LMHF Report Webcast Link

11/30/09

2010-11 Edmonton Oilers

Because I haven't done one of these in a while:

FWD

Hall-Horcoff-Hemsky
Brule-Penner-Gagner
Gaustad/T.Hunter-Tanguay-Comrie
Potulny-Stone-Eberle
O'Marra-Jacques

It'd be an interesting forward crew, with no requirement for a HUGE offseason signing. They're large enough, can score, and can defend.

Remember those that immediately dismiss Comrie: He's likely going to cost very little and has shown himself to be a reliable veteran presence who can score goals when healthy. There's no reason to think that wouldn't continue.

I'm not sure where to put Hall honestly supposing we draft him, but if he's a star, let him be one. We can always move things around later.

Potulny and Stone have earned places if they keep what they're doing up to any reasonable level. Eberle will make the team and can place in a safe place to start.

You can see who I've moved out.

DEF

Visnovsky-Smid
Souray-Grebeshkov
Gilbert-Kubina
Chorney-Peckham

Pavel's going to be coming down in salary and could be a cheap UFA. If we can't get him that's okay but I'd sure like to. I'm also understanding of the fact that we may need to move Gilbert, but we'll see. I'd rather be incredibly steady 1-6. I also considered removing Souray, as I think he may be traded.

They're looney tunes if they trade Lubomir, so I hope the rumors about him being unhappy are untrue.

GOAL

Khabibulin
Deslauriers

No-brainer for me. #35 is exactly what we've needed and #38 has flashes of brilliance that will make him an excellent #2 by next yr.

11/27/09

LMHF Game Report #15

EDMONTON 4

VS.

SAN JOSE 5

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

Wow...that was far from the game that I was expecting; especially after the way we started out. We looked listless and lost for a really long time tonight.

Then something happened; I'm not exactly sure what. Please forgive me if I miss a bunch of things tonight, as this game seemed in my mind like some sort of epic adventure into the twilight zone.

Suddenly we decide to play what looks like playoff hockey...then we back right off...then when you think we're dead again it roars back out of nowhere, only to mount the worst powerplay in history and almost lose a lead and a game instead of easily sealing the win...then we pick the wrong shootout shooters and lose. How epic, thrilling, and sad, all at the same time. I really didn't know what to think at a bunch of times tonight.

It's a very interesting night when your best line is Moreau-Potulny-Cogliano; and not because others are playing horridly but because they're playing really well. The emergence of Mr. Potulny, who once again used his excellent shooting, skating and positioning to make a difference, has been something else to watch. An added benefit is that he certainly doesn't play the game softly. On his first goal, he legged out a breakaway when many Oilers would have either given up or been caught, then instead of taking a stupid shot, made an absolutely beauty of a move. His second goal was great positioning and an excellent shot. We need players that score the type of goals that come from that 15 foot arc as we are quite effective at getting the puck there enough times on a nightly basis. Moreau played his best game of the year by far. He was a man on a mission in terms of his skating, his checking, his puck control and his moves in close. He didn't get away any great shots which is unfortunate, and I'm still missed as to how he missed in alone after a great move in the second period, but his game was great even without the results. Cogliano, even though he still hasn't scored, skated like an utter madman tonight. He chased down just about every puck he could and made a key defensive play late in the game to make sure Heatley didn't send us home pointless. He's found a way to contribute in the last couple games and we can only hope now that the points will come.

The other guy that keeps on proving we might have a winner is Gilbert Brule. He scored a nice goal from out front after some hard work, then made another one happen with a nice play to Penner from behind the net. This guy's the real deal and his efforts are now becoming quite consistent. He needs to be kept around most certainly. Penner looked a little lost in the first and second; either tired or frustrated would be my guess, but still found a way to contribute in the third. It's hard to believe this guy is suddenly so consistent, but he is indeed. Gagner complimented the line alright, but wasn't stellar in any particular way. Usually he's capable of being a primary playmaker and offensive threat on a line, but it seems he's relegated to secondary at present. I hope he re-emerges.

The Stortini-O'Marra-McDonald line was an interesting one to watch. I'm really enjoying the way O'Marra plays the game. Seeing him live added to my thought that he may indeed be ready to make this team next year. He takes solid skating lines, finishes checks, plays big and has the confidence of a player that looks like he knows what he's doing. Sometimes that's half the battle. I get the impression that McDonald isn't a good enough skater to be in this league for any length of time, but will certainly reserve judgment for the time being. Stortini was physical, which he had to be. I'm still looking for his slight offensive tendency, which has disappeared from the planet.

It does not seem we have a working combination in Jacques-Horcoff-O'Sullivan. I'm not quite sure why but they didn't really generate much of anything despite Jacques effective physical play. We need to get to a place where he's relegated to the fourth line rather than having to check good players of course. Horcoff was just okay I thought. He was one of the few who had a better first than third. His play dropped off a bit later on. O'Sullivan couldn't seem to buy one tonight. He's a step slower entering the zone which is causing him problems at present. I'm not exactly sure why this is.

The story tonight in terms of our loss is likely how bad Staios and Souray were as a pair. They've never been particularly suited to one and other but tonight was an utter disaster. When they weren't getting tangled up or taking each other's check and getting confused, Souray was busy taking anger penalties. The one against Thornton late was total bull (I never knew such a large man could play hockey like such a girl, and then whine about it like crazy), but the others were stupid. I understand he's likely frustrated but it sure didn't help us tonight. Staios didn't really do much of anything to help the cause in any zone.

