1/4/16

2016 LMHF Report - Game #20

Edmonton 1

vs.

Carolina 0
----------------

What a terrible hockey game. Not all 0-0 games are necessarily bad. Some feature amazing goalies and great defensive play. This was not that. At all. Ever.

For the first 50 minutes especially, neither team did much of note at all. I guess Carolina may have been playing their system well? I honestly don't know but up to that point the highlight of my evening was likely the Bandera Bread I had at BP.

The Oilers picked up the attack a little bit after that, but couldn't manage to break through. They kept trying to break out along the boards and were shut down many, many times. The D group's inability to skate the puck or make stretch passes was completely on display this evening.

I'm also wondering if the players had a little bit of a team event shall we say after Saturday's game. The trap is the trap but they looked like they were skating in mud.

The powerplay is still terrible - just a new kind of terrible. They keep trying to funnel the puck to Brad Hunt and it isn't working well at all. He can't find lanes and deliver a bomb at the NHL level. Davidson is a superior shooter and should be given a chance if this is the play they want to make.

The winning goal was pretty goofy - which is usually the case on a night like this. Aside from a couple Eberle backhanders, the Oilers didn't generate much but seemed like they would win. Sekera does a good job in OT of getting a shot on and going to the net. I've already seen it a few times this year. His rebound got Ward thinking he could clear the puck, but he hesitated and that was enough.

It's a relief to watch this team win some of these games when they've been losing them so long. It is alarming how many of the games have gone to OT, but it is an improvement on the way they were making losses out of wins early in the year.

We await the return of McJeebus, and hope that will being enough in the way of goals and winning to inspire the acquisition of a defenceman.

Player reports will be up when I get home. I'm taking a rare LRT ride and posting on my BlackBerry Priv tonight. Wanted to get this bit up earlier than usual. More to come!


Talbot
- Obviously a solid game for him. It is great to see him rebounding. I recall a couple shaky moments where the puck got away from him for no good reason, and some glove hand struggles but that's all really. Made the key saves in the 2ND and 3Rd when the team broke down a bit. One thing I have noticed - his issue with sharp angle shots appears to be technical and not mental. When he's covering his post, he is both crouched and wholly inside the net rather than overlapping the post. This is surely better for moving side to side, but means there will always be an angle to score from. No good. I'm now watching other goalies to see if this might be a new technique being taught. If so, it needs to stop.

Hunt
- I think many of you know I don't care much for Hunt as a hockey player. Frankly he's Bergeron with a worse shot, no hitting and no wheels. He's not helping the powerplay and is in fact taking shooting chances from more skilled players. He had one shift tonight with a muffin shot (effectively a turnover), a whiff, got beat wide twice and took a penalty. That's the Andrew Ference special! He was okay 5-on-5 in that he survived, but he's not better than Fayne (or Reinhart for that matter). Shouldn't be playing. That's not his fault though.

Gryba
- Aside from the occasional attempt at being some sort of superstar pinching defenceman (and failing), as well as his usual struggles moving the puck, he was okay. No major mistakes that hurt and that's all you're really hoping for from him.

Nurse
- He's been struggling and wasn't great tonight either. That's not to say he's in Hunt's class. He helps the team but is playing too many minutes and with an iffy partner. I'd like to see him skate the puck more than he did tonight. Against the trap, skating through is your best attack and he's one that can do that. Not a lot of jump on a night they could have used some. Oh well. He's a rookie being asked to do a vet's job.

Schultz
- I saw nothing from him tonight that suggests any kind of a corner is being turned. He continues to make weak passes from his back foot, and lazy "saucer" passes that don't land flatly and we're unnecessary to begin with. I'll say again that I don't know what Eakins did to this guy but it will likely prove fatal for his game. I've never seen a guy who was a competent defender at one point so unsure of himself when trying to defend the cycle. The "swarm" got to him. He remains ineffective on the opposing blue line as well, rendering him useless.

Davidson
- Solid defensive game. No sparks but did well enough to matter. He's looked a tad off the pace since returning from injury which is typical. Want to see him let his shot go.

Sekera
- Despite a couple of mistakes, he led his group and ultimately scored the winner. Really like his game in OT. Like others he's being asked to bear too much burden but what can you do? Seriously, Chiarelli, help these guys out!

Klinkhammer-Lander-Khaira
- I sure hope Klinkhammer isn't playing once Iiro is back from injury. I suspect they'll send Khaira down instead unfortunately. I'm not sure what anyone sees in Klinkhammer's game. He doesn't really do much of anything. He's just there. He's better than Gazdic, sure, but aside from being an okay skater in terms of being fast (but not quick) he just doesn't bring much and did that tonight. Lander is lost out there. Tonight he was behind the play, took a couple wild stabs at the net and that was about it. I must confess I don't get it. This is a talented hockey player who's shown some smarts. He can't seem to find a place. Khaira was probably the best on the line but that's not saying much. He made a couple nice plays but also had a couple near-costly bobbles in his own zone and didn't bring enough of the physical element of his game this evening.

Korpikoski-Letestu-Hendricks
- A lot more not much. They didn't get beat defensively, I will give them that. Letestu probably had a good night in the circle as he tends to (must confess I haven't looked to see if he did), but didn't really get to the net or help the powerplay much. Hendricks appears to be in the process of losing a step or two this season. Tonight you could see he wasn't getting to hits or pucks he may have last year. The effort is still there, but it isn't getting him anything lately. The occasional scoring chances and SH breaks just aren't coming because he can't seem to beat anyone. Korpikoski was invisible for most of the game, then looked like he was going to fluke the winner in for two shifts and that was pretty much it.

Pouliot-Hopkins-Eberle
- These guys were a bit confusing for me tonight. On one hand, most of the solid chances (limited though they were) seemed to come from this group. Eberle had at least 3 backhand chances and just missed a couple clear break-ins, Pouliot could have had a couple and Hopkins generated some with passing, but they also had a ton of moments where they did bizarre things like not chasing pucks, turning away or just bobbling the puck to Carolina like it was the game plan. It was very confusing. I figured they would score in overtime and they did I suppose only I thought it would be Eberle. What's missing from this group? In this game, and in many this year, Hopkins for some reason won't or can't drive the center of the ice and is not making cross-seam passes. He's doing fine behind the net and down low, but is not attacking with aggressiveness. This throws his line off as this is clearly his role - push the D back and then hit Pouliot and Eberle who are excellent opportunists and shooters but not exactly transporters. I don't know if he's being asked to play a different game or what, but something's missing by my eye. Got to let him run a bit. Suspect he will get a decent bounce once McDavid returns. Pouliot disappeared for much of the night, which happens. Thankfully he avoided some of the characteristic penalties we're used to seeing. He actually looked aware and took his stick away from the opposition player a couple times. I suspect this will last precisely one game, but oh well. As noted above, Eberle was decent enough and I could have sworn he was going to get a couple but no dice.

Hall-Draisaitl-Purcell
- These guys struggled some despite having the home matchup that usually works so well for them. Leon was the best of the group, using his strength on his skates to make some plays down low. He got a couple chances off of drives to the net by Ward shut him down. Hall was really quiet for me. Normally in a game like this you would see him kick it into high gear at least attempting to win it himself and that really didn't show up. He actually looked quite tired at the end of the game. Maybe the games and icetime are catching up with him a bit. Purcell had a shooter's chance at the end but put it into Ward's midsection. He is very much the opportunist on the line and because his linemates weren't really generating a ton of good passing lanes, he didn't see much.

2016 LMHF Report - Game #20

Edmonton 1

vs.

Carolina 0
----------------

What a terrible hockey game. Not all 0-0 games are necessarily bad. Some feature amazing goalies and great defensive play. This was not that. At all. Ever.

For the first 50 minutes especially, neither team did much of note at all. I guess Carolina may have been playing their system well? I honestly don't know but up to that point the highlight of my evening was likely the Bandera Bread I had at BP.

The Oilers picked up the attack a little bit after that, but couldn't manage to break through. They kept trying to break out along the boards and were shut down many, many times. The D group's inability to skate the puck or make stretch passes was completely on display this evening.

I'm also wondering if the players had a little bit of a team event shall we say after Saturday's game. The trap is the trap but they looked like they were skating in mud.

The powerplay is still terrible - just a new kind of terrible. They keep trying to funnel the puck to Brad Hunt and it isn't working well at all. He can't find lanes and deliver a bomb at the NHL level. Davidson is a superior shooter and should be given a chance if this is the play they want to make.

The winning goal was pretty goofy - which is usually the case on a night like this. Aside from a couple Eberle backhanders, the Oilers didn't generate much but seemed like they would win. Sekera does a good job in OT of getting a shot on and going to the net. I've already seen it a few times this year. His rebound got Ward thinking he could clear the puck, but he hesitated and that was enough.

It's a relief to watch this team win some of these games when they've been losing them so long. It is alarming how many of the games have gone to OT, but it is an improvement on the way they were making losses out of wins early in the year.

We await the return of McJeebus, and hope that will being enough in the way of goals and winning to inspire the acquisition of a defenceman.

Player reports will be up when I get home. I'm taking a rare LRT ride and posting on my BlackBerry Priv tonight. Wanted to get this bit up earlier than usual. More to come!

12/12/15

2016 LMHF Report - Game #15

EDMONTON 7

VS.

NEW YORK 5
-------------------

I want to thank Henrik Lundqvist, for he played a role in setting in motion the events that have led us to this wonderful night. I can't help but think that his laughing at the organization after barely having to show up for a shutout last year irked someone something fierce. Soon, the poison that was Dallas Eakins as Oilers Coach was gone. Things could begin again.

