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12/31/08

LMHF Game Report #15

EDMONTON OILERS 2
VS.

OTTAWA SENATORS 3
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We really needed to win this game tonight to get on a positive track. 4 in a row could have really been something and I think if we win this one we win in CGY tomorrow night too. Now I’m not so sure.

There really didn’t seem to be much flow to tonight’s game. Goals were generated on odd misplays and at strange angles. At least 4 of the goals could be accounted for in this fashion. Neither team really did anything special at all out there tonight.

I remember watching Ottawa when they were REALLY good…and I must say I do notice a distinct difference in the style they play now. Relying solely on amazing individual plays to score goals just doesn’t work. They have a great crew of guys, but not mixed together in the right way and they need a couple different types of players thrown in there. I don’t know how you have a night where Heatley’s invisible, but you’re doing something wrong if that’s ever going on. The guy’s a 50-goal man and nothing at all??? Wow.

Ottawa’s game just doesn’t flow at all right now; and Alfredsson must be either injured or out of it because boy was he ever off in the middle of crazy land…including taking a victory lap and bowing at his third star selection…what kinda dick move was that? Really…and the diving with him has gotten rather epic. Sad really.

As for us, well…with Hemsky out expectations are automatically lowered but we also didn’t draw any penalties which was half us and half them. We needed to press more to create those opportunities.

I see from the boards that Rob Schremp has not been recalled yet…or anyone for that matter. This is a serious failing on the coaching staff and/or management. We need at least one more guy up right now and nothing’s in the works??? Not even for tomorrow when you knew about Hemsky and now with Marc? Guys should’ve been getting on the plane in Springfield within an hour of that injury to make sure they’re in Calgary for tomorrow’s game. Playing Reddox on the top line despite the goal he got was unforgiveable. He blew 3 great chances that multiple other players we have in this organization would not have.

In the end tonight’s game was about missed chances…we had tons, especially in the first and second. Gerber was off his game and we could’ve taken advantage early against a team that rattles easily and did not. That and a bad break or two is why we lost, which is really too bad.

And call up Schremp before tomorrow’s game; preferably Brule as well…Christ…trained monkeys…honestly, trained monkeys…
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Reddox-Horcoff-Penner

Shawn did what he could to pick up Hemsky’s slack. Had he popped the puck in on the chance he got right at the end of the game I would’ve said he fully delivered but at least he game close. He carried the puck everywhere with a lot of speed tonight which is always a big key for him. He was good defensively despite being caught in what I’d describe as a couple weird spots out there. Penner was okay but just okay I’d say. There were times where you could really tell that he needs Hemsky to create the angles and time and space for him to get set and he didn’t have that tonight. Watching the line operate trying to get out of their own zone with the first pass going to someone other than Ales was downright sad. You’d think this is the first thing they’d address in practice before the game but that certainly appeared to not be the case. Winging it didn’t work out well and they weren’t smooth at all. Reddox was okay, it was nice to see him get a goal that was really all about a nice play from skate to stick by Horcoff and a smart bank attempt. He had a few chances after that in really close and couldn’t deliver. He also tried to drive wide but never made moves on the D and never beat them. No business being here so you can’t really fault the guy so much, but still, he needs to cash at least one of his other chances.

Nilsson-Gagner-Cole

Well, the line that could’ve saved us this game and got us through the Ales recovery time almost did. I can’t knock Cole for just missing off the bar on what was a rather impressive move when in so deep and moving so slowly. They had other chances though that should have resulted in goals; Cole specifically got a great chance from the slot that he promptly snapped off a stick and Gagner was 1 step too late on a loose puck he looked determined to bury in the second period. Too bad I guess. I noticed Nilsson a little more and liked that he tried to hit some people out there but he could have been a lot more dynamic than he was. Had there not been the current turmoil with he and the coach I suspect he would’ve played on the top unit tonight with someone like Brodziak playing on this line and Reddox going to the fourth. Its personal stuff like that which we knows goes on with this team that really isn’t acceptable to me. I’m not saying that’s for sure this time but I could easily see it.

Moreau-Cogliano-Pouliot

Just freaking great…we get the guy who’s taken forever to find his NHL stride going and he gets mashed on a clean hit with his head down that we can’t even get pissed over. Well that just sucks. He was having a pretty decent game until he got thrashed. Cogliano was carrying the speed we all expect now but not having his way with the puck so much tonight. He at least got a couple of good shots on. Moreau stepped up his game but also made a key error. He could have scored at least twice including on a BEAUTIFUL tip that just missed; but he also got sucked into a position he should not have been in at all on the winner. There’s no reason for him to be that low and it cost us the game. He should have either picked that loose puck or been on his guy. Horcoff and the d-man were over there and he didn’t need to move in but did. That left Lee open who let a ripper go. That stinks. That ruined what was otherwise a really big game from Ethan for me. Really enjoyed the way he finished his goal on the Ottawa screw-up and the nice Horcoff mini-pass.

Stortini-Brodziak-Strudwick

Useless. Stortini ran around some. That’s about it for the wingers. Brodziak looked alone again and played an okay game including better shifts when he got moved up.

NOTE: No one could win a draw when we needed it badly. That stunk.

Gilbert

He got the puck to the net and created chances multiple times tonight with a very accurate and well timed wrist shot. He did great in the offensive zone tonight. Also, he used his body more than usual in the defensive zone which was very effective. Underrated performance from him tonight.

Smid

He’s been having a problem with being on the wrong side of his check lately. For those familiar with defensive jargon, I mean that he’s been on the offensive side of his man when he’s needed to be on the defensive side and they’ve exploited that. It’s much more difficult to control an opponent’s stick and body position from the offensive side. This is what happened on the first OTT goal and what has happened to him numerous times as of late. I think it stems from coaches changing their approach form “take your man” in front of the net, to “don’t get tied up”. This is something my coach, and friends of mine at higher levels of hockey’s coaches have advocated in recent years and it doesn’t make any sense. I blatantly ignored this tactic and my team was better (and less scored upon) for it. This isn’t saying take a penalty, far from it. But positioning is so key in front for a well-timed push or a quick lift and Smid’s been missing that lately. He improved rather drastically in the second and third however and was physical as well as moving the puck well.

Visnovsky

I love watching this guy skate a puck out from behind the net. It is such a simple thing but he does it so flawlessly every time I can’t help but say so. He leaves the opposition flat out in the dust. If I were coaching; he would’ve been carrying as many neutral zone pucks as possible tonight to get us into the offensive zone. He was excellent and I loved his positioning on the pseudo-hipcheck he made in front to prevent the man from getting the puck in the second in front of the net.

Souray

Good offensive night; but screening Garon terribly on that one goal while making himself as small as humanly possible and not blocking the shot is really stupid for a vet like him.

Staios

He was far less impressive for me tonight; just didn’t accomplish much of anything.

Garon

He was okay but looked a little out of it. Not enough shots early to settle him in. He should have stopped at least one of the goals tonight but also wasn’t getting any help from him players. Even though I think Garon should be starting; I’d have been all about getting Jeff 2 games in these last 4 (including starting tomorrow in Calgary).
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Sorry for the lateness tonight; had to go ease the pain with some friends. Just didn’t wanna think about it that much after such a winnable game slipped by.

I guess Ales out and 2 bad breaks = a loss. Shame really.

12/28/08

LMHF Game Report #14

EDMONTON OILERS 5

VS.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS 2
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Well, it was certainly nice to see the team play that kind of game where we know we’re going to win and don’t need to worry about it too much. I’m a big fan of stress free games. I know most people like 7 game series and 5-4 OT wins; but I love 4 game sweeps and blowouts. This wasn’t a blowout, but Nashville was never really in the game after their tying goal.

We didn’t really seem to score any fluke goals tonight which was a nice change. We were skating briskly and taking good lines to the puck. Having 3 lines playing pretty well offensively and positionally makes all the difference in the world. Nashville never had a chance to get back into the game because they were always under offensive pressure from our lines.

On the powerplay tonight, we had a couple 2 minutes sequences where we looked like a really solid offensive team. This is both a welcome change and a relief. We may not have scored; but we probably should have, and if you can continue to do that in a game you’re comfortably winning and in control of that says something important.

Should this trend with our lines continue, the team may be able to go on a nice run. I’m certainly not convinced we’re perfect; far from it. It is nice however to see the team put a small something together that has a decent chance of developing into something. We still have a bunch of games at home to work with and make a move northward in the standings. It would be something to see that happen in January given this team’s history. Anyway, on to the PLAYER REPORTS
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Hemsky

- I’m covering the first line first again tonight even though they weren’t our most spectacular. Ales didn’t wind up with any points tonight but certainly put together a solid game. It was definitely a relief to see him come back from that hit he took and get right back into the physical play. He made a very nice play in the second to take a pass at the opposition blue line and get in alone then just missed and had Penner just miss following up his rebound. It happened to be that kinda night but he set enough guys up and took enough quality shots to be effective. His line was never in danger tonight, nor were they cold, just misfired a couple times in a game where they didn’t have to lift the heavy offensive weight; that’s okay.

Penner

- I’m a little torn on Dustin tonight. He made some really nice plays; taking the puck to the net and showing a lot more neutral zone presence than I’m used to. That he couldn’t finish in the second on Ales’ rebound was too bad, or on the two really nice plays he made in the crease including an awkward as hell shot from down low that shoulda gone in (Pekka is GOOD) was too bad, but he was still in really solid offensive position tonight. He wasn’t overly physical but did use his size to get into the right places.