Smid on the other hand was stupendous. He kept driving the offence deep into the SJ zone; I'm not sure I've seen him with the puck creating offence that many times in one game before. He stepped up when we needed him to. Visnovsky was good, but not great. He had flashes of brilliance I suppose. I was just looking for the game-changing play (almost scored at the end I guess) but it didn't come.

Strudwick went another game without really driving me nuts, so I'll take it. Gilbert didn't take another step forward, but also didn't step back.

Deslauriers was good; but still managed to allow too many goals. I don't think any were particularly bad, but 4 was just too many.

I must admit, I did get more than I expected tonight. I thought we'd get whomped.

One of my favorite topics every year is why San Jose won't win the Cup. Prior to this year, it was always because their top-end talent was of the wrong sort for this pursuit. What has occured now up front is that San Jose has a bunch of plugs and overrateds on its 3rd and 4th line. I saw an article suggesting signing Malhotra over Comrie would have been a good one...yet I don't see a statistical argument that in any way shows this; especially if you consider that Comrie played a bunch while ill. In addition for the fourth line Malhotra would've been a good choice simply to have more NHLers on this team...anyway back to San Jose. They also have not rectified the issue of their D not really being all that good. They still guys who aren't winning a cup. They'll fail again this year, and not just because Chicago is shaping into a juggernaught, but because they're not built to win.

And this wouldn't be a LMHF Game Report without saying...yeah...that Marleau guy sure is so much worse than Horcoff.......*facepalm*

11/25/09

LMHF Game Report #14

EDMONTON 1

VS.

Los Angeles 3
-----------------

Well, we know one thing for damn sure, this team sucks without Ales Hemsky. I was hoping my point from my previous post would be proven by something other than an injury of course...

The Oilers came out ready to play. There were an absolute ton of finished checks and really solid short passes in the first half of the game. This had us leading for a time and we really should have been ahead by 2 or 3, but there were not opportunistic guys around the net ready to finish tonight. Nobody was there when the pucks were squirting through. There were many.

If that play where Moreau drove the net would have been executed a little better, we should've scored there especially.

In the second half of the game and especially without Hemsky we didn't control the puck at all. This let the Kings trap work quite effectively. Before that point it wasn't working too well at all.

Once a trap is working, if your team is tired at all, it's pretty difficult to break back through it. We certainly encountered that again tonight.

There were many chances to take the lead when the score was 1-1, but they were fleeting chances. There was very little sustained pressure. Deslauriers held us in as long as he could and its unfortunate that the picture of his game will be tainted by the fact that Matt Greene beat him on a slapper rather than emphasizing that he stopped the league's leading scorer on numerous occasions.

We seem to have a rivalry with LA and the game was rather physical with many scrums, but we were never able to get in LA's face as we have with some other teams. Tonight we had our star cross checked and didn't do much of anything in return. That's pretty unacceptable. Where were the runs at Kopitar? Why wasn't Brown getting sticked behind the play? There's a smart way to do this and we didn't.

Oh well, to the PLAYER REPORTS
---------------

Deslauriers
- A really solid outing for him. Save for middle-end of the second he was very much in control of his rebounds. He was always in good position and helped out with the puck some tonight as well. For a time I didn't think he'd allow another goal for a while. Still, as I alluded to earlier, stopping Kopitar 6 times and Brown 5 times is nothing to sneeze at. Good effort; his squad let him down.

Souray
- Rough and tumble but never got to be all that effective in this regard. His shooting was better tonight in that it was more under control and generally at the net, but he can still do better. He hasn't really beaten a goalie yet. Defensively I liked what he was able to do in the corners, getting the puck out safely.

Staios
- Not too shabby I suppose. There were a couple of occasions where he got beat in footraces that expose where he is a liability, but none of these really hurt us. Did his best to keep pucks alive and was alright at that.

Strudwick
- Mark it down; might be the first time I've gone 3 straight with no complaints about him. He even rushed a couple pucks to center tonight. Definitely playing better.

Gilbert
- Also improving; he kept it quite simple out there. It's unfortunate that he couldn't do anything during his foray into the offensive zone in the third that could have given us the lead, but here's hoping that Gilbert returns soon. Defensively I liked his effort. He's turned down the panic and turned up the body positioning and skating. These are good things.

Visnovsky
- He was good as always and lugged the puck a fair bit. Disappointing he wasn't able to create a little more offensively.

Smid
- Solid and physical; what else is new? Love having this guy on our blue line.

Hemsky
- Was playing well and controlling the puck plus busting through checks until the injury. Likely had a point or two in him tonight but wasn't around when the game was on the line unfortunately.

Gagner
- A ton of chances and no results. He more than anyone could have factored into this game due to being handed chances by both Hemsky and O'Sullivan. Sam just flat-out missed his chances tonight. Very disappointing for a guy who lives on the type of chances he was getting.

Penner
- This was the first game where I thought he might have looked a little off. Don't get me wrong in that he was still pretty solid, but didn't have any wow in his game today. The Kings seemed to do a pretty good job in not letting him get up to speed entering their zone.

O'Sullivan
- Aside from Hemsky he was probably the only guy consistently getting into the Kings' end of the ice. He still took too many awkward shots, but I liked his game tonight. He didn't shy away from any contact and set up a number of chances for his teammates to score. Only 1 needed to get taken advantage of but none did. He struggled a little on the PP.

Stortini
- I thought he needed to step up and do something tonight and was unable to. Quite disappointing. I'd support a contract and a call to Kip Brennan for the next Kings game if this keeps up.

