In a stinking shootout...
The thing about a game like this is its often difficult to tell the story because there wasn't one...there were simply too many. In addition to feeling like a long game to begin with as we built our lead, we then had to suffer through tumbling down the other side of the mountain, only to wake up on a ledge rather than in the gorge. That's a good thing.
And as many will say, winning this game regardless of the sequence of events is a good thing and especially with a whole lot of man games and salary from our blue line on the shelf. It's amazing to think that we'd manage to have Souray, Visnovsky and Staios all out in the same game. I'm frankly worried Souray might be DONE done this time. If you had a few dollars, kids in another country and headaches that you might not recover from, I could see you being tempted to pack it up and make sure you don't turn into a vegetable on them.
But back to tonight's game...I think we all expected someone to be putting a hurt on a goalie, and to our early joy, we did it to Jimmy Howard. How exactly a goalie can get himself so far out of position that many times, I'm not exactly sure. He was bad. Very bad. And to our credit we took advantage despite somewhat messing up some of our early chances. Right before Jacques' goal, I'd noted how we blew a great chance and we might need it tonight. Didn't have any idea the game would go like this then.
On the first goal I loved the play O'Sullivan made to force the issue and give himself options...he found Brule and set him up for what should have been an incredibly easy goal...Brule then took one of the worst shots #2 and I can remember while still getting the puck on net, and Jacques seemingly willed the puck in. We got somewhat lucky in that we'd just blown two primo chances and got a third and fourth before scoring. Still, credit to O'Sullivan and credit to the hard work on that shift.
I quite enjoyed the second goal. Hemsky took 2 or 3 hits that shift including the one just before his excellent pass to Horcoff made the goal scoring play start; Horcoff did his job and put the puck on the net where Penner was waiting. That he was able to whack it out of the air was indeed fortunate but also the product of good positioning and some focus.
Hemsky made 2 excellent plays on the Oilers 3rd goal, first making the pass and then stepping in to roof the puck over Howard.
The breakaway goal was pretty simple. Credit to Hemsky for staying out front and controlling the puck as well as credit to Penner for creating the turnover.
Horcoff's goal just had to go in, didn't it? They worked like crazy at that one and should have scored several times right before that finally crossed as well. How Denis missed I'll never know.
It's hard to believe that was all of our goals, but like I said, it was a long road to victory this evening.
Anyway, let's go player-by-player...PLAYER REPORTS
How exactly TSN saw fit to give his two linemates a star and not him I'm really not sure. He made 4 excellent plays which resulted in 4 goals. I've described them above. To me, this was the first night Hemsky looked truly healthy as he was able to skate through checks and had an extra gear to his skating. You could see his confidence building out there as the play forged on. Even when they weren't rampaging through the offensive zone later on, you at least knew he and his linemates were going to take care of the puck.
He kept at his game and was rewarded. His positioning continues to be solid and he's being calm in front of the net. One problem that occurred tonight with Dustin was that he was unable to skate the puck in the neutral zone effectively because Horcoff has not adapted to the way Hemsky and Penner play together yet. The reason that Gagner worked well with them is that he knew when to stay out of the way. I am hopeful Horcoff will learn this because it made Penner less effective than he could be. Penner also ran a little low on fuel at the end of the game, which can be forgiven for certain on a four-point night.
I'm going to do something I haven't done in a while, and slag on Horcoff after a productive game. I don't intend to say that he played badly, but only that he should've played much much better. He was out there with two guys on a complete roll and wouldn't distribute the puck to them. He skated with it too much, and made horrible bouncing passes all night. I'd blame the ice but Penner and Hemsky didn't seem to have the problem. He turned the puck over a bunch and ruined a few very good potential rushes. I'm glad to see him taking draws, working hard and getting a couple bounces, but he's got to be better than this in terms of adapting his game to the offensive drivers out there. I think he'll be able to, but we shall see. Between he and Hemsky the line was solid defensively. I don't get why people play them together in OT though, as that never seems to work.
Quietly logged 20 minutes tonight. He really worked hard. I've already commented on his efforts to get his assist, but he also of course sent us home with the W. The guy can just flat release a puck when given some time and space. I think he was quite angry about not playing in OT and I certainly sympathize. Seeing Brule out there instead of O'Sullivan was downright baffling. I almost feel like I don't even have to watch Patrick anymore as I know I'm going to at the very least get a balanced and complete effort. He doesn't slack. He turns on the jets to get all kinds of pucks (watch how he uses this in the corners from a standing position). If he does something crazy in the O-zone I'll notice but it's like he's found high-level autopilot.
