LMHF Game Report #4


SAN JOSE a bunch more than 1

I think we've seen a fatal flaw in this season's plan. Regardless of whether you want to win NOW NOW NOW or develop the kids in a year where we might not win a ton but is filled with positivity, tonight the alarm bells should be going off all over.

The problem isn't up front; and despite a lacklustre performance tonight, it is not in goal either.

We knew the D wouldn't be great, but tonight proved that our bottom end D can completely wreck any chance at a positive experience this year. This cannot stand.

Watching Jason Strudwick and Jim Vandermeer on the ice at the same time was like watching a horrendous disaster unfolding in slow motion. I felt so bad for the forwards playing with them because they literally couldn't allow even a dump-in without a great scoring chance being generated. Strudwick should retire immediately as he's clearly gotten even worse than last year. A great example of how bad he was playing, was he had Hall open for what likely was a breakaway, and slammed a 15 foot pass so hard he had no chance to handle it. Genius! I have some sympathy for Vandermeer but he was horrible tonight too. Gave the puck away constantly, didn't finish his hits and generally payed stupidly. Totally unacceptable.

It was also unacceptable that Renney waited so long to break them up. It was evident in the second that this wasn't going to work no matter how much they wanted it to. In so many ways, these guys alone cost us the game tonight. We didn't play great, but any chance we had was obliterated by them as a pair. Get rid of both of them. Call up Shawn Belle immediately and sign a veteran defenceman. This can in no way be a positive season for 91, 14 and 4 if games like this happen even once every few. Having a small faction of the team be SO BAD they just ruin things isn't going to get you anywhere.

Not far behind tonight was one Dustin Penner. I haven't seen him play a game that bad in a long while. I can't decide whether he was being a lazy ass or a stubborn mule tonight. He turned the puck over the whole game long no matter what the situation; he couldn't even take a pass. When he managed possession for more than a fraction of a second, he wouldn't skate anywhere with it, and showed no fire at all until the very end of the game behind the net. I really don't know what's happened to him, but he hasn't given an inspiring performance this year in any way, shape or form.

A lot of our problems tonight flowed from how badly Ryan Whitney played. This was easily the worst game I've seen him play as an Oiler and only got worse as the night went on. A guy who always makes simple passes missed them all. A guy who never gets beat wide got beat wide. He was bad in the corners, bad in the opposition end and bad in his own. With how much we lean on him, there's no hope in a game where he's so bad that we play anywhere near our peak.

The only defenceman who really put forth a decent effort tonight was Smid. On several occasions, he calmly ferried the puck out of trouble and made a solid pass. He at least tried to stir some stuff up with the Sharks and directed shots at the net.

Grebeshkov played...oh wait a minute...we're too good for a cheap dman who can play 20 minutes with minimal crap...

Foster was what he has been this year; got some shots on but not dangerous ones. Got beat wide a few times and didn't really lay any physical play down. I don't like way he's trying to make a difference and don't see it working. He needs to get closer in if he wants to do anything with those shots, and he needs to either defend like Gilbert (positionally) or start hitting people.

Gilbert was medium-ish on the evening. I didn't see any glaring mistake but he needs to step up his offensive play. Now that he's the featured guy, he needs to control the puck, do a bunch of skating and make some great passes. He isn't yet.

Getting back to the forwards, as much as our fourth line played better tonight, I still don't find them very useful. Colin Fraser is utterly useless. He didn't win draws, play well positionally, hit, fight, agitate or provide an offensive contribution. I don't understand why we identified him and got him when there were so many better players on the market with discernible skill sets. That guy playing for Minnesota that wasn't good enough to be an Oiler sure is worse than him...right? right???

Jones isn't going to do anything. He tries to muck and cause trouble but he's not good enough to ride shotgun for anyone which would be his useful spot. On nights like tonight you see how little difference what he does actually makes.

I really think they're misusing Stortini at this stage. He was very good in the preseason but hasn't got to play that type of game yet this year. I'm a little baffled as to how we get this done. Very weird that he was jumped by Mayers like that. As has been the trend, we didn't take advantage of the PP of course...blech.

Cogliano was trying to follow the same script as last game but with less energy. I continue to be baffled by his constant desire to skate the puck to the corner rather than the net, and not getting open for neutral zone passes (his best goal generator). Even more inexplicably, Renney continues to play him on the PP for some crazy reason. He has no PP skill and never has. Get him out of there.

Brule looks stuck. He played a very confused looking game tonight. He played some of the night physical, some trying to play offence, made some ugly passes that were forced and never set up to take his shot. He's winning more faceoffs but still taking less. He's not being used very well at all, either 5-on-5 or PP.

