Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
To put things kindly, the last several years have not been good to the Edmonton Oilers.
Between missing the playoffs every year since they went to the Stanley Cup Final; finishing in the draft lottery in every season since 2009-10; a revolving door of coaches, goaltenders, and front office executives; a total inability to get anything even resembling an NHL defense onto the ice; and scoring woes despite a pile of guys who should be or are star forwards, one can't even begin to imagine what it's like to play for or support that team. It's an unceasing nightmare from which there is no waking, and in which every turn seems grislier than the last.
Fortunately — if you want to call it that — things may have finally reached their logical denouement on Saturday night, as the team crammed what felt like a full season's worth of mind-bendingly dour events into one 60-minute lack of effort that surely left small children and grown men alike across the city weeping uncontrollably.
The game with the Calgary Flames was actually close for the first 24 minutes or so, tied 1-1 and looking like another contest between Alberta's also-rans. Then Calgary scored four goals on five shots in the space of 3:05, one on a defensive miscue, one on a penalty shot, and two as the Flames shredded their provincial rivals in transition. After that, the world exploded.
Viktor Fasth got the hook, having conceded five on 16 shots in 27:18 of work. Taylor Hall threw down a water bottle in frustration so hard that it exploded and soaked coach Dallas Eakins, who yelled at and then benched his superstar left wing for a good seven minutes as some sort of bizarre punishment for the accident.
Then three separate fans decided to make the grand symbolic gesture of throwing their jerseys onto the ice in disgust, a repeat of an earlier incident that caused much consternation in Edmonton and prompted promises of swift action by coaches and team officials alike. The first of these was heaved back into the stands by Ben Scrivens, who brought on in relief of Fasth but was in no way helpful to staunching the bleeding in terms of goals against or jerseys thrown. In the end, the Calgary Flames, one of the worst teams in hockey over the last four years and a total embarrassment in their own right, walked out of Rexall Place — the Oilers' home ice, mind you — with two more counterproductive points in the standings, eight goals, and the biggest win in Battle of Alberta history.
Things were so bad that early in the third period, fans were chanting for the team to announce who the winning ticket number in the 50/50 raffle so they could get the hell out of there. One of them ended up with $60,000, and the honor of being the only Edmontonian who will remember the night in any way fondly. The rest of them likely paid in the triple digits to watch this tragedy unfold.
The loss, just to rub a pound of salt into the various wounds inflicted over the course of the night, also formally eliminated the Oilers from the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.
This, at long last, has to be the point at which they have definitively hit rock bottom.
It's not the loss, or the way they lost, or to whom they lost, or the fans' reaction to the loss that pushes it over the edge, but rather the cumulative effect of it all. A hurricane, it's said, starts with a butterfly on the other side of the world flapping its wings, the quantum mechanics unfolding into an hellacious storm thousands of miles away. This loss is a hurricane being started by two hurricanes running into each other at 200 miles an hour. It's everything that's been wrong with the Oilers for years rolled into one dysfunctional masterpiece of unrelenting and unmitigated horror.
One can't imagine that the lessons that should have theoretically been learned in the last several years will be in any way double-underlined by a single result, no matter how one-sided nor at whose hands it was suffered. But one also can't imagine it ever gets any worse than this.
Not this margin, not this much gnashing of teeth, not against an opponent this poor.
This was a night on which everything went as wrong as it possibly could have; and frankly scoring the one goal and keeping the game close for more than a third of its designated time almost makes it worse than having been shut out. This is a team that has flatly given up, and while you can't blame them at this point in the season or the franchise history, it nonetheless makes things more than a little difficult to watch.
The good news is things are going to get better soon, if only because they physically can't get any worse.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Emerson Etem is back in the AHL after a loss on Thursday in which he was used minimally by Bruce Boudreau. Luckily, the 21-year-old has ripped apart AHL competition for 41 points in 39 games this season, after posting 11 in 29 with the big club.