Reddox
- Pretty blah effort from Liam; though he did throw his weight around some. Less puck possession than I'm used to from him.

Horcoff
- Too many turnovers and weak puck losses on the other side of the red line. He wasn't as good tonight as the last few. I can understand with his linemates, but also he can be better. In the early first he made a couple moves that had me thinking he'd turned the corner, but his light quickly dimmed.

Brule
- Mixed bag in that he had chances and was okay with the puck but was unable to convert or really generate chances for other guys.

Jacques
- Didn't hit as much as last game or drive the net as well, but he was okay. Solid scrap with O'Donnell who appeared to be offended by a perfectly clean hit...that's sad.

Cogliano
- I'm not sure what to do with this guy anymore. He gave it his all tonight; you cannot doubt that. He was jumping on the puck, skating like mad, doing whatever he could to score. The fact remains that I'm not sure he got one good shot away on the goalie. The guy has just completely lost his scoring touch and I don't know where it went. By the end of the game he was trying to win in the trenches, something that plays totally away from his skillset and that he won't be able to do effectively, and it didn't work out at all. I'm not sure where we go from here. The effort is there...what's missing?

Moreau
- Really good burst of skating, hitting and effort in the first period. We had the Ethan of old for a brief time. He couldn't keep it up, but still one of his better efforts I suppose.

Potulny
- Really enjoying his play still. Solid tip for a goal as the result of smart positioning and a solid play. Not many guys stand in for the Souray bomb like that. Well done sir.
------------------

Not much else other than that this was very disappointing. We needed this. SJ is getting absolutely destroyed by Chicago (who is cup-worthy if they don't have injuries) and they're gonna be pissed. Friday could get UGLY.

Hemsky Banter

I must admit I am somewhat at a loss.

This year, for no particular reason a substantial quantity of the "whipping" that goes around every year. It's truly silly to rag on one of your top 2 point guys and a top 25 PPG guy in the NHL. He's a legit first liner we are very fortunate to have and at the deal we've got him, one of the best bargains in the NHL.

And yet his practice habits are questioned (later with corrected context by the coaches but this fact seems completely ignored by many commentators), his efforts this year are demeaned, "only a top 2 player in 3 or 4 games this year" was probably the quote that set me off.

If you cannot see that he's been important to most of the wins we've had this year I probably cannot help you. He stirs the drink. He and Penner complement each other immensely. One does not have the success they are currently having without the other.

Penner is lauded because it's such a leap for him. Hemsky is lambasted because it's only a moderate one. Sad really.

Watching them both skate through checks this year, really showing how hard they're willing to work to win, has been a revelation. They have looked truly excellent and if given any supporting offence will surely lead this team to many wins.

Yet Hemsky is slagged on as if he wants nothing to do with the team and is lazy and skips practice...this makes no sense.

This has nothing to do with keeping him around either...this is not about not offending his sensibilities as I'm sure he can handle that, this is about accurately reflecting the on-ice events.

The stats say he's producing. Sight says he's producing. He's been top 2 on our squad. Easily. The only man that competes for top 3 with Hemsky and Penner is Visnovsky, but he of course is responsible for playing for a very different type of game.

This is especially surprising in light of the last couple games, where Hemsky has been utterly stellar. I'm sure he's doing just fine in practice aside from a specific event that was highlighted. That's about being fair and consistent as a coach. It doesn't matter who makes that mistake, they should be commented on.

In one of these episodes, Hemsky was compared negatively to Joni Pitkanen. This further enraged me. Pitkanen was one of the most talented guys to wear the jersey in the past few years; he also produced very well for us. He was excellent. Because of a coach who was unable to connect with him, and I'm sure to some extent because of a media bent on re-affirming their ability to exploit "access" to the team into value for the reader and therefore slagging him because he was quiet and a little different, he is long gone.

This process is illogical and silly. Hemsky's been excellent this year. Or maybe no one will give anyone any credit until they put 215 points on the board? Unless of course they're a slug. But that's another rant...

11/23/09

LMHF Game Report #13

EDMONTON 4

VS.

PHOENIX 0
-----------------------

There are many ways it's possible to feel after a win, despite the prevailing "a W is a W is a W is a W" sort of line. Tonight was not tremendously satisfying, but instead more like the needed dispatching of a team that we should handle with relative ease and certainly did for a couple periods.

The only two criticisms I'd have of our squad tonight are that we got a little weak in the third period, and that we took way too many bad shots (most of which didn't reach the net) that kept this from being a 7-0 game. We were spending our time outskating and outworking PHX to get goals and we should have kept doing it. That turned out in the end to be just fine, but there's nothing wrong with continuing to head to the well if there's a constant flow of water.

Don't forget when we play PHX that we are still in Ilya's head. Odd how that playoff season was so dependent on the heads of the opposition goalies but it was. If we'd have discovered Cam Ward's kryptonite, well, you can figure it out....

For all you Dubnyk fans out there - he looked excellent in warmup btw. Very controlled and tight in his movements.

Back to the game; it seemed like it might be our kind of night when Souray's goal was banked in by PHX, then really became ours when Horcoff's goal counted where he could't make one count against Chicago. Some times the game is just that simple I suppose. We did indeed get a couple breaks tonight, but we also got some strong efforts which will be covered in PLAYER REPORTS
--------------------------

Deslauriers
- First so I don't forget him like last time, though I highly doubt I could. I'm not sure a guy could have rebounded any stronger, sustaining his great play even during the ugly defensive effort in the third period. I thought Quinn might give his top line a little more ice to make sure he brought this one home but he didn't. Deslaurier's rebound control only really slipped in the third period because of the onslaught. Prior to that he had this sucker under control and did a superlative job of showcasing his flexibility, athleticism and size. Beauty effort and boy did he look pumped. Good for him!

