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12/31/09

LMHF Game Report #21

EDMONTON 3

VS.

TORONTO 1
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Apologies to my dedicated readers (especially Mowzie) for the lateness of this but a friend of mine was providing conversation and a tab at the bar in the bowels of Rexall and I'm not going to reject free sugar cane based beverages on a non-working night.

I'm so very glad we won tonight. Fall for #1 pick notwithstanding, I couldn't have put up with these moronic Edmonton Leafs fans that some of you shameful season ticket holders let into the building if they'd managed to win. We had the worst of the worst I'd say; the "SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT" "GO Leafs" every 30 seconds, chew-chomping, Oilers-booing (you don't boo home teams in their own barn, it's pathetic), anthem interrupting (Leafs fans are the only ones who interrupt the anthem to yell) losers who got exactly what they deserved tonight as they were beaten by us after playing a pathetic game.

I didn't realize how bad Vesa Toskala has become via television. Having now seen him live, and realized that we could've probably scored 8 or 9 times if he'd had even a little more of an off night despite us not really putting forth a great offensive effort was really amazing. He waved at just about every puck then awkwardly scrambled to get something in front of it. This team with Hemsky, Comrie, a non-injured Horcoff and Khabibulin would've won 12-0 against this sad sack bunch.

I was downright angry that the defence let down Deslauriers and didn't get him his SO. He won this game for us tonight and played spectacular. He had control of the puck and the game until the Leafs were allowed to take 4 successive shots from in close and even then it took a bad bounce to beat him. I was even more pissed that it was Kessel who got the goal because I truly hate that arrogant puke. His style of play is hilarious to me. In the west he wouldn't last half a season before someone broke him in half. If any of our physical defencemen were half-motivated (looking at you Sheldon) it woulda happened tonight.

A great big thank you to Jacques who put that arrogant joker Komisarek in his place and made him bleed. Where this guy gets off thinking he's some tough SOB I really don't know. It's hard to believe that a career could go down the toilet as fast as this guy's has.

The moron behind me kept going on and on and on about Kaberle. I see that he's good, but Visnovsky puts him to shame. He's not in the same class as a guy like Lubomir.

I feel a little bad for Ian White being stuck on this team. I remember watching him in the WJC's years ago and thinking he might amount to something. He seems to have made it there and is doomed to play for this team during his time to shine. The fact that he directed one of our goals in past his useless goaltender just added to that sadness. I also enjoy the way Lee Stempniak plays the game. He's wasting away in TO. I'd like to pick him up next year and let him do some secondary scoring. He could be our Rene Bourque.

This game was probably one of the worst I've seen Shawn Horcoff play in a while. I don't like his style at the best of times but tonight his giveaways were just plain ugly. Like passing the puck to no one ugly. Not impressive to say the least. I'd guess he's disinterested.

But then again, so is Sheldon Souray. I've never seen him flip a puck lazily up the boards as many times as in this game. He wasn't committed to skating with it at all. There was no will to work for anything on his part. I can understand the frustration, but have some pride man...

Our top line was disappointing for me tonight. There can be no doubt that Penner is down at least two notches from where he was not that long ago. Whether he'll elevate his game for a while or just play out the string I don't know. He had at least 2 chances (one he generated beating a man himself and another one-timer off the rush) that he would've scored on recently, but he didn't really come too close.

Nilsson made a couple nice passes including one to Gilbert that Tom whiffed on, and also made an excellent play to the slot in the third where he took a really nice slapper (he needs to write that play down and do it once a game, he'll score 20+), but other than that was pretty invisible. I'm still on the "trade him while he has value" train.

Gagner had his moments including some solid skating and passing on the PP, but again I just don't think he's all there right now.

Did Ethan Moreau even show up other than to take a few useless shots and dump the puck in some? Not that I noticed.

Again, props to Jacques for his contribution. I didn't understand the star selection as from my recollection he did a whole lot of nothing with the puck and didn't really hit that much. Did I miss something?

Cogliano can't seem to do anything right. I remember one quick burst into the T.O. zone and that's round about it.

If we were a good team, say with Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky running out there racking up pluses and a line like T. Hunter-Arnott-Brule riding shotgun, I could really get behind this whole O'Sullivan-Stone-Potulny thing. They are indeed the epitomy of what I would use as a third line in that they are capable of really solid 2-way efforts, have 2 excellent skaters, have someone who can hit, and all of them can score if given the chance. I don't think we'll ever get to see anything like that but a guy can hope.

