There's 3 (good) reasons I keep watching oilers games:
1) Everyone is healthy.
For the last few years March has been the time of year when we get to watch a roster half full of players from OKC/Springfield finish off the lottery march. Every game that Hemsky's healthy has some value. Dude could have had a hatrick today if the puck was bouncing different. Alas.
2) The biggest loser race.
With CBJ's loss tonight, the Oil are 8 points clear of their 3rd straight 30th place finish. This particular season also has an extra-special battle for epic failure. Ever since Tyler Dellow brought it up a few weeks back, I've been following the race for worst team of the current CBA and damn if it hasn't been a good one. Edmonton currently sits 8 points back of Columbus and 5 back of the Islanders which seems like a pretty big gap with only 14 games left, but these are 3 tremendously bad franchises and I wouldn't put a flatline past any of them. Pretty compelling stuff.
3) Learning from other people's mistakes.
Thanks to dawgbone98 at Copper n blue and Justin Bourne at Backhand Shelf I may have actually learned something about watching hockey over the last few months. Oilers games are just chock-full of defensive breakdowns so they're a great opportunity to play 'spot the error.' My favorite from yesterday:
This one's easy, Colorado scored because Linus Omark is as soft as milk on the backcheck. Am I right internet?
But something felt a bit off about that. Why would he possibly play that soft on someone in that good of a shooting position?
I went back and watched the goal a few more times before the gears started turning.
Omark plays left wing.
How the hell does the LW end up covering the guy in the low right slot?
If you have gamecenter or PVR, the whole clusterfuck starts with 16:29 left in the 2nd. RNH actually wins a faceoff! and everything proceeds straight downhill from there. Highlights from the next 61 seconds of play include:
- Petry turning the puck over just inside his own blueline (bailed out by Smid)
- RNH and Hall combining to turn the puck over just inside their own blueline (bailed out by Smid)
- RNH neatly boxing himself out on the backcheck (bailed out by David Jones missing the net)
- Zero puck posession for the Oilers 'top line' outside their own zone
Eventually, Colorado breaks off for a change and Petry skates the puck up past the blue line. All 5 Av's are clustered together by the Oilers bench so Petry decides to skate the puck. Straight ahead. Since they play for the Oilers, Hall & Eberle decide that a turnover just before the red line is a good time for a line change.
The positioning doesn't look too bad here but Hemsky and Omark have no speed coming off the bench, Petry's flat footed, and Ryan Wilson's just off the bottom left edge of the picture with a full head of steam.
Ok, the Av's forward on the far side is wide open but Wilson decides to go outside...
And he makes RNH look like Ryan Whitney
Smid had to slide over so Wilson doesn't have a straight line to the front of the net, and manages to land a pick on Ted who returns the favor by almost decapitating Smid (amazing agility by the kid to stay on his feet though.) Luckily, there's no immediate danger since the other 2 Avalanche forwards managed to run into each other in front of the net.
At this point, Omark's back and has recognized that McLeod's uncovered so he heads down to tie him up, probably assuming that Petry and RNH are going to double Wilson. It's not ideal defence but they should still be able to keep everything to the outside.
And then it really hits the fan.
Petry somehow decides to play outside on Wilson, possibly (hopefully?) thinking that RNH is going to pressure. After puck-hawking all around the zone, RNH decides this is a good time to switch back to 1-on-1 cover and breaks for the front of the net to take McLeod.
The best part is that Hemsky already has the outside covered if Wilson tries to keep going around the wall, and Omark actually has McLeod's stick tied up. If either of Petry of RNH goes straight to Wilson then he has no lane to the front.
The chain reaction of errors is now almost complete. Petry's totally lost position on Wilson (who's a freaking DEFENCEMAN! ffs.) RNH changes his mind and decides to drop his man to chase the puck again. Unfortunatly, once Omark saw RNH turn to cover McLeod he started moving back up ice.
And Omark's left holding the bag.
I suppose you could argue that Omark should have stayed low until RNH actually came all the way up to McLeod, but there were 5 pretty clear mistakes before that and IMO they're at least as bad.
This isn't the first time Petry and RNH have teamed up for some epic D-zone coverage
Turns out teenagers might not be the best choice for playing D in the NHL. Good thing we'll have a new one in the lineup when September rolls around.
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