Horcoff

- I liked Horcoff’s gametonight. He carried a lot of speed everywhere he went and got into some really nice shooting lanes. I’d like to see he and Ales work some more on the longer one-timers though as he always seems to just miss catching it perfect. He gets set up for a lot of these and some do indeed go in but he could have a much higher percentage going on if he was connecting. The goalie has JUST enough time with his longer shots a little too often. His goal was a create example of what speed can do to a defenceman and how a quick shot at that speed can be confusing; it was a smart and a bit lucky play that really helped us tonight. Ellis seemed off and we took advantage as good teams do. As always he was solid in his own zone. Made a couple strange passes in the offensive zone in the third but I think he had the right idea both times.

Cole

- What a relief that this game finally came. He coulda probably had a trick tonight but it is so important that the one puck did indeed find the back of the net. He was already driving the offensive zone hard and only got faster after he scored his goal. You could see a little bit of his swagger and confident attitude come back after his line found their groove; waving his hand after an unlucky break on a good move in the third. Very different than the lowered head-slow skate off we’re used to. I really hope he can keep this up. His hard chase of the NSH defender created the turnover that resulted in him getting that nice chance at the side of the net. Its great to see hard work pay off and he put it in tonight. His assist on Gagner’s goal was the result of some solid positioning and good traffic play. 3 points is an awesome start and I hope he can keep that level up.

Gagner

- Tonight could have had an even more positive impact for Sam Gagner. First of all, it really looks like he’s the guy who can and should play with Cole and they seem to be reading off of each other quite well. That’s a huge bonus for him. Sam’s part in Souray’s goal might get missed but he made a nice hard working play to the get the puck off the boards before Cole got it and the rest is history. I didn’t see if it hit the NSH defender on the flip he made to himself to set up Cole…that was a great read regardless to pick the puck and all-world if he actually made that flip to himself on his own. Sweet pass as well. Sam was well positioned and worked hard in the corner before his goal as well. The change in his game once he had some confidence was immediate. He carried speed in the neutral zone and made guys miss the rest of the night. THAT is what Sam is good at and what makes him a special player. That he got back to that style of game; winning in the corners and owning the neutral zone, could make a HUGE difference for this team going forward.

Nilsson

- I didn’t notice Robert much tonight on a line that seemed to be playing so well. I found that quite odd as he should have been able to get in on the play as well. Did I miss something or is he not quite the fit for this line? I’m not sure.

Strudwick-Brodziak-Stortini

- I really enjoyed the attacking nature Brodziak showed tonight. On any other line he gets a couple points. He gets to carry these guys so I guess it comes with the territory but the one shift he was out with other wingers he looked great. Even with the big lugs he took a couple really good shots. Strudwick and Stortini did what they do I suppose. Watching Zack against Belak was a little sad as I’m not sure he got within a foot of actually hitting him. Felt bad for Brodziak going in 2-on-1 with Strudwick and having no positive options.

Moreau

- Really liked him going right after Tootoo early in the game. That could’ve been pretty big. It didn’t necessarily stop the guy from running around like the tool he is but it served notice I think at least. Aside from that there was nothing really exceptional from him tonight but I did enjoy the awkward look he got on his face when Cogliano’s shot when in. I think his most important duty on just about any line he’s on right now is generally stabilizing it and he certainly did that tonight.

Pouliot

- Certainly not a flashy game from Marc but he doesn’t have to be every game. What I did enjoy though is that he played with plenty of confidence and made solid choices with the puck. His passes were crisp and he took advantage of his linemate Cogliano’s speed and current streak of excellent play.

Cogliano

- What else is there to say other than that he keeps on rolling right along. The guy is playing flat-out excellent hockey right now when we need him too; and hard work combined with smart play generates breaks like the one he got tonight. Occasionally you need one of those and if you keep working you’ll get it. I love the pressure he’s applying on defencemen right now and the lines he’s picking out there. He always knows where to go. The only thing I wish he’d do differently is sometimes he slows down and tries to maneuver high in the opposition zone when he should just stick to the jets and blow right by guys. Really liked his PP play again as well.


Souray

- Cruising along as well. The guy makes such a difference for our offence on so many nights. Everyone looks at the shot but I really think it’s the nights where he patient in our zone and skates the puck out of danger using his size that he’s most effective. He can also be a big neutral zone presence and he did that a couple of times tonight. I’d say I’ve noticed these two things specifically in nearly every win we’ve had this year. He’s almost exactly what we need him to be; hopefully we can make up for his PK shortcomings.

Visnovsky

- Great skating with the puck; magnificent passes including the one to spring Hemsky, and solid d including a reduction in turnovers from Lubomir tonight. I think its almost easy to take him for granted in games like this where he doesn’t too anything flashy, but watching he and Hemsky work the puck together is just pure gold. Balancing he and Gagner taking some pucks for Hemsky on the PP could make a huge difference for us going forward there. 5-on-5 he was strong on a night when his partner was a little off I felt.

Gilbert

- Tom was really solid. He’s cemented his consistent play these past weeks and just kept right on doing it. If you want to see what has changed it’s as simple as watching his play with the puck. He made steady cross ice passes in the offensive zone and solid reads in his defensive zone all night tonight. Just what we need from him.
Staios

- After the start Stevie played really well. I loved some of the tough shifts he had tonight; really playing with sandpaper. I don’t know what set him off on one particular shift where he went after both a winger and a center with his stick high and menace in his mind. Loved the attack he jumped into to create the pressure for Cogliano’s goal. He often jumps in like that when he’s playing a little better and he did it with increased tenacity this evening. Good to see.

Smid

- I thought he looked shaky, out of position and not physically sure of himself tonight. He made a couple suspect passes, wasn’t stickhandling in his usual smooth way, and got pushed around a bit. He’s struggled a little the past couple games but I hope he returns to form soon.

Grebeshkov

- I didn’t think when he got “beat” in the first creating a partial break was all that bad actually. He kept the man far enough away and distracted enough that there was no real scoring chance there. The trend continued though and he was either a step behind, shaky with the puck, or out of position all night. I remember a particular instance where he read to jump in from his point spot at exactly the wrong time and got completely lucky when the Predators blew a 2-on-1 that was misplayed terribly to boot. He got away with it tonight; but he’s better than this. Did LOVE the fake shot-pass play he made to Gagner on the PP in the third though. That was money. He had EVERYONE thinking shot and made a beauty pass to Sam instead that should’ve likely netted us a goal. Sick. The man is crafty at that opposition blue line.

Roloson

- I thought he looked shakier than usual in the first. Not of position shaky or going down way too early shaky but still unsure of himself and his lines. He over-pursued a couple different times tonight and that’s something we have to watch. It almost let NSH back into the game when we were up big. After the first he was pretty solid though he never had to be all that spectacular. One good save off of a screw-up in the slot in the second and one more in the third were enough tonight. NSH didn’t take quality shots. He needs to work on the puck movement choices though…that was UGLY tonight. Like pinball.
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Why does MARTIN ERAT of all people have to own us? That’s so annoying.

Arnott didn’t get going very well against us which is good tonight though I’m usually a fan. We could really use a big center with a big shot right about now.

I had about the dumbest hockey fan ever sitting behind me tonight…he did things like bemoan the fact that defenders can glove the puck ahead in the defensive zone, said Hemsky needed to shoot sooner on a shot from the BLUE LINE and claimed Staios should be first star…what a CLOWN. I apologize to all those around us who were made dumber by the stuff spewing from the guy. He made the total drunk next to him sound like a genius!

I could get used to this whole winning thing…let’s keep it up. 3 solid lines with offensive pressure = plenty of wins for us. It is that simple.

12/24/08

Hemsky and Ice-time

I've long been an advocate of increasing Ales Hemsky's ice time. It certainly does not appear that he lags at the end of games; and there's no outward evidence his conditioning is particularly bad, so why do we not use him to the extent we probably should?

Ales is currently 26th in league scoring despite being on the 24th ranked team in terms of goals for and having no close competition for the team scoring lead or notable scoring support. The guy's having a great year.

Only 5 players in the league have more points that Hemsky and play less than he does. All of those guys are outside the top-14 in league scoring.

To be in the top-10 you've got to play at least 19:10 a night, and Hemsky isn't that far off but he's not there.

To be top 4 you need to be 21+

Why isn't Ales being given that opportunity thus far?

All top point-getters generally get a few SH shifts here and there; Ales essentially never does.

Top guys get double-shifted and this happens from time to time but not in a strategic fashion from our coaching staff and I'm not totally sure why. I outlined in my line proposals a couple posts ago how this would work in my world and stick by it. Hemsky should play on 1 and a 1/2 lines.

Ales played a whole PP last game; but he never does that. The guy is an elite PP forward and should play as close to the full two minutes as possible at least 3 times in the average game. It's worth it to have him out there. Even the stats guys seem to agree with me here.

Ales if anything cuts his shifts short and has to be pushed by the coaches sometimes to stay out longer; perhaps this is the cause of the lower minute totals and some specific work has to be done to get him to occasionally take "the big shift" that all talented scorers at all levels take from time-to-time. Knowing when exactly to do this is an art; but one I'm sure he could pick up.

