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1/28/10

LMHF Game Report #29

EDMONTON 1

VS.

ST LOUIS 2
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I'm honestly not sure I saw enough in the game tonight to write about. In a 2-1 loss to the lowly blues after we've been losing so long, what else is there to say?

Brule and Comrie were back, which was good to see. Of the 2, I think Comrie had the better game. He got some pucks to the net, gave the puck away less than his teammates and was a little scrappy at least. Brule really only got away a shot or two and didn't come all that close to scoring.

I'm a little perplexed at Gagner being voted a star. I thought he made too many bad passes in the defensive zone to have what would be considered a good game.

Also, Nilsson made the pass to Penner that resulted in our goal. It was a nice finish and a solid play. One of the few.

Gagner blew a perfect chance to tie the game late. Mason gave him all the space in the world and he somehow missed the net entirely. I don't get it.

I suppose the Blues hit a couple posts too; one on a gimme chance with a wholly open net. They likely deserved to beat us.

Given that we allowed only 20 shots, I suppose the defence was pretty decent. Deslauriers performance wasn't his best.

The Moreau-Horcoff-Pisani line lost some shine in my eyes tonight. They'd been reasonably effective, and didn't seem to do anything tonight.

Souray, no surprise is completely checked out. I'm not sure I've ever seen him give the puck away so much though. What the heck was that dump straight to the STL defender when we had the goalie pulled and he had all kinds of time? That didn't make any sense at all and is not a play that Souray ever would've made if we were in this season.

Perhaps what we can talk about instead of discussing the game is whether this is actually as bad as we've ever been. Despite the results, I really don't think so. The team in the 1993 area was incredibly bad and had many more low-level players than we do now. There were nights when it seemed like we couldn't even make a pass. We probably weren't losing close games either. Even though we're listless and the losses seem assured, we're not getting trashed.

Who's the worst Oilers squad consistently that we've seen?

1/26/10

LMHF Game Report #28

EDMONTON 2

VS.

CHICAGO 4
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Honestly I'm not sure there's much to say about tonight's game. 44 seconds in we're down 1-0 on a bad goal and you can see the team collectively say "here we go again".

For those that weren't there and might not have seen, when the Oilers scored, their players didn't even smile. They are so beyond getting excited by now. I suppose Ryan Potulny might've grinned because he knows he's securing a good shot at NHL work next year, but that's about it.

I haven't minded Pouliot's play since he came back one bit. Tonight again he skated well and dug some pucks out of corners. He also didn't give the puck away haphazardly. I suspect it's mainly because his soul hasn't been crushed just yet and here merely looks good by comparison, but it's good to see something.

After the first goal, Deslauriers made some really good stops from in close. Chicago wasn't taking idle shots, but Deslauriers was making the saves we weren't making last year when we got shellacked by this squad. Good for him anyway.

Visnovsky made some plays as usual. If you ever wonder why we should keep him, and why we attained him, take notice of the fact that he could get by Chicago's elite players by himself despite no support from his teammates. He's a special hockey player, we should all know that by now.

Great to see Fernando score a goal; even if it was hideous. The whole sequence was rather awkward.

I don't know at this stage whether it's a function of mentality, lack of talent, general ineptitude or what, but this team skates to the opposition blue line area and dumps it to the opposition more than any team I can recall. They probably give the puck away in a game like this 60 times in that style. They are never counted as giveaways I'm sure, but they should be. They are wastes as puck possession chances and successful teams in the modern game don't do it. Chicago controlled the puck when they entered and made great passes or held it until they were ready to do something. They are the "anti-shoot guy" persona. We are the "no clue" persona. Or the lazy, or the depressed. Maybe all of the above, I'm not sure.

The desperation you saw at the end was natural, but it was nothing special. Penner took too long and that's why Huet was able to rob him for what probably will be the highlight of the night. It never should have happened.

I must admit I hadn't watched Duncan Keith up close before. He is a truly amazing hockey player. He is the type of elite defenceman that seems to do everything well as opposed to having one specific skill. The puck is drawn to him, often because of positioning. In the defensive zone he's impeccable at getting in the proper defensive spot. He skates fluidly and unerraticly. He also passes with a subtlety that keeps the opposition guessing. This is a highly underrated asset. In addition to making him tricky, it makes him appear confident. He jumps into the play with ease as well. The guy is probably the best player on a Chicago team that has two of the best forwards in the league. That's really something.

Chicago also has an interesting line structure that is somewhat of a luxury. They don't have to load up and hope anyone carries more than their weight. They are balanced enough that they can space players throughout and never really be afraid on the ice.

For the record I think they coasted and knew they could. Still, they are an impressive squad. They should add one more forward for the run. And a defenceman in the Spacek mold. That oughta do it.

I'm not sure there's much more to say about the Oilers to be honest. I'm very much looking forward to Brule and Comrie returning to the lineup Thursday. Should improve entertainment quality at least.

And so we soldier on...I'm still open to gooning it up for the rest of the year.

1/22/10

LMHF Game Report #27

EDMONTON 3

VS.

DALLAS 4
----------------

I've concluded that Jason Strudwick is a strategic plant designed to ensure a first or second overall draft pick. Only that can explain both his inexplicably bad play at the worst times, and the fact that he's on the ice in the first place.

Not only did he manage to put the puck right on James Neal's stick at the end of the game, but even though Taylor Chorney pinched and couldn't get back on Dallas' third goal, Strudwick did absolutely nothing to break up that 2-on-1. He just kind of stood there. It was ugly.

The amount of errors and little plays in this game was rather staggering. From Moreau taking a sure goal and ripping it into the wrong mesh off of Fistric's stick, to Penner missing a wide open net on a gift with almost no time left and Visnovsky somehow hitting the post with Turco out of the play and half of a net available for an easy little slapper. Things were all over the place tonight. It leaves me in a difficult place in making any sort of big assertions about how the game either should have gone or how it felt like it went. I'm at a bit of a loss.