Hall was okay, but just okay. I was hoping he'd get a shift after that stupid non-penalty he got called for so that he could score a goal (he looked angry and focused) but that came too late. He needed to be shifted to a different line for the powerplay so as not to be tied to Cogliano. I think he's shown enough while Penner has stunk, so you need to give him a run with Hemsky for a few games. Being that we've lost 4 straight, there's no real risk to that.

Break up the Gagner line already. If it wasn't obvious enough if should be after tonight. Penner was boat anchor for Gagner and Hemsky (who both looked amped and weren't actually bad), but the combo threw that effort off. If you didn't see Sam's beauty move that should've resulted in a goal in the first (and instead resulted in a penalty against us somehow) then find it somewhere, it was sweet. Hemsky did some very nice things, but was constantly alone with the puck trying to beat 3 sharks with no passing options. For obvious reasons this doesn't work.

Eberle's goal was poetry in motion. He made a lazy Marleau look horrible and finished with the greatest of ease. He's a pleasure to watch. He also made a phenomenal move and pass to Horcoff (who missed for the second game in a row on this kind of set). Eberle just plays solid hockey constantly.

Horcoff and Paajarvi weren't the problem tonight.

Khabibulin wasn't great either. He couldn't provide the big saves tonight, but also got hung out to dry.

As you can see I'm pretty frustrated. I think Renney needs to step in and make some moves; callups, line changes and system modification. The most obvious is the PP, which has been horrible and is largely so because we don't even have powerplay lines. GET SOME FREAKING PP LINES!



A few things

Rick Rypien

I can barely believe the commentary on TV regarding his suspension; specifically the ignorance of the fact that before he went stupid on a fan, he sucker punched a player on the ice, and touched an official. As far as I’m concerned, and especially for a bonehead like this, 20 games would be appropriate. He did 2 separate things you absolutely do not do, and suckered a guy. That’s got to add up.

I also caught TSN’s commentary on the subject. Though most of the panelists were simply in favor of weak suspensions, MacTavish’s response was by far the worst, and just reaffirmed why I loathed this man as coach. Not only did he advocate only a 5 game suspension, but he actually complimented Rypien as a player. That’s borderline sickening.

Taylor Hall

I’ll add my voice to the chorus on this one; seems like everyone’s debating what should be done with him.

Usually I’m quite opinionated, but on this issue I’m fairly ambivalent. I don’t buy the arguments regarding contracts years as I think they have fairly little to do with building a winner. There are very few examples of successful teams in the cap era holding people back for this purpose or becoming winners because of it. That’s not a great argument, but my main objection is philosophical. Best players you have get to play. Always. Period.

I don’t see how sending him back to junior helps him develop; and in fact it would seem to be a recipe for slowing him down. The risk in slowing an elite talent down is that you may indeed impact his top end performance in the same way as a shark growing to the size of its tank. I wish we could send him to the AHL, because he's close but needs to take a step.

As for his lack of goal-scoring, I think I see why. Aside from the fact that he isn't doing all he knows how to do with his skating skill to get to the right places, he's also taking shots which let the puck roll off the end of his stick, spinning away from him. He needs to add more snap to end of his release. This is why he's missing high and wide, and also why he had 6 missed shots the other night. I noticed this a little bit in his junior days but it is more pronounced now, as he's pressing to make every shot a ripper. This also happened in the WJCs last year. Calm down and finish Taylor, you'll be fine.


At this stage, I really wish they'd give this a try:

Jones-Fraser-Cogliano (though I'm not at all crazy about our 4th line right now)

The thing people forget about Gagner is that he can provide a contribution in a non-offensive role. He's very versatile. Get him going by putting him on a line where he's the featured puck carrier and can do some hitting. Penner or Hall can play C. Hemsky will do the defensive work anyway (as he usually does with 27 and 89). I want Hall to have to do less work to get to the openings. We need to give him the puck when he's already in the open. He's great at making people miss but this is making it a lot harder for him to actually score.

Well, until tonight. I'm in the Ottawa airport right now but will be home for the game. I love the way we play against the Sharks, and think both Eberle and Hall are due.


ADVISORY - No game report Thursday

Hello all; first missed game of the season will be Thursday vs. the Wild. I'll be in Ottawa for work. I will however be back in time for the Sharks on Saturday.


LMHF Game Report #2




Win ugly, win often.

If we want to be a good hockey team, there are going to be nights like this and you're going to have to pull out a few wins; we did.

There seemed to be a combination of a few things going on tonight; our defence was not making solid passes, pucks were bouncing past everyone, some usually reliable players were having trouble and we had a substantial portion of the game see essentially no hitting on the forecheck. This combination of factors could certainly have led to a loss were it not for some excellent goaltending and some missed Florida chances.