The guy could be even more of a weapon out there if we'd just get him on the ice some more.
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Random thought of the day: why don't any teams occasionally employ a PK strategy that positions a forward behind the other team's D? I know it might sound crazy, but think of it; get the puck once and you're off to the races. The initial reaction from opposition squads would be something to behold as well. Give it a chance to simmer in your minds a little before you condemn it.

12/23/08

Tuesday Trade Prop.

I'm still stuck on this Weight-Guerin thing in a big way. It just makes so much sense to me. I'm just horribly conflicted about who to send...

Smid could go. I really like him but we've got our top 4.

Nilsson already was an Islander so I don't think he's going back.

I refuse to make Schremp a part of a deal like this. I still think the guy's coming back and staying for the rest of the season.

I think we can easily afford to move a D-prospect if that's what they want (a Chorney/Wild/Petry/whatever type).

Cole I'm now moderately conflicted on. I'm half-convinced he turns into Peca for us as I earlier noted.

What would NYI want that we'd be able to give?
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As for a different kind of deal; how bout this:

From ATL - Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen

To ATL - Robert Nilsson + ???? (I'm honestly not sure how much we have to give or if they want a goalie).

The only problem with this deal is we've still got too many forwards. Maybe only acqure one of them.

ATL has a lot of interesting players; Kovalchuk obviously, Hainsey's locked up at 4.5, I've always been a Kozlov fan, take the chance on Kari? They'd be interesting dance partners.

Teams to target right now: NYI, C-bus, ATL, Tampa

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And for a flashback to what could have been:

http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1021271/index.htm

http://www.cbc.ca/sports/story/2001/09/01/comrie010901.html

Still makes me so sad. The promise that was there; the turn we were making. Still have the newspaper from the night Mike scored goal #1 to beat the Wings.

12/22/08

LMHF Game Report #13 - EDM v. PHX

EDMONTON OILERS 4

VS.

PHOENIX COYOTES 2
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Very nice to get a decent win with some surprising performance, but first:

To the GIANT EFFING LOSER with the green laser pointer; you are a waste of skin. I don’t care whether you’re 5 or 55, that was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen at a game. And you’re not “helping” the team you jerk; you’re an embarrassing force in that rink. If anyone finds this jerk I hope you get him arrested; those green pointers can be dangerous in the hands of people who have nothing better to do (and Greek socialists apparently).

Anyway, now that I’ve got that out, on to the game. Mixed feeling I suppose as I’m very happy we won and at least we won by more than 1 goal. We didn’t exactly put the boots to them after a great start though. We had a bunch of guys who seemed to pack it in for 15 minutes and that was unfortunate. I’m hopeful that some of them used the good breaks and plays they got/made later in the game. We’ll have to see.

I liked the way the team started of course as getting a goal from an unlikely source and then having some secondary scoring strike as well is always a good thing. We kind of hit a lull after that and I must confess I’m not sure why. We had numerous opportunities to get goal three and then fell flat. We need to get better at that as a team.

Usually one of my favorite Coyotes, Carcillo, let it get away from him again tonight and we certainly took advantage of that. It’s a good thing too because we let PHX back into that game and easily could’ve lost without the PP chances we wound up getting. That’s why I’m only sort of okay with this game; PHX had to make some pretty big mistakes to assure our win.

With that said; HOORAY FOR FEWER SHOTS!!! and on to PLAYER REPORTS
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Hemsky
- He played a really really patient game tonight. His linemates were not up to snuff for the first half of the game which hampered his offensive play and PHX keyed on him. He was patient enough to keep pushing the puck in the offensive zone without getting frustrated and eventually caused some things to happen including drawing a penalty or two. His work on the PP wasn’t the stuff of legend; but 2 solid assists and controlling the play along the boards is nothing to sneeze at. He also took an obscene amount of difficult passes on the PHX side of the red line in traffic tonight. You can see his skills coming along more every game you watch. He utilized Visnovsky more often to assist him tonight which was a good change, took a few hits out there, and I just LOVED his patience on the late 5-on-3 to salt it away. That play he made wasn’t easy or obvious; with all the non-hockey-clowns telling him to shoot the whole way. He made the right play as he nearly always does from there.

Horcoff
- He wasn’t bad, he wasn’t great. What he did well was set himself in the offensive zone shooting areas and give a target. He was also solid as always in the D-zone and he took a ton of faceoffs out there tonight and came out close to 60 percent. What he did badly was miss every shooting chance he had sadly. I also didn’t see the dynamic neutral zone stuff he’s capable of. He made outlet passes to Hemsky a couple times but that was pretty much it. Like I said; kinda medium game tonight

Penner

- Didn’t like what he did for most of the game. He wasn’t keeping his feet moving and kept making these stupid backhand passes that wound up on PHX sticks pretty much all the time. That’s not okay. He had WAY more than the supposed 1 giveaway the stats guys gave him; I counted at least 5. Even his positioning was off tonight, he wasn’t great in the corners and he only held one or two guys off on rushes to the net. Just not a very useful performance at all from Penner which I think is why he was briefly moved off the top line.

Pouliot

- Wow, what an inspired performance from Marc in a good chance with some solid hockey players. He read off Cogliano’s ability to use his speed and push the puck deep impressively well; he looked like a very smart hockey player. Other than his shot being a little slow; the play he made with Cogliano; a beauty pass then drive the slot and take the pass and roof the shot, was all-world, just stupendous. Loved a rush he made in the third where he took the puck on his backhand, got off a great backhand shot (something you don’t see often) then followed up the play with a great pass that nearly resulted in a goal. He made several other fantastic passes from the corners to open men who; if they had been more ready, would’ve scored out there. He made a Hemsky-esque read and pass through sticks on the PP to a wide open guy at the side of the net but the shot was flubbed for one. He even hit people and played pretty good D other than a couple shifts. Excellent capitalization on the chance he received.

Cogliano

- He really made it happen out there tonight. He’s probably the only guy on our team who can drive the middle of a defence and create offence like nothing. He blew by the defence and created a great break-in scoring chance on one play only to be narrowly thwarted. He opened up plenty of ice for his linemates and gave them all the chances in the world to make things happen tonight. How he doesn’t get more than 1 tonight I’m not sure. It’s great to see him pushing the offence so hard out there though. Nice conversion at the side of the net; and don’t underestimate the patience it takes to stay focused and wait for that pass Ales gave him. The way he got the net tonight to tip pucks was just astounding as well. Nothing like a well timed speed-burst. It’s like the guy is jamming the C-button on his SEGA controller playing NHL 94 out there. My 3 stars woulda been Hemsky-Pouliot-Cogliano in any order.

Moreau

- Was the silent force on an effective line that I didn’t give much of a chance to at the start of things tonight. He’s always responsible, hit when he needed to and really could’ve scored a couple goals out there…too bad he couldn’t pop one tonight. His line could’ve made this a rout. Tough shot block he made as well.

Cole

- I actually felt bad for Cole tonight. I don’t know what he’s doing shooting low but boy did he get some good chances; especially in the slot late. You can see it in his face that he just doesn’t know what to do right now. He drove the net pretty well and gave a really good effort; at least that could be said for him tonight. He needs some garbage to go in so he can remember that he’s a goal-scorer again. Get Robbie up here after the freeze is over to feed him some pucks and he’ll get it on track maybe.

Gagner

- Still frustrated. I like that he isn’t quitting; a guy who was feeling sorry for himself wouldn’t have gone for the rebound in front of the net in the third like he did only to get whacked and jabbed around. He’s got no quit in him. He needs to get his feet moving with the puck though; this is his strength and he was standing still. He certainly at least had flashes out there tonight; such as his hook around to the slot and dish to Cogliano attempt on the PP in the third; it would’ve been PRETTY. Just keep at it Sam; you’ll be okay.

Reddox

- Um…not suited for this spot, showed some early jump but couldn’t bring it all game. Back to the minors time on Dec 27 Liam. Sorry!

Stortini-Brodziak-Strudwick

- Surprisingly effective tonight. Strudwick was so excited when Stortini pushed one into the net which is great. Good solid scrap requiring persistence and stamina against Carcillo, though I’m still not sure either landed much in the way of a decent punch. It had to happen though after that hit on Brodziak I believe. Kyle did his job keeping his linemates honest. I understand that he’s carrying the two widebodies but still think he should’ve been the one playing with Cole and Gagner. Stortini had 4 legit scoring chances which was amazing to see. Good that we coaxed something out of these guys.

Visnovsky

- He was great in the offensive zone and off the rush making a lot of key plays. He had a couple of giveaways though that were certainly uglier than normal. He’s gotta watch that stuff a little more. Good passing at the opposition blue line. Almost had a couple of assists on superbly tippable point-shots. Being good at that is such an art form.

Souray

- He was due for a goal; especially after the post and 11 shots last game. Good of him to stay motivated and keep firing though. He moved into position very well tonight. Not sure what was going on during that shift where he was breaking sticks and slashing people; he’s usually better at being more subtle and more body-contact-oriented out there. Oh well. Nothing to complain about and he wasn’t as bad on the PK. Was he one of the three guys that went to Jovo-crap on the PHX PP goal? I don’t think he was but I don’t recall clearly. That was a stinking play all-around including Horcoff.

