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2/27/11

LMHF Report - Game #33

EDMONTON 2

VS.

BOSTON 3
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NOTE: I'm missing the next 2 home games, which is unfortunate. I'll be in Palm Springs, which is not exactly unfortunate. This late garbage blast of winter only makes that prospect nicer.

I have a feeling that if the Oilers played the Bruins more often they'd be a better hockey team. The way Boston approaches the game seems to bring the toughness in many of our guys to the forefront. They also brought the speed out in our lineup. I'm guessing that if we retain the way we played against BOS in the next game, it will look to our boys like the other team is standing still. I'm not sure they will because consistency isn't exactly our middle name, but it's a possibility.

Boston is a really good hockey team that plays well positionally and has plenty of talent. That'd be a hard combination to beat for many teams in the league. The Bruins (not BROONS, Stauffer) play what I'd describe as a western conference style game; I could see them being very difficult to beat in the east. They are so deep up front and yet their strength is in net. Honestly I think they could have played better tonight, but did enough.

The Oilers had a chance to win tonight; even though the shots were what they were. We got the first goal, and also had a number of good chances that were not capitalized on. Specifically, our powerplay and the sequence surrounding this in the second period could have been a turning point. The puck went through Omark and dangerously towards the net on several occasions (including a missed tip by either 89 or 91, I couldn't tell who) and we definitely should have scored there. Other chances followed and there were a decent amount in the third as well though we didn't show as much drive as we could have. It's hard to complain about losing a game like this, especially when we lost Peckham early and had to lean so heavily on Strudwick and Foster, but we really did have the chances and a couple specific things were off. More on that in Player Reports...

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Dubnyk
- None of the goals he allowed were particularly bad, though he certainly could have done a little more on the Ryder play (though he was screened). He made a lot of stops, some of them were very good. Nothing to complain about and a good effort.

Strudwick
- I didn't mind Strudwick as much tonight (even though he got caught standing still on one of the goals) because he was mean as hell. Every guy who got to the front of the net against him got a stick in the back or a glove in the mouth. He should be doing this in every single game he plays, but often doesn't. At least he did something to make a difference tonight.

Vandermeer
- This was not a night where he went unnoticed. He hit people. He got the puck on net and generated a goal. He had his fight with Lucic after #17 took one too many pokes at Dubnyk. He was really really solid tonight and I would be surprised if one of the scouts in attendance for the last game or two doesn't convince their GM to trade a draft pick to the Oilers to acquire him as a depth guy.

Foster
- He was terrible. Specifically, what was he doing on the Peverley goal? Unbelievable, and yet the coach keeps sending him out there at crunch time. I know he's had a little offensive outburst lately, but he's so bad defensively that nothing can justify him being on at crunch time. Smid would have been a much more solid choice.

Smid
- I love how in games like this one Smid elevates the meanness in his game to another level. The forearm he laid late in the game at the Bruins blue line was both deserved and a beauty. He got himself to the net a couple times; predictably not scoring but at least he gave the effort. He was also really solid defensively. I think it would be a mistake to deal him tomorrow because he's the kind of 4-6 defenceman we need and he's not going to be very expensive.

Gilbert
- He made a lot of really solid plays with the puck, and certainly fought hard as the leader to keep his short-staffed crew in the game. The problem he had tonight was that he had a very difficult time contributing to the transition and rush. He wouldn't move the puck really quickly and he wouldn't skate with it. This led to indecisiveness and mistakes. I think we all know this is a little too much for Gilbert at the moment, but he's doing a decent job. He really needs to learn a slapper in the offseason. The one-timer he got off tonight was really pathetic.

Peckham
- He would have been a big part of this game as it gained in pace and got more physical. It is very unfortunate that he got hit with a tough punch and hopefully he comes back soon. I think Theo playing might have led to us winning.

MacIntyre
- Playing him proved his worthlessness tonight. The other guys stepped up; he did nothing but make on-ice mistakes. Sorry Steve, you're useless and having guys either losing icetime or languishing in OKC because of you makes me sad.

Brule
- Certainly came back with a strong effort tonight. I liked his goal as he took his best shot at the right time and with the flow of the rush rather than awkwardly as he sometimes forces that shot. He's certainly a better fourth line C than some of our other options, but I don't know if we can afford him in that role at this stage. I liked the physicality he brought, including taking a run at Chara. His best time was when Cogliano was in the box and he got to play with Hall and Eberle. They looked really solid together because Brule can both keep up and take/give a pass. There was absolutely no good reason for Renney to send him back to his original line when Cogliano's penalty was over. He wasn't AMAZING, but he contributed positively.

Jones
- This was a quieter game from Jones, but he still got some hits in and a scoring chance or two. I sometimes wonder if he's just not strong/physical/mean enough to play the role he needs to. He's not talented enough to be a power forward; but if he played with a little more edge or a little more smarts, he could be quite valuable. This contrasts with nights where he looks to have solid scoring instincts.

Hemsky
- He had a really nice game tonight, and was moving his feet quickly as well as getting into dangerous areas the whole game long. Unfortunately his linemates weren't too amazing tonight and failed to convert on some of the chances he created. Ales could have been more selfish tonight and might have gotten more points (which isn't normal because usually his line is good enough + his passing instincts are excellent). I'm thinking specifically of the example where he took the puck off the boards, drove to the middle and dropped for Penner. If Penner one-times, he scores, but he didn't. Ales should have faked the drop, kicked it to his stick and shot. He had enough room. If anyone even needs to ask my opinion on what should happen tomorrow, barring someone nearly literally offering the moon, you haven't read these reports long enough. He's our best player and should be part of our next stage of winning just as he was important in 2006. He's much more complete and better now. Use it.

Horcoff
- Quiet game from Shawn. I was very surprised when Brule got a shift in his place in the third. He wasn't bad; but he wasn't great either. Was missing some of the jump I noted in the last home game I attended. His scoring instincts really aren't very sharp right now.