FLA seems like a very interesting team this year. They are a deceptively veteran squad who seems to know how to get the puck deep and cycle it, eventually moving the play towards the front of the net. This will no doubt be a type of squad we struggle with at times this year due largely to the makeup of our defence and our lack of a ginormous C.

I felt really good for Marty tonight. As the long-term fans know, Marty was a good soldier, and certainly the type of guy we could use around here. I'd suspect he might be on the pickup list if we are indeed holding down a playoff spot at the deadline. I was fairly disappointed that some people booed the guy when his name was announced. Marty both got screwed out of the cup run, and then as he was finally coming into his game, fell victim to injury. Good for him scoring those 2 goals in his first game in our barn. For me it will be just like when we play PIT. I hope Comrie scores six.....and we win seven-six.

I'm sure in the coming days there will be a lot of work at practice correcting the errors that occured in our own zone and in the break-in stage tonight. One thing Renney does is project a certain amount of competence. I loved his move to bump Magnus up the lineup into Penner's spot late in the game...it may have provided just small enough of a boost that we got the W, and generated a nice scoring chance for Cogliano.



- He was tested in a much more serious fashion than the Calgary game and came through with flying colors. FLA had many prime chances (including several breaks in a alone in the first) and #35 stood up to the challenge. He wasn't getting much help in front of his net and this led to the second goal. I believe he was screened on the first because if he hadn't been he appeared ready to make the save. There were also no misadventures with the puck tonight, which is always a plus. Wonderful game all-around and well-deserved first star.

- I've been pleasantly surprised how Theo has played in defensive and PK situations so far. He's almost the go-to guy on the squad at this stage which is strange to even think about. While his first period wasn't great, he made some tremendous plays in the third including in front of our net and standing up at the blue line. I don't know quite what's gotten into him and I'm sure his play will dip, but I loved how physical he was in the corners and that he's making an effort to be competent with the puck. He caught one bad break when a puck hit his stick and set up a break in the first, but thankfully #35 bailed him out.

- Not a great first and second, but Tom could've been a star in this game due to his assist and several lead-holding plays late in the game. On several occasions he won very important battles (I remember one behind our net late in the game specifically) and took the puck out of danger singlehandedly. On a night when many of his teammates were bunglers, Gilbert was the steady hand at the most important time.

- Looked like there was something wrong with him tonight. He did not pass the puck smoothly and got beat wide at least twice which is very strange for him. He also wasn't anywhere near as slick on the offensive blue line. I guess everyone has off games and he should rebound next game. Gave the puck away weakly a bunch.

- Ladislav got beat wide on a couple of fairly strange occasions tonight to the point where I have to wonder if something was bugging him out there. He just didn't look normal. It could be that everyone is still adjusting to the new pairings, but he wasn't near as sound positionally as I'm used to and didn't skate the puck out as much. He got caught deep and was the last man to make it back to his own zone a couple times which is VERY strange for him.

- Liked the fact that he played a physical game in the corners again, but he didn't make the smooth plays out of the zone tonight and was often caught criss-crossing coverage in areas that didn't require it. In a sense he didn't really do anything that hurt much, but I expected a little better.

- He played okay. Got beat wide too much and wasn't as slick with the puck as last game but that is to be expected I suppose. I did like that he was fairly aggressive most of the time at the opposition blue line.

- I can see a day in the not too distant future where we're describing Jordan as the most complete player on the hockey team. On a night where his solid offensive chances were essentially limited to a play in the third where he worked into the slot slickly and had a nice shot ricochet off a block, he still found a way to make a difference. On several occasions he hustled back and made excellent defensive plays. He was also a solid and calming influence on the PK, which is a place I think Renney will work him more into as we go on. On a night when not much was great up front, Jordan was pretty good.

- Did his job in terms of leading the kid line but didn't really push the offensive game with his speed. I'm wondering how many goals he can 'score' without actually shooting one into the net this year. That would be an interesting record to grab. Overall he played a pretty solid game.

- Wasn't electric but got a couple of fairly solid chances. Taylor seemed to focus on a simpler game tonight and the results were decent. He had a great chance to score in the first from the hashmarks and got stopped. He also got his first A with a solid play from the boards to Horcoff. Looked fairly comfortable at NHL speed again. If he can tighten up his skating lines a little bit (his game is a little too loopy, and he's not a lurker), he'll find the NHL game even easier.

