2017 LMHF Report - Game #9




Well, that was refreshing.

It's been forever since I went to a game and at the end simply thought "they took care of business tonight".

This team did that.

I've missed a number of home games already this year due to a number of factors but was quite thankful to have seen this in person.

Early on in the game you could see the potential for what happened. Various Oilers forwards were pushing the Chicago defence backwards and either bobbling the puck away, or making a misstep. It was clear though that the Hawks would struggle against that forward group for the game. They never figured out how to shut the Oilers down. Once the first puck went in, the game started to change.

That's not to say the Oilers dominated early. They were giving up chances and needed some time to find the game. By the third they were in control. It took some excellent work from Talbot, especially at 2-0, to get there. This is how games tend to go against a team with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. There are very few nights where you will keep those men from getting a good number of chances.

Once they made it through the 10 or so minutes where Chicago pressed, the game was over.

One thing that was quite noticeable all night was that the Oilers were forcing hooks, holds and slashes from the Hawks. This is usually a good sign, even if it doesn't generate a parade to the box. The referees certainly were calling to the score from 3-0 onward. The entire 3rd period should have basically been an Oilers powerplay.

What I liked most was that the effort and push came from throughout the lineup. There were essentially no passengers last night. The Oilers are now talented enough that most games will be determined simply by whether the applied effort is there. Are they attacking the middle? Are they creating shooting lanes and then taking advantage? It really looks that simple so far. If they do this, they will score enough goals to beat most any team.

I loved the shooting from the defence tonight. They were making a concerted effort to move the puck or themselves into areas where the screens provided from the suddenly huge forward group would be most effective. They varied their shooting as well - everything from the classic bomb, to wristers at the corner, to slap passes and shooting for tips. It was great to see from a group that is usually so lacking in this area. I imagine that they've been working on this in practice. They're still 1 man away from being able to talk about using the forwards pushing the play low and dropping the puck back to someone dangerous - but they're getting better at least.

The powerplay was a sight to behold. I know the Hawks PK struggled mightily, but watching the home team actually control the puck for the majority of powerplay time was so refreshing. They may have finally figured out the key to the whole thing - get the damn puck to McDavid and move into space. They still haven't figured out the shot from the right circle (the player there is too low for an angled pass and too high for the cross-crease), but they'll get there.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed feeling like the Oilers were in control of this game. I'm honestly not the sort who wants to see last minute heroics. Blow em out and lets all spend the third partying.

- Outstanding performance. I enjoyed the basic saves more than the few spectacular ones to be honest. Why? Because when Talbot's positioning and movement control is on, he's near unbeatable. He was square to essentially every good chance a Hawk got. He was ready, steady and completely unfazed. There were clean breaks where they didn't have a hope. That's just great goaltending. He made the big saves when he needed to, but more importantly, made the easy saves easily. Such a lovely change from the first few games of the year. He had this locked down. There were not going to lose that lead.

- I didn't notice him in the same way as the other defencemen, but what I did notice I liked. He was physical and mean again while maintaining position on the Hawks forwards. That's most of his job on this team. Looked like he moved the puck okay too.

- He's certainly looking like he's taking a step forward. Especially in the offensive zone. His reads on when to step up and what to do with the puck have improved significantly. That goal he scored is gold for a defenceman. The only thing better would have been if he'd gone bar-down. Hammering it through a goalie is pretty damn satisfying though. His shot that was tipped was a great read - he saw and timed the double screen so perfectly. Crawford had absolutely zero chance to see that puck. Defensively he looked good as well.

- Just another solid game from him. Loved the point shot as again it was another clear read and timing a screen beautifully. He picked the exact right shot for the spot and that's an art. No major screwups.

- For whatever reason, he makes the difference for this group. I don't know whether it's decision-making, how he skates with the puck or that he just doesn't make a lot of passing mistakes. Some combination of both. When he laid out that Hawk in the second we all assumed it was a Lucic hit - seriously impressive for a guy that small to step up and just nail a guy. You have to be really strong on your skates to do that the way he did. Don't be fooled by the lack of board clatter either - getting hit like that HURTS. Very nice game.

- I group them together because I didn't see a ton from either, but that's okay. They moved the puck a little bit and didn't get caught out of place. On a night when your forwards are going and your top 4 has things under control. That's really all you need. It's also somewhat impressive for an offensive guy and a wanderer to have a boring game together as a pair.

