Someone restart the router! Final Score: 4-2 Blues
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The Oilers played their first game in 11 days after the league suspended play as a result of COVID-19 and I was looking for the boys o be as fired up about playing as we all were about watching. At the same point, with so much time off between games, I was also hoping that their play wouldn’t be so sloppy that many of the mistakes wound up in the back of the net. Despite the fears that I spent the day trying to suppress, that rusty sloppiness was exactly what we got as the Oilers coughed up a bunch of costly chances with many of them ending up as goals against that were completely avoidable. That’s not to say it was all bad — the Oilers had plenty of quality looks of their own — but it was the number and calibre of errors that really made the difference. Whether it was defencemen getting walked at the blue line or forcing plays in the offensive zone or giveaways that led to quality scoring chances, the Oilers looked like a team that hadn’t played in a couple of weeks and the result was a loss that they very much deserved. At the end of the day, this was one of those nights where the Oilers gave the Blues way too many chances with a clean look on net and they took full advantage of those opportunities. In this league, making even the smallest mistakes can result in pucks winding up in your net and the Oilers made some big ones, so we’ll have to hope that they’re able to correct these issues ahead of the Friday morning’s game against the Devils.
Onward and upward, amirite?

Backhanders…

  • In the National Hockey League, making mistakes in your own zone will result in the puck going in your net. Full stop.
  • Mike Smith played in his first game since mid-October and I wasn’t really sure what we’d be getting from him after so much time off, and while I certainly wouldn’t say he was the reason the Oilers lost by any means, I would suggest that he wasn’t as sharp as he’d probably like to be. Even so, you could tell that Smith was fired up to play and I hope that he’s able to find his game as soon as humanly possible because Gord knows we’ll need him. Smith finished the night with 29 saves and a .879 save%.
  • I know the Oilers weren’t exactly spectacular but I do find it curious that they were given only one power play while the Blues were given four. Have we forgotten how to game manage or what?
  • Speaking of special teams, the Oilers lost at both ends of the rink as they allowed one goal on four shorthanded situations while also being unable to get anything done on the lone chance they did get.
  • The Oilers really need to get goals from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto, and while I don’t think that either guy had a horrible game, the team still needs them to score and neither of them are doing that right now.
  • The bottom-six simply isn’t good enough for the Oilers right now, and even though I know the big boys also needed to be better, this team will never get anywhere if they don’t have depth players that can chip in a little bit.
  • I wasn’t a big fan of Duncan Keith’s game as he made questionable choices on a couple of St. Louis’ goals. For a guy that’s played over 1200 games in this league, you’d think he’d have a better handle on his position relative to what’s coming his way on offence. Without question, he needs to be better. Then again, maybe 26:50 is just way too many minutes for him at this point in his career.
  • Dmitri Samorukov had himself a couple of ‘welcome to the show’ moments, huh? That said, even though he was totally victimized on the first two St. Louis goals, I still don’t know that playing him only 2:28 in TOI is a great way to help his confidence. For a kid that was playing in his first NHL game, this will go down as a rough memory for him on what was supposed to be a very exciting day. I get it, but I also don’t get it, if that makes sense.
  • You absolutely knew I was going to complain about the Oilers winning only 44% of the faceoffs.
  • Looking at the fancies, the Oilers finished the night with a 50 CF% and a 53.77 xGF% which tells me that that they probably deserved another goal or two on their totals, though I’m not sure how much it would have mattered.
  • The NHL site had the giveaways listed at six per side, but I feel like that was mighty generous when it came to the raffle our boys were running.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

This was not the cleanest game ever, but there really was not much to pick on from the negative side. There were mistakes, just like any game, but there was not a single moment or single player to pick out as having a poor performance.
Jordan Binnington did not have the best game of his career, but he made some important saves. It was an important rebound for him after allowing four goals in Winnipeg.
Binnington and the defense stood tall against some of the best scorers in the league. Leon Draisaitl managed to get one in, but St. Louis stepped up and kept the other big boys off the mark. Sure, McDavid came close hitting a couple posts, but the bottom line is they didn’t hit the back of the net.
Niko Mikkola had a very good game. He was on the ice for one of the goals, but overall he was a steady, stay at home defender, which is what the Blues need from him.
Offensively, it was a shame St. Louis only got four. Ryan O’Reilly was good, Saad was wonderful, the Tarasenko line was fantastic. Logan Brown was on the brink of scoring a couple times, Klim Kostin continued to show flashes and Nathan Walker did his best to play like Sammy Blais.
This game did not have a feel like a warm up game at all, but it was a great way to hit the ice prior to the Winter Classic which will be played on January 1. St. Louis could have easily overlooked this game and got blown out by a team that scores in waves.
Instead, the Blues came in with a game plan and put it into effect from the start. Now, they can focus on the pomp, circumstance and joy of playing in this upcoming event. They may need to focus on staying warm too, but that’s another matter.

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