Gilbert

- Almost a really nasty blocked shot that resulted in a 3-on-1 and could’ve changed this game irreparably if PHX hadn’t been dumb enough to shoot on it. He needs to make a better decision on that particular play. Other than that I thought he was really good.

Smid

- Really liked the physicality from him but he wasn’t that great on the puck tonight. He fired passes up the middle that were not crisp on a couple of occasions and thankfully they didn’t cost us but they certainly could have.

Grebeshkov and Staios

- Simply solid. Loved Stevie givin PHX the business and forcing their player to move 3 positions away on a faceoff. Nice.

Roloson

- He was really good and I think I know why; he’s staying up. On all the good stops he made which came off PHX rushes, the wingers took quality shots at corners but instead of being down early Dwayne stayed on his feet and made solid saves by forcing the angle and covering a lot of net. Well done on the improvement; keep it up. Key saves; but surely not first star.
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A win’s a win’s a win. Good to go into Christmas with this. Merry Christmas EVERYONE. Have a great one; share it with those you love and enjoy it!

Game Preview - EDM v. PHX - 12/22/08

Who I'm watching: Since I didn't see last game I'll be watching Erik Cole to see if his game has actually changed any or if he just got lucky out there last game. A fundamental change in both his approach and the way we use him has been required for some time now and maybe that's happening???

With Phoenix you never really know what you're gonna get. Its nice that we're in Ilya's head and seem to be able to get to him when we play PHX for our sake. They have some interesting young players that are enjoyable to watch including Hanzal, Mueller, Boedker, Michalek, Turris and Tikhonov. I'm also a Dan Carcillo fan so I enjoy his game. With Gretzky's teams you always have to be on guard for a comeback. He really knows how to open up the play strategy-wise (not surprising from the best EVER at that type of game) so they can catch you in a hurry. Still makes me angry that all of our A-list former players are elsewhere while we get the B/C list. A staff of Gretzky-Messier-Coffey-Kurri in some capacity would have a very different squad and style.

I really wonder how taking out Robert Nilsson is going to get our utterly putrid offence started. I mean, having Reddox, Strudwick and Stortini in the lineup is sure to scare the goaltenders of this league but...yeah...Stinking roster freeze...

Due: I'm still thinking Ales is due for a huge game.

What happened to: David Hale? He was once a highly touted NJ prospect and went straight into the NHL journeyman scrap heap. Funny how that happens with touted defencemen.

I really hope: Deslauriers starts. He deserves another one before Christmas and MacTavish should make this happen.

PK: Phoenix does not have a good powerplay. If we can't shut these guys down we have serious problems. Get Souray off the PK, he's dead there this year.

Make sure you check: Mr shoulda-been-Oiler himself Shane Doan. He's their obvious leader on the ice and we need him not to have a big night.

Let's just win a game handidly. We need something; ANYTHING to haul the fanbase out of this utter depression.

12/19/08

Lines and such

First off a notice: Sadly won't be at the game tonight; and neither will number 2 so there will be no game report against Anaheim. I'd love to tell you what they team is going to do and whether these new lines we have will last more than a period but I honestly don't know anymore.

I'd frankly be starting Deslauriers in goal tonight though. The other two seem to have had their confidence and the team just drop away from them and look utterly lost. I don't think either has been managed well this year and I don't believe there's a lot of disagreement with that sentiment.

Let's take a closer look at these new lines though and try to figure out exactly what's going on:

Nilsson-Cogliano-Hemsky
Pouliot-Horcoff-Cole
Moreau-Gagner-Penner
Strudwick-Brodziak-Stortini

As it seems is always the case when Craig MacTavish makes an inter-game line shuffle; I reacted with bewilderment and horror generally. I'm quite willing to accept that this is because we have a very different take on winning hockey games, but still sometimes what this guy can do with the roster we have just stuns me.

It stinks to have Pisani out and that's for certain. Not having his Mr. Reliable to throw into various situations destroys MacTavish's world like just about nothing else. I find this incredibly odd. The thing about a guy like Fernando should be that you can throw him just about anywhere and that gives you all kinds of flexibility to the point where he's one of your last concerns. Without him, things should actually get simpler in my view, not more complicated.

Now how Jason Strudwick manages to effectively take Pisani's spot in the lineup I have no idea. It truly does not make sense to me. I guess Craig just loves having him on the bench to throw out there all night and does whatever it takes to get him there.

Looking at the Strudwick-Brodziak-Stortini line; I think what I always think whenever I see any line on my team and that's this: outside of if the plan is to only play these guys LITERALLY 2 minutes a game, who's going to put the puck in the net? I don't mean a dynamic crazy goal-scoring machine; I mean if there's a chance or a break or a bounce, who's going to score? I believe in having one of this type of guy on every single line of your hockey team. At least one. Ideally at least 2 until we get to the fourth line. This line therefore is totally out in my opinion. Neither wing man is a consistent good hitter and therefore their only real value is dumping the puck, fights, and the occasional big hit. Since these hits almost never come on the opposition's important players, this is effective useless. There is a massive difference between a line like the one above and say something like Neil-Brodziak-Laperriere, where there are guys who could actually score, hit consistently, draw penalties (one of the most overlooked attributes out there) and fight as well when needed. Our fourth line is a sad attempt at a line like the one I just came up with and nothing else.

Moving to the third line: I understand and have no real problem with Gagner moving down right now (as you'll see in my lines later). He dragged Nilsson and Cogliano through the floor last game when they were going early and has just had nothing so many times this year that I'm not willing to keep throwing him out there. I know he's been playing tougher people this year and I know he's going to get through this but we can't afford to have him doing it on a line that needs to supply our secondary scoring. So we've got Moreau-Gagner-Penner. It meets the guys who can score criteria, but I don't really see a passer-shooter arrangement here. This appears to be an attempt at a defensive line with two offensive players. Moreau will muck and grind and dig pucks and take long-ish shots but he's got no one to drive the net with him. Gagner this year has been most effective passing on the rush. When he sets up to pass in the zone he's gotten flustered and turned the puck over. Both of the guys he's playing with do not score off the rush; they're down low guys. Penner could be a good passer for this line but seems to have forgotten how to do so. His noted success on the top line seems disregarded (though I'm sure he'll still be on the PP). I don't see how this line either generates offence or secures the D-zone. I'm sure MacTavish will be relying on Penner as backup faceoff guy, or hoping Gagner will learn quickly but I don't see how these guys will be effective. What kind of game would they play? They're not a dump-and-chase line, not a rush line, not a cycle line, and not an anything line really. What are they going to do in either end of the ice? No one to take advantage of Gagner's neutral zone excellence, no one to utilize Penner's positioning and size, and no one to get set up for Moreau.

The second line could have been very interesting. Horcoff and Cole (despite his utter ineptitude this year) may very well be an interesting combo. They both skate really well, can play a crash-rush style and score from in close, and they're not going to have any issues in their own end. Both are also decent in the corners which means there's no real need for Marc Pouliot (who's best when he's utilized in the corners) on this line; UNLESS they're trying to get Cole to go to the front of the net and put the puck in the net like I think they should. I don't believe that's what's happening. What will happen is that Horcoff and Cole will charge into the corners and get Pouliot the puck, who will hit the goalie's chest/pads and then the play will end. I like that Horcoff could focus on his role as a passer here (I believe he's better when this is his primary role) but again I see no reason to take him away from the successful top line. Shakeup for the sake of shakeup is done by trades, releases and call-ups, not line changing. As for Cole, I'm just going to lower my expectations through the floor and hope he beats them because this is just getting sad for a guy who was counted on for 60 points this year. Pouliot's in over his head and should probably never see the top 6 on this squad. Especially playing left wing without a scorer. If we had someone who was great at getting set in the low slot and scoring; I'd play Marc with that guy because Pouliot could get him the puck a lot of the time. Fact is though, he's not a second-line player right now.

Moving to the first line; sure they certainly have potential. Nilsson and Cogliano have played alright recently (especially Andrew) and they could very well put up some points. I don't mind mixing Cogliano and Hemsky because I think their games could play well off each other (though Cogliano isn't skilled enough to score directly from Hemsky as much as we need he can get open to take advantage of skilled passes out of the zone which is something Hemsky can't do playing with Horcoff and Penner), I do mind Nilsson being there as I just don't think he's enough of a scorer to be slotted where he is. He fills enough of a Hemsky-ish role with other guys and that should determine his placing right now. This line should fair best, though I just don't know if they can roll at even strength being that we need Hemsky on the ice for a serious amount of minutes every night. Hopefully he gets double-shifted a fair bit.

Now, on to what I propose:

Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky

I don't actually like this line very much but they get results so I certainly can't propose to mess with it. If they had ANY secondary scoring support their results would be even better. Hemsky stirs the drink and the other two manage to capitalize often enough that they're worth it on this line, so not a whole lot to talk about here. These guys are playing BIG minutes, but Penner will get tired. When he tires I propose to move Moreau into the LW slot for some defensive shifts and any of Cole/Cogliano/Nilsson up for offensive shifts. I'm a big proponent of a reasonably permanent base of lines with flexibility built in for situational play.

