...and with that our brief episode of winning ways comes to an end. Tonight wasn't like the games before the break though, in that you still felt for much of tonight's game that we had a chance to win.
The first period was both unique and entertaining. I'm not sure if you could hear it on tv/radio, but paper noisemakers were handed out before the game and they seemed to make a difference. These simple accordion-fold-style papers and back to back wins had the locals riled up for tonight's game.
In the first, our forwards passed up a storm. It was really nice to watch actually. Little plays that required a deft touch and great reads were happening with ease for the first ten minutes. For some reason we couldn't get anything on or in the net, but man did they ever make some nice passes.
Combine this, with the fact that Jeff Deslauriers played likely the best first half of a game I've seen an Oilers goalie play live. It was beautiful to watch. That man was locked on right in the middle of the zone and wouldn't let anyone else in. I thought he had another SO in him truthfully. He robbed Michalek from the slot, made an amazing reaction save off a bank off Chorney's skate, stopped Spezza in the slot then used superior size to cover up, then probably his best of the night was a stop off a Karlsson point shot and then stopping Fisher cold on an instant gimme rebound. It was amazing, he played ahead and his glove was already there when Fisher went to put it in, just brilliant. I agree he tailed off after the unfortunate first goal, but he gave his team every chance to win tonight. I think if Comrie scores on the penalty shot we win the game frankly.
It was a very interesting night for our defencemen. Chorney and Strudwick had very regrettable games, spending most of their time getting owned in behind the net and giving up scoring chances. It's unforunately that Chorney wasn't able to make more plays like the one I remember in the second; a simple play where instead of ripping the puck up the boards, he skated to the top of the circle, then banked the puck tactfully off the boards. That's the difference between a Strudwick, and someone who will be better than a 6/7. I remember on the goal during the 5-on-3, trying to figure out if Strudwick was doing his best fish out of water impression...that was an ugly sequence.
I really liked what Theo Peckham was able to do tonight, because he went at Tuomo Ruutu and wasn't goaded. He stuck with it and made an effective game out of it. The only thing I wish he'd done in addition is run some OTT star player on the shift he took while Ruutu was serving his stupid penalty. That woulda been the icing on the cake.
Speaking of mean bastards, take a look at Ryan Whitney. In addition to gliding up the ice with the greatest of ease and patiently stickhandling through traffic without even the slightest hint of danger (the play I remember was in the second, but there were others too), he also gets in people's faces and dishes out some rough stuff. This guy is looking more and more useful after 3 games. He also got himself back into position every time he got caught, often breaking up the play with remarkable ease. Lovely watching him play.
His partner Gilbert looked excellent too. He led us in minutes tonight and was responsible for seeing and hitting Comrie in-stride to generate the penalty shot. He ran the point like a true offensive defenceman and kept things simple otherwise. Well done.
As for Aaron Johnson; here's what I've been able to see him do in his first three games, but specifically tonight:
- He doesn't get beat wide
- He skates well backwards
- He gets shots on net
- He hits people and gets in their way
- He doesn't make stupid, panicked puck plays
If we were looked for a description of "prototype #5/6 defenceman, that's it right there. I think he might have just needed the kind of shot we're giving him. He's certainly on the SIGN list right now.
At forward the stories were less inspiring. Aside from the beginning of the game as I noted, we weren't very effective at all. No shots and no real chances.
O'Sullivan being out will further detract from the entertainment value for me. Even when he's not great, he'll usually do something worth watching.
I expected Stortini to get something done against an ornery OTT team, especially after last game but he came up short tonight. The "fight" was pretty weak and he could have saved that effort for another time. He also didn't make the offensive effort he did last game.
Comrie wasn't as good as he'd been the last two. He still got into some smart spots including generating the penalty shot, but not near as effective. We did seem to go downhill after he essentially stopped playing for a while in the third. That likely had more to do with PKs.
Potulny sure got a whack of icetime tonight. I see that he was winning faceoffs, but other than that it looked to me as though he was spending his time getting hit. Not exactly what our designated shooter needs to be doing.
I liked what Brule brought tonight a lot; and especially in the second. He rose to the occasion of a physical game by doing a lot of hitting. It's always good to see him be effective like that. Not much in the way of scoring opps.
Cogliano got a great offensive chance due to speed an positioning, then promptly threw the puck high and wide. Andy can't buy one this year folks. It's got to be frustrating for him.
Pouliot I noticed less than usual. On the PK he was doing alright as he seemed to always be around the puck, but I didn't notice him at all in the offensive corners.
Nilsson got knocked around badly. He's just not as solid on his feet as guys like Comrie and Potulny. This severely limits his effectiveness against a team like OTT.
Gagner made a really nice offensive play in the second that could have resulted in a goal, faking past an OTT defender then taking a solid shot. I wish he was a better shooter because he sure gets into position with the puck enough. I hope he works hard on that this summer. He also got our first shot, when we were making all those passes and getting nothing. Unfortunately, it was a nothing shot. Oh well.
Penner-Horcoff-Penner were largely as advertised plus 1 goal. They did a decent enough job on Alfie-Spezza-Michalek (right?), Penner was what I'd describe as medium-lazy. Horcoff was pretty solid in the defensive end, but did have 2 ugly giveaway passes and 2 missed passes from teammates that really stuck out for me.
That loss combined with a Toronto win puts us firmly back into the Hall/Seguin lead. It's horribly sad that's all we have to look forward to in a year that should have included playoffs, but at least next year we'll (likely) get to watch the guy who will next score 50 goals for the Oilers (we hope, some point down the road).