LOS ANGELES 3
Tonight's game had a really strange flow to it. We really came out with some pop in the early first. I honestly believe if we hadn't gone on the powerplay we probably would have scored a couple times and won the game. It's a really strange view, but that seems to be the game we're playing these days.
With reference to the powerplay, I'm all for trying some new things, but lining up a defenceman and winger on the side away from the goalie is something I've never seen done at any level of organized hockey and makes precisely zero sense. Later in the game they had 2 guys on the inside, which is certainly a strategy many teams employ, but that was 5-on-5. These guys have no clue, no strategy, no combinations, no nothing. It is terribly painful to watch.
After we didn't score in the first, which was a period the Kings played incredibly stupidly (we could have had 6 or 7 PP chances instead of just the couple we got, there were that many dumb plays by the Kings), you know that the calls would even out and that the Oilers were in trouble without some seriously good 5-on-5 play in the offensive zone. It never came.
Much of the blame for tonight's loss can be laid on the 4-10-83 line. They couldn't seem to do anything right. In a general sense, 10 and 83 both looked way off (83 in terms of some misdirected passing and 10 in terms of no speed and horrible reads) while 4 had speed and some go but he was far too locked in on making individual rushes. The issues for this line can be traced to their neutral zone play. The D was giving the puck to Horcoff instead of Hemsky on the right wing to start the rush. This play simply doesn't work as Horcoff doesn't know how to make the puck climb the ladder to Hemsky and Hall doesn't read the cross-ice pass properly. What resulted was no speed at the opposition blue line and plenty of 1-on-4 rushes for Hall. These don't work. He didn't get any shots through and the couple rush chances he was lucky enough to get were wasted. Hemsky set Hall up for a beauty in the second which didn't pan out but at least it was a better play. This crew just had no flow; they were even iffy in the defensive zone which is something the 10-83 combo almost never has issues with. I'd recommend getting Hemsky back with Penner as soon as possible. They both need it badly. I liked Hall giving Doughty a whack. Hope to see more ornery stuff in his game going forward.
The only line that had somewhat frequent dangerous chances were the swedes and Mr. Gagner. This effort was led by Magnus who showed a lot of great speed around the corner tonight. He won a ton of races to the puck and scored a solid goal. The only thing I could dog him for is that he was pushed off by the Kings D a little too much. Linus played another solid game focused mainly on puck distribution. While it is true that a couple of the riskier plays went the other way, they were still solid potential offensive rushes. He did a solid job of reading off Gagner's plays as well. Sam seems to have lost his finish in front of the net. He was really good from the red line in however; including the fact that he protected the puck more effectively than I've seen from him in a really long time. This was refreshing because Gagner has a tendency to slack in his body positioning. I really hope he keeps this up. I still don't like his efforts on the powerplay, but 5-on-5 he worked well.
I didn't understand the 27-13-28 combo when I heard they'd be playing together tonight. Penner wouldn't receive any jump playing with these guys, Jones doesn't really benefit from anyone else's skill, and Cogliano despite recent performance and clearly being a Renney project, isn't exactly Marty-I-can-play-C-for-anyone Reasoner. They looked off from the word go. Jones was at least playing with some physical pop early on but there was absolutely nothing happening offensively. The individual parts of the line didn't mesh in the skill department. For one thing, no one was capable of being the passer as Penner seems to have lost that style and both Cogliano and Jones cannot do it. Penner was lazy-ish again; which is really disappointing. I'm just not sure of what to make of him because I know he can play well but he doesn't seem to care enough to do it when we're not headed to the playoffs.
Looking at the Reddox-Fraser-Jacques combo, the thing I noticed most was the negation of Reddox's effectiveness. They weren't able to use his speed or offensive instincts in any way. He's also a better skating C than Fraser is, but there seems to be no interest in using him that way. This was very disappointing for me to see. His effort on the PK, other than one shift where he created a small offensive chance, wasn't as good as it has been. It should be noted that in this regard, Cogliano, Jones and Fraser were plain terrible, going WAY out of position constantly. That positioning directly cost us two goals as LA got the type of shooting lanes we never get. It's funny, the people yelling SHOOT probably think LA's goals tonight are vindication for them when they are not in the slightest. LA created great shooting lanes through movement and took advantage of traffic in front of the net. It should serve as a great example to our team in what needs to be done to get shots to the net effectively. We bounced a ton of pucks off LA defenders tonight. Fraser was okay; though again it isn't near enough for me to have a guy like him not show any interest in hitting people. Jacques should have received a penalty on his first shift, rebounded some by taking a superior player to the penalty box later, but also chased around trying to get hits way too often. His PK effort was plain scary, completely crossing up his linemate when he showed that he clearly doesn't know the positioning scheme. I blame this on Renney rather than #22.
I was optimistic about Khabibulin after watching him take the warmup and look very fresh, but he didn't do anything special in the game to help the team win. LA was very limited in terms of their chances, but #35 has to make himself big on those point shots. He's getting beat routinely just like Salo used to after he'd declined. We all know Dubnyk should have started tonight, and that our second best goalie is probably in OKC (maybe even our third best goalie too). This is sad and a condemnation of the Oilers' approach to the season.
Looking at the D, despite some rather ugly plays, they actually did a decent job as a group in limiting the Kings quality chances. What they didn't do well as a group was move the puck to the forwards. They were a substantial impediment to the 4-10-83 line having any success off the rush.
The Vandermeer-Foster pairing made my head hurt; immediately after Vandermeer made his only useful play of the evening (a solid hit in the middle of the ice), he skated himself completely out of position and let LA in on a 2-on-1, then did nothing to recover and effectively made Jones take a penalty to stop a goal. Just brutal. He also somehow found his way onto the powerplay...again, Renney, what are you doing?!?! Foster continues to rip slappers either into the goalie's chest or take shots that would have gone into the 35th row without the "protective netting". The only really good shot he took was a snapper that wrang off the bar. He should learn from that. Foster also got schooled just like Vandermeer, but mainly off the rush. I can recall a specific play in the third that revealed the problem: #26 cannot skate backwards. He uses way too many crossovers, and not even powerful ones, making it incredibly easy for an opposition forward to pick a side and skate by. One of the first things you need to learn as a D is how to skate backwards powerfully IN A STRAIGHT LINE. He can't. Big problem.
Theo, aside from making a Vandermeer-esque play (though he at least made a recovery effort after creating the 2-on-1), was pretty solid. There weren't any stunning offensive plays in his game, but he was certainly physical (and in an effective way that players remember). Gilbert wasn't really effective in the offensive zone either 5-on-5 or on the powerplay. I'm not sure what was wrong with him specifically but he just looked way off. Defensively he had a couple key stops but was even a little shaky there including a hideous giveaway behind the goal line in period 2. Tough sledding for him, but he's got to be better than that.
I didn't notice Petry and Smid much, which to my mind is pretty great actually. These guys keeping things simple and making solid defensive plays is a positive. Smid made some solid offensive plays (other than at the blue line, where he struggled). There's no way Stoll should have gotten that penalty shot. Principally because there was another King and another Oiler ahead of the Smid-Stoll play that led to it. I'm not sure what the ref was thinking. Petry continues to impress, even on nights when he doesn't do anything spectacular. I like how he was bumped up to the top PP unit, even if it wasn't successful. I liked his positioning, but he could have done a better job at getting pucks to the net.
Can't believe we got beat by Mr. Stanley Cup Chokejob himself, even if he didn't score the goals he played a big part in them. Very aggrivating. The Kings play a really nice style of game, heavily reliant on physicality, and with many swift skating forwards who are not small. I'd love to have that going for us. We don't. We lose again. UGH.