It was all about sad songs for the Oilers this week, depressing country songs in Nashville and the blues in St. Louis. With now only 8 games remaining in this season you have to wonder just how many of those will have a happy ending. I don't know about you, but I've been saving my REAL cheering for Saturday night against the Flames. If the Oilers win only one game for the rest of this season, please hockey gods, make it this Saturday.
The St. Louis Blues will not be making the playoffs this year either, so are just as dangerous as the Oilers, probably more so. The Blues will make cries of injuries on the season, but we all know that Oilers have had it much worse and the lineup for the Oilers had far less NHL games worth of experience than the Blues.
The worst thing about this game, it ended much like the last meeting between these two teams in February, another shutout but this time with one less goal. So, this can be seen as a small improvement.
I love how Jim Vandermeer can and will stand up for his teammates, I wouldn't want to be on his bad side. Cam Janssen may be on Vandermeer's bad side, or maybe it's just their history. No matter, shortly after the first puck drop, at 3:08 the two dropped the gloves and for 1:40. I give the win to Jim Vandermeer and along with that, bravo. They cleaned up the ice and escorted both players to the box.
One second of play later, Theo Peckham and Ryan Reaves dropped the gloves. Sadly Peckham looked inexperienced and outmatched in the bout, and Reeves was playing his 20th NHL game. That's not good. Steve MacIntyre was on the ice immediately following the second fight, but who was left for the big guy to fight? The physical play continued with some pushing and shoving around the Oilers net.
Liam Reddox took a hooking call eight minutes in, and the Oilers successfully killed that penalty. More physical play followed, but the next fight didn't occur until nearly the 18 minute mark when Jean-Francois Jacques fought BJ Crombeen. This was another Blues win, especially when you add in the fact that JFJ was also assesed and interference call, which was served by Linus Omark.
The Oilers received their first power play at 7:22 of the second period when Adam Cracknell was called for holding. Given the man advantage, the Oilers still struggled looking for their opening goal. In fact, with one second remaining in the power play, Linus Omark was called for hooking and arguing his case did no good. Video review showed that it was indeed a questionable call, but it was called none the less. Before the Omark penalty expired however, the Blues received a questionable call of their own. Andy McDonald was called for holding. The Oilers didn't make anything happen with their short power play either. The opening scoring came from the Blues, with approximately 90 seconds left in the second period. Sadly, it was Magnus Paajarvi who made a poor puck decision along the boards, shooting the puck back into the centre of the ice. TJ Oshie was able to capitalize on Paajarvi's mistake, it was a 1-0 hockey game. As many, many Oilers fans will also point out, there is another Oiler between the net and Oshie, Nikolai Khabibulin could have made that save.
The final period saw the Oilers fall apart and give up. Liam Reddox took a tripping penalty nearly one minute into the game, but the Oilers couldn't successfully kill off the penalty, Matt D`Agnosti with a slick wrister made it 2-0 Blues. When BJ Crombeen was called for hooking, this would have been an excellent opportunity for the Oilers to get themselves on the board. Alas, it was not to be.
Jim Vandermeer took a terrible high sticking call, he knew it too and shook his head all of the way to the penalty box. The Blues were able to score their second power play goal of the period when Chris Stewart had no trouble shooting one past Khabby. 3 -0 Blues, super.
The Blues weren't finished yet, sadly. Adam Cracknell snapped his shot through Khabby making it 4-0 Blues with his second goal of the season. If you were flipping back to the Canadiens/Bruins game, you saw this it was 7 0 and might have felt better. If you didn't I have no idea what you told yourself to keep watching. Then of course there is the possibility you didn't watch the game, or turned it off and that's why you are here reading. Steve MacIntyre took a hooking penalty, then Alex Pietrangelo took a cross checking call, but neither team would find a power play goal.
Before the game would finish, tempers would flare one more time. This time it was Theo Peckham and Cam Janseen pushing and showing. Both were assessed roughing minors, but with 50 seconds left in the period it really didn't make much of a difference. The Blues won 4-0 and the Oilers were glad to be heading home.
There were not any goals for the Oilers, and that makes sense given that they only had 12 shots the entire game. The Oilers trailed 5-9 through the first, 5-7 through the second and finally 2-14 in the third.
The lack of shots, not all that surprising after watching the team play. What was in some ways surprising was the the Oilers had won nearly half of the faceoffs, 47% overall. Chris VandeVelde was the team superstar for faceoff wins, with 6 out of 7 won. Get that kid taking more faceoffs! He was 57% through his NCAA career and has been a winner in the AHL, it's encouraging to see VandeVelde having success in the NHL. The dream is of course that he can keep this up. You know what else is great? The Oilers have started spelling VandeVelde's name correct, they've removed the space trying to help us all get it straight now.
"I think they [The Blues] knew that we came here to play hockey but the wheels didn't just wobble, they fell off." Said coach Tom Renney after the game. Renney blamed the power play and of course a lack of shots on net that lead to the defeat. "It's not always what you take, it's what you leave." As per usual, Renney did not call out any of his players and said that it was just a lack of shots overall, a lack of taking pucks to the net.
Both Eberle and Paajarvi thought that the first two periods were varying degrees of alright play. "We came out kind of dead in the third... we've got to score goals." remarked Jordan Eberle, agreeing with what you were likely saying yourself. The Oilers matched the physical play of the Blues through the first period and even through the first half of the second. Had the Oilers maintained their play and made more scoring chances for themselves the end result might have been far more different.
When Paajarvi commented on The Blues first goal he said "I made a turnover and they scored, and that was really terrible by me. We can't just have 10 shots on net, we need to have 10 shots in a period." That right there was likely the key to the loss. As I mentioned, the Oilers had only 2 shots in the third period. That is not nearly enough.
There were of course still some positive plays and encouraging signs. VandeVelde's faceoff wins, Teemu Hartikainen's physical play and ability to maintain puck control. You know who else has great puck control? That's right Linus Omark. You knew that already though, I can't stop talking about how great it is, that should be a good thing. Jeff Petry and Theo Peckham are getting more and more experience against veteran NHL players which will surely help them when the Oilers are making their playoff runs before you know it.
Ladislav Smid is also a hero according to Bruce McCurdy and probably all of the Oilers brass as well. Smid "Went end to end to get that all important 12th shot with 0:02 left. Yeah, Ladi! No franchise records for futility tonight!" That's right, if the Oilers had only managed 11 shots, this would have set a new low for the Oilers, so kudos to Smid!
Next up are the Calgary Flames on Saturday. After all that Oilers' fans have lived through this season I think that we would all love nothing more than to see a game just like the season opener. Yes, I'm a dreamer.
The Copper & Blue Oilers Three Stars:
★★★ - Linus Omark
★★ - Theo Peckham
★ - Ladislav Smid
No real concrete reasons for the stars or their order. I had thoughts and reasons, but it was a 4-0 loss, I'm doing what I can to keep you positive.