LMHF Report Webcast Link

10/29/09

LMHF Game Report #9

EDMONTON 6

VS.

DETROIT 5

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

Hemsky

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.

Penner

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.

Horcoff

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.

O'Sullivan

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.

Brule

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.

Jacques

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.

Moreau

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.

Stortini

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.

Cogliano

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.

Nilsson

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.

Gagner

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.

MacIntyre

Again, he only got 2 shifts. Skating is improved. Didn't need to do much.

Strudwick

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.

Peckham

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.

Chorney

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...

Smid

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.

Gilbert/Grebeshkov

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.

Khabibulin

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

1. Hemsky
2. Penner
3. Smid

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.

10/27/09

LMHF Game Report #8

EDMONTON ZERO

VS.

COLORADO 3
---------------------

It is only out of a feeling of duty to the readers that I post a game report for this evening as the team certainly didn't work hard enough or seem to be focused enough on the game to warrant my efforts in return.

From the very beginning of this one the theme was consistent; we were to be at least one stride behind every chance (and there were plenty, don't let anyone tell you there weren't) all night long. They were there for the taking as the puck bounced and Anderson looked just okay in the nets. There were times when the door was WIDE open and we had nothing...no exceptional individual efforts or team effort to take advantage. I'll give the AVS credit for tracking down loose pucks but they aren't really good positionally, nor do they have incredible speed. They simply wanted it more than we did this evening and were really really focused.

Large errors caused every goal against us. On the first goal Horcoff lost the puck in corner (something happening far too often this year) then screened his own goalie in a feeble block attempt and the puck wound up in our net. On the second goal an overworked Taylor Chorney (who shouldn't have even been in the lineup) made an error playing the puck along the boards and broke the cardinal rule of "man or puck" and allowed an elite scorer in alone (and even then Khabibulin almost robbed him), then Chorney again took himself completely out of the play on the third "goal" into the empty net.

Colorado didn't really generate much exceptional offence; and when they did #35 was there for us. We got enough from him tonight.

We also seemed to be getting enough once again from Lubomir and Ladislav. Watching Smid outskate Duchene behind the net in a relentless effort to keep the puck was simply beautiful as a fellow defenceman. He had many other excellent journeys out of our zone with the puck as well. What happened to Visnovsky? I must've missed it? He was providing the steady hand only a guy like he could provide until he disappeared from the ice.

Our other 4 defencemen all struggled which is completely unacceptable. I'm really losing any and all remaining thoughts I have as to why Gilbert and Grebeshkov are struggling so. They look like they've lost all poise with the puck and it's hampering our breakout and defence. They keep going up the boards when neither should be due to their elite skating and passing skill. It just doesn't make any sense the way they're playing. Chorney and Strudwick are simply overmatched.

Up front, I still like the first line. They struggled with the exact same issues everyone else did; Penner specifically missing two chances he'd have easily scored on last homestand. Every forward tonight seemed to be in this ugly habit of shooting from very low in the zone; every puck missing the goalie and going on by to an Avalanche player who'd clear the zone. Not once did it really generate a chance or wind up as a pass to anyone.

I grow increasingly tired of watching Ethan Moreau think he can still lug a puck somewhere. I've seen him take it up the ice successfully with authority all of once this year, yet he keeps trying. I fear our captain has reached his end of service date and that's really too bad. Even his shooting ability and desire to hit are gone. That continued tonight. Filling he shoes might be Stortini, who is starting to look like a better "hockey player" than Moreau most nights. I don't know if the numbers add up at all yet, but I think the captain is being displaced in terms of on-ice usefulness. Cogliano's got to find a way to get open and let the gifted D get him the puck. Right now he's generating precisely zero offence and that can't stand.

It was good to see Gilbert Brule back in the lineup even if he didn't have a stellar night. I really like the way he's settled into a confident NHL game now and he only really had one gaffe tonight which was more of a mix-up than a screw-up. Too bad he couldn't find some reserve offence in the tank this evening. I agree that Nilsson, while attempting to expand his game, just isn't all that useful right now. He doesn't have the offensive confidence to produce and isn't playing good enough positional hockey. That doesn't work. Give or take with Jacques as he's playing okay but I sure wish we were good enough that we didn't need to use him above the #13/14 slot.

I don't mind the Comrie-Horcoff-O'Sullivan line much at all. Even with Horcoff struggling they very rarely get the team into any kind of a pickle. Comrie knows he should've scored tonight, specifically in the second period at the side of the net. He normally doesn't miss those. O'Sullivan's dynamic offensive game only showed in short spurts which unfortunately only occurred when Comrie or Horcoff wasn't open. None of the passes on this line within 10 feet of the net connected tonight despite generally doing the right thing. That would've changed this game quite drastically.

#35 was excellent again. So very calm, so very consistent.

I'm fairly angry at our squad tonight; though I'm also aware that this type of game happens from time-to-time and it's not always from lack of effort. We had our chances and they weren't jumped on for a myriad of reasons. I'm pretty sure the next effort will be better in this regard.

If not; then we have a problem.

10/22/09

LMHF Game Report #7

EDMONTON 6

VS.

COLUMBUS 4
-----------------------

I had a really strong feeling we'd win tonight for some reason. I make it a practice of trying not to say anything when this happens. Tonight we were not particularly great early and got seriously down. But as I've already said a time or two this year it's becoming quite clear that the one thing this team will not do is quit. There is no lag when the other team scores as has been the practice for several years now.

One thing you should have known heading into this game is that Ales Hemsky was both due, and owns Columbus in a big way. That recipe alone could have led to victory tonight. Some elite Columbus plays early (We got beat by excellent passing and shooting more than anything else) made the hill a little steeper than it should have been.

Then this freight train in an Oilers #27 jersey showed up...#2 and I figured it out though...Dustin Penner just arrived this season. The REAL Dustin Penner, now with a stat line of 7-7-14, was kidnapped by one Brad Isbister, who ate a bunch of cheeseburgers and stole his identity, contract money, and first line LW spot. Isbister couldn't hack it and Penner finally made his way back to life and the Oilers this season.

As for the guy wearing the Isbister jersey elsewhere, I have no idea who the heck that is.

To get those kinds of individual efforts on a team that was utterly suffering from the flu was truly stupendous. They not only survived this game but came back from a defecit and won it. Just incredible. We're watching a team with several emergent talents at the moment which is something that happens for every successful team during a successful season. I'm just mentioning it as a good sign at this point.