- Magnus is getting caught standing still too much which negates his greatest weapon. He got a good shot off in the second and was fairly effective in his two shifts with Hemsky and Gagner, but tonight wasn't great for him. I think he's concentrating a little too much on knowing where to be at the moment. He'll learn this soon and it will be second-nature, but until then he won't be able to use that beautiful first step to full effectiveness. I like that he's dedicated to his craft and it will pay off in the long run, but right now we will have to be mindful of what he's doing.

- Plain and simple he can't buy a goal. He had three or four great chances tonight and didn't really even come close. On his best, he came out of the corner on the backhand all alone and didn't even make Vokoun work. Two years ago he finishes that; no question. He's just totally lost touch. The nice thing right now is that he's certainly not a liability. It has to be frustrating though and you wonder how long he can go without other things beginning to fail on him.

- Unimpressive for me. He just didn't DO anything really.

- I'm very thankful that Ryan Jones was able to get a decent tip-in goal; and he did some solid skating that could have resulted in another on a partial break he worked hard to get and protect in the second. Aside from that I think this line tried to play with too much finesse and not enough power tonight. They were also overplayed by Renney which I don't quite understand. Perhaps he didn't like what the Cogliano line was doing. Stortini was quiet which was disappointing to me after what I saw in the preseason. He really looked different out there. Fraser was pretty blah too.

- Probably the worst game I've seen Penner play in two years. He looked slow and couldn't control the puck while skating tonight. He lost it or simply did nothing with it more times than I could count. Usually if he's having trouble like this he compensates with a solid passing game, but he didn't do that tonight. I know he scored a goal and should rightfully have 2 in 2 games, but he had a chance to lead the offence tonight and didn't. For whatever reason, in the neutral zone tonight the puck went to Sam and he where it usually goes to Ales. This clearly didn't work as they lost the puck there a bunch. There was a time where we only had two shots, both were from Hemsky and both came when he was in by himself with the Panther defenders and no supporting offence. Sam looked a step behind tonight and aside from his PKing which was pretty decent, he looked lost. Ales was effective when he could be but in a lot of ways was left to carry this line alone tonight. That's a strange place to be considering how they usually operate. This line having an off night required us to win ugly.

Before we close off tonight, it is worth noting that the reffing in this game was pretty gross. They need to be reminded across the league that a stick lift is NOT a hook. Period. There is no video or rule that tells them to make that call. They also screwed up the icing calls a number of times again. Weird game.

BUT...a win is a win is a win. If we make it by 2, remember this one.



LMHF Game Report #1




I had to take a little time after getting home to bask in actually seeing the positivity that surrounds this team and this city after tonight. For the first time since early in the 2007 season (we looked really good at one point remember), there was true excitement in that building tonight, and we didn't *sorta* come away satisfied, or leave disappointed, we got to watch our team administer an honest-to-goodness beat-down for points that matter and own a team we really despise. Talk about a fun way to spend a night.

First of all, as we do at the first home game of every season, let's discuss the opening festivities. Thankfully they toned it down in some ways this year in that it wasn't anywhere near as long and didn't feature strange acrobatics or the frigging bagpipes (I'm sorry, this isn't Scotland! and even in Scotland they don't have spiralling musicians 40 feet in the air that looked like a Emo'ed out Britney Spears...). The musical tone that was set was very intense and I think got everyone fired up pretty good. I'm not sure of the name of the song they were singing (though it's fairly famous), but it was definitely a change of pace and more focused on the "get pumped for hockey" side of things. I liked that choice. Introducing the players was done simply, which I also agreed with. All-in-all it was more subdued in some ways but more intense in others. Less spectacle, less distracting, less artsy or cheesy.

From the outset tonight the Oilers were playing the new system that Renney's clearly been trying to establish with this group of players. It is very transition-focused and takes advantage of the disturbingly high amount of players with excellent speed that we have. To put it simply, when executed the thing works, even against a clutch-grab-hold team like Calgary. They were also allowed to get away with a bunch more tonight because of our early power plays, and I thought our entire lineup played through that all quite well. It would have been easy to drift back into old habits but they didn't. Overall, Renney's scheme which relied on essentially playing 3 lines and complementing that with strategically timed shifts by the 4th line, worked out very well. At the end when we were up, he got the toughs out to make sure nothing silly went down. Again, solid choice.

Calgary is playing a rather baffling system on the other hand. It seems to rely on cherry-picking for offence and generates a lot of bad shots if the other team commits to back-checking. This system is going to get their forward killed once teams start keying on it. This might be their only hope for offence, and if it is then Calgary is in for a LONG season. Their D don't look too stellar either. I'm left to wonder why Bouwmeester is struggling the way he is. He certainly is not dominant on the ice right now.

