Tonight, the Edmonton Oilers arrived in St. Louis to play a team that had lost just six games in their building all season long. They played a St. Louis team that has earned those results with consistently splendid play at even strength. They arrived with Josh Green, Darcy Hordichuk, Ryan O'Marra, Anton Lander, and Ben Eager all playing minutes up front. They arrived without the fruit of their failings: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins still gone after knocking himself out of the lineup while skating and Taylor Hall gone for a second straight game because of an injury sustained in warm-up. When I told my girlfriend that the Oilers were playing, she asked about their chances:
"Not good," I replied.
"What, like one in a hundred?" she asked ever so helpfully.
In truth, it was more like one in a million.
If you watched, you know that the 1-0 score only tells the true story on one side of the ledger. The Blues led 17-0 on the shot clock after about seven minutes and 38-15 by the time the game was through. The Blues had five power plays to the Oilers' two, but that differential came by way of merit: by Dennis King's count, the Oilers were outchanced 16-8 at evens, and the rest of the possession numbers tell a similar story. For fifty-minutes, the game was a blowout of epic proportions, but with the score still tied. Alex Pietrangelo finally took the Oilers behind the barn with five minutes to go. And when it happened, I felt a certain sense of peace. So what are the odds of Tambellini getting sacked, anyway?
Some observations on specific plays and players after the jump.
Notes from the first period:
- About four minutes in, Sam Gagner had an opportunity to take red line and hopefully put some pressure on the Blues. Instead, he didn't quite make it and got called for icing. It was that kind of night for the Oilers' top line, which was thoroughly dominated throughout.
- To wit, early in the game, it felt like the Blues got to every loose puck, especially in the Oilers' zone. On one play about seven minutes in, the Blues came in two-on-three against Theo Peckham, Colten Teubert, and Ales Hemsky with Sam Gagner the next man in from either side. Sounds winnable! Jamie Langenbrunner dumped the puck in as Peckham stepped up to take him out at the blue-line. Teubert turned to chase the puck to the corner with Scott Nichol, and Hemsky coasted through the slot and then toward Teubert's corner. Now, Teubert had just slammed the puck around the boards to Hemsky's usual spot where Sam Gagner wasn't covering for him effectively. So Matt D'Agostini got the puck uncontested and cut toward the high slot while Gagner made sure to take the point away. Teubert raced out to challenge, so D'Agostini took the shot. By that time both Langenbrunner and Nichol had gone to the net. Peckham had tracked Langenbrunner all the way back from the line, but Hemsky had coasted around the net and through the crease to go to the point... which Gagner already had covered. That left Nichol wide open for the (inevitable) rebound and an excellent scoring chance. That, my friends, is poor puck support and poor communication.
Notes from the second period:
- There was an interesting play on the penalty kill where Khabibulin lost his stick and none of the Oilers gave theirs up. Because preventing a cross-ice pass is so important, that seems like the right decision to me, but I don't really know. What's the conventional wisdom in that situation?
- Andy Sutton took his first of two shorthanded penalties (and second of three minors overall) in the second, and that seems like it should be some kind of record, though I know it's not. This one was pretty unnecessary, so I'd call it frustrating. But the penalty in the third was more discouraging because it involved him getting beat one-on-one, which was a common theme for Oilers' defensemen.
Notes from the third period:
- Ales Hemsky made - literally - the weirdest play I've seen from him. He was carrying the puck toward the offensive zone and slowed down to put his teammate offside (normal) before just plain letting it go into open space in the neutral zone, thus trapping his man for a Blues counterattack. There was no one there to pass to. He just... let it go.
- Ah, the goal. What an awful mess that was. The Oilers were switching a lot on that sequence with Horcoff, Jones, and Smyth all taking turns down low in the zone. At one point, Smyth didn't rotate down quickly enough and Pietrangelo had an excellent chance. Smyth then had a chance to clear when the puck squirted to him out front, but he put it toward his own open point (Horcoff had come down to help in front). The Blues make a couple of quick passes before putting it back on net. Khabibulin makes the save, but Pietrangelo gets the puck behind the net. At this point, four Oilers are surrounding the crease, but no Blues are in front. Pietrangelo then scores on the wrap-around. Not so good.