PLAYER REPORTS
------------------------

Penner

I'm really not sure if I can adequately add to any of the descriptors that have already been used by others with regards to his game this evening. That was something truly exceptional we all were able to witness. I'd heard it said that was the best game an Oilers forward has played in a long time. The only comparable I can think of was Hemsky against Columbus but I might be missing something. Either way, the fact that we're even having the conversation means it was special. Dustin Penner truly looked like a freight train every time he rolled down the left wing tonight. He barreled through anything in his way, with his head up, the puck on his stick and at the ready, daring anyone to challenge him. No one did all night. I'm not sure anyone could have if they tried. It was more than the goals and the assists, which were bloody excellent. It was throwing people around, jumping into a fray Gagner was in and daring the two Columbus players to try something. He was everywhere, including on the PK. The guy is just a big crazy hockey playing machine right now. His first goal came at the right time and was a simple positioning play which is great on its own. The way he used his large frame and positioning to set up for the second goal, then took Hemsky's pass and fired it laser-quick and laser-accurate for a goal when we needed it so badly was a thing of beauty. His assist were excellent too. I great fake-and-pass to Gagner, an excellent pass to Visnovsky, and a good rush and shoot for a rebound to Visnovsky as well. Scary thing is that he could have had more. He got robbed on a couple great chances and took a ton of shots. I don't think there's anything much more to say besides that it was an utter pleasure to watch.

Hemsky

Lost in the madness and awe over Penner was a truly elite performance from Ales Hemsky. I loved the pass he made on Penner's second goal; he put it through an area where 3 Columbus players could have gotten it, right to Penner's waiting stick. His goal was mainly the result of good positioning and awareness but it takes a steady hand and a level head to finish that play. He made an excellent play in close to his feet to set up Penner's initial goal as well. He was the all-world guy we know he can be tonight. Obviously you're not going to get 5 points every night, but it's amazing when you get other guys finishing the chances you are creating. I noticed one time where moved too slowly into the offensive zone. Early on he wasn't getting past the right side d-man; so they through in some plays down the left wing and crushed Columbus all night long. Suddenly, he went from having 1 puck carrier on his line (himself) to 3 puck carriers. This allows him to be at his most dangerous and he truly made it happen out there tonight.

Gagner

Sam got the point party started early on with a good move into the slot and his trademark leg-drag shot to the back of the net. He really seems to shoot the puck better from this position. It is truly amazing to me that he won his first 7 draws of the evening; that's something to behold. He was a great support for the Hemsky-Penner show, and moved the puck at the same level they did all evening. Though he and Hemsky have never shown much chemistry together, the fact is that both Gagner and Hemsky work well with Penner and this seemed to allow them to play together. When one member of the line had the puck, instead of being able to key on one side of the ice as with the Jacques-Horcoff-Hemsky line, this line punished you if you cheated to any side because you'd leave a legitimate scoring threat open. The fact that all three men can pass the puck excellently really helps out there. The challenge for Sam will be to keep his level of play high; I don't think the other two will have any trouble.

Visnovsky

I didn't even realize how big of a game Lubomir had until I thought about it. He scored an excellent goal to take the lead for us (with that unique slapper only he can do). Penner's second goal rush was started when Visnovsky broke up a Columbus rush in the Edmonton zone. He was on the ice at the end of the game and made the flip play to Nilsson so that he could bat that puck down the ice into the empty net. My favorite play of the night though was his pass to set up the Hemsky goal. That play was downright filthy. With all the boneheads, who seemed to be out in greater quantity tonight, yelling for him to shoot, he rightly and calmly found an open Hemsky who made no mistake. Lubomir was just plain on fire tonight. To any truly insane people out there who believe that we should trade this guy, watch this game. He did several things almost entirely unique to him in this league, and the combination of he and Hemsky on the ice is probably the most potent one we've got.

Smid

I have to say that if I were to hand out a fourth star tonight it would have gone to Ladislav Smid. Many have commented on how this guy is blossoming fast and furious before our eyes. After tonight he is second in the entire league in +/- ahead of Alexander Ovechkin. The guy took on Rick Nash a number of times tonight and plain shut him down. He tried to fight that little chicken Dorsett when he started to cause trouble. The guy is just an incredible, reliable, tough defenceman and is stepping up when we need it big-time. What a player.

Khabibulin

He was beaten by some truly excellent offensive efforts on the part of Columbus, but once again locked the barn and calmed his team down, then provided stellar netminding down the stretch to preserve the win. There's been no question so far that a puck will either have to be almost unstoppable or go in on a goofy play to get by this guy this season. He's solid as a rock. On any night when we get a half decent defensive effort, we have an advantage because of this guy. I read a reference to a Fuhr-type goaltender. Maybe, and I look forward to finding out.

Comrie-Horcoff-O'Sullivan

One thing that really impressed me about these guys is how quickly they cleared their own zone. They were always moving forward, making passes and catching up to loose pucks. I hold out a lot of hope for them. I suspect Comrie was really very ill as he kept getting the puck in his wheelhouse in the offensive slot and was not able to get away those elusive shots he's so good at. Horcoff wasn't anything special most all of the night but I think he played okay. There was only so much he could really do. O'Sullivan continues to shine end-to-end and with a lot of reliability. At the end of the game Moreau took a spot on this line...I really didn't like that. I know what Quinn's doing, but the opposition immediately focuses their attention to his side of the ice and takes advantage of his degraded skating abilities and sudden lack of hitting (though he was slightly better at that tonight.

Moreau-Stortini-MacIntyre

Didn't play much obviously. MacIntyre looks like he's improved his skating some and got around pretty well. He even covered up on defence 2 or 3 times and was indeed effective.

Jacques-Cogliano-Nilsson

Robert certainly made the effort out there tonight. He was okay with the puck but what impressed most was his intention to be physical and make his presence known in some way. He had a couple corner hits and an excellent open-ice job. Wonderful. Jacques was a little quieter but we didn't need anything too exceptional from him tonight. Cogliano's struggles with the puck continue but I hold out hope that he'll be able to get his game on track and start scoring some. He had an empty net and just flat missed on a rush that would have really helped us out.

Gilbert-Grebeshkov

Easily the worst game I've seen this duo play. Both were really really shaky. I don't know what was wrong with Tom but it wouldn't surprise me if he was running a pretty good fever in that game. I recall a shift where he didn't seem to know to play the puck and also another one where he skated in the wrong direction several times. It was a little scary. Thankfully we got through. Grebeshkov wasn't as bad, but not sure why he was so out of it.

Chorney-Strudwick

Taylor played okay, though not so many of his little excellent pieces of work shone through tonight. Strudwick was terrible aside from being slightly physical with guys after the whistle. The way he got burned by Chimera without even looking like he had any clue where to be was just sad. He got caught standing still several times. When you're a bad skater it's even more important to keep your feet moving than with great skaters. He seems to have forgotten that part.
---------------------

What a great win. Just wow. I loved that.

We could have had 6 or 7 stars of the game tonight as we got some truly amazing individual performances that make watching truly a treat. If you know a fan who didn't get to see this one, find a copy of it somewhere and watch. from the second half of the second period on, it sure doesn't get much better.

Verdict on the first line? Yeah, keep that thing. It looked okay.

10/19/09

LMHF Game Report #6

EDMONTON 2

VS.

VANCOUVER 1
------------------

Memo to Vancouver fan:

I hate your team. You should too. They are everything that's still wrong with the game. They clutch and grab and hook and hold and whack you in the teeth then cry about it. They make me physically ill. It gave me immense pleasure to see their pathetic and, in the end, stupid final attempt to tie the game (after getting away with yet another penalty).