Overall I just can't say enough about how much fun that experience was. The fans gave Jordan Eberle an ovation I don't think he'll ever forget when he was announced as first star at the end of the game. He deserved it. He wasn't the only truly excellent rookie out there tonight...let's get to the PLAYER REPORTS

- Well, you can't really ask for any more than that. When guys have really great games, I like to get any criticisms out first so we can focus on the positive. He misplayed 2 pucks in the second that could have cost us...that was literally it. The guy was in his calm zone all night and while he made a few great stops, mainly just did what he needed to do and didn't get distracted even though Calgary tried very hard to get in his kitchen at several points during the game. I've always liked that about him. Though it is very unlikely this will happen, if we get a healthy #35 all season long who is focused like this, we stand a very good chance of performing quite well in the point department.

- At some point tonight I lost count of the zone-entry passes Whitney made. His favorite thing seemed to be to skate into the middle of the neutral zone, cut left and pass right. He made it work all night and utilized our speedy forwards perfectly. It was something else to watch. I was very skeptical of the change in D-pairs but this didn't seem to hurt Whitney. I also love his aggressiveness; he plays physically sure, but also in the offensive zone. He crept in on numerous occasions tonight including with under 2 to go. This is excellent and the kind of instincts that winners have. Never ever let up. It is very possible he could have a large point total for us this year, just by virtue of becoming master of the outlet pass.

- This guy looked nothing like the pre-season. Gone were the easy puck-losses at the opposition blue line, awkward passes and lazy skating. In came a guy whose slap-pass is a constant threat, isn't afraid to use his size and was really smart out there. I'm not sure how long this will last and whether it was just opening night intensity or what, but I really liked his game tonight. Even if he's not a "physical big man", just making contact helps this team. He did exactly what we need him to do.

- Fairly quiet game from Ladislav aside from a couple instances where he was involved in scrums and some nice passing. These are always features of his game so they don't generally stand out for me. The challenge for him as well all know is to establish himself this year as a legit top-4 defenceman...he looked the part tonight. His physical play (both hitting and dropping the gloves) is often overlooked by Oilers fans but I think it has an impact and definitely in games like this.

- Tom also had an UGLY preseason; but rebounded with a pretty solid opening game. I almost couldn't believe it when he busted in on a break and pulled a nice side-to-side move only to be stopped. He had a couple other offensive chances and just generally did things fundamentally well. It wasn't flashy but he was a little more physical than usual.

- The only concern with Vandermeer is getting beat wide I'm guessing. This probably happened twice tonight but thankfully both times were recovered from. He made some really nice passes (especially to Eberle and Hall from the slot after joining a rush that should have resulted in #4's first goal ever) and looked very intense on the ice.

- The unsung hero for the Oilers tonight. Unless you were watching closely you probably didn't notice. This was easily the best game I've seen him play. He was physically imposing from the word go and Calgary had to respect that. He didn't get beat. He blocked a boatload of shots including a couple rather impressive ones (NHL.com has him with SIX). Hands up how many people had Theo Peckham playing 17+ excellent minutes and providing some stupendous PK work tonight...yeah, me neither. GREAT game from him.

- Was a big pain in the butt and got in a little scrap. I honestly didn't see the value in this guy but maybe that game illuminates some things for me. Renney did a great job of using him strategically, and this is a guy who seems to know his role. While PK was largely by committee tonight, Foster looked pretty solid when he was out there. As long as he keeps hitting and moves the puck towards the opposition net, we'll be doing fine. I think with Stortini on his line there may even be some goals to be had.

- Speaking of knowing his role, Ryan came out full of piss and vinegar, hitting everything and generally making the Flames angry. It worked. Jones also had a rather excellent fight that sent Mr Meyer (who probably has the worst fighter name ever) to the dressing room. Jones' ability to get in on the forecheck as well as get to some loose pucks could come in very handy as we go forward.

- Did his job tonight for sure. Kept the puck moving in the right direction save for maybe 2 or 3 times and when Ivanans came calling, administered a masterful KO. It looked like Mac Knew what he was doing the whole fight as he was switching hands at JUST the right time, then finally got him with the BIG shot. I don't really feel bad for Ivanans because he knows what he's getting into when it comes to fighting, AND with that little time left in the game it is rather odd. Good for Steve to establish himself as ready to roll early in the season as well. I still would have preferred Stortini here, but tonight this worked.

- I liked a lot of Cogliano's fundamentals tonight to be honest. He was going to the right places, making solid plays and winning races. If only he could hit...He made a great little feed to Paajarvi on a play in the third that could have been #91's first goal just as easily as not. Cogliano's own struggles in front of the net continue however, as he probably had two or three golden shots at openings tonight off plays by Brule and Magnus. It's really too bad but it's got to all be in his head...the technique looks fine he's just not hitting his shooting spots ever. He's good enough if he's keeps doing what he did tonight, even if it is frustrating.