O'Sullivan got a couple really great breaks but I think you have to give him credit for taking advantage. He could have created additional offence if linemates cashed in on the passes he made so I wouldn't say his offence was limited. We might've scored on his bank shot anyway. He lept into the play nicely on his breakaway after being in a good position to pounce. What I was impressed by was that he FINALLY used something from his substantial repertoire of moves to make a goalie look stupid. Granted it was Toskala but still...why doesn't he play with that confidence, that which he had in the preseason, more often? I don't know.

Much as I like Stone's game, this was one of his weaker ones because he kept passing the puck either to no one or to the opposition. Not a great thing for a guy whose benefit is that he brings a simple game more than anything else. He needs to be better.

Potulny wasn't as noticable as I would've liked. I remember perhaps one good shot directed at the net and he needs to be more effective than that. I don't remember any particular lapses from him though.

I noticed Stortini more than usual tonight. I'm not sure that he actually accomplished alot though I do remember a very solid offensive chance that he didn't wind up coverting. Oh well I suppose. I like his game when I notice him 3-5 times offensively and he pisses someone off. I think he did okay on that tonight. Moreau now that I recollect got in the face of Colton Orr who is wearing a tinted visor for some reason...what's with that?

Isn't it funny how much Jeff Finger sucks? And how much he's getting paid? I swear that one never gets old.

I think we could use Grabovski even though I'm pretty sure he's crazy. He plays like a crazy person. Maybe we could turn him into Andrei Kovalenko...a type this team is sorely missing.

Smid made a couple great defensive plays tonight including one that hurt him in the third...I believe it was on Kessel. He isn't skating with the puck as much I noticed though and that makes me wonder if his motivation is starting to wane.

I did notice though that in the third when the team was trying to get Deslauriers the shutout by strangely collapsing and giving T.O. a bunch of chances they hadn't earned, it seems as though Steve Staios of all people was the one bearing down and preventing some key chances. I was surprised then when he was beaten on the Kessel goal, but I put a decent amount of that on Souray. I watched it again and still have trouble believing that he was bearing down for his goalie who deserved a BLANK tonight.


I didn't see anything particularly dynamic from any of our defence tonight.
----------------

Wouldn't it be great to play in the least? Toronto was horrible. How they compete against pretty much anyone I have no idea. We played like unmotivated cattle and still beat them with relative ease and a good goalie effort. How do they ever win with Toskala in the net? Seriously?!?! It's just weird to watch. We'd get shelled 8-0 every game playing like they do. They've just go nothing.

I couldn't take a loss to that team tonight. We were very much due its true, and even if you want #1 overall horribly bad, you're not going to lose every game. You'd be punished by somehow losing the lottery if you did I'm sure of it.

Well, I hope I was a little more into the whole analysis thing tonight. I make no secret of the fact that I'm better at looking at players in wins than losses, but I was actually noticing specific things again tonight which is a positive for me. I was having trouble tracking anything lately due to the utter lack of passion our boys are displaying.

With that said, I'm not exactly thinking this is the start of anything particularly special. It's just beating Toronto, and thank gawd for that!

12/29/09

LMHF Game Report #20

EDMONTON 1

VS.

CALGARY 4
-----------------

I somewhat purposely left some time between the end of the game and my writing tonight. As I'm sure I've indicated lately, I'm left struggling for my usual inspiration to expound on the excellent performances and disappointments on the ice when there's no meaning behind them.

Watching my team and not hoping with all of my being for them to win, and to win big is hard. Watching this same spectacle against a rival is excruciating. I know where this season is heading and that in 1 year or 3 years it might result in a great victory, but that process rather than a smooth transition or a slow climbing upgrade seems this time to be one that will require a violent correction that will see the passing of some of our heroes, some lesser lights that will go on to become very good players, and some who should have been given up on long ago.

The end of this process is not the certainty that many people deem it to be. Just because we go through this pain does not mean that the injuries will heal and the glory that should have come true save for a series of unfortunate occurrences in early-mid 2006 will suddenly present itself. I am not one for changing a team this way. I believe in this new era it is completely unnecessary. But, it appears we shall go down this road together.

One thought I had, somewhat related to tonight's game and it's finish, is that we could spend this year making life hell for other teams. Stack us up with a couple more goons and spend this sad losing season beating on teams to the point where, even though they win more often than not, the just HATE to play the Edmonton Oilers. I could draw some serious satisfaction out of that.

Rene Bourque owns us it seems. #2 and I really thought we needed to take a run at him when he was with Chicago. Excellent hockey player with a great nose for the net.

Calgary wasn't particularly good tonight. Iginla played scared of Souray, but the fact that Souray didn't do anything with that makes me really think he's checked out. He can be a special player when he wants, and for long period of time, but he's not right now. Smid at least left some welts on Jerome's forehead. It's about time someone did. Glad that he took the battle to him even if it was late in the game.

