I sat in different seats than usual today which was intriguing as I'm so used to "my view" of the game. Sitting on the side that looks at the players bench is certainly preferable to where I currently sit, but those seats just weren't available when #2 and I last moved. I wish they were. When I make a bit more dough, I'll sit closer to the bottom of the second deck, which was essentially where my seats were. Center ice, second deck across from the benches. Outstanding. It's a lot easier from that level to see some of the plays that require depth...meaning saucer passes and shots at certain heights. You miss a little of the wider play-development aspect but this is more than offset by having a better look at the intricacies of puck battles and shots down low. If you have the funds and can pick any seat in the building, go either row 12 center ice or row 21 center ice.
On to the actual game...and I'm pissed. Angry. Just very mad at many different people right now. I find it very interesting that the only thing more frustrating than the Oilers powerplay (and it's just stupid frustrating) are the Oilers fans during the powerplay. I wonder where all the hockey-knowledgeable people we supposedly have at our games have gone. I know it's a common rant, but the shooting thing was really driving me nuts today. When Penner scored his second goal, one guy actually waited for the celebration to end, and resumed berating 27 for not shooting earlier...what a freaking idiot...I also didn't mind the way they played on the 5-on-3 compared to how bad we've been this year. We controlled the puck, set up several good chances and got hosed by a bouncy puck and an errant stick (the stick disrupted what was shaping up to be a beautiful goal). If you don't understand hockey, here's what you can do when we have a PP -> cheer when we do something brilliant, boo when we stink, and shut up the rest of the time. Let these guys do their thing. The one nice thing about the fans in NC when I was there in '06 was that if they didn't understand something, they didn't yell and scream about it.
I didn't like the way Krueger coached today's game at all. Once again the "never pull #35" rule was in effect despite the fact that after the first 2 goals anyone could see that he was going to absolutely stink today. This, along with the fact that probably our 4th best goalie in the org is starting a game despite no injuries, really reveals that this team is trying to lose. I don't care what the eventual payoff, I don't care what the "plan" (HA!) is, this makes me rage. Playing Reddox with Hemsky and Penner was also a very dumb move. Don't get me wrong, I like Liam as a player and he did what he could, but anyone who's watched this team knows that Reddox plays well with Omark, and Paajarvi plays well with Omark, so he should have been part of that unit with Sam capably stepping up to fill 10's shoes on the top offensive line. The only thing he did today that I liked was to pull the goalie early.
As for the players, they've lost the desire to take that extra step, push that extra foot or reach that extra inch. It just isn't there. Part of me kind of wonders who could blame them, as they've been hung out to dry by management and the coaching staff. The other part knows that as a player, I never quit and neither should they being much much better than I ever was and paid to play. It's very aggravating to see so many guys underperforming at one time. We're certainly not good...but we're not anywhere near this bad either. It's like we have an illness that leads to losing. Lowe-itis anyone?
- Shouldn't be starting, in Edmonton, OKC or otherwise. It's blatantly obvious to anyone with eyes and a brain when he comes out flat (which is almost every game now). The second goal disgusted me especially, as we'd just tied it and he might as well have shot the puck into his own net. After the scrum with Neil and Peckham, where he could have at least blockered the guy and got thrown out to help his team, he focused briefly, made 2 good saves and then resumed allowing OTT to score on any half-decent shot. Is there even a point to discussing him in these threads anymore? He doesn't care, he's quit, and he's past it. We know exactly what we'll get.
- Started the game very shaky in both his positioning and puck handling but came on better as the game drove on. He executed a very Pitkanen-esque puck retrieval in the second behind our net which is something he's really gotten away from by either trying to hit (and failing) or chasing around out of position. His offensive play was better today, as he directed a couple of really nice shots on net and could've made something happen.
- He had a rougher day than most this year. I have to wonder if he's starting to get fatigued. He wasn't expecting this and has never played this much at a high level. I suspect he'll bounce back but he's also a guy who rides on intensity and therefore will have a problem on this team at this time. Needs to be better with the puck in his own end below the goal line.
- Every single solitary time he gets a lane and space he misses the net. You could bet a million dollars a shot and be stupid-rich by now. The best example in a while was today in the third when he had a clear chance to score on a slightly out of position and tentative Elliot and smashed glass as per usual. If you can't hit the net, that shot of his is completely worthless. Being that he also didn't play any D and took a penalty, I'd argue he generally is quite worthless to this team.
- Love it when Smid plays the tough guy role, and I was glad to see he didn't take junk from Spezza (who gets angry from time to time. I for one believe his high stick on Omark was reasonably intentional). His defensive play was a little hit and miss. I won't dog him for the two on one that resulted in the late OTT goal. He slid at enough angle that the pass was delayed and Khabibulin had both the angle to block the pass and the time to get across and make a fairly easy save (he of course did neither). Got a couple shots on net, but Kurtis Fostered on the best chance he had.