Hemsky
- Continued to play very very well. He spent his night carrying the puck through opposition checkers (which, if you're looking for something, is what has really improved with him this year) and making plays. It's too bad he wasn't able to connect as he could easily have had 3 by the second period. When he wasn't directly generating offensive chances, he was busy drawing penalties, which he did with hard work and smart skating. Beauty game.

Penner
- It's become routine to say he played well and I hope we never forget how far he's come. His game is usually quite simple: a couple power moves here, PK there, shot from the slot here; smart skating play there, some good passes, yak a somebody who's giving a smaller guy trouble, throw some poor bastard around behind the net, simply get it done. What a luxury that this guy is on our team. I'd never thought we'd be saying that. 9-2 on the dot BTW.

Gagner
- Not his best effort I'd say. There were a number of times when he had the space to do something with the puck and was unable to decide whether to shoot or distribute. He flat whiffed on his best chance of the night which wasn't the easiest play in the world but still Sam should put that in. I hope Quinn keeps the lines this way though because the other 2 are good enough to help Sam out while keeping some balance in the team. Sam will find his way playing with these guys.

Horcoff
- Again a very solid effort. He made his linemates a lot better on the ice and did a pretty solid job of controlling the puck and making simple plays. He also found a way to contribute offensively which is key of course. I'd like to see him make his passes a little more decisively, but for now he's doing fine.

Jacques
- Very effective tonight. Aside from making it dangerous for PHX defenders to play the puck (job #1) he made some nifty moves with the puck and even channeled his inner Penner for a couple of wide outside drives. Probably one of his best games of the year. Was in front of the net causing trouble on the Souray goal.

Brule
- I didn't notice him too much tonight but thought he played okay. His best chance game on a LW rush in the second period where he had a great chance to unleash his hellish shot and didn't quite catch it all. Bryz had cheated and Brule probably would have scored if he'd gotten it. He struggled a little on the defensive side but not so much to hurt us.

Moreau
- Great to see him go wide and get one. It's been FOREVER since any of us has seen that. Probably his best game in quite a while too. Needs to cover the points better in his own zone though. He used to be great at that and is now caught running around constantly.

Cogliano
- What can really be said other than that the frustration continues? He simply cannot get anything going offensively, and simply being a decent defensive player isn't good enough because he's not elite at it.

Potulny
- Another excellent night of hard skating, getting open in places to shoot, then making the play necessary. I'd really like to see this guy stay around as a bit part, especially if we're able to parlay some of our skilled players into a top-sixer. He's exactly the kind of guy this team needs in the bottom six to complement some of the bruisers. He's growing on me.

Stortini
- Well, after getting beat up some guys shrink from the game but #46 did not and I give him credit for that. He went to the net and drew PHX's ire, laid some hits and was generally a pain in the butt. Solid game from Zack.

Reddox
- Did his job again I suppose. Couple hits, an offensive chance, decent D. Don't really need much more from him despite looking forward to the day he is again replaced by a more skilled guy.

O'Sullivan
- Handled himself well dealing with what was essentially a demotion. Not much to be had offensively on the line he was playing with but did a solid job on special teams.

Visnovsky
- Souray's shot gets the press but this guy's play wins trophies. I'd wager to say that Visnovsky makes the offence of this team go like nobody since...well Coffey I'd bet. The guy is incredible. He can control a game with his skating and passing. I think he's generally the biggest reason we win games and probably the biggest reason we won tonight. The thing about Lubomir is that by the time you realize he's made a mistake, he's already got the puck back and probably made a pass to a streaking forward. As usual, he was calm, collected, distributed the puck excellently and led from the blue line. Great game. We should all be very happy we get to watch this man in an Oilers uniform.

Smid
- Flat solid. Unspectacular but he didn't need to be. Great to see him getting in Bison-whoever's face, pissing him off, then waltzing away like the tougher man. This guy is everything we need in a top 4 defender.

Souray
- He played well and controlled the puck from his own zone. Watch how effective our offensive rush is when he jumps in. I repeat this point a lot but even tonight though the goal resulted from a PHX player putting it in his own net, it was Souray barging into the zone again that created it. We almost need a set play to get him moving with speed into the zone. It's lethal. He was solid on D, but his shot was ineffectual save for one. He can do better than that. Pity he didn't get to Doan or Bison-idiot...that woulda been a funny beat-down to see.

Staios
- Pretty solid in my estimation. Certainly not as effective as last time out in that he didn't really have anything to give in the offensive zone, but also didn't make any really horrible defensive mistakes.

Gilbert
- Much better. He bumbled the puck a lot less, and just like Lubo caught his mistakes rather than panicking. This is a good thing and represents a sign of the normal Tom Gibert. As he improves there, he can resume jumping into the offence and being the effective guy we know and need. Here's hoping Tom.

Strudwick
- Again I didn't notice him bobbling the puck away, so again I'm generally happy.

PLEASE NOTE: These player reports likely reflect mostly first and second period sentiment, as periods like the third are often harder to judge or don't stick out like the others did.
----------------------

MY 3 Stars

Deslauriers
Visnovsky
Hemsky

HON M to Horcoff and Penner.
--------------------

HUGE games Wednesday and Friday. We need those games like you wouldn't believe. We need to win and HEAL. If we can somehow get this ship turned around and start adding players, we'll be fine.