Also:

The refereeing this year had been fairly consistent and quite good in fact. That changed quite starkly tonight. Kerry Fraser, I hope that you're already embarassed with yourself, and should simply add this game to your pathetic pile of a career. You sat there and made multiple non-calls, in addition to 3 weak calls against Edmonton. On one shift, 2 Oilers were high-sticked in the face and 1 was tripped quite obviously; how many penalties did you call? None. At the end of the game, despite a good defensive effort, a penalty was committed against Ales Hemsky when the Vancouver player purposely caught his skate and knocked him down. You called nothing. Alex Burrows spent the whole evening hanging off of Ladislav Smid and Denis Grebeshkov, constantly falling down intentionally to bring them down. We all know the move, so do you, you didn't call it once. You're a gigantic piece of crap. Then to review that last attempt by the Canucks was just sad. The cherry on your crap sundae of a game.

SO, despite clearly being under the assault of an illness, getting horrid refereeing, starting slowly and having difficulty finding their groove all night....WE WIN.

That's how a team that means business and gives a damn does it. Tonight was ugly; easily our ugliest of the year, but we got the job done and I think it was easily the biggest victory so far this year.

I hope our Oilers hate Vancouver as much as I do. There will be more wins against them like this during this season if that's the case. Well done gentlemen!

PLAYER REPORTS
--------------------------

Khabibulin

I have a feeling I'm going to moving him to the front of the report more often. The guy was amazing AGAIN. He made all the difficult stops look incredibly easy AGAIN. He directed pucks away from his net effectively AGAIN. I knew in my mind that after they gave him that penalty he'd be stone cold, and he was. Nik is great normally, when he's pissed off? Forget about it. This guy just flat-out bars the door. We have a guy who outplayed Luongo. Nuff freaking said.

Hemsky

I've already snooped in the post-game thread and you guys are reacting on instinct and emotion...if you think about what happened on the last play of a game that he probably shouldn't have even been in and in which he busted his butt (and especially in the defensive zone), he did the responsible thing and didn't just whip a puck at the net. He attempted to skate it in and make sure, getting space so he could take a wrist shot. From any closer he could have been stick lifted. I've also seen that the play was legal; not in the new NHL. Whether he hit the puck first is irrelevant because he made sure to take his man down. If you've ever been a d-man or know anything about it, you know that Edler intentionally Hemsky down and made 100% sure he did. Aside from this play, he attempted a ton of shots, hustled like crazy, was in defensive position at nearly all times, and dragged Jacques around the ice all night and came out even. That was an excellent effort after being ill (and showing it quite noticably in the warmup, which you initial reactors wouldn't have seen. He didn't show it in the game). If you see the reverse replay, Luongo just barely robbed him on that breakaway btw.

Horcoff

He didn't have his best night and kind of got owned on the dot, but aside from the total goof-up on the break-away, I thought his play was respectable. I'm still not seeing anything in the offensive zone that makes me think he's going to get 20 goals, but he worked hard down low in the defensive zone. Up top he had some distinct problems moving the puck. Part of this is because he's essentially without one winger. Jacques doesn't provide correct support. It's really that simple.

Jacques

Covered above; I see the effort and it paid off in the one shift down low, but he cannot fill the role of LW with Horcoff and Hemsky. It does not work to create offence for this team. Jacques is also having some problems landing as many effective hits as he did at the beginning of the season. If Quinn is really dedicated to having one of the clubbers on that line, I'd put Stone there at this point. He's playing at a high enough level to contribute to the third or fourth line, but not the first.

Penner

Once again he was excellent and especially on the PK. There were several shifts where he dominated the play down low in the offensive zone with a variety of weapons. He dangled around a couple defencemen, overpowered some others, and skated past the others. He's consistently bringing it on each shift and is playing like his job is to lead his line. This is what we've always needed from him. Tonight when he got in close he consistently tried to make the scoring play, shifting the puck or going upstairs. This is exactly what he needs to do.

Gsgner

He wasn't a particularly effective shooter tonight but he positioned himself very well in the offensive zone and made the most of the best chance he got. I like the pesky element he's added to his game this season, and that's especially important against teams like Vancouver.

O'Sullivan

He continues to step up with his complete play and leadership in all zones. His goal was very nice as it required him to hold off a defender while transitioning the puck and putting it past one of the best goalies in the game. He was also in an excellent offensive position. What I enjoyed though were the saucer passes he makes so easily. There were several tonight threaded perfectly to the stick blade of his teammates through difficult areas. Watch his saucer passing next game; it is truly sublime.

Stone

He appears to have been hurt. That's no good. He could be really important in games like this.

Nilsson

He certainly wasn't anything special tonight. I would rather have had MacIntyre play tonight quite frankly.

Stortini

I didn't see any particular offensive flair in his game tonight. He went to the net, but was usually too late to make a difference and merely stopped in front of Luongo. He also didn't fare too well in that scrap.

Moreau

I thought Ethan looked really bad myself. He skated very slowly with the puck and wasn't able to get the puck when it would pop loose near him. One thing I noticed was particularly alarming however, and that was that he seemed to not be finishing his checks. Everyone on this team, from the shrimps like Comrie and Gagner, to Penner and Jacques are finishing their checks at a high percentage. They're making good positional contact and making the game hard for their opponents. Moreau was not doing this tonight. Being that his offensive game appears to be down the tubes, he needs to make this contribution and certainly didn't tonight.

Comrie

At least two of his penalties were really weak. He got hosed on a night when Quinn seemed to want to play him more than on past nights. He made a lot of responsible decisions with the puck and unfortunately couldn't score on the two nice chances he had in front of the net. A workmanlike effort I'd say.

Cogliano

Unspectacular. He wasn't in position enough to use his skating to his advantage. Also got owned on the dot. We seem to have lost a place for Andrew, as while it is a great luxury to have him as a "fourth line center", that's nowhere near his development curve or ceiling. His story during this year will be one to watch.

Smid

Continues to step up in a big way. He was tough and a plain rock in his offensive zone. If you didn't watch the game, he may also have made the save of the night when he robbed Vancouver in the third period with a sliding save. He is the shutdown guy that many people say we lack. Had the officiating been even reasonable, he also would have drawn at least 2 penalties with his sturdy effort.

Chorney

I can't believe I'm saying this, but he sure made Strudwick look like the rookie out there. Chorney won battle after battle behind his own net at key times using positioning and puck skills while his partner hobbled all over the ice leaving the offensive guy to do all the defensive work. Routinely, Chorney bailed out Strudwick on the PK and in other situations. He's come a long way already this year and is a better hockey player than his veteran partner. I recall one mistake when he attempted to pass off of his back foot and that was about it.

Strudwick

See above. He got his butt dragged around by a rook. He's not a positive aside from filling minutes. We have better in Peckham.

Visnovsky

Took a couple excellent shots that unfortunately didn't go in. He's also been playing with a bit of an edge lately and that's always a plus. I'm hoping he gets more time on the ice with Hemsky but I'm still pretty sure that's not happening. I'd love to know why.

Grebeshkov

The pass to O'Sullivan was simply beautiful. He timed it excellently and executed perfectly in traffic. That's how an offensively gifted guy can make a difference in the zone. Defensively I honestly didn't notice him that much aside from when he was being leg-humped by Burrows.