Dallas seemed to sit back after they got their lead and were content to wait. They didn't play particularly well. Their 4th goal was a brutal collapse by all on the ice punctuated by Strudwick's play. Their third was a blown pinch by a rookie and a horrid 2-on-1 by a vet. Their first was a fluff shot missed from the point by a rookie goalie.

I'd almost forgot that Jason Strudwick also scored their second goal for them. Jeez...is it possible to have much worse of a night than he did?

So I don't think this is a matter of them outplaying us. Bogus calls in the first (especially the O'Sullivan call which was beyond weak) got us way down but we had enough guys with the finger on GO tonight to come back.

I think the most controversial thing to discuss would be the play of the 18-10-34 line. They controlled the puck deep in the offensive zone more than any of the other lines for certain. Yet, I would say they accomplished the grand sum of nothing. The cycle to me is an unneeded illusion of effectiveness best preserved for the third period of games where your team has a lead. It is true that it's very difficult to be scored on if your team is strong on the cycle...yet...when you never even threaten to score despite all that puck control...there is a problem. I'm willing to grant that if 10 and 34 had a better winger than 18 playing with them they may very well have generated some offence tonight. 10 was more intense than I've seen him in quite a while. I saw the footrace winning that's been missing from his game for some time. His efforts towards the net however were lacklustre at best. Either weak shots misdirected or generally bad choices. Pisani was the most effective in the zone. He took some good shots and none found twine. He also pulled up behind the net and made efforts to get someone in position the puck. It didn't work, but at least he was making the right play. Moreau again was better...it's almost like SOMETHING has come back into him ever so briefly...he still wasn't particularly good.

Gagner's line was without a doubt our best. I say specifically Gagner's line because that's what it was tonight. He ran the show. From his excellent job of drifting into perfect position on his first goal to the amazingly quick shot on net he generated (I have no idea how he got that off in time) that created the last goal, he was very good. Sam played with intensity tonight. Maybe a little too much early on which resulted in his penalty, but he did well with it as the game went on. I noticed specifically a second period play where Dallas was breaking in, and it was Gagner, the guy who's footspeed is constantly on trial, who chased down the Dallas player and took the puck away. He was pretty vicious about his puck tonight. Penner showed flashes of his earlier self in plays like his drop pass to Visnovsky and walking around players, but his finish and his bull charge to the net were missing. He had at least 4 glorious scoring chances and came away with nothing. That's really too bad. He had the chance to be the difference-maker tonight and wasn't. Cogliano played a largely complimentary role in my eyes, not making any big plays but likely providing enough support if the other two played so well. They seem to have a little something going these three.

19-16-12 wasn't as effective to me as they have been. I still liked the intensity with which O'Sullivan played. He's playing with the puck at a higher speed and it's making a tangible difference in his game. It was good that Potulny stuck with his goal...though I considered it mainly Turco's ineptness. Nilsson however led a disturbing trend of this line getting into dangerous territory, then simply doing nothing with the puck. A line whose sole job is to take solid shots and capitalize on the rushes it generates cannot operate in this manner. They're also quite pedestrian in their defensive zone.

Pouliot did some interesting things. He was entering the opposition end in a manner that showed creativity and poise. Also he was a little physical at times. I hope he keeps this type of play up. The other two guys...did a whole lot of nothing. Stortini got absolutely popped by Fistric and then did nothing at all...not acceptable.

One huge problem, and in my estimation the one that cost the Oilers the game, was taking too many shots from out wide. These shots are either easily stopped and turned over, or miss the net and were turned over. The forwards were especially guilty, but so were Souray and Visnovsky.

Devan suffers through another tough loss. I thought he played just fine except for goal #1. He has an interesting habit of diving flat on his stomach to play a puck. He seems practiced at it and makes it look easy. He was very much hosed on 3 goals tonight, though I suppose he could've stopped the 3rd. He almost did stop the 4th despite it's silliness.

I've already commented on Strudwick...wow..but Chorney I didn't mind. Even the pinch where he got burned wasn't a particularly bad decision. He brought a bit of a physical element which I don't remember from last time, and is certainly confident enough with the puck. I hope he gets the chance to play some down the stretch for us to see what we've got so that we don't have to wait on him next year.

Grebeshkov logged a bunch of minutes tonight and even though a couple turnovers he made might get the press, I quite liked his overall game. He compliments Visnovsky quite well when he plays a balanced game. That was the pairing way back when last season I do believe.

Visnovsky was dynamic many times throughout this game. I simply love to watch this man play hockey and his point play gave us many more chances to score than if it had been someone else.

Souray needed to stop shooting from the outside. His defence however was improved.

Gilbert plods along...but was again solid.

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Well, here we are again. I'm not sure how many more artful ways this team will find to lose this season...seems like we've already seen most :(

1/20/10

LMHF Game Report #26

EDMONTON 2

VS.

VANCOUVER 3
-----------------

I thought the Generals were due - Herschel Shmoikel Pinchas Yerucham Krustofski

I really did tonight. I thought we were going to win going in. My instincts on this stuff used to be very good; but this year's team has thrown it off entirely. Oh well.

That and I wanted to win. We're going to win some of these games left, and I'd much rather that some of them, if not ALL of them be against the Canucks. As covered many times before, I hate their whiny pathetic team of confused olympic divers playing the wrong sport, and cheap shot artists. That's really all they are and that's why they'll lose out in the playoffs again. Their fans in Edmonton are a bunch of annoying weirdos who do that stupid LLOOOOOOO thing all the time, even at crappy saves. It's sad really.

But tonight, and I'm loathe to use this sort of argument, the refs took it from us. They snatched a random victory against a hated rival away for some unknown reason. Aside from all the uncalled BS all night (like the Pisani stick in the face in front of a ref), which was bad enough, it had to come down to a bogus call late creating a PP, and a flat-out leaping through the air dive to end this game favorably for the Canuck side. Just garbage. It's bad enough to be beaten by complete and total chumps like Burrows, Kesler and Raymond, but to have the refs rub it in just that little bit more...really???

