An update on the mood of the crowd for those who are interested:
- The loudest cheer of the game by far is currently for the ESSO On The Run promotion. By about 3x. How sad is that? The loudest cheer at a live sporting event is for a pre-recorded pre-determined "contest" video. Yuck...
- Shawn Horcoff is not only getting about 1/2 boos and 1/2 cheers when he's in the starting lineup, he's also getting less reaction than Paul Lorieau.
- The seats were empty tonight. In addition to no-shows, Katz had to have footed the bill for some seats. The 2 singles near my seat, which sell and are filled for every game, were empty all night tonight. Never saw a soul.
- I'd say about 75% are cynical as hell, while 25% are too naive to know the difference between what's going on down on the ice and what should be.
So on to the game. Two rather horrendous teams facing one and other in a "battle" for 2 points. To say I was less than excited for this one is an understatement. When I saw Visnovsky was scratched that became even more the case. At least if he's in a game you know something might happen.
One thing that was study-worthy was one Devan Dubnyk. I'm not the highest on Dubnyk to begin with, and tonight didn't impress me much. I'm not sure how much he can do with the team currently in front of him, but the areas he has trouble with are rather odd. Shots from straight alongside him are an adventure whether they go in or not. He either has an issue seeing sideways or squaring up to his posts. He was nearly beaten on at least 3 weak shots from the side. And not crazy sniper-rips either. He's also slow moving in any direction generally, and unlike Deslauriers doesn't use his size to make himself big via positioning. I don't really get why people think he will be all that better based on his attributes.
I felt it odd that the combination of Gilbert Brule, Ryan Potulny and Patrick O'Sullivan were playing together. To me it makes sense to have one of these guys on each line...or maybe 2 with some big corner-owning brute of a player, but playing all 3 together is rather non-sensical. The only guy I saw really benefit was O'Sullivan. He played a relatively physical game, which was something to see. I could see him playing with a bit of edge and being fairly successful as a guy who could walk that line. He's smart. He also hustled and showed some willingness to battle for the puck. I didn't mind him.
Brule wasn't anything spectacular in that he never really got his shot off and that's his mission in just about any game. 2-3 of the beastly shot and one's likely to find twine. So long as he doesn't toss a bunch of pucks up the middle of the ice and generate goals on us (which he didn't) I think he's played his part.
Potulny offered balanced solid play and a couple of halfway decent shots. Again, I think he was utilized incorrectly.
Let there be zero doubt that Penner is irritated and not in the kind of way that would turn him into a bull. The kind that makes him take the long, lazy strides back into the play, virtually erases the physical "get out of my way" game that he was so effective at early on, and makes him just another guy. He's not getting his shots on and in either. It sure stinks to see a guy career-ing and get it totally de-railed. I have to wonder if he'll ever be as good as he was at the beginning of this year with a healthy Hemsky.
Nilsson is better, that much is obvious. But he's doing it with zero pressure and all kinds of chances. The 3-on-1 break he had today, where he telegraphed the Penner pass to death and therefore had it taken away, is a perfect example of why he's still just not good enough. An assertive offensive player, which is what he needs to be in order to make things happen, either makes that pass or sells is totally as he did then goes roof on the stupefied goalie. Not Nilsson. Oh well.
Poor Shawn. As I mentioned earlier he's getting it pretty bad from the crowd despite being one of the only guys who still at least LOOKS like he's skating hard after pucks and not giving up. He did however bounce several pucks off his own skates today, and miss a gimme one-timer and a gimme at the side of the net that required only one step not to miss. I don't want to bag on him too badly because again, I'm not sure there's much he could do, but healthy or not he's lost in the offensive zone.
I was relieved when I didn't seem to see Moreau or Cogliano until the second period. They are both contributing pretty well zero right now. Moreau because he holds the puck, won't pass then gives it away (multiple examples tonight) and Cogliano because he never is able to get himself open in an opportune position. I don't know why he's lost this skill.
Part of the Oilers trouble is that their offensive zone entry seems to consist of a semi-diagonal dump-in on almost every play despite the fact that they score their goals on rushes with at least one puck movement or lateral move. I don't know why Buchberger is diagramming plays...
Stortini I could do without at the moment. In a non-intense environment he's just not useful. I hear they've got some guy on the Island who can bat pucks into the net? I'd kill for some entertainment on that ice right now. At least Comrie will be back soon...right???
Good to see Fernando back in the uniform. I do fear that it's merely a countdown to his trade to a contender (so long as he's healthy) but at least a good guy will get a chance. Hopefully he'll come back in the offseason at a reduced rate. Good to see he can still shoot a puck off the rush. That we will likely never get to see how useful an O'Sullivan-Comrie-Pisani line could have been for a full squad this year saddens me. That's the kind of depth line you want to have.
Ryan Stone is at the very least a competitor. One thing you can definitely see in person is that he's getting insanely frustrated. He's continuing to attempt to do what he did before, but no one is there to follow up it seems. He made a solid zone entry and pass play to set up Gagner's goal.
I don't mind Sam on this line, but I still have to wonder if he's stalled. This would be a tragedy because there's so much skill in there. Ever notice how Sam is falling on nearly every goal he scores? It happened again tonight. I think a more confident Sam doesn't botch the two other net-side chances he had by 3 feet a piece though, those were ugly.
Lovely play by Grebeshkov to jump in and be open to pass to Sam. I could hear the SHOOT morons preparing the initial S when he made that well chosen pass to Sam. They'll never understand why that was the right thing to do even though Sam scored. I didn't notice him too much besides that other than a semi-physical altercation in front of our net in the second period.
Strudwick did alright for himself and never really looked out of place or exceedingly slow. At least he hurt somebody with a shot?
Staios did what he does, which isn't anything exceptional at this point.
Smid suffers a little without Visnovsky but not much. He maintains a generally physical game and skates with the puck as he always does. He's just not able to play with as much abandon or benefit as usual. The place where this is most noticeable is in offensive zone, where Smid who is an effective pincher, is effectively neutered. Just another weapon out of our arsenal.
Souray has rediscovered his wrister, which he used more effectively tonight than his slapper to generate a couple scramble chances that probably would have been cashed in on if we gave a damn. He took a slapshot from the hashmarks that may have perplexed some...yet if he makes it we have a highlight of the night so I can't dog him too bad for going with his best pitch. I just wish there was some semblance of the nasty defensive zone Souray that is more useful on a lot of nights than the offensive stuff. I find the D actually gets him into the O.
I think I might have figured out what's going on with Tom Gilbert in that he's rounding out his game. I know he's been unspectacular this season and is certainly cast in a less offensive role, but he's really becoming a more "steady" type of player in a lot of ways. I've been reassured by his play even during our downturn that he will be a rock for this squad if we choose to keep him. Don't forget that given the opportunity while he won't hit Visnovsky/Souray totals, he'll be close.
At least I was able to salvage some analysis out of one of these games. I was starting to feel somewhat lacking in that department. So much of what I see is because I'm able to put myself in the mind of the intense competitor and try to see the game through their eyes and their decisions. Right now we have maybe 1-4 of those guys a night. It's gotta really stink to devote that much energy to a losing atmosphere.