In a stinking shootout....
Tonight's lineup wasn't really as exciting as last game. This was more of a necessary lineup to sort out some lower lineup cuts and keep some vets fresh while trying out some line combos.
Phoenix was already cut down close to their opening day lineup as I understand it. I really don't think they'll be as good this year. They won't surprise anybody, and their old defence is just getting older. I'd totally forgotten how much of a jerk Keith Yandle can be...what a loser. Thankfully for them though, it appears as though Kyle Turris might finally be ready. He made some nice plays tonight and did a good job of skating to the open ice using his stride and reach, which is what he needs to do. Their goaltending will of course be solid, but that can only take you so far.
From an Oilers perspective, the main difference between last game and this one was simply execution; both in terms of the system they're changing to and capitalizing on chances. We had more than enough chances to have another highly productive offensive game, but there were a lot of misses tonight so that didn't happen. The Vancouver game saw our forward bearing down and finishing...this one simply didn't. I'll get into a little more detail in the player reports. That type of execution can be a little off early in the year, but while learning systems it is very important to stick with and even overemphasize the new one so that it becomes second nature. Too many times tonight, especially on the PP and breakout, the Oilers were using last year's system. It is just as evident now as it was then that this doesn't work. On the breakout this meant too many men in too small an area and no real transition game. On the PP the break-in was the point of error. We failed to gain the zone in situations where it was done easily last game.
I'm quite sure these issues will be addressed by Renney tomorrow. Part of the issue was likely the line combinations, which just didn't seem to work out. Everyone looked confused several times during the game, looking around to see where everyone was and where they could go rather than just reacting. This led to awkwardness.
Let's delve deeper in PLAYER REPORTS
- He was okay...just okay and he needed to be good. One goal was mainly his fault due to a rebound kicked out way too far on his left side to set up Stempniak. Even very good reactive defence may have had a hard time there. The second goal wasn't really on him but rather Plante...he may still have been able to stop it. Jeff's game looks more controlled, but I'd have liked to see him more aggressive tonight.
- I liked the way Gerber played very much. He was calm and controlled but aggressive. This is an ideal combination for a goalie. Had it not been for Plante (again), he would have run his SO streak all the way. He made a couple very nice saves as well as all the ones he should have stopped. I'd give him a start and see how he does. There's nothing really stopping us from sending Dubnyk AND Deslauriers down if that's what play dictates. So far, it seems to.
- It's great that Plante is having a solid offensive preseason and he certainly added to that tonight with a well-timed shot. He was okay positionally for most of the game and tried to be physical. The problem is that he still was directly responsible for 2 GA. He was totally outmuscled from a position of power on the second PHX goal, then got beat in a way he shouldn't have been on the third. It is one thing if you're trying to create offence and it doesn't quite work out, or even if you go for a check and an awkward bounce gets past you, but to screw up twice from the spots he was in, with his physical stature, is pretty unforgivable. I'm a fan, but this was not his best effort by any stretch.
- He played a pretty interesting game. I remember earlier last year before he went in the tank, his best games were those where he seemed to concentrate on physical play. Tonight he did the same thing. The highlight was the beautiful hit he laid on Lee Stempniak (prompting an awkward fight and a PP). He didn't really make any noise offensively...and his inability to do this will probably keep him from ever becoming an NHL regular of any consequence. He's not solid enough defensively or a good enough hitter to take on either of those roles. He needs A's and G's. He's not getting them or coming close.
- Very mixed bag from him tonight. I'm very concerned with what I've seen so far of his passing ability in that he seems to have essentially none. I don't remember a pass he made that I'd even call good, much less great. On the PP, with time, as the QB, you have to make solid passes and he doesn't. He's jerky, impatient, and doesn't pass with proper pace. This can hurt an otherwise dangerous PP. I didn't have a lot to complain about defensively, but he was no tower of strength. Also, for now I'll have to take everyone's word on the booming shot...as he had no appetite to let it go tonight and didn't even look interested in a one-timer. I'm hoping for improvement.
- I won't go getting all excited about a 6/7 defenceman, but this guy is at least better than Strudwick. He blew a couple defensive coverages but did a fairly good job of digging in the corners, maintaining position, playing physically and moving the puck. That's really what you need from a low end reliable dman. You can see his skill level is a little below playing on an NHL roster, but perhaps being here could help him improve. I don't know. It is guys like this however which make me even more annoyed with signings like Strudwick.
- Looks to be in solid game shape and his skating is certainly right where it needs to be. He also jumped into a couple rushes and probably took the best slapper I've ever seen him take. Good stuff for a vet we'll need to be really solid this year. Nice pass to Gagner to setup the break and get himself an A.
- He wasn't as good as he is when with Whitney, but Gilbert did a really solid defensive job and controlled the puck along the boards. Everything looked comfy for him tonight which is good because he is going to need to have a huge year. I have every confidence he's up to the task.
