Oilers Lose Hall...Lose Game...Lose Ground

Dilip Vishwanat

The Edmonton Oilers cough up a two goal lead they never deserved and lose 4-2 to the St. Louis Blues. In the process, they lose Taylor Hall to a (hopefully minor) leg injury, and lose ground on the pack in their fading hopes for a playoff birth.

There's not a lot of good to say about this game, so I'm not going to waste my time trying to find them. The Oilers got beat tonight, and they deserved to lose. They had trouble generating shots, they had trouble gaining the zone with possession, their powerplay was bad and they were basically outworked in all facets of the game.

...oh, and Taylor Hall got hurt.

That's right, in spite of many of those with voices in the Edmonton media touting the far lesser players far more openly, the Oil's best player by a country mile is #4. It is not close. Hall is a destroyer on the ice and takes over the game basically by being on the ice. He had the first goal tonight and was having another solid game before getting injured twice within a matter of minutes in the second period. Losing him for any extended period of time would be catastrophic.

Possession Report via Boys on the Bus

The Oilers didn't have many highlights tonight, but those that did exist, along with those for the Blues, can be seen below:

Here's the Clint Eastwood for tonight...

The Good

Taylor Hall, while he was in the game at least. He's a permanent fixture in this part of the game summary. Additionally, Sam Gagner had a very strong game. I could pick out any number of areas that Gagner did well. In particular, his defensive game continues to impress, however one play that stood out or me simply because it shows his passion was a play where the Blues crashed the crease trying to poke the puck out from under Devan Dubnyk. Gagner hurled himself into the net behind his netminder to reinforce the last line of defence and ensure the puck didn't cross the goal line. This kind of thing is not overly uncommon, but in the moment, it was a perfect demonstration of a player with the instincts of a winner. Also playing well tonight were Ryan Smyth, Jordan Eberle, Ales Hemsky and Schultz the older. Also Ryan Whitney scored! Apparently he can still skate as long as it is in a straight line.

The Bad

Ladislav Smid. Honestly, after being overwhelmingly blown away by how well Smid played last season, I don't know what this guy is up to this year. There are countless examples, but the 4-2 goal that sealed the game was just embarassing. Smid got beaten terribly by TJ Oshie and his Partner Jeff Petry was able to get over from a much further distance to get into the passing land while Smid was being left in the dust. Unfortunately Petry wasn't able to get down to block the cross-ice pass, but he was there, while Smid might as well have been in the 2nd row watching the game and eating a hot dog.

Ben Eager for being Ben Eager and just generally bringing a level of suckitude that shouldn't be permitted. But, of course, he brings toughness, so, you know, all is forgiven, right?

The Ugly

Have I mentioned yet that Taylor Hall got hurt? This is basically armageddon for the team's playoff chances if it is serious. Coach Krueger said in the post game that it was precautionary an that Hall may even play on Sunday, which would be a major bullet dodged, but no decision has been made yet. As mentioned, Hall was really hurt twice. First, Hall tried to block a shot from Barrett Jackman that he took off the arm and spent some time getting looked at before returning. Shortly after that, Hall was driving behind the Blues' net and holding off a defender when he appeared to either catch a rut in the ice or just lose his footing and while he didn't fall, his skates ended up jamming the base of the boards, which appears to be the cause of the injury that took him out of the game.

The other major Ugly point is Coach Krueger. I have really tried to like him. Honestly I have. There was a lot of positivity about the hire during the off-season and the lockout, and I was hoping he would live up to it, but he just isn't doing it. His refusal to line match or find protected minutes for his youngest players is infuriating. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been BRUTAL for the majority of the season. His underlying numbers aren't terrible because he plays with the force of nature that is Taylor Hall, but he appears as if he is injured and his shot is 17 different kinds of awful. No matter the cause, if he's going to play, I don't understand how they can't put him in more protected situations to see if he can get his offense sorted out. How there has not even been an attempt of a Yakupov-RNH-Eberle line that receives heavily protected minutes defies comprehension. Specifically within this game, there were again many clear examples of boneheaded coaching, but I'll point out just two...First, the Oilers had a strong shift where the pinned the Blues in their own and forced St. Louis to ice the puck, which prevented them from changing. Normally, in this situation, it's not uncommon for the defensive team to take a timeout to rest their tired players. However, in this instance, it was Krueger who took the timeout, therefore giving away the advantage of being able to put fresh bodies out there against a worn down Blues unit. It was ludicrous.

The second error was in the final two minutes with the net empty. The team was down by two and the game was likely out of reach unless they scored quickly. With Hall out of the game, the team still had many offensive weapons it could parade out to try and create a quick goal to see if they could get within one and then hope for a miracle. To name a few options: Gagner, Hemsky, RNH, Eberle, Smyth, Schultz, Whitney and Petry. Instead, among the names on the ice? Lennart Petrell. It makes you want to reach through the television and physically shake the coaching staff to try and knock some sense into their heads.

Eager managed to be on the ice for 5 shots for and 23 shots against — yeah, so he was almost quintupled at even strength.- Michael Parkatti

Krueger's continued failure with regard to the deployment of his players and the use of line matching, along with a couple of just amateurishly stupid coaching decisions have him squarely in the heart of the "Ugly" section and have me longing for Tom Renney, or better yet, a complete overhaul of the team's front office and coaching staffs.

Overall, the Oilers lost, and they deserved to. But they still have 3 points in the first three games of their 9 game road trip and that has included two games against stanley cup contenders and a team in Dallas that they have historically been unable to beat. Having half of the available points at this juncture in the trip isn't something I see has a huge failure, and the hope is that they can string together a couple more wins and come away with at least 10 or 11 points before heading back to Edmonton.

The next test comes on Sunday against the extremely boring Minnesota Wild. The Oilers will need to be better if they want to earn the two points in that game against a team they are chasing in the standings.

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