I also got to have a moment I really enjoyed - last year after an unimportant and lucky win at home while the team was mired in another joke of a season, I witnessed Craig MacTavish come down the catwalk. He was smiling like a smug idiot about the win. It was so annoying to see someone so obviously satisfied with himself after such a small victory. Tonight I saw Peter Chiarelli as I walked by the same spot. All business. I gave him props and went on my way. I'd much rather have a guy who doesn't have that smile in his repertoire (even when he might deserve to wear it) moving this team forward. The GM and the Coach know that the work isn't done until a banner is hanging in the rafters. That's huge.

What a night. Got there really early as directed to witness the Sather banner raising and a number of the best hockey players to wear the jersey honor a man who brought them all together. I thought people would be a little more into it honestly, and wish they would have had Slats talk for longer, but oh well. If you've followed my writing for any length of time, you know I have a deep admiration for Sather. The way he did things. His inventiveness. His attitude. The guy was everything to this organization in a way only #99 can surpass. I wish he'd never left and had been able to hold his squad together. I can only imagine the sad day when it dawned on him that he'd never have what he had again no matter how he tried. That has to be soul crushing on a professional and personal level - but he soldiered on. Had it not been for some unfortunate run-ins with the Oilers post-Pocklington owners we may have seen much more from the man, but with that said, what he has accomplished is truly amazing.

And then came the game - it did not start well. Usually taking an immediate penalty and putting a skilled team on the powerplay is a recipe for absolute disaster. That the Oilers were able to turn that around into a very productive period where they set the early tone of outshooting and out chancing the Rangers was exceptional. It is an indicator of what has happened through the course of this homestand and more broadly through this year. In all honesty I never once had a thought of them losing tonight. They were challenged more with the loss of Klefbom, but they had it in them.

The second period honestly wasn't much worse. The shots shifted a tiny bit and it happened that the Rangers were scoring. The Oilers had chances and Lundqvist held the Rangers in. Nothing in that period looked to be a fundamental breakdown that would carry over. I thought it was a shame they couldn't make it 4-3 before the end of the 2nd. But...

Then they come out first thing in the third and immediately take the lead. If you were doubting, this was honestly the time to cease. These are the things good teams do. Sure, they were pretty awful at times in the third. They got pinned down, tired and couldn't transport the puck. Teams know that you can take it behind the net against the Oilers and wear them down. That's the scouting report. The Rangers also have a big, fast, talented hockey team. I haven't seen Rick Nash play like that in YEARS. He was on fire and giving the Oilers all they could handle as a team. One day, a guy like Nurse will be able to saw-off with a guy like that, but we're not there yet.

So the game was tied again. Everyone was pretty aggravated with how it happened. But then there's a play on the boards...and another...and suddenly these guys wearing 29 and 4 are in with only one man back.

Done. Over. Finished. No damn chance.

That was inspiring. That was poetic. That FINALLY got a nervous Rexall to unabashedly cheer. There had been good moments during the game, but people can still feel that coldness...the losing...the fear seeping in at most games. We've all been trained not to trust. This group is showing us we may finally be able to let that go on home ice. Suddenly this is a very good home ice hockey club. I'll take that any day.

That Korpikoski got the last, and the way he did it - desperate but perfect - was so fitting. I always advocate that players practice full length empty net shots. When I took my hockey classes at the UofA, Eric Thurston always had us do this to begin and said he does it with his players as well. It is simple - but easy to practice and can make the difference. This is even more true when you're worn down and short a man like the Oilers were.

We all stood and cheered the last 20 seconds. The last of many standing ovations on the night. What you feel in the building isn't joy - yet. It is relief. It is the letting go of a weight and a shame we've all been carrying for so long. That is a damn hockey team down there on the ice.

I really wanted to mention a couple of the goals specifically:

On the first Rangers goal, both Oilers defencemen made horrible passes to no one that wound up on the Rangers point man's stick. These were always my favorite opportunities when I played. Such a gift. Everyone's out of position. You probably have a lane and a screen. Rip the bomb or make a slap pass. Easy to make things happen. You can't do that for the other team. Gryba and Klefbom should be ashamed of their efforts on that play.

On the third Oilers goal, Draisaitl made a little play that will get overlooked because Hall made such a nice read. Instead of rushing the zone because Hall was moving in fast, he made a little loop in the neutral zone that meant he had 4 Oilers in total rushing in. These are the subtleties in his game that are making the difference right now. He did that without letting any Rangers close off the play, or losing the flow of the attack. Just masterful.

-----------------------------

Nilsson
- Certainly not his finest hour by any stretch. I don't think he necessarily played badly. There wasn't an obvious softy out there, but he also lacked some of the big saves he's made lately. He didn't control rebounds as well. Part of that was obvious breakdowns and blown coverages on behalf of those in front of him. The thing is, if he's just a little better they win this game in a runaway. The Rangers pushed, but they were not flying. They kept messing up passes to the point and really failed to keep the Oilers out of the middle of the ice. His team owed him one of these though, and they got it. He also took the cue to cover the puck more in the third when his team needed breaks and stops. That's one of the ways you know a goalie is in the game.

Sekera
- Probably one of his strongest games. The Rangers goals he was on for didn't seem to be his fault. His passes and skating with the puck started a number of plays tonight including the game winner. He was all over the place, logged a ton of minutes and fought off the Rangers as the vet on a blue line that really pushed tonight. I actually want to give credit to the entire blue tonight. Even though they gave up 5, they were pushed hard with their most complete defenceman out as the Rangers pushed back with fury. They bent, and maybe broke a tiny bit, but did enough. That was a challenge tonight but they made it to the finish line.

Nurse
- Looked like he struggled in the defensive zone tonight and had to rely on pure athleticism a little too much. Not a positionally strong game for Darnell. Great little read on his goal and even though he whiffed the shot a bit, it was the right shooting choice. Not all guys know how to sneak in and make themselves a target like that. I can't help but think Nurse's attitude helps on a night like this. He doesn't strike me as a guy who ever gets down and is plenty arrogant about his game (in the best possible way).

Klefbom
- Aside from that one ugly sequence I mention above, he was having a whale of a game. He was getting pucks through on a level I've never seen from him before. This is such a key for a two-way defenceman like Oscar. You could see the difference when he was gone. Some stepped up, while others weren't able to. I hope he's not out long as this squad needs him very badly.

Schultz
- Ya know, in a shootout you think you'd notice a guy like Schultz but I really didn't. I suppose this means he didn't make too many mistakes but he's a guy who needs to contribute to the transition and PP if he's to be effective. His powerplay game has slumped to a point where he should actually be the second-last option only to Gryba. The guy just isn't making anything happen, and often makes weak passes that compromise the blue line. This isn't good. Not too bad defensively, but not great either.

Gryba
- Honestly? Another weak game by my eye. He was getting beat wide a bunch and barely recovering. Didn't impose his will in the corners. Made a number of errors with the puck. I remember a good pinch in the third, but that's the only positive play I can think of. He needs to come out of the lineup, but unfortunately that can't happen now that Klefbom is hurt. He's not great, but he's nowhere near Ference bad.

Davidson
- A quieter game from Davidson than usual. I'd really like to see him on the powerplay in a game like this. He needs more chances to fire that shot. Some physicality from him which is an added bonus. He struggled a bit like the others in terms of not breaking up the Rangers cycle game though. The Coach needs to work with these guys to alleviate that weakness to some extent.

Hall-Draisaitl-Purcell
- Whirlwind game for Tedward. Great little shot from the slot for a goal. Great quick play along the boards to set up another...and another. He was borderline TOUGH tonight. Think about that! BUT, he also blew some coverages and then takes one of the most utterly stupid "you're asking for it" penalties you will ever see. That is exactly what not to do late in a game when your team has a lead. Smart players on the other team will try to goad you into that penalty. I couldn't believe it was him that did it. And also, I'll say it, I would have benched him. No chance from an outsider's view that he sees the ice after that - BUT - the Coach knows the room. He made a call. It turned out. This is a good thing. I suppose without all of his up and downs, we don't wind up with this wonderful script. Hall and Draisaitl are flat out killers. I don't know how well they showed it at home, but after the 6th goal, they go to Hall on the bench and he's just locked on. He knew exactly what was going to happen when he hopped the boards the prior shift. That goal happened like it was nothing. Probably one of the best games I've seen Hall play. He won every single race to a corner puck. He won every single physical battle. He knocked guys around. He got open constantly. He passed like a wizard. The read to Purcell was perfect. The read to Nurse was even better, and after he'd already bounced a guy off to create space, moved into it, then got the puck and moved it seamlessly. What a freaking game he played. Leon? He's my favorite right now. The guy is making amazing players on the other team look horrible and his teammates like gods. That spin play on the boards to set up the two-on-one with Hall...amazing. Then he's marching in there and Raanta has no hope. Either he plays shot all the way and Hall's going to beat him because Draisaitl's going to pass it perfectly, or if he cheats even a touch we know Leon just roofs it before the guy can even think. That is the level he is playing at right now. Leon was outstanding in the corners and this line as a whole pushed the puck forward all night against formidable opposition. A huge hat tip to them.

Khaira-Hopkins-Eberle
- I'm conflicted with reference to these guys. I thought they played better than they looked...then I started thinking about the times they were trapped in their own zone. It happened too much. They can't be that weak at getting the puck out. Some of that was the D, but not all. Hopkins was too easily shut down tonight. Part of that is trying to be responsible as he's taking on some of the league's best lately, but you can also see that he's lacking confidence. I remember a play in the third where he was leading a rush down the right wing...and once he got the zone instead of going hard to the net or making a move he just kind of offered up a weak pass. That's not #93. He's struggling a bit in the offensive zone at the moment. Eberle and Khaira were pretty decent on the forecheck. I kept expecting them to score and it just never came. Luckily they didn't need to tonight. They did both struggle defensively though. Hopefully this was just a bit of an off game where they weren't matched up all that well. I'm not sure.