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

A sad note tonight: Just before the game my fiancee was notified that one of her best friends from High School had died of a lung infection; she was also pregnant with her first, having been married just last year, and the baby-to-be died as well. Stuff like this reminds us all of what's really important in life. So this game report goes out to Shawna Ali; I didn't know her well but had met her a couple times and she was a truly exceptional person who lived all of her 20-some years to the fullest. I thank her for helping make my fiancee the woman she is today.

11/21/09

LMHF Game Report #12

EDMONTON 2

VS.

CHICAGO 5
-----------------

In a lot of ways we didn't play that well tonight. Our D was weak, our #1 goalie was out when we really needed him to play, and only 1 forward line was really playing alright.

On the other hand, if some things go another way, this is such a different game. There was a Kane pick on a Chicago goal, the impossible call on the Hemsky/Horcoff/Huet play, Potulny (2nd) and Reddox especially (3rd) missing gimme goals. To top off the misfortune and indignity for the evening, Ethan Moreau gets run into Huet, which should have drawn the Oilers a much-needed powerplay and instead Toews puts the nail in the coffin on an illegitimate Chicago powerplay. There were even bad icing calls. A lot of "circumstance" was at play in tonight's game.

Both #2 and I went into tonight's game thinking that it would either be a blowout for Chicago or the Oilers would pull out a victory. Chicago wasn't really ON enough to blow us out; and we didn't take advantage of the chances that could have won us the game. Huet wasn't very good and while the Chicago D moved the puck well, they were perfectly vulnerable. The first line did fine in creating offence. O'Sullivan was doing well. Cogliano was skating through with complete ease.

But nothing. Those players we had ready to shoot in the slot last game weren't there. That was the difference, as it so often is. Anyway, let's talk PLAYER REPORTS
--------------------------

Gilbert
- I really thought he'd come back with a great game tonight; so much for that idea. I'm a huge Tom Gilbert fan, but he might have played his worst game as an Oiler tonight. Aside from being horrible in his own zone (I believe he had two seperate shifts with 3 giveaways within 20 feet of his net for example), he didn't create any offence and skated utterly horribly. The guy was falling all over himself. I swear that Tom's got some kind of complex going on right now. He's an excellent skater and passer and is simply doing neither. He even made Strudwick look good by comparison.

Strudwick
- Probably his best game of the year to be honest. He didn't really many mistakes, covered his man, passed the puck okay and even skated with it occasionally. I didn't mind him tonight at all. Especially next to Gilbert who was so bad.

Visnovsky
- Didn't create too much and had one of his weaker games. His weak games are still okay, but we need him elite against Chicago.

Smid
- Definitely one of his weaker games. Despite trying to be tough, which is good, and skating with the puck okay, he wasn't as good defensively as he usually is.

Staios
- Not as good as last game. He was shakier. Better in the offensive zone sort of in that he controlled the puck alright; too many silly shots though. Defensively, he was just okay.

Souray
- Certainly angry and wasn't able to get anyone to scrap with him (I imagine his reputation precedes him), generated a goal with his shot and played pretty decent defence. He was especially good in the corners and skating with the puck some.

Stortini
- He made a couple defensive mistakes and was summarily benched. One thing that he hasn't done in a while is generate some offence and he needs to do that to be effective. On a night when he couldn't hit, wasn't a pest and didn't generate offence, the best place to describe him would be useless.

Jacques
- Started out great with many hits that should have got us going. I suppose in that sense he did his job. Showed some rust with the puck which hopefully he will knock off.

Gagner
- He wasn't very good, but was also set up to fail. I truly question the wisdom of Quinn to put out Jacques-Gagner-Stortini as a line as it has precisely zero chance of being effective against Chicago. Sam wasn't able to really generate any offence and certainly wasn't all that good in his own zone. I didn't see anything special.

Cogliano
- He kept skating through the Chicago D and kept getting the puck on his stick. The problem with his game is that he suddenly has completely forgotten how to do anything productive anywhere near the net. He either took weak shots, gave the puck away, or passed off badly. Cogliano should have had at least 2 goals tonight. There's no reason he should get those chances and not score. He's more than talented enough. It almost looks as though he's lost his intensity and focus on the ice. He needs to find it and quick. I'm not sure how patient we can be with him honestly.

Brule
- Quite lackluster compared to what we've seen from him in a number of games this year. The thing to remember is that this guy is still finding his way and should not be expected to lead. I still think he was more effective than a lot of guys on the roster tonight, though he did get whacked around physically some.

Reddox
- Missed a glorious chance at 4-2 that would have completely changed the game (and I really believe have led to an Oilers win). Other than that I really didn't notice him much.

Potulny
- Did his job and got a couple shots. Can't particularly expect him to drag a team out of a loss.

O'Sullivan
- Did his thing offensively and generated a bunch of chances for others but wasn't really able to get a great shot away that could have changed the game. I'm very pressed to think of when he last really played a bad home game in that he's always very solid. Basically it's as simple as he's never "the problem" on the ice.

Moreau
- Put forth an effort I suppose, but certainly not effective. He definitely got jobbed on the penalty though, that was not his fault in the least.

Horcoff
- I thought he was much better tonight. Specifically in the offensive zone he was shielding the puck with his body and making smart passes leading to chances to score. He was finding his skating lane more effectively than in other games this year. I hope he's getting his health back because they need him; but I'm not sure how I'll be able to tell anymore since it seems like everyone's injured all the time. Very positive on Horcoff's game tonight.