- They gave this guy first star for some crazy reason...I truly don't know what game they were watching. He finally showed off his offensive touch, scoring a very nice goal on a really good chance, but also blew at least 4 more mostly due to bad shot selection. I really want to like this guy but he doesn't skate...You notice how little effort he uses normally because it's so shocking when he actually applies himself. If anything you'd think he could be useful on the PP, but he didn't accomplish anything setting up with Penner and Cogliano on that unit.
- This was a game which I'm betting will divide people on Cogliano. Some people will no doubt say he created chances, skated hard, tried to hit and gave it his best. I disagree. To me it really looked like Andrew was pressing and it both cost him goals (he did have gift chances and blew them, didn't even come close) and put him out of position. He also got knocked around every time he tried to hit. His game is not hitting. it's hitting open spaces for passers and finishing. He's not doing either. They tried like crazy to give him offensive chances tonight, putting him in a great PP position the whole time, and he got nothing done. It is somewhat tragic because there's a good player in there but he's forgotten how to get out. I remember a play in the third that looked just like a goal Cogliano scored in OT a couple years ago, blowing by a Dman and setting thing up with pure speed...he didn't even beat the guy tonight. No PK magic to save him as a role player either.
- He scored a fairly nice, opportunistic goal and had what I'd view as an okay night. His line looked very awkward for most of it however, and most of all Gagner. He's most effective with players like these when he takes on the role of the trailer, but he kept trying to lead tonight and this led to confusion. Sam also got a couple more excellent scoring chances in close and took poor shots, which is too bad.
- Brule distinguished himself with a solid game tonight by remembering what makes him unique; the fact that he brings much skill and a strong shot, but can also punish physically. He pressed hard on the forecheck tonight and made physical contact in smart places. He also got a really well timed shot away and would've scored if he'd managed to get all of it. He also made a very strong and quick play in the third, beating a PHX defender and getting a good shot on net. I've made no secret of the fact that I like what Brule brings to the table, and tonight was no exception.
- Quite frankly, this was one of his lazier nights. I don't know if he was mildly frustrated or what but I saw a whole lot of no fire from Dustin. I hope keeping him motivated once we're playing for points isn't going to be difficult. I doubt it will be, but tonight was a little alarming. At least he scored in the shootout.
- Iffy game from Ales. He made some nice moves and coulda scored, but certainly wasn't in his top gear. I liked the puck control he had out there (a PP with Paajarvi and Gagner that everyone whined about in the building was actually a beautiful example of puck control) didn't take the dumb shots some of his teammates were guilty of. He and Magnus tried to occupy the same lane at times, and I'm not sure if Magnus' speed and Ales' neutral zone play suit them to being on the same line to be honest.
- I was wholly unimpressed with him. His physical game was weak and he was out of position a lot. Didn't help the defensive effort at all. I was expecting a lot more at the very least in the way of effort from this guy and was not satisfied. If I was basing it on tonight, he'd get cut.
- I've seen Liam play a lot better than this. He seemed obsessed with trying to be fast rather than smart and kept overskating his checker. This takes him off his game. I want him to be the new Pisani as much as everyone else, maybe more, but I haven't seen a lot of improvement over the last 2 years and right now he's just not good enough to be kicking around ahead of Cogliano and others.
- Rightfully awarded the goal after-the-fact I see. Colin can certainly fire it (though he doesn't have much control), played physically and even made a few nice defensive plays tonight. Overall I liked what I saw quite a bit. I'm just not sure he can take this and improve upon it enough to become an NHL hockey player.
- Really liked his effort tonight. He did exactly what he needs to do: he was a pain for PHX to deal with, hit people, skated hard and didn't make defensive mistakes. I liked him much more than Fraser. If he can keep this type of play up, he's legit top 12 (as opposed to arbitrary slot-based top 12).
- The best way to describe his game would be confused. He was trying to be an offensive guy in the middle, responsible early, and physical late. He needs to be all three, but it needs to be available at all times. I didn't see the improvement from last year translate into better results in this game. I was hoping maybe he'd be the guy who took the summer leap, but it appears that was Stortini.
- Let us start with his one bad shift so that we can get that out of the way; with just under 4 minutes left he took a shift where he gave the puck away twice, lost 2 races and looked dog tired. He must have been just that. Other than that shift, Magnus was excellent tonight. His most impressive accomplishment was using his size and speed to generate 3 or 4 PPs by himself, including a play where he dragged the much-mentioned Ekman-Larsson to the net with him. He plays a really solid and reliable game with offensive flair on top. Two of the things that impressed me were his fundamental puck shielding skills and the way he took hits (PHX gunned for him a few times). He also rebounded from his one weak shift, with quite possibly his best, nearly winning the game almost on his own. He suffered from some of the previously mentioned awkwardness with Hemsky and Gagner, and also didn't seem to want to fire the puck tonight, but we've got ourselves a real good one here folks. I'd try him with Horcoff and Eberle.
This was not as crazy-exciting as the last game, but it certainly was interesting and satisfying to beat a mostly-NHL team with basically a half roster. Interesting cuts coming soon. Should be a great game against CGY on Friday!