Penner
- #2 asked quite honestly if Penner is playing to not be traded. He was a little better than the bottom of his efforts tonight, but he still looked way off. He was constantly too slow to react to the puck, didn't skate, didn't bull towards the net or run anyone over save for one shift in the third, and just did nothing exceptional. There's nothing in his skating, lines, positioning or any other technical detail I can see that looks to be off...he just isn't all there. Needless to say, we need him to be in order for the team to be effective.

Omark
- He did some really nice things tonight, and was one of the most consisten Oilers in terms of getting the puck to the net and slot to create offensive danger. If his linemates or PP teammates had been on tonight, he would have had several assists. As usual, he had a couple phenomenal sequences in the corners, but that sequence where he stuck the puck under his skate and defended it, then made a kick pass was just amazing. Only once did he make a questionable pass (across his own zone) and that didn't cost us. Very nice bounceback game after being benched. Should have been on when we needed a goal late instead of some of the guys that were out there.

Paajarvi
- I saw him drive wide a couple times tonight without much success at the net, and also covered up defensively a couple times when the D that were supposed to be backing him up made mistakes in the offensive zone. He really uses his talent and instincts on these plays and that's a valuable thing.

Gagner
- I wasn't as impressed with Sam tonight, as he seemed to be weak on the puck and unable to do anything from shooting areas. He wasn't dangerous offensively or physical and he needs to be one of those things on each night.

Eberle
- This was one of his weaker games. I'm not exactly sure what happened on the Nathan Horton goal, but Eberle was in no man's land, made a horrible play and couldn't recover. At one point, he got a pass in front of the net on the rush and sort of stopped skating towards the net when he normally would have taken a great little shot. I didn't think he could have done much on the Peverley goal, but usually his positioning on Peverley would have prevented him from being caught like that. I liked that he tried to be physical and both set up then screened on the Brule goal, but #14 had one of his only rough nights and one of his only horrid defensive mistakes.

Cogliano
- I liked his approach in getting into that fight, but I think he also revealed where his role should be if he's here and on a good team. If Cogliano is going to play C (which he should not), then he's a fourth line C who must use his speed and play physically. He made some hits which was good, but the offensive struggles he's had in terms of passes (both taking and giving from Eberle and Hall) were there again. Part of me hopes he is traded tomorrow, because if he won't play wing, he's taking up a C spot that shouldn't be occupied by a guy like him, even on our team.

Hall
- I really expected Hall to burst out offensively after that episode in the second period where he got pushed around some. The penalty he got was utterly silly...not only had he been hooked previously, but he was jumping around the player to get to the puck rather than committing a roughing offence. I think Boston was watching him quite closely, as there were times when Chara guarded him particularly close. He never could shake loose and got some puck towards the net but never really challenged Rask.

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Tough loss, but this is a game that shows how much better we need to be. Boston was tired, had accomplished most of what they wanted on their western swing and still dispatched us when they were decently ripe for the picking.

2/24/11

Advisory - No Game Report Friday

Hello all, i am at a work conference in Banff and wont be back in time for the Stl game. Reports will resume as usual for the Boston game.

2/19/11

LMHF Report - Game #31

EDMONTON 5

VS.

ATLANTA 3
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And the thundering herd marches on to yet another glorious victory...well not quite but at least this is officially a winning streak (3 wins required rather than 2).

This was a very different win than the last two but does a good job of illustrating why "how" doesn't really matter. We got it done today and finished with a bit of style actually. I think a lot of the Oilers early struggles can be attributed to the awkwardness of an afternoon game. That first period was pretty brutal all over the ice but if this thing had started at 8pm I think we may have seen a serious drubbing. This team has just enough confidence at the moment that superlative efforts of the young will not be denied. The last two games also saw stellar goaltending bail out mediocre D. Tonight the goaltending was horrid at both ends and certainly led to an interesting game.

The central point of debate in this game, whether we won or lost, would have been Renney's decision to bench Penner, Jacques and Omark then run with 3 lines in the third. I thought he went to the short bench a little early and might pay for it, but thankfully Hall took off like a rocket and we overwhelmed any possibility of an ATL rebound. It helped that our usually anemic EN efforts were again successful. Obviously the boldest benching was Penner; but he certainly deserved it. I'm also debating whether Jacques and Omark were actually benched or just didn't get any time because Renney needed Reddox for D on line one, but didn't want Jones to not be on the ice .

ATL is an interesting team; they have a lot of talent floating around but don't look very organized at all. I guess that fits being that their best player is in effect a throwback to the days of the rover combined with the modern athlete. #33 is an interesting guy to watch and I certainly would've poached him for the Oilers if we'd ever had a reasonable chance. He could make the difference on a lot more nights than a guy like Penner, but appears to cost a similar amount. ATL was let down by their goaltending as well today, but we don't always take advantage of a goalie who's fighting it like that, so I'll definitely take it.

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Devan Dubnyk
- One of his absolute worst performances of the year. Even though there were distinct breakdowns on two of the goals he allowed, if his D wasn't covering people and getting pucks away the Thrashers would have had a disturbing amount of great chances. I lost count of the number of ugly rebounds he generated at around 10. Devan didn't look confident at all today and fought hard to stay on the horse. Thankfully he made just enough saves, but he's got to be better than that.

Penner/Reddox-Horcoff-Hemsky
- I think this game confirms my initial thought from last game that Penner was making Hemsky and Horcoff look a lot more iffy than they actually were. Early in this one, Penner missed several Hemsky set ups and simple pass plays from both 10 and 83 (who looked quite solid early). Then he went offside a couple times. Then Penner skating past his check led to both the Ladd goal (where he actually bumped into Ladd and just kept going) and the Kane goal (where he made some half-hearted hooking attempt and stopped in the middle of nowhere, not only missing Kane but blocking out Chorney). He was absolutely horrible today and I agreed with Renney benching him. The sequence after his benching was rather unfortunate, because I'd have bet you $100 he'd have scored a goal today if he hadn't got that somewhat unlucky penalty after a really nice chance. He was fired up so at least he had the right reaction to the benching. I'd play him on a different line to start next game and tell him his job is to get some hits and get the puck deep. Simplify a bit. Ales wasn't at his absolute best but certainly made some nice plays. The little give and go that Hall worked with him was pretty nifty (great pass through a player while Horcoff took the stick of the man in front of the net so he couldn't block the pass) and he managed to get the EN goal again which is good to see. He's really productive right now even though I don't think this is the 'A' game aside from Dallas the other night. Loved the play he made where he entered the zone 1-on-5, held off the ATL players and made a pass to his winger. Horcoff had a pretty solid game and definitely has his wheels under him again. He and Hemsky are really reading off each other well right now. I'd also like to cover Reddox here because he did some really nice things playing with Hemsky and Horcoff, mainly related to working along the boards and showing some real jump into openings on the ice. You could tell he was pumped for the chance at that stage of the game and he did what he could. He was also quite good on the PK and good enough with his line. Liked the bit of feistiness he showed in the first too, getting into a scrum in front of the net. With all that said, I would not support starting him with Horcoff and Hemsky next game. Hall and Eberle need either Horcoff or Gagner so things need to be shook up.

