This game was off to a poor start before it began. After all, when you look at the defense pairings and see that Corey Potter and Cam Barker will be lining up together, you know that there will be some truly cringe-worthy plays. And they didn't disappoint. On their first shift of the game, Cam Barker made a truly cringe-worthy pinch, and it was quickly 1-0 Blues. The rest of the first period was played at a breakneck pace, but neither team was able to turn all of that energy into scoring chances all that effectively.
The second period began in similar fashion in that Barker and Potter were again on the ice, and the Blues quickly scored, although that goal was by no means on them. No, it was a softie from Dubnyk, which was quickly followed by an atrocious change that led to a third St. Louis goal, and led to Tom Renney pulling out every trick he could think of to take the Mandate of Heaven for the Oilers.
He called a time-out. He changed the goalie. He even shuffled the lines.
And it worked. The Oilers stiffened their resolve and had Corey Potter score his first goal in twenty games to get themselves back to within two. Ryan Smyth then tempted the gods by making a terrible hit on Roman Polak that gave the Blues a five-minute power play and relegated Smyth to the dressing room. But the Oilers were still clearly favored by the heavens, and killed the entire penalty without allowing a single shot, and gave the penalty kill a solid rubber stamp in the form of a Lennart Petrell hip check. Shortly thereafter, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored to pull the Oilers to within one as they headed for the intermission.
Sadly, the Mandate of Heaven doesn't like long breaks. Or Cam Barker. And when Barker took a needless slashing penalty to start the third, the Blues promptly scored on back-up Yann Danis and then added another on a Chris Stewart penalty shot to go up 5-2, which is how the game ended.
But don't worry. All we need to do is wait. The rebuild will surely come. And then we'll be saved.
Notes from the First Period:
- Cam Barker and Corey Potter should not under any condition be considered a viable defense pairing in the NHL. Intent to prove this point, the two of them managed to allow a goal in the first two minutes of the game. Cam Barker made a horrendous pinch at the offensive blue-line, which led to a two-on-one against. Corey Potter was defending that two-on-one. And you know what that means.
- Still, Potter is a much better defenseman that Barker. With about 15:15 to go in the period, Potter found himself in a similar situation at the offensive blue-line. He hadn't made a brutal pinch, but he did get stripped of the puck by Vladimir Sobotka. Fortunately, Potter had the wherewithal to realize that he was in trouble and managed to get back into the play.
- There were some good things in the period. I thought that Ales Hemsky and Taylor Hall played very well for most of the first frame. But... every time I put the trainwreck of Potter and Barker out of my mind, they made sure to finagle their way back in. With about 10:30 to go, I was happily watching Hall and Hemsky battle for the puck near the offensive blueline with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins providing support. But for some reason Potter skated past Nugent-Hopkins. When the puck bounced past the pack, this allowed B.J. Crombeen to pick up the puck with speed. Of course, Barker was still back, and he's faster than Tom Gilbert, so naturally he cut Crombeen off... nope. No, he didn't. It was a semi-breakaway for Crombeen. At least Dubnyk made the save.
Notes from the Second Period:
- Of course, Dubnyk wasn't exactly perfect. There are times (like the Blues' third goal) when you wonder how the heck David Staples dishes out the errors. There are other times (like the Blues' second goal) when it's so obvious that everyone would agree. Scott Nichol with an unscreened slapper from outside the scoring chance area? Yeah... that's on Dubnyk.
- One of the really fun things about watching the Oilers is the number of players with really excellent vision. Gagner tried a pass to Hall on the power play with about 9:40 to go that didn't get there, but was a wonderful idea. Ales Hemsky got one in to Nugent-Hopkins in the slot with about 8:20 that he rang off the post. Then Jordan Eberle found Corey Potter pinching down into the slot with about 0:30 to go. Three different players, all with really great vision. It's just plain fun to watch.
- The Oilers second goal was another example of this (as well as its opposite). Nick Schultz started the play by reminding us what we'll miss about Tom Gilbert when he missed an uncontested break-out pass for Nugent-Hopkins. It would have gone for icing except that Ales Hemsky went hard into the offensive zone to tie up Alex Pietrangelo so that he couldn't touch the puck. Taylor Hall followed, picked up the puck by the hashmarks, and then fooled Halak by making a quick feed to Nugent-Hopkins on the other side of the net instead of shooting. Halak had already dropped into his butterfly so Nugent-Hopkins had the whole net, and he didn't miss.
Notes from the Third Period:
- Ryan Whitney is a really interesting player right now. Watching Patrik Berglund skate around him with 18:20 to go in the period, it was as clear as ever that Whitney is still struggling big-time with his mobility. Later in the period, he made a slap pass to Taylor Hall that showed he's still got the head and hands to play the game at an elite level. It'll be interesting to see how Whitney adjusts to being much slower than he used to be if that ends up being a long-term thing.
- With 12:45 to go, I had another chance to miss Tom Gilbert when Taylor Hall hit Nick Schultz at the side of the net with an absolutely awesome pass for an open net. But he bobbled it. But that said, Schultz did come as advertised in the defensive zone. Schultz played a safe game back there whenever he had the puck and generally defended territory well.
- Unfortunately, that sequence ended with Ales Hemsky skating into Taylor Hall's lane, which resulted in Hall losing the puck to Chris Stewart who went in on a break-away. Hall managed to tie him up with a hook, but Stewart was awarded a penalty shot and promptly scored. That was pretty much the game, which is really too bad because both Hemsky and Hall had been mostly excellent.