In a stinking shootout...
A few pre-game notes....
If you have tickets to the Oilers game; don't let your drunk Dallas Stars-loving girls abuse your pass to the game. I ask this on behalf of approximately 16,800 people.
Further...if you are said drunk Dallas Stars-loving girls, please don't degrade The Star Spangled Banner by attempting to sing it.
Further still...don't break into cheers and hollers during either national anthem.
Finally...(and this applies to everyone) don't yell out a part of an anthem that loosely corresponds to your team's name. This is among the STUPIDEST trends in all of hockey, led not surprisingly by teams such as Carolina and Dallas.
Anyway, rant over.
Coming into tonight's game after what many of us felt should have been a win against Calgary on Saturday, I know that most people would have expected a let-down effort against Dallas tonight were this last year. It seems however that this team may be different, as I believe we brought a pretty solid effort tonight.
I must admit that I think I may have underestimated Dallas; I kept wondering how they were managing to stay in the game and wondered whether we were playing particularly poorly. Looking back on it, I don't think we really did. We had some low-range performers but the majority of the team was at least okay and put forth an effort. Kudos to Dallas on their young forward crew. Too bad for them that the defence is shoddy and their old goaltender is on or past his last legs it seems.
The Oilers' biggest defensive issue so far seems to be that they are getting stuck behind the net in their own zone. This is of course not good as this is prime real estate from which to set up an offensive attack and leads to your goalie having to move far more often than he should. Watch closely next game; our D are not clearing this area (of the puck or of men) near fast enough. I expect this is due to a system change and will improve, but only time will tell.
Offensively I believe we're going to be fine. We're generating a fair number of decent chances and most importantly, when we're shooting it has a purpose. We're now a team full of rebound hounds and seem to be intent on generating them properly. This is a good thing.
Random thought - EFF YOU Steve Ott. (also, he's going to get seriously burned a ton of times this year going for that stupid PK hit in the neutral zone along the boards. That's just horrible hockey)
I'm quite impressed at this team's ability to contend physically so far this year. Guys like Comrie, Gagner and Brule have committed themselves to play a solid and in-your-face type of game that keeps teams like Dallas from running roughshod over the game. This will serve us well.
I see a lot of positives right now; and some serious potential if we're able to add a larger LW and RW. This may, as I previously noted, be another frustrating year of staying above water until closer to the deadline; but if I remember correctly that approach worked out okay last time.
- Jean Jacques came hurtling back to earth tonight in what I'd say was easily his worst performance of the year (reg season and pre). He took a bad, lazy penalty that never should have occurred and could have taken a couple more. He was getting caught out of position and not able to recover via skating. He also made several horrendous pass attempts (the most memorable for me being in the 2nd when he tried to find Hemsky along the boards in the neutral zone under no pressure and didn't even come close) and didn't generate anything physically aside from that one it out of the penalty box. It was obvious that the Stars were shifting over to cover whatever side of the ice Hemsky and Horcoff chose (they often choose the same one) and that line was being shut down more than it should of because Jacques just wasn't an option. I suspect he'll be demoted, and rightly so. Whether he can translate his earlier game into production on lower lines remains to be seen.
- Ales was borderline superhuman with the puck tonight. He got past, though or around a multitude of defenders on the offensive side of the neutral zone and made some incredible passes (including at least 2 one-handed tip passes behind his back). He passed very well in the offensive zone and was only rewarded the one time. It was unfortunate that he was unable to get a couple more shots through as this looked like a night where he would score. He needs to contribute more, but he did a lot of very impressive things tonight. Also blocked a key shot. One note: If I hear one more IDIOT whine about the around the net play I'm going to walk up and punch him in the back of the head. You don't shoot from the freaking goal line!
- He made an error that led directly to a Dallas goal near the blue line. Aside from this I'd say he was better than game 1 in terms of skating in the neutral zone and getting himself into the offence. He did however whiff on a couple fairly simple shooting attempts and incorrectly positioned himself behind a defender rather than in front in the offensive zone a couple times as Hemsky made the play to him. This is uncharacteristic from Horcoff. I think he'll play much better if Penner is promoted.
- He had a fairly quite night and didn't do anything particularly spectacular. His value tonight was that his complete game in terms of skating with the puck, making solid passes, PK'ing and being responsible was solid. I counted at least three shots that went off his stick and 5 feet over the net. Maybe time for a new stick?
- For me, he did exactly what he needs to do tonight. He was solid, simple, reasonably pesky and got to the front of the net to score a completely typical Mike Comrie goal. Good thing it turned out too, because he was on a long shift when he scored, but then again I'm in favor of offensive players taking long shifts to capitalize on a rush chance near the end where they're not required to blow by someone. He also directed some really effective shots at the net. I'd prefer that late in the game he be a little more careful in terms of shots that could whip around the boards and leave the zone, but we all make that mistake from time to time. He made an absolutely beautiful pass to O'Sullivan in the first that should have resulted in a goal as well.