Korpikoski-Letestu-Hendricks
- What a night for the former Ranger. He kept it really simple and went to the net. Korpikoski isn't going to give you many amazing games and is rather streaky, but the one thing he seems to be able to do consistently is go to the net and make good if he gets a chance. It was great to see those go in for him and even greater for him to provide the icing on the cake. He played alright on the PK, but this line also appeared to me to be struggling to clear the zone against a heavy Rangers forecheck. Have you ever seen a better hockey player who's such a bad shooter as Letestu? He just never gets one away. Positionally, he was okay, but just okay. I didn't see too much from him to be honest except for on the powerplay a little bit. That unit does a very good job of going to the net quickly if they get possession. I thought Hendricks should be dropped off this line for Pakarinen. As the pace has picked up recently, Hendricks can't quite keep up and is missing pucks and checks because of it. That continued tonight. He was able to contribute an assist, but I can see plays passing him by. He needs to remedy that or be demoted to the fourth line.

Gazdic-Lander-Pakarinen
- Pretty solid game for Gazdic I'd say. He struggled in the defensive zone (as many did) but also made a couple decent plays in the offensive zone and got in the faces of the Rangers. That's all he needs to do really. Pakarinen got away his one really good shot per game and it generated another goal. Love this guy as a depth player. Couple hits too. Lander? He had some defensive struggled and seemed out of step with his linemates. He's the clear leader at this point to find the pine when McDavid returns. That's really too bad - especially with his faceoff skills, but you can't cover up his lacklustre play. This is a guy with intelligence and some dynamic skill - I really wonder what's wrong.
---------------------------------

So, the Oilers are FINALLY filtering pucks through shooting lanes to the net. Through the course of this home stand, they have gotten more and more aggressive at attacking the middle of the ice in the offensive zone. This has been and will always be the key for the type of offensive players the Oilers have. It is beautiful to see it in action. Wins will keep coming if this reality remains.

Loved how none of the Oilers took any crap at the faceoffs tonight. Every one either instigated or pushed back with the Rangers wingers. Sticks were in backs. Gloves were in faces. This is attitude and they need more of it.

Lastly, I just have to say, damn it is fun to care again some times. That was great.

12/10/15

2016 LMHF Report - Game #14

EDMONTON - 4

VS.

SAN JOSE - 3

------------------------------
It's been a few games since I wrote anything but I figured I needed to after this one. Skipped a couple games, been sick lately and just generally unenthused. This home stand has seen building momentum and a team able to get it done in different ways. This is all happening with an entire first line's worth of forwards missing and a still-suspect group of defencemen. There's something in that group on that ice right now though.

I don't remember seeing many games like that in the previous 9 years - definitely not the last 5. This team had made art out of turning one unfortunate happening or mistake into an utter disaster. The Dallas Eakins squad of the past couple seasons would have managed to lose this game 5-2 and spent the night whining about how they just couldn't do it. That attitude is gone. A lot of those players are in fact gone. Is it perfect? Far from it. But it is something. It is something we can cheer for and get excited about from time to time. Now is a great time. They are staring at the possibility of a 5-0 homestand against a fine group of opponents at a point of the season that could have spelled the end and a return to desperate hopelessness. We are not there. We're not even close to there.

Weird game for a long time tonight. Lots of flipping the puck to an area, or wonky passes. Multiple fights. Multiple reviews. Just odd.

For quite a while tonight I thought this game would end 2-0. Nilsson was playing like nothing would pass and the Oilers, though allowing SJ some zone control, were keeping chances to a minimum and actually should have been up more than the 1 goal they were before SJ struck. The Sharks cranked up their play and took advantage of some mistakes. There are still some holes in this Oilers team surely - but there is no albatross taking the ice that will for sure give the other team a chance to win. Removing Andrew Ference from the lineup is one of the most important things that has happened to create this momentum that has built into this home winning streak.

Brent Burns might be one of the most underrated players in the league. He was absolutely fantastic tonight even if he was on for the final GA. The can and does play everywhere. He gets open. He hits. He FIRES the puck. Just a thing of beauty to watch him play. If the Oilers have any chance to add him, they must pursue that to the end.

You can see the Sharks aren't what they were a number of years ago - some are older, some are less talented and the D just doesn't stack up, but they have the saavy to usually pull out a win in a game like this against a team like the Oilers and bust a losing streak of their own. That wouldn't be the case tonight.

The 4 Oilers goals were all excellent in their own way.

Leon's goal was awesome because it looked like a nothing play, but he had room and a shooting lane. One quick move and a simple shot later it was in the net. A one shot scorer. He's one of those.

Eberle's goal? Man. Great plays by all on the line, then Khaira shows excellent patience and vision behind the net, finds Eberle on a perfectly timed pass and Eberle executes the backhand that only he and Malkin apparently have. My gawd what a shot.

Speaking of what a shot, Iiro can fire the puck. He had several other chances and almost scored, then took advantage of the Khaira benching to score a huge goal. Great work out of the corner, settled himself and fired a hard shot at a spot. Such strong fundamental hockey.

And Hall's winner - I'll tell you this: whenever I see Leon charge up the wing with the puck and a star-calibre player near him, I almost expect a goal at this point. This man is rising to the occasion in a way that I've only seen from McDavid. You just know good things are going to happen when he drops his head and starts lugging that puck. He wasn't intimidated by Burns. He didn't throw some stupid shot with no lane. He waited, drifted around Burns just enough, and flicked a perfect pass to Hall's stick. In the net like it was nothing. Those guys took down Thornton-Pavelski-Burns. That's amazing.

------------------------------------------


Nilsson
- Another very solid game in a good string for the #1 goalie in this town. He looked so calm and almost stunned when pucks got past him. I don't think you can fault him on 2 of the 3, and Pavelski's goal was a really weird play (though he could have stopped it). The guy has run with his opportunity in a way that we haven't seen in a good while. Good on him. He gives this team a chance to win every night.

Sekera
- Sekera still looks slow to me. I don't know whether he's tentative or just very deliberate. Either way he's got to move out there and get the puck going where he wants it to faster. Didn't make a bunch of mistakes or anything though.

Nurse
- Nurse was good again. He was challenged by some big, strong boys tonight. At one point, he and Burns came together at nearly full speed in the Oilers zone. I thought there might be an earthquake. Wow. Very thankful Nurse is now a fixture and hoping he's watching tapes of Souray and Pronger for tips on how to be an even bigger pain near his own net without taking penalties.


Klefbom
- Well, he made a big mistake pinching before the Marleau goal. You can't make that read late in a game when you're one of only 2 back. He knows better. Aside from that I thought he had a strong game generally.

Davidson
- Quieter night for Davidson aside from some physical play in front of his own net. I like that he mixes it up and seemed to have some tricks up his sleeve for dealing with Burns and Thornton. Wasn't perfect, but that's okay. Did he get one really good shot off that rang the post or am I imagining things?

Schultz
- Well, he was just okay. Too many coverage mistakes and looked slow to the corners. Didn't have the glaring turnovers that might characterize a bad Schultz game, but also got beat at some key times and didn't take his man. I swear he used to be better in the corners.

Gryba
- Not a great game. He's been passed on the depth chart since an early streak of strong play and has never really recovered. Some mistakes with the puck and struggled to keep up with the Sharks cycle. They all did really, but Gryba most of all.

Hall-Draisaitl-Purcell
- Purcell managed to play his way off this line for a time due to a number of puck mistakes and bad passes, as well as getting stuck in no man's land during the first 2 periods. It was pretty ugly. He seemed okay by the end of the game, but certainly struggled for a while there. Nothing to write home about in his game. That may have been Hall's best game in several years. He was flying. Still rushed some passes and shots, but was intense in all aspects of the game and really willed this team to a win. The motor just kept on going. He took a bit of a beating too, but gave back as well. Great finish on the OT winner. Love the reaction too. Almost like he knew that was how the game would end. Leon? What a hockey player. Seriously. I've watched this guy and just been amazed. Part of me isn't surprised per se, because he's clearly a late bloomer with little development until his late teens who happens to be supremely talented and built like an ox, but for it to just come pouring out like this has been a joy to watch. I would have made him first star tonight. So many big, strong, smart players on that SJ team just couldn't handle him. We haven't had a C like that since Jason Arnott - and I think Leon is better.

Khaira-Hopkins-Eberle
- This line was having a really good game even before the goals. Khaira is showing that he's a dynamic skater who gets in on the forecheck and can distribute the puck. Loved his hit that led to the fight. That SJ player is lucky he partially dodged that train. Then in the fight, he overpowered his combatant and came over the top to free his left hand. I haven't seen that in a long while. It is unfortunate that after his assist and a number of scoring chances (including a backhander he probably should have scored on), he makes an ill-advised back pass, then changes his mind too many times when backchecking (you have to go to and stay with Marleau, allowing Nilsson to play the shooter) and gets benched. He deserved it and I'm sure took the message well. Aside from that one shift? Great game. Eberle's back in a real way. The goal was amazing. He made a third period drop-the-shoulder and drive play I haven't seen him make in forever. Solid work to set up Pakarinen's goal and dangerous at other times as well. Great game. Hopkins was the quietest of the three, but provided the support Eberle needed to have that great game.

Korpikoski-Letestu-Pakarinen
- Iiro was certainly the standout from this group. I didn't see much if anything from the other two. Pakarinen would up with the goal, a couple other strong chances and some physical play that is important as a depth option for this squad. Very well done and properly rewarded with shifts on both the first and second lines.