We should have had a cushion I know. We used our odd-man rushes like a bad AHL team would...and many were guilty on this front...even ones that had solid games. When Gagner, Nilsson, Cogliano, O'Sullivan, Grebeshkov and the like can't convert the 2-on-1's they're getting, even one of them, you're going to have trouble winning.

We stayed in this one, which was a nice change. I think honestly the Canucks early attempts at abrasiveness motivated some of the dormant guys on our squad just enough to eek a decent effort out of them. Another fairly strong goaltending effort didn't hurt either. I really feel for both guys because their efforts this year are completely for naught. That's really too bad.

Anyway, let's take a closer look in PLAYER REPORTS
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O'Sullivan
- I know he struggled a bit later on in the game, but he was impressive dynamic for most of the first 2/3rd. He made a bunch of nice choices with the puck and some strong recovery and puck support plays high in the opposition zone that generated chances. He didn't take bad shots afterwards either, though I think he could've held the puck a little longer a time or two. He even hit a couple people and withstood some checks as well. Generally good. I think O'Sullivan's recent solid play indicates that he can stand on his own alright despite lackluster efforts around him. I think this shows why of all the supposed secondary runts, you keep him. He's got a more balanced game and a higher upside should he get going.

Nilsson
- Nilsson frustrates me in the same way I'm sure many are frustrated by O'Sullivan. I see a guy who can make dynamic plays with relative ease, as he did a couple of times tonight, then he can't decide what to do with the puck or gives up on it too easy or suddenly ditches the physical quality he'd brought briefly to his game...it's really frustrating. I think he's totally out of place right now, so I have some sympathy, but I didn't see anything special from him. Somehow he blocked a ton of shots...which is excellent I suppose. I just don't see how he ever fits on a winner here. Anyone???

Potulny
- A big part of Ryan's job in my eyes is to get open for his one-timer and he failed to do that this evening. This is the kind of game where he pops one late in 2 or early in 3 and supplies the winner. No dice. He played his usual sound, basic game and that's fine with me. His play is largely irrelevant (barring falling off the planet) until TC for me. If he's still here.

Gagner
- He did indeed play one of his better games in a while. He certainly read well off of Cogliano's skating lines and gave him a place to put the puck. If anything it was Penner who looked slightly out of sorts. I like Gagner's game when he's getting effective shots away and he did that tonight. I was surprised to see him beat Luongo clean the way he did, but that's excellent. He needs to do that more often. He looked tonight more like he looked when Hemsky was his other winger...without Hemsky to make the dynamic plays of course. If Sam keeps this up I don't mind him here. I still have trouble fitting him into my complexion of a winner though unless he figures out how to be effective from my third line.

Cogliano
- One of his more effective games in a long while that's for sure. It hasn't been that he's been lacking effort, but tonight it was focused. He was physically involved, skated into the proper lanes and rather than simply skating with his head down and hoping for open ice, skated to a place where he could get his head up and make a play, forcing the D to back off. That often seems to be the downfall of "speed only" guys. They bury their head, simply expecting the afterburners to supply all they need. The smart ones know better. Cogliano looked smarter tonight.

Penner
- Honestly, his basic game was okay but we expect more. His linemates were flying and unless I missed a ton of support work he did, Penner wasn't in on a good night. This is unusual for him. He gave the puck away weakly a couple times and had no physical edge in a game that could've really used it.

Moreau
- So he takes his visor off and he's a different player? Sorta maybe? At least one we can sell at the deadline perhaps? Good. Moreau did a lot more of skating to the play and a lot less wandering aimlessly. He's still beyond the play and slapper is nowhere to be found, but he was certainly better. Looks alright with Horcoff and Pisani...shocker! I'd look good with Horcoff and Pisani.

Horcoff
- Speaking of Shawn, despite the lack of any real offensive boom and screwing up a couple of net rushes, I didn't mind him tonight. He controlled the puck well and looked right at home with his linemates, something that hasn't been the case for a while.

Pisani
- A classic quiet-but-effective Fernando game by my eye. I really enjoy watching him play those. People forget his game didn't really change much during the run, he was just more confident. If he hadn't been hurt, I'm sure we woulda seen that. But so go many careers...the same thing happened to Reasoner just as he found "it".

Stortini
- Blah...very blah...he's lost all edge. I'd think a new coach woulda had it with him by now because he's shown a lot of nothing.

Jacques
- Nothing.

Pouliot
- Good to see him back even though I don't think he'll be around for too long. I'd like to see him play with some slightly better wingers and be given the job of "dig in the corners and pass out" that he's so good at when he wants to be. See if he's still got it. Hard to believe this is guy I wanted over Winchester in the playoffs way back when.

Strudwick
- You know all that progress that he looked to be making? Whether it's entirely circumstances or not, it was short lived. He just has no concept of how to PK and is routinely taken advantage of. Especially if he's out there with Souray. That's way too little skating.

Souray
- His shot worked, and he was okay defensively. I think in a game like this though my standard for Sheldon is to make it so none of the Canuck pukes come anywhere near the crease and he prevents goals that way. He didn't do that. Thus I view it as a limited success for him.

Grebeshkov
- I saw him a lot in the offensive zone tonight. He had a great little turnover play that could have won us the game late and didn't get the greatest break out of it all. Another time he just gave the puck up and it resulted in a rush going our way. He wasn't really great or bad defensively, and he is stuck with Strudwick, but Denis needs to be better. I suspect he will be after the Olympics, where I imagine he'll shine.

Gilbert
- I didn't see him tonight...which is incredibly odd considering he played so much. He must've done fairly well. I still can't wrap my head around a "quiet Tom Gilbert game" but bet he's rounding out his game nicely. The Gilbert naysayers are gonna eat it.

Smid
- Liked that he was mean. Didn't like that he was not skating the puck. He almost looked nervous to. Whether that's lack of motivation or what I'm not sure. He should be better. Then again, I'll give him a one-night pass when it doesn't really hurt us any.

