I was a little worried early on that this was going to be just like the Vancouver game all over again. We weren't generating a ton of dangerous offence and were a little lazy. The difference tonight was how the defence played. They moved the puck much more smoothly, effectively and with purpose. They didn't struggle to make simple plays, and coupled that with solid D. They certainly were not perfect, but they were much better and good enough that Khabibulin really only had to make maybe 3-5 good saves. The rest of the limited number of shots he faced were quite weak. Some of the pairs seemed to balance out pretty well and that served to make this a pretty simple win so long as we got some goals. Thankfully we did.
When it comes to Calgary, we didn't get to see much of what they have to offer tonight. Bourque scored on us because he always does, and Sven did some interesting things, but other than that they're a pretty bland squad. I imagine they'll have a decent squad on the ice tomorrow night.
It was interesting that Yann Danis is still here but doesn't appear to be set to play another minute. I'm assuming this is so that there are goalies for two practice squads worth of teams possibly? I would have liked to have seen him get some time tonight.
As a unit, the forwards generated more chances and were in more useful combinations than in the previous two home games. Gagner's injury screwed things up a little bit but the coaching staff seemed to manage. What I don't understand is why they just run the same old lines out on the powerplay as 5-on-5. That's never acceptable, yet we've done it now all of last season essentially and during the preseason. Tonight that meant that we kept seeing guys like Jones and Belanger on the PP. Not effective and serves no purpose whatever.
There should be some cuts after this, and I really hope they are the appropriate ones.
- I have to admit he was good tonight; he controlled his positioning and made the saves he needed to make. The goal he allowed was pretty bad but thankfully it didn't kill us. I have to give him credit, but the scout in me who watches a lot more than one game knows that while he has these games in him, they are few and far between. There aren't any indications that he's either changing his approach or improving in any way. We can always hope (but I'm not optimistic, even though I'm always optimistic).
- He was paired with Barker tonight and he could certainly have had some trouble playing with such an offensively aggressive partner and been excused for it. He really didn't. He stayed in position (almost to a fault) and provided a steady defensive game and steady puck movement. I wish he'd pinched in and taken a run at somebody, because he had forwards covering for him a couple times. I appreciate the attention to detail and desire not to get caught, but you also need to learn to harness your aggression and take a shot once in a while. He was steady on the PP blue line as well. You might have seen him get knocked down from time to time, but don't be fooled; this doesn't always mean you're getting overpowered. Sometimes it is honestly easier to just bounce back up again than fight to stay up. I used to use this to avoid getting tangled and quickly get back into the play. There's a future ahead for this guy. We should really make room for him.
- He did some stupid things tonight. He took that strange penalty and at times looked to be skating a fair bit more slowly than he should be. On the other hand, he keeps taking chances and keeps not getting caught. This may be a function of his opposition, but if it isn't, then we have something really handy because he'll be able to be aggressive; especially late in games when we're behind. One thing he's going to need to do is not shoot so much on the PP. He often rushes the shot, leading to a lot of blocks, missed passes and easy stops for the opposition goalie. The stupid fans among us who yell SHOOT will love him.
- Theo is struggling a little bit. He's not landing a lot of big hits, is getting caught out of position a bunch and isn't making solid moves with the puck. It didn't cost us tonight but he's really going to need to watch it because his spot is not completely assured going forward. He progressed last year but really needs to keep his foot on the accelerator. His skills are somewhat limited and it will always require attention and hard work for him to be good. He can't be coasting.
- He had almost the exact same game as he had last game, just amplified. In the first period he was running around some, getting caught out of position and gave the puck away multiple times. It really wasn't good to watch. But it seemed like for the second and third a switch flipped and he locked things down and just made plays. This is certainly the story of most young and talented defencemen, just in different degrees. I'm not worried about Petry, but I do tend to wish we didn't need him on the squad so badly. He's still developing.
- Improved again tonight. He was engaging in some of the physical play that people always knock him for and was excellent with the puck save for one mistake early. He was exactly what we needed with Whitney out. It helped that he once again had a defensively focused (mostly) partner of course, but make no mistake, Gilbert was very solid.
- I'm going to preface my comments for the year on Sutton by saying I really don't like him. I find him to be the worst type of pansy much of the time when he has to answer for his play; a big guy has no excuse. Tonight he was decent enough defensively and certainly pushed some people around. His giveaways were pretty few and far between and the only thing I can fault him for really are some ill-advised pinches. He doesn't recover well enough to attempt the aggressive plays he sometimes attempts.
- For the first 39 minutes he was not very good. He gave the puck away a bunch, looked lost at times positionally and was a contributor to Gagner's injury due to an awkward interaction with a Calgary defenceman. After that he scored his goal, and was a much better player. He is being outplayed though by someone further along on tonight's roster, and not by a little.
- Again, I'm not really sure why he's still here. We know what he is; and he showed again tonight that he's just not far enough along to play in the NHL. He's a little too slow, not quite sturdy enough, and makes some positioning mistakes. Certainly not a bad or untalented player, just not really worth the icetime they're giving him right now.
- He's a big, rangy guy who can really move out there and certainly knows where to go. You can tell he's got the tools, but he's still a ways away from being an NHL player. Not having seen enough of him, I don't know if he can correct the mistakes he was making tonight (which were very typical rookie issues and nothing we'd worry about if he weren't surrounded by SO MUCH talent) quickly, but I certainly get the sense he will correct them. He shows sparks and makes some really intelligent plays every now and again.