Gilbert

To me, it looked like he was sick as well. He was sluggish and awkward with the puck, not showing any offensive initiative, skating or strength out there. That's very unusual for Tom, even in his really bad games he usually shows something. Hopefully it's fleeting.

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

By the way, the Sportsnet Connected crew can stick it. That highlight pack and all their pro-Canuck commentary was disgusting.

We really missed Brule tonight. He brings something truly unique to this lineup in terms of talented depth.

MY THREE STARS

Khabibulin
O'Sullivan
Chorney

Looking forward to prolonging your misery all year long Vancouver. Take your parade planning and shove it.

10/16/09

LMHF Game Report #5

EDMONTON 5

VS.

MINNESOTA 2
--------------------

I must say it was thoroughly refreshing to play against a Minny team that was both missing many of its best and no longer playing the style we suffered against for so very long against our coach who refused to change the way we played hockey against Minnesota (Nashville bugged me the same way too).

There were also at least 2 completely classic hockey plays tonight. I'll cover each before I even get to the player reports. Both involved Dustin Penner of course.

Classic Play #1

Starting out in the defensive zone where O'Sullivan gets whacked by Boogaard on a brutal play as they're leaving the zone. Instead of being intimidated or hurt, O'Sullivan jumps back up, skates into the play where he hits Boogaard to start the play, then grabs the puck, carries it patiently around the net and makes a absolutely beautiful pass through 3 Minny defenders and a goalie to a perfectly positioned Dustin Penner who concludes it with a goal. Were this the only half-decent play that occurred in the entire game, I'd still have been fairly entertained because it was truly exceptional. Boogaard's play had backfired; O'Sullivan not only brought it in a serious way on this play, but was motivated for the rest of the game.

Classic Play #2

Dustin Penner grabs the puck in the Oilers zone and immediately begins barreling down the wing; he makes a perfectly timed pass to Sam Gagner, keeping the play onside while avoiding having to go through the Minny D-line with the puck. He however continues charging right through the D, drawing a penalty in the process, while heading straight to prime scoring territory in front of the net. A money finish from Penner and it looks like we've got an elite power scoring winger on our hands. Amazing play. Just stunningly beautiful for a hockey fan.

Two plays like this in one game is not something you often see. We added to this with some great goals, some near misses, a solid goaltending performance and a big win back at home. Great way to spend a Friday evening despite the fact that the seats seemed to be more empty than usual this night.

PLAYER REPORTS
---------------------

Comrie

He scored an excellent goal on a play that started and ended with him. He showed his athleticism, shifitiness and nose for the net in a matter of several seconds. He also hit a post and had a few near misses the rest of the game. He slid into the spot with Horcoff quite well and they seemed to be very effective in reading off each other. I wouldn't be surprised to see him with Horcoff and Hemsky when Ales is healthy again. This line could work. Comrie didn't make defensive mistakes and even hit some people. I enjoyed his game and he contributed once again.

Horcoff

He played a better game with Comrie on his wing. They support each other fairly well and both take a while to accelerate so they seem to match speeds. Horcoff took a couple of weak shots and I truly don't think he'll ever get his shot back at this stage, but was positionally effective most of the evening. One area he's getting trapped in right now is the offensive corners. He doesn't seem to be using his body effectively. He's either turned away from the play, or paying too much attention to it and leaving the puck loose. Ideally Horcoff is not doing much of the puck-handling along the boards, but sometimes it's just necessary I suppose.

Nilsson

I really felt that he was not at the same level as Comrie and Horcoff early on. He was hanging onto the puck for a long time; and not out of patience but out of fear and indecision. He got a little better towards the end of the game and surely made an excellent play on the Comrie goal, but when Robert is on his game he fires the puck. Tonight I didn't see that instinct from him. Its understandable being that he was just jumping out of the PB, but if he's playing at all going forward, he needs to do this. There are some smaller players on the team right now who are bringing Nilsson's passing and playmaking, but also adding in physicality and/or shooting prowess. This means that even with production, he's likely jobless again quite soon.

Penner

Wow. Just wow. That'd be enough to describe his effort but I'll go into more. My only concern at all with him right now is that I wonder if he's not all that happy. I hope he starts smiling on the ice; maybe he just doesn't but I hope he's feeling it on the inside and realizes the performance he's giving right now. He's driving with the puck, keeping D off with his lead hand, creating separation, taking advantage of his oft-underrated passing ability, and driving to the net like a crazy person, then finishing like a champ. If he can keep this up we are simply on another level as a hockey team. Tonight he even got in Boogaard's face after he was taking liberties. If he'd have dropped them and pounded on the guy, he would've had one of the best nights I've seen anyone have in an Oilers uniform. We may have not only turned the corner with this guy, but ripped around it in a sportscar and hammered on the gas. He's creating a second offensive unit for us (and there also happen to be guys creating a third too!)

Gagner

If anyone had a bit of an off night up front, it might have been him. I just didn't think he was moving or firing the puck like he can. There's no doubt he made an excellent play on Penner's goal, but I thought his effort on the PP was less than inspiring. I'm willing to give him this one because he was statistically productive and we didn't need him tonight, but I know he can be better.

O'Sullivan

Were it not for Penner, I'd be ranting and raving about O'Sullivan's game tonight. The guy was excellent. He got under the skin of Boogaard and the Wild without losing any of his impressive cool; made some absolutely sick plays including a wonderful pass to Penner for a goal, and made an all-world backhand play in the first period that somehow stayed out. He had no room and no angle and somehow beat the goalie flat clean and made it look easy. This guy is just so damn good. Quinn is getting exactly what we need out of him; a complete game with offensive contribution consistently.

Brule

And if I hadn't been bragging about Penner and O'Sullivan, I'd be bragging about the contribution this guy is making. Confidence is absolutely everything in just about any sport. Gilbert Brule is riding high again and providing an amazing effort regardless of where he's lined up. Tonight he was done no particular favors and still managed to drive the net and score two wonderful goals. He kept up his pesky hitting game, looked excellent with the puck, and skated to all the right places. What a player to have in the bottom six. AGAIN, if he keeps this up, boy are we ever laughing. Play him more on the PP! He will keep scoring.

Stone

How exactly he did it aside from driving the net very effectively and positioning his body for ample distraction (especially on Brule's second goal) I really don't know, but he sure got it done. The guy's making simple plays and using his positioning. It's all he's got but he's getting the absolute most out of it. I imagine teams just hate him already. What a beautiful thing to have a guy teams hate to play without him being dirty in the least. The distraction he contributed on Brule's goal was just textbook; can't get over it. Poor guy got his first NHL goal ripped away; but I think he'll get it soon.

Jacques

He did his job and made a couple really excellent power plays using his body. I thought he could've been more physical, but it's okay when he helps his line stay offensively effective. I have a harder time picking up his effective games, so if anyone would like to add I'd really appreciate it here.

