I grew up listening to John Short from 9 p.m. to midnight. He was a wealth of knowledge, so I always learned something, but he also had the pleasure of hosting the post-game shows when the fan’s emotions were very intense. I then had the luxury of hosting the post game show for five years from May 2003 to August of 2008.
It was glorious. I loved the passion that fans had right after the game. Usually fans were the most vocal after losses, except for the Cup run of 2006. That was the only time I can remember fans calling in after a loss or win and still being upbeat. I was supposed to be off air at midnight but during that Cup run and then again during some bad losses I’d stay on the air until 2 a.m. chatting with Oilers fans.
I don’t miss the hours, but I miss the raw emotion after a game. Some nights I felt more like
Dr. Phil Dr. Jay than a sports host, talking to fans who were almost too distraught to carry on supporting their favourite team. It was great.
Last night, and even this morning, the frustration amongst some Oilers fans seems to have reached a new level.
The Oilers played really well for 38 minutes, were okay for 12, but they were bad for 10, and it cost them the game. I can understand why fans are frustrated. Losing to the Flames, who were playing on consecutive nights, and allowing three goals in the final 15 minutes is inexcusable.
Did the Oilers play awful? No.
Did they play well for most of the game? Yes.
Did they win? No.
And that is what matters most.
Here is how I saw last night’s game.
- Jeff Petry, Andrew Ference and Nikita Nikitin were injured in preseason/training camp and they showed rust early in the game. You can expect that. It is hard to get up to speed when you aren’t playing. Nikitin’s decision to go behind the net on the 2nd goal was a major WTH, however, and to me that isn’t due to rust. He needs to make better decisions.
- Justin Schultz was playing well up until he allowed Mason Raymond to go to the next untouched and get a tap-in goal and give the Flames a 3-2 lead. You have to make life harder for Raymond in that moment. Those are what I call soft plays, and the Oilers have been guilty of too many over the years.
- Even strength scoring was an issue again. The fourth line was the best line in the first period and created some really good chances. Boyd Gordon should have scored after Joensuu made a nice shortside pass in the low slot to Gordon. The Oilers had very good puck possession, but Ramo didn’t have to make many top-notch stops.
- The Oilers PP was great. They moved the puck with precision and were two for three. They looked poised and assertive on the 5-on-3 which was a welcome change.
- I’m a sucker for underdogs, but I don’t see Brad Hunt staying very long. He makes smart decisions with the puck and has a good stick in the D zone, but he doesn’t skate well enough. On three separate occasions the Flames dumped the puck in and Hunt was in good position, but the Flames forechecker was able to use his speed and close the gap.
- The forward lines were very rusty early, and I attribute that to never playing one game together in the preseason. I will disagree with Eakins, who thinks it isn’t necessary. The Draisaitl and Arcobello lines have never played an NHL game together before, and while they had good pressure, it was very noticeable at times that they didn’t know where their linemates were going at times. It might be a combination of the Flames having played an NHL game already and the Oilers hadn’t, but I still believe you should use the final few preseason games to get your regular lineup ready for the season.
- Arcobello was fantastic in the dot. He won 12 of 15 faceoffs. As a team the Oilers were 59%. Keep that up it will make possessing the puck easier.
- Fayne and Nikitin struggled. I don’t expect Fayne to play that bad again, but they also had only a two preseason games together and seemed to be out of sync all game. I expect Fayne will play much better.
- I’d like more bodies in front of the net or even going to the net at EV strength. The Oilers didn’t force Ramo to make very many 2nd and 3rd saves. The Flames blocked them out. You need to be willing to go to the tough areas to score, and EV scoring will continue to be an issue until the players decide, collectively, that they will all go to the front of the goal.
- The season wasn’t going to be won or lost last night. I understand why fans are frustrated, eight years of losing will do that, but one game, where they dominated for long stretches, shouldn’t cause people to write them off.
- Enough with the lame jersey toss on the ice. It is childish, immature and far from original. The only thing more idiotic than tossing a jersey on the ice in game one, is tossing a hoodie on the ice with your phone still in it. That less-than-intelligent person who tossed their should be ashamed. Remember that a few idiots can ruin things for everyone, and Oilers fans don’t want that reputation. Be better. Someone should point out these fools to security. Enough already.
- The reality for the Oilers is that while they played well for most of the game, their mistakes were 5-star errors and that is an issue. Teams will play good games and lose, and you will also play bad games and win, but the Oilers are a team that can’t give away two points like they did last night.
- The game was tied after 40 minutes. The Oilers had overcome a brutal start and had all the momentum heading into the third, but they didn’t put the Flames away. The Flames had 15 shots in the third period and scored three times. The Oilers had 15 shots and didn’t score. That was the difference, and while the Oilers can say they played well, they didn’t play great in third period. They dominated play to tie up the game after a horrendous start, but when the game was on the line the Calgary Flames produced.
- The Oilers didn’t outwork or outskill the Flames in the third period. That needs to change moving forward. They need to learn to put teams away.
- I wrote yesterday that the Oilers needed to win this game. I never picked them to make the playoffs, and even had they won I didn’t think it would propel to the playoffs. For me, it would have shown that they knew how to win games they should have won. That didn’t happen. Once again, I saw a team that can play well for stretches, but still hasn’t learned to focus on the small details that will impact the outcome of the game. You hope that one day they will avoid disappointment like last night, and learn from their previous lessons.
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