Moreau-Brodziak-Nilsson

This line is defensively responsible enough; yet has a guy who could score at any time he's on the ice. An offensively-oriented guy is just what Moreau and Brodziak need to get their offensive games going. Both are perfectly capable in the offensive zone and do a good job of gaining entry when given the opportunity. Nilsson's defensive play is good enough when balanced with the other two that there is not any need to worry. The stability and positional skill of the other two players will allow Robert to use his speed more effectively in all zones. Nilsson can buzz around in the slot areas and make passes from the high boards while Moreau and Brodziak focus down low. On the rush the line isn't the greatest; but if Moreau is given the puck down the left wing with adequate time; the play to the net for Nilsson with a Brodziak follow-up could bring them success.

Schremp-Cogliano-Cole

Yes I called Schremp back up; so sue me. He should be here. He was good enough and this "needs to be top-six" stuff is utter BS. As is the idea that "keeping up" speed-wise is the most important aspect on a line like this. That is flatly wrong. Having the skill to utilize speed players and find them when they're open; in addition to properly attacking in layers is actually what's important. This line works because it can do that. I like this as an attacking line because of its versatility. On the rush; any player could lead and you get a different look to each. With Rob leading; he gains entry and can either make a move and look for the pass to two layers of speeding wingers or rip the slapper. Cogliano leading the rush forces the D to back way up to respect his speed. This opens the top layer for Cole and Schremp to get into shooting position. Cogliano can either burn the D and get a chance to be followed up or or set up shop low and find a good shooter in good position. Cole leading the rush is likely going to result in a net drive that brings the D to him and opens up his wings. If Erik knows that he has two capable men playing with him and keeps his head up, these passes and or the chaos he creates would result in all kinds of offensive chances. In the defensive zone they aren't great, though again Cole can use his physicality and Cogliano his speed to create problems for the other team's offence. Robbie showed better skill defending low than he did high so I may actually have him pursuing the puck more down low; but that would come with experience of the line. I really like what this line COULD be.

Pouliot-Brule-Gagner (Stortini)

And here's my fourth line. I quite obviously take a different approach to fourth lines than most. Gagner needs some time away from the havoc of tough 5-on-5 to get his head back on straight in the offensive zone before he jumps back in later in the year as I would propose he do. Brule was just fine and he can be physical and draw penalties as well as possibly pick up on Gagner. Pouliot is in his proper slot with two offensively capable guys to dish to. This line exists not only as a line in itself (that won't get a lot of minutes) but a reserve of players to shoot in and out of other lines depending on what you need. The likelihood of seeing Gagner take Horcoff's place after a PK is already high as we've seen this year. I like operating my fourth forward unit this way. On nights when distinct toughness is required, you play Stortini for any of the guys on that line.

On the PP I roll with:

Penner-Horcoff/Gagner-Hemsky

Nilsson-Gagner/Horcoff-Cole

Gilbert-Visnovsky
Schremp-Souray

I've changed around Souray and Visnovsky because I like the shots Visnovsky takes better on the PP than Souray most nights. Cole's only job is to stand in the slot area and wait for pucks. Schremp could re-discover his shooting ability in this role and also allow Hemsky to play lower occasionally which would give him an advantage in being able to move around and use locations like behind the net more often. I'd also like to get Gagner out with Hemsky more often because they work so well on the PP.

On the PK:

Hemsky/Cole-Horcoff
Cogliano-Moreau


Grebeshkov-Staios
Visnovsky-Gilbert

I'm all for getting Souray off the PK and giving him more 5-on-5 minutes. He's looked horrid and done nothing but stood around lately on the PK. I'm also wanting to give Ales the time on the PK, along with Cole because I think both have the skill and timing to make a big difference out there.

And when Steve Mac and Fernando are back?

Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky
Nilsson-Brodziak-Pisani
Schremp-Cogliano-Cole
Moreau-Gagner-McIntyre

Brule-Pouliot

With Ales double-shifting on the fourth line about half the time and Moreau flipping for Nilsson at times as well.

12/16/08

Game Preview - EDM v. CHI - 12/13/08

Who I'm watching: Aside from the Hawks young guns of course, I'll be paying special attention to the kid line tonight to see if they step up their game in the presence of some of the other young stars of this league.

Chicago is a very interesting squad; I must say I like their team a lot other than their goaltending situation. Without that giant cap drain these guys would be able to make themselves real contenders. How the kids hold up will likely determine their fate this year...but their supporting cast is certainly getting better.

Due: Ales hasn't had a really big game in a while. I think he's due against a dynamic opponent.

What happened to: Patrick Sharp? I always thought he was just another middling NHLer and then he blows the lid off in Chicago and makes guys expendable. What happened? Guess you get breaks sometimes.

I really hope: Garon starts. Very sure this would be the right move for this game, against this team, at this time.

Steady Steve: Can Staios keep up his reasonably solid play of late? He may have turned a corner. He'll have lots of support is Smid keeps up his strong play.

Make sure you check: The obvious duo of Toews and Kane. Yikes. But very entertaining.

We need a nice run pretty badly; here's hoping we can manage to start one.

12/13/08

LMHF Game Report #10 - EDM v. VAN

EDMONTON OILERS 3

VS.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS
----------------------------------------------

I must admit I’m a little conflicted writing this report. This game had many ebbs and flows and was a lot to follow.

We started out like gangbusters. It wouldn’t have mattered if Penner’s good drive followed by a weak shot hadn’t resulted in a goal. Subsequently we had a few good shifts that generated some really good chances that we needed to score on.

After that the first period was quite ugly to be honest. We had so many chances to do good things; including on powerplays and did nothing. We had some of the ugliest and most disorganized shifts I’ve seen in a LONG time. I don’t know where they came from or particularly why but it just wasn’t pretty at all. Ales specifically looked as frustrated and disoriented as I’ve seen him in a long time. We were driving the sides and getting shut down at the line every time until the second.

Once the second was a few minutes old I thought we played pretty well for the rest of the game. We were certainly around the net and in better position this game. It took a couple lucky breaks and an utterly stupid Canucks squad to give us this win. We need to be a lot better on the PP. Two 5-on-3’s and nothing at all? Including one where the Canucks best 2 defencemen were in the box? That’s not okay.

Kevin Bieksa has unfortunately caught Canuck syndrome and become a cheapo wuss like the rest of em. Watching Ohlund act like he’s something special and then back down from everyone is just sad…The more I watch of this team the more pathetic they get.

We made all their effective offensive players look invisible tonight. That’s credit to our D men who did a great job all night. But let’s not get to intricate here; on to PLAYER REPORTS
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Ales Hemsky
- I think that’s how stars overcome the fact that they’re having a bad game. Credit to MacTavish for sending him back out onto the ice and double-shifting him numerous times to try and get him going. He had a rough time and nothing was working in the first. In the second he pops the most important goal of the night; shows you how much anger that got off his chest and goes on to have a very effective rest of the game. It was great that he recovered like that. Taking the shot on the 3-on-1 I view a little differently than most; I think if he’s having a good game he makes a dynamic move and then dishes to Souray for a sweet goal. He shot because he was aggravated and the passes weren’t working; but being Ales it was a pretty damn fine shot and it went in anyway. Whatever works! Loved how he drove the net and drew a penalty so soon after that as well. Great play from him after the frustrating first.

Shawn Horcoff
- Despite a weak faceoff effort tonight; I felt Horcoff was fairly effective. He was superb in the defensive zone including a great little play from his knees at the end of the game to clear the puck out. He was just really solid all game long. Not great offensively again but he could work on it. Certainly did a decent job distributing once he was in the offensive zone on the PP. He’s also begun coming closer to the net on occasion for the cross-ice one-timer which is good. He really should’ve scored on the chance with Cole that hit the post but in the end it didn’t matter.

Dustin Penner
- Didn’t particularly love him out there tonight but he wasn’t bad either. His play to hold the man off before his goal was much more impressive than the actual goal. I saw a bit of drive to the net and some good positioning in his game tonight; which is why I think he succeeds largely, but nothing extra special. He needs to remember how good of a passer he can be and use that skill to create room for Hemsky more often.

Stortini-Pouliot-Strudwick

- Marc adapted his game pretty well to play with these guys. He was a little more physical and certainly simplified things a fair bit. I didn’t like his offensive zone entry and lack of using his reach to his advantage but did like the hitting and positioning. Stortini and Strudwick I’m a little conflicted over as I’m not sure whether their play kept guys like Kesler out of the game or simply brought the crummier guys into a more prominent role. Having this line in place certainly limited our offensive options during the stagnant first and early second which perturbed me. They were fairly effective physically, but we need what they gave so rarely that I don’t know if it’s anything particularly monumental. They also didn’t draw the penalties the Canucks took; that was our skilled players drawing those so they don’t get credit for that. They policed the ice at the end of the game but I didn’t see a tired Canucks squad trying anything too stupid. Credit to MacTavish I GUESS…for this possibly working. But I also hope he’s smart enough to realize there’s no use for this line against Chicago…or just about any other team in the league.

Nilsson-Cogliano-Gagner
- Andrew was flying but unfortunately he was often flying solo in this one. The kids really varied in their levels of play tonight. I loved that Nilsson took advantage of the break he was given so well and that certainly helped us out. Gagner was all over the place. He was really weak on the puck for about 3 shifts but had about 5 where he was offensive dynamite and there’s no way he shouldn’t have scored. He also took some weak shots though where last year he would’ve made sure of a strong effort and probably scored. I have a hard time judging him tonight as he was just that variable. Robert was better defensively at clearing the puck and being in place than he was at anything offensive. He and Cogliano controlled the puck behind the net alright but I think that was more Cogliano. Andrew was really solid defensively and did what he could offensively. I hope he keeps up his high effort level and great skating choices.