- Had trouble picking up on how good these guys were 5-on-5. McDavid did his damage on the powerplay and of course created chances with his outrageous speed (as he does every game). I still see Lucic struggling to know where exactly to go. I wonder if Boston and LA have gotten him used to an attack that comes from the blue line rather than on the rush or from speed. He should be able to simply move to the slot and wait a lot of the time. He flies by too much. McDavid and JP both had several strong defensive efforts, including 97 going 1-on-1 with Toews for a time. That was a sight. #98 keeps getting better with every game. The reason he's been able to stick is that, unlike most rookies, he doesn't make many mistakes and is strong positionally. He's also just massive, which helps.

- Is it wrong to pick on a guy who had a 2-point night? I don't care because I'm going to. Eberle has completely lost his shooting touch. I think back to the game where he couldn't finish his hat-trick despite a ton of chances before finally putting one in. Since then I've not seen him wiring the puck like before. He couldn't make one-times work last night and just didn't have any snap on the wrist shot. That's his moneymaker and it needs to work. He had a ton of chances which is mostly a credit to his linemates. He did get his stickhandling and rush skills going in the third, which was nice to see. Eberle's struggled with imposing himself on the game in the last couple years. Hopefully that ability is coming back. Maroon did an excellent job keeping up and getting to the net. I've been very impressed with his consistent game this season and the fact that he's able to work with skilled players so well. Love that he does it all with a big grin on his face too - you can really tell he enjoys his job out there. Hopkins had an excellent game as the backbone of this line, getting it done at both ends of the ice. He's adapting to his new role right now and I'll be interested to see how he settles in. I'd like to see more shooting from him though. He looked like he'd scored a couple times last night and didn't. Just needs to keep jamming away.

- What a group to be dealing with. All solid, all can skate, all can burn you at any given time. This is my kind of third line. Loved watching these guys work. Leon did what he does best - get to the right spots in a way that leaves him able to apply his strength and skill to get things done. Lovely simple goal to cap the night and a perfect screen+tip for his first. Made some nice passes and other plays too. I was impressed Slepyshev was able to get a off a shot period, much less with that release and scoring a lovely tough angle goal. Having random big guys who can skate and fire the puck is a wonderful luxury. The next shift he pulled out some fancy moves as well. People are really underestimating this hockey player and what he could mean moving forward. Kassian rang a post and drove the net hard all night. Great, simple, focused game. I'd like to see this group stay together - they're smart, big, can skate and everyone on the line can score goals. If they get teams' weaker defenders they will eat them for lunch.

- Had some struggles but thankfully not many that led to danger. They were giving up shots but not too many difficult ones. Caggiula impresses the hell out of me. 2 points in your first 2 after coming back from a crummy injury that could have derailed your rookie year is lovely. Pitlick had a set of sequences in the third where his forecheck dominated the Hawks defenders. It was a thing of beauty. The guy will be just fine if he *knocks* stays healthy. Let's hope. Another of the right sort of depth player to have around. I liked that Hendricks won some draws and whacked that Hawk who hung around the goalie too long. Would rather see a younger player there though.

So...are they trading Pouliot? He's going to struggle to break through if the young and cheap guys keep impressing.

Had a lot of fun watching them play that way. Could really get used to those performances. Even though Chicago was at the end of 3 in 4, part of proving you're a good team is dispatching a group like that when you get the chance, and making a statement while you do it.

They did.

Thank gawd.


2017 LMHF Report - Game #2




Sunday 'night' games are always weird. I swear the team never looks ready on these nights. Tonight was no different in many ways, but the team was good enough to overcome the early nap and get back in the game. Indeed, when Kassian broke through the line with under a minute to go, I swore he was going to pick the top corner and the Oilers would be ahead going to 2. He missed by a little bit, but that wasn't the killer, far from it.

A year ago, a few more games in, many of stood and watched as the goaltender anointed to be the future was failing. Thankfully, a part-time fill in was ready to rock and the team eventually got things moving - at least for a while.

Here we are again. I haven't watched a period yet this year where Cam Talbot looks to be ahead of the puck and making easy saves. Even the most basic shots are vexing him right now. This is truly disturbing as there is no Anders Nilsson this year. I saw a small glimmer of hope in the third when Talbot finally made some saves on yet another Buffalo PP, but even then he wasn't his usual, well-positioned self.

Make no mistake - I believe that despite all the issues tonight they win this game if Talbot doesn't stink out the second the way he did. That was brutal. It turned the game. I can't blame the team too much for not thinking it could run down Buffalo tonight. The pucks were just going in to fast.

The coaches didn't help either. I understand benching Pouliot. I truly do. This guy needs to figure out how to play the game without taking weak, useless penalties. How much are the refs looking for him? I'd imagine quite a bit. That doesn't excuse him, but I imagine it is a big problem.

