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12/16/10

LMHF Game Report #16

EDMONTON 6

VS.

Kristian Huselius 3
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I said to my friend at the game that I had a good feeling before we got started this evening...guess I was right!

Even though it took some surviving through a horrendous defensive first period, we did the absolute most important thing in the sport tonight: put the damn puck in the damn net. We were on our chances and playing aggressive, confident hockey in the offensive zone and upon entry into the offensive zone. This very rarely ends in a loss. Tonight was no different.

Amazing to watch a game with nearly 80 shots on net these days. It seems like lately we either can't penetrate the shooting lane or have our attempts blocked. Tonight wasn't that way. I'm not sure Mason was really as bad as some people think; he was beaten by good offensive players simply doing their thing.

Columbus is a strange team...they have some toughness, very little top level talent, and a bunch of guys who should be good but appear to have quite the variable level of play. I'm betting they'd be fun to watch as a season ticket holder.

There can be no doubt that there are massive holes on this squad; but when the parts we do have in place fire, we're tough to beat. I'd play the "I can get 7 goals faster than you can" version of hockey for the rest of the year to the greatest extent possible. We seem to win every time the game is characterized by offence and the rush (both back and forth).

PLAYER REPORTS
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Gagner
- I'm very pleased to be wrong on him with regards to last game. He made the necessary adjustments to his game, namely getting the puck to 4 and 14 then driving to open positions where he can either create or provide support, and really looked solid in the spot he occupied. His goal was a very smart little shot that changed the angle for the goalie just enough that it became very tough to spot. Kudos to Sam on using his IQ to figure out how to use the lethal weapons patrolling his wings. Almost had two as a sharp angle shot in the second period could have gone in (if he were Alex Semin, that's his wheelhouse).

Eberle
- Very smart game from Jordan; I'm just a little disappointed he didn't get more chances to cash #3. He got a good shot away in the third period that nearly beat Garon (who was very solid and should have started), but other than that he was pretty much done for the eve which is okay when you make it look as easy as he did. His first goal was a great example of following with proper puck support and making the most of a chance. Nice finish off the rush Hall created. Too many players don't get into the spot Eberle did then have the patience to make a proper play on the net. His second goal was simpler, but still a nice example of positioning and awareness. Kid plays a smart game.

Hall
- While he got back into the habit of carrying the puck too far ahead of him (and had more turnovers at the opposition blue line because of this), he still played a great game. Every time he got the puck, he pushed the Columbus D back with his speed and made something happen. You can see that teams are forced to play him like a star at this early stage of his career, which is amazing. Loved the puck grab and slick little play to Gagner for that goal. Normally Eberle would be out in that situation and it speaks to the improvement in Hall's game that Renney had him there instead. Hall's read on his quick little pass to Whitney before Eberle's second was also quite smart; deftly gliding across the ice, winning a race with positioning, then selling the forward pass and going backwards while taking a it. Beauty. The competition between he and Eberle for years to come (Hall the flashy one, Eberle the quiet but skilled, both racking up goals and points) is going to be truly amazing.

Paajarvi
- Excellent game for Magnus that will fly under the radar due to the efforts of others. He used a great little speed step to get to the net and finish the Omark-generated rebound for his goal. His work behind the net in the first to get the puck to Omark for the Penner goal showed some evolution in his game. He used his size, positioning and a little tenacity to fend off two Jackets even after they knocked him down. Aside from the point producing; he read off of Omark beautifully. You can see that they communicate really well and skate in lines that the other knows well. There were several no-look and half-look passes that were totally untelegraphed and fooled the D. This is a combo we should keep for sure; it almost made 91 a good PP guy even (and he can still learn). Well done for Magnus.