I feel bad for Jeff Deslauriers. After being abused and neglected by a dysfunctional goalie development system for years, he finally gets his shot for a team that's got a shot at the #1 overall pick. He didn't play that great tonight but I highly doubt he could have made a difference. Giordano's goal was pretty putrid, and I suppose at least one of Bourque's should have been stopped. He made a couple very good choices with the puck which was good to see.

We took a lot of goofy shots. Many players were guilty. You can see in their efforts that they know the year is already over and that it pains them too. There's a level of commitment and drive and persistence that is present in guys who are in to win. None of these guys have it right now.

Dustin Penner has lost a step or two over the last few games. He's carried an awful lot of mail this season so I'm not one to criticize really, but I felt there was a lot more lumbering than thundering in his game tonight. That special little extra that he has shown was not present even for one shift. His shooting was imprecise, positioning off and skating slower than usual. I just expect better now I guess.

Gagner showed more than I've seen from him lately in that there were a few shifts where he was the direct offensive creator rather than simply a support piece. When I think of Gagner on the line with Penner and Hemsky earlier this year, I wonder where that player went. The one brimming with confidence and ready to take on the world. I wonder if he'll ever really be what he can. I think every now and a again that we should trade him. He's going to command big dough but may very well never be a dominant offensive creator. We need him to be.

Robert Nilsson has improved. I think he looked as confident as I've seen him tonight. He's never going to jump out or play that role for a good team though. He just doesn't have it in his game. That top gear that would allow him to be a top-six guy on a good team doesn't exist. We know what we have in him and it's not enough.

A guy like Horcoff, who I think almost needs a higher level of activity and intensity to get himself into it, drifts into the background on a night like tonight. I don't think I noticed him once. He really wasn't a factor. Does he know how to be a singular factor in a game?

Ryan Potulny just keeps chugging along. I do want to see how he plays on a team that's constantly in games. It's hard to tell without that, because he gets his goals like tonight and does a lot of little things right, but you wonder if he's just filling a role that some better player is supposed to be in. I can't tell anymore.

Ryan Stone just sort of did his thing. At least he's a consistently positive impact.

Stortini in a game like tonight should make it his business to cause a ruckus. He used to get people kicked out of games, now he's grown comfortable. He just didn't do anything. He needs a benching. He's too secure right now. If it's good enough for Strudwick, who played half-decently and worked quite smartly, to replace Grebeshkov for a game, then it's good enough for a forward that doesn't contribute offensively.

O'Sullivan is truly uninspired. He made some great passes and skated well, but didn't in any way dig in and compete. I believe this guy thrives in the trenches, but is not able to push his team into those trenches. It's just not in his mind. I'm not sure if we could ever get him to.

This is one of the first games I've seen where Lubomir gave the puck away a few times, didn't get it back, and didn't really create offence. Shame. At least that's entertaining.

Tom Gilbert on the other hand made a great pass and certainly looks to have it together. Maybe he can use the rest of this year to develop consistency.

Smid is probably my favorite though. Whether it was the fight with Iginla, a couple shot blocks, physical play, some excellent skating, he's become like a broken record. We sure need to sign him up for a while in that he fills a skillset we don't currently have much of.

Staios played ornery but didn't make too much happen. I enjoy it when he's not getting beat constantly though.

I have similar thoughts these days with Brule as I do Potulny. I'd love to see the effort he gives consistently on a third line as opposed to a first or second. He didn't make much happen tonight.

Poor Andrew Cogliano. What exactly he was doing scrapping I truly don't know. He needs to put a puck in the net. He did his usual routine of skating fast with the puck and then simply handing it over to Calgary.

Not that we're great at hanging onto the puck lately. Many players including some of our best made habit out of simply handing the puck over or shooting it away tonight.

Ethan Moreau I simply have no use for. I'll try and remember him for the year he was playing like our MVP.

Jacques doesn't skate well enough to hit the way he tries to. It's no wonder he gets hurt because he misses like he did tonight a few times, then simply takes a penalty. He's not an NHLer on a good team. Like much of this squad.
-----------------

I don't know how this team is going to stay together playing out the string like this. Its abundantly obvious what is happening. It isn't like the run we went on with the kids in that you always got the feeling that might happen. This team is not capable of rattling off 10 wins in a row a time or two. They just aren't.

12/28/09

Random Notes

A couple quick thoughts:

- No matter what happens this season, and despite the fact that wins now hurt our chances at one Taylor Hall, we need to beat Calgary tonight and Toronto in the next game as well. Just to keep our sanity. PLEASE win these 2 games. Find a way.