- He wasn't really playing in a feature role tonight, which is appropriate because he wouldn't be doing that in our lineup at the moment anyway. The one thing you notice about Lander that he doesn't do is hit people. He had several opportunities to get some guys tonight and always turns away. He doesn't NEED to be laying people out, but it would certainly complete him as a player. He's certainly consistent though in that he makes smart plays, positions himself well, and supports the play well. One unique skill he has in the ability to shoot through the opposition defence very well and have his shot reach the net. Not many guys are great at this, but he seems to be. At the very least, this means he's made a safe play in a situation where some make fairly bad attempts and the puck goes the other way quickly.
- He never lets up. There's something about these Finnish and Swedish guys and getting after the puck. They're really pesky and give the opposition nothing but fits. Not only did he do this with his stick, but he hit people and got I think 3 chances at the empty net tonight. He got a decent amount of icetime and made good things happen with it. I think he'll be a strong contributor in OKC and could challenge seriously for a spot in about a year. There's talent and desire there, combined with a strong shot and good stickhandling.
- Of the secondary crop of talented forwards, he's standing out quite a bit because he gets in on the forecheck most effectively and can really really skate. He's not a step behind right now like most of these guys are. He's MAYBE a half-step off. There's a lot going on in his head on the ice but I think as soon as he focuses and has a role, he'll really fly. He made an excellent and smart play during the first people in the neutral zone, but I've honestly forgotten what it is despite making a mental note and trying to remember...damn. Where does he go this year?
- Was playing a pretty decent game before he got hurt, which was good to see. Still showed his extra gear, though he didn't hit people in the way he usually does when he's placed on a more checking-oriented unit. Early on both teams were actually backing off of hits which was very strange to see. Sam's in a really strange spot right now and has to play well this year to keep up with what is a wave of talented forwards, most of whom happen to be bigger than he is (which is why the skating power improvement was so important.
- Of all the people I expected to see at Oilers camp this year, Josh Green might have been the last. I'm sure most of us remember him from his previous go-round as the latest "we hope he's what Brad Isbister was supposed to be" kind of guy. I can't say anything bad about him...he played a positionally solid game and drove the net when he got a chance. He certainly didn't do anything special with the puck but he wasn't bad either. If we didn't have all these junior guys and euro depth, he might be needed, but he hasn't shown any real improvement other than maturing, so he's not really relevant to conversation on our roster at the moment. I'm strongly in favor of offering tryout agreements to as many vets wanting another chance as will come though. They push the rooks.
- Other than one of the saddest rush plays I've seen that he ended with an incredibly weak backhand on the net, he was quite solid tonight. You can see his positioning is his strong suit and it wins a lot of battles for him. I don't have a lot to say about him, which is probably good because that would mean he's being pushed for too much offence or having to bail us out defensively if he was getting noticed.
- He was certainly better tonight, even with a couple sequences in the first where he did nothing but turn the puck over. He got a little annoyed and showed some real edge tonight, lining up several hits. Even if he doesn't nail anybody, the assertiveness creates room and he can use it for offence. He's still making the mistake of shooting wide side and missing off the rush...which doesn't generate offence and can lead to rushes for the other team. I was very glad to see him use a combination of positioning, quick reflexes and the strength to direct the puck with a fully extended stick to get the goal he did. He needed it and so did the team, so that's great to see . We haven't got to see Hall with Hemsky yet this preseason and I'd like to see that soon. Hall also tried to run the PP from the half wall a couple times...that's not his thing.
- He was better tonight in that he was more involved with the play, especially in the offensive and neutral zones. There were times he really looked like a kid though...for instance he seems to crouch over when he's trying to hit people. Though I admire the effort, it doesn't work and is a waste of skating energy. He's also reacting a little too slowly in terms of reading the play and heading there. In the offensive zone though, he moved the puck solidly, supported his linemates and made a nice power move and got the puck on net to set up the winning goal. I'm still not sure what the best place for him is...actually that's not true. The best place for him right now would be the AHL. The fact that we are unable to send him there is a problem that should be addressed (but won't any time soon). You can see that he's capable of being elite, but he's not the impact player right out of the hopper that Eberle or Hall were. Appreciate the solid defensive plays he made.
- First off, the radio guys have it wrong; he shouldn't be in competition with Omark, he should be in competition with Jones...and he's kicking the crap out of him. Teemu had a shift tonight where he made 5 marvelous plays (if I recall right, a hit, a corner play, two passes and a scoring chance of his own out of the corner). He made at least 3 excellent power plays out of the corner to either set up a shot or a pass. He also showed at times when they were side by side and both trying to get to the play, that he can now skate quite quickly, beating out Hopkins. I've said that he's a better hockey player than Hopkins as of RIGHT NOW, not that it's all that relevant but I'd really hate to see him not make this team. He outplayed a first overall pick on the same line and looked just excellent. His upward trending is tremendous. He also laid at least 2 very nice hits that created offence and made some defensive stops. Fully and completely deserving of his first star selection. If you like hockey, you love the way this guy plays and he seems to be only getting better. I think there's another gear in there too. He shows hints of it from time to time. Try him on the other wing to verify that he can play there, and the versatility should absolutely salt it for him.
Lots and lots of individual positives tonight that thankfully weren't ruined by a loss. We've got some really interesting decisions going forward and I really wish I was more confident in management.