Moreau-Brodziak-Cole
- Moreau started out at the strongest. He was skating really well and making hits to get things going. Took a couple nice shots that just didn’t connect. Brodziak was just really solid all night. I liked how he challenged the ‘Nucks after that hit on Cole and didn’t back down in the least. Shows you what a versatile player can do for a team. Would’ve loved to see him pop one tonight. Cole picked up more as the game went on but I’m conflicted with him…it was great to see him hit and drive and draw penalties but we’re not paying him to be an energy guy. We need GOALS from Erik Cole and I just don’t see how we’re going to get them. I can’t recall a single strong shot from him in ages now. Everything is weak, telegraphed, and at the chest. He also NEVER gets to pucks right in front. He just seems to be a horrible slot player. I don’t know what the deal is quite simply. Can anyone pick anything out comparing highlights from his effective play? He’s also not looking very fast at all right now; maybe he’s playing injured this year?

Staios-Smid
- Probably the best game I’ve seen this pair (which I HATE) play. Staios was really aggressive which was best exemplified by his charge for a loose puck on the PK straight out of his own box. Awesome. Steve is best when he’s aggressive because he wins battles in the corners on effort rather than talent or physicality. He won those battles tonight and made good plays with the puck after he won them. Smid’s pinching was simply a treat to watch. He was so effective taking the body and the puck and created nothing but havoc for the Canucks. His outlet passes were also really solid. Loved the game he played tonight.

Gilbert-Souray
- Really solid game from these guys; don’t think I can recall a real giveaway. Tom is back to his old self I’m pretty sure in that he’s holding onto the puck, skating and moving guys off the puck with his body. Those are the biggest things he does. He also moved the puck solidly, played excellent D and was a great pairing with Souray on the PP. Another very good thing I must recognize the coaching staff has actually done since the beginning of the year. Souray really shoulda scored tonight. He got off a number of quality blasts that hit things like the post and Bieksa’s face, but also had a number of other chances. He was a good decoy on the Hemsky goal but he still coulda executed better tonight. Drew a penalty nicely by jumping up into the rush as well.

Visnovsky-Grebeshkov
- I didn’t see the supposed 3 giveaways from Denis. I thought he was excellent and moved his feet amazingly well all night. Never panicked with the puck at all. Ink this guy NOW and solidify our blue line for years to come. Lubomir probably had the only obvious giveaway from our D all night that could’ve been dangerous, and again he’s just so good it doesn’t matter because he recovered. His shooting and offensive zone passing left a little to be desired as he’s usually more effective than that; but there’s only so much you can knock a guy who turns in another solid performance. Having 2 all-star blue liners is FUN.

Roloson
- He played quite well. He was in control of his positioning all night and stood square. He got a great effort from the D but made the solid saves he needed to make. He kept his technical level very high and didn’t drift into old mistakes. Puckhandled like junk but what else is new…Liked his game. Save him for Wednesday however; give Garon Tuesday against the dynamic young Hawks.
--------------------------------------------

Win’s a win; especially against these Canucks jerks. I wouldn’t chalk this up as perfect though; we can be a lot better and we’re going to need to be.

One step at a time though. Good bounce-back.

Game Preview - EDM v. VAN - 12/13/08

Who I'm watching: I'm counting on the big line tonight so I'll be watching to see if they can find an early groove. I really don't think the young guys have much of chance of a big game...Sam still looks hurt to me. Robert will be rusty. And apparently I can't watch Schremp because of MacTavish's lineup genius so...yippee.

I hate Vancouver. I hate their fans in Edmonton because they don't respect the game and the Edmonton fans in attendance. Simply not cool.

Due: So much for Erik Cole being due...Moreau seems more likely tonight to me. I think he has a good game.

Jerks: Like half of Vancouver's forward lineup. Seriously; only Dallas can compete with this classless of a group. Maybe our incredibly useless line-up can hurt a couple of em and get suspended so we get two birds with one stone.

Our lineup: Is quite possibly the stupidest thing I've ever seen.

Have no problem with: Roloson starting. He's had lots of rest and should be ready; hopefully the technical improvements we've seen from him continue; if he regresses he needs to be traded and fast.

Make sure you check: Mason Raymond. He seems to get us.

I really hope we rebound from the stinker against FLA; but if this lineup and random goalie coach yelling is what happens after a pathetic loss; I don't know what happens after a 'W' anymore...

12/11/08

LMHF Game Report #9 - EDM v. FLA

EDMONTON OILERS 0

VS.

FLORIDA PANTHERS 2
------------------------------

I always take a quick check of the forums before starting my Game Report just to get a little sense of mood…and I get the sense out there that some people feel that we not only played well this game but actually “dominated”….

Get off your shot-obsessed horse and smell the freaking reality people. WE STUNK TONIGHT. Period. End of Story. That was a horridly played hockey game.

Those are the type of games where I can’t even rate and judge individual players because EVERYONE was pretty well terrible or indifferent. Nobody showed any extraordinary effort, no one was in position to cash rebounds (of which Anderson; who probably stopped the grand sum of 3 good shots all night) let out many. I cannot believe some people are so shot clock focused that they can’t see how a team playing badly can and in fact is more likely to put up a huge shot count because none are freaking going in and ending the play!

We did 2 things offensively out there: Took horrendous shots from the outside that had no freaking chance of going in, and made ill-advised or badly executed passes. Nothing more. There were no strong individual plays, we had one decent shot that hit a post and almost everything else was aimed directly at the chest and/or pads of one Craig Anderson. He wasn’t good…neither were the Panthers. They got off one really good shot that beat our goalie clean and that’s round about it. Our D were actually okay though their ability to generate offence was rather weak.

And at the end of the game; when we’re trying to score our genius coach has Marc Pouliot out there trying to get it done…freaking hell…

Shawn Horcoff getting completely owned for the puck with our goalie pulled and a stride on the guy was un-freaking believably pathetic. I cannot believe what I saw there with my own eyes. No work, no focus, no nothing.

Erik Cole was probably the only guy who showed something tonight as he was at least driving effectively; but again, as all year, no finish whatsoever. How you waste all that effort taking brutal shots I have no idea.

Penner was BAD tonight…wow was he standing around and putting out weak efforts a lot. I think he has a problem playing extra minutes when MacTavish shortens the bench.

I didn’t mind Brule’s effort much. Robbie might not have made anything sizzle but he certainly didn’t stink either.

We just had absolutely no desire, no finish and no killer instinct tonight. Our positioning was lazy and too deep leading to a lack of rebound collection and no quick organized rushes.

Lastly, the guys got frustrated and pressed rather than relying on their talent and waiting patiently to strike. Weak flip-wristers from the side won’t go in. They just won’t. Our only real chances came from our D-men; Ales should’ve deked on a breakaway and didn’t, shots weren’t caught full-on and Anderson made easy saved never being adequately challenged.

It was a sad night to be a fan and a completely uninspiring effort. How can a team play that way after what should be a few days of terrific prep time and getting ready to rip apart a weak opponent? Where are the guys out there looking to add to point totals if nothing else? Where’s the ONE individual effort to get us through?

If we score on that chance with seconds left in the first I think we’re okay and we get going. We never got any momentum or speed or drive going at all the entire game instead, and got beat by one of the league’s worst teams, missing its best players.

How freaking pathetic.

The Flyers Penalty Kill and Andrew Cogliano

LMHF#2 here and after reading HF and the discussion about Andrew Cogliano and the Penalty Kill, it made me start thinking. I believe that Cogliano playing the PK would be a start to mimic what the Philadelphia Flyers are doing.

Using skilled players on the penalty kill has become a trend seen more and more often in today’s NHL. The Flyers have an astonishing 11 shorthanded goals already this season. That is almost double any other team in the entire league. Only the Sharks, and Islanders have 6 shorthanded goals and Nashville being the only team with 5. 19 teams in league have 2 shorthanded goals or less including our Edmonton Oilers.

Now what are the Flyers doing differently than the rest of the league? Sure Mike Richards (4 SHG’s) is one of the best 2-way players in the league and Simon Gagne (4 SHG’s) has wheels, but how can they have 2 players with as many shorthanded goals or more than 90% of the league has on their entire team? Jeff Carter’s 2 SHG’s is nothing to sneeze at and Scott Hartnell also has chipped in with 1 tally while a man down.

You would seem to think that using skilled players ok the PK would hurt the killing percentage. They are currently 5th in the NHL in penalty kill percentage clipping along at an 85.4 percent rate. The Flyers have only allowed 20 Power Play goals which leaves only 9 more goals scored on than scored against so far this season while with the man-advantage.

I think the Oilers should try and similar approach with Cogliano paired with Horcoff. They both are quite good at batting pucks out of the air and have speed which would send them in all alone. We know Horcoff isn’t scared of blocking a shot and even though Cogliano has not played too much in a PK role he seemed to be quite good at it in the limited time he has seen on the PK.

Will this make our PK better and have us scoring goals at the rate of the Flyers? Most certainly not. But with an abysmal PK (even though it has been better over the past few games) change is usually for the best and why not try something that is working wonders for a Flyers team that would be doing much better if they could score more goals at 5 on 5.