- These green Canada jerseys are BS. Total and complete BS.

12/21/09

LMHF Game Report #19

EDMONTON 2

VS.

ST. LOUIS 7
-----------------

Does it really get any sadder than getting spanked by the second worst team in the conference? I guess they're not after the victory but they entered that way I believe.

What took place on that ice tonight was near-blasphemy, seeing an Oilers team play that badly was an amazing sight to be sure.

I swear that save for one sequence, in the second half of the game our "offence" consisted of the times we dumped the puck after finally getting it out of our zone and then heading off to change.

I honestly wish that tonight was the last game for Ethan Moreau. He should be traded, waived or benched immediately. It's bad enough that he's playing a selfish brand of hockey that would only be okay if he were a 60-goal scorer...but his display at the end of tonight's game was the last straw for me. He's clearly not interested anymore and only in it for himself. For a captain to behave that way was unbelievably pathetic. Get him away from the impressionable youngsters who might have a chance still. Ethan's done.

Poor Devan Dubnyk. To wait that long and get absolutely shelled when your parents have driven from far away to watch as well. Some of the goals were certainly his fault, and I'm not going to say that he put forth a particularly good effort, but you still can't help but feel bad for the guy. To have your first start go 7-2 the wrong way is certainly not what dreams are made of.

The one positive tonight I saw was the play of Denis Grebeshkov. He played 20 minutes, was a +1. Skated with the puck a bunch and made lots of plays both in the offensive zone on pinches (he was clearly told to be active early) and in his own zone (the physicality returned). These are great signs for us. I hope Denis can string together some positive games and get a real flow going. We need him to be good for the future to look as bright as it should.

Everyone else was bad in their own special way I suppose. Even our best reliable vets spent this game passing the puck away to the Blues and giving them all kinds of opportunity. I think this team is already playing out the string to be honest. I'm not sure why they bothered with the effort on the road if they were going to mail it in like this, but such is life. Penner gave the puck away a few times and couldn't get much done. Smid and Visnovsky both went behind the net at the same time leaving a man uncovered and St. Louis scored; they had one of their very few off nights and were way off. Even the dependable worker bees were pretty bad. Cogliano was atrocious. Horcoff gave the puck away time after time. Souray took an idiotic penalty (I'm becoming convinced he's totally disinterested).

Perhaps the worst thing on the ice tonight was the refereeing. This went both ways. The Oilers had too many men on the ice for a time twice (and the Blues once). At least 2 PPs the Oilers got were incredibly weak, as were 2 of their penalties against (lifting a stick with one hand is not hooking, nowhere in the rulebook either). The most obvious incident was one you had to have been at the game to understand. When Steve Staios whipped the puck into the stands and got away with it, the ref looked to his linesman, who should have of course been watching the play and he said, for everyone to hear "I have absolutely no idea". WOW. Just WOW. They were horrendous all night.

Brad Winchester looked oddly motivated...I wonder where that came from.

The Blues seem to be trying something in the form of team bonding much like what we tried with the HIGH fives in the 05-06 season. Might be working for them.

Where do we go from here? I'm not exactly sure. Watching a team this bad that's on the verge of giving up is not something I'm used to or in any way desirous of. I don't think high picks solve all your problems and I don't believe that the teams we wish to emulate are tankers. I think I'm going to focus on moving my game reports to audio and use the rest of the season to master that. Maybe by next season with a reloaded roster, I'll have something great to talk about.

Let me know what you think in terms of audio-only, audio/written, stick with written, any ideas whatever that might help make this season productive and better. I just don't see the hockey turning around when even your guys with heart are seeing the writing on the wall.

So many things could have gone right...and they've all gone rotten. O'Sullivan, Comrie, Souray, Moreau, Khabibulin, 6-2-1, Hemsky, I could go on...all we've got is Dustin Penner and Lubomir Visnovsky.

Marc-Andre Bergeron scored his 8th and 9th goals of the year to raise his point total to 19 in 31 games tonight for anyone who's interested. He scored the tying goal with about 130 left and the winner in OT. Even played some 4th line center the other night. Wouldn't it be great to have that kind of thing happen to someone on our team?

Jeez...

Random Trade Proposals

To LA

- Sheldon Souray
- Ethan Moreau
- Devan Dubnyk

To EDM

- Corey Elkins
- Johnathon Bernier

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

To WSH

- Fernando Pisani
- Steve Staios

To EDM

- Tomas Fleischmann

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To NJ

- Robert Nilsson

To EDM

- Nick Palmieri

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

To BOS

- Andrew Cogliano
- One prospect defenceman

To EDM

- Blake Wheeler

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

Yay cap space!