Gazdic-Lander-Hendricks
- Gazdic unfortunately had his combatant turtle almost immediately during their fight. Too bad. He also had a decent scoring chance though. Lander was a beast in the faceoff circle and played one of the more complete games I've seen from him in quite a while. All very good to see. Hendricks has gone quiet for some time now and that continued tonight. I'm not sure if he's hurt or if his role has been usurped by younger versions of him that can fire a puck.
--------------------------

So - what now? First things first, you need to be New York. That would be so huge.

Next - the time has come to send a message to your team that you mean business THIS YEAR. There is an opportunity here. If you are in a playoff spot or very close by the time McDavid returns, you can make it. So what does that mean? It means you need to take the steps necessary to move out Gryba and Schultz, and bring in some superior defenders to take those spots. That would send a message of positive confidence to your team and really give them a shot in the arm for the next stretch of games. You make these moves when you are WINNING, not LOSING. This is the time. Get it done Peter Chiarelli. This is when your earn your dough.

You make that move, get the team over the hump, reinsert your injured 1A/1B line when McDavid is healthy, and scream towards a playoff spot.

Also - breaking up that unit would be insanity and anyone who's reviewed their stats together and concludes otherwise is delusional. Most haven't reviewed their stats.

Look at this:

Hall-Draisaitl-Purcell
Pouliot-McDavid-Yakupov
Khaira-Hopkins-Eberle
Pakarinen-Lander/Letestu-Hendricks

That's a really solid group! That's a playoff group.

11/1/15

2016 LMHF Report - Game #6

EDMONTON 4

VS.

CALGARY 5

Seriously...
------------------------

After thinking about the game for a while over some pizza I needed as I had skipped dinner, I came to the conclusion that this game was a little bit like an extremely weird football play. It's a broken play and the ball's be been fumbled. For whatever reason, all of your team's hands are covered in grease and every time you think you have the ball it just slips out again. The other team is fat, kinda lazy, not really looking at what's going on or trying to grab the ball, and then the dumb guy with the dry hands has it bounce into his lap.

Dammit.

They really needed to win that game. For a bunch of reasons but mostly to stomp on Calgary's heads and show that this year is different right from the start. They failed. I would have actually considered a 5-4 win a failure as well. That is a putrid Calgary team with no goaltending that's capable of generating nothing off the rush. They're brutal. The Oilers should've smacked them around all night and coasted to this one.

Instead they put themselves behind the 8-ball early. There's really no excuse for that two games in a row. Especially after the last game was a win. They had to know the opportunity was there to make a statement on Saturday night on HNIC against the Flames and they flopped. That's really sad.

With that said, they still had this game almost all the way. They were the only ones generating anything. Even this bad effort on their part should have been enough.

I hold 3 people primarily responsible for this loss. In order with the worst going first: McLellan, Ference, Talbot.

Let's talk about Talbot first. He can't turn that puck over behind the net. He can't let that shot in from behind the goal line. Plain and simple. That was horrid goaltending. I haven't seen him fight the puck that bad in any of his previous starts. Even lazy shots from the point were getting through and challenging him. This was a goalie falling apart tonight and he needed to be pulled. Badly. It was plain to see. He did make one big save off of Frolik but other than that...man. I don't worry about him long term because he's mentally strong, but that was a bad game and he knows it.

On to Ference. He is easily the worst hockey player on this roster. I counted one completed pass. I counted at least 9 turnovers. It was entirely routine for him to have time and space, two short range passing options and simply look up ice and turn it over to Calgary. He made two low percentage pinches in a tie game in the third period (while being a player who should essentially NEVER pinch). He chased all over his own zone and lost every single race he got into. He was on for multiple GA, with his inability to clear the zone being the primary reason for multiple goals against. He was, and is, an albatross that means this team has the possibility of losing every single night he plays no matter what the rest of them do. He is that bad. Scott Ferguson and Jason Strudwick looked like heroes by comparison to what this guy is doing right now. I'd trust Luke Gazdic to drop back and fill in on the third pairing before Andrew Ference would ever see a second of icetime if I had my way. Why am I continuing to harp on this? 1 - because he's that bad and 2 - because the media will not call him or the coach or anyone else out on it. If you can't ask the question about why this guy is in the lineup after a night like that, it's never going to get asked.

Which bring me to McLellan. Don't get me wrong - I like a lot of what he's doing. If he ever plays Ference again it is a mistake. Period. He could see what was going on and kept sending him over the boards to hurt this team's chances to win. I couldn't believe he got back out there after some of the plays he made. It wasn't just one at a time either and it was so rarely under pressure. For McLellan to not see that and sit Ference down is unconscionable if you want to win the game. I don't care about sending a message to Fayne if THIS is the result. The decision to play him and keep playing him in all likelihood cost the Oilers the game. The other D didn't set the world on fire by any means, but they could all pick up a puck in the corner and make some kind of play with it without turning it over to CGY AND throwing themselves out of position. Ference can't. His game is over. This showed that to anyone who wasn't on the trolley before. My gawd it makes me mad to watch him play hockey.

It's worth noting as well that after the comeback had been made complete, the exact guy I'd want to have a chance to win this thing had the puck on his stick. Pouliot made a sublime play and pass to set up McDavid in front of a wide open net. I still don't understand how he missed that puck. It seems impossible that that could have happened just then. He was even due.

That game made me shake my head, curse and wonder what we did to deserve to watch it.

Anyway, on to the other players.
-------------------------------

Hall-Hopkins-Draisaitl
- Hall played an amazing hockey game - no two ways about that. He scored, made amazing passes, even blew up Goudreau for good measure. The only thing I could possibly see him needing to do differently is to occasionally throw in a cut to the middle at the blue because the Flames were reading his play off the rush by the end and cheating for coverage. He's suddenly caught right up in scoring. Good for him. I hope he is fueled by his quest to keep up with #97. He won't for long, but the effort will push his game higher. My favorite play was actually the second assist on Davidson's goal. That was a great read. Draisaitl's goal was very nice. He looks like he just knows what to do in those situations. Also made some plays tonight using his strength and patience which were missing in the first game. Amazing to come up and throw 5 points on the board in two games like it's no big deal. Great job. Hopkins was very good on a night when he really only needed to be support. Excellent game.

Pouliot-McDavid-Yakupov
- This was the first game where there were some real misfires for this crew. With that said, they did score one and should have had another. The fact they didn't wind up on the board is neither here nor there in reference to the first and inexplicable in reference to the second. McDavid just never go going. This was the first time I've seen where he could be described as awkward. He still blew by people and still looked amazing, but when the puck came to him it just wasn't the same. If this had been any other night he probably has 3 points and we're talking about how the Oilers scored 7. Yakupov was okay. Nothing about his game blew me away but he had moments. Pouliot should have had a goal and an assist, but instead wears the goat horns with that late penalty. The team was revving up and really looked like Calgary was dead there. If not by McDavid's overdue point, then one more Taylor Hall rush away from an Oilers win. You know you're getting these penalties from Pouliot but that doesn't help dull the feeling when they happen. That was a useless hook.

Pakarinen-Lander-Purcell
- Wasn't impressed that this line got changed so early as I liked the Lander-less look early on. Lander got promoted after drawing a penalty, which I would say was his only real noticable moment. He just can't seem to get himself space with the puck right now. Too many easy turnovers, no really dangerous shots. He's definitely struggling at the moment. Purcell? I have to give him credit for the pass to set up Davidson and for cashing his goal. To me, he looked the same otherwise. He's a bit like the players in the really old table hockey games where they don't even move, but if you spin them just right they fire it in the net. Pakarinen was okay. He his some people and was noticable at least. Nothing special.

Gazdic-Letestu-Slepyshev
- Slepyshev wound up on this line far too soon. He was doing fine and then had no ice time. Too bad. Letestu got hosed on that goalie interference call and I'm sure that had him a little down. I'm starting to think he's the kind of player who can do a little bit of everything but can't shoot. There were at least two instance tonight where he had time and space from dangerous areas but what looked like his best wrister was just piss poor. That's no good, but thankfully something that can be improved on until the day you hang em up. Hopefully he's willing to work on it. Gazdic didn't hurt the team, which is really all he has to do. I would have rather seen his spot go to Fayne so that the coach could have more easily benched Ference - but who knows if he would have.

Gryba
- Well, a couple ugly ones in a row now from him. That high stick was especially inexcusable. Part of it is certainly his D partner but he's also just lost a lot of momentum. All over the place positionally. Got beat routinely. One big hit is all I can credit him for really. We had to know he was playing over his head though. Just coming back to earth. He's a 6/7. That's that.

Davidson
- Definitely riding a wave of confidence right now. He's the only guy the Oilers have on the back end who's actively looking to shoot and really knows how. Great little goal he scored. He's the anti-Brad Hunt in that he's actually making the most of his chance. He was better defensively tonight, though I suspect he too will come back to earth. He's being asked to do too much at the moment because of the injuries and how bad his company is, but thankfully he's hanging in.

Klefbom
- Better, but still not himself. Isn't making the skating or physical plays yet.

Sekera
- Underwhelming is the word. You keep expecting more from this guy and he's just not delivering yet. I liked that he did more skating with the puck, but man did he ever make some awkward plays and turnovers. Yuck. Needs to pick it up in a big way.

Nurse
- Good, solid game from him. Didn't blow you away but played steady. That's something for a rookie. Shame they need him to be this good and more right now. He doesn't deserve or need that pressure.

-------------------

C'mon Chiarelli - this has gone on long enough. Time to find a way to retire Ference or notify your coach that he's only got 22 to choose from. Time to move some defencemen out and bring some in. Time to cash in a pick and a prospect. You can't let the top six suffer under this group. It has to pain your soul like it does mine to watch two first overall picks and a strong veteran winger lugging Andrew Ference and Eric Gryba all over the ice like two Denver boots. You owe them and the team and the fans better than that.