Now, you bench Pouliot - sure...you don't mess up the lines as a result. You replace Pouliot with another winger and that's it. The change they made completely threw off the Oilers' attack and it wasn't the same at all for the rest of the night. Because the Oilers committed so strongly to the Lucic-McDavid-Eberle group, they don't have a lot of immediate versatility there. This is something you have to build, and they haven't.

The special teams are still struggling. Tonight they didn't generate powerplays but their PK was on display again. I've said it probably dozens of times now - until they ditch that absolutely stupid setup at the top where their forwards cross sides and wind up blocking no one and no lane, their PK will be a joke. Giving up such easy gimme chances is not excusable the way it happened tonight.

A word on a couple of Buffalo players - Rasmus Ristolainen and Ryan O'Reilly are certainly a couple of the finer players in the league. Risto had multiple points, and was an absolute beast in the D-zone. SO unfortunate the Oilers narrowly missed out on him. He would have been the absolutely perfect piece on that blue line right now. O'Reilly gave the Oilers fits too.

Random arena finding for the night - they don't have butter for the damn popcorn. Are you kidding me???

I don't know how much I want to even break down the goals so much. It was kinda ugly.

- Like I said, his game is dpeely flawed at the moment. Tonight he was late to essentially every puck and struggled to be square to shots. I'm having trouble picking up on why - there's nothing obvious other than that he doesn't look sharp or controlled in the net. Maybe he's unfocused, I don't know.

- Oscar had some struggles tonight and gave the puck away more than usual. He also wasn't particular physical and didn't do anything offensively. Rather disappointing. Larsson at least made a diffence with some physical play. He got mad and punished some Sabres, which was more than you could say about some players tonight. He made some odd skating choices later in the game but seemed to be okay.

- There was a play that Russell made in the second period that was one of the few bright spots in the game for me - he broke in from the point and made a strong move with the puck. Unfortunately the shot he got on net appears to have been blocked by Kassian. This could have made a difference in the game. I didn't see #4 as strong as in the first home game, but thought he was generally fine. Sekera was just okay for me. He has to create offence to be effective and it wasn't there so much tonight.

- Ugh...I really don't like watching this pair play hockey. Nurse simply isn't ready. He got beat again on a weak PK effort tonight in the first period where he waived his stick instead of taking a step. This is nearly universal in sport - if you get caught not taking a step, you pay. In tennis, basketball, hockey and pretty much everything else. It's just the way the games are played. I like having Nurse as a tough - but if that is all he becomes, that's an epic waste of talent. Gryba is simply too slow and takes too many penalties to play for this team. He can be the #8 or 9, but not 6. So many on this blue line can get the puck moving quickly. Time to weed out the player who can't in a more permanent way. Unfortunately, McLellan has adopted the flaw so many NHL coaches have. He has favorites. Comfortable players who he goes back to, whether they're any good or not. On this team, that's Eric Gryba and Mark Letestu. They play too much, get bumped up too easily, and get prime opportunities they don't deserve.

Now I'm going to try to cobble together the forwards - it was all over the place tonight.

- Otherwise known as "the benched and his unfortunate friends". Pouliot scored a nice goal but man...he just has to get this penalty thing under control. Shorter stick maybe? I'm serious. Lander was just okay. He ran into a few people, but that was about it for me. Pitlick was a little better - he landed a nice hit of course, but he also skated hard and was in decent position. He was more nervous with the puck than last game. Still holding his own.

-Jesse probably played his best game despite limited ice time. He was getting to pucks and beating defenders in a way I haven't seen him do thus far. This was the first night where I really saw him as a #3 rated prospect on the ice. He still needs to calm down with the puck a touch, but at least he's using his size and skating ability now. I'm still in favor of sending him to the AHL. Kassian had some moments. I have generally liked his game as a depth winger who can move around the lineup in the preseason and games thus far. The guy can play hockey and seems to have decided that is indeed his priority now. Like I said earlier, good chance in the first and got in some Sabres' faces throughout the game. Good stuff. Letestu had a nothing game by my eye.

- Hmm...Didn't work for me. Even though I quite like Maroon with McDavid, they need a bit of a speed demon or at least a quick player to play with. I could see Leon on McDavid working well together, but not with Maroon. The combo just ruined the flow for me. Of course both #s 97 and 29 still got chances because that is what they do, but there wasn't the sustained pressure and balanced attack that you get when players like McDavid and Draisaitl especially are deployed correctly. Liked some of the fight in McDavid tonight as he got into some scrums. Maroon was a bit off for me. He usually gets better looks.