Cogliano

He skated very well with the puck until he got to the tops of the circles in the offensive zone. From there he either needed to cut to the middle and shoot, or burn wide and make a great pass. He was going to the middle and giving the puck to Minny. Not a fan. That said, he didn't hurt us.

Stortini

I like that Quinn clearly sent him after the good Minny players after the Boogaard hit. I also liked that he obliged and delivered. He didn't need to do anything crazy, but he helped make the point. No spurts of offence tonight, but that's okay.

Moreau

Honestly, I barely noticed he was playing.

OUR FORWARDS - Just an excellent team effort tonight. Period. Top to bottom. They stepped up with Hemsky ill.

Khabibulin

Again, only really beaten on kind of goofy plays. The guy was excellent when he had any kind of view of the puck. He wasn't overly tested as the shots were not great and in no way indicated that Minnesota was outplaying us (because they were not), but he did his job and again made it look EASY. Love watching this guy play goal.

Chorney

I didn't think he was as good as on the road trip because he didn't make the offensive contribution, but you could certainly have fooled me with regards to him being NHL ready. He skates with absolutely no panic in his stride when being chased. If you're a d-man you know what I'm talking about.

Strudwick

Yuck...out of position leaving his partner attempting to defend two men AGAIN. I think he may have lost a bit in the offseason. Let's hope they keep Chorney when Staios returns. He's better right now. I'm sure Peckham's better too.

Visnovsky

Offensively he was good if unspectacular tonight. What I enjoyed most was that he got really angry at Boogaard and was not afraid to get in his face at all. He's the number 1 right now and he easily asserts it. Very few pucks going the wrong way with him on the ice.

Smid

Covering defensively for Strudwick to the best of his ability. I still cannot believe he can't learn an offensive zone pass or shot to complement his excellent rushing ability. He had a couple great ones tonight and just doesn't know what to do after he gets in the offensive zone. Someone needs to teach him.

Grebeshkov-Gilbert

I honestly didn't notice either much aside from one Grebeshkov messup in the offensive zone. I'm therefore assuming they were pretty solid defensively and overshadowed by a superlative forward effort offensively.
-----------------

What started out as a boring game became incredibly enjoyable. Not something you could say often vs. Minny.

My 3 stars were same as the game. Penner-Brule-O'Sullivan. Great night.

10/10/09

LMHF Game Report #4

EDMONTON 3

VS.

MONTREAL 2
--------------------------

I think the wave of relief washing over the fanbase is justified and appreciated right now. Regardless of whether you believe the Oilers should have come out of this with a better point total (I think at least 7), I think this win should at least leave a positive taste.

This team seems to be starting games fairly strongly. We are not the sleepy-start-squad like last year. This is a relief for me. Starting as we do tends to lead to a lot of victories, especially later in the season.

I'm not sure we're in great condition right now. We seem to be running out of gas before the final buzzer. I'm sure this is something that can be worked through, but I also think it's noticable right now.

I have a couple of criticisms of Pat Quinn, thought I generally like what he's doing with the team. I still don't understand the fascination with the Jacques-Horcoff-Hemsky line. I still don't see it working. I think we're playing the puck up the boards in the defensive zone too much as well. Our strong-skating and passing defencemen need to take a couple steps with the puck to open up the ice and then make a pass. Right now they aren't taking those crucial strides and it seems to be systematic. Perhaps this is just an early-season place-filler for the breakout, but I hope we make it a little more complex. This method of clearing the zone is generating far too many chances for the opposition. I like that Quinn shortens his bench, but shortening it to include a line of Penner-Brule-Moreau (with Moreau on RW) is a huge mistake. It nearly cost us dearly.

A note for Montreal fans - you are the biggest bunch of weirdos ever. At least you're not jerk-Edmonton-based-Vancouver fan; but you are strange.

PLAYER REPORTS
----------------------

Hemsky

- I'd estimate this was his best game of the year so far. It was certainly his best game from the red line back to his own net. Ales was very effective defensively and took away many pucks, blocked a shot, used his body and speed to control the play. It sure looked like he was held up first on his penalty, as he'd actually made a really good effort to get into strong defensive position on what was looking like a dangerous-ish rush. In the offensive zone he was okay. He got a lot of pucks to the net and was far more assertive than he's been thus far. His post-rip was almost a thing of beauty. Really solid passing. At the end of the game he was either fairly tired (he played 20+ BTW) or really angry at himself for missing the EN. He got back to the group very slowly. I hope this game is the beginning of his elevation.

Horcoff

- It was unfortunate what happened on Montreal's second goal; especially after the outstanding save by Khabibulin. That goal is why I always try to block those with my skate facing away from the net rather than a stick which can flex or tip the puck up. Oh well. Aside from that I didn't mind his game. He still hasn't figured out that if he took the passes from Hemsky while moving towards the net instead of away that he would score more...I don't get it. He was responsible defensively though and skated into good positions. He did some great work along the defensive zone boards.

Jacques

- He was better than he's been the first three games. In addition to his tip goal, he spent a bunch more time getting to the front of the net where he's probably most useful. His presence almost resulted in another two goals. He was effective with his his hits as well. Play with the puck wasn't great. He did however position himself a little bit more effectively than last game.

Comrie

- An excellent read to skate hard for the open ice, followed by an excellent shot led to a goal for Mike, who is showing on the stats sheet why I'd call him the Oilers most consistent offensive threat right now. He's generated several chances each game and he did again tonight. He needs to be used more on the powerplay. Away from the puck I thought he was fine; not sublime but he didn't have to be.

Penner

- I thought it was a really up and down game for Dustin. This was as close to last year's version as I've seen, but he was still decently effective. I liked that he dumped the puck and blew by defenders into solid position in the second period. I liked the way he held the puck and killed off time when we had the lead. I didn't like the way he looked dead tired at the end of the game and I didn't like the way he looked unfocused at points during the game.

Brule

- The giveaway at the end of the second that led to a goal I don't think MTL would have got without this specific opportunity was unfortunate. He was in the process of making a responsible transition play and got a little unlucky and perhaps didn't make the safe enough play. Aside from this sequence, I thought he played a pretty solid game and as I've noted before, sure looks like he belongs. Wasn't sure about the cleanliness of the hit on Mara, but I liked that he was being aggressive and went for it. In the end it took a key MTL player out for 17 mins so I think we can certainly count that as a positive. He didn't get as many offensive chances as he has been, but that's okay when he's not making a bunch of mistakes.

O'Sullivan

- Great to see him get his first, which wasn't the most spectacular but they certainly don't have to be. The shot he rang off the post was beautiful and slightly unlucky. He didn't make any big mistakes and was generally a solid player all night.

Gagner

- I really liked the way Sam was being agressive towards the play and the puck for the first two periods. He's already come a long way this season and it's quite evident in his play. The pass to Comrie was absolutely perfect. A thing of beauty.

Stone

- I took OY's words to heart with regards to Stone and made a point of watching him closely tonight. By some happy coincidence Ryan decided to treat all of us including me to a truly superlative effort. I strongly felt that Stone should have been third star and especially over Jacques. Put aside the absolutely excellent power move he made to get the puck to O'Sullivan and generate a goal; Stone used strong positioning all night to supply puck support in both the offensive and defensive zone. He skated the puck either out of trouble or into trouble for MTL several times. I admire smart hockey above most anything else, and Stone played damn smart hockey tonight. He was also a pain in the butt for Montreal which is something he can do consistently. I have a hard time watching guys like Stone with a more open or understanding mind, but he earned some future attention from me with this effort.