I liked the start of the game a lot from him. He was fast, in great position and making things happen. It really looked like he found where he needed to be with O'Sullivan. I almost wonder though if adding someone like Jacques to his line tones down his physicality though...as he didn't seem to want to hit anyone tonight. I thought his play turned down as the game went on, as he was unable to keep up with the short bench being employed. He did okay however.
I suppose he did what he needed to do in that he rattled some cages and drove the net. The goal is just a bonus really. He doesn't necessarily have to do that for this to have been a useful game but he got us going after Brule couldn't and that's excellent.
I'd like to echo what everyone's been saying about him playing some damn selfish hockey. It clicked in tonight for me watching him with the puck. Every effort is a solo one; the problem being that there's no howitzer or punishing shoulder on the end of this one. Sad really.
I've seen him play better games. He wasn't as physical as he can be and had no "moments" with the puck. I know it is difficult to play a hitting style against DET, but there were guys who needed to be shown the boards early tonight and I expect #46 and #22 to do that. They didn't really.
What has happened to him? Seriously? He's not using his jump for anything and it's like all the puck sense he's been showing and developing has vanished. Nothing changed about that tonight. It took him until way late in OT to show anything offensively at all. I cannot believe a guy's game can fall so far in one particular facet. This is a guy who was stepping up big time and now he's shot through the floor.
So many times he's set up to fire a laser and refuses. A truly sad turn for a truly talented kid. I think he won't make it back, and that's really too bad.
Saddled with partners who used to be his equal but have now fallen by the wayside, Sam struggled a bit tonight but I really don't think the blame can fall to him for the large minus sign next to his grouping. He was still solid and showed some offensive game despite how cold #13 and #12 are. He nearly scored a truly excellent goal on a little drive off the RW where he's at his best. I really think that when the D return and you have enough responsible guys to go around he's got to go back up with Penner and Hemsky. He fills the slot the leave empty.
Again, he only got 2 shifts. Skating is improved. Didn't need to do much.
Ummm...I'm frightened whenever this guy is on the ice now. Which is something that wasn't happening last year even though I didn't like that he played. At least he stayed with the flow of the game and made simple plays. His pylon impression tonight was just ugly. I honestly wonder if we'd be better to call up another defenceman or play a particularly athletic forward back there. This guy is the clear #7 (or 8) for a reason and it showed.
Not his best effort, that's certainly true. I saw glimpses of physical play and a couple really solid puck decisions, but also some standing still. I'm not sure how much is Strudwick and how much is him, but still like Theo's style.
He busted his butt out there despite being seriously overmatched. There were struggles in behind the net where there haven't been before, but the guy also logged some pretty serious minutes and made some solid decisions in prime time. I hope what he is learning is that he can be confident and solid on the puck crossing the opposition red line. You can see his gifts begging to come out and get some points but he's not quite there mentally yet. It's not his time, but I'm a lot more convinced now that the time will come at some point. Sure wish he was 6'3" though...
Plain and simple he's holding that group together right now. The guy is shutting down the best winger's we're playing against, outskating them and outworking them in the corners. If you want to see how to get a puck out of a tough spot in a corner, watch Smid go to work. Who do we have to prey to and/or sacrifice a bucket of fried chicken to in order to get this guy a goal however? I feel really bad that he isn't getting rewarded. Also did his part in the physical/pesky department tonight.
They were much better when they had to be tonight. Denis did this by getting more involved in the offence and making better passes. I also saw more physical play out of him which is something he brought out last year but that had been missing. Tom simplified his game a little and focused on the basics of defending. This approach served him well. How exactly he didn't end the game, twice? I really don't know. He usually doesn't miss those chances and he did.
I could tell early on this was going to be an adventurous game for him. If you looked closely he was a little more wobbly and awkward than usual, and also had trouble with early rebounds. He did make an absolute ton of really good saves of course, but he wasn't great. That second DET goal sure was a turning point and an utterly horrible break though...Glad for him that we got the win.
MY 3 STARS
Horcoff for his points and Khabibulin for his big saves get an honorable mention.
I hope we can turn this into a positive somehow and beat Boston in the afternoon, but what this team really needs more than anything right now is some health.
I think we may have to start addressing the prospect of a future without Mr. Souray however...which really REALLY stinks.