12/20/09

LMHF Game Report #18

EDMONTON 2

VS.

WASHINGTON 4
------------------------

There were certainly times tonight when I thought we would come out victorious in this one. The problem was however that it wasn't because we were doing anything right in particular, aside from maybe the guy between the pipes I suppose. We hadn't made an ugly, stupid mistake yet. That seemed to be enough for a while as an uninspired Washington team wouldn't do anything and we got 2 great breaks.

It's kind of funny; as a team Washington is not top-to-bottom good. They have about 5 forwards and a weak D. The goalie playing for them tonight stinks. If we'd have gotten any halfway decent offensive chances and executed in even a half-way decent manner, we would've probably won 7-6 or something. We didn't. We were putrid at generating even reasonable offensive chances tonight. There was nothing there.

We scored 2 goals...one because Karl Alzner's foot got in the way, and one because the Washington goalie slid backwards into the net after stopping a sad breakaway effort and stopped another shot that was fired right at his pad...problem was as I said that he was in the net at the time.

It's not like we missed a bunch of great chances, I'd be more optimistic if we had. Even against Nashville there were times where we didn't do things we needed to, but we could have. Tonight didn't really even have that.

I wouldn't say Ovechkin was everything you could want. He looked fairly uninspired for much of the game. Sure he got into it later, but he could've done a few things earlier and looked disinterested. To be able to shoot a puck like that guy though, would be an amazing and unbelievable gift.

Semin didn't actually impress me much at all. Backstrom was better. Thomas Fleischmann is an interesting player. I would be most happy to get Brooks Laich on our squad. Steckel was not impressive. Green is a dirtier player than I imagined, though mostly taking protective measures more than anything.

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

Deslauriers
- I will fully admit I let myself think for a while that his team would keep this game sane enough that he'd actually shut Washington out. He was in a really nice groove for quite some time and lit up the first and second periods as our clear star. In the third it all became too much and attack overwhelmed him. He was left undefended with 3 Oilers standing around doing nothing on the first goal, Staios had no gap control and played the second goal like a total bonehead, the third goal was a truly elite-level shot and #4 was another incredible lack of D. He did enough. Admirable effort against a stupidly-effective onslaught.

Grebeshkov-Staios
- Everyone would have remembered Staios' PK shift if we'd won this game. His effort to block 3 shots and keep playing on a gimpy leg was pretty amazing it's true. It could have really lifted the team after a HUGE kill. Instead they had nothing. Denis seemed to be more solid tonight as well. I'm grading these players all however on the basis that the effectiveness of the D was generally quite poor. As soon as they were pressed, they folded.

Visnovsky-Smid
- Why is Visnovsky not on for as much of the PP as humanly possible? It's truly boggling my mind and everyone around me at the games. We all know Lubomir seems to be the best, most consistent player we have and that given any opportunity he always at least seems to create the possibility for offence, but he's not out there 5-on-4??? Really??? 5-on-5 he and Smid did fine until the third. Probably saw the 2 of them more out of position and scrambly than with any other team this year. Makes a lot of sense, but they also should have known what was coming from game tape. There are more than enough highlight reels around.

Souray-Gilbert
- The best of a bad lot I suppose. I've decided that I'd rather have the shots of Pronger or Bergeron than Souray. His is scary hard but does the job so seldom these days. Never see him generate the rebound goal anymore, which was a huge problem we had tonight. No effective low shots. Gilbert's doing alright for himself again which is a massive relief both for those who think he'll generally be worth his contract (myself) or those who hope his trade value goes up. I think Souray isn't bringing his full arsenal at the moment, and that upsets me.

Strudwick-Stortini-Nilsson
- So, Zack is a center now? Interesting. He did not too bad for himself really and probably played one of the better games I've seen from him in a while. He was helped by Strudwick who played a really simple game and doesn't have to run around. He seemed to have a pretty good grasp on what Quinn needs from the forwards. Nilsson had his moments but was unable to find anything special. I bet many are puzzled at his demotion...I'm not really. I think he had an opportunistic couple games and Quinn took a bit of a gamble. It didn't pay off, but probably didn't hurt either because...

O'Sullivan-Horcoff-Stone
- Is a nice line to watch. They're quite responsible and were pretty solid on the ice for a long stretch of the game tonight. Despite his lopsided numbers, #19 can play in all ends when you give him that job. I think that's what we should focus on. His effort in the offensive zone was SORELY lacking. He took ineffective shots and wasn't playmaking. Horcoff didn't help much there either. Their combined goal was more an exercise in fortune than anything else. For O'Sullivan not to score on that guy in that situation was shameful. Stone was okay but didn't make a really big impact at any time. He needs a little discomfort to creep back into his game.