10/29/15

2016 LMHF Report - Game #5

EDMONTON 4

VS.

MONTREAL 3
-----------------

Now THAT was a hockey game.

This represented the opposite of last game in many ways but especially the caring bit. These nights feel so good when you're into it. For some reason there was always a glimmer - and for once they scored right before the end of the second when they needed to and then hammered down on the accelerator the rest of the way. No nerves, maybe one bad shift the rest of the game, just GO.

I said after the first tonight that was probably the worst period they've played this season. If not it was really close to that. They had nothing out there after the first five minutes and MTL was taking the opportunity to simply run them out of the rink. It was ugly and it lay squarely with the 7 defencemen in the lineup tonight. They were horrid in the first. I'll try to focus on the last two periods when analyzing them because I don't want much negativity on a night like tonight.

The Oilers did what good teams have been doing to them for years now - looked up at the clock and said "We're down 3, but there's 40 left. Get the next one." They repeated that exercise until the game was theirs. Man that was something.

It was all the more sweet to be surrounded by the usual throng of Habs fans at Rexall while this all went down. After the first they were fat and happy - much like their team. The Habs then tried to play lock down hockey and coast on to Calgary with two points. Probably would have worked in the past. Not against McDavid. As he establishes a pattern and repeats performances like tonight the league and we as fans will learn. He just doesn't go away. You can see it in his game already - the sheer force of will that all great athletes have. Tonight he moved into fourth place in NHL scoring as an 18-year-old who started cold. He has his new best friend are on 7-game point streaks. Already. Think about that.

Unlike LA, MTL couldn't restart their engine with the McDavid train headed down the tracks. They got run over. They had barely any shots in the second half of the game and were shut down on the couple of chances they got.

The Oilers scored four unanswered against a formidable group of defenders that are backstopped by the very best goalie in the world. That's something to put on the board for the rest of the year and remember and learn from. Make no mistake - without Carey Price the Oilers could have ran up 7 or 8 goals tonight without much changing. A couple of players could have had multiple goal nights in addition to the one that actually did. It was something to see - the transition from being stuck in the mud to suddenly flying into the attacking zone with the puck or bashing into the MTL defenders and taking it away. The forwards and a couple of young dmen grabbed this game by the neck and hauled it over to their side. Frankly, the way that was done was impressive as hell. There were some truly sublime sequences. Let's talk about a couple:

Pouliot's goal was magic. It started with Nail Yakupov, improperly maligned as a "crummy board player", beating two MTL forecheckers for a loose puck and getting it to the best 18 year old hockey player I've ever seen. McDavid then reached back to grab the puck before PK Subban of all people could grab it, then flicked it around another Hab to the absolute perfect spot on the ice. Pouliot already knows his job on this line - get to the middle, be ready. He was flying into that perfect pass and made no mistake in beating Price. That play was board battle perfection.

The winner was also a beauty but in a more subtle way. Hall makes a great dump-in with Hopkins already on his horse. Hopkins gets perfect position on Desharnais and wins the puck battle. The Oilers won a ton of battles all of a sudden starting in the second, this just happened to be the one that finished the job. He then came around the net with the puck. Hall cut across with a perfect block out of the defender who could have blocked the pass. Now, Leon hadn't been on the ice at the last faceoff. Letestu had been out to take the faceoff and Draisaitl had to jump on and into the play - strong players know that this timing and angle difference can be used to their advantage. Leon went to the perfect spot and for probably the first time this evening, held the puck rather than trying to immediately whack it somewhere - he was rewarded. A perfect shot to beat price and make the fans go crazy. Great goal.

And that was that. They hung on and beat the best team in the league with the best goalie in the world after spotting them 3. Holy ****.
---------------------

Pouliot-McDavid-Yakupov
- Detailed their goal up above. McDavid was unstoppable in this game. When he's 23 he'll draw 2 or more holding penalties a night from dmen trying to stop his rushes with no hope. He blew by every MTL defender. He nailed a guy near the Oilers bench. He was mean sometimes, great all the time and made the type of play I suspect we'll come to know him for to set up the winner. It's just a treat watching this guy play and we're barely into his first season. Wow. Yakupov played a really solid game as well, winning several board battles, getting quality shots only to be robbed by Price, and forechecking at a high pace all night. He's seeing passing lanes really well and making his linemates better. Pouliot did exactly what he needs to do, with the added bonus of getting MTL a little riled up. Just a great game from this line.

Hall-Hopkins-Draisaitl
- Well, these boys carried the mail even if it wasn't perfect. The EV icetime for this group was off the charts. I often saw Hall and wondered if there was something wrong but now I'm betting he was just bagged. He really wants things to get going offensively and I think he's actually overskating the puck more than anything. If he gears down a bit and lets the play come to him he should be fine. Great efforts on a number of shifts but some frustrating ones as well. Part of it is just that I expect a lot from him. Hopkins too had some challenges but delivered in terms of icetime and the knockout punch. I may be underestimating the job he's doing against better players this year as well. What can you really say about Leon? Talent shines through I guess. He was horrible and nervous early. He was set up for a number of chances and either made bad passes away or simply whacked at the puck. This is not his game. The PP goal was so huge for him. People will call that a lucky play - but you can see him check and see Price is exposed and a bank shot is there. Credit to Emelin for nearly saving it but that was a great choice. Delivering the dagger in the third after such a long and crazy day had to be something else. Wow.

Slepyshev-Purcell-Pakarinen
- I'm not actually sure who played the middle for this group, but they made a contribution to tonight's game that will likely be forgotten and missed by most. In the third they provided strong, reliable minutes after McLellan shortened his bench. These guys really stepped up and moved the puck in the right direction - especially Slepyshev and Pakarinen. These are the types of guys you want as your depth players because they are talented enough to contribute, but work really hard during their limited ice time and can push just hard enough to beat good teams. They were mostly mediocre the rest of the night with Purcell being very disappointing on the powerplay, but that effort in the third should not be overlooked. I know I noticed.

Lander-Letestu
- Anton Lander got benched in this one and as he should have been. His defensive blunder leading to a goal was the second in two games on plays he has to be better with. Anton's not performing to his potential right now. Letestu got caught in the bench shortening, but did his job in terms of winning faceoffs and working hard. No complaints.

A word in general about the forwards - they carried the mail and did EVERYTHING tonight. They came back and got the puck, they checked MTL in all zones, they played great in the neutral zone and generated a bunch of chances in the 2nd and 3rd. Truly this victory was theirs.

Ference-Gryba-Fayne
- Sucked. They got blown by like a broken down old car on the side of the road as a Ferrari comes ripping past. Ference did his usual routine of too many turnovers instead of passes, too many weak shots and too many pinches. He managed to make about 4 passes in the third which was an accomplishment, but he took so much time it is a wonder MTL didn't get him. Gryba and Fayne were just stuck in the mud more than anything. They couldn't move to keep up when the game was pushed by either MTL or EDM for that matter. I suspect Gryba will bounce back but I think Fayne might be headed out of town.

Davidson
- Struggled in the first and definitely has challenges defensively. How much of this is because of his partners I don't know. He needs to stabilize his game a little bit and be stronger positionally. Once he started skating with the puck things changed. Then he fired a shot and that built some momentum. Then he got a perfect feed on a flowing play from Nurse and saw a perfect Yakupov screen. Hammered the puck into the net. Great shot. You could see he was feeling it after that. Got another good shot away and was strong the rest of the game. Very nice.

Sekera
- Kind of all over the place. He too started skating the puck out and this helped immensely. MTL wasn't ready for it and didn't adjust. Many of his rushes were ultimately unsuccessful but the puck was moved away from Talbot and MTL couldn't attack. Still some weird passes and giveaways that I don't expect from a player of his calibre. Hoping he's settling in and it is a style issue rather than substance thus far.

Klefbom
- All over the map. I'm not even sure how to describe the game he played. Horrible coverage at times, shut down beautifully at others. Wasn't moving, then rushed the puck up ice multiple times. Couldn't pass and then got an assist and started hitting his man. His game was still below my standards for him, but this really could have spiralled out of control and he managed to get it together. Good to see him fight it out.

Nurse
- Well, I don't think he's going back to California. What I saw tonight was a patient, aggressive defencemen who picked his spots all night and figured out he could drive the play forward. Then, he took flight. It is a beautiful thing to watch him fly up the ice with the puck. He also owned several Habs in the corners and used his reach effectively as well. He does so many things that the Oilers are lacking in their other blue liners. He was not perfect, but man have we been missing a player like this for a long time. I would like to know who has been getting his game focused - it is a beautiful thing.

I think the adjustment that changed the complexion of this game was that the D started skating with the puck - specifically these last 4. MTL had no answer for it, as the forwards were attacking at speed. That top 6 in flight is a nightmare. The challenge has been the D so far. Chiarelli needed to watch this game closely. It is time to make a move to support your elite young forwards. They will set the world on fire with 2 more D that can move the puck.

Talbot
- Good enough. Could have maybe made one more stop, but didn't need to in the end. Great when tested a couple times in the third. You can see the team is comfortable with him back there and he just doesn't get rattled. That's everything for a goalie. Many guys would have been shaking wondering if the hook was coming. Not Talbot.
-------------

That was awesome. You live for nights like that as a fan. There's something here guys. Time to seize the opportunity.

10/26/15

2016 LMHF Report - Game #4

EDMONTON 3

VS.

LOS ANGELES 3

As far as I'm concerned, we're in a rain delay.
-----------------------

Ya know, caring again really sucks sometimes.

