Had a chance to view last night's fiasco in person.
First of all, the good news. It's September (or at least it was last night), so even the most well-earned Zero points for a loss is matched by the zero points awarded the winner. The only numbers that matter are the ones that appear on the game tickets -- mine for Row 23 in the Oilers "offensive" zone indicated a rather mind-boggling $87.81. (Thanks again, Dave!)
Not sure how they come up with those numbers, but on the strength of performance I would say Calgary was worth the $87 and Oilers the 81¢. In terms of entertainment value the game as a whole came in much closer to the second figure.
Calgary quite simply wanted the puck more than Edmonton right from the get-go. They dominated the face-off circle (35 of 61; seemed like more), and pressured the puck all night. Oilers' defence looked tentative at best, a split second slow to the puck or making their decision to move it. This was manifest on the game opening (and winning) goal, when the $11 MM pairing of Visnovsky and Souray both had their clearing attempts deflected by aggressive Flame forecheckers, leading directly to an Ugly shot that found a hole in a leaky Dwayne Roloson.
In the second period the Oilers "defended" the zone right in front of us, and the puck stayed in front of us the whole damn period as Calgary dominated 18-5 on the shot clock while pumping three more goals past Roli. The line of Dustin Boyd, David Moss and Curtis “Egads!” Glencross was having a field day out there, dominating play with speed, aggressiveness and hustle. Moss scored twice, including the 2-0 goal which characterized this game. The Flames won another race/battle for the puck along the boards, Roy and Peckham didn’t switch effectively to take Boyd along the end boards, Cogliano and Nilsson didn’t communicate effectively as to which one would come back deep to cover Moss, and Roloson somehow allowed Boyd’s centring pass through a two foot hole between him and Peckham to squirt through his big goal stick and right to Moss who rapped it home. Two skating, thinking and executing Flames made five stationary, tentative and fumbling Oilers look Real bad. Errors all around.
On the third goal, Sheldon Souray seemed disinterested in covering Eric Nystrom, and Roli allowed yet another softie (his third by my count) right through him. Andre Roy and Wayne Primeau got the assists, probably Calgary’s two worst skaters but still better than the boys in blue on this night. It was ugly.
With the score 4-0 after Moss’s second (a pretty give and go with GlenX) the two Roys dropped the gloves, with Andre seemingly landing the better punches but Mathieu getting the last couple and the takedown at the end. But come the third period the Oiler side of the penalty box sat empty, as Matty did not return. Nothing said about it on the gameday threads or in today’s paper; I wonder what happened? Given blows to the head were involved, the “C” word suggests itself.
His bench down a man in the third, MacT decided to sit Theo Peckham as well, giving the youngster just 1:32 while running his top four guys out there for over 9 minutes apiece. Made absolutely no sense to me, especially on a night where Peckham was by far the most aggressive of the lot.
Calgary still had more jump in the third, getting the first 7 shots on goal and running the game count to 38-12 before the Oilers finally showed a little spark in the O-zone for a few minutes. Schremp and Visnovsky got the best opportunities but were foiled by Curtis McElhinney in his best moments of a slow night’s work.
In his postgame interview MacT was quick to call out his veterans, and rightly so. Here’s the very short list of hits landed by the Oilers last night: Brule 4, Peckham 3, Roy 1, Spurgeon 1. Calgary wasn’t crushing people either, but at least their list of hitters included names like Phaneuf (2), Sarich (2) and Iginla (1), whereas Oiler veterans were nowhere to be found in the physical play department. Their mental game wasn’t any sharper. Guys like Shawn Horcoff and Robert Nilsson did flat nothing all night, while Denis Grebeshkov had a snakebitten game with three penalties and a minus-one on a play where he broke his stick in the neutral zone. As a group the Oil had as many giveaways as shots (19 of each), “led” in the former category by a shaky Tom Gilbert with 4 GV.
Any silver linings under that black cloud involve some of the youngsters who actually played like they gave a shit. Including:
*** #1 Devan Dubnyk: Had a solid third, with some loud help from the iron. Big, square to the shooter, not much net to shoot at.
#49 Theo Peckham: This is one mean mofo. Plays rough and with an edge; now he just needs to file some of those rough edges. Springfield-bound.
#66 Tyler Spurgeon: A real gamer. I would have said that even before the late-game display of bravery/foolhardiness when he dropped in front of a pair of Ugly slapshots. He’s definitely one of those guys where the sum is far greater than the parts. If he can avoid the next concussion he could become a Rob DiMaio-style NHLer.
#67 Gilbert Brule: Pretty impressive combination of physical play and actual talent, a combination in rare enough supply on any team, especially this one. He’s right on the bubble for the 12th forward, and could be useful as a #13. If he does get sent out it’s probably because the organization decides it’s in his, and their, best interests to get him some serious playing time after languishing on the fourth line in Columbus the past two seasons. I don’t disagree with giving Pouliot the first crack at playing time, but I’d be shocked if we don’t see Brule in the line-up at the first wave of injuries or ineffective play.
#88 Rob Schremp: Buried on a scrub line most of the night, but got 3 minutes to show what he could do on the PP. Which on an 0-for-8 night when the Oilers PP unit kept getting outnumbered around the puck, wasn’t much. Unfortunately for Robbie, more skill along the periphery isn’t exactly what this club needs. Did make a couple of sweet passes, and got one great scoring chance where he made his move but couldn’t roof the puck. ***
Bottom line (since that's really what it's all about) for Oiler fans: $87.81 = about five bucks per shot on goal, ten bucks per hit, or infinity per goal. Standings be damned, at those prices shouldn't the team be providing some actual entertainment?