The single-worst play by an Oiler this year?

Jonathan Willis
March 25 2013 10:23PM

The last time the Oilers played Nashville, it was Sergei Kostitsyn making an awful play on a goal in a 3-2 Oilers win. On Monday night, Kostitsyn was excellent, so it was Mark Fistric’s turn to cede a gorgeous scoring chance (and ultimately a game-winning goal) to the other team in a 3-2 game with a stunningly bad sequence.

The play starts with the Oilers in good position: defending a 2-on-2 rush at their own blue line. Corey Potter (44 for Edmonton) has the puck carrier, Brandon Yip (18 for Nashville), a player who has never hit 30 points in the NHL. Mark Fistric (45 for Edmonton) is watching Chris Mueller (17 for Nashville), a 27-year old journeyman of no particular note.

Ryan Smyth (94 for Edmonton) is now in the frame, coming back as a good centre should (at this point in the game, he has replaced Eric Belanger as the fourth line pivot). The head position of the defenders is the first indication there might be trouble – Potter sees Mueller breaking to the outside, while Fistric has isolated Potter’s man Yip, who still has the puck.

Mike Brown (13 for Edmonton) joins his three teammates to give the Oilers four guys in the frame to Nashville’s two, but at this point it’s all over. Yip has passed off to Mueller, who is in the process of blowing past Fistric. Fistric is either unaware or indifferent, still totally focused on lining Yip up for the big hit. Corey Potter sees Mueller, but Fistric’s position means he’s basically boxed out of the play. Smyth’s been gliding back, so maybe deserves a little criticism here – though with Fistric where he was, Smyth has no reason to expect Mueller to beat him around the outside.

And here we are. Potter can’t get there in time, Smyth can’t get there in time, and Fistric’s still looking at Yip for the hit. The Predators have a breakaway.

Smyth’s skating now, but he’s too far back. At the top of the screen, Yip avoids Fistric’s big hit.

Mueller scores.

It’s just an awful sequence for Fistric; it really looks like he got locked in for the big hit and tuned out the play happening around him – including the fact that the guy he should have covered coming into the zone had the puck. In fariness, it’s a single play, and Fistric has been pretty steady in a third-pairing role for the Oilers this season; generally those big hits result in cheers rather than a goal against. Like Kostitsyn’s play just over a week ago, though, it will probably take a little while for Fistric to live this particular sequence down.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 Rick
March 26 2013, 08:54AM
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This is just a bizarre breakdown of who's at fault for what.

It was an ill timed pinch by Fistric but it was an equally bad play by Potter.

What kind of effed up game plan tells a defenceman to leave the lane he is in complete control of and start chasing from behind like that?

Isn't biting on a cross over play the type of stuff you get away from in Pee Wee? Not to mention that Potter should know his partner's tendancies which makes it an even more perplexing decision to cross over to his area of coverage.

The way I see it is if Potter stays in his lane he atleast retains a chance to make a play down low. If a goal is still scored then Fistirc wear all of the egg for going after but missing the big hit.

But he didn't, he made an inexplicable play of his own and with that both defenders looked like amateurs.

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#52 gcw_rocks
March 26 2013, 08:54AM
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I think you let RNH off the hook on the initial breakout. He was only a step behind the Pred player breaking out of his own zone, with a legit chance to catch him, and instead headed for the bench.

I think Potter and Smyth deserve blame here as well. All Potter had to do was hang back and cover the middle and this would have been a non-event. He should know Fistric is not a great skater and been hanging back in case someone blew by him. Again, not absolving Fistric, but Potter should have known better. Two players against the board are not a threat. One of them getting to the middle is.

Smyth should have recognized he defensemen did not have great position on the play and gotten back deeper, I think. He is a vet and he should have a sense that the play was headed in an ugly direction.

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#53 james_dean
March 26 2013, 08:55AM
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I try this play in nhl13 all the time

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#54 oliveoilers
March 26 2013, 09:01AM
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Better in 3rd period, but still looked flat and out of ideas. RK is trying to sell this brand of cold, clinical, calculated hockey. We have neither the skill set or players for this. It's like hitching a racehorse to a wagon; sure it could pull it, but what a waste of talent. Let the kids of the leash. If we're relying on Hall, Ebs et al to be making great defensive plays instead of lighting up the opposition goalie, then we're missing the point. Somebody said it best earlier this week - we're playing not to lose, instead of going for the win.

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#55 JL
March 26 2013, 09:43AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

My assumption goes something like this: Potter has Yip, and believes Fistric has Mueller. Therefore he follows Yip. By the time he realizes Fistric is going to let his man go, there's nothing he can do about it.

I know Fistric's popular while Potter's just a popular whipping boy, but this play is all on Fistric.

My recollection is that in most man systems if players crossover the responsibility is switched from one man to the other.

I understand that the second Pred was still skating down the one part of the ice but why was Potter so drawn to the outside?

Both players made no sense to me. Equal responsibility if I had to choose.

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#56 OilersBrass
March 26 2013, 10:40AM
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How was this on Fistric?! Potter was the one completely out of position going for Fistrics man, and he left the zone WIDE OPEN. This was all Potters fault, it was his man that scored.

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#57 match16
March 26 2013, 10:53AM
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No way this is Smyth's fault. It's a 2v2 and the center's job is to cover the high slot for a late 3rd man. Not sure what kind of system they're playing but looks like Potter's fault to me for leaving his lane.

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#58 Ducey
March 26 2013, 11:02AM
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Meh, happens every night in the league. Lucic made Franson look like a pylon tonight too.

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#59 nunyour
March 26 2013, 11:23AM
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VK63 wrote:

I also like the one where Dubnyk tried to race Patrick Kane for a puck near the blueline.

