The Edmonton Oilers entered the HP Pavilion (known as the Shark Tank) for a Saturday Matinee game winless in 2010. Their last taste of victory was on December 30th against the almost as hapless Toronto Maple Leafs. 6 games, having been outscored 23-13 over that period and team had to face the top team in the league in order to break out of the winless streak. Not a positive outlook for this team. That with the fact it was an afternoon game which, throughout their history, the Oilers have not done a good job of showing up for.
The Oilers have shown over the first 46 games that their line-up and team make-up is filled with weaknesses. If only took the San Jose Sharks 3:51 to expose one of them. That dreaded weak goal. Patrick Marleau was given credit for the goal as his centering pass from the corner hit Oiler’s starting goaltender Devan Dubnyk’s stick and deflected through his legs and into the net. Definitely not the kind of gift that the league’s top line needs and not the way the Oilers need to start a game.
The Oilers did have a bit of life though and were able to tie the game briefly with 16 minutes gone in the period as some hard work down low by Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner lead to a great cross ice pass from Gagner that found the stick of a pinching Denis Grebeshkov who made no mistake beating Shark’s starter Thomas Greiss who was making his 7th start of the season.
That was as close as the Oilers would get though as another of their nemisis bit them less than 3 minutes later. Dustin Penner was nailed for a high sticking call out near center ice. It was one of those lazy, unnecessary penalties that ultimately seems to cost the Oilers and it took the Sharks only 54 seconds to find the twine as Devin Setoguchi gave them the lead for good. Outshot 16-6 in the period the Oilers were lucky to get out only down by 1but some good goaltending by the rookie Dubnyk kept the Sharks circling but not biting.
Saturday afternoon it was second place Manchester United taking on 15th place Burnley F.C. in this weeks English Premier League action. ManU came into the game needing a win in order to keep pace with front runners Chelsea while Burnley needed a result to help keep themselves above the relegation zone.
On paper this should have been a cake walk for United with 13 places and 24 points separating the 2 teams in the standings. Burnley had also not won a game at Old Trafford since 1962 so history was also behind United on this day.
The game was eventually won by the Red Devils by a score of 3-0 but the score flattered the home side. The Clarets had the 2 best chances to score before the goose eggs were finally broken. Both Steven Fletcher and David Nugent exposed the weak United back as each were sent in alone by ex-United player Chris Eagles but their finishes both missed the target. Disappointing for a club that had held their own.
Immediately following the Nugent miss, United came the length of the pitch and in the 64th minute it was Dimitar Berbatov who found the mark with a deflected shot off a defender. 5 minutes later it was Wayne Rooney who added some insurance. Mame Biram Diouf replaced Rooney in the 73rd minute and the new guy opened his United scoring account in extra time to close out the scoring for the game.
ManU have to feel lucky that this was their opponent today as another team of quality would most definitely have put the screws to the Red Devils on this day. If either of those glorious chances had been taken then it would have been a different game.
The Edmonton Oilers started their final 38 games tonight knowing for sure that goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin is officially done for the season as he has opted for back surgery to try and correct his herniated disc problem. The Oilers GM Steve Tambellini has also come out and said that the team will not be going out to look for a new goalie to get them through the rest of the season. With both Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk both needing to clear waivers next season if they get sent back to the minors this is the smart thing to do. One of these guys will be the Khabibulin’s back-up next year and the Oilers need to see which of these goalies is going to be their goalie of the future and which guy they can take a chance on losing by sending back down. As I said before, these 2 young goalies have to be started on a rotating basis no matter what. Let’s see what they are made of.
The first period tonight had to be one of the most boring periods of hockey I have seen in a while. There were only 7 total shots (4 by the Oilers) and no goal and very little in the way of action. Other than some good work by Robert Nilsson and Andrew Cogliano and a great hit late in the period by Dustin Penner it was booooorrrrring hockey.
The one thing I was impressed with in the first period was the defensive work (yes, defensive) by Robert Nilsson especially in taking the puck away from a much larger Michael Rupp in the defensive zone. The Oilers did some good work and ended the period getting a 5 on 3 powerplay as the Pittsburgh Penguins were guilty of taking 2 penalties at the same time with 12 seconds left. The Penguins played the period like they thought this game was going to be a gimmie.
So did anyone expect a different result tonight? I know I didn’t. I said in the last post that the mini-camp wouldn’t be successful because the end result was the same players and the same team leadership (or lack thereof). I was right. The Nashville Predators beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-3 which was flattering to the Oilers in the end.
