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12/30/10

LMHF Game Report #18

EDMONTON 3

VS.

COLORADO 4

In a freaking shootout...
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Games like tonight make the case that ties should be reinstated. If they won't let the 2 teams play until the bitter end, deciding a contest like this with an event like that belittles the quality of the contest (and screwed us out of an eventual win).

There were many many storylines in tonight's game and I'm going to try to catch as many as I can, but be sure to chime in if I miss some of the exceptional things that went down.

The first period was pretty disgusting; the feeling in the building was definitely "here we go again" and I think if you'd polled you'd have seen about 75% believing this was heading towards a 6-0 or 6-1 kinda blowout.

The three Avs goals were all due to glaring errors on the Oilers behalf. They spent the first period clearing out of proper positioning and having D way too high in the zone when the puck wasn't moving far enough ahead. This meant the Avs had many odd-man chances and victimized Dubnyk early.

On the first, three Oilers (Foster, Gagner and Eberle I believe) closed on the Avs player but did not check. Extending a weak stick won't do anything when a guy is moving with purpose. This created an odd man situation down low that Smid couldn't play and Foster tried to rectify with another weak stick. No such luck.

The second Avs goal occurred because Gagner got owned in the corner and allowed his man to walk straight out (also Strudwick overcommitted to his man and wasn't able to assist in the recovery), causing another odd man situation for Petry, and he made a bad but understandable choice to leave his man and attempt to play the puck, so his man (Stastny) buried it. He'd have been better to let the sharp angle chance happen and guard Stastny.

The third goal happened because Cogliano made a bad choice to flip the puck when he had time and a clear man to other side, and because both GIlbert and Peckham were behind the red line. This created another low 2-on-1 that led to a goal.

Low 2-on-1s are KILLER. We allowed way too many of them.

Our goals were fairly interesting: on the first, Foster makes a good play to keep it in the zone but actually doesn't make a very good play towards the net. Fortunately Gagner was in good position, the puck popped to him, Hall smartly drifted into the open slot and Gagner found him with a nice pass that he buried. Good finish. This actually wasn't a very good shift as Hall had made 2 or 3 mistakes trying to get into the offensive zone on it. Needless to say the goal was a solid recovery.

The second was very purdy. Hemsky had started in on his mission to save the game with Penner riding shotgun. Cogliano rescued the puck from the crease, made a speedy turn up ice and found Hemsky in the neutral zone on a great pass where Hemsky and Penner ran a screen of sorts (KEY! DON'T LET COGLIANO CARRY IT IN THE NEUTRAL ZONE!). Right at the point Hemsky cuts in, not only does Penner drive the net and provide a screen, but knocks both Avs Dmen down and towards the goalie. Hemsky's wide open in the slot and shoots across his body into the open and screened net as the dmen crash into Anderson. Beautiful sequence with great plays all around. It looked like Petry made a great read and jumped in to open up for a shot and sold it as well. Nice little touch.

Our third was also nice; with another Hemsky-led rush resulting in a goal. He'd cranked it up about 8 notches by this point and Penner was along for the ride. It was good to see Cogliano figure out what to do when those 2 get going. 1) get them the puck in the neutral zone and 2) go to the slot. I loved the way Hemsky gloved the puck and strode with authority into the offensive zone. Something was going to happen on that shift. The crowd and Hemsky knew it. Penner forced 2 different guys to cover him and got the D off-kilter in a hurry. I'm still a little amazed that Cogliano finished, but am very glad he did.

Did anyone see the random line-flipping Renney on faceoffs where Cogliano and Gagner switched about 4 times while the wingers got double the length of shift? I had no idea what was going on.

Very glad Renney's decision to play the Fraser line with 2:11 to go didn't cost us the game; that was a bad move, even with the wingers on that line playing great tonight.

Where was Hejduk until that SO goal? He must really be feeling the aging process as he doesn't seem to be a feature part of the Avs' attack.

This game fundamentally changed when we (for once) decided we were going to hit at home and run the opponent out of the rink; above all else tonight proved we can do that when we decide to. It really worked as we backed Colorado off considerably and had room to play with all of a sudden.

On to PLAYER REPORTS
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Dubnyk
- Not much chance on any of the three goals really as he was just screwed over defensively. Once they played half-decent in front of him, he was really solid. Some big saves in the third (as the breakdowns were still there, just less often) kept the team alive long enough that they should have been able to win. Good performance where he looked really calm. Start him against CGY.