Visnovsky
- I recall a broken up rush in the second...though one he nearly botched before tipping the puck into the netting. Then again that's Lubomir, it just gets done somehow. Why he's not playing more I still have no freaking clue.

Dubnyk
- He served well. You could see the crushed look even though you couldn't see his face. You know its bad when the goalie leaves his mask on and staggers off the ice. He was seriously into this one and had his heart broken. Gotta feel bad for the kid. He's making strides.
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Doesn't ever get any easier to take this stuff. I can almost stand it against teams that don't matter to me, but not against these guys. Damn....

1/14/10

LMHF Game Report #25

EDMONTON 2

VS.

PITTSBURGH 3
-------------------

At least we were entertained...

and not even by the Penguins. An Oilers team that gave half a damn showed up tonight for whatever reason. I suspect it was something like a combination of the fact that they were due for a decent effort and that they got pissed off at the Pens early on.

If Pittsburgh falters substantially this season I suspect it will be due to a lack of discipline. They showed a lack of discipline both in their play in the first 2 periods and their general hook/hold/questionable hits/picks mentality. They do it far too often. Even Malkin gets himself into positions where he could easily be called for a lot of penalties.

It is true that Pittsburgh stepped up their game in a serious way. It's also true that we generated a bunch of chances to score the third goal and failed. I'd decided very early on, after Dubnyk looked in control and after realizing Horcoff wasn't in the lineup, that I really wanted the boys to win tonight despite the whole draft pick situation. It would have been very gratifying. At least there was a small degree of fun in the fact that some of our more intense players showed up to play and did not a bad job at all.

Even with all the positive, one of the things a lazy unmotivated team does consistently is dump the puck back in on delayed offside rather than hold it, pass it around and try to make a play, we did it a bunch tonight.

One of the things a lazy team doesn't do though is backcheck effectively, but we did this for a couple period tonight. Nilsson made 2 great backchecking plays to prevent chances on one shift in the second alone. Props to him. We prevented a bunch of good chances and even prevented a bunch of shots as was evidenced by the fact that we were leading 2-0 and outshooting Pit 17-8.

But we all know what happened in the third. It's really too bad. How that first goal got right through Dubnyk I have no idea, he was stellar up until that point. More on that in PLAYER REPORTS
-------------------------

Dubnyk
- For 2 period he was square to every shot, consistently despite some solid efforts from Pitt. The amount of times his blocker flashed out and knocked a pretty good shot out of play was pretty impressive. His saves weren't weak in the least. He's shown a lot of progress in the couple games he's played. Namely in reaction speed and playing what looks like more of "his style". Early on he seemed to be doing a lot of standing up. It looked awkward. Tonight he was fully engaged in a crouched position and used it to his full advantage. I'd still like to see him force shooters with his frame a little more, but that will come. His breakaway stop especially was calm and beautiful. Well done Devan, despite crumbling massively in period three.

Strudwick
- I barely saw him all night. I remember a couple of PK shifts and that's about it. I'm not sure why they didn't jump him up front to play some forward if they were going to bother dressing him.

Staios
- A fairly quiet night for Steve. When we were going alright in the second he fired a couple of fairly effective shots towards the net but there was no effect. Nothing to complain too badly about I suppose.

Grebeshkov
- I'm convinced that Denis will come back hard next year, but again tonight he was making mistakes. This included bumbling the puck in the area he's usually best (blue line to top of circle) and some scrambling around in his own end. It didn't really hurt the team in the end, but it isn't standout Denis that we got used to seeing.

Smid
- This was one of the rougher nights I've seen for Smid. He got knocked around fairly badly at times, including on the winning goal where he was pasted into the glass and looked shaken. That was a borderline penalty but alas no call. He didn't really lug the puck much and didn't make any key pinches. Both he and Lubomir backpedaled with a more frantic pace than usual and it seemed to throw them off as a unit.

Visnovsky
- He was excellent on the PP as he always is. None of our defencemen are better at readying themselves for a pass, spotting forwards from a long while away, then making a good connection with the puck. He did this effectively and provided some life to our game. The goal was classic Lubomir. 5-on-5 he was doing too much panic skating. It didn't hurt him directly, but it sure didn't look like the #71 we know and love.

Souray
- He cared tonight. Likely because he got pissed off early on after some of the Pens were taking liberties with his teammates. There were plenty of times he played on the borderline but did it effectively. You could see Malkin wanted no part of him. He went after Cooke a bit (albeit a little too late) and kept Guerin from running over us as he is able to do if he'd really put his mind to it. His shooting was hit and miss. The slapper wasn't really on the money tonight, but the wrister was okay. I think he actually plays better when there are more wrist shots from him.

Gilbert
- Meh, not his best night but far from his worst as well. Its still taking me a lot of getting used to mildly invisible Tom Gilbert being an okay thing. If his passing would step up just a bit, the issue wouldn't be there. He doesn't need to score a ton of goals or anything, but he could chip in with the passing.

Stortini
- He got a few really good scoring chances tonight. At least 4 I believe with 2 being of the prime variety including 1 in the third. He predictably did nothing with him. As I've stated previously, he certainly wouldn't be a sure thing on my team if I were running it. He's not exhibited the effective parts of his game near often enough. He could have tonight as well, with Pittsburgh's undisciplined play and all. Oh well.

Stone
- He got one really great scoring chance in the second and completely froze on it before hitting Fleury in the pads. He's struggled mightily in the offensive zone since his return, and there wasn't a particularly large amount of physicality in his game. I expected better being that he was playing his former squad.

Jacques
- There wasn't much evidence he'd make an impact early and he clearly didn't get icetime because of it. Jacques is a first two shifts sort of guy in my mind. If he doesn't land a whopper he could often and should often wind up plastered to the bench.