It appears that many of the Blue and Copper faithful are feeling the same way. I usually follow Oilers tweets on Twitter during the games and it was pretty consensual tonight that most fans didn’t expect any difference. Many had similar reasons; others were just hoping the Oilers continue losing to get the best chance at the first pick this summer in the NHL entry draft.
If I remember correctly, there are 2 terms going around for this idea. The “Fall for Hall” was one and the other was the “Dive for a Top 5”. I think I like the “Fall for Hall” the best. If this is the way you are thinking right now then you will be happy to know that the Carolina Hurricanes won tonight leaving them only 2 points back of the Oilers for dead last in the league.
Do the Oilers have a chance now to make the playoffs this season? As I said before, only if and when the sun starts rising in the west.
I did expect, at least, the Oilers to come out for the first 1 or 2 games and play like they had learned something in the mini-camp before they fell back into their old habits. It actually only took 5 minutes for those old habits to creep back into their game and by the 5:27 mark, 2 giveaways and some weak goaltending and they were down 2-0. That was pretty much it.
Tonight begins the post mini-camp edition of the Edmonton Oilers. So does anyone really think this 4 days session is going to make a difference? Probably not, unless of course the sun rose in the western skies this morning.
After the 4 day mini-camp what are the Oilers left with? The same players who for the most part have lots of try but lack the heart and desire to do the things necessary to win. They are left with the same leadership group that for the most part have been non-existent and a waste of salary. Leadership that takes stupid, lazy penalties. Leadership that doesn’t show the heart and soul of a true Oiler’s leader.
This 4 day exercise may in fact make them a better team defensively. Although with only 3 teams giving up more goals there isn’t many places to go but up.
It may make their pathetic special teams tolerable. The powerplay sits 17th in the league with a success rate of 17.9%. Not bad but good teams are usually in the top half of the league. The penalty killing is a woeful 28th at 76.1% efficiency. It is also the only PK unit that has not scored a short handed goal.
A team that Pat Quinn wanted to see play with more crust is either 27th or 4th in the league with 38 major penalties so the guys are showing a bit of feistiness but I think most of those majors come when the team is losing (which is most of the time) and the guys are frustrated.
Unfortunately we may see the positive result of the first game tonight and maybe even the second game against Kid Sid on Thursday but it probably won’t take them long to slide back to the way things have been. Until the leadership of the team either steps up to lead by example or is replaced or the Oilers start receiving NHL calibre goaltending the last 38 games are going to be as hard to watch as the first 44.
As a fan I will continue to watch and cheer. I guess on the bright side, the mini-camp did give us one thing. The Oilers haven’t lost a game in 5 days and that is something that hasn’t happened since the first week of December.
Wow, did I have to put up with a brutal night last night. I am not sure which pain was worse. The pain that comes after the freezing wears off after having a wisdom tooth extracted and tooth next to it getting drilled and rebuilt or the pain of having to endure the Edmonton Oilers play their game against an equally inept Columbus Blue Jackets team.
Let’s face it. There are some serious issues with this version of the Edmonton Oilers. What team, (a) knowing their golfing weekend had been cancelled due to lack of effort, (b) having to deal with wives/girlfriends who were looking forward to going to warm California and are probably pissed at them, (c) wanting to prove that they were better than they had been playing and thus making the upcoming mini-camp a little easier on themselves, comes out against an equally bad team who hadn’t won on the road for 13 games and lays an egg like the Oilers did last night. I am sorry to say that the 4 day mini-camp that starts today is not going to make one bit of difference. They might (just might) win the first game or 2 afterwards but the last 37 games will be back to normal.
The team proved last night it doesn’t have the leadership to take this team forward. The leadership on this team clearly showed last night that they don’t have the heart, soul, want or desire to make this team better. Leaders, like Mark Messier, would take the team on his shoulders and show the rest of the team the want, desire and way they needed to play the game. He would also make that you followed his example or you paid the price. The Oilers get none of that from any of the guys who wear the “C” or the “A”. And, the guys not wearing those letters are either too small, too young and inexperienced or not talented enough to lead this team; at least at the present time.
Before the Canada vs. USA World Junior Hockey Championship gold medal game and the Edmonton Oilers vs Phoenix Coyotes NHL games were even started I was already thinking about how this article would look. It had the premise of Canada wins gold for a 6th straight year and the Oilers sucked as usual.