Penner
- Really good. I like nights when he scores garbage goals. Did exactly what he needed to do and kept driving the puck. Can't hold this one against him.

Hemsky
- Good, not great. Made his plays, was good defensively and at least tried to get the team going. No doubting the first line controls the puck and it's largely due to him.
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Yeah, I'm not sure we had three stars tonight.

I got a fair bit more depressed as I wrote this. I thought it'd be more positive when I started out. Oh well.

11/18/09

LMHF Game Report #11

EDMONTON 6

VS.

COLORADO 4
----------------------


After what seemed like forever, we finally got to see the home town crew again tonight. For those not in attendance, rather than absence making the heart grow fonder, the Oilers were welcomed back with quite a bit of listlessness by the crowd up until the latter end of the 2nd period. I'm quite sure that tonight's game was a sellout only because the Oilers would have bought up the remaining tickets, as there were a ton of empty seats and standing room spots to be seen. With the club seriously slumping, the fans didn't seem very excited about the prospect of tonight's game.

But then again, for a period and a half, neither did the Oilers.

We started out as we so often have since the brisk start to the season...taking weak or dumb shots with no chance of even generating a scoring opportunity, skating weakly with the puck in the neutral and offensive zones, making weak dumps and weak passes our chosen method of play. It appeared that this would be another episode of simply muddling through a game rather than playing it.

I almost wonder if it was a blessing in disguise that the Avs managed 4 goals. Deslauriers wasn't very good at this point, but the Oilers D was atrocious. Gilbert missed an easy check on the first goal. Gilbert and Strudwick played "who's the worst down-low defender" on the second, and shooters were left wide open to pick their spot from a clean lane on the third and fourth. Pretty unacceptable.

All the while, the first line short of chugged along, effective and consistent as ever, albeit with the added twist of moving Horcoff to the wing for much of the night (Penner took 15 faceoffs and was playing in the C's lane for much of the second half). The other lines played weak, ineffective hockey for a long time.

Perhaps it took their Captain getting an elbow in the teeth to wake them up. They were certainly more into the game after that and suddenly you almost felt like we could claw our way back in if that goalie just held on for us. Colorado was weak and slow all night; they took advantage of bounces but were tired and/or lazy for a bunch of the time.

So then we started getting players that can shoot (Gagner, Potulny, O'Sullivan) into the slot and working to get them the puck with some open space. What a shocker...they scored goals. Rather than weakly throwing a bunch of useless pucks on net, we used positioning and hard work to create chances and made no mistake. The EN goal was fitting and the topper for a number of reasons, but more on that in PLAYER REPORTS.

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

Hemsky
- Easily the best Oiler on the ice tonight. I'm not sure what game 630 CHED called, but Ales was sublime in all ends of the rink. He set up Horcoff's goal with a smart drag-and-shoot move, set up numerous chances with some beautiful passing, continued his defensive clinic from Columbus in terms of things like positioning and skating the puck out of harm's way (beautiful example of this in the third), ran the cycle like a mad man, then, fittingly, skated through about his 100th check of the night and put the game away with the EN goal. It doesn't get much better than his effort tonight even without 4 or 5 points. The guy was excellent. He even logged almost 23 minutes of icetime.

Penner
- He played really solidly everywhere except in front of the net. He probably had 3 chances that were bobbled somewhere in between his feet and stick that he converts on a night when he's hot. Penner was solid on D, controlled the puck beautifully, skated by the opposition D on numerous occasions and just like Hemsky, was awesome on the cycle. The reward could've been much bigger for those two tonight.

Horcoff
- I'll give him credit for improving as the game went on and a solid effort on the LW for the first time in a long time. He was okay. He hustled for his goal and was certainly in the right place. With that said, there's a reason non-stupid people were yelling "don't give it to Horcoff" when the first line was on the ice...he fought the puck hard tonight. We never did get to see a replay of the shot he missed on after Hemsky's setup on the PP in the first, but that must have been close. Horcoff has watched as Penner has stepped up and Hemsky has figured out how to work really well with both Penner and Visnovsky. Horcoff needs to figure out how to be more effective in this new style. I suggest entering the zone with speed on the wide sides without the puck and making sure he's open in the slot (not the faceoff circle) more often.

Brule
- His shot is a lethal weapon and a difference maker on this team. He only needs about 5 feet and a fraction of a second to take it as well. Beauty goal. He worked quite hard and improved his game in the defensive and neutral zones in the third. Before this point he was a little shaky. I've also noticed he tends to pick his spots better with hits than he did before. Great work on the forecheck leading to O'Sullivan's goal. We're going to win that Raffi trade even if off-ice stuff isn't factored in.

O'Sullivan
- Great to see him go to the spot he needs to be in and pot a goal. He was solid and unspectacular for the rest of the game, but did what he needed to do then. Nothing wrong with a nice controlled game from him. He doesn't need to sizzle all the time. Keep in mind that he's also fourth in scoring despite limited time with the premier guys on this team. He's a huge part of our wins this year in terms of being a calming on-ice presence.

Reddox
- Gave what he had and worked really hard. He keeps his game simple even if the junior scorer tries to break out from time to time. He's not quite good enough to manage that at this level, but then again he doesn't really have to. I still hope he turns into Pisani 2.0...but I dunno...

