Back from Maui, sorry for the absence guys! Hope you read it in the last report and didn't think I vanished!
So, a couple new tonight tonight: this is the first report I am making using my new iPhone 4S so hopefully it goes well and I'll be able to get most of this done on my drive home now which would be really nice and save me some time as well as capture my thoughts quickly and get the report out sooner. The other thing that was a little bit different was where I sat to watch the game; I was in section 119 row 4, so I was really low didn't have a great view the game in terms flow and breakouts etc. like I usually like to watch but does give a lot of interesting views of other things so we'll try and take advantage of that perspective tonight.
Going into the game against Detroit you don't really ever know what's going to happen for us. We usually play quite well against the Red Wings at Rexall, but these are the Red Wings and we do have trouble with them generally. Tonight's game turned out so heartbreakingly typical when it comes to Detroit in that they scored late again on a crummy goal and we lose a close one.
It wasn't a particularly bad effort but it wasn't that great either. To give a clearly view of some of the things I'm going to pass along, I was right behind the bench sitting just to the left of that little gap between the two benches. When our players come off the ice they do not look happy right now. They don't look angry (which would be okay honestly), but just listless and tired and depressed.
If this is what the problem is we we need to look at solving it in a bit of a different way. When Detroit comes to the bench, they are focused, their eyes are alert and their heads are up. When the play is on, they are all watching, ready and jump over the gate. Our guys are looking down or just slouching and sauntering our of the gate.
It's not just a single player or even a couple guys. Eberle and Hall are pretty damn intense, but the rest are pretty iffy at this stage. I guess I'm not totally sure, but the coaches never really seemed to do anything to give the players a kick in the butt at all. I was amazed how little the coaches said. Kelly Buchberger said and did almost nothing all game (now that might be a good thing)
The biggest difference between Detroit and Edmonton was watching their decisiveness. The wings were skating in strong and very decisive lines, whereas we are constantly looking around trying to figure what to do. That one half stride is making the difference over and over again all game long. It because obvious why we're losing games and it sure doesn't look like a matter of percentages at this point.
He played a pretty solid game and made some really solid saves moving side to side. He couldn't do too much on the game winning goal as Dan Cleary seemed to have tied up his legs, but he still got a piece of it anyway, which took a solid effort. You certainly can't fault him for this one.
Hall gave a strong effort and I was relieved to see his speed return because I thought the last couple games he'd been a tad shy a a little slow. Unfortunately he gave up way too many opportunities to pass and instead tried to drive through on his own. This often results in a bit of *wow*, but he doesn't seem to convert these into goals. He's also got great linemates who are open. Detroit really had no answer for these guys and their speed. Watching Eberle work through the middle against Detroit's best and seeing the best they could do was waive their sticks was pretty special. That's an elite player right there. Great little goal in the late second as Hopkins made a good choice to create a loose puck in the slot and Eberle cruised in to rip it where Howard couldn't get it. Beauty. Hopkins and Eberle both had generally strong games save for the last powerplay of the game. I wonder if Eberle had a headache or something tonight as I saw him get something from the trainer in the second period and chomp it down before putting his mouthguard back in.
This line did a fairly strong job against their opposition, and Hemsky appeared to have a fairly strong game. The only thing he's really struggling with is that a lot of shots are getting blocked. You can see he wouldn't normally want to shoot so often but he's clearly been directed to force it and it's not going well. I wish that the coaches would take that pressure off and tell him to stop because it's not helping the team and you don't have the ability to create separation from the shot-forcing headspace. He did make some nice passes that unfortunately weren't converted. When he was coming to the bench, he didn't look any more down than any of the other guys. Even Smyth looks frustrated and kind of dead-eyed. 94 looked a little tired again tonight which is not a surprise but his defensive positioning and corner efforts were there. He also got to the front of the net but wasn't as effective as he has been. If anyone on this line struggled it was Horcoff, who couldn't find the lanes to set up for his shot and was a little iffy skating with the puck. Solid D all around from these guys though.
Jones gave a pretty good effort tonight, especially considering he took a good whack in the first and had to spend a decent amount of time icing his nose. He came back strong after that and obviously scored the breakaway goal which was a nice effort. I don't agree with putting him in the SO at this stage because his goals come due to speed and urgency on those breakaways, but I would consider him on the 2nd PP with Gagner struggling so much there. Belanger was passionless tonight and looks like he truly has no confidence. At least early on he'd give that great defensive effort and provide something. I wonder if there's some sort of bigger problem there for him right now. Gagner was okay five-on-five and was one of the guys giving the most effort. It really looked like he was hurt in the second and Buchberger asked him if he was okay going out for the third but he seemed to be. Nothing really exceptional but at least the effort was there til the end.
Eager played a bit of a strange game in that he showed some speed but didn't bring the physicality. I've noted that at the end of games especially, he backs off hits that he needs to make. He's not effective if he can't land those legally. His line could have got on a roll early as they got a strong scoring chance in the first but failed to capitalize. #37 looks to be struggling some and could be due for a trip to OKC. Lander also got beat a couple times and wasn't very good with the puck when he got the chance tonight. One cool thing about being up close was being able to hear how powerful Lander's stride is...wow.
Ryan Whitney is not anywhere near 100% and the things I'm noticing the most are that he is not pressing for offence and that he is angling himself strangely during the play. As 6 either receives a pass or leads the rush, where last year he'd get into the zone and make a play or shoot, he backs off and forces what is almost necessarily a bad pass. This is screwing up his teammates and leading to turnovers. I suspect he thinks he can't get back into the play. He's also positioning himself facing into the middle of the ice all the time, even when he should be facing the opposition goalie or even the boards. I don't know if he's bracing or what but it makes everything very very awkward. He needs to get this stuff figured out. Of all the guys, he may have had the deadest eyes at the bench which I can tell you from last year isn't normal.
Corey Potter is playing a very strong, very big game. I didn't realize how big he was until I actually got to watch so closely and you can see how he positions himself to use his size and reach well. It was also very impressive to see the way he's looking and moving his head, as it becomes obvious that he's following the game at the same speed as the kids. That's really impressive for any defenceman, much less one we picked up from the minors.
Gilbert and Smid played their typical and boring 2011 hockey game. That's not a bad thing at all. They played solid D and Gilbert jumped into the offence effectively several times. If his shot is a touch more on, we win this thing going away with the chances he got. Smid put forth a really solid game and skated miles.
There's no hiding that he's a big part of the problem right now. He's not getting to pucks and when he does, he's making mistakes that aren't small. It didn't cost him too much tonight but it certainly could have.
He fought really hard on the play to set up goal #2, but I don't know if his efforts were the smoothest. The result came to pass, but not without 3 or 4 failures first. He did pretty well for having to haul around Peckham all night, but I still wouldn't have put him in there on the PP at that stage over Potter. Certainly a bucketload of talent but I'd really love an Igor Ulanov type for him to play with on that third pair.
I've got to say, I'm weirded out by Renney's line sequencing late in the game. You'd think he would be looking to get the kids 3 shifts with 5 minutes to go and it doesn't seem that way.
Both Hall and Eberle were the angriest after this lost. They both went VERY hard and showed it on their faces. Thanks for the effort 4 and 14.
So far the Siri dictation method is pretty iffy...I had to do a lot of editing and it came out choppy. We'll see how quickly it learns.