January 18 2014 07:03PM
Today's loss to the Jets was a perfect example of how losing one-on-one battles can cost you a game.
The Oilers played fairly well for the first two periods, but in the third and OT the Jets simply wanted it more, or at least their actions showed that they did.
I took track of both the good and bad plays that stuck out for me. I'm sure there are other plays that fit into these categories, but this is what stood out for me today...
- Jordan Eberle had a strong game. He created a lot of chances and was the most dangerous threat all afternoon. After a month of not being a factor in most games, Eberle's last eight games have been much better. He's creating offence and he's fired 24 shots on goal.
- Hall's pass to Perron to spring in him for a breakaway was outstanding. I find we don't talk about great plays unless they result in goals.
- Justin Schultz made a very good defensive play in the 2nd period. He focused on Trouba's stick, got good positioning, lifted it and didn't allow Trouba to bang home the rebound. For a little added bonus he tossed Trouba into the post after. I don't expect Schultz to manhandle guys, but that simple, smart play of good positioning and ensuring he tied of Trouba's stick stopped a good scoring chance. He needs to do more of it.
- I didn't mind the Oilers overall effort through 40 minutes, but then the 3rd period happened, the Jets took over and Jeff Petry had a brutal period and OT.
- After Belov turns it over at the blueline the Jets come flying up the ice. Petry decides to leave his feet, despite Arcobello hustling back to negate the 2-on-1, Little dances around Petry, then avoids Belov and slides it to a wide open Trouba. Belov, Petry combined with Smyth's weak back check were all equal in blame for this goal.
- On the 2nd goal, Gordon slides it around the boards. Schiefele grabs it on the wall, but Petry is in good position and all he has to do is pin Schiefele along the boards. However, Petry gives a half-ass effort, Schiefele goes right by/through him, then to the net and scores. Rookie Martin Marincin made an odd decision sliding behind the net on the play which didn't help, but Petry can't get beat that easy. To me that is simply about effort, grit and heart. Petry has to, at the very least, slow Schiefele up on that play, but he leaned on him so softly that Schiefele never broke stride.
- Give the Oilers credit they didn't quit, and Petry did make a great play on the tying goal. He made a smart pinch to keep the puck in. The Oilers get a lucky bounce off the ref, and Gagner picks it up, and feeds it to Petry at the right point. Petry let's go a nice, hard shot that Perron redirects home to send it to OT.
- Eakins starts J.Schultz and Ference in OT with Eberle and RNH. Their shift ends with Eberle rushing up the ice, which allows the other three to change. Trouba takes Eberle out on a 1-on-1, but the puck goes to Gagner behind the net. He feeds it back to Petry who takes a shot from the point. Pavelec, with no traffic in front, makes an easy save and kicks it out to Schiefele.
Schiefele takes two strides and makes a stretch pass to Wheeler on the Oilers side of centre. Once again, Petry is in good position. He is stride for stride for Wheeler into the Oilers zone, however Wheeler spins off of him easily and goes to the net untouched. He holds on to the puck too long and his backhand hits the side of the net.
The rebound bounces to Petry, and he has a chance to clear it, but he muffs his clearing attempt. It goes right to Wheeler who feeds Trouba for the winning goal. A tough end to a difficult final 21 minutes for Petry and the Oilers.
THOUGHTS ON PETRY....
I had many people tweet me that Eakins should be fired for having Petry on the ice in OT. Pardon, I say.
Keep in mind Ference and J.Schultz had just come off, so would you rather play N.Schultz or Petry in OT? I think we'd all take Petry, and that is the dilemma Eakins, or any new coach that many seem to want to bring in, faces with this lineup. He doesn't have the horses to win.
Petry is a good player, he skates well, he is smart and usually in the right position, just like he was on the 2nd and 3rd goals.
However, my concern, and it is a big one, is that too often he loses one-on-one battles like he did on those two plays. To me, those are soft plays and the only person who can eliminate those from Petry's game is Petry.
It will be up to Petry to decide if he wants to get stronger on the puck. He is 6'3, but he only weighs 195. He isn't strong enough and he needs to work on that. And it isn't just size, it is about heart. Ference is shorter and weighs less, but how often do you see him allow a forward to beat him that easily?
Petry has better skills than Ference, but Ference plays with more passion. Passion plays a major factor in games, and too often I find the passion meter of some Oilers is much lower than it needs to be if they want to win.
Emotion and passion play a major role in hockey, and as Petry proved on those two plays, just being in the right position isn't enough. The other player is often in a good position as well. Watch closely and you will see many key plays in the game come down to sheer will.
I don't expect Petry or any Oiler to win every battle, but you at least have to make life difficult for the opposing forwards.
Petry has become public enemy number one. He is the new whipping boy for many fans. I understand your frustration, but trading him right now wouldnt' make much sense from where I sit.
I have concerns with Petry's passion, but his skills are fine. The other very important issue when discussing Petry is the realization that he is one of their top-three D-men. If he is as bad as you say he is, then he'll have no trade value, so dealing him means N.Schultz, Belov, Potter and Marincin are your bottom four.
Do you really want that? I didn't think so.
You can trade him, but likely for another D-man, and that still leaves the Oilers with only three D-men who most would bring back next season. That won't help out. Until Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse are ready to play more minutes, it makes sense to keep Petry.
That doesn't mean the Oilers shouldn't ask, and expect, more from him.
The Oilers need to sit Petry down and show him film of today's 2nd and 3rd goals. It is clear he knows where to go on the ice, but once he gets there his hunger/passion/drive/fire is often too low.
I'm not expecting Petry to become Jason Smith or Chris Pronger; mean vicious defenders. But there is no reason he can't be stronger on the puck and on the opposing forwards. I think all of those critical of him would like is to see him be more competitive in one-on-one situations. Match the competitive level of the opposition and his chances of winning more battles will increase.
Let's be clear this internal drive will need to come from Petry, but his coaches better show him these videos and demand he play harder.
Until Petry shows more fire I will have concerns about how much he will help in big games or those games where they play the same team seven times in a two-week span...what are they called again...Oh right, Playoffs.
In case you forgot what the playoffs are, they happen after the regular seaon and they are extemely intense and highly entertaining. In the playoffs, the intensity increases significantly.
Having skill and smarts are a necessity to succeed as a player, but Petry, and some of his teammates, will need a strong passion to win if they hope to become a positive difference maker when the games really matter.