When Andy Sutton was re-signed, Steve Tambellini told the world that the Oilers "a much better team than the results and the standings show." If by better Tambellini meant entertaining, I think he's clearly correct because this team is pretty darn fun to watch considering how much they lose. Ales Hemsky had one of his best games of the season. Taylor Hall was a physical force and played his usual hard-in-all-areas game. Jordan Eberle was a joy to watch for his effort, his smarts, and his hands. Heck, I even enjoyed watching Ben Eager win a fight!
But they lost (albeit in overtime). They were down two goals in the first two minutes. They made some huge blunders that cost them several five-bell chances against. There were moments where it was clear that certain players simply didn't belong in the NHL. So even though this was one of their better games - you could probably even say that they deserved better than 4-3 overtime loss with a straight face - all of the reasons that this team really isn't better than their record came to the fore. We'll take a closer look at some of what went right and some of what went wrong after the jump.
Notes from the First Period:
- Ryan Jones was simply terrible on the first goal of the game. With the Leafs coming up the ice, Joffrey Lupul passed the puck off while standing beside the boards in the neutral zone. Jones "finished his check" by lightly bumping into him and then standing still while Lupul skated away. With Lupul away and Jones making like a statue, the Leafs suddenly had a 3-on-2, and Lupul potted the goal.
- The second Leafs goal has lots of blame to go around. Magnus Paajarvi tried to dump the puck to get a change, but didn't get the puck deep at all. Not a good play, but it's the kind of thing that happens to everyone. Then Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney decided to change anyway. Not a great decision in that situation, but at least they were smart enough to go one at a time. Andy Sutton was the first defender on and he didn't play deep enough to defend the long pass. So when the Leafs hit Matt Lombardi coming up the middle he burned by Sutton and Cam Barker (who had run into Whitney getting onto the ice) and scored on the breakaway.
- There are clearly some questions about the sustainability of Jordan Eberle's offensive results, but I still just enjoy watching him play, and not only in the offensive zone. With about nine minutes to go in the first period, Eberle made a great backcheck - an important one too, because Cam Barker had pinched deep without cover - to rub Nikolai Kulemin out along the boards, and make sure that his team could get control of the puck. That's good stuff. Of course, the offensive zone is still way more fun. And he gave us a show with about 1:25 to go when he sluffed off Keith Aulie as he went around the net and then found Tom Gilbert coming down to create a scoring chance.
Notes on the Second Period:
- The Oilers second goal of the game was a great one by the entire line of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Sam Gagner. Eberle did a very good job staying onside, Gagner did an excellent job of finding the passing lane, and Hall was superb in driving the net. Those three could be fun to watch for a decade.
- With about 7:30 to go in the period, Jeff Petry made a very nice play to keep the puck in at the blueline. Ladislav Smid made a poor pass along the blueline, but Petry was able to reach back with one hand on his stick, grab it, and put the puck in deep. It's a small thing, but Petry is able to make a small skill play like that almost every game. It's one of the things that distinguishes him from all of the other defenders who have come up from Oklahoma City over the last two seasons.
- The last time I did a post-game, I said that Cam Barker was so bad that you had to laugh. Tonight's worst play (subjective, I know) was even funnier. With 4:29 to go in the period, Barker received a pass in the defensive zone from Andy Sutton. Barker was at the faceoff dot; the closest Leaf attacker was heading for a line change; the next closest, Clarke MacArthur, was touching the blueline. At 4:28 Barker is still standing there stickhandling, and MacArthur has gotten a little bit closer, almost halfway between the blueline and the top of the faceoff circle. At 4:27, MacArthur has arrived at the top of the circle, but there's still no real pressure. And Barker mishandles the puck! It starts drifting toward the high slot. At 4:26 MacArthur jumps on the loose puck and heads for the net. At 4:25 Barker dives trying to stop MacArthur, but he is (as you'd expect) ineffective. Sadly, Nikolai Khabibulin makes the save. If he hadn't, it would have been tears of laughter. But even with the save, that was basically the essence of Cam Barker.
Notes from the Third Period:
- Ales Hemsky had a very good game, and if he ends up getting moved, this is one that I'll remember. He hit the post in the second, and did it again to start the third, but my favorite Hemsky play came with about 6:25 to go in the period when he absolutely undressed Cody Franson. He didn't score, but it was a great, great move.
- "Jordan Eberle has genie lamps in place of hands." What a goal. Even better than the goal? Eberle's reaction to Cam Barker fumbling a pass with about 0:15 left in the game. Absolutely awesome.
- Someone should tell Magnus Paajarvi that you don't actually listen to the guys yelling "SHOOOOT!" His shot selection on the power play with about 0:55 to go wasn't too good. Oh. Not so good on that pass to Whitney in overtime either, though Gilbert didn't do him any favors defending the odd-man rush.