- Great shot for his goal. He sold pass from to boards and just ripped a wrister inside the post while maintaining his body angle. Combination of release, deception and location that wasn't going to be stopped. He was a little quiet aside from this but I felt very responsible and played well positionally. He didn't have to make a lot of hits because some of the other players had that slack picked up, but didn't shy away from the play either. I really like Brule in the role Renney used him in tonight, being a third line support guy who gets PP time. This is how he can be best used on a successful team.

- Even though he didn't hit the scoreboard or have a very flashy night, I thought Magnus did well for himself. He was the most shy and nervous of the rookies, not finding his comfort zone and trying to burn too many guys with his speed, but he played his position with discipline, backchecked very hard and got a couple very good chances. He would do well to learn the play that got Hemsky his goal and several chances tonight because he might be able to do it even better than #83. If Magnus were the only one of the three playing tonight, I think we'd still be very happy with the game he played.

- Taylor's first period was utterly sublime. The chances he generated and near misses that occured were seemingly non-stop after the first couple shifts. My expectations for him were quite low coming in and he blew them away right off the bat because he made his plays against legit NHLers. Hall seems to play best when he's involved in the physical side of the game, so I think one key for him will be to remember to keep hitting. Every shift where he attacked physically, he was successful. In the first alone he could have had two or three and you almost felt screwed he didn't. That he'd do that in game one indicates to me we will be watching something special by the end of the year. I loved how you knew he realized he belonged when he made that lap around the offensive zone in the second and made the play in between his feet. Confidence at this level from your first game is a beautiful thing.

- Even though our knew captain "went Horcoff" on a couple of great scoring chances, I was very heartened by the difference his speed is making on our gameplan. He's playing phenomenal transition hockey and it pays off when you have dynamic players like Hall and Eberle around to pick up the puck and finish the work. He was simple and effective, and I really liked the play where he was eventually credited with the goal (originally Eberle's second) in that he was right in the face of the goalie. If he keeps playing like this, the boos will go away.

- What can you really say that fully expresses how awesome a night that was for a debut? Before he'd scored #2 said he was the best player on the ice. Then he busts that move outside-in on an NHL defenceman AND has the presence and patience to deke Mikka and finish on the backhand? That's just silly!! The place went absolutely bonkers. I love the confidence that move showed. Also, unlike so so so many guys who could do that, he finished. HE ALWAYS FINISHES those plays. The kid is utterly special. Then he's on the PP and unleashes just a brilliantly quick wrister that generated Horcoff's goal. I'm totally convinced the only reason he didn't get a trick is because Renney basically stopped playing the kids after 4-0 (probably smart, but still...). To add to all that, he could've set up 4 in the first and PK'ed well (as did Hall for that matter). Think about how he must feel tonight...a kid who's dreamed of playing for this team forever and shows up in front of all of his family and does THAT. WOW WOW WOW WOW. He might wind up the best of the lot of them. For whatever reason, he just has IT at a level Taylor Hall might never reach. Such a pleasure to watch.

- Ho hum...a goal, a disallowed goal that should've counted, and a great night from these guys. Hemsky was dominating. Any other night he's just as easily the story. His goal after playing so well early and not getting rewarded was awesome. If he can hit the target with that more often it is lethal. Also really enjoyed him owning Iginla for the puck in the third. Watch Ales' backchecks...he clearly has the centre role in the defensive zone on this line and was in fine form tonight. I've already seen some criticism of Penner and I don't get it at all. When he had the puck he could do whatever the heck he wanted with it. He just bullied the Flames around. Sure it wasn't a flashy night, but correct the goal screwup and combine it with the line's worry-free play and that's an awesome night on any other. Gagner was really good in what is a support role. The thing I noticed from him most was puck retrieval down low, and the fact that he stayed out of Hemsky's way. If you remember these guys played really well for a time last year where other teams essentially didn't have the puck when they were out there. I see that again this year, but with supporting offence. LOOK OUT. I mention these guys as a unit because they're unique on the team right now. They're vets, they play a reliable game, and they're in control. You might not even notice them on a 3 goal night because of the flash elsewhere, but they're going to get it done and could lug us a ways.

Well, that was stupendous! I'm guessing there'll be fewer reads and comments tonight due to lateness, but maybe everyone's on adrenaline like me. Talk about awesome!


LMHF Preseason Game Report - EDM vs. CGY




Well, I suppose we were due for a frustrating night like that...doesn't make it any easier or more fun.