Stortini

- I didn't really notice him tonight. I'd like to see a little more driving towards the net.

Cogliano

- He's a very good fourth line center; though I've got to wonder if Quinn was testing him ala Gagner and didn't get what he wanted.

Moreau

- Took a weak penalty, looked out of it at the end and struggled with his skating all night. I don't think he's healthy at all. Why not play Nilsson?

Strudwick

- Steady, but struggled moving the puck in his half of the neutral zone. This isn't surprising. The mission for Jason every night is simply not to get burned. He did a good enough job of that tonight.

Visnovsky

- I thought he was pretty good and made some good, speedy recovery plays. He needs to be our #1 right now, but will likely get a good push from Gilbert.

Gilbert

- Speaking of Tom, I liked his game tonight. I remember one shaky sequence that I believe was late in the first period, but aside from that he was pretty good. He wasn't able to jump into the play effectively like he usually does though. I'd expect a fair amount of effort to be put towards this next game.

Grebeshkov

- I think he looked great tonight. He was supremely confident with the puck and used his skating legs really effectively. I'm not sure how he got caught out of position on the Gionta goal, but it's understandable in that breakout position to be moving ahead of a turnover.

Staios

- To me, it looked like Steve is still shaken up. He was twitchy in pretty much everything he did tonight.

Smid

- Ladislav will have the opportunity to step up with Souray gone. I think he'll do well with that opportunity. He was boring-solid tonight and made an excellent choice in the Brewer-special wrister that resulted in the Jacques goal.

Khabibulin

- I cannot tell you how much joy it gives me to watch a goalie who makes it from post to post faster than the setup passes he's facing; and stops everything but stupid bounces and perfect chances without even looking like he's on fire yet. Khabibulin was good tonight and he made it look very VERY easy. I blame the guy in the row behind me who said "we're gonna get a shutout" twice for the Montreal goals. I almost hit him. His rebound control was sublime tonight.

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

MY 3 STARS

1. Khabibulin
2. Stone
3. Shared by many

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

Really great to get this send-off win. I hope they're able to keep improving. They're on the right track...I think...

10/8/09

LMHF Game Report #3

EDMONTON 3

VS.

CALGARY 4

In a stinking shootout...
------------------------------------

I cannot believe we're standing here talking about two losses to Calgary. The first game should have resulted in at least a point...and this one, which we clearly controlled up until the Souray injury, could have gone our way on numerous occasions. A few things that happened and were really crummy tonight:

- Botching a 4-on-3 PP in OT (What was O'Sullivan doing taking those short shots that had no chance?)

- A highly questionable goal with 1.5 seconds left in the game (though even then, how do you allow Phaneuf and Bouwmeester to take a shot that late in the game?)

- An SO goal that apparently should not have counted followed by a post

- Souray getting whacked and it only resulting in a 2-minute PP

- A late 2nd period goal when this team had a ton of chances to make it 3 and 4-zip.

I understand there are going to be some growing pains with this team. That happens every time you have turnover like they've had this year. I'm willing to be patient with them as a group. That sentiment doesn't make this type of loss any easier to take. We were very much in control of this game and playing an excellent collapsing defensive style for much of the game. We fought off a BS 5-on-3 and should have scored immediately thereafter.

This is the kind of game where I don't go as in depth with the players individually. I didn't particularly think anyone was a huge star; though Khabibulin sure had his moments and kept this team in it for 1.5 seconds less than was needed. He's got some really bad breaks despite some absolutely stellar saves.

Up front, it's plainly obvious that the Jacques-Horcoff-Hemsky line needs to be put to rest. Sure, they had one good sequence in the third where they wound up scoring a goal, but it just isn't working. Ales didn't have a very good game, Jacques continued his "way behind the play" routine, and Horcoff, though physical, just couldn't get anything done.

I was more annoyed with O'Sullivan tonight because he should have been a lot better than he was. Comrie's not impactful in the way that many guys are, but he sure looks like he's going to keep getting his points. He's the most consistent guy at creating chances for them right now. Stone is Stone. I don't mind him against Calgary but my was he ever bad with the puck.

Penner had it going again until the third. By then he looked just plain wiped and was making defensive zone screwups that wound up costing us. Brule I'm really starting to like. He was a half-step away from 2 or 3 goals tonight. He's using his skills (quickness, shooting, physicality) very well. He also doesn't ever seem to tire near the end of his shifts. Cogliano, once again, I felt all he did was skate around not producing anything in particular. It was nice to see him go to the net in a dynamic way twice late in the game. He used his first-step advantage effectively for a change. I hope that continues.

I didn't really mind the Moreau-Gagner-Stortini crew, but felt Sam got a little too much icetime tonight. He was playing okay but not great. I loved the goal Moreau scored.

Our D flat ran out of gas. Major kudos to Strudwick and Smid for stepping up in Souray's absence and almost keeping us in there. Denis was better...and worse. Tom was fine. Lubo finally showed his elite opposite blue line skill and made a bunch of recovery plays, but also had far too many shots blocked.

The key for us going forward is to keep the effort level high while making the strategic leaps forward that will come with time. It's far from panic mode in that we have a team that honestly looks like once it gets going it will rattle off winning streaks; but let's just hope we don't have to wait that long.

Other than that I'm too frustrated to write much more tonight. This could easily be a 3-0 team right now and it's not. ARGH.

10/6/09

LMHF Game Report #2

EDMONTON 5

VS.

DALLAS 4

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.

PLAYER REPORTS
----------------------------------

Jacques

- 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.

Hemsky

- 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!

Horcoff

- 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.

O'Sullivan

- 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?

Comrie

- 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.

Stone

- 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.

Penner

- 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.

Brule

- 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.

Nilsson

- 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.

Cogliano

- 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.

Gagner

- 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.

Stortini

- 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.

Khabibulin

- 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-Souray

- 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.

Grebeshkov-Gilbert

- 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.

Smid-Visnovsky

- 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:
- Penner
- Hemsky
- Gagner
---------------------

One W on the board, and it's a big one Goose.

10/3/09

LMHF Game Report #1

EDMONTON 3

VS.

CALGARY 4

On a really crummy break...
------------------------------------------

Well...that was not at all what I was hoping for; at least result-wise.

Before we get too far into the disaster at the end, let's go back to the beginning.

As usual, we were asked to be in our seats early for the opening night show. For those of you who have not had the fortune to experience a home-opener, the Edmonton Oilers are for some inexplicable reason very fond of two things: bagpipes, and ladies doing some strange form of acrobatics with oversized sheets hanging from the rafters. I get the whole spectacle and show, but I think they need to stop doing the same thing. Despite adding skates to the acrobat lady and a twirling violinist, I just don't think it gets you ready for hockey in any way...I dunno, maybe it's just me.