There's a hockey team playing in that rink. It's even wearing the right color jerseys. They're very close even with some obvious holes in the lineup that could be filled. They don't need the guys in stripes and the Toronto replay crew ganging up on them. With a replacement level defence this team is probably 6 and 3, at least.

Good move having this game at 730 instead of the usual 6. Made the atmosphere a lot more 'Saturday night' as opposed to Sunday. The crowd is starting to get into it again. If this team can streak through the next homestand, this place will be cooking again.

All the focus will be on the goal Connor McDavid scored with 5 seconds left and that will detract from what was an interesting hockey game even with not a lot going on. It is true that the Kings weren't setting the world on fire - they also weren't completely shut off either. The fact is that despite being outshot, the Oilers were never more than one shot from the game being even. That's something against this Kings team.

I swear Quick has done this before with the glove backwards across the line. Maybe even to the Oilers. He knows he got beat.

Why would a ref reverse his own call on the ice? I'm thinking that must be disallowed going forward. It looks way too fishy for one thing. It screwed them over badly tonight and the guy probably wasn't even thinking about it. Too bad he was on the wrong side of the net too. Little things. It should have never come down to that, but it did.

McLellan managed his bench well to the point where I barely missed Schultz being gone. He rewarded Gryba and rightly so. The guy made plays. Oscar Klefbom got a PP assist. That's a role he should get to try. They played the sort of game that the Kings couldn't exploit or run away in. That's saying something. That's important. It will serve this team well going forward.

The fate of this season may come down to whether Chiarelli is ready, willing and able to pull the trigger on a deal or two for defencemen. If they were able to cash in Fayne and a pick for a more two-way player of slightly better pedigree than Fayne, then grab another supporting player, and have Nurse play his way onto the team, you've got a group that could probably support the forwards and goalie - who are playoff calibre. We'll see if that happens. I sure hope it does.

----------------------------

Talbot
- He can't get beat by that bank shot. Not good at all. What I've noticed so far about Talbot though is that ugly goals don't get him down. He was excellent after that goal and you certainly can't fault him for the loss. He could have stole this one for them though and came up just short. Too bad.

Gryba
- The surprise of the year so far for me. I didn't see it in training camp - really didn't. I must've expected a defencemen of his size and facial hair to play a different sort of game I guess. What he's done is not run around crushing people, but played a steady positional game, moved the puck simply and effectively with very few 'glass and out's, and taken care of his defensive partners. Honestly, that's damn impressive compared to where my expectations were. I still suspect we're seeing him good because of the company he keeps, but thankfully we're not seeing him as one of them or worse. This team would be in big trouble if we were. Had one bad giveaway in a ton of icetime.

Davidson
- Got beat a couple times, but skated well and made generally good choices with the puck. He knows how to get it, skate to a productive spot and pass. He was also on near the end trying to get a goal and did just fine. He's a much better option than Ference. Simple as that. He should keep playing as long as a spot is there.

Schultz
- Didn't see him do much of anything before he got hurt. Didn't see him get hurt for that matter.

Klefbom
- Much better game than last. He was much more into this one and I suspect he got a wakeup call from McLellan that helped with that. The thing is, he still didn't step up and look unique or better than his teammates. That's an issue. He should be making plays every night that make him look like he's not just another defenceman. Those have been missing this year. Too comfy? Nicked up? Adapting to the new system? I'm not sure yet, but I'm watching.

Sekera
- Ugh...this guy is starting to frustrate me. I know a lot is being asked of him, but you can't blow coverage like he did on the third LA goal. You have to have that man. He screwed up in this regard multiple times against Washington too. Is this a weakness of his game? It's starting to look like it. The thing is - he was advertised to me as an offensively capable player and yet I'm not seeing the passes or the shooting that was indicate this. My hope is that he's just adjusting and things will be okay, but I'm starting to get a little concerned.

Fayne
- Okay. Again. I don't think that's enough with the group around him. Plain is not a luxury we have at the moment.

Pouliot-McDavid-Yakupov
- These guys are producing offence with relative ease on a consistent basis against tough opponents. This is in terms of both goals and chances. You've got to love watching these guys attack. They played more of a rush game than a turnover game tonight and it still generally worked. I don't think McLellan expected their success and is honestly having a bit of an issue deploying them because he thought the Hall-Hopkins line would be his #1. They're not. McDavid was fabulous again. Watching him blow by excellent NHL defencemen with ease will never get old. He attacks the net like no one I've seen live. Great job getting open and setting up Pouliot, and creating chances the rest of the game. I'm struggling a little bit with how he didn't put the chance at the end in the roof. Quick is so good along the ice. Yakupov and Pouliot were both good again, getting open, keeping up and distributing. Two things to note - Yakupov is routinely making better plays from his own zone that spring linemates with speed, and Pouliot has found his money spot in the slot. The way these guys bared down and produced three chances from their work at the very end of the game was a delight to see. You're never out of it with guys like McDavid and Yakupov on the ice. Really too bad there was no one close enough in a 6-on-5 to tap in Yakupov's point shot as that was a ripper that Quick barely got. If things stay in place, these guys are going to make it rain all year. So long as injuries are avoided and the team doesn't tank, I'm predicting 100 for McDavid. If you combine what he's doing now with the fact that he's improving and hasn't even had a big game yet - and yes I know how tough 100 is these days - I see it happening. What a treat!

Hall-Hopkins-Klinkhammer
- A better night from these guys for sure, but they're still not 'humming'. Part of that can be attributed to Klinkhammer for sure. I'm not bagging on the guy - he did his best, skated well, got a couple of chances and landed some hits. For him, that's a great game. The thing is that his presence on the line means that LA essentially sends three to guard Hall and Hopkins. This severely limits what they can do. They combined on a nice goal that I think we'll see more of as the season goes on. Hall was better tonight - though he's lucky he didn't get a really untimely penalty in the third. He looked closer to getting things rolling tonight. Hopkins was good again. He's just extremely consistent and is really coming along as a guy who can play against the very best. Credit to Hall as well for getting the best of Doughty on a few occasions - that ain't easy.

Korpikoski-Lander-Purcell
- Not a lot of forecheck from Korpokoski tonight which is basically how I judge his game. Penalties didn't look great to me but one of them also looked like a weak call so who knows. I suspect his lack of consistency has been what has held his career back. They fact that he hasn't gotten a shot with Hall and Hopkins is probably saying somemthing. Lander's had more noticeable games and I like to see him attacking more than he did tonight. It's not something that's 'needed' per se, but it can push you over the edge in marginal games and Lander is capable. Remember that he has a tendency like Paajarvi did to drift into cheating for defence. Hopefully the coach is on him for not being as aggressive as he could be. Purcell? Again, fired the puck and missed the net. If you're going to be known for only having a shot you can't be missing.

Gazdic-Letestu-Pakarinen
- Not a lot of time for this crew which was to be expected. Gazdic fought a solid fight, stood up to a really nice hit attempt and was decent enough out there. Letestu got called upon a couple of times in terms of powerplay and at the end of the game and did just fine for himself. I like Iiro - have since last year. He plays a nice game. Even though he wasn't out there much, you noticed a little bit of skill and he wasn't just another number. Would love to see a fourth line that swaps Slepyshev for Gazdic. Would let you roll four with ease.
-------------------

Like I said. Caring sucks sometimes. I'm bitter about losing this one tonight. They could have turned it many different times. Was it a sublime effort? Hell no. But good teams win all kinds of games in all kinds of ways. They're getting close though - and that's something. This feels different for sure.

10/24/15

2016 LMHF Report - Game #3

EDMONTON 4

VS.

WASHINGTON 7

The pigeon's gone and so is the winning.
-------------------------------------------

There are losses that are hard to watch. This really wasn't one of them. That is one hell of a hockey team they have in Washington, and for a while the Oilers actually hung in with them. I wager if they had a group of 6 NHL defensemen they may well have beaten them, but they don't.

It amazing to watch a team capable of attacking that quickly. They're truly a treat. Kuznetsov is something else. When you can make Ovechkin look like an afterthought you must be. When the time came to clamp down they were able to do so as well.

I'm not seeing how I could fault the coaching tonight. They made some adjustments and did some things better as the game went on, but combining lack of talent with getting caught up ice and taking some bad penalties meant that there were too many pucks going into the net.

The team just didn't have enough to give. I'm more okay with that than I would've been if they hadn't just won 3 in a row for sure and at least you got to watch an entertaining hockey game. That was a damn fine hockey team beating a flawed but rising hockey team that showed some fight. I can deal with that.

--------------------

Nilsson
- He didn't really allow any bad goals. They were either breakaways or tic-tac passing plays from side to side with little defensive coverage. Sure, he didn't make a number of big saves that he maybe could have, but it wasn't on Nilsson tonight.

Talbot
- He played okay, though he didn't face the chances that Nilsson did. The shot from Kuznetsov was pretty far out but he was also screened pretty badly. Tonight really hangs on this next group of guys.

Klefbom
- Maybe the worst game I've seen him play. He had nothing. Couldn't defend positionally, couldn't move the puck, couldn't hit. He had no hope against the skilled Capitals players. Very disappointing for a guy you'd expect to step up in a game like this. His offensive game is really slumbering right now and to see the rest of it bottoming out too is disturbing. They have no one to replace him with, so he needs to keep playing, but he almost needs to take a seat.

Schultz
- Oh boy. That was something else. Schultz had no hope when the Capitals stretched the neutral zone. He couldn't read the passes, couldn't anticipate, couldn't block the lanes or recover to get back. You might as well have had a pylon back there tonight. The "jump ball" play was a classic example but I think it's being over-emphasized. Terrible that he didn't get the puck out for sure, but there was a lot of bad play throughout the whole night.