- Aside from being physical, I don't think he did many productive things tonight. His lack of speed was evident in a fast game where those currently below him on the depth chart were skating like crazy.
- So far he's certainly the story up front for the year. Where exactly that top-flight goal scorer's goal game from I really don't know. To back off the D like that, then fake out, move in and go absolute roof from in tight? Stupendous. Half the crowd couldn't even figure out what just happened for a few seconds. He was simply effective all night and if he keeps driving the net, winning pucks and taking solid shots off the rush, we're in a great position. I hope he starts feeling a little happier as he doesn't look particularly excited on the ice yet. I'd certainly look for him on Horcoff and Hemsky's line next game.
- Man does this guy ever have a howitzer...and not just the slapper either, his wrist shot is a bullet. I thought he played a simple, physical game (had to have at least 3 solid hits) and did what a third line center should do. He's acting like an NHLer out there which means he has the confidence we haven't seen from him yet. It's possible this year holds good things for Mr. Brule; all he needs to do is keep it up.
- He played solid and fast; especially for his first game back. There were times where he was tentative with the puck but that is to be expected. I think having him in the lineup makes us more dynamic and a lot faster. If he can improve on this performance and perhaps incorporate some of the Gagner-Brule style play into his game, he should knock out Jacques or Stone when Moreau returns.
- I'm torn on Cogliano tonight...he was statisticaly effective and made a nice corner play to Comrie, but I really felt as though he was out there skating and not doing much else tonight. His attempts to get moving were dragging him out of position and causing his line to get jammed up when creating offence. I'm not quite sure what to think. Maybe we'll take a wait and see on this one.
- He wasn't as jumpy this game, but he kept up some of his physical and pesky behavior, kept shooting the puck and contributed once again. Being able to keep Sam lower down on the depth chart and keep the pressure off him could be huge in terms of our success this season. I think Sam's really been working on that quick slapper of his, because in addition to his goal he whistled another one just by that could also have gone in. Turco never saw it. I wouldn't rush to promote Sam at this time. Let him round out his game in this role...especially if he keeps scoring goals.
- He did his job and banged/pushed/jabbed people all night. Not much else to say really. I think his skating has improved marginally as he kept up a lot better than I've seen him do before.
- He does need to be better. The first 3 I kind of get as they were mistakes or great shots...part of me says he coulda robbed Neal though...The fourth Dallas goal was pretty unacceptable...and he knew that. There are some communication issues with the D that are contributing to the behind-the-net issues, which is understandable. His rebound control was not impressive tonight, which is not good. That said; he made some HUGE saves when his D stumbled, including a big pad rob with Staios falling all over him.
- Staios had better hope Visnovsky is getting his conditioning up to snuff in a hurry because the old guy's gonna wipe out if we don't get him some relief soon. Aside from getting crunched by a second period Dallas hit, Staios' only visibility tonight was in his own defensive zone running around or making ineffective passes. He took one solid shot on his PP shift but other than that was not good. I also haven't seen him make a jump, which is when he's most effective. Souray was good but both he and Staios had trouble moving the puck above the circles in their own zone. Souray made some mad giveaway passes tonight. He was however physical and toned down his shot where appropriate in an attempt to generate rebounds. I like that he adjusted but hopefully he can zero in the BOMB shortly. It would almost be a benefit if Souray didn't have to be the #1b guy on this blue line...he could just be really mean and nasty and put people like Barch in their place. Watching him ragdoll that loser was hilarious.
- Denis improved elements of his game tonight such as his puckhandling, passing and pinching, which are all good signs. What I didn't understand is why he kept skating cross-ice when trying to stop Dallas rushes. He could have simply stayed in his lane and allowed Gilbert to make the simple play but kept on chasing. This didn't really cost us but could and probably should have. He also kept getting his stick into people and somehow avoiding penalties. Denis needs to be better. Gilbert was pretty good tonight. He picked some great times to jump into the play and unfortunately couldn't get us that wonderful slot-goal he's so good at providing. He was really solid with the puck in all zones and looked like the top-3 guy he is on this team.
- Lubomir's trademark recovery skills were on display a couple times tonight, including the mad dash he made to get back into defensive position in OT after joining a rush. Only Pitkanen was better at this than him (and just because he was so much bigger). Lubo now needs to concentrate on getting his shot going again. The passing and skating are coming along fine. I really wish Ladislav Smid could finish. Tonight he skated the puck masterfully into the offensive zone on a couple occasions and just can't do anything below the faceoff dots. Poor guy...even if he could just learn a dump-off. He was solid defensively aside from running around a bit in close proximity to the net.
My Three Oilers Stars:
One W on the board, and it's a big one Goose.