Hall-Cogliano-Eberle
- I hope the thing that Taylor Hall remembers about this game is that all it really took for him to score those three goals was deciding he was going to do it. Two of those plays were simply Hall willing the puck into the back of the net. The first he certainly took advantage of a mistake by Mason, but he just kind of decided he was going to score that one. The second was a beauty play by he and Hemsky; one they could run a million times over. By the third goal, his team knew he was hot so the puck was headed his way; rather than taking wild shots or doing something goofy, Hall found his spot and drove that puck right through a goalie who he had to know he owned at that point. It was great to watch Taylor finally realize the types of goals he's going to score a ton of in this league. Even before that, the ATL was shifting towards him and opening up others. If this had happened in period 2, Eberle would have scored 2 in the third because he'd be so alone he could wind his watch. Cogliano might even have popped one. I don't remember the last time an Oilers player had a natural hat trick in a period...but I have a feeling his name might have ended in zky. It's not easy to do. Taylor Hall sure made it look easy. That's a dominant a short stretch as you're going to see. You don't have to be going end-to-end at a billion miles an hour or make a whole team look silly, but you do have to know that the puck will go in if you make your play. That's what Hall did. Cogliano played the exact same game I've seen him play for several in a row now where he's really making an effort, but when it comes time to be productive, either through a pass high in the offensive zone or a shot down low, he just can't do it. Better on the PK though. Eberle played a really solid game, and the little flip pass he made to set up Hall on a rush before Taylor had any goals was disturbingly good. Not a night where he shines too bright, but a night where you notice how solid of a support player he can be.

Jacques-Omark
- These two wound up benched in the third but I didn't think either was having a particularly bad game. Jacques was okay in the corners, had a solid fight to stick up for a teammate and didn't make many mistakes. Omark generated some offensive chances and did a good job of getting to the net on a couple of occasions. I think both fell victim to the numbers game, but that Jacques will be in next game and hopefully Omark will benefit from some different line combos (play him w/Penner and see if you can't get that combo going). I didn't appreciate how good the rush pass to Magnus was until I saw the replay...that was nice.

Paajarvi-Gagner-Jones
- Sam wasn't amazing today but he did distribute the puck well in the offensive zone. His powerplay efforts have improved significantly of late mainly because he's found better ways to use those around him. Jones joined this line in the third period and kept up what was already a strong effort. Regardless of this guy's shooting percentage and debates around that, you can't argue with how hard he skates and that he's usually a guy you at the very least notice in a positive way. Had a couple scoring chances. Magnus was a little quiet but strong enough defensively. He got his goal but I think the thing to notice was his solid positioning and overall play. He got that goal at a key time in a game that seemed to be going away from the team, so it was certainly helpful.

Gilbert
- Pretty decent effort from Tom tonight though not as excellent as a couple games recently. He was still decisive and aggressive with the puck, including great stretch pass he made, but he could've wowed me more.

Peckham
- Theo fought hard to salvage a good game from one that didn't start out too great. Early on he was trying to make too many plays with his stick rather than body positioning and hits. This resulted in some bad mistakes and nearly a goal (Little hit the post). Thankfully he simplified, went back to hitting and closing gaps, and got in the faces of people like Kane and Byfuglien. He went from a negative impact on the game to a positive one and even got a couple shots towards the net. I really liked how much effort he brought and that he didn't get frustrated despite an odd start and a non-penalty called on him. That was a really bad stretch for the refs, where Theo got his non-penalty, then they tried to give Smid a phantom Delay of Game. It was really bad.

Smid
- A tough, solid bounce back game after Thursday's awkward injury. Glad to see him on the scoreboard as well. He was really composed on the opposition blue for most of the night, which is an improvement.

Foster
- Though he continues to baffle me entirely due to the fact that every single time he is open with the puck in the offensive zone he shoots high (including a great chance to put the game out of reach today), at least Foster made a defensive effort today. He landed more hits than usual, got to pucks and just generally got in the way of people. I'm all for not letting him join the rush anymore though as it is way too frustrating.

Chorney
- His teammates seemed more reluctant to give him the puck than in the last 2 games, so Chorney wasn't able to make the offensive impact he has lately. He didn't really make a bad effort defensively in any noticeable way, though his positioning on the goal ATL scored 4-on-4 was somewhat questionable.

Vandermeer
- He played okay other than a couple times where he got too aggressive and had to scramble back into position. Thankfully ATL didn't take advantage. I have a feeling if scouts of a team who feels they need depth on D have been watching us, he may leave at the deadline.
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Afternoon games are always strange and this one could have really gone sideways, instead we're left with a memorable day and a victory. That's why I keep going I suppose! You never know when it's going to happen.

2/17/11

LMHF Report - Game #30

EDMONTON 4

VS.

MONTREAL 1
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I'm always very glad to beat these guys, but mostly to beat their strange edmonton-based fans that try to own the rink every time they play here. It's one thing to be loud and maybe even obnoxious, but I still find booing the home team sad and distasteful. I still don't understand why so many season ticket holders give up their tickets without at least accompanying these strange folk to the game to even out the numbers. I was very happy with the guys tonight for a) getting the first goal to keep the Habs fans relatively quiet and b) winning by more than 1 to keep the fans from getting too noisy and excited during the end. It really seems as though the Montreal fans that are Edmonton-based lack the supposed hockey IQ of their Quebec-based counterparts, but do possess the same attitude of being above other fanbases. Needless to say I don't enjoy dealing with that.