Ference
- What can you say at this point? Brutal. Gave the puck away over and over. Took stupid penalties. Cost his team. What a waste. There were at least two specific instances where Eric Gryba circled around with the puck to wait and avoid passing it to Ference. You don't see a player with limited skills do that unless his defensive partner is a total trainwreck.

Gryba
- One of the only guys who played okay on the back end. He showed patience with the puck on a number of occasions and actually fought off some Capitals charges, but still could have been better.

Sekera
- Yeah, he performed way below expectations tonight. Again, this was a big game and a big opportunity. You need your big money D men to step up. He along with Klefbom were easily the most disappointing defencemen. That screen of Kuznetsov's shot was weak. You either need to get out of the way or block that shot. You could attack the puck. You can't just stand there. Where's the passing? Where's the transition to the attack?

Fayne
- I don't remember seeing him really. Suspect he could have defended better. Didn't catch how many SH goals he was on for.

Pouliot-McDavid-Yakupov
- The only continuously dangerous line, but they couldn't find the gear in the third period. Loved the goals they scored. One hard working forecheck goal and one off a rush to the net sort of play. Very nice. Needed more. I'm glad they got more ice time. Pouliot has come around a ton. Some very nice plays. Yakupov has learned a very important lesson - he still makes mistakes but he often recovers from them very well and gets the puck back. This is really important. McDavid was McDavid. That's the new line. He makes Hopkins' top gear look slow. That's amazing. Could have done more tonight, but that's okay. What they did should have been enough really.

Hall-Hopkins-Klinkhammer and a cast of thousands.
- McClellan is struggling with his Eberle deficit combined with the fact that the above line is producing consistently. Klinkhammer actually played pretty well in the first, scoring a goal and playing a fast, physical game. I'm not sure what he did to get demoted. Maybe I missed it. Or maybe they just wanted to try to get some more offense because both Slepyshev (who again I thought looked quite good in limited time) and Purcell (who looked okay but couldn't hit the damn net) got chances. Hall I thought was okay. I'm starting to think the refs are getting in his head and that he also might be getting a bit of a reputation among the officials. He's not getting any breaks despite being a hard skating player who goes into high traffic. This is unusual. He wasn't that great with the puck though. Hopkins played another consistently even game. I'm waiting for a higher gear but he is playing well.

Korpikoski-Lander-Purcell
- Weird night for this group. Korpikoski got himself benched for something, though i'm not sure what. Bad PK work maybe? Lack of forecheck? Lander was just okay. Didn't have a good faceoff night and didn't generate offence but wasn't really making mistakes. Purcell was okay and got himself promoted. He is such a strong shooter but the accuracy is WAY off at the moment. He was better with the puck too.

Gazdic-Letestu-Slepyshev
- These guys didn't play much tonight aside from Slepyshev's promotion and Letestu on the powerplay. I can't really bag on them because their roles were so varied.

Any idea who the McLellan 4-5 were? I'd guess Klefbom, Ference, Schultz and Korpikoski based on deployment but due to the skill with which he delivered his comments, we don't know!
------------------------------------

The Oilers need to be better. They can't have plays going up the middle and sneaking in behind the defence like that. Hopefully this isn't a matter of the team getting comfortable. I don't sense that from the top line or from some of the new additions, but MAYBE from some of the remaining D and remaining forwards. I guess we'll see. I think this is just a bump in the road.

10/22/15

2016 LMHF Report - Game #2

EDMONTON 3

VS.

DETROIT 1

Yes, you read that right. They beat the Red Wings in regulation.
------------------------------------------------------------

The first thing to mention from tonight is the pigeon. There was a pigeon flying around Rexall all night. I hereby propose that he be kept in the building, fed, kept, named and appointed the official Oilers' mascot. He must be a good omen.

You could feel that there was more energy in the building tonight, which is totally understandable. The couple of wins gave a bit of optimism and that was built on. The crowd still isn't ready to rock and that's understandable as well. People got excited for goals and big plays, but no general atmosphere. Again, I'm a part of this. I want to see it continue. I want to see this team go on a run, suffer a loss, and bounce back to run again. That hasn't happened in forever.

A technical point - this is now a streak. 3. It is impossible to "increase your streak to 3", 2 wins is not a streak. The third win creates it. Get it right.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Comparing this game to the last one I saw on home ice was night and day and that starts with the approach and Coach. There are lines that are working well together now, the team is more dynamic in its approaches and there appears to be accountability in place. We'll have to see how this plays out and if old habits creep in, but I liked what I saw.

If there was anything to nitpick about, it was the third period. That's too much of a tightrope approach for me. Got to be aggressive for longer and then maybe play a little more cautiously. With that said - it wasn't a 'lazy cautious', but an intentional one. Nowhere near the same level, but the sort of thing that Team Canada would do with a 2 goal lead at the Olympics - clamp it down, simple shots, avoid turnovers and penalties. There were some mistakes in this regard, but largely it never felt in jeopardy which EVERY 2 goal lead felt like it was last year.

The break in has adapted. There are still chip ins, but tonight the team now carried the puck through the neutral zone with speed. This makes all the difference in the world. They still struggled at times because the passes from the back end are still hit and miss, but it was very noticeable that different tactics were in play.

Another thing - this team applied back pressure on the puck carrier in a way I haven't seen an Oilers team do in years. Because of their skillset, if this keeps up they will be very successful. It allows forward-only transition play leading to odd man rushes. That's everything for a group this good that lacks talent to pass the puck up from their own end.

After a lackluster first powerplay, they went to a different breakout and in. For a guy who's watched coach after coach bang his head against the wall in a "dammit I'm right!!!" war to implement their system at all costs, this is so refreshing. The players had clearly practiced multiple methods and flipped like a switch.

Also really liked what McClellan said pre-game about getting the practice up to snuff and after the game regarding working through tonight's mistakes. Enjoy the win, but it wasn't perfect. It's nice that it didn't have to be.
------------------------------

Talbot
- Brilliant. A couple bad rebounds but many, many excellent saves. Didn't even look tested because he was so calm and positionally sound. Too bad one breakdown and a bad rebound cost him the SO.

Ference
- Spent the first period making at least one truly ugly play every shift. He was also very lucky the referees weren't in a mood to call all his hooks and holds tonight. Played better in the 2nd and 3rd, but was bailed out routinely by Talbot and to a lesser extent Gryba. Why he insists on taking bad long-range shots during sustained offensive pressure and killing the momentum I'll never know.

Gryba
- Credit to him for saving Ference on a number of occasions. He handled the puck well, made a few passes and maintained position well. Good night for Gryba. He appears to be growing within McClellan's defensive system.

Fayne
- Didn't see a lot from him which is usually good. Some of the slow moments were gone. Not great with the puck, but pretty good otherwise.

Sekera
- He needs to create with his passing and he didn't really do that tonight. I expect better from him even though there weren't really glaring mistakes or blown coverages. Needs to be pushing the offence forward and that wasn't happening.

Schultz
- Pretty good game from him. I can't recall a specific bad defensive mistake and that's good. Certainly played a lot of minutes and didn't allow the Wings many great chances. Expected a little more offensively I suppose.

Klefbom
- Really solid game all around. I remember him getting beat once in the first period and then really clamping down his game. Good to see. He's not jumping out a lot but I'm wondering if that relates more to McLellan's system given that it looks like something I may be observing on a regular basis.

As a unit the impressive thing is that the group isn't making the big mistake. They did have a couple problems when Detroit tried to open up the middle ice for the stretch pass. Klefbom in particular got caught chasing the play up and was nearly burned for a goal. Got to not get stuck staring at the puck like that.

Pouliot-McDavid-Yakupov
- What a line tonight. They were all excellent. What makes these guys work? Many things, but I'll key on one - all of them force the other team to turn the puck over and are capable of quickly turning the play around. Pouliot had easily his best game of the year. He'd really done nothing thus far and was suddenly everywhere. On several occasions I mistook him for McDavid with the way he was moving and passing the puck. Just a beautiful game from him. especially the heads up play to spring McDavid. Yakupov was great tonight. Setting up that Letestu goal with a nice delay and pass, making a little bump play to set up the transition to McDavid's goal and many other chances generated. I'd like to key on the play where he sent Pouliot in alone. Just a simple and lovely play. He headed up ice and saw there was nothing available to him and instead of forcing the play he calmly circled back, found time and space, lulled the DET players into a defensive lapse and hit Pouliot with a lazer. That's exactly how you do it. McDavid? He was McDavid. He's their best player. He blew by everybody. He got a chance and scored. He set up Letestu like it was nothing. He sprung his linemates multiple times and PKed like a champ. They should have played some more in the third to keep the pedal down.

Hall-Hopkins-Miller
- Honestly I expected these guys to step up after seeing what McDavid's crew were doing and they really didn't. Don't get me wrong - they weren't bad - but nothing really leapt out at you. Hall took a penalty out of frustration that was rather annoying to see. I know he was skating through getting beat up most of the night, but you can't get undisciplined like that. It was also too easy for him to shoot from out wide tonight. He needs to get to the net more than he has. Hopkins was himself - consistent and pretty good including a couple of strong shots but didn't find a way to hit the scoresheet. Miller was a victim of McLellan's impatience with trying to get this line going and found himself on the fourth line early. Didn't see much from him other than maybe one scoring chance but again, nothing horrible. I still see Slepyshev as the choice for this line because of the combo of skill and size - he can also keep up - but the Coach doesn't seem to at this point.