O'Sullivan
- I certainly liked his game a lot tonight. That play he made to create his own chance, miss Oilers goal of the year so narrowly, then follow it up with a great seeing-eye to Visnovsky for a goal was a beaut. He was the only one creating lanes for his teammates on the PP. This is one of his gifts and why he rather than Nilsson needs to play that wing with Penner if they want to score. He also made the pass to Cogliano to set up a goal after the Oilers had spent most of a 5-on-3 doing precisely nothing. There was a lot of motivation in his game tonight. He even landed a hit or two. I did see a couple giveaways, but that almost seems a given for a creative offensive talent against a squad like Pittsburgh. Even the dark there is occasionally a glimmer. If we're to be a good team next year, please give this guy another shot for a full year on a team that gives a damn. Should've been on the ice at the end of the game trying to score with the goalie pulled.

Potulny
- He simply keeps on playing a simple and effective game. I know many have already covered it, but for those who missed it, he is the first Oilers player I remember to draw two penalties at once as he was aggressively hooked by Adams then jump-hit by Malkin, resulting in a 5-on-3. Hilarious stuff. Good solid game on a good solid line.

Pisani
- He fit in really well playing with O'Sullivan and Potulny. That line really looked solid. I had always recommended that he be placed with O'Sullivan and Comrie to begin the year but that never occured. Fernando works with a player like O'Sullivan specifically and will occasionally be given the shooting lanes he needs to do his work. Fernando's game was simple tonight, but effective, just like Potulny but with a different style of course. Fernando's never shifty, but he's also not deterred easily.

Nilsson
- I mentioned his backchecks earlier which were extremely impressive. He also made a great move that nearly resulted in a goal in the second period, dekeing out Fleury only to be rammed into him by Malkin resulting in a pile-up. I was disappointed when neither Jacques nor Souray beat anyone up there. There were plenty of worthy candidates. He also bobbled the puck a few times but was generally strongish. I'm hoping this play leads to a team in need of some playoff scoring depth to take a chance on him. I've always said New Jersey would be a good fit but we'll see. I still don't think he's on an improving Oilers squad in that the top level of his skill will never be part of a core.

Gagner
- If you're wondering why he didn't score on his one-timer in the third that could've won us the game it's because he didn't fall taking it. He always falls when he scores. Sam seemed more stable on the puck tonight and took on his responsibility well including doing quite well for himself on the faceoff dot.

Penner
- Back to his old self, Penner bulled the net a number of times, got set up for one-timers and threw people around rather mercilessly. It's a shame he didn't have Hemsky tonight because you woulda seen 4 or 5 points and a big Oilers W that we all would've just loved. I have no real doubt he'll be in fine form next year and a joy to watch. Until then the only thing we'll have are solid efforts like tonight that go largely unrewarded. I would say his only failing was on he breakaway where he failed to read Fleury's coming pokecheck. I think Dustin needs to develop a stronger forehand move as he is becoming too reliant on the backhand. Goalies will scout it and he's got a great shot that's being under-utilized.

Moreau
- He tried so hard to take stick penalties tonight it was unbelievable but somehow he managed to get away free. I really don't know how. Other than that I thought he was pretty bad.

Cogliano
- Poor Andrew, it even takes him two whacks on a gimme goal these days. I didn't mind how hard he worked surely. I've decided I hope they're able to secure him at bit-part salary going forward or he needs to be dealt this year. I think he's already lost the dynamic part of his game. It's not that he's fudging shots so much as its that he's not generating the types of chances he did before by using his skating strength to stretch the D and offer his D the chance to hit him for 6. It just doesn't happen this year. Watch for it next game.
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Oilers stars:

O'Sullivan, Penner, Visnovsky (due to PP performance)

So, what is this magical thing that Shawn Horcoff does that was missing tonight and we still nearly beat the Pittsburgh Penguins with 40 minutes worth of effort? I'd really love to know. (I've come a long way with Horcoff, but I still don't understand how people think he makes such a big difference when he's not putting the puck in the net).

Memo to Oilers-turned-Pens fans for one night only. Actually cheering loudly for the other team like that, not even a player, is incredibly effing lame. I'll remember who you were if I see you at another game cheering for us. It's less genuine now.

1/12/10

LMHF Game Report #24

EDMONTON 3

VS.

NASHVILLE 5
-----------------

I think I just watched the worst NHL effort I've seen in the time I've had season tickets. Despite the shot totals and the "close" game, that was one of the saddest things I've ever seen.

I didn't even watch 10 minutes of the third period as I was having an important work conversation in the concourse and couldn't see reason to leave it as I would every other time.

Watching Sheldon Souray essentially stand there as 4 Nashville goals were scored on him was just too sad to believe. I've never seen such an intense individual put forth such a weak and unfocused effort. He was bad and he didn't care.

But then again, all of them spent the game gliding around, sticks on hips, wallowing in their own self pity. If you watched at home I'm not sure you could see it, but no one looked ready, focused, or like they gave half a crap as they were skating to take the next shift. It was so evident from the first drop of the puck. There were not 2 seconds in this game where the Oilers looked as if they were going to win.

Usually I'd try to find some positives, but I don't see value in that with reference to tonight. They supposedly went off and refocused, then worked on some things and were coming back with a fresh mindset.

Unless their approach involved incredibly weak down low defence and no effort whatsoever, I don't see how anything stuck. That's very unfortunate in terms of looking forward for the team improving eventually. Usually there's some kind of bump after an event like this recent break. Not for us.

Our defence down low has been an achilles heel all season long. I'm not exactly sure why everyone can beat us there, but the ALL do. Watch the games closely and see how many goals come from us simply getting schooled down low in tight. There's nothing specific about our D which causes this, so I'm led to believe it's the system.

In terms of goaltending, sure JDD wasn't great but I'm really wondering if he could've done anything at all. I feel so horrible for him as I've stated before as the guy simply hasn't gotten a straight break since he turned pro.

Dubnyk I thought for the first time looked NHL capable for a couple sequences. He was in better position and moved more through reflex and less on thought. These are pluses. I expect him to play quite regularly now. I also believe I noticed new Oilers equipment that he was wearing, which could be an indication he's here to stay and Nik is truly done for the year.