There was also an opening night video and what I'm assuming will be the regular video, but that remains to be seen. I'll be sure to comment once I know it actually is the video. The intro song didn't see half-bad.

So out strode our slightly strange new team to take the ice; no telling what would happen next.

In the first period I really felt we had a lot of good solid chances but were held back due to a lack of puck control. A combination of two things contributed to this in my estimation; bad ice and the players looked like they were thinking about their assignments instead of doing them. It's going to take some time not only for linemates to gel and produce but for Quinn's new system to take hold to the point where the players just play it rather than having to pay so much attention to it. They almost looked distracted when they were given the chance to either move or skate with the puck. It cost us in the neutral zone in the first period where we often got into great transition lanes only to bobble. We also blew several very good chances in front of the net in this period. What was 2-1 CGY should have been 4-2 EDM. I see good things in this system, but we'll have to be patient unfortunately.

The second period was better for our squad. We hit a fair bit and kept up with Calgary. Again though, we looked slightly awkward and didn't capitalize on our chances.

The third was going our way as we kept Calgary at bay while generating chances. We finally got a break and finished a great chance, but OT or a late win was not to be. To me it looked like the puck skipped some, but I still don't understand how it could turn out that badly. I really hope people don't blame this loss on him. We should have scored many more goals tonight and simply didn't execute.

The theme of the night was bouncing pucks. Sometimes they go your way, tonight the majority went the other way. That doesn't mean this loss was bad luck, but maybe we deserved a little better. I still think it's a stepping stone. It's one thing to lose (LOSE not LOOSE) a game like this late in the year and with no effort, that wasn't what we did tonight.

PLAYER REPORTS
----------------------------------

Hemsky

- Ales really didn't do anything too dynamic tonight. He carried the puck well and took some shots that could have generated goals but he was not the force of nature that he can be. So long as this line is kept together I'm probably going to be bagging on it, because although we'd all love Cam Neely playing on Ales' line (as would every line in the league), Jacques is no Neely.

Jacques

- Previous comments notwithstanding, I don't think Jacques played badly, on the contrary I thought he played well. He finished his checks and didn't get caught badly out of position more than a couple times. I saw absolutely nothing in his game that led me to believe he can be effective offensively on this line however. Leaving a hole on the LW puts way too much pressure on Horcoff to produce. If all you want from this line, which includes your best offensive player, is to battle other top lines to a draw, you'll be fine. I don't think that's what we want. I think once properly cast, Jacques might be okay. Not his fault that this line let down tonight. I would like to point out that he made 2 great defensive puck-blocks in front of the net in the first period.

Horcoff

- He was invisible tonight for me. Not in a terrible way I suppose, but he didn't do anything at all that jumped out at me. Again this might have to do with the combo. I really don't know at this point. Hopefully it changes.

O'Sullivan

- He was really good tonight at lurking in the right areas and pouncing on the puck as well as skating with it around Flames defenders. I'm fairly disappointed he didn't score. I can think of two fairly distinct chances where if he'd just been more patient and hadn't simply ripped the puck he would have scored. There were also scramble chances but those are less reliable. I'm not worried about him, it's just unfortunate. He looks like he'll be one of the most capable Oilers early this year and I really liked his PP play in the offensive zone.

Comrie

- Aside from 2 iffy passes in his own zone I liked what he was able to do. He got himself an assist and generally played well in the offensive zone. He had a couple of shots narrowly miss and surprisingly didn't score in close despite a couple of chances. He and O'Sullivan look just excellent on the PP together. They'll be the #1 unit very soon.

Stone

- I think Ryan sadly showed why he's not an NHLer tonight. He's slow and doesn't have any upper-level skills. Penner looked a much better fit on the MC-PO line when he was on the PP. I really hope Stone is just a place-filler, but the man who'd fill his place is sadly on the LTIR right now, so I'm not sure what to do about that. He did draw a penalty though, so power to him for that.

Cogliano

- Looked very quick along with Brule and used Penner effectively but struggled with the puck. At various times he looked to use the afterburners and thought twice rather than drive wide or to the net. Andrew cannot be indecisive like that and succeed. He needs to play on his instincts and skate skate skate. I think he could find his game on this line though.

Brule

- Where Stone showed he doesn't belong, Brule showed he might. His goal notwithstanding (and it was an excellent shot, something he needs to set up and use regularly), he knocked opposition players down in his own zone and used his footspeed to get into openings. Once there, he made fairly smart plays with the puck. I don't think we have a full corner turn to pronounce just yet, but if he can keep that up, he'll be okay.

Penner

- One of the better Oilers tonight. He threw at least three guys off the puck and to the ground while playing solid positional hockey and banging in the type of junk goal he really needs to start scoring for this team. We all know Dustin is capable of this. We just need to see it 75% of the time instead of 15%.

Moreau

- He was okay I suppose. Didn't do anything spectacular. It was funny that they had his video queued up for the TV timeout that corresponded with his penalty.

Stortini

- Solid scrap, looked a little sluggish but nothing to worry about.

Gagner

- He looked motivated as hell out there. He was hitting and skating and chasing the puck with some serious passion. While his goal was a lucky break, he also chased really hard and forced the quick pass up the boards that wound up on his stick (aided by a solid Moreau bodycheck). Sam even got in a strange scrap with Craig Conroy at centre ice...anyone know what that was about? He seemed to get the best of Craig as well. I don't know whether to take this game as that Sam will be our hidden weapon from the fourth line that can be promoted late as Quinn did, or whether Sam just won't be on the fourth line for long. Great game for Sam.

I really didn't like Quinn moving Gagner up and keeping Stone on the line with O'Sullivan though...bad move that didn't help us.

Souray

- Played mean but seriously needs to start hitting the net again. He's having some problems.

Staios

- I actually liked the way Steve played tonight. He looked rejuvenated and composed. He looked ready for the NHL season unlike some of our D tonight. I hope he doesn't have to be one of the better guys too many times this season.

Grebeshkov

- YIKES! That pretty much says it all. For those of you who didn't watch, poor Denis was hand-grenading the puck around all night and turned it over on numerous occasions. He also didn't make any elite offensive plays to redeem himself. Not a great start.

Gilbert

- Tom was a fair bit better than Denis in the offensive zone, getting shots towards the net and moving the puck well, but he was almost as shaky in the D zone. These 2 trapped their forwards in their own zone on several occasions with at least 3 different forward lines. Not good. Both men also looked very tired in the third, which is fairly strange.

Visnovsky

- He was pretty solid, yet slightly boring apart from his (and Smid's) screw-up on the Glencross goal where he got caught chasing and trying for a block instead of taking away a stick.

Smid

- Okay but didn't play much. On for a couple goals and maybe he should have had Dawes before his tip.

Khabibulin

- Until the final error I thought he played alight. He needs to be a bit better but made the saves at the end to keep his team in. The mis-play I'm sure will be yelled about to death. Being a hockey player and goalie at one point, you can just say it happens I suppose. Sucks for us; but our event like that will come at some point. Give Nik a chance people, don't start bagging on him for this.

