THE SKY DIDN’T FALL…

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.

QUICK HITS

  • 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.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

  • Ducey

    I realize Dooby was left hung out to dry on a few but the man plays too far in his net and is too slow…and the body language?? terrible. Can the Oil just not admit they made a mistake in this guy (especially at 14th overall…thanks once again Prendergast) and move on?

    • Great article Jason. You read my mind.

      Some “Oiler” fans are making it sound like the season is already over and we should expect last place again. Seriously? You’re better than that! If you want to be a bandwagon jumper, go cheer for the Canucks.

      • Puritania

        You meant to put the parentheses on ‘fans’ not ‘Oilers’. While yes it is absolutely too early to write the season off, I don’t see how thinking a team is terrible makes you any less of a fan or a bandwagon fan. If they stopped watching or caring about the team you’d be on the money. Fans are allowed to be wary of their team without being labelled with unsavory labels.

        • DSF

          No.

          You need to be an unbridled fan boy.

          Critical thinking is not allowed.

          If you try and measure the Oilers against their opponents, you must be a Canucks fan.

          • Dirk Dangler

            Good for you DSF. You take a lot of heat on here. Sometimes you deserve it, and I think you know that. Most people believe your intents are malicious and therefore think you’re spoon feeding them Oilers hate propaganda. You know this, yet continue to do so for whatever reason. Maybe you think people will grasp some greater overall concept. Maybe you think this will induce change. You seem smarter than that though.

            Regardless, for the most part I find your opinion to be consistent and genuinely un-biased, from an overall hockey perspective. I think you do a good job of keeping your thoughts, complaints, insults and sarcasms directed at the hockey related issues. Unlike some of your verbal combatants. Looking at you Clyde Frog. Did you know that DSF has mentioned his mother has passed on a couple of different occasions? Even if you don’t believe that, it looks poorly on you to continually mention it on the off chance that you’re wrong.

          • Clyde Frog

            Understanding that its just meant to make me smile when reading through 80+ of DSF madly telling everyone they are wrong, via trolling; you act like I am building a factually based picture of what is a DSF…

            Oh well ce la vi.

            What is strange though looking over the past weeks posts, versus the previous 60 days; a lot more time is spent actually talking about the Oilers versus the endless circular argument with the DSF.

            What’s funny is that wasn’t even my intent, I just wanted to laugh while I read everyone’s post about what was actually contained in the blog.

            On a side note and a warning, you realize he doesn’t even read the replies; he may quote them, but that is simply to reference his thought.

            The biggest trick a troll has ever pulled off on the internet, is making you believe he actually reads what you type.

          • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

            LOL, I had to props this.

            You get a lot of monkey crap thrown your way around here, (and for the most part deservedly so) but sometimes you make a lot of sense.

    • Phixieus666

      So let me get this right. Last night was more likely a random event of sh*ttyness as they were all just so excited to be play hockey on home ice and has nothing to do with them actually being a crappy team this year? Meaning the last three years have just been figments of our imagination you being that they finished 30, 30, 29. It not even in the realm of possibility that a team can continue their current trend????

      I just messing with you man, I honestly hope they do good but recent history tends to strongly disagree. Just sayin.

  • Ducey

    City council votes 10-3 to approve the arena deal! Mandel tells the 5 or 6 Oilers in attendance, “this is punishment for giving up 6 goals yesterday. Don’t do it again, or you will have to come back”.

    Just need $114 M from the province now.

  • OilersBrass

    I have no idea why Potter is still on this team. He isn’t used on the PK or PP, he’s had several turn overs in both games, doesn’t mark smart decisions with the puck, and he has the worst plus minus out of all the defence.

    Fistric couldn’t do any worse than Potter right now, and when playing a big strong team like San Jose they need someone like Fistric out there.

      • OilersBrass

        Is everyone not entitled to an opinion? Forums are made for people to voice their opinions, if you don’t like the comment then don’t reply being ignorant.

        • Ducey

          You are entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to keep it to yourself. But if you want to share it, expect to defend it.

          The difference between Fistric and Potter is so marginal that its hardly even mentioning. Before Potter it was MAB or Toby Peterson or Liam Reddox. People seem to have some compulsion to pick on the lowest rung on the ladder and point out if the Oilers would get rid of this guy, and replace him with some random guy they know little about, things would be different.

          I guess I have some trouble with that.

          Did you notice that last year Potter had the 2nd best Rel Corsi among Oilers Dmen? Maybe he deserves a few games.