Game Preview - EDM v. FLA - 12/11/08

Who I'm watching: Rob Schremp and Dustin Penner. I'm really going to see if I can figure out what is making Penner's play effective right now (other than Ales Hemsky of course).

Florida is a bit of an odd team to be playing. They've traveled a long way and have a bunch of guys who are hurt. Important guys too. And Craig Anderson...really??? Perhaps we can put a bit of a knock on that save percentage if he gets the start this evening.

Due: Erik Cole scores one against a former SE division punching bag team.

Not likely: I just don't see Jay Bouwmeester coming here. Everything from cost to the supposed idea that he doesn't want to play here to other offers that could come in. I just don't see it. Poor guy will likely (and I hope) go elsewhere to a team where he won't lead them with 16 points in 27 games, but I have a hard time seeing it being here unless he's grown incredibly homesick.

What will happen: We'll likely come out with a good offensive effort. Quality of opposition combined with a few days of rest for the still eager young guys should keep everyone in line. The top line also looks like its finally settling in with a more consistent 3-player effort.

Something I hope happens: I hope Garon starts; though I don't think he will. Come to think of it I wouldn't mind Deslauriers getting this one. After listening to that interview with Pete Peeters I really hope he's not having too much input into who starts.

Make sure you check: Weiss. Actually looked like he was the only one playing well in the game clips I've seen lately.

Who scores first: Schremp or Brule? And could both force an eventual trade to keep them in the lineup? I'm not sure and I like being patient with young guys when you can, but we'll see how they hold up after a bunch of games. I think one of them may score tonight (and my money's on Rob).

Should be an interesting game that hopefully let's the Oilers try some things offensively and play the young guys a bunch. I guess we'll see!

12/9/08

Tuesday Trade Prop.

Every week on Tuesday I'll throw an idea out there for a trade I'd like to see the club make.

Now perhaps I should explain a little about my take on trade proposals...I don't pretend to know the exact value of guys out there or what other GMs would accept or reject. My ideas will be solely based on what I'd accept if in the position of our GM. These are not designed to be perfect; and I'll try to avoid too many blockbusters...there will also be some general thoughts on individual players.

For instance: in NSH, Dan Ellis may soon be available. He's locked in for another year and may be a goaltending option going to next year.

If Nathan Horton really is being shopped at all; I'm all over that one.

At the deadline proposal: Mathieu Roy for Michael Peca (CLB) - He could do exactly what he did for us in the '06 run.

Right now proposal: Erik Cole + Ladislav Smid for Doug Weight and Bill Guerin (NYI) - I'm a litte more cautious about this one; and would rather have Comrie than Guerin frankly, but think this trade could really add a veteran presence and some general grit to our team along with more consistent scoring.

But doesn't this forward crew look like it would win?

Penner, Horcoff, Hemsky, Moreau, Weight, Pisani, Schremp, Cogliano, Guerin,
Nilsson, Brodziak, Gagner, MacIntyre, Pouliot.

We may be overpaying; but this takes all kinds of pressure off of the kids and adds guys who may be rentals but know the city and would fit in much more comfortably than many other players.

I'm not sure but really think that could help; any theories?

12/6/08

Schremp succeeds because...

When they recalled Rob Schremp I was of course excited; but also a picture of what I thought a successful game for him would entail and the type of contribution he would bring to the team. Thought he'd have games where the things we remembered were big plays; flashy plays to make things happen and missed opportunities for other players.

Reality has been very different than that; and shows just how far Rob has come even since camp.

What's been most noticeable about his game has been a lot of little things:

- Being on the correct defensive side of the puck.
- Hustling back to catch attackers and clear pucks from below the goal line that could create chances.
- Batting the puck out of the air probably 12 times in 2 games; which might not seem important but it can certainly either save the team from a rush or create a chance. Teammate of mine generated probably 20 goals one year on this skill of his.
- Finishing checks. He's making contact with people; which is really all you need to do to slow people up and wear them down just a little.
- Getting to loose pucks and using his reach/hands to do something with them.
- Making safe dumps when necessary.
- Still being confident enough to bust a sick move when he gets a chance.
- Finding the open areas more effectively than any forward this side of Ales Hemsky at the moment.

That's a whole lot of positives that add up to a guy who certainly looks like he's ready to make a contribution to this team. The nervousness is largely gone, the simple plays are there, and the confidence has returned.

I hope he keeps it up as long as possible of course. The next test will be how he (and the coaching staff) respond after a few iffy shift and/or a subpar game. Hopefully we don't need to talk about that for a while.

As for me; I'm going to head out and order myself a #88 jersey this weekend as a Christmas present for me. I've been waiting for an excuse and now I have it :-)

12/5/08

The San Jose Sharks

We play the unbeaten-at-home San Jose Sharks tomorrow night.

Every team that rolls out a streak like this is due to lose sometime. When they do its usually a rather large blowout win it seems. Guys just can't compete that consistently and collapse at the realization that this particular game is out of hand.

The Oilers have a unique opportunity; on national TV on Saturday night no less, to upend this streak and send themselves on one of their own. If they manage to beat LA tonight as well of course, reaching 3 which is the qualification for a winning streak.

Another rather impressive streak started against the Sharks not that long ago...

We had dispensed of Detroit rather impressively in the first round and were suddenly past the best opponent we'd faced an onto the Sharks. I was really pumped knowing our squad, the road ahead and how well we were playing heading into that series. The Finals looked like a REAL possibility.

Then we laid two giant eggs in our first two against SJ.

I've been angry with the team before for many reasons but I don't think I'd ever been that mad. Bad trades are made; home games are wasted through pathetic efforts that provide no entertainment, but you don't play like trash in two consecutive playoff games against a naturally insecure opponent who only wins in the regular season and has no business beating you while you're on a roll.

I can remember a post I made on HF lambasting them the night of that second loss. They were on the verge of losing the only genuine opportunity they'd had to win something in 15 years and were going to throw it away to a crop of overrated junk teams. Watching them turn that around was something very special that took very exceptional play from our best people.

If we want to use an unbeaten Sharks squad for the same purpose; the same type of effort will be required.

San Jose has been named one of the Cup favorites for a few years now. It doesn't make any particular sense to me because they've shown no propensity for playoff success and have not particularly addressed their areas of need. They remind me a lot of St. Louis in the 90's...a really good hockey team; but with nothing special.

Let's look at the important players for SJ

Joe Thornton - Surely a fantastic player; but to me has never shown what he had in Boston. He's so assist-oriented now that you can read him like a book on many nights and he doesn't have the flash and dash to make up for that fact.

Setoguchi - Haven't seen him so can't really comment. Gotta think though he's on a remarkable hot streak that's very likely not to keep up.

Marleau - One of the most debated players around these parts. Is there anything truly special about his game? Again, certainly a very good quality hockey player though. If you rough him up he can vanish.

Clowe - Again; is this just not a guy playing the best hockey of his life? I can't see how you could rely on a Ryan Clowe as such a massive contributor.

Boyle - Certainly a quality D-man and a very good pickup. He can be counted on.

Blake - WILL break down as the season wears on. Bank on it.

Michalek - We know what can be done to eliminate him from effective play.

Cheechoo - Probably the only underperformer on the entire team. He's been overrated his whole career anyway and again; can be shut down.

This is also a team with guys like Ehrhoff, Douglas Murray (WHO) Grier, Plihal, Lukowich, GOc, Shelley, etc. making up its supporting cast.

I don't see much of anything that will throw them to the top of the heap despite their insanely hot start.

The Sharks will remain the Sharks we know because their identity remains the same and they lack a true gamebreaking score and players that can't be shut down with the physical play of the playoffs. Getting rid of Ron 'bonehead' Wilson may help; but I'm not sure how much.

So good luck to our boys and especially to Mr. Schremp this weekend. Having a top-six forward controversy in the near-future due to quality rather than desperation would be an incredibly welcome change.

12/3/08

One of my favorite stat lines this year

Marc-Andre Bergeron MIN D 24 2 13 15 4

Best d-man for Minny; rolling.

Still a huge fan. He deserves the success!

LMHF Game Report - EDM v. DAL 12/03/08

EDMONTON OILERS 5

VS.

DALLAS STARS 2


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

Before I get to the player reports; which is I think what everyone’s interested in today let me just say that I’m not sure we played as well as commentary seems to indicate we did. I like how we executed; which is indeed the most important thing, but tonight was a really close game when it shouldn’t have been.


Aside from two plays by Mike Modano; Dallas was pretty weak in this game. They just didn’t have anything special.


Our first goal was lucky; our second wonderfully timed and probably made the difference between a win and a loss; our third was a solid goal; fourth was Hemsky thankfully putting one away; then a great play from Cogliano, Schremp and Gagner to score one was pretty awesome. Great to see but I just don’t know…only allowing 25 shots was really nice however.


We can be better; a fair bit better. Especially after a couple players come back. I sincerely hope that; if he keeps these kinds of games up, that Mr. Schremp will be a part of that team.


PLAYER REPORTS

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

Rob Schremp

- Who else was going to be first? Seriously? I watched him pretty closely in the warmup and he looked more comfortable than in the preseason that’s for sure. He was cruising around, taking solid but effortless shots that were going in and also playing with the puck really confidently. Little things like that can show you where a player’s head is at and I really thought he had himself in the right frame of mind from what I saw.


