Well, here we are again finally. Back to the rink we march as in every September. Last year I missed the preseason games on my honeymoon (though I actually caught one from the Honolulu Buffalo Wild Wings location, which was awesome), and this is one of my very favorite times of year to watch because there's just so much to learn about these new players we've got on our hands.
I didn't really do much/any hockey writing over the summer. It was a very busy time including a new house, a new car and whole lot of life, but it sure is good to be back in my seat again watching the team.
First things first: the price of popcorn went up (though I think the size is bigger), the hot dogs are still lacklustre (have been since '06, but their price is still the same), the program tonight was lacking and didn't include a full listing of all players on the ice, most everything else seems to be the same in price and not much has really changed in seems.
I thought our squad looked really really solid in the second, rusty in the first, and kind of disorganized in the third. It isn't anything to raise a stink about of course because it is just the preseason, but I would've liked to see a more consistent effort. There are a lot of guys trying to win jobs at various levels and they should really be giving it all they have. Some did, some did not.
Minnesota's roster really isn't that intriguing. They have some BIG guys on their team but not much else. They got some great breaks on behalf of the Oilers tonight but were otherwise quite pedestrian. Anyway, on to the good stuff:
- UGH...he didn't look like he was ready to play at all. On the third goal he was down way too early, the second he let out an ugly rebound and the first wasn't great either. It is very sad that he is likely being handed the #1 G job AGAIN, because he bring his total focus so seldom that there' s no way for it to be worth the shot. I thought maybe we'd see a changed man...so much for that theory. It would've shown in some way.
- Looked really solid. He was in control of himself, very calm, made the saves he needed to make look really easy and was robbed of a clean slate by an unfortunate play from a guy who will be back in junior shortly. In addition to noticing that he does a great job of making himself very large in the net, he seems to play the puck fairly well and direct it to the corners when he has the chance. He really did seem to know exactly what he's doing. I think you have to give him a full game start...but I'm not running the show.
- Before he got hurt being run into the end boards, he was one of our best players tonight. He made several plays that were just excellent. There was a long multi-line pass, a nifty saucer to set up a breakaway, several defensive stops and a drag-then-shoot-between-the-man-and-the-stick play for an assist. I really wasn't expecting much and he blew me away. He was always moving his skates when he had the puck and used this asset well. The class of the defensive field this evening. I hope he's okay.
- Before the third period, he had the problem of standing still or skating backwards when he got the puck. You can't make good plays from the positions he was putting himself in. I'm chalking it up mainly to nerves because he was certainly better in the third and used his skating to do more of the initial work. Was that a slap pass or just a slightly miffed shot that got him an assist? I had a hard time telling. I can certainly see the potential in his game, but he didn't show tonight that he's ready for the pros. Hopefully he relaxes quickly.
- He showed a lot of talent tonight. Still very raw talent, but talent nonetheless. For a guy who was a little nervous, he still usually made the right play, only bobbling a couple. He took a couple nice runs at people but could've been more aggressive. I got the impression from watching him that the coaches told him to throttle it back a touch and focus on his positioning. He still needs some work there, but again, potential. This is a guy the Oilers should spend some time on. I disagree vehemently with Tencer and Stauffer (who both dismissed him in a tone that indicated they hadn't even watched him tonight) that he should be sent to OKC. Give him another game. Tell him to go out there and HIT. Once he calms down a bit, he's actually pretty good with the puck too.
- ROUGH night. He looked overmatched from the very first shift. Positioning was off, decisions were late and he got knocked around some. I was expecting at the very least for him to lay some hits but we did not see that. Having not seen him play before, I'll chalk this up to nerves for the time being, but I hope he's not THAT nervous about an exhibition game. The awkward attempt to play goal that screened Bunz and cost us the game was just the icing on the cake. Ouch.
- Loves to pinch. A lot. He joins the rush and plays with a very free flowing style. When he's on it is great to watch and leads to some chances where he seems to be able to get an excellent shot off, but I can see it going wrong as well and he's not the type that can skate his way back into the play (think Pitkanen or Visnovsky). I see a lot of potential for him this year, but not playing with Gilbert. That pair really didn't work out, which led to a lot of confusion and several goals scored against us. Get him with a different type of defender and maybe we're in business. He certainly didn't allow himself to be pushed around, which was nice to see.
