game almost all the way. They were the only ones generating anything. Even this bad effort on their part should have been enough.
I hold 3 people primarily responsible for this loss. In order with the worst going first: McLellan, Ference, Talbot.
Let's talk about Talbot first. He can't turn that puck over behind the net. He can't let that shot in from behind the goal line. Plain and simple. That was horrid goaltending. I haven't seen him fight the puck that bad in any of his previous starts. Even lazy shots from the point were getting through and challenging him. This was a goalie falling apart tonight and he needed to be pulled. Badly. It was plain to see. He did make one big save off of Frolik but other than that...man. I don't worry about him long term because he's mentally strong, but that was a bad game and he knows it.
On to Ference. He is easily the worst hockey player on this roster. I counted one completed pass. I counted at least 9 turnovers. It was entirely routine for him to have time and space, two short range passing options and simply look up ice and turn it over to Calgary. He made two low percentage pinches in a tie game in the third period (while being a player who should essentially NEVER pinch). He chased all over his own zone and lost every single race he got into. He was on for multiple GA, with his inability to clear the zone being the primary reason for multiple goals against. He was, and is, an albatross that means this team has the possibility of losing every single night he plays no matter what the rest of them do. He is that bad. Scott Ferguson and Jason Strudwick looked like heroes by comparison to what this guy is doing right now. I'd trust Luke Gazdic to drop back and fill in on the third pairing before Andrew Ference would ever see a second of icetime if I had my way. Why am I continuing to harp on this? 1 - because he's that bad and 2 - because the media will not call him or the coach or anyone else out on it. If you can't ask the question about why this guy is in the lineup after a night like that, it's never going to get asked.
Which bring me to McLellan. Don't get me wrong - I like a lot of what he's doing. If he ever plays Ference again it is a mistake. Period. He could see what was going on and kept sending him over the boards to hurt this team's chances to win. I couldn't believe he got back out there after some of the plays he made. It wasn't just one at a time either and it was so rarely under pressure. For McLellan to not see that and sit Ference down is unconscionable if you want to win the game. I don't care about sending a message to Fayne if THIS is the result. The decision to play him and keep playing him in all likelihood cost the Oilers the game. The other D didn't set the world on fire by any means, but they could all pick up a puck in the corner and make some kind of play with it without turning it over to CGY AND throwing themselves out of position. Ference can't. His game is over. This showed that to anyone who wasn't on the trolley before. My gawd it makes me mad to watch him play hockey.
It's worth noting as well that after the comeback had been made complete, the exact guy I'd want to have a chance to win this thing had the puck on his stick. Pouliot made a sublime play and pass to set up McDavid in front of a wide open net. I still don't understand how he missed that puck. It seems impossible that that could have happened just then. He was even due.
That game made me shake my head, curse and wonder what we did to deserve to watch it.
Anyway, on to the other players.
- Hall played an amazing hockey game - no two ways about that. He scored, made amazing passes, even blew up Goudreau for good measure. The only thing I could possibly see him needing to do differently is to occasionally throw in a cut to the middle at the blue because the Flames were reading his play off the rush by the end and cheating for coverage. He's suddenly caught right up in scoring. Good for him. I hope he is fueled by his quest to keep up with #97. He won't for long, but the effort will push his game higher. My favorite play was actually the second assist on Davidson's goal. That was a great read. Draisaitl's goal was very nice. He looks like he just knows what to do in those situations. Also made some plays tonight using his strength and patience which were missing in the first game. Amazing to come up and throw 5 points on the board in two games like it's no big deal. Great job. Hopkins was very good on a night when he really only needed to be support. Excellent game.
- This was the first game where there were some real misfires for this crew. With that said, they did score one and should have had another. The fact they didn't wind up on the board is neither here nor there in reference to the first and inexplicable in reference to the second. McDavid just never go going. This was the first time I've seen where he could be described as awkward. He still blew by people and still looked amazing, but when the puck came to him it just wasn't the same. If this had been any other night he probably has 3 points and we're talking about how the Oilers scored 7. Yakupov was okay. Nothing about his game blew me away but he had moments. Pouliot should have had a goal and an assist, but instead wears the goat horns with that late penalty. The team was revving up and really looked like Calgary was dead there. If not by McDavid's overdue point, then one more Taylor Hall rush away from an Oilers win. You know you're getting these penalties from Pouliot but that doesn't help dull the feeling when they happen. That was a useless hook.
- Wasn't impressed that this line got changed so early as I liked the Lander-less look early on. Lander got promoted after drawing a penalty, which I would say was his only real noticable moment. He just can't seem to get himself space with the puck right now. Too many easy turnovers, no really dangerous shots. He's definitely struggling at the moment. Purcell? I have to give him credit for the pass to set up Davidson and for cashing his goal. To me, he looked the same otherwise. He's a bit like the players in the really old table hockey games where they don't even move, but if you spin them just right they fire it in the net. Pakarinen was okay. He his some people and was noticable at least. Nothing special.
- Slepyshev wound up on this line far too soon. He was doing fine and then had no ice time. Too bad. Letestu got hosed on that goalie interference call and I'm sure that had him a little down. I'm starting to think he's the kind of player who can do a little bit of everything but can't shoot. There were at least two instance tonight where he had time and space from dangerous areas but what looked like his best wrister was just piss poor. That's no good, but thankfully something that can be improved on until the day you hang em up. Hopefully he's willing to work on it. Gazdic didn't hurt the team, which is really all he has to do. I would have rather seen his spot go to Fayne so that the coach could have more easily benched Ference - but who knows if he would have.
- Well, a couple ugly ones in a row now from him. That high stick was especially inexcusable. Part of it is certainly his D partner but he's also just lost a lot of momentum. All over the place positionally. Got beat routinely. One big hit is all I can credit him for really. We had to know he was playing over his head though. Just coming back to earth. He's a 6/7. That's that.
- Definitely riding a wave of confidence right now. He's the only guy the Oilers have on the back end who's actively looking to shoot and really knows how. Great little goal he scored. He's the anti-Brad Hunt in that he's actually making the most of his chance. He was better defensively tonight, though I suspect he too will come back to earth. He's being asked to do too much at the moment because of the injuries and how bad his company is, but thankfully he's hanging in.
- Better, but still not himself. Isn't making the skating or physical plays yet.
- Underwhelming is the word. You keep expecting more from this guy and he's just not delivering yet. I liked that he did more skating with the puck, but man did he ever make some awkward plays and turnovers. Yuck. Needs to pick it up in a big way.
- Good, solid game from him. Didn't blow you away but played steady. That's something for a rookie. Shame they need him to be this good and more right now. He doesn't deserve or need that pressure.
C'mon Chiarelli - this has gone on long enough. Time to find a way to retire Ference or notify your coach that he's only got 22 to choose from. Time to move some defencemen out and bring some in. Time to cash in a pick and a prospect. You can't let the top six suffer under this group. It has to pain your soul like it does mine to watch two first overall picks and a strong veteran winger lugging Andrew Ference and Eric Gryba all over the ice like two Denver boots. You owe them and the team and the fans better than that.