I think there were some pretty clear keys to the win tonight that most people got:
- Our goalie was much better than their goalie.
- The D, which is already weak, suffered an injury and made our pathetic blue look formidable.
- In the third after the Oilers got the lead, they played a simple game, got the puck deep, and made the necessary effort to hold the lead. They played like a playoff team holding a lead (other than lacking killer instinct on the PP, though at least they didn't take any exceptionally stupid or wild shots).

Montreal plays a very interesting style that seems reliant on forcing the other team into turnovers. They do this by having active, well placed sticks and clogging lanes. Early on we had a ton of trouble with this and several promising rushes or chances were foiled by a Montreal stick that would look random or flukey if it weren't so consistent. Credit to them on their execution of this plan generally and I can see why it would work for them. They do have a lot of players who can jump to chances and make something happen. In addition to their currently weak D, they missed Mike Cammalieri tonight a ton. He might've made this a closer game.

The reffing tonight was intriguing to say the least in that it was pretty much prison rules for the first 2 periods. Not that it was an ugly game, but there was some stuff that probably should've been called in today's league and was let go. If games were consistently reffed like this, I'd love it and we'd have a much more entertaining game, but they aren't. When we were finally able to convince the ref that yes indeed we were playing the game too and got a PP, we may not have converted but you certainly felt something slip away from MTL.

A few words on Mr. Subban:
- I don't think he's really a defenceman. He's most effective at the opposition blue line while rushing, looks for the hit too much, and doesn't get to use his skating. He's a power forward.
- A small play some may have missed, but I think he helped Eberle who had fallen near the net by making sure his head didn't whack the post. Very gentlemanly of him. Much more than I can say for a bunch of his teammates.
- Players certainly know he's there and adjust on the ice, but both Hall and Eberle figured out how to go right at him with success. He'll need to work on that.

LMHF#2 is having a particularly psychic run lately; not only did he call the scores and result of the last 2 wins, but he called what type of pop I was going to have tonight and a couple other things. If anyone wants a prediction I'd suggest getting into contact with him. Crazy.

On to the players...
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Khabibulin
- His best game of the year. He was on and flat robbed MTL on several occasions. They executed successful cross-crease plays (including one which would have been a game-changer in the second) and #35 made the save and made it look easy. He was way ahead of the play tonight and showed his confidence late by playing the puck a little more than usual. I'm not sure where these performances have come from, but he was certainly the biggest reason we won tonight. The only goal MTL scored was because he was hit on the play and didn't recover.

Foster
- Though his feet were still moving slowly and he took an awkward bunch/forearm to head in the third, Foster managed to have a decently strong game defensively. He was more committed to his coverages than usual and especially in the third. When we win it will often be because guys like he and Vandermeer push their effort in the defensive zone just a little higher.

Vandermeer
- Mixed game from him but mostly in the positive due to some stronger defensive play in the second half of the game. I'd count his mistakes as two ill-advised pinches and a couple ugly giveaways, but he covered up for most of them alright. He did a solid job of being in the right position and went out of his way to make some hits, which is something the Oilers D hasn't done near enough of when it has had the chance as a unit to grate on opposition forwards.

Chorney
- He got two really solid shots on net tonight, both while on the move. One nearly went in on its own and another was nearly tipped in. He's much much more confident this time around. I didn't notice him a lot in the defensive zone, which is generally a good thing. He certainly wasn't perfect, but this was a solid effort

Smid
- I hope Ladislav is okay. he was having a decent enough positional game and did some solid things with the puck on his stick. He's always best when he does a decent amount of skating with the puck and he was doing that tonight. Quite composed. The only glaring error I'll point out is that he put a really bad screen on Khabibulin once or twice that could have cost us big.

Peckham
- Though this wasn't an extremely physical effort, Montreal certainly knew he was there. He played a pretty solid game for the most part and came away in the positive. I think many of the Oilers learned early from MTL's approach to the game and more shots were blocked. Peckham being one of the best at that.

Gilbert
- Another excellent, albeit quieter, effort from the man who needs to be our #1 D right now. Solid with the puck, took his time and got into the right positions all night long.

Jacques-Reddox-Jones
- This was probably the best game I've seen Jacques play in terms of actually contributing to a win. He got a chance in the third on a bit of a rush with Reddox and Jones to make a solid NHL play, took his time, located Jones and made a really nice pass to set up the huge 3-1 goal. It was simple but for Jacques it was a victory and I appreciated the play. He also laid some some hits and got in the way productively at other times. There were still shifts where I felt he'd be better either ignoring the puck totally or playing without a stick, but he made a contribution to the win. Jones created problems for MTL's tired D at several junctures tonight, using his strong N-S skating and drive for the puck to pressure them, then finally capitalizing on his best clear chance in the third. He could have had at least 2 tonight, as a couple of his other chances were pretty good. Liam got beat down pretty hard on the faceoff dot, but I liked his effort 5-on-5. He does a really solid job of skating in the proper lane as well as driving the net. If you noticed on Jones goal, Reddox befuddled Subban and was actually in behind Price ready for a leaked puck if need be. These guys really helped the cause tonight

Paajarvi-Gagner-Omark
- Magnus had a shift in the third that I think really speaks to his potential as a strong two-way 5-on-5 guy. He made a great little backcheck play to break up an initial Montreal rush, then after some milling about, grabbed a loose puck, skated it out of danger and dumped it deep. It was a fairly simple shift but a great example of hockey IQ + skill + effort. Magnus had some chances to do offensive damage, but either didn't get the shots off or was stymied by MTL's active sticks. Linus got even sweeter chances, including a wonderful breakaway pass from Magnus (which me made a good choice and shot on but just missed) and a screen/tip/rebound play that was thwarted by an MTL defender. He does need to start converting on some of these. He drew the first MTL penalty, which was no small feat tonight. He struggled a little in the defensive and neutral zones, but also had a really nice backchecking play in the third that I hadn't seen from him before yet and would indicate him learning to use his skills at both ends of the ice, which is a plus. I truly think he's a guy you can refine into an excellent defensive winger. Too many tools to waste. Sam was a little quieter than usual tonight, but seemed to play a pretty strong supporting game. This line wasn't leaned on heavily with the rookies going and Hemsky's line dealing with many minutes, but they were certainly not a hindrance and could have scored a goal or two.