That one was hilarious as well.

At least he was up off his knees for a few seconds

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#61 Rick
March 26 2013, 11:54AM
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@Jonathan Willis

The fact that Krueger has Potter in the lineup any night would suggest that his his judgement is open to question.

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#62 Racki
March 26 2013, 11:56AM
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Rick wrote:

The fact that Krueger has Potter in the lineup any night would suggest that his his judgement is open to question.

This actually gave me a good laugh...

But really, again, fault on that play is all Fistric's. I'm not sure you need to bench a guy for a guy to realize a mistake though.. especially when he's been reliable all year (Fistric).

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#63 David Staples
March 26 2013, 11:59AM
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This is such a simple play. A two on two rush. Potter takes his man.

Fistric then decides to ALSO take Potter's man and trouble erupts.

Terrible read by Fistric, little Potter could do, though if you want to quibble he might have been tougher on the puckcarrier at the blueline, stood him up a bit more.

But in a two on two, you cover the guy in front of you.

The suggestion that Potter should cover Mueller way over by the wall makes little sense.

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#64 David S
March 26 2013, 12:10PM
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David Staples wrote:

This is such a simple play. A two on two rush. Potter takes his man.

Fistric then decides to ALSO take Potter's man and trouble erupts.

Terrible read by Fistric, little Potter could do, though if you want to quibble he might have been tougher on the puckcarrier at the blueline, stood him up a bit more.

But in a two on two, you cover the guy in front of you.

The suggestion that Potter should cover Mueller way over by the wall makes little sense.

YEAH! What this guy said. ^

Also, please note this is the REAL David Staples gracing our comment section.*

*So in other words, the idea that I'm David Staples is now officially debunked.**

**PHEW!

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#66 Rick
March 26 2013, 12:16PM
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@David Staples

I admit I didn't read every comment but who is suggesting that Potter takes Mueller?

The decision is chase the player or maintain the lane and collapse to the front of the net.

Here is a hint, you should never abandon good position to start chasing a player from behind. You can't make a defensive play from that there.

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#67 Pucker
March 26 2013, 01:06PM
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Mr. Willis . . . any chance of you doing one of these on the first goal St. Louis scored against the Oilers last weekend?

Two defensemen caught up leaving Gagner the only guy back. Being at the game I didn't have benefit of replays but as soon as they started the breakout, I figured there was going to be trouble, and I'm certainly no expert, but I sure enjoy these break downs.

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#68 DDP
March 26 2013, 01:36PM
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I can't believe there is actual debate on this play. It is clearly Fistric's fault for wanting the hit instead of playing his position.

@JW I love the goal breakdowns after games. Maybe you can expand it to one goal against and one goal for per game?

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#69 rabulrouser
March 26 2013, 01:41PM
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@David Staples

I call BS, FISTric shouldn't have gone for the hit, BUT smyth not hustling back and Potter chasing his guy didn't help. regardless of who Cougar took out it was a breakdown at every position. when your team sucks like this you can't read into every lineup change.

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#70 match16
March 26 2013, 01:49PM
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This is what I think Fistric was thinking:

He sees 2 preds, 1 in his lane, the other in Potter's. Yip crosses to his lane, so he targets puck carrier. He doesn't see Potter crossing to his side as he already has Yip locked on for the hit. Going for the hit would leave Mueller to go 1v1 with Potter who he thought was still in position.

Unfortunately, Potter is out of position and they both get burned. Either way you look at it, I think they're both somewhat at fault for lack of communication, but Potter should not be crossing to the same side as Fistric.

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#71 vetinari
March 26 2013, 02:42PM
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My nominee for the single worst play this year: Tambellini's three-year contract extension in June 2012. I now drink alone in dark, quiet rooms when I think of another two and a half years of Tambellini at the helm...

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#72 lefty37
March 26 2013, 04:31PM
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@Jonathan Willis

Perhaps we could also analyze the first Nashville goal. Pay special attention to the center on that line and where he was when the puck was stripped in the corner.

I'm no NHL'er, but I do believe by the time you are 9 years old you are taught as a forward which of the 3 lanes you are responsible for in your own zone.

Our Captain seems to love to preach "veteran leadership" yet can not do simple things such as covering his man in the slot.

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#73 Death Metal Nightmare
March 26 2013, 04:32PM
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no joke - i just turned on the game cause i was busy. sat down and seen this play happen about 2 real time minutes later and shut the TV off.

this team is as annoying as the NHL lock out was and im pretty much done wasting my time on them this year.

/not going out of my way to watch until next year after changes occur

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#74 Pucker
March 26 2013, 04:37PM
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It's Fistric.

At 8:30 Fistric is starting his move on Yip - Potter is already behind any play to Mueller.

I'd still take Fistric in my line up anytime. I hope he's not being benched because of this play. There were others just as bad (Hall turnover).

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#75 Curcro
March 26 2013, 06:05PM
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The problem I have with Potter on this play is he coasts back to the net after Mueller breaks through. He needs to be there to clear the rebound should Dubnyk make the save.

The other issue is that Fistric crossed prior to Nashville crossing. And even if there wasn't a goal on that play. If he makes his check, that is Interference.

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#76 Pucker
March 26 2013, 06:08PM
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Pucker wrote:

It's Fistric.

At 8:30 Fistric is starting his move on Yip - Potter is already behind any play to Mueller.

I'd still take Fistric in my line up anytime. I hope he's not being benched because of this play. There were others just as bad (Hall turnover).

I'm wrong. Bad play by Fistric compounded by a bad play by Potter. It looks like he did go for a skate before trying to get back into position.

At 8:29 he's gone too wide and is in chasing mode.

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