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11/2/10

LMHF Game Report #5

EDMONTON 3

VS.

VANCOUVER 4

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There were a lot of different stories to tonight's game from my perspective. This one didn't have a discernible flow from beginning to end like many games do.

The first period was an utter trainwreck from an Oilers perspective. We gave the puck away a whole bunch and were consistently turned aside at the top of the circles in the Canuck zone without a fight. This was just painful to watch. We kept letting the Canucks get the puck deep. A big reason for this was a lack of gap control. We let the Canucks D have free reign at the top of the zone when in control, and also backed off WAY too far on the rush. This did lead to some of the plays leading up to the three goals that VAN scored, but didn't really mean we were all that bad. The goals were not great ones by any stretch.

In the second we started to right the ship. While we were still backing off a bit too much, gaps were narrowing and we were taking a little more control of the play. Penner's goal was a huge one as we needed something to start tilting in our favor. Eberle made an amazing play that could've changed the game utterly near the end of the period; stickhandling a puck out of trouble and eventually generating an offensive chance that narrowly missed in the opposing end that would've brought us to within one. So began the first in a series of plays that could have led to a victory.

Then came the third. After a minor stretch following their third goal, the Canucks still didn't have a decent scoring chance and pretty much didn't for the rest of the game. We had all the decent chances and scored two excellent goals as a result. The ice was tilted in our preference and the game was our...oh wait...they sent out Jason Strudwick...oh wait...he's screening the goalie and standing still covering no one...oh wait...Khabibulin didn't move on another weak shot and it's in the net. So goes the game. There was a play Eberle made (I believe before this one but am not sure) that could've led to an Oilers win, save for a brilliantly placed skate of a Canucks defenceman (for anyone who missed this, Eberle made a great play off the wing, had the complete 'eye of the tiger' look and was one step away from a totally open slot with Luongo going the wrong way when the puck slipped away). If the Oilers don't allow that weak 4th goal, they probably win this one going away. If Eberle doesn't get skate-checked, they win. If...if...UGH.

I have to once again comment on the refereeing. It's something that comes up most often it seems with the Canucks. There was a sequence in the third after an Oilers PP where there were 4 non-calls that could've gone against the Canucks. Every Oilers forward was slashed and hooked after they entered the zone. Elbows were flying everywhere and interference was plenty. Why precisely the Canucks, a team the league should be looking at with increased scrutiny, get away with such utter crap is beyond me. We should have been trotting out the 5-on-4 crew 9-12 times tonight and hardly had any PP time. What a joke.

On a night when we effectively shut down the Sedins, Kesler, and the usual suspects, we get beat on crummy goals and crummier reffing. That sucks. By no means were we perfect, but we were certainly good enough to win.

PLAYER REPORTS
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Khabibulin
- Utterly horrible. I can understand that he was screened and there were some awkward plays and tipped shots, but he wasn't even moving in the correct direction half the time (if he was moving at all). He looked sluggish, and not ready. He should have been pulled after two goals but Renney appeared gun-shy just like last time #35 was getting shelled. I see no point to leaving him in when he's playing like that. A decent effort from him and no Jason Strudwick would have meant we win tonight.

Strudwick
- The death of our playoff hopes personified in one man. Even in limiting his icetime we couldn't keep him from poisoning the effort tonight. Is Jim Vandermeer suffering a serious injury or something? Are we that roster-stupid that we can't call up any of the more capable AHL dmen? (there are a number) All he does is stand there in a weird squat pose screening the goalie. When he touches the puck, it is for precisely .02 seconds so that he can rip it into parts unknown. I am so sick of watching this guy violate everything any defenceman learns about playing his position from the day he starts playing D.

Foster
- He wasn't very good either. For some reason #26 doesn't want to skate with the puck, which is a bad thing because he's not a very good passer. He also kept putting his shots in high even though there were forwards working. A shot with the force of his would generate automatic rebounds that could've been the difference tonight. I can't comprehend how an offensively gifted defenceman in the NHL can't know and do this consistently. Very frustrating.