Foster
- His first period was atrocious, but this was still probably his best game of the year. He had several defensive stops and was very aggressive tonight. What he needs to figure out though, is that his shots aren't going in. I don't blame him for the OT PP failing to produce a winner, his teammates (and likely the coach) were forcing a play that wasn't going to result in a goal. Why they don't go back door with the game Penner and Hemsky had been having I have no idea...we woulda won right there. I suspect if Whitney's around we alter the plan and do indeed win it. Foster fired wide when he nailed his shots, and took too many weak wristers that couldn't go in. These need to be low if he's going to take them. This may seem critical for a guy I said had a good game, but the fact that he got himself into all those positions was impressive. I liked how decisive he was, the decisions just needed to be better. Also love the revenge shot for the Hemsky elbow. Well done sir. (even though the elbow just pissed Hemsky off and made him play even better than he was).

Petry
- Last game it took him a period to get going, whereas tonight it took him about 2 shifts. I liked a lot of what I saw from him, includng a little play in OT where instead of just firing a blind stupid shot at the net, he faked and waited for a lane to form as well as his forwards to get in position, then took a great low shot that could've ended the game. Beautifully simple play that required thought and poise. He did it with ease. Also loved when he knocked Koci's stick right out of his hands in the corner. Koci looked stunned. Petry was tough in the corners all night, skated very hard and made fewer defensive mistakes. This kid looks like a fast learner and a guy who can elevate his game to the NHL level without too many bumps. Exactly what we need. Very nice game being that he's thrown into a big role, yet seemingly has very little pressure on him in the traditional sense. Could be ideal for development. With the amount of times I noticed him, I'm rather surprised he only got 16.5 minutes.

Strudwick
- He was Strudwick. I nearly cried in OT when I saw 43 on the ice but thankfully he survived while Peckham did some tremendous work to keep the game tied. His shot on net later on in the third was one of the sadder things I've seen. I'd gladly challenge him to a hardest shot competition (wrister at the very least).

Gilbert
- Quieter game than the last one for him tonight but still rather brilliant. He's the rock now and aside from that brief moment on the Colorado goal he was excellent and in position for most of the night. I honestly thought he'd contribute more offensively once they really got rocking and rolling but for some reason he didn't. Oh well.

Smid
- He did some really nice things tonight, mainly skating the puck out of trouble after the first period several times with Avs players draped all over him. This is one of the few unique skills he shows on pretty much a nightly basis. Defensively he made some mistakes along with the rest of the crew but they were certainly minimized after the first period which was good to see. One of these days he's going to score a goal as well.

Peckham
- I loved the way Theo both took it to the Avs physically even talking all kinds of smack to Koci after the Hemsky incident. I was surprised they didn't get into it later in the game. Theo's at his best when he's ornery and adds a little offence to his usual game which is what he did tonight, jumping into a couple rushes and letting another quality shot go (he needs to use it more often as I've said previously). I only wish Theo was able to learn playing a role more appropriate to his current level of development. He's coming along well despite the less than ideal situation.

Brule-O'Marra-Paajarvi
- They couldn't seem to decide which wings 67 and 91 should play as they kept switching all night. I didn't really understand what was going on there. Magnus didn't get a lot of touches and wasn't a big factor in this game. He's in a bit of a slump right now and I'm not sure we have the horses to haul him out of it with better linemates and such. Hopefully he can figure it out on his own. Brule was one of the few guys who didn't start hitting tonight; and he needed to. Being that he's doing nothing offensively (even when they inexplicably had him on the PP) he needs to bring other elements and the most obvious one on a night when everyone hit would have been to play physical. he didn't. O'Marra on the other hand did. I kept wishing for Renney to wake up and bench Fraser allowing O'Marra to play with Jones and Stortini. That would be a nice fourth line if we'd just pick up a third line C and boot Fraser. O'Marra's playing generally smart hockey and knows when to pick his spot and go for a nice hit. There was a particularly good one in the high Avs zone in the third. Really think he's progressing. Certainly won't ever be a 2C, but could be part of a future if he's blooming late and continues to build his game.

Jones-Fraser-Stortini
- Until Fraser had a chance to win the game on a great pass from Hall I didn't notice him aside from his feeble attempts to hit as Stortni and Jones were doing. I really don't know what he does and I'm going to keep repeating that until he does something. Jones was running around making the Avs' life hellish tonight which is exactly what he needs to do on a line like this. I loved the hits he laid out. He also made some nice defensive stops including backing up Dubnyk in the third on a particularly dangerous chance. Got to respect when he puts out an effort like that. Stortini was also good. While he didn't land as many hits as Jones, he got in peoples faces and won races to loose pucks. This is something he did very well in the preseason and tonight was the first time I saw him playing that game with some force. He also drove the net effectively on a couple occasions and got into proper offensive position on his rushes. Very nice.