Potulny
- I'm a little perplexed as to what's wrong with this guy to the point where he keeps winding up in the minors. He can skate, shoot, seems to know where to go in the offensive zone, is just fine with the puck...he really looks like a useful offensive depth guy in the 11-14 forward range...maybe it's just our team makeup I don't know. Really liked his game and thought he generated several offensive chances. Good solid finish on his goal.

Cogliano
- Not near visible enough for me. He looked weak on the puck and is just bringing nothing towards the net that I'm able to see. I know he's probably lost some confidence and is struggling, but the guy has the tools to be an offensive threat and is doing nothing. Brule is seriously outclassing him in terms of being able to be a speedy difference-maker.

Gagner
- Great to see him back on the scoresheet, but honestly I expect better from Sam. He was weak on the puck for much of the game tonight and didn't take control at any point. A good example was his net drive in the third that ended in a weak poke check. Sam had them beat, either with a quick shot or a move around the pile, and couldn't do either. Needs to get back on the horse.

Stortini
- Did his job after the elbow, not much time for anything else unfortunately.

Moreau
- Another injury, I'm so shocked. He was actually playing a decent game before getting whacked.

Arsene
- Great story on this guy and he made a lot of solid puck plays tonight after he was asked to step up in light of Tom Gilbert being benched. The sad thing for him is that I think he might be a better hockey player than Strudwick (positioning, skating, passes esp) but he'll still get shipped out when people are healthy. Glad to see him play though.

Strudwick
- If you need an example of how NOT to defend a 5-on-3, watch Strudwick. He spent half his time there on his stomach. Brutal. Just not good enough. Outclassed by Arsene. Made bad passes and basically got Gilbert benched with his horrid work on the Avs second goal.

Gilbert
- We've fallen a long way when Tom is getting benched. Thankfully for both him and us he was able to make a small offensive contribution to outweigh the fact that he is for some strange reason getting manhandled behind and in front of his net this season. It seems like he's not using his body positioning effectively and is panicking because of it. Needless to say, not good. I think the benching will help him out, as Quinn will follow up and tell him what he needs to do. Tom's still an excellent defenceman; he's just lost his way.

Smid-Visnovsky
- I address these 2 as 1 because watching them work together is simply amazing. With this pair and the 1-line on the ice, we're essentially home free. Smid does what he's learned to always do; intimidate the opposition, skate all the pucks he can out of trouble, and just generally stabilize the heck out the back end. Lubomir distributed like a mad man as usual and creates all kinds of offence. The sheer joy of watching a unique premier defenceman like him, even when he starts of a little jumpy and loses some pucks, is worth admission. Simple things make great plays, like the way he jumped up into Hemsky's rush that resulted in a goal. He does them all the time like it's nothing at all. Sliding all the way across and putting a perfect low shot on Budaj's far pad so that if it didn't go in it went straight to Gagner...poetry with a puck.

Staios
- Probably the best I've seen him this year. He took solid shots at the net, played physically, moved the puck well and didn't look slow. He stepped up on an night when we needed it.

Souray
- You can tell he's working himself back in more than anything. It was good to see some nasty play and a couple big hits, but his shot needs A LOT of work right now. It's misfiring and getting blocked (without opposition players going down hurt) all over the place. Simply not good enough. He defensive game was fine, and the drive to the net on Brule's goal was a typical example of how good things happen SO many times when he drives the net, but our ace defender can be much better than this.

Deslauriers
- Despite a weak defensive effort early on that led to the conditions for goals...he really looked off as well. He made a save or two before the 5-on-3's got heated and those saves I believe put him back in a really nice groove. After that he was doing what he does best; making himself as big as possible in correct positioning. After that, while the Avs didn't get a lot of shots, they had many great chances and he turned aside all of them. He held our boys in just long enough and then shut the door to finish. Good enough!
----------------------------

My Three (Oilers) Stars

1. Hemsky
2. Visnovsky
3, Smid
----------------------------

Chicago is sure to be a stern test, but remember, we have a nice long homestand and players that will be filtering back. Sounds like a recipe for a nice little roll for me. If the forwards that scored tonight have truly snapped slumps...we are again quite dangerous.

11/16/09

A Treatise on Shooting

Ever since I could remember, the hockey players I've followed most closely have been the ones who could fire the puck. Why exactly this is I'm not sure; could be from watching my first games as a kid, could be my fond memories of having the best slapper in the league when I was young (using the ultra-whippy Bauer Supreme, it was black and gold and I scored nearly 50 with it one year, only to graduate to XX-flex sticks after the growth spurt hit) or maybe even playing NHL 94 and unleashing the fury of the Bondra-Iafrate-Hatcher Capitals on an unsuspecting opposition. I don't think I ever lost a game as the Capitals and those slappers were my weapon of choice. The ability to strut in over the blue line and blast the puck by a goaltender who has full view of you and knows exactly what's coming is one of the most fulfilling ways to score a goal, and you can usually see that in the joy on the faces of those in the NHL or even in Atom who do it well. We had a guy on my Midget AA team who could do it with such ease. If he'd been 6'2" instead of 5'10" I'm sure he'd still be playing somewhere.

Shooting is one of the single most misunderstood parts of the game. The problem begins in that newcomers and casual observers seem to think it is the most simple part of the game. Gotta shoot to score right? Taking more shots is always better right? Just fire it at the net right?

WRONG.