Peckham
- He was good. He's learned how to use a combination of size and close-quarters explosiveness to win puck battles along the boards consistenly. He did this many times tonight. The next step will be for him to learn how to deck forwards who put their head down on the cycle (the Canucks and teams like them are vulnerable to this in the offensive zone). If Theo hadn't stepped up this way this year, we'd be nowhere. The only unfortunate thing about him having to take on such a big load is that he can't go out of his way to be a policeman (that would leave #43 on to PK, which we know seems to equal a sure goal). It's kind of funny that the numbers show Strudwick a +1 and Peckham a -1 on a night when their games were so different.

Smid
- Ladislav seems to have developed a signature play. He settles down a play, gathers the puck behind his own net, beats the lead forward to a spot 5-10 feet in front our net (using the net as a block) then fires a great pass to someone. He did this at least a couple times tonight and it resulted in at least one goal (Jones). He wasn't amazing defensively and got pushed around a bit more than usual. I think it's still evident that he's coming back from a pretty serious injury in that he's not being as aggressive as he otherwise would.

Whitney
- While he did log 29 minutes tonight, he was no superman really. I'm not sure why, but #6 seems to be getting into some bad habits, mainly associated with standing around too much when he needs to be moving his feet. He also gave the puck away and made some bad passes generally at various times tonight. I prefer when he plays with Gilbert for sure, but not his best effort. Needs to turn it around or get some help delivered by the trade market so there's less pressure on him.

Gilbert
- Aside from the offensive zone, where Tom could have had a very productive night and couldn't capitalize on his shooting opportunities, I liked his game. Very settled and solid, even dished out a hit or two.

Hemsky
- He had his struggles with the puck in the first and early second, and I'm betting some people will rip him for that. If I was Ales Hemsky, I would have had a seriously hard time not throwing an absolute fit in the dressing room after the game. Ales was run more times in one game than I've ever seen a guy get run. There were elbows, slashes, clean hits and dirty, ALL NIGHT, EVERY SHIFT. This is quite frankly what we should do to the Sedins, but for absolutely no Oilers to take umbrage and do something about this was very angering. #83 busted it all night and never quit, even trying to take matters into his own hands on several occasions in terms of redemption. Looked like he was bloodied on the 3rd or 4th shift then again multiple times after. He kept at it. All night. Incredible effort if you know anything about that kind of beating. He should have gone out immediately on the PP after he drew the third period penalty (at least the second of the night he drew); he would've scored. They've got to find a way to protect him against VAN. They started letting Gagner rush the puck, but that limited offence severely.

Gagner
- Looked...decent but not in top gear. At some point I kind of expected him to do something special and find an open player (such as in the second when Magnus led a rush, dished to #89 and broke to the net, only to not receive a return feed) and he just couldn't all night. I can't knock his effort but am still utterly perplexed as to why he's playing with Ales.

Paajarvi
- Didn't look quite ready for primetime tonight. I'm not sure Penner would've done any better on the line, but Magnus just wasn't quite in the right spots when his speed kicked in. I liked what he did defensively to get back to several pucks and always remain in position, but he had some chances to do more offensively and didn't. He had a nice break in the third I believe and tried to go five-hole...he seems over-prone to shoot there. I'm not sure whether we keep him on that line going forward or not. The guy for Hemsky to play with is probably still Hall, but that can't work with Gagner in the middle.

Jones
- Did his job to some degree. I liked the way he played in the offensive zone in terms of applying pressure, and obviously his goal (great example of not quitting on a free puck), but would've liked to see him finish his checks more like the Canuck forwards were doing. They bashed us all night.

Stortini
- Phenomenal effort to set up that goal. Absolutely owned a guy for the puck in the corner, then skated out and rather than taking some stupid sissy backhand, spun and fired a quality wrister forcing Luongo to make a save but not control the puck. I'd like to see what he could do with a little more icetime.