Hall-Cogliano-Eberle
- Try as I might, I just don't think I can give Cogliano a passing grade. His result was okay, but there were just way too many times in all zones that the play died with him. He missed a phenomenal chance that should have been a gimme goal in period 2. Thankfully he wasn't forced to defend much sustained pressure from MTL. If some people have some positives on Cogliano besides the one really hard shot he fired at the net, I'd love for you to add them to the discussion. I just can't see it right now. Hall seemed to have the game an always-effective star has when he's not on full go. Hall found a way to exploit the MTL D, and drove wide all night, either beating them clean or punishing them through a little physicality and hard work. He put forth a big effort even if the stats were understated and didn't give the puck away near as much as he might have usually. I liked his effort a lot. The play he made to feed Eberle on his goal was sick. Taylor needs to remember that he's an excellent and creative playmaker who can give his teammates great chances and especially so off the rush. He's been locked in shooting mode too often. Eberle was excellent as always. Positionally brilliant. The goal an example of a guy who knows how to score and is patient as hell with the puck on his stick. If Hall (or anyone) can get him the puck in that spot, he's a goal scoring machine. I say he gets 40 next season.

Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky
- On what should have been a rather good night for these guys to do some damage (and they looked good early) they struggled some. I'm going to pin a lot of that on Penner. He was very either lazy, tired or unfocused tonight. Way too many times he was either given the puck and frittered it away, or the puck was put in a position he'd usually get it and didn't. I think this play from Penner made it look like Horcoff and Hemsky were playing worse than they actually were. A bunch of pucks that were actually solid fundamental plays wound up as turnovers. Both were far from perfect, with Hemsky having more turnover struggles and Horcoff willing but unable to convert offensively, but the main laggard was Penner. Because of the way Montreal plays, the whole group needed to be going to look good and they didn't at many times. With that said, they still come out plus and Hemsky still finds a way to score two (including an empty netter for once! YAY!). These guys should be much better Sat. I'm predicting a really good game from them. Of course, I'm no LMHF#2.
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That was fun if not perfect. I love winning!

2/15/11

LMHF Report - Game #29

EDMONTON 4

VS.

DALLAS 1
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Well, I guess the Generals were finally due...

In all seriousness, this is going to be a positive report. I enjoyed an Oilers game for the hockey played on the ice for the first time in what seems like forever. There were a ton of really solid efforts I'm going to highlight and I hope everyone that's been subjected to the "hockey" that's been played by the Oilers, and especially at home, got to see that game tonight. I once again fought the urge to stay home. I've got a lot I could be spending my time on, but I decided (as always) that tonight had potential, and went. I'm very glad I did.

Dallas was certainly understaffed tonight, but the Oilers have made a habit out of not showing up for these type of games in the recent past, allowing a couple guys to get their first NHL goals and losing in a sluggish and depressing fashion. Not so tonight. Aside from some errors that required actual NHL saves from our goalie early in a game (something we haven't had with this goalie in ages), the Oilers had their foot on the gas from the start. Dallas was lucky not to be down more than they were early, and lucky again that they weren't run out of the building to the tune of 7 or 8 to 1 instead of the humble 4 we still managed to put up.

There wasn't a big difference in the system play or the approach of the Oilers tonight; it was a bunch of little things coming together combined with the biggest thing, a solid effort from nearly everyone. Tonight was a success because the players made sure they had control of the puck before they passed or shot, were sure of themselves when making a deke, skated very hard to get back and pick up trailers and did it pretty much all game save for maybe a couple minutes early in the second. When you get that kind of buy-in from that much of the group, you're going to win in this league a fair amount of the time. While we are lacking in the lineup department this year, our main problem has been a lack of effort and/or focus with the worst games seeing neither of both. You saw both in the positive tonight for the first time in a long time.

The only thing I want to point out in the negative about the way the team played is that three times they allowed Dallas to set up slowly behind the net while backing off to the blue line. Two of these times Dallas rushed untouched to a clear chance and the other time they allowed a partial break. This setup has been a feature of Oilers teams for some time now and needs to be thrown in the bin. It only ends in pain.

The game could have gone just as the last one did. Just as in the last one, the 91-89-23 line had a great forechecking shift in the middle of the first period. Last game, the rest of the team did nothing with this shift and got beat down. Tonight they built upon it, managed to get a first period goal, and never really looked back. The team also could've folded up their tent when DAL made it 2-1; but unlike this year's typical performance, they bore down and took advantage of a late second period PP, then pounded the final nail with a goal early in the third. That's how winners do it.

Looking at our goals, the first of the night was certainly pretty. Sam Gagner has had some confidence issues lately, and that Sam (as well as 90% of the crowd as usual) would have taken a weak shot from where he stood and created absolutely nothing. Instead he stayed calm, realized he had room and a man in a weak spot, and used his superior talent to make a great move and pass to Eberle, who as usual was in the perfect position with his stick ready to fire. He does this better than anyone on the squad right now. Since returning, Eberle has 7 points in 7 games and hasn't even been at his top gear. It's almost scary to think this guy might be establishing himself as capable of PPG for next season...I still maintain he might wind up the better player over his career when compared to Hall. He's always been the guy with IT and hasn't lost it at any level.

The second goal was the result of solid movement on the PP for a change. As usual the rabble were busy screaming for an early shot from a man standing still with a Star planted firmly in front of him, but the Oilers changed things up by moving both the puck and their feet to set up Taylor Chorney, who certainly looked more comfy on the PP than he has in previous NHL sojourns. He got a smooth shot off and beat Lehtonen because he was forced to move. I hope the Oilers remember everything about this play. Great read by Horcoff on this one as well. Penner and Hemsky did some great work that shift and weren't rewarded on the sheet but were certainly noticed.