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

Very disappointing start to our home season, but hope springs eternal and they'll have a chance for redemption in a mere couple of days. I await Tuesday's game!

10/1/09

Our Forward Lines

Jacques-Horcoff-Hemsky

Umm...yeah...as I said on another blog, I've got the over under on missed chances per game quite high. There's just no way that Horcoff and Jacques will finish the chances Hemsky generates. Hemsky's gonna have to take it upon himself to score goals if this line stays together. I don't think it will, but if it does that must happen.

If it's really this bad...offer Zherdev a couple mil and farm out a couple guys.

O'Sullivan-Comrie-Stone

I have very high hopes for Comrie and O'Sullivan. Patrick looks like a dynamic goal scorer and Comrie looks to be back to his old self. If they continue along the path they've started, they'll be deadly. Stone isn't good enough or fast enough to really help out, but again, I don't expect him to be here too long. We'll see how the combos evolve.

Cogliano-Brule-Penner

I understand the Cogliano Penner combo, but Brule being in this spot baffles the heck out of me. Every time I think he's getting on track he fizzles out. Maybe Quinn sees something but I dunno yet. They need to find a way to get Cogliano 20.

Moreau-Gagner-Stortini

I expect these guys to be solid and incredibly unspectacular. Gagner can't carry a line; it's not what his game is about. I wonder if he won't become a more complete player, but I also wonder if he won't be traded while his value's still really high.

Points for our top 6:

Hemsky 30-56-86
O'Sullivan 32-34-66
Comrie 31-31-62
Horcoff 15-37-52
Penner 25-27-52
Cogliano 21-29-50

Though I could honestly see our team by the end of the year looking SOMETHING like this due to the influence of Quinn and the extensive UFA-to-be market:

Frolov-Horcoff-Hemsky
O'Sullivan-Comrie-Kozlov/Modin
Cogliano-Lombardi-Penner
Moreau-Bonk-Jacques

You never know...

Predictions for the year

Some random predictions for us to revisit at the end of the season:

- The Edmonton Oilers will have 3 30 goal scorers (Hemsky, Comrie, O'Sullivan). Yes I know this would be unique and exceptional and amazing. I don't care, I see it.

- When it comes to overrated hockey clubs, three immediately spring to mind in Vancouver, Philly and San Jose. SJ has rid themselves of some of the parts that held them back, but should still be a regular-season-only team. Every year Philly and SJ seem to alternate as media darlings and this year it's Philly. The Flyers simply don't win anything anymore and they won't start now. Simply adding Chris Pronger doesn't do much. Vancouver just isn't that good aside from their goalie. They are weak on the back end and rely on a pesky style that won't translate to playoff success.

- Mike Green continues to tear the league apart and get no respect while doing it. He got ripped off in not winning the Norris last year despite one of the greatest seasons by a defenceman ever. Not one "expert" I've seen has picked him to win it this year. Utterly Shameful. This kid is amazing.

- Shane Doan will be traded to a team where he can finally win. I really hope that team is the Edmonton Oilers at the trade deadline.

- We're lining up a squad to survive long enough ala 2005-06. Near the deadline if we're close, we'll attempt to fill the slots currently filled by non-NHLers like Jacques and Stone with much better versions of them. I see the potential for success in this despite how aggravating the approach is.

- Someone will sign Marc-Andre Bergeron, and he'll have a really solid year.

- Phil Kessel will melt like cheap butter in the heat of Toronto. Boston kept the right guys and moved this overrated joker.

- This trading deadline will have much heavier action than any before. The amount of UFA-eligible talented players combined with the prospect of a cap drop and teams wanting to go for it will lead to more fun for armchair GMs than ever before.

- Rob Schremp scores at least 15 goals for the Islanders.

- Alexander Ovechkin scores 70+ in Washington. The man's been challenged by his countryman Malkin and has maturing linemates. Sit back and watch the show.

- If Marty St. Louis is acquired by a contender, watch out for that team in the playoffs.

- Jeff Deslauriers will prove himself an NHL capable goaltender.

- Only one of Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner will be highly favored among the fanbase by the end of the year.

- Theo Peckham will play a regular shift by the end of the year. This kid is very very good.

- Ryan Stone will find his way back to the minors before long.

- Fans will learn to appreciate Fernando Pisani for the stabilizing force that he is as the Oilers struggle to do his job while he's gone. It's a true shame he doesn't get to try his hand with O'Sullivan and Comrie this year, I'm confident he'd have shown playoff form.

- Tom Gilbert will finally get the respect he deserves and be recognized as an emerging elite defenceman and a large bargain.

Schremp gone to the Fish Sticks

Well, the story that started when he was drafted by our team after falling way too far in the draft has officially come to an end.

I remember watching Rob in junior at a time when we had no scorers. He was not only a scorer, but a scorer with a ton of style. His was a game we could surely use.

I very rarely accept either attitude criticisms of talented players or "skating" critiques of goal scorers. Robbie has already experienced plenty of both. These things never dissuaded me as the same criticisms have been leveled at some truly excellent players in my time watching the game.

Rob almost made the hockey club in his first 2 camps. It didn't seem at the time that these would be his two best chances to make the Oilers but they were. He was confident, skilled, and loved by the crowd. He had the potential to be something truly excellent. He was not only talented, but very uniquely so. A player with such gifted hands really shouldn't have been able to fail frankly. If I'd had the hand of Mr. Schremp I surely would've played JR hockey at the very least despite an extremely pesky sinus problem that gave me next to no lung capacity.

I truly believe that if he had been kept with the big club in either of those years we'd be speaking right now about Rob's importance to the Oilers rather than him being picked up on waivers. Many will think the thought is simply irrelevant now but I certainly don't. A dynamic goal scorer who'd be on the path to maturity and possibly leading the group of young men we currently have now would've been what the doctor ordered and exactly what we still lack on his hockey club.

Somewhere it all went wrong after that. He never truly contended for a job again until his call-up last season for 4 games in an ever so brief "career" with our team. Again last year he looked confident, had rounded out elements of his game, and was using unique talents such as an absolutely uncanny ability to knock pucks out of the air and into his control to help his squad. He appeared to be back. Then he was sent down as Robert Nilsson returned, despite inferior performers remaining on the squad.

My only thought after that is this must have destroyed him. He has been nowhere near the same player since. A man that was on the verge came into 2009 "in better shape" but looking skinny and not confident whatsoever. Any electricity in his game was gone. He truly looked worse than when he nearly made this team what seems like many years ago now.

I'm always really sad when a unique talent cannot deliver on its promise and drifts away. Rob Schremp should have been something truly special. He won't ever be in an Edmonton Oilers uniform, and that makes me really, truly sad.

Many people on the HF community forget that before there was BBO, I was Schremp's biggest booster along with #2. I know we both wish him nothing but good fortune in the shot he's sure to get with the Islanders. I'm sure if he's here when NYI comes to town that #2 will wear his London Knights SCHREMP uni and I'll cheer very loudly for Rob to do something great.

So ends a quiet chapter that could have been so much more. There's no prospect with the team right now that has the electric potential Schremp once had, and I don't know if there will be one for a long time.