I don't really want to waste time going on too much about individual players tonight. Penner, O'Sullivan, Potulny, Jacques and Visnovsky/Smid made my life slightly more bearable.

What needs to happen now, and I mean now, is a bunch of people need to be traded. We need the fat off this team before it ruins some of the guys who still have a shot to make a positive difference. Losing is like poison...especially losing like this. We've now experienced that a culture change cannot occur through coaching alone. I know many believed this prior to the season and saw no need to test drive a bunch of the players we are currently, I was one of them. Not a lot of good that does us now.

I guess Pittsburgh will be at the least entertaining. This was not.

1/11/10

A Team That Can Win It All

Regardless of your approach to acquiring the parts, we all pretty much want the very same thing. A team that can win a Stanley Cup.

It's worth remembering what kind of squad can do this so that we can design our approach to accomplish this goal, rather than being simply stuck in the paradigms of a "rebuild" or a "reload" or anything other "re" you could come up with.

Taking a gander back to spring 2006, our team looked something like this:

F - Hemsky, Horcoff, Smyth, Peca, Samsonov, Murray, Harvey, Stoll, Torres, Dvorak, Laraque, Winchester, Moreau, Pisani

D - Pronger, Spacek, Bergeron, Greene, Tarnstrom, Smith, Staios

G - Roloson, Markkanen, Conklin

Looking back now at the team that marched through the playoffs is very interesting. You could say that at forward we were fairly top-heavy in that our bit parts weren't actually that good. Murray, Harvey and Winchester really didn't belong in the NHL at that point (though at least Murray and Harvey were vets, that is why they were around). There remains some question in the minds of detail-oriented fans such as myself if we'd have won the cup had they found a way to either keep Marty Reasoner or acquire Dean McAmmond in that trade that was voided.

The top 9 were very solid. Hemsky, Horcoff and Smyth speak for themselves. Despite my utter displeasure with Smyth's playoff performance, he was at least steady. Stoll was blossoming into his pre-concussion form that had him playing some of the best hockey for this team on a number of nights. Mike Peca was a playoff superhero at both ends of the rink. Samsonov made one of the greatest passes I've ever seen live considering that some future hall of famer wearing #5 from Detroit was in his way and the game was on the line. He was a truly outstanding deadline pickup in that he's a bit piece with an elite element to his game that can get your team plays like the one that resulted in that Hemsky goal. Raffi Torres came off a truly amazing regular season that many probably forget saw him pot 27 goals. He actually had a fairly disappointing playoff statistically. The important part was that our secondary scoring was solid. It was not one of Radek Dvorak's better years in my books, but with that said, when your depth players are of that high a level, it's okay. You're not having to worry about a bunch of AHL callups or rookies or 3rd year incomplete non-elite players screwing up or buckling under the pressure. There was also some guy named Fernando who realized he could really shoot a puck and just sort of took things over. People forget just how good he was. If he'd somehow managed to get that last game winner, despite the amazing performance of Pronger, he had to be MVP. You can't score that many playoff winners and not get it.

So, how do we compare to that team?

Hemsky vs. A better version of Hemsky CHECK

Smyth vs. Penner - I'm going out on a limb and saying as of next year Penner is better than Smyth from 05-06 CHECK

Horcoff vs. Horcoff - I don't think he's as good as he was. I think he careered in 05-06 and will never approach those totals again. NEGATIVE

Peca vs. Cogliano - Obviously not even close. We have no one even moderately similar to Peca, a vet warrior who will be there every time it matters NEGATIVE

Samsonov vs. Nilsson - Nilsson might be an opportunist like Samsonov, but he has nowhere near the pedigree, experience, or ability to make elite plays that Samsonov had NEGATIVE

Pisani vs. Pisani - Fernando has had one of the most unfortunate turns of anyone since the run. I truly do think he was breaking through and would have deserved his $$$s had he not lost all semblance of health. NEGATIVE

Moreau vs. Moreau - The Ethan that was a good strong soldier in 06 has long since vanished. He no longer hits and no longer takes his underrated slapper in the offensive zone. He's also lost his mind on the PK, an area he used to play exceptionally in terms of positioning. NEGATIVE

Torres vs. Brule - There is no question that Brule has come a long way and is rounding into a very nice player. There is also no question that Raffi has regressed, likely due to his off-ice behaviour getting the best of him. Should Brule continue down the path he's on, he'll probably whip Torres career-wise, but right now he's no 27-goal man. NEGATIVE

Stoll vs. Gagner - Both are complete-ish centres with gifts in the offensive zone. Right now, Sam is certainly not what Jarret had become in terms of the consistency of his efforts and result. He'll also never be the PK'er, faceoff guy, or shooter that Stoll was. People forget how important it is to have a whack of shooters on any successful team. NEGATIVE

Dvorak vs. Potulny - Again this is a circumstance where people both forget that Dvorak was a formerly high end guy being used in a depth role. Radek was a good hockey player having what many considered to be an iffy year (others would disagree profoundly, but that's another debate). As much as I like what Potulny's showing, there's no comparison here. NEGATIVE

I don't think we need to delve into Harvey, Winchester, Laraque, Murray other than to say that they were more veteran than today's crew of Stone, Jacques, Stortini and O'Sullivan. Maybe O'Sullivan would have been a better comparison for Dvorak, and I think that battle's more even.

Anyway, I think it's plain to see we're sorely lacking up front.

On the back end, it's a slightly different story.

Pronger vs. Souray - ha...hahahah...hahahahahah....NEGATIVE. The laughter hides the pain. I had to rub my eyes and double check every time I saw Pronger's name on the screen because I thought there was no way we'd ever have a guy like him at that juncture and for essentially nothing.