O'Marra
- He's better than Fraser and actually brings something to the lineup. He laid a couple solid hits tonight (I really didn't think he should've gotten a penalty on his hit near the Jackets' box) and manages to support his linemates from solid positions. He's also a big man who can skate and doesn't look incompetent with the puck. These are valuable people to some degree. He's better than Jacques right now even if you like Fraser for some crazy reason. The fact that his line was still as dangerous as it was shows that he played a decent game and really didn't weigh them down; which is impressive considering their skill and the supposed drop off to O'Marra. I'm not saving he's a saviour; but I am certainly saying that given our current roster even with 83 and 10 back in, he's at worst our 4th best C (and could play wing in a pinch I'm sure).

Omark
- Dominated. He was tremendous in the offensive zone. Before we get to his points, let's talk about the fact that he had another dangerous chance (with the goalie half-fooled already) foiled by a penalty by 43; he made several cross ice passes to set up forwards and Mr. No Goals Allowed himself, he ran the PP whenever he was on and made it look easy, held the puck in nearly every difficult situation he got into and bounces around and off of hits like a pinball. This guy is a serious player. His first goal might've been one of the smartest play sequences I've ever seen. If you know anything about scoring goals, you know this wasn't a fluke. He's skating in and won't beat the D, so he flicks the puck at the net at slow speed but a spot Mason might have trouble, he fakes left around Hejda who overcommits, drives the middle and times his arrival at the puck perfectly, kicks it up to his stick, in the blink of an eye changes the angle to open a spot and finishes. Absolutely magnificent. 95% of guys would never even think to attempt that, but if you watched him, you know that he saw it in his mind before he did it. I could barely believe it. His assists were great too. He read that 91 was in trouble and inched in from the corner when he saw he could get a pass, shoulder-checked almost imperceptibly for Penner and then completely sold that he was going to keep it on the boards and fed it straight to Penner's blade through his legs. Wow. His assist on 91's goal wasn't as flashy, but still very good, as he delayed, took the drop pass, made a nice recovery of the puck and chose a solid low shot that would generate a rebound. He made so many things happen. To watch a guy with his smarts, creativity, and passion for the game is truly a pleasure. This is what a complimentary difference maker looks like ladies and gents. The only thing that would improve the 91-23 combo is if they threw Penner in the middle like they did on the powerplay. That line might just be untouchable.

Cogliano
- Skate, skate skate and nothing. I actually got angry at him for shooting on a rush; he did have 2 guys with him but still you shouldn't get angry for a player shooting on the rush. I was. He's just got no clue right now. He also ran around the defensive zone a lot. That's not what we want to see at all. When we have a full lineup back; if this is how he looks, he should see the PB.

Brule
- I thought Gilbert almost alternated between good solid shifts and "what are you DOING?" out there tonight. He hit some people which was great to see in a game where we needed it. If he brought that on a more regular basis I think he'd have a place here. He shot from an improper angle on the rush again tonight...I'm not sure when he forgot that shot needs to be a one-timer with the goalie moving across to work. I did like that he got the puck on net in other situations because that's something he's really been failing at lately. On the bad shifts, he was out of position, made lame passes and got knocked around a bit. He's being passed at supersonic speed by Linus, and is going to have to realize that his spot on this team may be in more of a 4th line role than an offensive one.

Penner
- Certainly looked best when paired with Linus and Magnus, but he pulled enough weight to keep the other guys out of trouble, He seemed to have a good eye for the puck in the high slot tonight; chasing it down and controlling it through size and positioning. I suppose if he could anchor another line it creates a situation where we can run 3 lines out for significant minutes once we have a full lineup, but you've got to plug him in on the PP and late in games with the Swedes, though you also would have to muse about the possibility of having Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky return to play the other teams' best and have the 4 young guns murder the other lines.

Stortini
- The fight he got in was pretty bad. Nothing but hugging and he got openly mocked by Sestito (who had me confused as hell with TIM Sestito as opposed to TOM). He did nothing but chase and shove the rest of the game. 46 is totally off his game and isn't useful at all like this. Someone's got to sit him down and get back on track, which means: forechecking, being a pain in the butt, and being a solid receiver of the first pass in the defensive zone. He can do all these things, but is not.

Fraser
- Don't remember him tonight. Apparently he won some faceoffs? Didn't seem to help any. There's no place for him on this squad with a bigger, younger, more interesting player in O'Marra available.