Korpikoski-Lander-Purcell
- I liked this line a lot and viewed their strength as an extension of what McDavid's group was doing. They forechecked really hard and forced turnovers. They can't transition as dramatically, but they controlled the flow of the play in their time on the ice. Purcell wasn't perfect, but he was better than he has been. That late penalty can't happen but thankfully the team didn't pay for it. Lander was excellent in many roles including the PK and PP. He's doing basically everything that's asked of him. He's also doing it with a tenacity and fiestiness that were lacking in his early NHL days but he has now embraced. When a smart, talented guy gets after it like that he is very tough to stop. Korpikoski? Simple game - use his speed, attack the puck, get it to the net. I have to say, he does it well. He had another strong game tonight.

Klinkhammer-Letestu-Slepyshev
- Only one member of this line really managed to make his mark on the game and that was Letestu on special teams. I was underwhelmed by his efforts early as he appeared to be coasting but perhaps that was just a veteran being a veteran. He was really good as a role player tonight. Scored the PP goal by going to the right place. Got a great chance off the rush from McDavid and had a couple others as well. It is really nice to have two players that can help your PP and two who can help your PK on the fourth line. Very valuable.
-------------------------------

Strong goaltending and quick-strike offence. Who knew?

That and pigeons. Long may our pigeon friend oversee home wins.

10/15/15

2016 LMHF Report - Game #1

And we're back!

EDMONTON 2

VS.

ST. LOUIS 4
----------------------

Hello again everyone. A long period of relaxation combined with the changes that have come to the Edmonton Oilers has inspired me to begin doing the Report once more. I hope that this season reignites the fun we've had in this place for many years before.

For those of you who are new to this thing, a quick note - this is mostly intended as my immediate reaction and take on the game. I don't sit down and watch the game 3x over, I don't try to dampen emotion, I don't try to be a journalist. This is here for fun, for discussion and hopefully you happen to enjoy the way I break down a game. You'll likely see a bunch of regulars show up - if they've managed to hang around through the recent disasters - and we like it that way, but don't be intimidated or think this is a closed discussion. The more the merrier. Please always feel free to share your thoughts and make this a place to share your one-line, brief, or extended take on what the heck our team did on a given night. It's often more focused on one thing or a few things than the scattershot, easy-to-get-lost-in GDT.

----------------------

Well, that didn't go as I had hoped. After watching the Oilers game in St. Louis on TV, my expectations weren't amazing, but usually the first game at home in a new season means a high energy level, some early success and a higher likelihood of victory. That obviously didn't happen tonight.

It's early - and I really want to like McClellan because we're going to be watching him coach this team for a long time - but tonight's game showed some early flaws that he's going to have to correct urgently if this team is to have any success.

When it comes to the forecheck and zone entries, the chip-and-chase system that McClellan used in San Jose will not work for this squad. Even just through a few games this can be seen. Giving the puck away when it is being carried by the likes of COnnor McDavid, Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is insanity. The support players won't be crashing the boards with speed and getting the puck back either. This team is unfortunately not very fast and isn't a bang-and-crash squad. I lost count of the amount of times tonight that St. Louis simply grabbed a dump in and started to transition. While not every team will be as good as STL in transition, the system itself is flawed.

Next, the powerplay. The horrid, ugly powerplay. I remember a couple of chances late and that's about it. The units are incorrectly put together. Schultz can't QB the powerplay himself - at least not a first unit. Yakupov needs to be playing with McDavid. Pouliot needs his role simplified. Even with these changes, if they don't change the break in - which appears to be slightly modified version of the 5-on-5 - they will have no success. They need to attack the middle of the ice with speed. Full stop.

The Oilers haven't scored a goal yet off the rush or through sustained pressure in the offensive zone. These are the keys to winning. Why is this not happening? It was on display tonight - they can't transition and they can't attack with speed because of it. This is because 5 of their 6 defencemen couldn't make a tape-to-tape pass. The forwards are being asked to drop WAY back into their own zone, supply all the speed and then dump and get the puck. This doesn't work.

The goals they scored? Korpikoski driving hard and taking advantage of a sleeping Bouwmeester, then Hall getting a bounce of the draw after finally waking from his season-opening sleep. That's not good.

The goals they allowed? Lazer shots from scoring areas. At least twice McLellan had made what he thought was a defensive substitution and the team couldn't win the draw or clear the zone. The puck should have been out three times on Stastny's goal. The final one was a frustrated and fumbling team.

The Oilers didn't control the play at any point tonight. That's a huge problem. They had small bursts of energy, but nothing that could be sustained. It was too little too late again. They didn't win a puck battle until the third period. They were always reaching with their sticks instead of getting to the man. These are signs of a bad hockey team.

I'm not saying it was all bad. They are staying in games. They're making fewer mistakes. They have goaltending which really helps and gives you more chances to take leads. That they haven't taken advantage is a problem, but less of one than being hopeless.

Where it might be hopeless is the defence. I see no way that group can supply the puck to the forwards and begin to attack from transition.

----------------------

Talbot
- He didn't light the world on fire, but made some nice saves at times to keep the game close. Big key - no stupid mistakes or bad goals. The puck was ripped by him from high-quality scoring areas. Did exactly what was needed from him but his team gave up too many pucks and didn't supply the offence.

Sekera
- The only half-decent defenceman in the lot. Even he struggled early. Backes owned him at least twice in the first period. He got much better as the game went on, settling in and making some nice plays. He's being misused not playing with the first PP unit.

Fayne
- Possibly the worst game I've seen him play. He had a brutal giveaway that was nearly an assist on an STL goal, got beat to pucks routinely and just looked lost. When you're a defenceman who's the good kind of boring, this is not the type of game you need to play. He also joined the "bounce it out and give it away" club tonight. That's bad. Fayne is not a world class passer, but he's okay most of the time.

Reinhart
- I remember a sequence distinctly where he overskated his check twice in a row and turned the wrong way both times. These are not things you can get away with in the NHL. While I admire his effort to carry Gryba around, he has to be more efficient and better with the puck. Gave it away multiple times into the neutral zone and showed none of his supposed passing or shooting skill.

Gryba
- He's really got no business playing, but has been firmly placed in the #5 spot. Multiple times he wasted chances to clear the zone with a simple pass. He wasn't positioned well enough or moving fast enough to hit anyone. For a supposedly defensive defenceman, he really didn't control his man or the puck in his own zone.

Schultz
- Oh boy...I was optimistic after the preseason. I guess he hit someone tonight and had a couple good pinches. Defensively and in terms of transition passing he was a disaster. Another guy chasing around rather than controlling his gap and taking his man out of the play. I don't know when he became so overwhelmed, but that's the main image he projects on the ice.

Klefbom
- Rough night for him. I remember one strong play early on and then a lot of little mistakes. It's hard to figure what he should be doing because he's stuck with Schultz, but he should still be better on his own. One positive note - he showed tonight an increased ability to get the puck to the net. This is something he seems to have been working on.

Pouliot-McDavid-Yakupov
- Kind of all over the place with these guys. Nail got some strong shots away that could have paid off but also had some spin-outs, fall downs and misreads. I like the way he's skating with the puck but think he needs to focus on giving the puck to McDavid and getting open. McDavid really struggled tonight as he just couldn't seem to get anything going. I don't recall any great scoring chances or shots. He did smoke a Blue with a pretty good hit but that's not what we're looking for. I keep waiting for him to grab the puck at the blue line and blow by three defenders. I'm thinking it is the lack of passes from the D that is causing this not to happen. This unit kept getting stuck with Gryba and Reinhart - which doesn't work. Pouliot finally made a couple things happen in the third, but was rather invisible. I expect him to be a physical presence and got to the net but he just wasn't doing it. The big slapper isn't there yet either. Not sure we'll see these guys together much longer, though I really like the McDavid-Yakupov dynamic.

Hall-Hopkins-Hendricks
- Very low expectations going into the game for this line and up until the third period they certainly delivered. Hendricks can be all the try-hard he wants - he's a boat anchor on this line. The puck can't go to him and the defenders don't bother to defend against him. You can't have a primary offensive line with that big of a hole in it. It's nothing against Hendricks really - he did what he could - but that is very limited. I do have a problem with the game Hall played. He turned it on in the third period late - there's no doubt on that. Before that he was playing like a tired, frustrated rookie who thinks the game owes him something. He must be better than he was, both with and without the puck for this team to succeed. Hopkins was Hopkins - pretty good and moving well, but he had to try to do it all himself so the Blues simply keyed on him and shut him down. Hopkins needs Eberle back so badly - hell they all do.

Korpikoski-Lander-Purcell
- A big MEH for this group. They had moments. Lauri got his goal which was nice to see. I think he did more in this game than in the preseason and regular season games to date combined. I see why he gets chances but not really why he lasts. Lander needs to be better than this. Tonight's game reminded me of many others in his career where he just seems to drift around. On the PK he wAS fine enough but the team needs more than that from him. Purcell's possible contribution is really limited at this point so again my expectations are low. He should still be better about both puck pursuit and getting his shot away. Didn't see a lot of that tonight.

Gazdic-Letestu-Slepyshev
- Maybe the one line that over-achieved. I've already let it be known that I'm a huge Slepyshev fan so far and he had some really strong shifts tonight in terms of driving into the corners. He drew a penalty and had a couple chances. If McClellan was in the mood he should have been promoted. Aside from a couple crucial draw losses, Letestu also impressed me. He seemed much more into the game and using his skating ability than I've seen previously. Gazdic is Gazdic - I barely watch him really.

------------------------

Thanks again to everyone for coming back and giving this another shot. I doubt there will be a Report every single game as I simply don't get to as many as I did in say, 2006 when I attended every preseason, regular season and playoff game as well as game 5 in NC. I will do what I can and hope we have great discussions.

Disappointing result. Some good. A lot of questionable. Some bad. I think it is going to become very obvious very quickly that this team needs a re-tool on the back end and/or a strategy re-think and FAST. That and Eberle. They need him so badly.