Spacek vs. Visnovsky - Lubomir is elite level whereas Jaroslav was secondary. He did a very good job for us down that stretch but even at his peak couldn't change a game like Visnovsky can. CHECK

Smith vs. Smid - I'm going to say that even now, and sure by the end of this season, Smid has a leg up on Smith here. It's true they're slightly different defencemen, but Smid is rounding into our most solid physical and defensive guy in a rapid hurry. Smith survived this year but was already deteriorating. CHECK

Staios vs. Gilbert - I do this instead of Staios v Staios because the roles have changed significantly. At forward they really haven't. Gilbert is a better player now than Staios was then, with possibly only the reliability of his game as the remaining question. CHECK

Bergeron vs. Grebeshkov - I happen to think that Bergeron was better at this stage than Denis is right now because he could jump up onto the first pairing and give you great minutes, and is was a force on the PP. Some may disagree with that, but remember the time. NEGATIVE

Greene vs. Staios - Even with Steve's deterioration, he's fine if he's #6. And he's better than the human penalty machine himself. CHECK

Tarnstrom vs. Strudwick - Dick er...Dirk...er...Dick wins this one. Versatility and some high-end skill whereas Strudwick is just versatile. NEGATIVE

So, on defence we are in many ways better than that 05-06 team. Differentiating however between a team led by Chris Pronger and one led by either Souray or Visnovsky is another matter. Not having Pronger requires that the rest be better. In a year I still think this group is better than that group. The likelihood of them being together for that long however is seriously in doubt.

In goal for me is totally up in the air. Were Khabibulin playing this year, I think it'd be an easy debate to say that his top end and average are both better than Roloson's. Remember Roloson wasn't even that good in the regular season that year for us.

----------------

SO, we want a Cup, there's the kind of changes we need. Seems like a mountain right? Maybe not.

If you accept that Hemsky, Horcoff (ugh...), Penner, Visnovsky, Smid, Gilbert and either Khabibulin or whoever replaces him can be on a cup contender, and we can add pieces that shuffle other pieces lower, we can build a contender quickly. I prefer this approach to rebuild central.

RW
Hemsky
Brule
Pisani
Eberle

C
Horcoff
Wheeler
*******
Potulny

LW
Penner
Bourque
O'Sullivan
Elkins


D
Visnovsky
Gilbert
Grebeshkov
Smid
Volchenkov
Jurcina


G
Khabibulin
Bernier

I think that squad gets us close. It has no Pronger certainly, and I can't think of who could be the Peca but there should be options out there. I've moved out a ton of guys, partially through the trades I proposed earlier in this blog, but I think a thorough house cleaning would be the only way, and that of the movable guys, an agressive approach could move them all. I'm also not interested in our mediocre young guys. Nowadays you can replace the mediocre part of your lineup with cheap vets, then upgrade at the deadline if you must.

I suppose the most controversial thing I've done is propose they move Sam Gagner. I just don't know if he's going to work out to a high enough potential to justify keeping him, when I'd rather run Horcoff-Wheeler-SHUTDOWN-Potulny out there each night. The biggest gamble is Brule with as much responsibility as he has, but again, you can always go grab a vet at the deadline.

The big keys are Bernier (goaltending depth + future number 1. He's at .941 in the AHL right now), Volchenkov and Jurcina (change the complexion of our back end for a different look), Bourque and Wheeler (scoring depth and very smart hockey players).

So that'd be my vision for the one-year turnaround. I'd keep a vet or two in the 13 and 14 fwd spots so that Eberle would have minimal responsibility. If he blossoms, great. If not, he's got all the time in the world. I haven't taken into account who we might draft. I know of course it wouldn't go EXACTLY to plan ever, but it's most important to have a vision.

So, back to the beginning. Which group is better?

F - Hemsky, Horcoff, Smyth, Peca, Samsonov, Murray, Harvey, Stoll, Torres, Dvorak, Laraque, Winchester, Moreau, Pisani

D - Pronger, Spacek, Bergeron, Greene, Tarnstrom, Smith, Staios

G - Roloson, Markkanen, Conklin

OR

F - Hemsky, Horcoff, Penner, Pisani, Wheeler, O'Sullivan, Brule, SHUTDOWN, Eberle, Potulny, Bourque, Elkins, +2 vets

D - Visnovsky, Gilbert, Smid, Grebeshkov, Volchenkov, Jurcina

G - Khabibulin, Bernier

It's probably still 05-06, but by a lot less. That was also the end of year team, not the beginning.

1/7/10

LMHF Game Report #23

EDMONTON 2

VS.

COLUMBUS 4
-----------------

An update on the mood of the crowd for those who are interested:

- The loudest cheer of the game by far is currently for the ESSO On The Run promotion. By about 3x. How sad is that? The loudest cheer at a live sporting event is for a pre-recorded pre-determined "contest" video. Yuck...

- Shawn Horcoff is not only getting about 1/2 boos and 1/2 cheers when he's in the starting lineup, he's also getting less reaction than Paul Lorieau.

- The seats were empty tonight. In addition to no-shows, Katz had to have footed the bill for some seats. The 2 singles near my seat, which sell and are filled for every game, were empty all night tonight. Never saw a soul.

- I'd say about 75% are cynical as hell, while 25% are too naive to know the difference between what's going on down on the ice and what should be.

So on to the game. Two rather horrendous teams facing one and other in a "battle" for 2 points. To say I was less than excited for this one is an understatement. When I saw Visnovsky was scratched that became even more the case. At least if he's in a game you know something might happen.

One thing that was study-worthy was one Devan Dubnyk. I'm not the highest on Dubnyk to begin with, and tonight didn't impress me much. I'm not sure how much he can do with the team currently in front of him, but the areas he has trouble with are rather odd. Shots from straight alongside him are an adventure whether they go in or not. He either has an issue seeing sideways or squaring up to his posts. He was nearly beaten on at least 3 weak shots from the side. And not crazy sniper-rips either. He's also slow moving in any direction generally, and unlike Deslauriers doesn't use his size to make himself big via positioning. I don't really get why people think he will be all that better based on his attributes.

