The Edmonton Oilers have returned to Rexall Place for 6 home games after a short three game road trip. Something was different about the ice at Rexall upon their return however. You see, Rexall Place had been home to Monster Jam over the past weekend. What is that? Monster trucks in all their glory. When making the ice for the Oilers to play on, the lettering was spaced and sized in a very odd way. No doubt the superstitious Oilers were unimpressed but how long would it take to fix the logo and would an aesthetic issue like that be worth fixing?
The Chicago Blackhawks curretnly have the best power play in the NHL. The Oilers, the worst penalty kill. This should spell disaster for Oilers fans looking for a win or a competitive game, but might just be the catalyst needed to really get the lottery hockey team going for the night.
The first high entertainment scoring opportunities of the game came from the Oilers' Linus Omark. The crowd suddenly made some noise, then went back to stunned silence. Are we as Oilers fans just too tired of trying to keep up appearances lately? When you can distinctly hear what players are saying on the ice and bench, when you can clearly hear the whistles being blown, you know that things aren't where you want them to be for your team.
The first goal of the game came from a beautiful play by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp. Toews was in front of the net, passed back to Sharp on the high slot and a quick shot was all it took to beat Dubnyk. See what playing that man in front of the net can do? It opens up more opportunities and presents the opportunity to make a shot or a pass instead of hoping the puck goes where you want it to, or chasing it down. More Oilers need to work on their game in front of the net.
The first penatly of the game went to the Edmonton Oilers, too many men on the ice. Wouldn't you know it, the Oilers took the second penalty too. Kurtis Foster got the call for holding. Somehow the Oilers successfully killed both penalties and kept the score through one 1 -0 Blackhawks.
Continuing to tempt the hockey gods, the Jim Vandermeer took a hooking penalty as the second period began. How many could the Oilers kill before allowing the Hawks a power play goal, you wouldn't think many. The funny thing is that as soon as five on five hockey resumed, Bryan Bickell with a lucky bounce found himself on a breakaway and an opening on Devan Dubnyk making it 2-0 Hawks. Again with the penalties though! Sam Gagner took a hooking penalty, but somehow the Oilers pulled through. This is going against everything Oilers' fans have come to expect.
The third period began, and the Oilers soon took another penalty. This time, a high stick and Ladislav Smid put the Oilers down a man. Another successful kill. Jim Vandermeer's second penalty of the game, a tripping call. This was the final straw it seems as Patrick Kane with a quick snap shot gave the Hawks 3 for the night. As the Edmonton Sun's Rob Tychkowski tweeted "giving chicago six straight power plays is like giving Lindsay Lohan six straight drinks - you just know something bad is going to happen."
Finally, things started to get a bit more interesting. Both Andrew Cogliano and Theo Peckham were assessed ten minute misconducts in what was a highly questionable referee decision. Nothing the fans at home, or the other players on the ice could do about it.
Strange that two Oilers misconducts were followed by their first power play on the night, Toews for holding halfway through the period on Omark. Before the penalty expired, Ryan Johnson took a kneeing penalty giving the Oilers a short 5 on 3. Alas, the Oilers were not able to take advantage of the situation.
Just as everyone was uttering shut-out, just trying to will the Oilers to score, I was sure that it would be Magnus Paajarvi. I was surprised, but not any less delighted that it was Jordan Eberle to put the Oilers on the board. As we all knew, this game was over. 3-1 Blackhawks and just over three minutes left. With Dubnyk pulled for the extra attacker, Patrick scored with less than a minute to go. An empty netter, against the Oilers? That doesn't count in my books. That's all she wrote folks, another game closer to securing 30th place in the NHL for the second year in a row.
The Chicago Blackhawks look nothing like their former Stanley Cup winning self but are like the Oilers in that they can be hot or not on any given night. After losing Monday night to the Calgary Flames, 3 1, the Blackhawks had a good old fashioned bag skate. It may or may not have paid off, these are the 2010-11 Edmonton Oilers, it's hard to tell if they put up some strong competition or not.
The Oilers' played an extremely undisciplined game. That's what all of this boiled down to. You cannot take six penalties against the Chicago Blackhawks and expect to have as many scoring chances as you might otherwise have had. The Oilers were outshot 2 to 10 in the first period, somehow even at 12 for the second and due to the sudden surge at the end of the game managed to outshoot their opponents 8 to 4 in the final frame. The Oilers were only outshot by 2 (26-24) but with so much time on the penalty kill, the Oilers had a harder time generating plays creating scoring opportunities. No matter how you look at it, the Oilers were fortunate to come out from 6 PK chances with only one goal against.
Another game without a power play goal. Another reason why the Oilers are struggling to find wins.
Coach Tom Renney was away with his family for this game, and assistant coach Ralph Krueger took the reigns. In an attempt to generate more offence or add some spark to this Oilers' team, Kreuger did some line shuffling. Paajarvi and Omark were centred by Colin Fraser, and the line just wasn't as effective at such times. Sam Gagner did not have the same spark when added to the Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle pairing that Sean Horcoff gives the team. The absence of coach Renney should not be the cause for the lack of offence, and the shuffled lines would only be a partial explanation.
The Oilers' faceoff wins for the night was a definite positive. Overall, the team went 53% on the night. This, this my friends is miraculous. The only Oiler under 50% was Liam Reddox who went 1 for 4. More than 50% on the faceoffs, and 5 successful penalty kills makes for some big positives given the team's recent struggles.
Through it all, there were a few Oilers that had a not bad game. Linus Omark was playing his offensive game, and giving hope to fans for a goal or two. Jordan Eberle of course wins over all fans for scoring the only Oilers goal of the game. Theo Peckham had another physical offensive game, maybe hoping to be mentioned on Hockey Day in Canada this weekend. Of course other members of the team had various levels of good or bad play, but what it still boils down to is the Oilers took too many penalties and didn't score enough goals.
The Copper & Blue Three Stars:
★★★ - Devan Dubnyk
★★ - Linus Omark
★ - Jordan Eberle