Hall-Gagner-Eberle
- Jordan Eberle started the hit parade. Yes you heard right. He got two Avs with really solid hits along the far boards in the second period and then his teammates started bullying the Avs around and suddenly we had offensive room. i didn't think it was his best game overall but those two hits made a difference that lasted until the end of the game. I really liked the move he made around an Avs dman with a quick deke to his backhand that JUST missed (can't recall third or OT). He also played a part on the Hall goal as two Avs defenders were playing him to some extent. He showed his smarts well tonight. As I noted above, Gagner screwed up bad on one of the Avs goals and was indeed horrid in his own zone for most of the first half of the game. He was getting outmuscled but the perplexing part was that the other guys weren't too big. Sometimes he was overcommitting physically to a compromised defensive position, while other times he was trying to make the play with too much stick. This contrasted with his rather excellent support efforts in the offensive zone including some time with Hemsky and Penner on the PP that looked rather golden. He had a lot of jump in the offensive zone. The Oilers certainly win this game if either Hall or Eberle scores on their chances during the mad dash to the end of the second period. I really thought Eberle's shot from the slot would go in. I also thought Hall generated plenty near the end of the game, but the chances were more B chances than A chances. Too bad, would have been nice to see him win another COL game. Certainly better than his last 2 nights.

Penner-Cogliano-Hemsky
- Ales struggled a little in his own end early on, giving up the puck a couple times. After that though, he was flying in all zones. He'd already stepped it up when he got elbowed on a dangerous rush, but after that he was just excellent. He set up numerous chances and forced the Avs D into all kinds of bad situations for the rest of the game. He got through some excellent shots including on a little drag move that nearly went in during the third period. He's still our best player and certainly worth the price of admission. Hemsky and Penner work magic together because they know how to use each others' skillsets and how to weave effectively between each other on the ice. Penner was calm and smart all night long. I was getting really annoyed at these guys above me in a skysuite who were actually berating the guy despite the fact that he was bullying the Avs D all night.These efforts make me think that the most important thing we could do to get back winning would actually be to sign both 83 and 27, then focus on finding them a C. A big C would make that line indestructible. Cogliano did a pretty decent job after the first (where he was much like Gagner in the defensive zone) and certainly had one of his better nights this season. We'll see next game if he learned from the experience and continues to go to the proper areas. I agree with the approach of some though, who would trade him at the deadline or draft if he drums up some value playing with 83 and 27. They're so good they can make him look rather excellent despite the fact that he's still not confident. I saw some good boardplay from 13 that I hadn't seen in a really long time, which was refreshing. He actually believed he could keep the puck tonight.
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Certainly an entertaining game. We deserved a better fate aside from making too many mistakes in the first and not being able to close in the third. There were so many chances too which made it rather heartbreaking.

Suggested lines vs CGY:

Penner-Cogliano-Hemsky
Hall-Gagner-Eberle (though I actually wouldn't mind trying Eberle at C with 83 and 27)
Jones-O'Marra-Stortini
Paajarvi-Fraser(blech, call up Reddox)-Omark

Crazy game. Not what I expected to be writing after period one!

12/28/10

LMHF Game Report #17

EDMONTON 2

VS.

BUFFALO 4
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I made a pretty decently sized effort to get home from skiing to attend this game tonight and was really expecting my team to attend as well.

I'm not sure if it was just one line (which I'll discuss later) or the whole squad, but I have a feeling at least some of the Oilers really tied one on last night. That's about the only explanation I'd imagine for an effort that utterly strange; we had about 5 minutes worth of GO and that was it.

Buffalo never really did anything out there tonight. Every goal they scored was weak and they were missing their biggest pieces other than Vanek and Miller, yet we laid a big enough egg and lost a big enough piece of our own to come out on the short end. That's pretty sad.

If you missed the first few minutes of this one you wouldn't have seen very many positives. In the first few we looked way too talented and fast for this Sabres team. We should have run them out of the barn kicking and screaming if we'd kept that pace for even another period. We didn't.

I'd give Renney a massive minus for yanking Linus off the PP in favor of Magnus on the first PP of the game. Doing that to a rookie after a puck gets stuck in some water and your apparently sleeping goalie lets in a total floater is bad coaching. That PP unit Omark-Penner-Hemsky is probably one of the few positives out of this game. They needed to get more of the overall share on the PP, but Renney kept rushing 4-89-14 out there. I didn't like the way Tom coached tonight's game at all. For one, when he saw how bad the first two goals 35 let in were, he shoulda yanked him. Anyway...on to PLAYER REPORTS

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Khabibulin
- As discussed, he was putrid. The first goal, while awkward, went in because he triple clutched rather than just covering the most area possible. The second has no excuse, and the third was from an angle where it should be impossible to score on anything but a perfectly released deceptively quick shot (which Hecht's wasn't). When your goalie is having to turn around and check his angle on that play, he's having a bad night. He made probably 3 good saves, though they were recovery saves and he was late on a bunch more shots that came at him. He was completely asleep out there tonight. Even with as bad as we were, if he plays well we win this one.