Out of the gate I thought his first two shifts were pretty stellar. Landing a hit and making a pass that could have gotten him an assist early was really key. Only once or twice did he over-play passes to keep them safe which for me was a sign his confidence has come back at least to some degree.

If Gagner and Cogliano were rolling right now I’m pretty sure we’re sitting here talking about Robbie’s 2-4 point night for sure. He made pass after pass into high scoring chance areas and gave his mates opportunities. He also took well-timed shots from odd angles when he didn’t have a pass.


A huge difference from earlier times we’ve seen him play was that the puck NEVER died on Rob’s stick tonight. When he didn’t have a play he made educated dumps and chased the puck. He really got into corners and impressed the hell out of me with how many pucks he won and all the trouble he created. He was a genuinely good corner forward tonight which is something I haven’t seen from him before.

When it comes to skating, he’s made a key change and narrowed up his stance in the neutral zone.


He’s also become better at maintaining movement in the offensive zone when its okay to have his feet wide. This skating style served him well in being the first guy back and making a bunch of really solid defensive plays. He got pucks out that were in danger zones with a high degree of effectiveness. I was surprised they gave him so much defensive responsibility but he seemed to take it on and handle it quite well especially considering his linemates.


Rob still has to work on a couple things of course. Consistency will be one of them. The other is keeping his feet moving in the defensive zone when he’s up high. This is harder to do than when you’re down low but is just as important so the d-man can’t get around you. Thankfully its something that can be learned fairly easily. I also liked that he wasn’t afraid to delay a bunch; nervousness often manifests itself in too much skating which gets you out of position and wastes effort.


After several solid plays that could have got him his first NHL point; a pass to Marc Pouliot ended in Rob getting #1. It was a very solid read and good move to keep the puck away from the d then pass JUST out of the reach of their sticks and get it to Pouliot who inched it across the line. Everyone was so happy for him. They want Robbie to give them a reason to love him and he at least got that started tonight.


After that he had a bumpy shift or two; but the only ones of his night. Some penalties disrupted the flow; but almost got him his first NHL goal when he picked off a Turco pass and slammed it just wide from center. Imagine being able to say you beat Marty Turco with a slapper from center ice for your first NHL goal; that’d be awesome.


Absolutely loved the move he tried to bust on the Dallas d-man he caught flat-footed in the third. If that guy hadn’t recovered so well Rob woulda made the reels everywhere tonight. It was great to see his confidence build and he started entering the zone with his head up, puck moving, looking to make a play. In the past he’d get caught dragging in a bad skating position; not tonight. Another confident thing he did was jump in after Cogliano got booted and take the draw without even hesitating even though Sam was on the ice. Loved that win.


Rob also got a ripping slapper off that almost beat Turco from the wing; could’ve been such a classic goal. I can’t imagine there was less than 75% of the building hoping that Sam would pass him the puck on their 2-on-1, but #89 used solid positioning by #88 as a perfect decoy to feed Cogliano who made no mistake. Loved that play for how fundamentally good of a hockey play it was.


And with that closed what I consider Rob’s first real NHL game. For a guy who’s gotten so much crap; 14 minutes and a game described by a coach who doesn’t enjoy his style as “outstanding” are not much more than you can ask for. I hope he’s still playing with the team when they arrive back in town as it would stink for LMHF#2 if he didn’t get to see one of his favorite players soon.


To be able to watch him play like that was a great joy for someone who’s supported the guy and willed him along for a long time. I can only imagine how our friend Bry feels knowing that Rob played a GREAT GAME. He would’ve been my third star tonight.


Gagner

- Poor Sam, he had a rough night I thought. The puck did die on his stick numerous times and his passes just weren’t connecting out there. He is really having a rough go confidence wise out there right now and I didn’t notice the extent until tonight. It’s odd that he may have weighed down Rob and Andrew’s game out there tonight as that’s not normal at all. I hope he can play his way out; I think he can. GREAT read on the fifth goal however as he sold the pass to Rob like a high-pressure car salesman on a millionaire’s wife. Good to get a break and you could see his relief.


Cogliano

- I thought Andy played a pretty good game. The part he played on a key goal that Vishnovsky scored near the end of the period was a big deal in this game. That pass was a beautiful read. Great finish on the pass from Gagner as well making no mistake. He was carrying his speed better than I’ve seen in a while and read off of Schremp’s plays really well. With a little more time I think they’ll play quite well together which is apparently what people have said from TC. Still wish he played more PK; possibly with Cole. Only bad thing tonight was being nowhere on the second Modano goal when he got back.


Hemsky

- I’m his fan, but I didn’t love his game tonight. I’m still impressed that he managed a couple points and forced the offence the way he always does tonight and I guess that’s the difference. Despite more than the normal amount of his passes ending in opposition hands; he was still one of our best players and got the job done out there. Hooray for players that execute with the goalie out as well!


Horcoff

- I think he played a fair bit better; and he too certainly produced. I was in no real way wowed by his play but he was certainly solid. The goal was lucky; let’s be honest but hey its gotta happen occasionally doesn’t it? He was good in his own zone but I didn’t think he had the offensive pop. He managed to get the puck into the offensive zone a couple times and did indeed discover the wide side again; but he still kept going to the middle too often. Maybe he’s going to point his way out of this funk he’s been in this year and this is the start of that; lets hope so.


Penner

- I’m conflicted on his performance; I really didn’t think he played well at all. He got beat in the corners way too often and didn’t drive hard at all. Yet; he had two assists and made some good things happen in front of the net. I think MacTavish picked up on the slacking and knocked him down a PP unit which got him going a little. I again have trouble picking up on Penner’s game so I’m not going to claim a perfect analysis here; help anyone? What should I look for?


Cole

- Disappointing again. The puck died with him again. Its all that he doesn’t know how to use his teammates. He had chances to feed Moreau and Brodziak all night and just wouldn’t do it. He skates into traffic and looks tough but loses the puck. Its just not working. Hopefully as people come back the shakeout leads to Schremp-Cogliano-Cole and they get going; but for now I just don’t know what its going to take. I suppose he was decent defensively and I like his work on the PK; maybe he’s a playoff-style Mike Peca type? I dunno anymore. He’s no offensive dynamo…or he’s gonna rip off 30 in 35 games. One or the other.


Moreau

- He was solid. Made one of his trademark plays from the behind the net and worked the corners like crazy. He didn’t get the result tonight but we didn’t need it from him. He tired out the Stars and did a solid job in both ends of the ice. Great to see he’s come so far.


Brodziak

- Loved seeing him in a comfort zone playing with vets out there and really liked his play. I enjoy him in this role very much. When all is back to normal; he should play with either Moreau and Pisani or Nilsson and Pisani and I think you’ll see consistent solid performances with offensive dividends and solid D.


Reddox

- Still enjoying his game. He works hard and that skill he had in JR is still evident when he has the puck. I mistook him for Schremp a couple times. He’s a quality low-minute guy who could eventually replace Pisani for less coin.


Stortini

- Any game where you run your own face into the boards while falling while trying to hit someone just can’t be any good.


Pouliot

- Great to see him get one. I didn’t think he was particularly effective but he certainly wasn’t bad either. That puck JUST inched across the line but he really needed the break. Keep him off the PK though; he’s just not effective.


Visnovsky

- What an important goal he scored tonight boy. I don’t think we win without that key beauty of a shot after we blew 2 PPs and were fortunate enough to garner a third (though we did work for those). I honestly thought he’d pass to Gagner; who was certainly open enough to score; but it was great to see a quality shot from an all-star go in at an important time. Aside from that I thought he skated the puck really well; made solid decisions and cut down on the mistakes. Good game.


Souray

- HORRID D on the second Modano goal but other than that he was good. Got away a couple absolute BOMBS that Turco got lucky on; though took too long on a great chance in the slot. In the D zone he was solid with the puck and played a physical game which is exactly what we needed.


Gilbert

- He’s still improving. Much more patient with the puck and not afraid to skate it. He too screwed up on the second Modano goal; being effectively useless and screening his goalie by playing too low and not being away. Other than that he was good and I loved the way he’s getting into the offensive zone attack. Good move by MacTavish re-uniting him with Souray.


Grebeshkov

- One big mistake at the offensive blue line that could have really cost us but didn’t. Other than that he was incredibly solid. Negotiate a deal with this guy NOW and our D is looking effing solid next year.


Staios

- Didn’t notice him much; ran around behind the net a tad and didn’t jump into the rush (other than for a PERFECT pass from Robbie that was negated by a ref’s whistle on Gagner being down) but he was alright.


Strudwick

- Boy he was pissed and rightly so after getting run into the boards from behind. He did his job tonight and I certainly can’t complain. Got a good shot on net too.


Garon

- He didn’t have too much action tonight; but that big save off of the screwup in the first was key. He didn’t make a good play on Modano’s second either but it would’ve taken a miracle to stop the shot once it was set up. Matty looked solid and should STAY IN THE NETS. The team plays more confidently in front of him.


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


Really enjoyed tonight’s game; had a good feeling going in (though I thought 6-2) and we delivered. Loved the win. Loved Schremp’s play.


Drinking a Cherry Whiskey and Root Beer in celebration (SOLID combo).