NEW JERSEY 0
Judging by my experiences so far this year, the east must really stink.
I was unimpressed by Washington's supporting cast when they rolled into town, and somewhat underwhelmed by Pittsburgh's already. Now New Jersey comes to town and lays an absolute stinker. It wasn't even much of a challenge beating those guys tonight.
The only guy that threatened was Kovalchuk. He looked dangerous and got some shots off, including a breakaway chance in the third, but no one else really did anything. Parise looked pissed off more than anything...Langenbrunner went to the net...Elias went to the box...I dunno. The Devils D is hurting. I didn't recognize most of them and they didn't really accomplish anything with the puck. The amount of cross-crease passes they allowed was rather inexcusable.
As for our guys, generally the effort seemed to be there. We were committed to defending and did a solid job of keeping craziness away from Deslauriers save for a few minor scrambles and the Kovalchuk play noted above. It wasn't as if we gave an insane effort, but this one could've gotten borderline out of hand if it weren't for Brodeur. Our passing game generated some really solid chances that we didn't cash, but this was one of the more secure 2-0 wins you'll ever see. For more detail, on to PLAYER REPORTS
- Excellent tonight. Simply flawless. He looked in control and steady at every turn. He wasn't under heavy fire really, but turned away the one key chance that probably secured the game (Kovalchuk on the breakaway tried to beat him five hole and didn't come close). One of the reasons I still love to see this team win at home is that Jeff has worked hard this year and brings a focused attitude to every start. He's earned nights like tonight.
- Last game I wasn't totally sold on Whitney, but tonight I really liked what he did. Between he and Gilbert, a lot of ice is covered and it is rather difficult to get anything going. Even though Whitney isn't physical, he uses his body well in positioning, controls the puck when he gets it, and seems to be a bit of an ornery SOB as evidenced by his confrontation with Andrew Peters at the end of the game where he was clearly under Peters' skin and not backing down an inch. He and Smid, plus maybe one more guy of this type, would make a tough group to play against to compliment our more offensive guys. One specific play stood out for me from Whitney tonight; in the first, I believe before the 10 minute mark, he skated to the neighbourhood of our own blue line, made a great pass to a forward gaining entry to the zone, skated into the slot and made the forward aware he was open for the pass, took it perfectly, then faked the shot and held the puck rather than taking a harmless wrister, skated around behind the net and got it out front, I believe to Potulny (?) for a great chance. That's the kind of play the really good ones make. It impressed the hell out of me. He was good everywhere tonight and led us in minutes again. If the foot thing is at all overblown, and this is a sign of things to come, maybe there's an upside here.
- I can honestly see the Whitney acquisition as possibly being in order to get the perfect partner for Gilbert. They're both giants even if they don't roam around crushing people, and Whitney's presence and solid skating allows Gilbert to play a freer offensive game than some of the other guys we have. I enjoy watching him play this game. He's at home on the offensive point again, and looks solid on the PP with Whitney as well. Perhaps a Gilbert-clone-type wasn't a bad idea?
- I didn't really notice him much, which is usually a good thing. I don't recall him being caught or whacking too many pucks carelessly up the boards, so that's good.
- Solid night for Taylor. I liked the way he skated with and moved the puck, while also playing fairly solid D. The one thing I'm worried about is that I still didn't see anything spectacular in the offensive end from him. If he's going to contribute, we need some of that.
- Quieter night than last for Theo and I think that's his ideal way to play. He needs to realize it's better for him to be the hammer reserved for necessary poundings than the agitator. We don't really need a defensive agitator. Very little in the way of mistakes.
- If he keeps up this play, I'm signing him in the offseason as 6/7 guy. He's been better than Staios was certainly. The biggest thing I notice is that he's a decent skater (doesn't get beat going back into his own end), positions himself well, and makes decent decisions with the puck. Is there something we're missing that's wrong with this guy or are the extra 7 shifts he's getting here making him a better player? I was always a better defender when my play jumped from 15-17/game to 23-27/game, maybe it's true with these guys too.
- I think this was one of his more effective games in a while. He was annoying the heck out of the Devils. That's his job. He also skated well into the offensive zone and went to the puck. He also flubbed a chance Comrie gave him in front of the net, and couldn't corral a 2-on-1 pass from Horcoff (it wasn't a great pass) when he should have scored, but I didn't expect him to make an amazing play. He hasn't had this kind of game in a while by my eye and he needs to if he wants to keep his job.
- I counted about 5 passes he made to the front of the net that could have resulted in Oilers goals. He was consistently offensively effective and didn't turn the puck over at all. Just the kind of game he needs to play. He got the puck to O'Sullivan, Potulny and Stortini, 2 of whom should certainly have finished his passes and didn't. That was disappointing, but didn't take away from the positive nature of his game. There was a pass in the first that he made right through Colin White that was just sublime. Gotta keep him next year. He's consistent at least.
- He was getting to all the right places, the puck was getting to his stick, but there was no finish. Perhaps he's having confidence issues right now, because he would've scored on these earlier this year. Positionally solid, and skated well. Can't complain about the basics, but he needed to score.
- There were 2 or 3 shifts tonight where he looked right. What I mean by looked right is that he entered the zone intent on going to the net, took one hand off his stick an bulled his way. He didn't finish and there wasn't quite the drive he sometimes shows, but it was better than he's been lately. I didn't see anything great in the other ends of the ice.
- He got better as the game went on. Early, he was skating to strange places, shooting badly and giving the puck away. In the second, he picked his game up a touch, but seriously botched a great chance in the slot. In the third, other than the badly executed pass to Stortini (Horcoff can't do saucer passes), he was solid. He nearly tipped a nice one in after making a really solid zone entry play and was generally effective. In the defensive zone he was good.
- I didn't notice Fernando much other than him receiving a couple passes and getting the puck in deep. I suspect he was trying to get back into the swing of things, but I hope Fernando spends the rest of season essentially recovering so that he's worth a bargain deal next year. Comrie-Potulny-Pisani works.
- He made a really solid extra effort play to get the puck to Pouliot for his goal. I guess there were a couple other moments when he did some fairly nice things, but he generally didn't impress me. He needs to want the puck more, essentially.
- His goal was interesting. He took a really solid shot on the rush and beat a goalie who was playing quite well. It was a bit of a slow release, but that combined with the far-behind angle likely helped it go in. It's hard to take advantage of the skill to do this on a more regular basis would be my only concern, as getting this much room on a rush is difficult. He was decent enough with the puck and played the positional game he knows well.
- Looked like he made a pretty solid play on the wall to set up Nilsson prior to the Pouliot goal, which was good to see. I'm not a big fan of him playing on a line with these two as I'm not sure it really accomplishes anything, but at least they got the goal and didn't really give anything up.
- Got a couple really good chances, including in front of Brodeur in the second and a similar chance in close in period three. It looked like he landed a couple of hits, which was refreshing.
- Certainly a nice goal, but I'm not sure I saw much besides that. He got knocked over by Parise a couple times, which was surprising.
- Again, I didn't see much. He had some excellent shifts in the second where he played with speed and tried to hit a few people. I wish he'd play more like this.
My 3 Oilers Stars
Apparently we haven't lost to the Devils at home since 1995. Don't we have a similar streak in the opposite direction against Ottawa? Eeep!