Whitney
- I really hope he didn't get seriously hurt...once he was gone we really couldn't move the puck to the forwards and were just handicapped something fierce.

Petry
- Was very interested to see this kid play. He really struggled in the first; at least 2 bad turnovers and while I liked the boldness of his first pinch, his others weren't so good. One thing you need to be able to do to pinch well in the NHL is either make perfect reads or be able to skate your butt off back into position (Pitkanen was the best I'd ever seen at this), he wasn't doing either. After he made a nice play to stop a partial break in the second, he settled in and started looking before he passed. I liked what he brought after that, including a couple passes that created nice rushes and a beautifully timed LONG bank pass. His PP positioning and shot choice is pretty good as well. He 'skates big' as well; that's about as well as I can describe it (it's a good thing). There are D his size who go unnoticed when they're not hitting but he isn't like that. I think despite his rating tonight he had a solid first pro effort and that we likely have something here. Likely in the Gilbert (good Gilbert) mold.

Smid
- Much better from him tonight. On several occasions he skated the puck to safety and beyond, plus he actually had a shift with 2 shots which is something I can't really remember him doing. His defensive zone play could've been a tad better, but the way he broke up that breakaway without taking a penalty even though the BUF player defended the puck wonderfully was beautiful to watch as a former Dman. Great play.

Peckham
- Needs to remember he does have some offensive skill. He backed off 2 open rush chances before getting his one solid slapper away. He needs to get some aggression back into his game. I didn't like that he got beat wide a couple times, including once by Grier who shouldn't beat anyone wide. I'm not singling out Theo, but the entire Oilers unit was off in their coverages of the high men tonight, and this led to several odd man and breakaway (including a 2-on-0 where bonehead didn't pass to Vanek) chances. This can't be happening.Theo made a great aggressive play to break up one of the 2-on-1s (always take a shot at the puck-carrier near the blue line if at all feasible, they choke under the early pressure).

Foster
- Wasn't impressed as he was pretty weak defensively and his shot remains haywire. I don't know if we really have anything to work with which is sad when you consider his physical attributes.

Gilbert
- Tom has returned to form. He carried the mail for the D tonight and was excellent. His effort to skate past and through one BUF defender then make a perfect pass to Jones through 2 more was just sublime. He also joined a couple rushes very successfully and certainly could have scored. I think he got caught on one, which isn't usually terrible. He broke up several good chances and should be commended on a night when not many should be.

Hall-Gagner-Eberle
- Easily their worst home game. They were terrible, creating nothing after the first 5. Eberle had a couple decent moments, but also more screwups and sequences where he was behind the play than I've seen combined in all the other home games. Hall was getting knocked around and not bouncing back up. You could see him back off of pucks after a couple big hits. That's unacceptable for a guy who plays his best after a couple hits. No decent shots on net either...why does he keep missing? I've also noticed that he screws up the cross-crease feeds due to overskating more than a scorer should. It might sound like I'm being really negative but I have a reason. Gagner couldn't do much either, and whiffed a couple nice Eberle feeds. I really think these guys at the very least looked like they went out boozing last night and hadn't recovered. That would explain 14's totally inexplicable performance and the general malaise that was their PP effort. They even looked wiped standing there while the anthem played. Very disconcerting.

Penner-Cogliano-Hemsky
- I really thought for a moment that 13 would just play his role on this line like he did in the first couple shifts. I suspect it was Whitney or Gilbert feeding Hemsky and Penner, which resulted in productive rushes highlighted by a nice little stick-lift hard work play by 83 getting Penner a clean look that he finished. They really looked good briefly back together. After Cogliano started getting the puck in the neutral zone (which seemed to happen a TON in the third) the line was dead because 13 kept giving it up. Hemsky worked really hard this game and definitely had his quick step (which you'd worry about after a groin injury). It was certainly a joy to watch him play again. Penner was good and okay depending on the point in the game. He needed the puck more tonight (the formula for their success is Hemsky-to-Penner-zone entry-to-Hemsky on their best nights) and that just wasn't happening for some reason. He did take a while to get used to reading 83's zone entry style on the PP, but as noted earlier, they didn't get enough time.