- As I noted earlier - didn't work for me. Yes Hopkins got a couple chances but something is off. Tonight he looked a step slow, and just wasn't that strong with the puck. He took a quick shot when a deke would have resulted in a goal. I don't know if he's being tasked with something different from the Coach or what. His game just looks off. Eberle? Didn't seem him a bunch to be honest. Again, with the flow thrown off this line looked slow and disorganized to me, especially Eberle. Lucic was okay - he at least kept doing what he does.

Honestly I think the focus tonight has to be on the coaching and goaltending. Without the problems there, we see a different game tonight.


2017 LMHF Report - Game #1





And away we go.

That was some kind of show on the ice tonight. Lots of entertaining moments and lots of "uh oh", but never any give up, which was huge.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on details of the new arena - it is too easy for me to drift into negativity and missed expectations there. Let's focus on the fun for a while if we can.

I will share a bit about the game going experience - it does feel new. It feels more upscale in many ways now, though that effort is concentrated in the lower bowl. I could easily see us moving seats to the lower bowl in the next year or two because the atmosphere down there seems great.

Where my seat is right now is very similar to the Rexall experience in a lot of ways, but the old routines are completely gone. There will be a settling in period of course - that can be expected, but it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. We've already noticed that it is a bit harder to track the game from where we are. The players mannerisms and detail such as helmets etc aren't as obvious so you have to be more active in terms of looking for players. Every now and again you mistake Pouliot for McDavid for instance. It will take some getting used to.

Got there very early tonight - mainly just due to the absurdly late start (seriously, who thought that was okay? I've got a flight at 8 tomorrow morning...). Wandered around a bit - found my way to my seat and settled in. The pre-game was fairly over-hyped and oddly shorter than I thought. It basically ended with Connor McDavid in the spotlight, charging in and putting a puck into the net. I was quick to point out that this was the wrong net, and despite the fact that the Flames had come out before the end of the presentation (who does that??), Connor should have charged the other net anyway. Make a statement. One that begins with F and ends with you.

Once the game started - many interesting things happening.

To my dismay, the Oilers are still using the systems play that was shown not to work last season. There are several better players trying to do it, but it still doesn't work. A couple specific areas leap out at me:

- Both 5-and-5 and on the PK, the forwards are way too low in the offensive zone. Especially against a team like the Flames those wingers have to be high. So many chances for the Flames D to blast away and create chances. How the coaching/video staff isn't catching this and adjusting I have no idea. It generates multiple chances every game including this one.

- That power play is just atrocious. Needs a complete system reboot. They don't control the puck or make things happen unless McDavid and to a much lesser extent Draisaitl make an outstanding play. This is no way to deploy talented players and win games. They were very fortunate this didn't cost them tonight.

With that said - this is a different team in terms of the player makeup. The two most striking differences right off the bat were the amount of large players who can also skate and forecheck, as well as a number of quick releases on the squad. The first change meant that Calgary couldn't withstand the fact that the Oilers kept coming. The forechecked and skated so well that the Flames never had time to get a foothold. This despite two horrendous SH goals against. Puljujarvi and Pitlick showed very quickly what a strong release can do.

You never felt the Oilers would lose this one, which was nice. The fans are still quite nervous though and when combined with what seems to be a noise-dampening building, meant it was fairly quiet a lot of the time. This will go away if they win and do so regularly. It's really that simple.

This was an odd game in that it could easily have been a blowout for the Oilers, but wasn't, and it felt like the Flames had more chances than they really did. Let's talk a little more about that below.

- Honestly, the only one who brought his 'A' game was McDavid. He essentially willed this team to a sure victory tonight. I had a hunch that especially after Matthews did what he did, #97 would mean business tonight. I'm not sure what you even say about him anymore. He's a force of nature. That penalty shot goal was something else - being able to elevate the puck from that position at that speed? Just crazy. He could've had at least 3 more points as well. Eberle was just okay. He had a couple of chances he should have been able to finish. The most obvious one was in the third when McDavid left a puck in the crease for him and he simply didn't put enough weight on his stick to finish. There were a number of instances where he just didn't seem ready. Lucic was not good. Didn't really blow anyone up, didn't move the puck well and couldn't finish any chances except one into his own net. Ugh. I know he's a slow starter, but that looked really really rough on a night when most of the Oilers forwards played pretty well.