Jones
- I thought he did his best with a bad lot. He's been good offensively and I'd be disappointed to be in the role he got tonight if I were him. He still managed 2 really solid offensive chances that nearly resulted in goals, and got under Columbus' skin, but isn't as effective on a line where he is the skilled guy. Oh well, we didn't need him to be great tonight.

Khabibulin
- Kept us in long enough. He nearly stopped the second goal which would have been amazing. Columbus didn't get a ton of great chances but he did turn them away when needed. Probably disappointed with allowing 3, but if we're not leading after the first this is a different game. I probably would've started #40 tonight (or if I had the choice, #29), because I didn't like Nik against T.O.

Whitney
- Amazing. He was truly stupendous tonight. I lost count of the great breakout passes. The only negative from him was some iffy defensive play in the first, but after that he was wheeling and dealing. He obviously got his assists, but he also set up the 91 goal with a solid pass out of the zone, either he or Smid (who was also excellent) made that brilliant flip pass to Hall that reminded me of Joni, and every time he was on the ice and the Oilers had a rush he was a big part. He just finds the passing lanes and his passes are rarely uncatchable. It's very simple but if you can do it you're so valuable. He hit almost every one tonight. I feel a little sad for Ryan in his attempts at goal scoring because he's joining the rush so effectively but can't get a finishing shot on to save his life. He's taken to staring off into the crowd for a brief second every time he misses and I do sympathize. He can take heart however in the fact that he's having one of the finest offensive seasons we've seen from a Dman in a long while and lugging all kinds of defensive deadweight along with him. Amazing player.

Smid
- Really really upped his game tonight and it started with his first rush out of our zone, into theirs and a successful feed to Taylor Hall. He's been missing that element lately and it makes him special. He was physical behind the net and made a bunch more passes in addition to Whitney's. Great to see probably the first really complete game from Ladislav tonight. Made just an excellent play to break up a key 2-on-1 in the first as well, which showed the correction of a mistake he made last game that resulted in a goal. Big plus tonight.

GIlbert
- Playing great and kept that up aside from probably 2 shifts where he got caught running around a little bit. The biggest difference I can see in Gilbert, and maybe you can't see this at home, is his passion is back. He's really into the game, reacting after good plays and bad, looking really focused. He's got it together and that's a huge plus.

Peckham
- Continued his current slide of iffy play. In a lot of ways that's to be expected but that doesn't make it any better. He does have too much responsibility right now, but he needs to at least dish out some big hits and this homestand has been missing those. His positioning was off again tonight, specifically due to chasing and he was behind the play enough that he wasn't getting to handle pucks. Hope he bounces back on the road; betting he will.

Foster
- Didn't see a lot from him other than some decent reads from the offensive blue line on the PP; he made good choices when it came to shoot/pass/hold. For once tonight, most of the fans weren't yelling SHHHOOOOOTTT! so lustily on the PP because we showed some competency.

Strudwick
- Stupid penalties, bad D, nearly had another TWO moments in front of his own net like the Toronto game. Call up someone already...this is maddening....

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Say what you will about the first, when we're an effective offensive team we win.

If Omark maintains near this level of play, even if just on the PP, he needs to stay for good regardless of who comes back. He's already been an essential part in 2 wins.

Not too worried about the minor let down in the third and some fancier plays from everyone not working out. Glad they had fun with a win. They deserve some help in doing that more often (management).

1 comment:

David S said...

I'd be shocked if management made any moves to help this team out. It's pretty obvious to me that they're tanking the season. If they weren't, Belle would be up and JFJ would be shitcanned back to Oklahoma for Reddox.

Having said that, Renney almost seemed to challenge said management when he started to talk about making the playoffs. My guess is the young guys are performing far past expectations and a few tactical moves might have this team in the mix when Horcoff and Hemsky return. I firmly believe that a round of playoffs would really accelerate the learning curve for these guys and make them crazy hungry next year.

*Dares to dream*