These sentiments could not be more wrong. Shooting is one of the most complicated arts to master in the game. I've noticed that hockey moms are often the most guilty of the "SHOOT" disease in hockey rinks, but I don't really blame them for this as it does seem simple. The thing about shooting effectively is that it must be done in the midst of the entire fray of the game. With everything else going on, you must find enough physical room to deploy your selected shot, obtain the space to put the puck through, decipher where to put the puck so that it has the best chance of reaching the net (read: net behind the goalie, not "on net"), how to disguise your intentions, and many other internal calculations within the game if you hope to be an effective shooter. Those who do this well are those able to slow the game down in their own minds and see clearly. Shooters are not panicky. They are calculated. Though the shot often comes off in a fraction of an instant with an utterly violent motion, that motion is controlled and decisive. The best shooters have this procedure so programmed in that the process simply looks like an instinctual and savage movement.

I maintain that Wayne Gretzky was the best shooter ever. It's true that there have been many greats including the Hulls, Bossy, Sakic, etc., but the way Gretzky was able to simply beat goalies at will is undeniable. Watch film of him and you will see how he used the entirety of his skill to position and time shots in order that they find the back of the net. See the Vernon goal in 88 over the shoulder. See his 5 goals to get to 50 in 39. See countless times where he intentionally banked point shots off of his own linemates for goals, or saw a goalie out of position and used his pad, back or skate to score. His combination of accuracy and (when he needed it) power are unmatched from my eyes. Some older observers might dispute it, but he's the best I've seen because he understood when, how and where to shoot better than anyone. You didn't see Wayne Gretzky firing off stupid shots into defenders all the time, or getting checked because he was busy trying to shoot from a bad position. Also, from what I've seen, when he truly needed to score, he went to his forehand, which is another thing I've observed that great goal scorers will always do.

Alexander Ovechkin is probably the best shooter playing today. Watching his wrist shot alone is worth the price of admission. He has a really unique approach and release, but I think this often distracts watchers. Ovechkin is a truly great shooter because he uses the entirety of his game to set up his opportunities. Half of the reason he has a lethal shot is his skating speed. Many observers do not understand the impact that skating speed has on shooting power. It's something that you can't really understand until you've done it I suppose, and they don't showcase it in something like the hardest shot competition. Ovechkin is also the very best at moving the puck so slightly as to be able to do what looks like shooting straight through a defenceman. He's not; he's created his own small lane and uses his quickness to unleash devastating wristers before the defenceman can react. There are not many NHLers that can do this, as it is so much more than skating up to a defenceman and shooting it magically by him.

To bring this discussion back to your favorite team and mine, it has been spouted by so many that the cure to what ails the Edmonton Oilers is simply to take more shots. More shots will magically equal more goals and this team will be fine. There are a number of reasons that this simply isn't true, but more on that later.

The fans that attend live games, many of them anyway, do not seem to grasp the intricacies of shooting. They call for shots on the Powerplay most frequently, missing the whole point of the 5-on-4 situation which is not to get more shots but to get BETTER shots that are of higher percentage chance to score. The point of all that passing it to create a lane to another player collapsing the defensive box and creating a situation where a forward (usually) has an opportunity to shoot at an undefended, possibly screened and hopefully out of position goaltender. Simply taking more shots accomplishes none of this and relinquishes the puck control that the 5-on-4 situation affords you. Your goal is not to blast 100 pucks in the general direction of the net and hope that 4 or 5 go in. If your team somehow manages to score 4 or 5 goals in half your games, you'll be a pretty great team in this league. Doing this requires better chances, not more pucks directed at the net.

Directing a puck towards the net accomplishes absolutely nothing in and of itself. It can in fact be a negative because if you do not score, create an offensive rebound or cause an offensive zone faceoff, you've turned the puck over to the opposition who can then break out on you. Odds are you're also out of position at this stage.

If you gave a team a goal, and that was to direct 50 pucks at the net in a given game, I submit to you that this team would not win hockey games. The easiest shots to take are often the ones least likely to go in. An undefended shot from the blue line, even when you're Sheldon Souray, is of relative ease to take, but has a very low chance of success for many reasons. The shooting percentage that teams have is not simply because they direct pucks at the net, but is because they direct some of the right pucks at the net.

The Edmonton Oilers of 09-10 have many problems in the offensive zone right now. The desire to shoot is not one of them despite the howls of the peanut gallery. When this team has been in position to take effective shots, they have not been shy at all about taking them. Gilbert Brule is a great example of a talented shooter who's made a lot of his chances so far this year. I wish we had 3 of him (ideally one that was 6'3", but those kinds of guys go first overall). What has occurred lately is that this team is not getting itself into the positions required to take effective shots, and not corralling rebounds in high percentage areas where goals are had. There have been many games this year where we've had an obscene number of pucks blocked after they were poorly directed at the net. This needs to stop. Our game in the offensive zone has become much less fluid despite our roster which is structured to play a very fluid offensive style. There are teams that can play the table-top hockey style game, stay in place and fire shots. We are not that kind of team. We need rushes (Hemsky, Penner), passing plays (Gagner, Cogliano), players in position for rebounds (Comrie, O'Sullivan), and room to fire shots (Brule, Moreau). We are a perfectly capable offensive team that is more than capable of getting into ideal shooting position and taking advantage. We simply do not create these opportunities on enough occasions.

This process should be the focus of our efforts as a team. Simply focusing on directing pucks will not lead to wins, only to frustration.

11/5/09

*ADVISORY* No Game Report #10 tonight

Hello all,

I apologize but there will be no game report this evening as work activity does not permit me the time either tonight or tomorrow to write one up. Sorry guys!

#1