Paajarvi-O'marra-Omark
- They didn't look great but the 2/3 benching that took place in the third was idiotic. Not sure if you could see at home but Omark's turnover was the result of some water on the ice (which was in a spot that seems to be a constant problem spot, I'm amazed they havent fixed it) rather than a screwup. Those of you bagging on him tonight don't know what you're talking about. He wasn't good but he certainly wasn't bad on a night when many forward were bad. Looked solid with 27 and 83, which is the line we would've seen 5-on-5 late needing a goal if Renney was actually watching the effing game...O'Marra didn't really do much but again, I didn't see any screwups really and he didn't deserve a benching. 91 struggled to get momentum tonight and I imagine he'll bounce back next game. Still want to see him on the PK.

Jacques-Fraser-Jones
- Fraser missed a rebound chance in the third that should have tied the game. He really shouldn't have been on the ice, but again, Renney lost his coaching brain tonight and played the heck out of him. Jones worked hard but this line combo doesn't suit his game. If he's the physical presence on his line it works; he's expected to be the scorer on this line which doesn't work as well. Good of him to be in the right spot and beat a BUF defender for his goal though. Jacques didn't do much other than nearly kill Jones again. How you don't demote him I have no idea.

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Very frustrating night. We should've schooled a bad team who didn't put forth much effort and instead we lose. Sad.

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....

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

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).

12/14/10

LMHF Game Report #15

EDMONTON 1

VS.

TORONTO 4
------------------

I was worried even though I missed an utterly pathetic sounding game Sunday; I apparently didn't have to wait long to see a putrid game in person.

Make no mistake, the Oilers could have won this sucker in the first period. There were openings and chances just like when they pasted the Leafs in Toronto not so long ago. The difference was this time the Oilers missed their chances and got frustrated thereafter.

The second and third periods were a complete and utter disgrace. This team didn't look into it at any point after the blown chances. I don't particularly know why the individual players would get down on themselves as they were playing a truly horrible hockey team, but I think one can look to the lineup and the system in some ways tonight. Renney's line combos were not working and did not change. The decision to dress MacIntyre and Stortini backfired horribly, placing a line on the ice that could really do nothing. They were bad and even though the stretches they played in the second and third were short, the distracted hockey they played put the game off course in a lot of ways. Some will say Renney had to play Strudwick tonight; but he didn't. He could have recalled Belle in time to dress tonight, but instead gave the guy who's only good in the room with skates off a chance; he was terrible and couldn't provide the Oilers with near enough minutes to help out the other 5 D (who were having a rough time themselves tonight). More on some of Renney's decisions in PLAYER REPORTS
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Hall-Gagner-Eberle
- This line doesn't work; Gagner tries to carry the puck too much. Pretty much every time Sam attempted to lug the puck instead of feeding Hall and Eberle (who did a good job of getting open for a while) things went wrong. I know Sam got the assist on Eberle's goal, but that pass probably shouldn't have made it through anyway. He throws off the groove that 4 and 14 have in a big way. Hall could have won this thing early. I'm not sure exactly what he thought he was doing on the two partial breakaways he got in the first period, but what he did gave him a low chance to score. By the third he was trying to do way too much and paying a physical price for it, but also giving up the puck. I know he got his shots on and I liked how he pissed off Miz Dion a little bit, but this was not one of my favorite games from Taylor. Eberle played alright; and he certainly got himself to the right places (but didn't receive passes) and made some good decisions in the offensive zone. It wasn't enough tonight.

Omark-Cogliano-Penner
- Even though they didn't generate a ton of offence, I didn't mind Penner and Omark tonight. They put in a decent effort and made some nice things happen in the corners and behind the net. There needed to be more finish and someone supporting from a solid position which should be where Cogliano comes in, but this didn't happen. I don't know what has happened to Andrew, but if someone were watching for the first time they sure wouldn't conclude he was any kind of NHL player or even a vet (which he almost is). He's just not generating anything and seems to have forgotten basic positioning. Not helping the team win at all.

Paajarvi-Brule-Jones
- This line was a pretty big disappointment; and it starts in the middle. Brule looked like Cogliano #2 all night tonight. He wasn't physical, took one half decent shot (which needed to be perfect to be the right choice off the rush) and generally just skated around a bunch. He's not very good positionally so he cannot play this way. Jones tuned down his physical game on a night when he needed to hit, but did get himself into some decent offensive situations. The disappointment comes from the fact that he didn't score and didn't show a lot of jump to make up for it either. I can understand why Magnus would struggle with these two, but he was probably the best of the three, certainly showing some good things with his skating. I didn't have a good view of the penalty he took on Kessel; did 81 embellish? (I'm assuming he would)

Stortini-Fraser-MacIntyre
- Writing any more than these two sentences would be a waste of virtual breath. NEVER AGAIN.