          • justDOit

            It’s possible the Potter is picked on, not because he is the lowest rung on the ladder but, because he perfectly represents what has ailed this team for a long time.

            He is a bad player that has been brought in to play at a position of weakness on the team.

            This approach could be defended by those who choose to when the Oilers were intentionally building the worst team in the league.

            Now that the Oilers are supposed to be turning the corner, these types of decisions should be tougher to accept.

            If Fistric shows as poorly as Potter then he will be a target as well.

            The difference between the two is that most people saw that Potter wasn’t an answer to any question was asking as far back as last January. Where as right now no one really knows what Fistric does or doesn’t do for this team.

          • justDOit

            Until the team plays as a team, it’s impossible to say that player x is bad, while player y is a def upgrade. It’s like trying to decide which stock to sell on Nov 1, 1929.

  • Phixieus666

    Last night is the exact reason I don’t pay my own money to go to a hockey game that I can watch on TV. Free tickets okay but pay $200 a ticket to watch something that makes me want to kill people, no that’s okay. If I want to lose my money and be pissed off at the same time I’ll tell my GF to go shopping.

  • justDOit

    I liked Krueger’s comment: “Sometimes losing like that is better than losing by one goal. If pain can make this team better, there was enough of it last night.” (or something like that). I think that game should be a good wake-up call.

    Wake up: Sports Illustrated knows more about swim-suit models than hockey.

    Wake up: The only league that can prepare you for playing in the NHL – is the NHL.

    Wake up: Rookies are NOT going to be saviours to this club.

    • Bonvie

      Actually the rookies took over the game in the second and third period when they were able to get back on the ice, as you know for the most part rookies don’t play the PK on the Oilers.

      All of the key mistakes came from the veterans on Defense. Smid chases behind the net on a 5-3, N. Shultz chases behind the net when he should have been covering either one of the two forwards standing in front of the net. Whitney chases toward the forward turning up the wall when he was already being checked by Yakupov. Petry and I think Whitney playing a two on two and Whitney backs in a bit much so Petry decides hes gonna take Whitney’s man leaving his man wide open in front of the net.

      Only one goal was all on Dubnyk and that was the first Couture goal. The rest of them were all quality scoring chances it would have been nice to save at least 2 of those other 5 though, as solid number 1 should do.

      The only glaring rookie forward mistake I seen resulting in one of the goals was on the PK with Paajarvi and I believe Hartikaanen they got sucked in down low leaving the D man able to walk in and fire at will, but that was well after the wheels fell off.

      • justDOit

        In rookies, I’m talking about Yak and Schultz, who are the only two on the team unless Harski still qualifies. My point is that relying on first-year players is a road to disappointment, no matter how much media hype is behind them.

        The entire team played better in the latter two periods – whether that was SJ laying off the beatin’ stick a bit, or just feeling the effects of the the 2nd game in three nights on the road.

  • Reality Check to the head

    First period aside, it was nice to see the kids get some goals very early in the season. Sometimes the pressure to get that first goal can continue to build until you get it. Halls little wrist-er was sweet as well. Very quick and perfectly placed.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    I agree that it is now all about how they respond tomorrow.

    However I disagree that yesterday’s game should be viewed in the same light as the Chicago game last year.

    Of course they aren’t going to give up 6 in a period again anytime soon but, unlike the Chicago game, we have been witnessing the Oilers come up short for 6 years. We’ve seen them do it in spectacular fashion for the last 3.

    I think that if we, or more importantly they, see the organization turning the corner then there should be no looking for the bright side, or dismissing it outright as a one off.

    That’s not to say everyone should be lining up on the high level either but team better damn well take yesterday’s lessons seriously because that is what winning teams do.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    …. My nerves were shot and it took until mid afternoon to peek at ON. I am only one man but there is no place for haters on ON when we are so fragile ….

  • RexLibris

    I thought the Eberle ~ was a typo at first. You sneaky devil.

    I’m okay with Krueger sitting Fistric for a few days until he gets up to speed with the Oilers system. It tells me that he wants to put him in the best position to succeed, not trot him out like a new show pony like the Oilers did with Smid many moons ago. The team isn’t going to win or lose a 6-3 game based on Mark Fistric, and when he does dress I’ll wait with bated breath for him to crush someone (please let it be Baertschi). But if the young man isn’t ready, so be it.

    Favourite part of last night’s game: watching Nail Yakupov so excited about his first goal he couldn’t even come up with a celebration routine. Say what you will, this young man is sincere in his emotions.