Moreau-Cogliano-Potulny
- It's possible that we were okay in this game until Moreau ran out of gas. I distinctly noticed him shadowing Ovechkin on a couple occasions and it seemed to be working. I'm much more in favor of this type of defending than line-matching, even though it seems to be out of vogue. I didn't notice him attempting to defend very well when AO heated up. Potulny made good choices with the puck but generally didn't do anything explosive; not that we should need him to. Cogliano I felt good for, but he wasn't very effective aside from his goal and it only led to a confidence boost of approximately 30 seconds it looked like.

Brule-Gagner-Penner
- They couldn't really manage anything as a group tonight. No one was able to step up their game and create offence at will the way the might have in other games. We needed that at there was just no hope of it this evening. That's really too bad as we could've gone shot for shot and at least supplied some entertainment if they had.

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Having seen this team at home now for 3 games, I'm losing what was left of my hope. They have not showed the tenacity they had on the road despite finally having a D worthy of competing at a high level. I suspect far too many players are hurt and/or attempting to do more than should be asked of them. It's going to be a long, painful year because I just can't cheer or take any joy in watching this team lose. It sucks. It's sucked for every year for a long time except for one magical year that couldn't even end right. I don't get why people cannot be moved out and I really don't get why this team that was supposed to compete wasn't loaded up with cheap UFA veteran depth to ensure that nights like this didn't happen.

This is going to be painful...again...:(

12/17/09

LMHF Game Report #17

EDMONTON 3

VS.

NASHVILLE 6
---------------------

I could sit here and type about how Ryan Potulny missed two sure-fire one-timers that could have won us the game or talk about the PP we should've had where Nashville instead got one and scored the backbreaker, but I think I'm taking a coach Quinn on this one and saying that would just be an excuse.

We need to win when we score twice in the first few minutes. There's no excuse for not doing that. If you don't win after that and the momentum it brings then you flat out screwed up. Not much more to it than that. We had them and we let our feet way off the gas. We slammed it into reverse and wound up planted firmly in the windshield. Wear your seatbelts boys.

It certainly did seem as though we were skating in sand at many times. We also had to play weak players too much and that doesn't help. Then the lines were jumbled up and it didn't really do anything. I have a feeling the Horcoff struggle has set back in. Being that he only took the one faceoff and was generally in-effective after showing some progress, I'm betting he's regressed. Should be only a matter time now before his disappears from the lineup. Not good for our faceoffs or defensive zone play.

Deslauriers wasn't exactly good tonight; I originally thought he'd hold us in after the initial barrage in response to the timeout Nashville called. He did...but the barrage didn't stop. After the levee breaks, it's pretty hard to put the water back in.

The flood was aided by the pairing of Grebeshkov-Staios. They are terrible together. Simply terrible. The criss-crossing that goes on at random times throws the other one off and suddenly there's an odd-man situation and tonight that meant a puck in our net. They need to be broken up. Of the two I thought Grebeshkov was a little better in that he at least contributed some solid passing and jumped into the play.

Smid and Visnovsky were our best pair, which is to be expected but even they weren't tremendous. Visnovsky was our offensive catalyst once again. We need to get him the puck more on the powerplay as he seems to be the only consistent way to get the puck in.

Souray and Gilbert's efforts were pretty pedestrian to me. Souray needed to get that shot on net tonight.

I viewed Stortini's play tonight as largely a liability. To be effective I find that he needs to contribute some offence. He didn't. He is weak in the defensive zone on the lines that he's liable to play on and didn't help much of anything there tonight.

Jacques looked a little tired or beat up or something. It could be that he's being asked to shoulder too much responsibility right now when we need a team where he's fourth line optional to bang and crash. He's not.

Stone was okay, but just okay. He wasn't really irritating and might not have been used terrible effectively.

Cogliano's game waned considerably tonight. He spent very little time with the puck on his stick and didn't compensate by skating to the openings he needs to.

Potulny as I noted needed to bury his chances and did not. That isn't to say he had a particulary bad game, just that he got his chances but didn't manage to finish and that's his job.

Moreau didn't do anything meaningful. He's gone.

Nilsson took advantage of the opportunities afforded him, and got a few more chances and took very good shots. Again we run into the problem of him having to be played in a role far too elevated for us to win. There will be nights like tonight where he gets 2, but he's still just an opportunistic player. There's nothing wrong with that at all, you need those guys to win, but he can't get a lot of minutes most nights.