The third Oilers goal was again because of great passing and movement of skates while the rabble once again called for a wasteful shots. I loved the composure the guys showed in setting that play up and Hemsky's read+pass to an open Horcoff who deceived his defender and got into the open ice to tip it in were both beauty. Perfect example again of what we need to do on the powerplay.

Ales Hemsky had been demanding what resulted in the fourth goal for much of this game. He was motoring all night and finally Horcoff found him with a nifty little pass to spring him, then he finished as only he can. He'd already missed a breakaway so I was glad to see that he wasn't gripping too tight and went for the deke instead of the shot.

It's worth noting that we could've had several more tonight. Eberle hit bar and had a couple bad bounces. Hall got a couple good shots off but also got caught sleeping beside the net on beauty sets from his linemates a couple times. Kurtis Foster actually hit the net with some degree of danger and used a shot-pass for the first time in forever. Linus Omark created a couple brilliant chances on his own and even the fourth line (specifically Reddox and Jones) had their try. We also had an exploding stick session that cost a few guys great chances. It was a very different game tonight and I'm delighted to be able to break it down by player.
----------

Khabibulin
- This team has not gotten the key early saves from Khabibulin that they got tonight in a long time. For once he actually looked zone in. His glove and blocker were alert, ready and batting everything away. He was even taking swipes at pucks outside the net with his stick and getting them, which is something he doesn't normally do. On other nights I don't think the Oilers get going because they did indeed make some mistakes early that could have wound up in their net. The thing is that tonight their goalie actually looked like a #1. I recommend immediately going to Dubnyk against MTL because I don't see this repeating and he deserves an effort from the players like Khabibulin got tonight. Goalies shouldn't last long enough as starters to see the streak he had in the L column.

Gilbert
- So much better from Tom tonight. Why? That stupid twitchy head move was gone and he was passing, skating and pinching with authority. Perhaps the change of partners to Smid helped him, because he really looked like a whole new (and by new I mean what he used to look like) man out there tonight. When this guy shows up, he's a massive asset. Earned those two assists and played an underrated and possibly unnoticed by many role in getting the 27-10-83 line going. He did a great job of getting them the puck quickly and smoothly.

Smid
- Though he had a couple early adventures (two ugly turnovers and two instances of skating himself way out of position), Ladislav then calmed down a bunch and had a pretty good game. The change he allowed in Gilbert's game alone was enough to make this a worthy effort. Could've been more physical I suppose.

Peckham
- I liked that he went at Steve Ott early and then after about 2 shifts Ott was invisible. This is something Theo can do that our other defencemen and our goons cannot. #49 is a scary guy when he wants to be and that had the desired impact tonight. He wasn't great with the puck and got caught defensively at least twice (including an awkward sequence in the second where he had position but stopped skating and let the DAL forward past him for a chance) but overall he played a decent game especially considering he was with Chorney.

Chorney
- I'd like to applaud Taylor on coming back with some confidence; especially in the offensive zone. The strength of his game is to take the puck with his feet moving and then either direct a solid shot or pass while keeping the flow going. When he's on he essentially doesn't stop moving. He made some UGLY defensive errors early, but kept his composure to contribute positively to the win. There are other times Chorney and most offensively gifted defenceman would have taken that early start as a rebuke, backed off their game and played rather badly. He did not and for that he deserves credit.

Vandermeer
- Efforts like this from him perplex me. He was mean, a little physical, and dished the puck well. He didn't do anything exceptional, but played a simple game and got the job done. There's zero reason he shouldn't be able to do this most nights. I really don't get it. I'm not saying this in the same way I'd say that the Oilers as a team should be able to at least make a decent effort, what I'm saying quite frankly is that Vandermeer's job is actually pretty easy, he's qualified to do it, and struggling to do it makes little to no sense.

Foster
- He was definitely better tonight, as he managed to keep his shot under control and his wits about him. I don't believe he was pressed much defensively, but a lack of big mistakes counts as a positive compared to the rest of his year. He had a lot of help from his forwards today, but still credit to him for a better, more calm effort.

Hemsky
- I think Ales is confident in his health again. It started late in the last game with some really strong shifts and spilled over to tonight. While his offensive effort, creating numerous chances, getting his goal and showing an insane amount of jump was impressive, I was actually more impressed with his effort on D. He was phenomenal in his own zone, breaking up several plays including one early where he was forced to play D. Tonight the transition game ran through him, and the Oilers win when the play is flowing that way. It was a beautiful thing to watch. Great game. His best plays didn't even result in points. Check out his second period dangle if you can find it somewhere. The only thing I'm scared of is that he took a couple really solid pops (including one that left him squinty) in this game and I hope that they didn't impact him negatively.

Horcoff
- The rapid acceleration to loose pucks and scoring zones was back in Horcoff's game tonight. It made a huge difference. When he's reading off of Hemsky like tonight and playing decisively, he can be a big part of the offence. Some nights he doesn't need to do what he did tonight because Penner's also very good at it, but if you have 10 and 27 swapping nights with 83 stirring the drink (as he did ruthlessly tonight) then you've got one of the better lines out there. He was very good in all zones just like Hemsky was, with just a little less pop.

Penner
- Didn't blow the roof off like either Horcoff or Hemsky, but also got a couple bad breaks that prevented goals. While he wasn't running people over like crazy, he did a good job in the role of providing positional support to his linemates as well as getting to the slot for shooting opportunities. He had a stick blow up, at least two get deflected wide, and was also stopped. Underrated game from Penner tonight. I also really like to see him on the PK. Think he'd be interesting playing with Magnus there.

Jacques
- Not much to complain about in his game, and he certainly got a couple of nice hits in. I still didn't see value for having him in the lineup really.

Reddox
- He pushed the limit of his game a bit tonight to include a little bit more hitting, which was good to see and I think made an impact against Dallas due to them missing some of their more physical players. Very much liked his work on the PK and he generated a couple of offensive chances.

Jones
- Not a loud night by any stretch of the imagination, but he had a couple decent hits and was a minor threat offensively a couple times. Jones' positioning was very good as well. I hope he likes Edmonton enough that a reasonable contract can be agreed upon.