I think we were all pretty pumped for tonight and to be let down like that certainly doesn't feel very good. There were a ton of reasons we lost and while the score wasn't really reflective of the game, we certainly didn't come focused or excited either, which is disappointing.

We'll get to the players and the game in a moment, but as many of you know I enjoy commenting on the game experience and things going on at the rink, both to discuss with those who attend the games and notify those who don't. A few things:

- There's a $9 Steak Sandwich on some of the concession menus. I'm strangely intrigued...

- Has anyone else been having trouble with cell phone service and especially data service from within the rink this year? It has been truly atrocious so far. This wasn't the case last year and I am suspicious that some sort of interference is being used as the actual amount of bars on the phone does not change (verified across multiple people).

- They are now announcing a sponsor (twice) when announcing every goal. It's like we're a freaking single A baseball team...it's embarassing and bush league. I don't care what they paid (and they aren't a large company so it wouldn't have been much), END IT!

- For some reason the goal/win horn is being blow very loudly as the team enters. This isn't needed and is a time for the fans to welcome the team. It should be stopped as well.

- Whoever the audio guy is that decided to play nothing but covers and re-mixes of popular songs...it is terrible.

Anyway, back to the game...we came out fairly slowly and couldn't ever seem to establish a flow. It's tough to compare to that first game I saw against Vancouver because that game was all about flow, transition and attacking in waves. This one was about getting bogged down and frustrated. To some extent, this can be attributed to tonight's strange refereeing which was more permissive than usual. That kind of game plays right into a Sutter team's hand because they hook, hold and grab as a tactic. It was painfully evident tonight. I'm betting nearly every Oilers player has a stick-sized bruise on their arm from getting slashed there at some point during the game.

We had our chances early, but once again the execution just wasn't there. The puck would go to the front of the net but wouldn't be corralled. We were constantly 2 steps from a shooting lane but unwilling or unable to get into it. Though Calgary did a solid job on D, we have the speed to break this up and rarely did after the first period (presumably we got frustrated due to the missed chances).

A key moment came when Tom Gilbert elected to shoot on a 2-on-1 instead of make a fairly easy pass to Jordan Eberle. The play was a no-brainer and Gilbert didn't even sell the pass to move the goalie. He took a weak, straight-ahead shot that didn't have much of a chance. That play came in the second period before we'd started exhibiting real signs of frustration. I think it would have changed things a bunch had Gilbert simply made the pass to Eberle. The likelihood he finishes that play was quite high.

After that I didn't see much. In a lot of ways our best line tonight was probably Stortini-Vande Velde-MacIntyre, which isn't going to win you any games.

Losing Jim Vandermeer didn't exactly help either. Our 5 defencemen struggled mightily after he was out. I'm not sure why as the only Flame who was really pressing was Iginla, but some of our D couldn't keep up.

Let's get into more detail in PLAYER REPORTS

- While he got unlucky a couple times and wasn't exactly fronted by a wonderful D unit, Nik has to be better than this. None of the shots that beat him were particularly spectacular and he looked to be behind all of them. I didn't get any indication of aggressiveness or intensity from him at any point tonight. He was very disappointing and will need to be better than this.

- Before he got booted I liked his game a fair bit tonight. He was reasonably smart with the puck, landed some hits and did a very good job of getting in Iginla's face, unltimately taking him off the ice with him. I'll take that trade every day. I'm still a bit miffed as to why he got kicked out after a fight I felt he did fairly well in.

- Probably played himself off the team tonight. He was just plain weak. In a game where physicality was needed, he didn't supply any. There were also a ton of giveaways and he was not in position much of the night. I'm still not sure why he's having so much trouble getting back to form, but laying an egg like that at the complete wrong time after Petiot has been performing decently could come back to haunt him for sure.

- He was flat out brutal. I don't know what about this guy makes him so awkward but he was beat a bunch of times in our own zone, chased pucks out of his position, lost control of the puck, made bad passes and went for a stupid hit that directly resulted in a goal. What's wrong with this guy? Isn't he an NHL defenceman? He sure didn't look it. He also looked dog-tired and had no reason to be.

- The only defenceman who I felt had a decently strong game. He controlled the puck well, made a couple great passes and asserted himself physically. too bad the rest weren't like him.

- Well that was a night to forget, specifically the third period. For whatever reason, in the third Tom kept 2 hands on his stick at wholly inappropriate times, got constantly outmuscled or outdeked, and gave the puck away a bunch. Combine that with what he did on the 2-on-1 in the second and he played a surprisingly bad game. I'm not sure what was in his head tonight.