Horcoff I covered earlier. I think he's just games away from being gone for a long time.

Brule only showed flashes of brilliance this evening rather than the recent consistent efforts. I'm not sure he ever got into the flow of the game though. I really enjoyed him on the line with Potulny and O'Sullivan on the PP.

Speaking of O'Sullivan...he did some good things. He set up Potulny for what should've been an excellent goal, laid some hits and was more effective than lately. It's upsetting that we have to talk about a pointless game in such a fashion as this, but that's been his performance lately.

Penner was really good and hampered by the refs I suppose. He's suffering without Hemsky though in that he would really be challenging for the league lead right now with him. He's playing that consistently.

Gagner was certainly better tonight in that he was a better distributer of the puck early. Nothing amazing though.
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Apologize for the briefness tonight guys. I'm tired and that game was very uninspiring. Perhaps there'll be more to discuss tomorrow. Til then!

12/15/09

LMHF Game Report #16

EDMONTON 2

VS.

LOS ANGELES 3
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It was great to be back in the building tonight watching the suddenly inspired Oilers play hockey once more. To be honest the reaction from the home crowd was underwhelming. They weren't particularly excited to watch a team going for its 6th straight win; that disappointed me.

We played well at a few different times in this game. It was very much up and down. We were good early, generating many free pucks in the scoring area in front of the zone but not getting to enough of them. Quick wasn't particularly great at this stage, he just didn't let any bad ones in. We had our chances but couldn't take a good whack at them.

LA then controlled until later on in the second period. In this time, Souray scored, and Nilsson, Penner and Horcoff all should have. Those blown chances, 2 clear breaks and a downed goalie, wound up costing us the game in my estimation.

We kept control until a 3-4 minute stretch in the third that saw LA storm our zone. Their goal wasn't pretty in any way shape or form, and I honestly couldn't believe we got beaten again by an iffy point shot from a weak defenceman. Unbelievable.

After that we had our chances too...I could not believe however that Quinn stuck with Nilsson late in the game when Potulny was easily the best offensive player available at the moment. Penner fanned on another in a game of missed chances. Sad really to go down fighting that way.

I wanted to check Deslauriers save percentage in the third period over the last few games. He's allowed all of 2 3rd period goals in the last 6 games. I was convinced he wasn't going to allow #2 save for a fluke...and it happened. Damn.

Watching this team was almost like encountering a new one, more on that in PLAYER REPORTS
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Penner
- To be honest he disappointed me tonight. It's not that he was bad but that he didn't dominate at any point. He didn't really go on any great rushes down the wing or take more than 1 great shot. As noted he missed a great chance in the second and a good chance to tie in the third. He needs to finish at least one of those. There was a rush he made in the third where the same move he made against STL was open to him and instead he centered the puck to no one. He was just a little off tonight. He also had another tip chance off a nifty pass by Gagner that just missed.

Gagner
- Save for a couple shifts I really wasn't very impressed by Sam tonight. He seemed to be forever in the way and a step behind the play. He won more battles in the corners than at times this year but just couldn't create any direct offence. He needs to playing with Brule and Penner.

Brule
- Still looking really solid. He took a couple of really good shots and missed the opportunity to take a couple of others. His skating was good and he worked hard in the corners. The perplexing thing about this line as opposed to the last time the team was in town is that they didn't look particularly fast or dynamic but more plodding than anything. They got chances but they weren't explosive. I'm hoping they are better next game, but maybe they just got worn out tonight.

Nilsson
- The first half to 2/3 of the game saw a totally new Robert Nilsson. He was working his butt off, took some shots at the net, and was even hitting people AND separating them from the puck. It was truly amazing. Then it happened...the slot-double-clutch. After he started doing that, his offensive zone play got awkward and he simply wasn't as effective as he'd been. Robert needs to let that wonderful slapper go when he's free and clear in the slot, and he refused tonight. Shame. He was on pace for a great breakout game. I think the promotion might be too much pressure for him. Being on the PP definitely seems to be. He cannot be relied on to be the guy carrying the puck in; and abandoning the carry for the dump just doesn't work in a modern PP. They proved that with how many times they gave the puck up that way tonight.

Horcoff
- He was just okay for me tonight. I don't think the new line combo worked very well for him save for a couple shifts in the second. He had one really excellent chance in front of the net that simply required he hold the puck for three feet and go up; but instead he took a weak shot that was easily stopped. Didn't look good on the PP.

Stone
- Great to see Ryan Stone and his brand of positional, physical hockey back in our lineup. He does indeed make a difference in the makeup of this lineup. All he needs to do is keep doing what he's doing. The first two periods were really strong for him, the final one less so.