- I really liked the hit that got him the penalty. Stepping up like that is something more of our guys need to do. The OTT player also clearly touched the puck so it shouldn't have been called. I'm not sure if you could see on TV, but the ref spent a bunch of time yelling at him after. It was like he was trash-talking Vandermeer. Putrid. We've had that same French ref (can't remember his exact name) 2 in a row now, and he's been both terrible and a bit of a jerk.
- He hit a couple people tonight which was really nice to see. I can remember one sequence where he wandered way out of position, but other than that he was solid. He's really one of the few Oilers who can make controlled plays at the opposition blue line and knows the value of faking the slap and going wrister when the pressure is on.
- He did okay today in limited play. Couple hits, not much else. I would've liked to see him go beat on someone but he doesn't appear to have the ability anymore. He's no Micheal Haley, but didn't make any really nasty plays with the puck today at least.
- Invisible as usual. Surprised he didn't get into his fight faster as he was getting abused in the corner. Thought he was more of a fighter than he seems to be.
- He was okay. He did a lot of skating but couldn't seem to bounce the puck pasy anyone today to create chances like he has been able to this year. Could've been more physical against an OTT team that can play an annoying game when they want to. Had a really strong shift in the third where I honestly though he might tie the game up, but I don't really think he should've been out there at the time.
- Struggled in the first period then got better as the game went on. He was doing a decent enough job of getting to the blue, but the curl and drop play wasn't working for whatever reason. Having a closer view, it looked to me like he was uncomfortable with something about his stick. He got a nice scoring chance in that period too and unfortunately missed. The second he wasn't too visible from what I saw (though I missed about 6 minutes due to some shoddy concession workers), but he did a solid job of creating chances in the third.
- Sam looked better to me today; he had a really nice tip that rang the post and created some chances for others (specifically Magnus) while getting some of his own pucks toward the net. I was relieved to see him get a little less PP responsibility, but I don't think the line with he, Eberle and Hall will work...they are too small for a good PP. His puck distribution was solid today. The one thing I'd like to see from him in games like this are some hits...as he's actually a good hitter but backed off a couple times.
- Did a good job from his own zone to about the top of the circle in that he used his speed very well, carried the puck with some authority and got some solid outside shots on net. He missed a goal in the second by about an inch on a wide drive. Where he might need to work on his offence is in how he reacts to odd-man situations against him. He went 1-on-3 and 1-on-4 a couple times and had no clue what to do. You obviously don't expect magic from him there, but you need to have a plan and usually delay to gather teammates and create some angles. I'm sure this will come, just something to keep in mind when you see 91 crossing the blue.
- He was excellent, what else is new. Generated chances, hit a couple posts, hit some Senators and had what could have been a really key defensive breakup later on in the third. The kid is an absolute beauty even when we stink. He should be getting more feature time with the vets than Hall, he's a better player in both ends of the ice.
- Nothing too flashy from him today and he missed a couple of pucks in the slot (at least 2 in the third) that could have really changed the game. I've noticed he has more trouble with rebounds than a lot of top goal scorers seem to. Also, a couple times he tried to blow by guys and opted to push the puck straight ahead as opposed to along the boards...he failed both times. I think he gets a little too north-south at times. This can be one of his strengths, especially when he's hitting, but with Eberle on his line he needs to get Jordan the puck and then go own a scoring area. The rushes also need to be 2 and 3 wide, not 1 wide. Defensively he was okay.
- Scored the goal on a nice little play by both Eberle and Hall, but other than that wasn't exactly impressive. He whiffed on a couple of really nice chances early that could have shifted the game. Again, the one time in the game he goes and does his job, he scores a goal, but he doesn't seem to realize what his job should be. The defensive stalwart on this line is Eberle, not Cogliano who can't check an offensive player to save his life.
- Gave it the college try, I'll give him that. I liked the shot he took PK'ing in the second, selling the pass to Cogliano then trying to score. With Hemsky and Penner he's just a little bit too far behind in the offensive zone. While he can support them in the other zones, if the puck is in question, he's not quite there offensively.
- Even though he got his 2 assists tonight, my reaction to his game was a definite 'meh'. I really liked the two assists, some of his other setups, what looked like a renewed focus and a number of wins in the corner, but OTT was letting him run wild today and an 'all systems go' Ales would have had a 4 or 5 point night tonight, likely setting up a Penner hat trick in the making. Some of that isn't his fault, but there was a little bit of what I'd call slickness missing from his game. It wasn't from lack of effort, but maybe a lack of quiet focus at times.
- Went to the right places and cashed in a couple times. While he wasn't the prototypical power guy today, I still liked his game a fair bit. It's true that he whiffed on a couple chances, but he certainly made up for it with some utterly beautiful shooting. I also appreciated the patience required of him to make a few of the passes he did in the third. Very strong skill of his that often gets overlooked. Seeing he and Hemsky on the PK was a relief...they're probably the best Oilers available for the job and yet never receive it.
While this probably wasn't the pure venom it would have been immediately after the game, I'm still quite annoyed. The approach this team is taking is simply asinine and guarantees nothing. We are sacrificing quality years and talented young men's psyches to a hope that has no plan. Wonderful...