- Got caught out of position a few times but wasn't near as bad as Gilbert. I'm surprised he didn't assert himself physically in a game that featured a fair bit of hitting. He wasn't strong on the puck either. The D crew as a whole wears a lot of the blame for this one.

- Easily his worst effort. Taylor is going to need to learn to stop overskating areas where he's dangerous. For whatever reason he is in the habit of cruising around and past danger spots, where the puck usually comes to him as it's too late. If he'd just pause, he could have had 3 simple goals tonight. I won't question his effort and he fought like hell for the puck along the boards. The other thing he did that was utterly frustrating were his constant attempts to soft dump and soft pass. He probably gave the puck right to CGY 5-8 times doing this. It is one thing when talented guys try to make a talent play and can't do it yet like they could in junior...these were stupid plays which will never work when he either had a shooting lane or another player open. Unacceptable. He still hasn't looked like a #1 overall to me. If he doesn't come around and you're still intent on keeping him, he must start the year on the 3rd or 4th line. I will note he looked fine on the PK.

- Hard to tell how he did tonight. He didn't get many opportunities to use his speed to make anything happen. I'm inclined to think he didn't play that bad, but also didn't see anything really good.

- This had to have been a frustrating game for Jordan. He got some offensive chances (including a nice shot in the third where Gilbert cruised to far to adequately screen and the 2-on-1) but could not convert. He didn't do a lot of puck carrying and with Hall going the turnover-machine route, was often de-railed. Though he didn't play great and gave the puck away more than he should have, I would like to note that Jordan showed a solid 2-way game tonight. He rarely allowed a mistake of his to go unfixed and broke up several plays. He looks very solid in his own zone so far, and I really like him on the PK. I hope he stays there.

- Had many chances to lay solid hits and just didn't. He needs to do that sort of thing if he wants to get anywhere now that his talent seems to have evaporated. I'm quite surprised he didn't have more interest in that type of game tonight.

- If only he were 6'2". Reddox tapped into his inner pest tonight and put forth a rather excellent effort. He laid several hits and got into an awkward fight as one of the only Oilers to play a truly assertive game. It's a shame he couldn't capitalize on his breakaway, which came off a solid read and a good pass reception. In contrast to Peckham, Reddox may have played himself onto the team with this effort.

- Total mixed bag. He skated well and tried to be physically but was literally hit and miss when it came to that. He took an utterly stupid penalty deep in the Flames zone and couldn't do anything with the offensive chances he garnered. He was also not able to effectively shake the Flames as a pest. Not good enough.

- Not a lot of flash in Stortini's game tonight but he was reasonably solid. MacIntyre overshadowed him and he was not called upon to fight. I continued to like his skating and positioning though and his improvement does not appear to be a one-game story. That's a very good thing for this team.

- Probably the best game of his life? Won a tough fight, scored a goal and had 22 PIMs. The spear should never have been a 5-minute major...

Vande Velde
- Continued to show why he's a strong contender to be on the team sooner than later. He skated very well and made his presence known in the corners. Even with his linemates he managed to generate scoring chances which means something. I don't know what it is about him, but he seems to be able to make things happen. If contracts weren't a consideration, maybe you keep him over Fraser and Jones. He looks like a better hockey player than either by a fair bit.

- Had a whack of solid chances in the first and just couldn't capitalize. It looked like the puck hopped over his stick a few times (something I remember happening at the beginning of other years). I think he should switch to a stick with a bigger blade personally. He was the only Oilers player that really hit the offensive holes and had the type of chances we need. In the second and third he pressed for the shot more and this didn't work out. No complaints, just not a great game. Good PKing.

- I honestly didn't notice him much. I believe it was he that made the nice pass to Reddox, but he wasn't able to get any real offence going. One thing that frustrated me was that a couple times Sam had a free lane to carry the puck behind the net and instead took a weak shot with no chance to score or rebound. This is useless. I'm also not a fan of using Sam on the PK. His skillset is not suited to it.

- Tonight was the first night that he stopped moving his feet rather than just blowing by people. I'm not sure why this is, because when he actually did he continued to blow right by them. He made a nice play to Gagner down low after taking a feed from Hemsky that should have resulted in a goal, and had a couple nice shooting chances but did not capitalize. He got hit harder than we've seen but seemed to bounce right up. The nice thing about he and even moreso Eberle, is that even though they weren't good offensively, they did some other things well.

I guess we're not going totally undefeated...oh well. It will be very interesting to see who gets one last shot in CGY and takes advantage. I really hope Omark takes charge so that he as a more experienced pro can take on more of the offensive responsibility. It can be tough for guys like Hall on nights like tonight.