Hall
- I'm still not quite sure what he was looking at on the couple cross-ice chances he got from Eberle and Gagner tonight. I would have thought he'd be ready to finish on those but he wasn't; also had a couple pucks bounce on him. In the second period he made a wide drive and took what has become a typical shot at the net that was stopped. I'd really like to see him either hook to set up a pass or make an Eberle play and bounce one off the far pad to a linemate on those, even if only to open up the wide drive roofjob goal and make him a threat in multiple ways. I really liked the way he took the physical play to Fistric in the third period and frustrated him into taking a penalty. He had a really physical shift that was great to see.

Cogliano
- Andrew was one of the only Oilers I was disappointed in tonight, in that he couldn't seem to catch the wave of solid play riding through the team. He made and effort and I did like his play on the PK, but he made too many giveaways and disrupted several dangerous-looking rushes that Hall or Eberle started. Maybe he did a better job in puck support than I saw, but I really thought he could've had a dynamic night and he didn't.

Eberle
- Another great night from Jordan where it was an absolute travesty he only got one point. He set up a number of chances for linemates but was only rewarded on the play Gagner made. I can't stress enough how much this guy knows about where to be and when to be there. He's an incredibly smart hockey player who is calm at all times.

Gagner
- Effectively drove the bus for 2 lines tonight (Eberle and Hall looked best when with him on the PP, then Omark and Paajarvi looked good as well), Sam played probably his best game of the year. The difference tonight was his confidence with the puck, willingness to drive to the shooting areas and confidence to let it rip (he really should have scored). When Sam plays like this you sure don't notice that he's a fairly small guy compared to the others. How do we keep his level of play up this high.

Omark
- An understated but solid night. He doesn't necessarily have to put up points when he's a positive impact like this. Most nights like this he would, but it didn't happen tonight. He's really improving in his reads from the PP point and made a couple very inventive fakes. At least twice he drove alone to the front of the net and created some very dangerous chances. The best players on the team definitely trust him with the puck. Good as gold in the corners fighting for the puck as always; should have drawn at least two penalties.

Paajarvi
- Fairly quiet night for Magnus, I'm guessing mainly due to limited icetime. Nothing to be ashamed of surely, just nothing jumping off the page.
--------------------

Well, that was definitely different! I hope like hell we can do that Thursday. Would make for a fun night! I also hope the horrid (and French) ref we appear to have had for the past 4 games now is gone by then. For him not to be may prove disastrous.

2/13/11

LMHF Report - Game #28

EDMONTON L

VS.

ANAHEIM W

Does the score even matter anymore?
-----------------------

I like to think of myself as a pretty good writer. I was excellent in my high school and university classes, and while I play pretty fast and loose in writing the Report, I can put together a pretty solid piece of writing when I want to. It's part of my job even and plays into my political life of course.

I could spend an entire college-style all night writing session and not make whatever THAT was, and whatever this "team" is look good. Or interesting. Or exciting.

This has gotten to be just as bad if not worse than last season for a number of reasons. I think the most prominent one for me is that I'm having to watch untainted young talent be exposed to some horrendous habits and practices that will likely limit their potential (or at the very least cause it to develop more slowly or with another franchise).

There was really nothing positive to see out on the ice tonight. I'm pretty much going to skip any pretense of making the best of a bad situation at get straight to the crapulence.

I felt really bad for Devan Dubnyk tonight. He started the game out just fine and certainly could have backstopped a competent team to a win. Skipping the chances that were glaring defensive errors, this pretty much ends 0-0 (as I'm not sure any team would have scored in the SO before a league imposed curfew came into effect). It's not like Anaheim was any good. They were just like 3/4 of the teams who come in here this year; coasting for most of the night and taking advantage of a couple outrageously stupid mistakes to score enough goals to win. I'm sure this point has been raised by others already, but it made me sick that the team who wouldn't pull #35 if he weren't able to stand upright pulled #40. I'm sure it was a "mercy pull" or whatever, but that doesn't really help. Dubnyk should get more respect from the team than Khabibulin and he gets less. Sickening.

This team hasn't played with the proper system they supposedly learned in the preseason in a long time. The last I remember was honestly the first game of the year against Calgary, but they may have done so once or twice since. Probably on the road. The home efforts are just disgusting, with this possibly being the worst. Even the fights went terribly tonight.

I'm a big fan of Tom Gilbert as a player; he has shown me some of the best D play I've seen in all the time I've been an Oilers fan, but tonight (and lately) he was a scared little boy on that ice. I decided to watch him a little closer tonight and noticed that he has developed a tendency to freeze his feet and stick while making awkward neck movements, paranoid that he's missing something. This is not the same as keeping your head on a swivel and/or using peripheral vision to track the play. He's literally frozen except for sideways neck spasms. This tendency on a number of occasions meant he was either late to read a play or late to break toward it even though he had read it. Tom is not playing hockey right now. I imagine that in his brain the game is moving about 1000 mph. Not good. I really hope he can snap out of it, but I'm worried that we have no one (either a teammate who is a leader on D or a coach who can spot the issue and get through to him) to help with this process.

Theo did his best to at least annoy the Ducks somewhat and I think he succeeded. As usual, Mr Giant Wuss himself (Andy "I only fight Eric Brewers" Sutton) tried to take advantage and I'm glad Peckham hung around more than the one pretty large punch Sutton landed. Theo wasn't great in terms of positioning, but again, he's dealing with a defensive partner who is gliding all over the ice, missing free pucks and not taking advantage of his positioning. That's tough even for a vet, much less #49.

Part of our problem is that we have too many defencemen who just plain stink. The two of note this evening were (as usual) Foster and Vandermeer. Vandermeer made so many mistakes tonight that immediately went dangerously towards his own net that I lost count. He was nothing but trouble. It was actually embarrassing to see him out there in our uniform at several points because you KNEW he would lose the puck. Foster wasn't much better, but at least he gave the glass-changers something to do being that the guy who used to make sure they had regular duty just isn't good enough for this 30th place club and must play in Hershey. Would someone tell Foster that it doesn't count as 3 goals every time he fires it over the net? Every single solitary time he's open he does this. EVERY FREAKING TIME. There's a guy wearing #47 in Tampa who scored a nice OT winner the other night on a play that looks like the one Foster gets a chance at at least once a game...just saying. Don't tell me that guy can't play D either; compared to Foster he's freaking Scott Stevens...

