Feels like absolutely forever since I'd been to a game, but being that I went to work today, watching a win was an especially pleasant way to end the day.
There are so many members of this team right now that are simply not familiar, OR, who will be gone by next year. Combine that with the general lack of effort and it becomes rather tough to "feel" for this team. I expected more people and especially more enthusiasm for the second-last game of the season, but I guess not.
The place was rather empty, and quiet for much of the game. A loud cheer from the half of the building which stayed til the end was probably the loudest of the night.
No sense messing around, let's get right into PLAYER REPORTS
- There was a point in the second where every single Oilers player seemed to give the puck away in a very short margin. It was UGLY!
- Solid. I didn't think Minny really pressed at any point and didn't really have very many amazing chances, but Dubnyk was equal to the task that was presented and that's really all you can ask. He was in position an under control most of the night which was a plus. His puckhandling left a little to be desired, but didn't hurt him.
- I must admit that while I hate the way his name is pronounced, I love the way this guy manages to just NAIL someone every game he plays. Tonight it was James Sheppard. Poor guy then had to deal with one of the giant Minnesota Goobs (Scott this time). I thought it was rather sad that Stortini didn't manage to prevent this, but nice that we got the PP.
- The thing I noticed with him, aside from the usual simple and steady stuff, is that he likes to step up at the blue line and hit people. He's very aggressive this way. He's also good at only doing this when he's backed up, but he got caught once in the third tonight. Still really hope they give him a shot next year.
- He made that solid slap-pass for sure, but aside from that I was fairly unimpressed. Twice in the third while in his own zone, he tried some funky behind the back pass off the boards thing to get around people...it worked once (barely) and didn't work the second time. I'm sad that he has dropped off so far, as he really showed some promise earlier this year.
- Boring but not terrible? That's about as good as he goes I suppose. Could have been tougher.
- He gave the puck away a lot tonight and didn't really hit anyone. His game seemed to be off a fair bit. He's best when he's ornery and looking to make great passes. He seemed to be a lot less patient with the puck tonight and trying to force things as opposed to allowing the play to present itself.
- I didn't really notice Tom now that I think about it. There was a play in the third where he had a big hit lined up and didn't go for it, which was disappointing, but that's about all I really recall. Nothing bad about that, just a tad odd.
- Talk about a strange line combo. Stortini had a couple excellent chances to score (1 in the first that he should've left for Comrie who was also there, and one in the second where he banged instead of dekeing) which was a positive I suppose. He's best when living in front of the net. I didn't like that he wasn't more physically involved, as he could've driven Minny nuts and didn't. Comrie was okay, as he was decent effective distributing on the PP and worked with what he had 5-on-5, a couple of giveaways more than he should have had though. Jones I didn't really notice much. It's nice that he seems to get physically involved, but I don't think there's room next year.
- Talk about a weird night. He scores a goal on an iffy wrister after Horcoff blows a breakaway pass, but the defenceman makes it anyway; then he scores on probably his best power-forward play of the entire year (made the effort from the corner, protected the puck, beat the man, beat the goalie and stayed with it to knock it in). The man almost looked like a hockey player! He had a couple skating adventures, but you an certainly tell he's much more comfy with Horcoff and Pisani in tow. Fernando was invisible to me tonight. Horcoff was okay. He had moments where he passed the puck quite well, but other moments where the puck came to him and he couldn't seem to get hold of it whatsoever. It was very awkward to watch.
- Honestly, I barely even noticed these guys were playing as they just didn't create anything. Pouliot was "big" a couple times, O'Sullivan blew a chance or two and Nilsson got knocked around some I guess. I don't see the logic in this line, or much effort from its inhabitants.
- Interesting combo. Potulny quietly had a very effective game. He tends to go to the right spot, which is what he was doing when he drew the 4 minute high-sticking call on that stupid play by Prosser. He took an excellent shot low on Backstrom's pad after taking a tough pass and spinning around, which found a wide open Penner coming back out. He was physically tough all night and generally pissed off the Wild. Always good to see. He disappointed me on the breakaway he got though; gotta deke with that kind of speed. Cogliano was pretty bad early on in that he kept giving the Wild the puck. He got better as the game went on, focusing on hitting and positioning, hustling on the backcheck, causing some havoc at the end of the second and contributing where he could. I didn't mind him but he's certainly not worthy of the top offensive unit. Penner I'm conflicted on, both of his goals were the result of good positioning and solid shot-timing, it's true, but he shouldn't have even scored on the first one as he missed the open net. He also gave the puck very easily to the opposition all night. It was pretty strange. It is however an important skill to be able to contribute even when things are going a little wrong for you on the night, and he certainly did that.
One more to go and the pain is over. Mercifully it will end. At least we can say that we were the best at something this year, and the boys seem to have saved their year-end wins for home (they are 4-1 in their last 5 at least) which is good.
I look forward to writing next year about how approximately 17 wins are left at this time.
See you Wednesday.