Fraser
- To be honest, I didn't really notice him aside from once in the second period along the boards in the Canucks zone...that was it.

Penner
- Honestly, aside from his goal (which #2 preceded by saying "why can't we have last year's Dustin Penner?" by about 30 seconds) I thought it was the same story as of late for Penner. He was lazy and slow, didn't bully anyone around when he had the puck (especially in the first) and didn't make the passes he can. I don't know what's wrong with him.

Brule
- A couple shifts before his goal, Cogliano came into the offensive zone in a very similar way and decided to shoot even though Brule was open for a pass. I have to wonder if #67 said something to #13 before the goal shift about getting him the puck in his office, because that goal was textbook Brule. He's got a wicked shot from that spot and we should have a set play (or 3) to take advantage of that. Considering he only got 10 minutes of time, I really liked his game tonight. He was decent in the offensive zone and kept up his speed game throughout. He was also solid on the dot and did a lot more to facilitate Cogliano's good game than Penner did.

Cogliano
- Aside from an utterly horrid show in the faceoff circle, Cogliano was pretty excellent tonight. He remembered suddenly how to create off the rush, and found Brule for that third period goal. The second period goal he generated for Penner should have been the turning point in a massive home win. Seeing Andrew Alberts struggling with the puck behind his own net in Strudwickian fashion, Cogliano didn't try a finesse move, but instead knocked the much larger man down and freed the puck to Penner who put it in. Simple hockey beauty. Loved it. He needs to keep bringing efforts like this and DRIVING DOWN THE MIDDLE NOT THE WING!

Horcoff
- I kept looking for him to show off the top gear and get open tonight but it didn't seem like he could do it against the Canucks. He was pretty bad in the offensive corners and had a couple ugly turnovers but aside from that played a pretty solid kid-support game out there. I think we should bar him from the half-boards on the PP however. Almost scored an UGLY goal after great efforts from the kids, but was somehow denied by Luongo.

Eberle
- The man's a hockey-playing genius. Period. I had another "I know I'm watching a special player when" moment in the third when he passed to a teammates heel instead of straight in the center of his blade and I wanted to chastise him. The guy makes so many productive plays with the puck in the course of one game that it is extremely hard to keep track; and you nearly can't take the puck away from him (and surely not with your stick). Maybe you need to give him a shot with Hemsky somehow; they could work some serious magic if one can play LW. We are safe when he has the puck. PKing was solid as usual (Hemsky-Penner unit should be used more too). I think I already mentioned his break for the slot and near goal at the end of the second...he also fed Hall a couple times that could've resulted in goals.

Hall
- Didn't use his speed as effectively as usual tonight. He also should've finished checks...he dodged a couple times. Taylor is better when he hits and is built solid. We need the banging in a game like this. Hall could've scored in the first on rush where he ripped a wrister that caused Luongo to reach back and BARELY make the save. Was really hoping he could start a streak, oh well...
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Needless to say, tonight was a frustrating missed chance. There's no reason for this team to be losing the games like this, Calgary and Columbus other than the D depth. If we're competitive in these games, there's also no reason we shouldn't compete for (and the goal should be) 8th. Add something to this roster. Losses like tonight don't help development; they just frustrate you and injure your best player.

Over/under on how many ice bags Hemsky needed after this one?

1 comment:

David S said...

I was at the game last night. It looked to me that Cogliano-Brule is a pairing worth keeping an eye on. In fact, Cogs looks like he made a serious commitment to become a really good hockey player this summer. Very impressed with his attitude and work ethic. Still can't figure out why the team is playing him at center though, when it seems so obvious he's a natural winger.

Another guy that made me smile was Stortini. Man did he work his butt off to create that goal. Did some nice spade work in the corners too. I'd really love to see him playing 10 minutes a night every night.

You could really see the difference between a good team and, well, us. The Canucks were working on tips and deflections while we insisted on perimeter shots from a long ways out. Interesting that two of three of our goals DID come from close in. But we don't have the skill or experience to convert (or even attempt) those sweet re-directs.