December 24 2013 12:21AM
"Just let me lay here a while... I'm so tired."
Christmas is in the air, everyone, and it's a time for joy and peace! What a pleasurable game to watch, knowing our close friends and allies on the other side of Saskatchewan were there to celebrate with us.
And that's all the positivity I can muster spent in two sentences.
The game was an ugly one, and much of my twitter interaction was about who was to blame. That might be a new low for Jets fans.
The first period had a familiar feeling to it, as the Jets hung on through two penalties and 14 shots against. Hemsky caught Byfuglien unawares with a laser pass from half boards to far post for an Eberle tap in. And one of the two corsi attempts against young centre Eric O'Dell came when he misread that Buf was on a walk-about, and so charged out of position to make an unecessary hit. The puck has a way of finding the holes, and in two passes it was on Gagner's stick at the top of the crease for a tap in. O'Dell's man in O'Dell's zone. Oof. A weak goal on a Mark Stuart wrister kept the team within one after twenty, and gave fans hope that it might turn into a 'first save wins' affair as it was in game one between these clubs.
Claude Noel told us in his pre-game that he didn't want to play a north-south game against the Oilers, but the Oilers skated through the neutral zone with impunity, and the Jets defenders were helpless to manage their gaps against a fast, skilled forward group. Ales Hemsky, in particular, weaved through the Jets like they were the Blue Jackets (that's a reference for hardcore Hemsky fans).
The second period gave the Jets their first chance on the powerplay when the Oilers took a bench minor to cancel the Jets bench minor, and later Ryan Smyth sent the puck out of play. With Smyth in the box, a flubbed Byfuglien shot fooled Bryzgalov, and Ladd redirected to tie the contest.
But that would be the last time the team looked in it. Perron would get a puck around Bogosian and leave him stranded, only to have Enstrom lose a board battle to Nugent Hopkins and Scheifele over-pursue the puck behind the net. Tick-tack-toe from RNH to Hall to Perron in front gave the former Blue an easy and uncontested swat into the back of the net.
Trouba would describe the third as embarassing for the Jets, but it was just more of the same, really. The Oilers outshot the Jets 9-3, and scored three goals gifted by the hockey gods on account of harder work and better puck support. A partially blocked Yakupov shot went right to Petry on the back door. A tired Trouba failed to take the puck behind the net and off the glass on the PK, instead firing it straight down the middle to be knocked down by RNH and fed to Hall for a one timer. And finally Byfuglien fumbled a pass knock down at the blue line and it turned into a Hall-Yakupov rush against Adam Pardy. Sauce and spice on its way to the twine.
On that play, I think it was Buf gave Yak a good shoulder slash before the shot, and a leg slash after the goal. One scrum was broken up for the faceoff at centre, only to lead into another scrum that saw Ladd get a cross check against Yak, Bogosian a spear, and all of Little, Bogosian, Ladd, and Thorburn tossed from the game for their efforts are getting to the young Russian.
Yak had elbowed Pav in the head earlier in the game in a very obvious (to everyone by the refs) forearm shiver, and his goal was more than the Jets could handle. Love him or hate him, Yak continues to inspire passion.
Qualified good is about all we can ask in this game.
Eric O'Dell had the best corsi numbers on the team again, and is extremely engaged in creating offence. He also took another penalty in this game, and made a mental error on the Gagner goal. The thing that's kind of amazing about the kid is that he was on for another 8 shot attempts for, but played under four minutes and most of it with guys who usually get buried at evens. His skating is not plus level, but he's managing at the NHL level, and there is still a massive question mark about what this kid can do. The Jets may send him down before we find out.
Mark Stuart was a positive corsi player, as he was the last time he played hurt. He stops chasing and stays a little more focused, is my theory. He scored a goal (one that shouldn't have gone in, but it did), and played five minutes of shorthanded time. He was on for one of the powerplay goals against, and I think had the wrong approach angle and depth on the play against Hemsky on the half wall. Between him and Wright, they gave literally no pressure and left open all of his most dangerous options. But clearly Buf had the bigger mistake not covering the back door play and floating in no-man's land, so it's hard to say Stuart is at fault. He had a fight, 3 shots, and 3 hits. About as good a game as you can ask for from the Jets' 6th man.
Maybe the Jets player of the game goes to Michael Frolik, who was second (behind O'Dell) in even strength corsi % (with 63%), but was on for a team leading (and generally whopping) 19 shot attempts for. He played over 18 minutes, 5:28 of it short handed, and moved the puck the right way. To my eye, he carried his line a lot of the night.
Little and Ladd did some offensive damage tonight, and continued their strong cycle play in the offensive zone. That said, Little was 35% at the faceoff dot against a bad faceoff team, and neither generated an even strength point against a porous defence.
Here's looking at you, Claude!
The Jets were frustrated in this game, but all the warnings were there. Everyone knew this team had to make a statement after the 'jersey on the ice' incident caught national attention. The Oilers have been improving in fits and starts over the last month. The Jets were on the second game of a back to back right before Christmas break.
I'm not saying they should have just let it happen. I'm saying they should have managed the game. At the very least, their frustration shouldn't have been slashing, spearing, and fighting when the game was long over. It should have been present as urgency within the actual flow of the game.
Noel' intention was stated, but the team did the opposite, trying to trade chances against a team with more speed and raw talent. Bogosian's skating was exposed, Trouba's impatience led to a turnover and goal, Byfuglien had his lapses. Even Enstrom was directly involved in two goals against as the mentally and physically tired Jets' forward group played defence like it was still game 15 and people had patience for their leaning reaches and poor lane choices.
We talked about it after the Vancouver game. That Canucks team made them skate miles while they moved the puck in that long transition play. Up and down the Jets' forwards went, and tonight they looked like they had to choose up or down on any given shift.
Minnesota, St Louis, Phoenix, LA, all the defensively sound clubs in the league talk about being on the right side of the puck. Jets forwards are always chasing, because the team is not structured to manage the play that way. It's like an oreo, where their defenders and forwards form the cookie parts, and the other team's forwards compose the centre. The Jets simply have to play a very different style to manage the puck and manage chances, and it doesn't appear they even have it in their repetoire.
No one played so well as to be excused from the loss, but it was a structural failure and not an individual one. You can point to specific mistakes, but when the lanes are open over-top, around the outside, and underneath the defencemen, you can't blame the players. It means there's no support. And we've been talking about that since game one.
Don't be mad! It's Christmas!