by Lisa McRitchie on 11/14/11 at 01:30 AM ET
This loss makes three in a row, and so, the “fail for nail” sentiment is becoming more and more prevalent in my twitter feed amongst Oiler fans. All I can say to that is of course let’s just breathe and take this one game at a time shall we? After all, the Oilers are still above .500 and that in itself is a welcomed change.
The officiating in this game is of course going to come up. Ryan Smyth had two goals on this game, but the whole intent to blow the whistle clause made for an Oiler fan’s worst case scenario. Although that was only one goal, the Oilers would have only been down by one and maybe things would have turned out differently; maybe that empty net goal never happens. I can recognize how easy it would be to lose sight of the puck, but that this did not go upstairs or to Toronto was a huge disappointment. I’ve said it before, and maybe it holds true more than ever, perhaps it’s a good thing that I have no authority over anything.
The Theo Peckham holding penalty in the third, in my opinion shouldn’t have been called either. It is unlikely that the Oilers would have scored during those two minutes of the game, but the extra effort of the penalty kill surely didn’t help to get the team rolling.
This loss shouldn’t be blamed on fatigue; the team last played Thursday night and had Saturday in Chicago to recover from the travelling. Perhaps it was a little too much deep dish pizza that slowed the team down, but chances of that being the case are not very good.
Special teams for the night broke even after the team allowed a power play goal, but also took one for themselves. Still, the Oilers should have ambitions to take more goals than they give up. I know that is not exactly a startling revelation.
Nikolai Khabibulin faced only 23 shots tonight, and has fallen from elite status, hopefully for only one game. Of course it was not only Khabibulin that looked as though they weren’t in the zone, turnovers were especially costly tonight and something the Oilers seemed to make with ease.
Anton Lander took his turn in the pressbox so that Ben Eager could draw back in. This was Lander’s first time sitting out, and the rookie centreman could be back in next game while another forward takes a seat.
Following the game, I’m sure that Coach Tom Renney had some choice words for his team. On the road trip’s results, Renney exclaimed “Awful. [awkward pause] Next question.” Renney said of his team’s performance against Chicago that he felt the loss was due to “Battle level, no sustained battle level. No forecheck, we weren’t heavy on our own sticks. Scored three goals, should have been in a hockey game because of it, didn’t do it.”
The frustration level in Renney’s voice was high, and very apparent as he continued to field questions on his team. “I don’t think they realize yet what it takes to win on a nightly basis.” He knows his team can win “And it starts in your own head. The minute that you man up and buy in and understand how much it hurts to be a winner, we have a shot. Right now, not good enough.”
Renney starts to give clues as to what he thinks is the heart of the issue and what it will take to get his team back on track “It’s a deep, deep, deep commitment.” Renney wants to see his team get back on the winning track; “Winning hurts, but boy does it ever feel good.” Going back to his team’s commitment level, Renney says “There’s no excuses, we needed to man up tonight and we didn’t.” Strong words from the coach, and words that seem to indicate maybe the team is feeling a little banged up and tired, but as Renney states, winning hurts. Bumps, bruises, scrapes and scratches will all be a big part of the season.
Words from the captain Shaw Horcoff were much like Renney’s; “I think it’s probably a little bit of a wakeup call for everyone here.” Horcoff continued “We knew that it was going to be like this this year; ups and downs and it’s up to us now to get our way.”
Positives on the night were of course the goals, grit and compete level of Ryan Smyth, the man I also attribute the Edmonton Eskimos winning season to, and of course another point for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. At this rate, RNH isn’t likely to earn the rookie of the month for November, but there is no need to be greedy, and it’s only fair that another rookie win it at least once. Also, it was excellent to see Jordan Eberle score a goal. Eberle has had several opportunities and too many bad bounces. The slow start Eberle has seen is certainly not what he has been hoping for, but is something that can change.
I didn’t believe it until I saw it, but the Oilers didn’t do badly in the faceoff circle overall, with the exception of Horcoff who went 4 for 12, or 33%. Eric Belanger was 8/15, 53%, Sam Gagner was 3/6 and Nugent-Hopkins was 9/13 an outstanding 69%, much better than his early 20% nights. Those that used faceoff wins as an argument to send Nugent-Hopkins back to junior may be slightly surprised at how quickly the young centreman seems to be improving.
The Oilers have plenty of time to recover and practice the new lines that I’m sure Renney will want to try before they host the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. There is no need to panic Oiler fans, wins are delightful, but this is certainly not a Stanley Cup winning team just yet.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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