Then when the games started I had to start reconsidering what I was thinking. After the first period with the game tied at 2 it was still going to be Canada winning gold but I was very impressed by the USA team speed and determination and was going to have to add that in somewhere. Over in the other game the Oilers were doing what I expected at this time; losing 1-0.
1 minute into the second period the USA scored to go up 3-2. Just less than 3 minutes later Canada tied it up for the second time. It was at this point that the USA won the gold medal in my opinion. They pulled their starting goalie, Mike Lee, and replaced him with Jack Campbell. That change seemed to buoy the American team and until the last 3 minutes of the third period, Campbell stoned the Canadians at every chance they had. On the other side, Canadian starter Jake Allen was equally as shaky as Lee and finally was replaced after the 5th USA goal at 6:23 of the third period by Martin Jones. With under 14 minutes to go in a gold medal game was too late to be making that change. Canadian Coach Willie Desjardins threw a cold Jones to the wolves so to speak and I think Jones was at least partially at fault on the OT winner by the USA’s John Carlson. Goalies in any sport are coached with the understanding that nothing beats you short side. You have to at least have that covered. The winning goal went short side. I give a hat tip to USA coach Dean Blais for making the change he did when he did. Congratulations to team USA for a great tournament. We look forward to beating you next year when the tournament is on your home soil.
Team Canada played the first semi-final of the World Junior Hockey Championships this afternoon against a very surprising Swiss team. The Swiss found their way to the semi-finals by stunning Russia 3-2 in overtime during their quarter final game on Saturday. To say this was an upset is a huge understatement. I don’t think that when the tournament began there was anyone, other than the odd delusional Swiss fan, that would have predicted they would be playing in the semi-finals.
The game started pretty much as predicted with Canada getting an early goal on the power play off the stick of Edmonton Oilers prospect Jordan Eberle. After that, the rest of the first period was scoreless although the Canadians dominated much of the play but were unable to solve Swiss goalie Benjamin Conz. Conz was one of the main reasons the Swiss beat Russia yesterday as he had 50 saves on 52 shots. Both teams had powerplays throughout the remainder of the first.
Canada came out flat to start the second period and gave the Swiss a couple of early power plays chances to even the score but the Canadians ended up with a great short handed goal by Marco Scandella. This was followed less than 2 minutes later with a great play by Taylor Hall to make it 3-0. Canada continued to play lazy and soon after took their third penalty of the period. The Swiss finally capitalized to make it 3-1. The Canadians still didn’t learn and took their 4th penalty of the period but they were able to kill this penalty off and were able to close out the period with a 3-1 lead.
Manchester United will go a 6th year in a row without winning the FA Cup. In what has to be considered a major upset, Leeds United of the English Football League One stunned Manchester United 1-0 in the third round.
In a game that will have many second guessing the team that Sir Alex Ferguson fielded, it was the perfect game plan from Simon Grayson that was nearly flawlessly executed by a Leeds team who wanted the victory more. Old Trafford is a tough and often intimidating place for most visiting teams but this seemed to help Leeds more than the home team. It appeared through most of the game that the ManU players appeared to think they were going to have a cake walk with the League One team but learned a lesson the hard way. It is hard to believe that a team with such history is down in League One, however, their heart, determination and tanacity shows why they are leading League One and will most certainly be promoted to the English League Championship next season.
The reasons were different but the result was the same. The Oilers finished the 2009 portion of their season losing to Calgary 2-1 in a game that could have been much worse had it not been for Jeff Deslauriers’ great job goaltending. His 37 saves was the reason it was only 1 goal loss. The rest of the Oilers decided to start their New Year’s celebration early and never showed up to test the Flames back-up goaltender Curtis McElhinney. 22 shots is hardly the kind of work needed to test a second string goalie who plays so infrequently that he has slivers on his butt from riding the pine.
Saturday night the Oilers started the 2010 portion of their schedule with a 4-1 loss to the Sharks in San Jose. Same result, one big difference. Again, the Oilers offence didn’t create the kind of chances that win many games but today they didn’t have the goaltending to give them any chance to win. While he stood on his head to make the saves against Calgary, Deslauriers appeared to be sleeping through portions of the game and 3 of the 4 goals should have been saved. Yes, as usual there were defensive breakdowns but fluff shots should not go in no matter who is in goal. Critical saves need to be made at critical times in order to give your team and chance to win and this happens to infrequently.