Potulny
- Crazy idea: when Hemsky comes back, Potulny should play with him. At least on the PP. Any guy who can bang the puck like that can play with Ales and score a TON. What an utterly beautiful goal that was he scored, first making a good decision to go to Souray then readying to fire and making no mistake. He made many possibly unnoticed plays tonight either with the puck or without that show he's here to stay. Everything is moving faster for him now, while the play around him slows down. Ryan has found the NHL confidence that so many struggle to find. When he isn't scoring, he's skating well, playing his position and even getting physical occasionally. He won some very impressive puck battles tonight. Our best on the ice today.

Cogliano
- Definitely signs of life. He blew by several defenders while maintaining control of the puck which is something home ice hasn't seen from him with any kind of regularity in a while. #2 rightly pointed out that after he banged Potulny's already-goal back into the net, at least he'd finally put one in. He just needs to keep working and we need to stay patient with him. If he's not going anywhere for an upgrade, at least he's useful and working really really hard.

Moreau
- The Potulny-Cogliano combination needs a better version of Ethan Moreau on it. The 20-goal version. He's sped up his decisions and his playmaking to attempt to keep up with a line that moves at blinding speed now that Potulny is playing confidently, but it's still not enough and the play seemed to die with him much more often than either 13 or 16. That's too bad. I think it's time to 4th-line him, though only if they can establish another guy on that line in his place.

O'Sullivan
- Disappointing to see that the one guy who didn't take flight on the road trip is #19. He's got to keep plugging away. I really think Quinn will turn him into the guy who was here in TC eventually, but there are always some bumps along the way. Quinn seems to take a longer and more complete view of guys like O'Sullivan, so I think we shouldn't lose patience or claim he's on his way out just yet.

Stortini
- He didn't really do much. One really good shot on net but that's about it.

Jacques
- Bad fight, but at least he drew the PP. Good hit previous to that, but Stone is a better hitter overall.

Gilbert
- Tom looks like he's turned the corner. He has returned to using his skating and his puck-moving ability to create time for himself to make better plays. He also is using his body to separate the man from the puck in the corner. These are the things Tom needs to do to be effective. When he knows he can skate, the opposition is forced to back off as it was tonight. That is why Tom suddenly isn't turning it over. It's not that he was doing anything dumb before, it's that he wasn't using his strengths to create a situation where the offence has to respect him as soon as he has the puck. He was panicky. Perhaps he took a lesson from Smid, who skates the puck out of harm's way on such a consistent basis. Gilbert uses a more rangy approach while Smid works better by dragging his opponent in close, but it's the same basic idea.

Souray
- His shot seems to have smartened up. Had he not clanged one off the post we probably win too. Defensively I'm not sure, he was really confident with the puck but wasn't exceptionally physical. On LA's second period goal, he made a bad decision to lung at the puck carrier rather than truly shut down the pass to the stronger player, but he was in a bit of a desperate spot too I suppose. Mixed game from Sheldon rather than second star in my books.

Visnovsky
- He made a very uncharacteristic mistake and couldn't recover for once on that same play that left Souray flat on his face. Aside from that he was quite solid and made the same passes and decisions that we all know and appreciate. I think it's a mistake relying on Souray instead of Lubomir on the PP. Quinn chose Souray tonight. Was it #71 that made that fabulous breakaway flip pass to Brule that was called offside?

Smid
- What new is there to say? He was an utter joy to watch as he has been pretty much all year.

Staios
- I'd say he made the primary mistake on the first LA goal in that he half-committed to going to Brown and left the seam that got the puck to Richardson. Grebeshkov was caught somewhat, but it wasn't really his fault that he was caught. Staios could've made an aggressive play on the puck carrier with Grebeshkov taking away some of the pass option but Staios didn't. Aside from that he was quite quiet.

Grebeshkov
- Just okay in his first game back. You could tell he was playing a little gingerly out there. I'm not sure why he was up on the PP so quick, but at least he wasn't shy about jumpinging into the play. I'm sure he'll be fine, and Staios-Grebeshkov making up the bottom pairing sure make us a better team. We didn't give the Kings very many good chances tonight.

Deslauriers
- He was alright. I figured he could've stopped at least one of the first two LA goals. He wasn't going to get beaten on a straight play in the third though, as he was locked on. I'm sure enough people have commented on his puck-handling, which is certainly a little scary, but didn't get him into trouble.
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To be honest, I thought we were winning this. Especially when down 2-1 going into the third. And even with our horrid PP. A lot of big maybes and what ifs tonight. Oh well. Til Thursday!