- He had a really rough first couple periods before he settled in. There were errant passes, giveaways and some running around. It wasn't pretty. I'm not sure whether to just chalk this up to a weak game from a vet in the preseason (which happens all the time) or to be worried here. I'd really hope he still doesn't have the confidence issues that are stifling him, but he may.
- I have to admit I don't really want to like Darcy Hordichuk. He was always a bit a goof on the Predators and the Canucks. He did his job tonight though: hit people, fought Kassian, got in on the forecheck and managed to play some decent positional hockey as well. I hope he sticks to that and making the Canucks' lives hell.
- He's just not a very good hockey player. He's big and he skates okay, but he can't see open men to make passes to, doesn't land the HUGE hit and isn't strong positionally. Maybe I'm comparing him to his draft position too much, but I just don't see him as worth a contract. I did like that he went right after the guy that hit Fedun and I hope he continues to improve.
- I'm really not sure why he seemed to get so little icetime. Perhaps they just didn't have a line for him? I liked what I saw after about the first two shifts (nerves), because he gets in on the forecheck, accelerates past the line of defenders to enter the zone, and seems to know where to go positionally. He certainly looks to be a talented guy and I'd like to see him play again but would understand if they sent him down purely because of how many players they've got.
HOUSE & KELLER
- I group these two together because honestly we know what we're getting: two AHL forwards. They played okay and had some almost moments including some nice stickhandling, but you just don't see any evidence of the higher gear that our other prospects have.
- It took him almost a period to get going. He missed a bunch of pucks and wasn't really moving that fast in the third. He was much better at driving the play up the wings come the second and third. If someone can teach him to turn the corner on the defender and turn some of those rushes into goals or tap-ins for Omark, we're in the money. Still don't see the value of him on the PP because he just isn't that great with the puck. I would also love to see him on the PK and was pleased he got a bit of time there tonight. They should be training him there.
- Aside from his penalties (one was lame, the other very confusing as to what he was trying to do) he played a pretty solid game. As usual, he owned the boards like only he can, fighting off one or two Wild as the need arose. He also made several of his trademark no-look passes and had a high percentage work out. His high level of skill is what creates the opportunity for players like Paajarvi and Lander on a line that really looked like it knew the plan tonight. I just hope Linus stays focused and motivated, but believe he will because he seems to want to win more than most.
- He's going to be a dream for people that love simple hockey. He's in the right positions right now, he makes simple passes and when in doubt he puts the puck on the net (but not in the chest). All the fundamentals are there. They're complimented with a nice sprinkling of skill and some ability to keep up with dynamic players. There's every chance he's a regular by year's end, and depending on how things go with Mr. Hopkins, I could see his development driving Gagner away for a defenceman. Really looking forward to watching more of his game. Think Jarret Stoll but with more initial skill and better positioning.
- He was bad tonight. For a guy who by all rights should be fighting for a job to spend his evening losing pucks and making bad passes is rather weak. I don't like the way the organization seems to be positioning him as a guy who has "nothing to worry about" either. You really get that impression from the promos and such. He needs to focus and play simple hockey, rather than thinking he's a lock and trying to crack the top six. Don't get me wrong, I like the personality and approach he brings to the game, but he needs to bare down.
- I liked the way this guy played a lot actually. He was as advertised; gritty and unafraid but with some skill to go along side. Seems like a decent enough skater and didn't have the jitters of the other players on the ice with his level of NHL experience. This could be a guy who sees a callup at some point this year. Perhaps the path to Stanley includes a boatload of Swedes and Finns?
- I know he won faceoffs, but aside from that it looked like a typical "rusty veteran" sort of game to me. That's fine, I just wanted to see what he could do right off the hop. I think he has the chance to make a pretty big difference to this team and nothing tonight convinced me otherwise, but to be honest I was expecting a little bit more.
- I'm not worried about Hall so I didn't really watch him away from the puck or when he wasn't getting offensive chances. He showed his outside speed is fine and seemed to be cornering as well as every, so the ankle looks good. He also got the faces of a couple opponents which is good to see. I didn't like the shots he took very much though; all low and all right at the goalie. He probably should've popped at least one tonight.
Well, I hope that's helpful for those of you who didn't get to see the game in Edmonton tonight. I hope there aren't many split squad games because I'm sure they just lead to mass confusion on the blogs and boards. Looking forward to another great year and HOPEFULLY devoting some more energy to this blog.