How not to kill a penalty

There were a lot of really nice goals in last night’s game. On the positive side, Nail Yakupov’s first NHL goal was a perfect finish to some very bright passing; Justin Schultz also scored with a wicked shot. On the negative side, the Oilers’ defence and penalty kill were cut to ribbons in all sorts of interesting ways.

For my money, no single goal was more illustrative of the night it was than the Patrick Marleau goal that made the hockey game a 4-1 affair.

The Oilers start the kill reasonably well. The Sharks have gained centre, but the Oilers have Petry (2), Belanger (20), and Petrell (37) forming a solid line and Ladislav Smid (5) is well-positioned to backstop them.

This is where the mistakes start. Joe Thornton (19 for San Jose) has the puck and Petrell has oddly decided that it’s more important for him to help his two teammates defend the middle than it is to prevent Dan Boyle (22 for San Jose) from gaining the Oilers zone. Notice also Joe Pavelski (8 for San Jose) lurking on that same side – Petrell’s puck-watching basically cedes the zone and that entire side of the ice to San Jose.

Just to make extra sure they gain the zone unopposed, Boyle moves in tight to Petrell. Thornton passes to Pavelski, who will gain the line with speed. San Jose has gained the zone without any trouble thanks to a total absence of Oilers on that side.

Pavelski has the puck at the bottom of the screen, the Sharks have four guys in the zone, and Petrell’s scrambling to get back over to that side. Also worth noting is the fact that there’s a gap between Jeff Petry and Eric Belanger, and that those two players are moving sideways, while Patrick Marleau (12 for San Jose) is making for that gap at high speed.

The strange thing here is that the ratio of defenders to attackers in this shot is 4:2 in favour of the Oilers, but neither Sharks attacker is in any danger. Petrell and Smid are containing Pavelski – limiting his pass options – but he has time and space. Petry seems to have realized that he should be getting back to the net but Marleau has a step on him and worse is on the inside; with Marleau’s speed that’s an impossible combination to beat.

Pavelski finds a way to beat Smid with the pass, and Marleau is all alone in front; the Oilers deserve a goal against at this point.

But they’re spared! Marleau tips the puck just wide of the net and into the far corner. Petry’s now the closest guy to the puck, and all four Oilers are close to where they want to be to defend now that the puck is in the zone.

But the puck zips around and Joe Thornton pinches in to stop it. Still, the Oilers have more or less recovered; Smid’s in front of the net, Petry’s pressuring Thornton and Belanger and Petrell are in decent spots to handle any Sharks attackers coming in from the blue line.

Thornton rips the puck past Petry and back to Marleau; Ladislav Smid moves to engage immediately.

Smid isn’t gentle, but Marleau had the better position and ultimately skates away with the puck. He skates to the corner with it.

Marleau passes to Boyle at the point. There are two Sharks in front of the net, being watched by Petry and Smid, so Boyle has two passing options – he can send it to the other point or back to Marleau coming out of the corner.

Boyle passes to Marleau.

Marleau cycles back toward the point and suddenly has a bunch of options. Logan Couture (39 for San Jose) has left the net and now sits squarely in the middle of the Oilers’ box with nobody close to him – Jeff Petry had been covering him near the net, but has decided to stay near the crease. Smid, meanwhile, has left Joe Thornton alone in the corner to put pressure on the puck carrier – but Smid’s stick can only cover one of the two lanes. Dan Boyle in the high slot has two guys on him – Petrell blocking the pass and Belanger blocking his route to the net.

Unsurprisingly, Marleau chooses Couture in the centre of the box. Couture has space but Jeff Petry is in good position to prevent him from getting to the net.

With the route to the net blocked, Couture passes the puck off to Thornton. Thornton now has three plausible passing options – Couture is closest, Boyle is in a good spot on the far side but has multiple Oilers in that passing lane, while Marleau is in the high slot with Lennart Petrell nearby.

Thornton hesitates for just a moment, and then passes in front of Marleau in the low slot. Now everything rests on Petrell; Petry has come low to challenge Thornton, Smid has cut to the net to block off Couture, and Belanger has stuck to Boyle.

Marleau, who knows what’s coming, moves toward the pass at full speed; Petrell takes a moment to react and that moment makes him irrelevant. Belanger is still blocking out Boyle, which is all he can do at this point – if Dubnyk makes the initial save, keeping Boyle at bay is going to be a big concern. Smid abandons Couture at the side of the net to try and get in Marleau’s shooting lane, while Petry is unable to do much of anything because he’s still close to Thornton.

Marleau scores.

It’s a long sequence, with a plethora of mistakes. Eric Belanger doesn’t seem to make any major ones, but he’s also called on to do less as the puck spends very little time in his area of coverage. Ladislav Smid fails to block a pass to Marleau in the slot, and then loses a puck battle to Marleau behind the net – small and understandable mistakes. On the initial Marleau chance, Jeff Petry is too slow to get back to the net – he needs to make a beeline back to his defensive position after the Sharks gain the zone, but he doesn’t and Marleau gets a great opportunity.

