At least we were entertained...
and not even by the Penguins. An Oilers team that gave half a damn showed up tonight for whatever reason. I suspect it was something like a combination of the fact that they were due for a decent effort and that they got pissed off at the Pens early on.
If Pittsburgh falters substantially this season I suspect it will be due to a lack of discipline. They showed a lack of discipline both in their play in the first 2 periods and their general hook/hold/questionable hits/picks mentality. They do it far too often. Even Malkin gets himself into positions where he could easily be called for a lot of penalties.
It is true that Pittsburgh stepped up their game in a serious way. It's also true that we generated a bunch of chances to score the third goal and failed. I'd decided very early on, after Dubnyk looked in control and after realizing Horcoff wasn't in the lineup, that I really wanted the boys to win tonight despite the whole draft pick situation. It would have been very gratifying. At least there was a small degree of fun in the fact that some of our more intense players showed up to play and did not a bad job at all.
Even with all the positive, one of the things a lazy unmotivated team does consistently is dump the puck back in on delayed offside rather than hold it, pass it around and try to make a play, we did it a bunch tonight.
One of the things a lazy team doesn't do though is backcheck effectively, but we did this for a couple period tonight. Nilsson made 2 great backchecking plays to prevent chances on one shift in the second alone. Props to him. We prevented a bunch of good chances and even prevented a bunch of shots as was evidenced by the fact that we were leading 2-0 and outshooting Pit 17-8.
But we all know what happened in the third. It's really too bad. How that first goal got right through Dubnyk I have no idea, he was stellar up until that point. More on that in PLAYER REPORTS
- For 2 period he was square to every shot, consistently despite some solid efforts from Pitt. The amount of times his blocker flashed out and knocked a pretty good shot out of play was pretty impressive. His saves weren't weak in the least. He's shown a lot of progress in the couple games he's played. Namely in reaction speed and playing what looks like more of "his style". Early on he seemed to be doing a lot of standing up. It looked awkward. Tonight he was fully engaged in a crouched position and used it to his full advantage. I'd still like to see him force shooters with his frame a little more, but that will come. His breakaway stop especially was calm and beautiful. Well done Devan, despite crumbling massively in period three.
- I barely saw him all night. I remember a couple of PK shifts and that's about it. I'm not sure why they didn't jump him up front to play some forward if they were going to bother dressing him.
- A fairly quiet night for Steve. When we were going alright in the second he fired a couple of fairly effective shots towards the net but there was no effect. Nothing to complain too badly about I suppose.
- I'm convinced that Denis will come back hard next year, but again tonight he was making mistakes. This included bumbling the puck in the area he's usually best (blue line to top of circle) and some scrambling around in his own end. It didn't really hurt the team in the end, but it isn't standout Denis that we got used to seeing.
- This was one of the rougher nights I've seen for Smid. He got knocked around fairly badly at times, including on the winning goal where he was pasted into the glass and looked shaken. That was a borderline penalty but alas no call. He didn't really lug the puck much and didn't make any key pinches. Both he and Lubomir backpedaled with a more frantic pace than usual and it seemed to throw them off as a unit.
- He was excellent on the PP as he always is. None of our defencemen are better at readying themselves for a pass, spotting forwards from a long while away, then making a good connection with the puck. He did this effectively and provided some life to our game. The goal was classic Lubomir. 5-on-5 he was doing too much panic skating. It didn't hurt him directly, but it sure didn't look like the #71 we know and love.
- He cared tonight. Likely because he got pissed off early on after some of the Pens were taking liberties with his teammates. There were plenty of times he played on the borderline but did it effectively. You could see Malkin wanted no part of him. He went after Cooke a bit (albeit a little too late) and kept Guerin from running over us as he is able to do if he'd really put his mind to it. His shooting was hit and miss. The slapper wasn't really on the money tonight, but the wrister was okay. I think he actually plays better when there are more wrist shots from him.
- Meh, not his best night but far from his worst as well. Its still taking me a lot of getting used to mildly invisible Tom Gilbert being an okay thing. If his passing would step up just a bit, the issue wouldn't be there. He doesn't need to score a ton of goals or anything, but he could chip in with the passing.
- He got a few really good scoring chances tonight. At least 4 I believe with 2 being of the prime variety including 1 in the third. He predictably did nothing with him. As I've stated previously, he certainly wouldn't be a sure thing on my team if I were running it. He's not exhibited the effective parts of his game near often enough. He could have tonight as well, with Pittsburgh's undisciplined play and all. Oh well.
