I think the only reason I'm writing tonight is that I have to wait up to finish laundry as I'm out of town on business the next couple days (but back in time for next game) and need some clothes. Otherwise tonight would have been a good night to just head straight to bed. This is one of the very few times I've come back from a game honestly questioning why I went. Usually even in ugly games there are some true positives that make the experience better than many other things I could have been doing that evening but tonight I think I would have rather been at home doing laundry, building a new shelf unit for the bedroom, and turning the game off so I could watch something on Netflix. But, on we charge anyway...
We'll start with the limited positives that I saw tonight:
- Liam Reddox played a heck of a game and if he gets sent down it is an utter crime. He provides a more consistent hockey contribution than at least 5 roster forwards regardless of size and player type. There were several shifts (but especially a PK in the third) where he showed how strong his skills are in the offensive zone chasing down pucks. This guy has worked hard to go from junior scorer to ECHL washout all the way back to NHL capable forward. He is in many ways the new beginning of a Fernando-type player. Keep him so at least we can watch some consistency.
- I liked the way Peckham mixed it up physically near the end of the game. In a contest like this, you have to do SOMETHING. He doesn't take junk, he lays hits, he stands up to people when they come looking for a fight, and he generated some offensive chances with deft wristers from the point. Aside from a shift of his near the end of the game when he could have annihilated both Clutterbuck and Havlat and instead went for inexplicable poke-checks, I liked his game.
- Omark wins every corner battle you throw him into; it's utterly astounding. Usually they are even 2-on-1 situations. I'm going to try to watch him more closely to learn whatever the secret is. Incredible. Also, he was the only fluid guy on the powerplay again. What Renney did with the lines and icetime was inexcusable, but Omark still managed to make a little something happen at least.
- Magnus managed a PP goal to end our massive drought. Sure it didn't matter, but maybe they don't grip the sticks so tight next game. Maybe. I didn't like 91's effort on the first Minny goal, but he had decent moments tonight anyway. Still finding him perpetually miscast.
- Ladislav Smid appears to be better at getting the puck deep and presenting a credible challenge for it than half our forwards. He cannot score to save his life (what'd he have, three golden chances tonight?) but at least he can control the puck for a bit.
That was pretty much it for positives. On to the garbage!
- A concussion for Hemsky that may have been from a previous game...great. He wasn't exactly playing amazing this game, but did have a pretty good scoring chance early and set up a couple more. I'm sure he makes a little bit of a difference if he sticks in this one.
- Up until the last couple minutes of garbage time, Dustin Penner looked like he'd ran to the Donut Mill in Red Deer and back before the game but was still attempting to play. He was either standing still or moving as quickly as an ornery old creaky iceberg. I really like Penner but this might have been the worst night he's had this year. There were plenty of chances to beat people for pucks and he was having none of it. He also turned it over more than usual and couldn't take a pass.
- Taylor Hall didn't have anything going tonight either. He had at least 1 clear giveaway on his first five shifts in the third period. Add this to those he'd racked up earlier and I'm sure he had 8-10 clear giveaways tonight. Most game as the result of him trying to blindly rush at the opposition's standing blue line defence and failing horribly. The only really good chances he got went into pads and over the net (what else is new...). I understand frustrating nights for young guys, but when Hall isn't going there's a clear formula to get him back on track: get open for shots rather than rushing, and hit people. One of the coaches needs to be telling him this. He skated by several open hit chances today.
- What are we doing trying to play the neutral zone trap by the way? All it did was put us in a non-moving state as Minny blew by. Our break in was constantly stopping at the opposition blue through ill-advised passing plays as well. I don't know what they've been practicing lately, but it was clear that it was planned and SUCKS. Almost as much as the "let's all stand around and pass to the D-men who can't score" powerplay.
- Speaking of defencemen who cannot score, Foster continued his proud tradition of taking pointless shots that weren't scoring chances, or whipping the puck over the net when the chances were there. What happened to this guy's slap pass? Or actually shooting past a goalie rather than taking limp-wrist shots from ridiculous angles? (the Oil as a team probably took 10 of these shots tonight that had precisely 0 chance of going in or generating a rebound).
- I thought Tom Gilbert was BAD in LA, but as many of you know I don't judge too harshly based on the TV. Tom Gilbert was disgustingly bad tonight. That third Minny goal, where he lolly-gagged back to a rightly waived off icing call, then bit it (which he did several other times tonight as well), then tried a weak pokecheck that would only work in NHL 11 to recover, was the crowning glory on what was already a night to forget. He was bad (and over-aggressive) in the offensive zone, and didn't play his man well defensively all night. I'm really hoping there's nothing wrong with him right now and this is a minor aberration, because if another Oiler is playing with a serious injury, I'm going to snap.
- Petry and Chorney largely get a pass from me tonight because the team was so bad. They were very out of position on Minny goal #1, but there was still no reason for that goal to happen. 41 had some good moments rushing the puck, but looks bad as ever in the D-zone; he was another guy who was great at the clear giveaway pass tonight. Petry looked more competent than most of the vets, but didn't really accomplish anything special.
- Cogliano had flashes (his pass for the A, and being probably the second Oilers player all night to win a race to a dump-in) but was otherwise ineffective. Watching him take a faceoff a little more closely sure was a painful experience; it is clear he has no idea how to approach the play. Ech.
- Jones needs to be really physical on a night like this; he wasn't. Stortini needed to get under Minny's skin early, not late. Fraser actually kept a couple pucks in but as usually was essentially invisible. Jacques got beat up and didn't really hit anyone; he also took one of the ugliest whacks at a scoring chance I've seen in a long time. I think he shanked a sandwedge into the netting on that one.
- Gagner looked tired, disinterested, and at times nervous with the puck. I actually want to see him on a checking line because I love the way he simplifies his game. Continuing to force him out on the PP is a mistake as he's not doing anything positive out there.
- Last, and least, our horrendous "goaltender" #35...It's one thing to have a bad night (and he did), but to show up completely unprepared to play and stink the joint out like that? I don't care if your team lays an egg offensively, but when there are so few decent Minny chances and you give up THOSE goals? You have to be kidding me. I don't know how many times it is now that he's looked that way from start to finish of a game, but if I'd have had some UofA kid on the bench, he would've played tonight. #35's act out there was embarrassing.
- Renney didn't help this out in any way. It's like he just wound the toy up and said "let's see what happens". Sucking was what happened.
I'm disgusted. I hope my caustic mood at least provides some humor on what was otherwise a dreary evening.