Gilbert
- One of the stronger defenders tonight. He at least played his position most of the time, though I didn't like what he did on the second Leafs goal at all. Gilbert's been better lately and I'd mainly attribute that to his increased skating time with the puck. He's just just getting it away from himself anymore.

Peckham
- A ROUGH night for Theo. He didn't really smack anyone around and kept getting caught flatfooted or late to his position. He could be way better than this and we certainly need him to be if there's any hope of hanging on to this season.

Strudwick
- All you need to know you saw on the third T.O. goal that was the backbreaker. NHL defencemen don't do that. AHL defencemen don't do that. You don't stand there like a goof in front of your own net and essentially score on yourself. This guy is defensive poison. I feel bad for him on some levels. Also cannot believe there are still those out there who defend him. Will Fraser certainly expressed my thoughts on 1260's post-game show (I think his is by far the best show on the station actually).

Smid
- Also a rough night. I'm not sure what precisely he was trying to do on the Leafs third goal, as that play was telegraphed 80 miles away and he still got caught surprised. He didn't have any particular help but really should have made a better play. Didn't carry the puck, didn't hold the offensive zone and didn't fight in a game where I think he needed to. Not good enough. Then again, when Smid and Peckham are keys to the game, it's a problem.

Whitney
- Not one of his best. I'm not actually sure why he jumps into the rush to attempt shots anymore. He's got to know by now that he'll whiff or miss or something. It's just not his year for goals. He should join the rush of course, but focus on passing. In the defensive zone he was not as locked-down as he usually is and when he's off, we're screwed.

Foster
- Didn't see him much other than some spots where he was out of position and struggled to get back. He's best when he was a little physical and he wasn't tonight. Bergeron would be a better PP QB.

Khabibulin
- Not good, not utterly terrible. Certainly didn't face a deluge from the Leafs though. Can't allow 4 no matter how they get in on a night like that.
-----------------

It's not like the Leafs were good tonight; don't get that misconception. Their rushes and zone play were mis-mashes supported by the bad play of a confused and uninspired Oilers team.

The "cheerleaders" were boring. I don't agree with cheerleaders in hockey (it's not football dammit!) but if they'd have called them something else, ditched the pom poms and had them essentially replace Scholz, it could've flew. People's reaction was essentially none. I don't see this lasting too long; the event team is a better vehicle.

Leafs fans who attended tonight: too many of you were jerks in your own class far and away. Booing the home team and abusing fellow fans is not the way to act. Calgary and Montreal fans don't act that way in our barn. You're very similar to VanFan in a lot of ways, but with a special arrogance that makes it worse. You act like it's the Stanley Cup when you win in Edmonton...talk about sad.

Props to everyone who stayed to the end; that was hard to take.

12/10/10

LMHF Game Report #13

EDMONTON 4

VS.

TAMPA 3

In a freaking shootout...
-------------------

*NOTE* Sadly I will be missing the Sunday game against Vancouver as well...I hate stretches of my schedule like this.

I returned tonight expecting to see that a few things had changed with the team that went out on the road, won a bunch and then came back home and clearly was playing a different brand of hockey. Even though tonight was at many times a strange, bouncy, puck-losing affair, there were a lot of new positives showing on this team tonight, and I'm going to focus on that for much of this report.

The first and the third were not pretty. We lost the puck at, or just inside the opposition blue line many times and that cost us some great chances. Tampa was not very good tonight. They left holes to be exploited by several of our lines.

In the second period we really stepped up our play. It went back and forth with a lot more focus on doing positive things with the puck. It paid off in the end.

The overtime was dominated by one man, who didn't actually get enough playing time from the coach. Hall was standing at the door the whole time ready to rock and roll. He was angry at himself for not closing the deal earlier (though it wasn't really his fault). I was shocked when he didn't score in the SO, but perhaps it was just the hockey gods tonight.

The shootout was truly something. I think we all knew it was possible we'd see something like that. I was so relieved and pumped when I saw little Linus getting ready to hop the boards (you never know whether he'd actually get the call), then the crowd is so loud he can't hear the whistle hasn't gone, and nearly plows into a linesman at full speed. Unlike most guys who would've then gotten meek, forgotten the windup and tried something unplanned, Omark went straight back to his playbook, wound up, spun around, confused the hell out of Ellis (what do you really make of a guy spinning at you from that far away? where's he going? what the hell is he going to do???), then put on a beauty fake that almost broke his stick and finished like a boss. You could tell he didn't whiff even though his shot looked a little odd based on the reaction. The goal, the building going absolutely crazy, his teammates mobbing him...just an incredible experience.