I felt it odd that the combination of Gilbert Brule, Ryan Potulny and Patrick O'Sullivan were playing together. To me it makes sense to have one of these guys on each line...or maybe 2 with some big corner-owning brute of a player, but playing all 3 together is rather non-sensical. The only guy I saw really benefit was O'Sullivan. He played a relatively physical game, which was something to see. I could see him playing with a bit of edge and being fairly successful as a guy who could walk that line. He's smart. He also hustled and showed some willingness to battle for the puck. I didn't mind him.

Brule wasn't anything spectacular in that he never really got his shot off and that's his mission in just about any game. 2-3 of the beastly shot and one's likely to find twine. So long as he doesn't toss a bunch of pucks up the middle of the ice and generate goals on us (which he didn't) I think he's played his part.

Potulny offered balanced solid play and a couple of halfway decent shots. Again, I think he was utilized incorrectly.

Let there be zero doubt that Penner is irritated and not in the kind of way that would turn him into a bull. The kind that makes him take the long, lazy strides back into the play, virtually erases the physical "get out of my way" game that he was so effective at early on, and makes him just another guy. He's not getting his shots on and in either. It sure stinks to see a guy career-ing and get it totally de-railed. I have to wonder if he'll ever be as good as he was at the beginning of this year with a healthy Hemsky.

Nilsson is better, that much is obvious. But he's doing it with zero pressure and all kinds of chances. The 3-on-1 break he had today, where he telegraphed the Penner pass to death and therefore had it taken away, is a perfect example of why he's still just not good enough. An assertive offensive player, which is what he needs to be in order to make things happen, either makes that pass or sells is totally as he did then goes roof on the stupefied goalie. Not Nilsson. Oh well.

Poor Shawn. As I mentioned earlier he's getting it pretty bad from the crowd despite being one of the only guys who still at least LOOKS like he's skating hard after pucks and not giving up. He did however bounce several pucks off his own skates today, and miss a gimme one-timer and a gimme at the side of the net that required only one step not to miss. I don't want to bag on him too badly because again, I'm not sure there's much he could do, but healthy or not he's lost in the offensive zone.

I was relieved when I didn't seem to see Moreau or Cogliano until the second period. They are both contributing pretty well zero right now. Moreau because he holds the puck, won't pass then gives it away (multiple examples tonight) and Cogliano because he never is able to get himself open in an opportune position. I don't know why he's lost this skill.

Part of the Oilers trouble is that their offensive zone entry seems to consist of a semi-diagonal dump-in on almost every play despite the fact that they score their goals on rushes with at least one puck movement or lateral move. I don't know why Buchberger is diagramming plays...

Stortini I could do without at the moment. In a non-intense environment he's just not useful. I hear they've got some guy on the Island who can bat pucks into the net? I'd kill for some entertainment on that ice right now. At least Comrie will be back soon...right???

Good to see Fernando back in the uniform. I do fear that it's merely a countdown to his trade to a contender (so long as he's healthy) but at least a good guy will get a chance. Hopefully he'll come back in the offseason at a reduced rate. Good to see he can still shoot a puck off the rush. That we will likely never get to see how useful an O'Sullivan-Comrie-Pisani line could have been for a full squad this year saddens me. That's the kind of depth line you want to have.

Ryan Stone is at the very least a competitor. One thing you can definitely see in person is that he's getting insanely frustrated. He's continuing to attempt to do what he did before, but no one is there to follow up it seems. He made a solid zone entry and pass play to set up Gagner's goal.

I don't mind Sam on this line, but I still have to wonder if he's stalled. This would be a tragedy because there's so much skill in there. Ever notice how Sam is falling on nearly every goal he scores? It happened again tonight. I think a more confident Sam doesn't botch the two other net-side chances he had by 3 feet a piece though, those were ugly.

Lovely play by Grebeshkov to jump in and be open to pass to Sam. I could hear the SHOOT morons preparing the initial S when he made that well chosen pass to Sam. They'll never understand why that was the right thing to do even though Sam scored. I didn't notice him too much besides that other than a semi-physical altercation in front of our net in the second period.

Strudwick did alright for himself and never really looked out of place or exceedingly slow. At least he hurt somebody with a shot?

Staios did what he does, which isn't anything exceptional at this point.

Smid suffers a little without Visnovsky but not much. He maintains a generally physical game and skates with the puck as he always does. He's just not able to play with as much abandon or benefit as usual. The place where this is most noticeable is in offensive zone, where Smid who is an effective pincher, is effectively neutered. Just another weapon out of our arsenal.

Souray has rediscovered his wrister, which he used more effectively tonight than his slapper to generate a couple scramble chances that probably would have been cashed in on if we gave a damn. He took a slapshot from the hashmarks that may have perplexed some...yet if he makes it we have a highlight of the night so I can't dog him too bad for going with his best pitch. I just wish there was some semblance of the nasty defensive zone Souray that is more useful on a lot of nights than the offensive stuff. I find the D actually gets him into the O.

I think I might have figured out what's going on with Tom Gilbert in that he's rounding out his game. I know he's been unspectacular this season and is certainly cast in a less offensive role, but he's really becoming a more "steady" type of player in a lot of ways. I've been reassured by his play even during our downturn that he will be a rock for this squad if we choose to keep him. Don't forget that given the opportunity while he won't hit Visnovsky/Souray totals, he'll be close.
-----------

At least I was able to salvage some analysis out of one of these games. I was starting to feel somewhat lacking in that department. So much of what I see is because I'm able to put myself in the mind of the intense competitor and try to see the game through their eyes and their decisions. Right now we have maybe 1-4 of those guys a night. It's gotta really stink to devote that much energy to a losing atmosphere.

1/5/10

Advisory - No game report this evening

Hello all; I will not be able to attend tonight's game, so there will be no report this evening. I may be able to watch some on TV, but as I'm sure you've heard before, I do not believe in reporting on the games without full view.

Sorry guys! Until next time...