I really hate to plug things that the Oilers’ organization does. When I read stories about how the Oilers complain to the NHL because a Calgary radio station played a song parody after their 10-2 loss to Buffalo, or their heavy-handed tactics in dealing with fans, or how members of the organization parked a Zamboni behind the HNIC production truck after Marc Crawford had the temerity to question the quality of the ice at Rexall, I get angry. I think about how petty and ham-fisted an organization can be, especially an organization that has milked public sympathy repeatedly in the past and intends to do it again to get a new arena, and wonder why anyone would laud the Oilers’ organization.
In any case, it’s really worthwhile (as it usually is) to check out the post-game comments up at the Oilers official site. There, for example, you can find this charming quote from team captain Ethan Moreau:
Well the score doesn’t reflect how we worked, I thought that a lot of guys really battled hard. It’s hard to find positives in an 8-3 loss, but a lot of guys competed really hard. We had some big efforts – Storts gets a goal and assist, Poulie scores a nice goal, I thought we battled in the faceoff circle, so there’s some good things going into tomorrow.
Reading that, I wonder if Ethan Moreau was at the game. If the Oilers were putting forth the necessary effort, why did they have the doors blown off? Was their pre-game preparation lacking? Asked what the difference was between the first and second periods, Moreau offered the following:
Just that they scored more goals in the first. It’s really hard to find faults in our energy in here before the game. Things didn’t go well, we took the penalty early and they scored and things snowballed from there. But if you really break down the game and watch it I thought there were a lot of individuals who really competed hard and won a lot of battles. It’s a process – we’ve got thirty games left and if we continue to do things right and fix things that need to be fixed we’ll be fine.
Compare that quote above to what Kyle Brodziak said after the game:
We came into the game, and I don’t know if we were really nervous or tentative but we were uptight and we weren’t skating. They’re a good team – they’ve got a lot of skill over there – and if you’re not ready to skate with them they’re going to pick you apart.
Which of those two comments seems closer to accurate? Ethan Moreau’s idea that the only problem was that the Red Wings just scored more goals in the first but the team battled hard, or Brodziak’s comment that they weren’t ready to skate with the Red Wings?
Let me make it crystal clear for everyone: the game is won and lost on goals scored for and against. The game isn’t won because you have good “energy” in the room prior to setting foot on the ice, or because you “competed hard”. Winning puck battles is indeed of importance, but only because winning puck battles leads to scoring goals. It doesn’t matter how much grit, jam or sandpaper a team displays (not that I thought the Oilers were outstanding in that regard yesterday) if you only manage three goals while your opposition scores eight. That doesn’t seem to be a concept that Craig MacTavish understands:
Even the first period, we made mistakes obviously, but we knew they were going to come hard at the start; they hadn’t been playing up to their standards and it’s been a bit of boot camp from what we understand, around here. We knew they were going to come hard, we were prepared for it.
We battled hard, and we played hard, and our young guys really battled hard. Cogs, I thought really battled, as did Sam… Pouliot got involved a little bit tonight, scored a goal and got in a confrontation, which is something that we haven’t seen a lot out of him.
It was unfortunate that they got the goal in the last six seconds of the second period to make it six nothing, and then all of a sudden we get three and if we don’t give up that goal late we’re back in the game. It’s a funny game – you just have to compete hard, every minute of every night, and I think that for a large part we did that tonight.
That’s right folks – despite the obvious mismatch in the respective teams’ play, if not for the unfortunate sixth goal against and that equally unfortunate seventh goal against, the Oilers would have been right in it. The Oilers were prepared and they battled hard, despite going down 5-0 in the first twenty minutes.
To sum up:
I think a lot of times when you get beat handily, it’s tough to respond the next day, but I think we’re going to be able to not take a step back, despite the loss.
I certainly hope this team doesn’t take a step back; it would be a real shame if all that effort the Oilers exerted to lose only 8-3 instead of 10-2 or 9-2 went to waste.
Why Gene Principe Rocks
Faced with the 8-3 loss, and seemingly unable to force his mouth to ask MacTavish to elaborate on the virtues of “battling hard”, Gene Principe needed to find some kind of Wellwood-soft question to lob at MacTavish. With his incredible ability to make clutch plays, he responded, leading to this interaction:
Principe: “Dwayne’s penalty looked like it was an accident on his part…”
MacTavish: “What happened – I didn’t even see it?”
Principe: “He just kinda… stuck his stick… up between his legs… with Cleary.”
He just kinda… accidentally… whacked Dan Cleary… in that spot between his legs. You can’t teach that kind of analysis. Sportsnet’s lucky to have him.
Oh Yeah, There’s A Game Today
Let’s look at the key ingredients for this afternoon’s game:
- The Oilers are playing Minnesota in Minnesota (they’ve lost 8 straight at the Xcel Energy Center).
- The Oilers are currently tied with Minnesota for the final playoff spot in the West, making this a textbook example of a four-point game.
- The Oilers are coming off an 8-3 loss yesterday in which the captain and head coach were pleased with their effort.
- Minnesota hasn’t played since Friday.
Let’s call it a 2-1 OT loss. Dustin Penner and Pierre-Marc Bouchard with regulation goals, and let’s chalk up the game winner to Marc-Andre Bergeron.