Not even free beer could brighten the spirits of Oilers fans after sitting through the worst first period of a home opener in franchise history.
The Oilers stunk.
They couldn’t play defence.
They rarely had the puck.
They didn’t get any saves from their goalie.
They took too many penalties.
The good news is they only lost one game, not the entire season. I couldn’t think of a worse scenario for the Oilers and their fans.
The building was electric prior to puck drop. The 50/50 was at $25,000 forty-five minutes before the game even started. Fans were lined up 200 deep to take advantage of 40% of merchandise, and most of them happily stood in line sipping on a free beer or half-price food.
The Oilers were ridding a wave of a confidence after a comeback victory in Vancouver. The stage was set for a great atmosphere, but that changed minutes after the game started.
2:16 in Ales Hemsky takes a holding penalty. 47 seconds later Jeff Petry is off for tripping and then the Sharks took over.
Dan Boyle rips a one-timer on the 5-on-3, then Logan Couture scores their 2nd straight PP goal, and it is 2-0 four and a half minutes into the first period.
The building got really quiet, but it exploded when Nail Yakupov scored his first NHL goal at the 8:25 mark. That was the loudest Rexall has been since the 2006 playoffs. Eight months of frustration mixed in with the excitement of the win in Vancouver led to an extremely loud minute long ovation. It was great, but short-lived.
Less than two minutes later the Oilers got mesmerized by Joe Thornton’s stick-handling ability and decided to leave Patrick Marleau wide open in the slot. Marleau had time to check his teeth in the glass, before ripping one past Dubnyk. 55 seconds later he scored his second of the game, another PP marker and the game was over.
The Sharks added two more goals before the period ended, and the fans voiced their displeasure by booing the Oilers.
It was deserved. They looked completely lost in their own end.
I gave the Sharks 12 scoring chances in the first period. Twelve. The Oilers stats crew calculated they gave up 14 in 65 minutes v. Vancouver, but they allowed 12 in 20 minutes last night. Dubnyk wasn’t good, but he wasn’t any worse than the Oilers D-zone coverage. The Oilers only gave up three scoring chances the rest of the game, but by then it didn’t matter. The Sharks were stuffed from feasting on the Oilers defenseless carcass in the first period.
It is one thing to leave a guy wide open on the side boards, but leaving guys wide open in front of the net is inexcusable.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Remember when the Oilers crushed the Chicago Blackhawks by scores of 9-2 and 8-4 last year. You loved it, especially when Sam Gagner tied the Oiler record for most points in a game.
You know what those two blowout wins meant for the Oilers?
Absolutely nothing, other than two points and a great night of fun for the fans. The Oilers didn’t make the playoffs, nor did it represent how good they were.
After getting spanked 9-2 the Hawks went 9-2-1 in their next twelve. The blowout loss didn’t cripple them, and the Oilers can’t afford to let it derail them.
It is only one game, and while some will want to suggest it illustrates every weakness in the organization, it doesn’t,
Before the game we knew the Oilers weren’t perfect defensively and they lacked size throughout the lineup. Last night’s loss, nor the season-opening win in Vancouver changes that.
The good news is that I guarantee season-ticket holders will not have to suffer through the horror of witnessing six goals against in a period again this season. The Oilers will have bad periods, bad games and horrendous shifts again this season, but they will also have periods, games and shifts that lift you out of your seat.
Yesterday sucked, and the timing couldn’t have been worse, but the second game of a 48-game season won’t make or break the Oilers.
How they respond v. the Kings on Thursday will be important. They can’t pout, and they better grab a clue about how to play defence. If they do that, they’ll be competitive.
- The 1976/1977 Montreal Canadiens were the greatest regular season team in the history of the NHL. They went 60-8-12 and won the Stanley Cup. They lost only 8 regular season games all year, but on Wednesday January 12th, 1977 they lost 7-2 to the St.Louis Blues and five days later they lost 7-3 in Boston. Even the great teams get blown out.
- ~Jordan Eberle had another five shots on goal yesterday, but his SH% is now only 10%. Yikes. Of course he does have three points, but that lower SH% is going to be the death of him.~
- The Oilers and Ralph Kreuger are in a tough spot. Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth are his best top-nine forwards when it comes to playing against the opposition’s top line, but if Krueger doesn’t expose his kids to those situations what happens next year. The Oilers can’t have Horcoff play the tough minutes and then contemplate, just an IF at this point, buying him out, with no one on the roster capable of eating those minutes. I suspect you will see Krueger match lines a bit, but the organization needs to let the kids learn the hard way how to defend the top lines. It will be a balancing act all season.
- It had no bearing on the yesterday’s outcome, but Krueger needs to dress some players who can be physical. I suspect we’ll see Mark Fistric and one of Ben Eager or Darcy Hordichuk in the lineup v. the Kings. You need someone who is capable of consistently throwing body checks to keep the opposition honest.