Even though we were outshot severely, we had so many chances to score and so many chances to win that game that tonight's result was justice. It would really have hurt to lose that one. We'll need to be a fair bit better against Vancouver on Sunday, but when our offence gets its speed game going and the passes connect, we are very dangerous. We can put up goals. Consistency is coming slowly, but the rest of the year is going to be a lot of fun!

PLAYER REPORTS
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Khabibulin
- He was triple screened by his own players and also an additional player on the first goal, so it's hard to fault him for that one. The second goal was a result of a long rebound kick which he should have controlled better (even though it was a wise shooting choice). The third was mainly a coverage breakdown, which was certainly unfortunate. HUGE save in the overtime period though a massive screen by kicking his leg instinctually to where the shot should be. Deserving of his star, though I thought the quality chances weren't too numerous. A lot of decent chances though.

Gilbert
- The best game I've seen him play live in a LONG time. He skated with confidence when he had the puck and really pushed the offence. He's at his best when this happens. Great read to sneak in and convert after Omark's beauty little play on the PP. He also had a chance that should've ended the game in OT after Hall got a shot on that generated a rebound, but whiffed. I thought he was in much better defensive position, and even got a little mean at times. THIS is the Gilbert we remember and need. He really made a difference tonight.

Peckham
- There were times tonight when Peckham was REALLY good. He began the game by establishing a physical tone and laid a bunch of hits throughout the game (including making a point of going after Stamkos). I'd agree with the idea that even though St Louis made a pass to Stamkos after going wide on Peckham for the third goal, Theo did a good enough job. He drove Marty wide even though he wasn't in a great position and the trailer should have been picked up. The only thing i'd criticize about Peckham tonight was that his puck movement wasn't quite as good as it usually is.

Foster
- Better game because he stepped up his physicality as well. Let a couple real rippers go that could've been goals. He was certainly no tower defensively, but he did enough. I believe it was he that got caught up ice after the first Hall-O'Marra break; NOT good.

Whitney
- The curse continues after he rang a beauty shot off the post. At this stage I just want him to keep racking up assists and audibly yell for him not to shoot at the game. It ain't going in Ryan! Good news is that his passing game is there, and he was the calm defensive presence we need as per usual. Made one truly horrible giveaway that almost wound up in our net in the third.

Smid
- Not the type of game I like to see from Ladislav. He didn't hit enough, only skated the puck into the opposition zone once that I recall, and was an unfortunate part of the puck staying low in our zone several times. He's rarely this shaky defensively. Wonder if something was wrong tonight.

Vandermeer
- Kept his nose clean, didn't make big mistakes and didn't get beat wide. Good enough for me!

Jacques
- He was able to be in position and tip some pucks deep into the Tampa zone, and landed a couple decent hits. That's all I'm able to give him. He's better without the puck than with it, even in the open ice. Please play #46.

Fraser
- Better than usual in that I actually noticed him doing some positive things. He was deep in the offensive zone and controlled the puck a couple times as well as delivering some hits. He had to play in more crucial moments than usual tonight and managed not to screw up. Low expectations but he beat them for once.

Brule
- In some ways I feel bad for GIlbert having to play on this line; he can't really generate anything from here. On the other hand he could have led the line and really didn't. While he did get in on the forecheck and lay some hits, he didn't generate any offence aside from 1 rush where he took the puck to the net. He needs to be better than that no matter where he's playing. In very real danger of losing his spot to a guy like Omark if tonight is any indication. While Brule hits and Omark doesn't, Omark wins more puck battles and never, ever quits (or so it seems).

O'Marra
- I actually quite like the way O'Marra plays the game. He got a decent amount of prime time tonight, including some 4-on-4 that generated two 2-on-1's with Taylor Hall. Hall should've finished the first, O'Marra had a wide open net (twice!) on the second (first forehand, then back), but at least they got their goal and I'm glad O'Marra got his point. He didn't make a great play on the first TB goal, but I think that can be forgiven. He also looked a tad tired in the third. He skates fairly well for a bigger man and often goes to the right place. If he's able to become comfortable with the NHL game flow, I think he can play for us due to our glaring holes in the lineup.

Jones
- Here's a man who's had confidence do him a world of good. Every time the puck goes into the offensive zone, including tonight, Jones is just steaming after it. He made hits and intelligent plays with the puck. At least twice he had very nice chances from the slot, and his move to out wait Kubina (I think) and deke Ellis only to be poke-tripped was very good for a grinder. I really like the enthusiasm and confidence this guy is showing on most every shift right now. I can see why he got a shift in OT (and he did generate a chance, even though I put Hall right back out there instead).