- This line did solid, if unspectacular work. I liked watching Slepyshev look pretty comfortable as he did at the beginning of last season. So long as people don't expect him to light the world on fire offensively, he'll do well. The guy has an excellent skillset for a depth player - he's large, shoots well and can skate. Hopkins played like a vet. I liked his leadership on the ice and the way he was able to shut down some Flames chances. I'm not sure if he'll find the high gear offensively again. It's really hard to know at this point. Pouliot had a couple very nice chances and didn't take any dumb penalties - that's a solid night for him really. He didn't need to be an offensive star tonight either.

- 2/3 of this line was excellent. Maroon got the first goal with a classic tip-in that you could call a mile away. Lovely in its simplicity. The rest of his game I really enjoyed as well. He got to pucks and the front of the net all night. He played at least one shift with McDavid after Lucic fought and looked much more at home than #27. I hope he's finally found his consistency here in Edmonton because if he strings together nights like that, he's such a useful player. Leon looked great. He really moves like a veteran out there and has succeeded in adding more power elements to his game. I like him a bunch at C and don't really see how he could be better on the wing. I'd like to see him get set up for more shooting chances on the PP though. I didn't much like Puljujarvi's game though. He seemed behind the play or fumbly and rushed all night. Even his goal (which was a phenomenal release) was rushed. He went by pucks a lot, turned some over and didn't really impose himself much. Great little hit on Brodie I think it was in the third but that's it. I'm of the opinion that he's not ready and should be in the AHL, but oh well. Glad to see one go in for him soon, and maybe that gives him a big confidence boost.

- Great games for the wingers on this line. Pitlick's goal was the result of an excellent, assertive decision to shoot off the rush. To then see our most injury-prone player go careening into the boards was rather alarming, but somehow he jumped up. He was generally effective during the rest of his time as well, earning some extra ice at the end of the game and looking like an NHL-level player for sure. Good for him. I just feel like his leg is going to fall off at any moment. Kassian too played an excellent game. He was all over the ice - skating really well and getting in some faces along the way. Absolutely beautiful deke on his goal. There might be 3 or 4 guys on the team that can do that. Beauty. Letestu was just okay by my eye and I didn't notice him a lot other than being behind the play on the PK.

- Good night for this pairing generally. They led the D group as a whole in simply moving the puck out faster and smoother than the last number of years. The forwards are such that if you just get the puck up quick, they can run. This needs to continue so, so badly. I was alarmed at one thing Larsson did on a number of occasions though - he has a tendency to just throw the puck to areas without looking first. This resulted in 4 or 5 losses of possession. Oddly enough one of them turned into Pitlick's goal because Calgary was turning to attack so hard and bungled it. He was fairly physical though, which was great to see because he does it in a positionally responsible way. Klefbom was rock solid - shocking precisely no one at this point. That laser to Kassian was MINT.

- This pair did fairly well. I'm not a huge fan of the Russell signing, but he looked pretty good tonight. Got pushed around and beat a little bit, but he made some excellent first passes and some very smart defensive plays as well. I hope he finds his place here as we're committed to him now. Sekera looked to be in midseason form. You can definitely tell the World Cup helped him out a bunch. Really led the play when he was on the ice and I enjoyed watching him very much. The one thing I would like to see better than tonight were his shooting choices.

- This pairing didn't really work. As good as Davidson is, he couldn't bail out Nurse's wandering which cost them early as he wasn't covering anyone on a number of occasions including the goal. Real shame to see Davidson go down on a dirty play from a dirty piece of trash like Keith's kid. Someone needs to re-arrange his face on Friday. Nurse or Kassian are my bets, but it needs to happen. This guy can't be allowed to run around. Thankfully the refs aren't fooled but they can't save you from injuries.

- He was not good. It wasn't so much about the goals either - a couple weren't really his fault. The thing was, he turned a bunch of easy saves into hard stops. He was late to almost every puck until the third period which isn't a good sign for a goalie who's usually so square. He needs to get things righted in a hurry. A sharper team could've hung 8 on him tonight and sent us all home sad.

Great to get that win. People really wanted to smile after this one. Great to see.

Great to be back. I hope this is a happy year filled with a ton of these reports. Night!


2016 LMHF Report - Game #20

Edmonton 1


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!

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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!

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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


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!


2016 LMHF Report - Game #15




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.


- 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.

- 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.

- 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).

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.


2016 LMHF Report - Game #14




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.


- 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 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 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.

- 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.

- 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?

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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 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:


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


2016 LMHF Report - Game #6





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.


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 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

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

- 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.

- 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.


2016 LMHF Report - Game #5




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 ****.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.


2016 LMHF Report - Game #4




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.


- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

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

- 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.

- 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.

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

- 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!

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.