Calgary Flames: Saturday's game with Edmonton also featured a Curtis Glencross hat trick, his first multiple-goal game of the year after an injury that held him out from around Christmas to last week.
Carolina Hurricanes: Congrats to Riley Nash for scoring the Ondrej Pavelec-iest goal of the season.
Chicago Blackhawks: Everyone loves Teuvo Teravainen and the great thing is that no rookie has ever been ruined by the pressure of being called “The (foreign version of current NHL superstar).”
Colorado Avalanche: “Turning into.”
Columbus Blue Jackets: Oh my god I loved this shot by Nick Foligno on Friday night. Benoit Pouliot probably didn't love that broken stick.
Dallas Stars: The Stars finally won a game and that's what happens when: a) you outshoot your opponent 44-27, and b) that opponent is Ottawa,
Detroit Red Wings: No he doesn't.
Florida Panthers: Bad team gets creamed by great one on the road. More on this breaking story as it develops.
Minnesota Wild: It's a good thing the Wild won all those games early, because the way they're playing right now (two wins in their last nine) isn't helping to reassure anyone of any success going forward.
Montreal Canadiens: This goal from Tomas Plekanec was not a nice one for James Reimer to allow.
Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: The Preds recalled Filip Forsberg from Milwaukee after he's spent much of the season ripping the guts out of defenses in the AHL. I bet David Poile still chuckles to himself about that Martin Erat trade.
New York Islanders: First Tavares is done for the season, and now both Lubomir Visnovsky and Kyle Okposo are suffering injuries as well. Jack Capuano on his team's situation: “It takes me longer to read the injury report now than anything else.”
New York Rangers: Look at Ryan McDonagh get the puck in the neutral zone here and just take off to set up the first of three third-period goals against Columbus on Friday. Man oh man.
Ottawa Senators: Well things for the Senators aren't going great and now oh wait Bobby Ryan might be hurt.
Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers have won five straight and are now Stanley Cup favorites.
Phoenix Coyotes: Phoenix is currently in a playoff spot, if tenuously, but six of their last 11 games are on the road. That probably doesn't help matters.
Pittsburgh Penguins: James Neal's overtime game-winner against Tampa on Saturday was his first goal in eight games. It seems impossible that anyone playing with Evgeni Malkin could go that long without scoring but here we are I guess.
San Jose Sharks: Sweet goal by Matt Nieto for Washington, which is only a problem because Nieto plays for San Jose.
St. Louis Blues: Here's a really interesting look at the way the St. Louis Blues are getting value for their player contract dollars. They're good at it.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Jon Cooper quit being a lawyer because he defended someone in an animal cruelty case and just couldn't do it any more. What a nice man.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Many Leafs fans proving that they are human garbage. A perfect way to end a season of awful disappointment.
Vancouver Canucks: Daniel Sedin is back! But Alex Burrows is out. Win some, lose some. If you're the Canucks, it's lose some.
Washington Capitals: The Caps' win in San Jose was the first one they've gotten since 1993. That's not a typo. And also they needed a shootout to do it.
Winnipeg Jets: Yeah, it's all over.
Play of the Weekend
Haha come on Cam.
Gold Star Award
UMass Lowell won its second consecutive Hockey East championship on Saturday night thanks to sophomore goaltender Connor Hellebuyck shutting out both Notre Dame and UNH. In 51 career games, the Winnipeg prospect has a .947 career save percentage, with 12 shutouts and just 11 losses. His save percentage in the last two Hockey East championship games is a decent 1.000. So I guess he's good.
Minus of the Weekend
Alex Ovechkin hasn't scored at even strength in 11 games? Why it's almost like no one can sustain that kind of scoring run no matter how talented. Hmm.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User “Tim Murray” probably (hopefully?) isn't the real guy
To Buffalo: 1st 2014 (3rd overall)
There's a lot of carrots in that stew.