The real goat on this particular penalty kill is Lennart Petrell. Petrell’s weird decision to cut to the middle rather than hold his side of the line gave the Sharks an easy zone entry. Once in the defensive zone, Petrell just doesn’t defend; the most glaring example being on the eventual goal where he seemingly has no idea that Patrick Marleau is right behind him and picking up speed, but he also spends most of the time prior to that moment chasing the play – the puck keeps rotating through his zone of the ice and he keeps going to where it just was.

The point here isn’t really to pick on Petrell, who (rightfully) earned plaudits for his work on the PK last year. I chose this goal because it did a good job of demonstrating the kind of things the Oilers were doing on the penalty kill last night. The Sharks have a collection of great talent that executed well, but too many of the goals against were a direct result of unforced errors by the Oilers.

Twice on the night the Oilers faced 2-on-2 situations at their own blue line and played them terribly – on both occasions, the Oilers ended up with two guys on one Shark, with the other Shark free to do whatever he wanted. Even the Marc-Edouard Vlasic goal was less a result of Ryan Whitney’s poor speed than it was his decision to pivot and see what was happening rather than skating hard after the puck; he was beat on the ensuing foot race because he then had to turn back around and by that time Tommy Wingels was past him.

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  • Truth

    Also on display last night:

    – How not to sing a national anthem. I don’t care that Paul Lorieau retired, Mario even made a comeback to help the struggling franchise. How about it Paul? Hopefully she’s not the new regular.

    – How not play goal. I don’t care that the defense was horrible, it would have been nice to see one shot either saved or the rebound controlled. Just a horrible effort. If Dubnyk plays like that the Oilers will be requiring a new starter real quick. Just please not anyone that rhymes with Bluongo

  • K-UGER Industrial Smoothing

    I think that that the first period was a good eye opener and a reminder to the fellas that they can’t just waltz in to a game thinking that anything is going to be handed to them.

    On this particular power play goal, Lennart Petrell simply needs to be better. Stay in his lane from the get go, and the rotation for the rest of the PK isn’t compromised. After over-committing initially, he had an opportunity to get back on the puck when Pavelski was coming down the wall — but being out of position he was more worried about blocking the passing lane than trying to retain puck possession.

    It wasn’t as if there weren’t other oilers failing to skate though (IE Whitney and Hartikainen), but Petrell needs to get his ass in gear and move his feet. If he doesn’t, there isn’t much of a point to having him in the lineup. Granted, it’s one bad game in which almost every Oiler had a poor performance, but this power play left me yelling at my tv for about a minute.

  • Pharmboy

    Not to sound too much like a star-crossed, dreamy fan – but if you look past the first period shellacking (awful PK)… the team was plucky. They pushed back and never looked like a team that had resigned itself to losing. They were a goalpost and a couple of saves away from tying it up.
    This team has the skill – finally! They just need to quit reading their press clippings, and get to work.

    • GVBlackhawk

      I’ll play devil’s advocate:

      The Sharks stopped trying after it was 6-1. They did the Oilers a favour if you ask me. They could have kept their foot on the gas and really embarrassed the Oilers for 60 minutes if they wanted to.

      They were never close to tying it up — that is true homerism.

      Overall, it was a truly pathetic performance. By my eye the worst offenders last night were:

      All the defensemen. They all made crucial errors at one point or another. Whitney and Potter are not NHL quality defensemen at this point. If management would please wake up and get rid of these two, the team would be better off.

      Dubnyk. Let in a real stinker on the 2nd goal. Did not get any help, but certainly did not prop the guys up when he had to. Not good enough.

      Gagner. Completely unaware of what is going on in the defensive zone. Got caught puck watching instead of covering the trailing opponent.

      Hemsky. Looked lost out there. Put his linemates offside on a few occasions when they had dangerous rushes.

      Petrell. If he is there to penalty kill, and he cannot do the job because he is puck-watching, then he has to go. Not good enough for NHL.

      Smyth-Horcoff-Hartikainen. Appeared that they were skating with sandbags attached to their legs. Second game into the season? This was very alarming to me. The two veterans were supposed to be the top penalty killing option and they were both awful.

      Krueger. Why would you not take a timeout after that 3rd San Jose goal? Or the 4th goal? The Oilers did not appear to be ready or properly prepared to play last night. Coach’s responsibility.

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      You’re dead on. After the first period, I wanted to see if the team was gonna call it a night or keep fighting. What I saw was, the kids, especially Hall kept fighting. The Horcoff/Smyth line though all but disappeared.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    This is an excellent analysis, Willis.

    This stuff can happen really quickly at game speed, so it’s nice to have someone to break it down. I really appreciate it.

  • Pharmboy

    It’s O.K. Spydyr, you were like 1 nanosecond too late. I hope this was a big wake-up call and a good lesson learned by the team to be ready to play every night in the NHL or get eaten alive. They should be better from here, fortunately this game wasn’t at a critical time in April, and they may have lost to the Sharks anyway, if by 1 goal or 5 it really doesn’t matter.