- He got one really great scoring chance in the second and completely froze on it before hitting Fleury in the pads. He's struggled mightily in the offensive zone since his return, and there wasn't a particularly large amount of physicality in his game. I expected better being that he was playing his former squad.
- There wasn't much evidence he'd make an impact early and he clearly didn't get icetime because of it. Jacques is a first two shifts sort of guy in my mind. If he doesn't land a whopper he could often and should often wind up plastered to the bench.
- I certainly liked his game a lot tonight. That play he made to create his own chance, miss Oilers goal of the year so narrowly, then follow it up with a great seeing-eye to Visnovsky for a goal was a beaut. He was the only one creating lanes for his teammates on the PP. This is one of his gifts and why he rather than Nilsson needs to play that wing with Penner if they want to score. He also made the pass to Cogliano to set up a goal after the Oilers had spent most of a 5-on-3 doing precisely nothing. There was a lot of motivation in his game tonight. He even landed a hit or two. I did see a couple giveaways, but that almost seems a given for a creative offensive talent against a squad like Pittsburgh. Even the dark there is occasionally a glimmer. If we're to be a good team next year, please give this guy another shot for a full year on a team that gives a damn. Should've been on the ice at the end of the game trying to score with the goalie pulled.
- He simply keeps on playing a simple and effective game. I know many have already covered it, but for those who missed it, he is the first Oilers player I remember to draw two penalties at once as he was aggressively hooked by Adams then jump-hit by Malkin, resulting in a 5-on-3. Hilarious stuff. Good solid game on a good solid line.
- He fit in really well playing with O'Sullivan and Potulny. That line really looked solid. I had always recommended that he be placed with O'Sullivan and Comrie to begin the year but that never occured. Fernando works with a player like O'Sullivan specifically and will occasionally be given the shooting lanes he needs to do his work. Fernando's game was simple tonight, but effective, just like Potulny but with a different style of course. Fernando's never shifty, but he's also not deterred easily.
- I mentioned his backchecks earlier which were extremely impressive. He also made a great move that nearly resulted in a goal in the second period, dekeing out Fleury only to be rammed into him by Malkin resulting in a pile-up. I was disappointed when neither Jacques nor Souray beat anyone up there. There were plenty of worthy candidates. He also bobbled the puck a few times but was generally strongish. I'm hoping this play leads to a team in need of some playoff scoring depth to take a chance on him. I've always said New Jersey would be a good fit but we'll see. I still don't think he's on an improving Oilers squad in that the top level of his skill will never be part of a core.
- If you're wondering why he didn't score on his one-timer in the third that could've won us the game it's because he didn't fall taking it. He always falls when he scores. Sam seemed more stable on the puck tonight and took on his responsibility well including doing quite well for himself on the faceoff dot.
- Back to his old self, Penner bulled the net a number of times, got set up for one-timers and threw people around rather mercilessly. It's a shame he didn't have Hemsky tonight because you woulda seen 4 or 5 points and a big Oilers W that we all would've just loved. I have no real doubt he'll be in fine form next year and a joy to watch. Until then the only thing we'll have are solid efforts like tonight that go largely unrewarded. I would say his only failing was on he breakaway where he failed to read Fleury's coming pokecheck. I think Dustin needs to develop a stronger forehand move as he is becoming too reliant on the backhand. Goalies will scout it and he's got a great shot that's being under-utilized.
- He tried so hard to take stick penalties tonight it was unbelievable but somehow he managed to get away free. I really don't know how. Other than that I thought he was pretty bad.
- Poor Andrew, it even takes him two whacks on a gimme goal these days. I didn't mind how hard he worked surely. I've decided I hope they're able to secure him at bit-part salary going forward or he needs to be dealt this year. I think he's already lost the dynamic part of his game. It's not that he's fudging shots so much as its that he's not generating the types of chances he did before by using his skating strength to stretch the D and offer his D the chance to hit him for 6. It just doesn't happen this year. Watch for it next game.
O'Sullivan, Penner, Visnovsky (due to PP performance)
So, what is this magical thing that Shawn Horcoff does that was missing tonight and we still nearly beat the Pittsburgh Penguins with 40 minutes worth of effort? I'd really love to know. (I've come a long way with Horcoff, but I still don't understand how people think he makes such a big difference when he's not putting the puck in the net).
Memo to Oilers-turned-Pens fans for one night only. Actually cheering loudly for the other team like that, not even a player, is incredibly effing lame. I'll remember who you were if I see you at another game cheering for us. It's less genuine now.