Omark
- I covered the SO goal above, and it was truly an amazing way to announce your presence in the league. This kid flat out believes in himself. You need players that are cocky as all hell to win hockey games and championships. As we become a more balanced and solid team, a guy like Omark could be very important to provide secondary scoring, a PP presence and some swagger. The most obvious place he can make a difference right now is the PP. The very first time he was out and control was gained at the half boards, he controlled the puck and made a beauty little move just like in preseason, stickhandling through what looked like no space to generate a chance and a goal. It is important to note that this is right after he got DRILLED into the boards, There's no being scared after hits with this guy. While he didn't make a great choice on the first Tbay goal, he did a good job of getting in lanes, having an active stick, and generally being a pain. One thing people might not have noticed on the goal he generated was that not only did he follow up the play, he appeared to snag the Tbay defender and give 77 more time to finish. Beauty! He could be a gamebreaker, especially if used properly. He just never quits on the puck and showed that by winning several corner battles. There is certainly some polishing to do, but at this point it's more of getting the hang of the NHL I think. The confidence, skill and drive are all there. This kid could be an absolute steal. He's already made more difference than #22, #43, and #33. Another thing to watch: the way he dumps and chases; best I've seen in a long time.

Penner
- Mean Penner is the best Penner. He was pissed off tonight. He fought Kubina (or at least tried to, Kubina showed off an iron grip that made it a non-fight really), he threw people around, he took solid shots and controlled the puck, he hustled, it was lovely to watch. Dustin made a difference at a time when we clearly needed him to. Loved the fire.

Cogliano
- Third period Andrew was terrible. I don't know what he thought he was doing but he just kept losing the puck. Before that he seemed to be skating really well and moving the puck forward. He took on his responsibility for two periods anyway, and managed to survive the Tampa PP late in the game (though I don't know why he confused everyone by directing traffic and sending a dman out to the point when it was his job). I don't know what's going to help #13...he hasn't played a truly strong game since the night he spent driving to the scoring areas a couple weeks ago.

Paajarvi
- He could really be effective on a line with Penner. A big strong guy and a big fast guy can work wonders. 91 spent his night drag racing the opposition and really looked to be in place. I liked the work he did on the PP with Omark, and I think this is a combo we keep together there until #83 gets back at the very least. His goal was interesting. It looked really ripped but I honestly couldn't tell. Great to see him get it. The nice thing about 91, and he showed it again tonight, is that he plays solid D as well. Seriously, train this guy to PK!

Eberle
- Did what he does. He basically inherited the puck support role from Horcoff and I think he's doing a fine job. While Hall makes plays, he's always right there to pick up a rebound, recover the play or accept a pass. His SO goal was an absolutely sick move; the guy is great at the SO. He made two defensive mistakes tonight that were uncharacteristic of his usual play, but I believe these were both giveaways high in the zone at the end of long shifts.

Gagner
- I'm a bit confused with regards to Sam; there were times tonight where I thought his reads were oustanding and he generated excellent chances, but others where he looked like he had 10 thumbs. I know he's working himself into the line he's now on, but he needs to be more consistent. I know it's a lot of work for a not-so-fast smaller guy to handle, but I saw a lot of potential in the way he played tonight.

Hall
- Now here's the guy who has taken a leap. This is not surprising if you've seen other stars develop before, but the Taylor Hall we sent out on the road is no more. This guy is ready for primetime now. Tonight he was a chance-generating machine. In the second you might as well have just conceded the offensive zone to him. I wish he'd get more selfish and fire the puck but MAN was he dynamic. Should've scored in the first (pass was too deep in his feet), should have scored multiple times in the second (managed the rush goal on sheer force of will after O'Marra was thwarted, just tremendous focus and effort), a quiet third and then in OT it was on like crazy. He could have beat Ellis with his rush shot off the faceoff, then did beat Ellis with another truly sublime backhand (don't think I've seen a better one than he has) only to be stopped by a player (I believe an Oiler) then got another quality shot off as well. The guy was everywhere tonight. He makes people miss. He carries tremendous speed into the offensive zone. He's stopped floating and is picking very disciplined skating lines; I can understand why this took him some time as scoring in the OHL is different but MAN was he skating efficiently tonight. Truly a thing of beauty to watch this kid play. If #35 didn't have to make so many saves, I'd have made Hall first star. Get he and Omark on the same PP and the other team might as well pull the damn goalie before too long.
-----------------

The excitement is coming back to the building. If we were to add some bit parts right now to hang on until #83 and #10 returned, the rest of this season could be anything really. I have no interest in a high draft pick and truly believe the best thing for these guys is to start winning now. Take the momentum that has arrived, and add some weight to it. Don't let these guys regress. Upward and onward.