The Dive for Five is alive and well, although some of us steadfast Oiler fans may be in danger of drowning.
While lottery rivals Carolina, Columbus and Tampa Bay all picked up two points tonight, the Oil remain stuck on 34 points, making it seven Regulation Losses in a row with a convincing 4-1 home ice loss to their provincial rivals from Calgary. Tonight the Oilers added a new wrinkle as both the powerplay and the penalty kill ended the night -1, as did the even strength unit come to that. Beaten in all three phases of the game.
The party line of late, as per thecaptainethanmoreau and duly reported as gospel by the obedient local media, is that all the Oilers troubles are on special teams but they are actually playing pretty well 5v5. Well I can confirm the special teams are FUBAR, but 5v5 play isn't exactly burning down the house either. Here's the goal distribution over the course of the losing skein:
... and I defy you to find anything good in there anywhere. Unless you have visions of lottery plums dancing through your head, I guess.
Read on for tonight's post mortem ...
Tonight Edmonton scored early before Calgary's Rene Bourque punished the Oilers with a natural hat trick consisting of an even strength goal in the first, a powerplay goal in the second, and a shorthanded goal early in the third. All three of Bourque's goals were scored from the blue paint as the Oilers were unable to handle the Lac la Biche native under any circumstances. Oilers also weren't able to solve Miikka Kiprusoff who played a whale of a game, especially in the first two periods when Edmonton outshot Calgary 31-14 yet trailed 2-1. The Oilers played an energetic if not entirely smart game to that point, but once Bourque scored the shortie early in the third quickly followed by a softie from Mark Giordano that JDD somehow sieved in short side, the air came out of their balloon and it was all over but the fighting.
Besides a decisive edge in goal, Calgary impressed with their depth of two-way forwards and their huge defence corps. Oilers own defence looked pretty darn soft in comparison, as Bourque twice got inside position on the veteran pair of Staios and Strudwick, then got behind Visnovsky and Gilbert for the shortie. Hat's off to Bourque (if you'll pardon the pun), they were hardworking goals, but from a defensive point of view they were easy goals and I can well understand Pat Quinn's frustration with this crew.
That said, this game wasn't without a few positives: a beauty deflection by the emerging Ryan Potulny for the opening goal; a strong performance by Potulny's line including another solid outing from Ryan Stone and flashes of competence from Patrick O'Sullivan; a decent outing by the fourth line of Ethan Moreau, Andrew Cogliano and Zack Stortini, who not only survived a number of shifts against the Jarome Iginla line unscathed but managed to draw three Calgary penalties (creating three powerplays is a positive in theory, surely it's unfair to blame these guys for what happened next); and a spirited scrap in which Ladi Smid more than held his own against Iginla, followed by a couple more tilts that suggested the boys are getting mighty tired of losing.
The whole was much less than the sum of these parts, which on another night might have spurred a victory. Right now though the squad is mired in a deep funk which in recent games has added lack of offensive production to defensive blunders and nowhere near enough goaltending. Halfway through a week against Canadian rivals Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Calgary again, this could get even uglier before it turns around.
If it turns around. Even my optimism has its limits.