Petry spent the night recovering. While I appreciate that he didn't quit on his mistakes, he still made a decent number of them. It really wasn't fun to watch. He's got way too much responsibility right now, and while he was doing fine with it early, I think it's starting to grind him down like sandpaper. His partner wasn't too bad, though the spectacle of him standing up for Penner was a little bewildering. Thought he'd have a better fight than he did.

Andrew Cogliano couldn't check a pile of sand. The play he made to create the first Anaheim goal, where he skated himself completely out of position despite having been in a perfect spot to stop the rush might have been the only thing more embarrassing than some of what Vandermeer did tonight. Add in the fact that he did a great job of wrecking several offensive rushes and I cannot see for the life of me why Renney thinks this guy has any future as a good player for our team. He's completely lost whatever it was he came into the league with. That really stinks because we should have had something. I imagine someone will turn him into a player by taking a proper approach to his successes and mistakes, but have a hard time seeing it as us (he isn't even a regular winger yet).

Taylor Hall had a horrible first period. It was full of giveaways and missed shots. I enjoyed that he finally hit someone...then the missed shots resumed. I don't know what the problem is with his shooting precisely, but he needs to work that out something fierce. It's really costing him. He also whiffed on another PP gimme from the slot...which is an alarming trend. Why can't the golden child score on rebounds or slot passes?

Eberle was Eberle. He made another good defensive stop just like last game and set up some chances (unfortunately to Cogliano mostly). I don't want to lump him in with this pile tonight. I must say though, I really hope he turns out better than Hall (with Hall still being excellent); he deserves it more. Even in bad games he does the little things til the end.

MacIntyre's fight was pretty uneventful and I'm rather disappointed that he didn't get into another one. He knows what he's here to do; get it done. Go beat on Andy Sutton. Don't take a wimpy poke at Perry when intentionally trips the goalie, club him one in the teeth. You won't play for another few games anyway, might as well make it count.

Jones created his normal couple chances but had trouble controlling the puck and couldn't score tonight. If one guy would have broken the SO I'd have bet on him. The Jones on the PP experiment with Penner and Hemsky though was one of the saddest things I've seen, and proved itself that way within about 20 seconds. Who is paying these coaches and what have they learned about a PP ever?

Fraser laid a nice hit and made a couple decent offensive plays. These were offset by some giveaways, but he was fairly neutral this evening.

Magnus couldn't get into a groove tonight. The galloping stride was there but his puck control was off and this hampered his ability to make a difference or get open for 89 or 23 to find him. They struggled a little as well. Gagner made a horrible pass in the second that promptly found his own net and couldn't convert in the offensive zone. The unit had a great shift in the first that could've severely shifted the momentum of the game, but no one could follow up. Omark did some great work in the corners and took a lot of abuse from an Anaheim team that appeared to think he would quit, but he also wasn't able to pop a couple chances and made some suspect passes in his own and neutral zones. Overall, these guys actually created some offence which was nice compared to the other lines.

What kind of moron coach would play Liam Reddox on the wing with Penner and Hemsky? Our moron coach that's who! I couldn't believe this when I saw it, but I really shouldn't be shocked by anything anymore. Why when you've got Penner at C do you not add a young star or at least someone with some talent to that wing? Playing Liam there (and again, I like him) means we're set up to lose. Both Ales and Dustin had off nights. Ales came back angry after his two penalties and was better than I've seen him in a long time for a few shifts, but unfortunately nothing happened. Penner looked plain tired, and got pasted in the neutral zone which isn't exactly normal.

What a steaming pile of junk on display tonight. I wish the fans remembered how to boo. These guys deserve to hear anger and the mass doesn't seem to be wiling to give it to them with any vigour.
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On a FAR side note, Mario Lemieux should shut up. He's whining about probably one of the most entertaining games in a long time in the NHL because his team got beat up (on the scoreboard and in the alley) by the Islanders, yet he employs one of the biggest cheapshot artists going. If his team is going to run around, and his goalie is going to do what Johnson did, then what NYI did is what did and should happen to them. Play with respect and you'll get it. Otherwise, better toughen up.

2/12/11

LMHF Report - Game #27

EDMONTON 3

VS.

OTTAWA 5
------------

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?

------------

Khabibulin
- 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.

Gilbert
- 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.

Peckham
- 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.

Foster
- 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.

Smid
- 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.

Vandermeer
- 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.

Petry
- 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.

Jacques
- 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.

Fraser
- 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.

Jones
- 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.

Omark
- 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.

Gagner
- 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.

Paajarvi
- 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.

Eberle
- 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.

Hall
- 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.

Cogliano
- 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.

Reddox
- 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.

Hemsky
- 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.

Penner
- 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.
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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...

2/9/11

LMHF Report - Game #26

EDMONTON 1

VS.

CHICAGO 4
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My theory going into tonight's game was that we'd either win narrowly or get blown out. That didn't wind up being the case despite the score. Though I'm sure many will question the take, I thought we actually came out of the gate pretty well. We controlled the puck and took some nice skating lanes in the Chicago zone to create the "chance for chances", as it were. Our problem wound up being that we had neither the final deke move nor the extra gear of speed to burn Chicago's D. They were patient and well positioned, which led to us turning the puck over harmlessly more than not.

The game couldn't be discussed without mentioned the refereeing; which was terrible. I hear people say things like "you've got to earn the powerplays" and all that junk, which is fine, but having such uneven standard of what constitutes an Edmonton penalty versus what constitutes a Chicago penalty is unacceptable. Sure, we didn't blow by them and force trips, but the hooks, holds and crosschecks were there all night in plain view. Sutherland and his buddy were just looking the other way. Also, if you cannot correctly pick which player just took a penalty, you shouldn't be able to give one. I'm referring to the weak hooking call made on Hemsky but given to Vandermeer. Brutal x2. Chicago saw what was going on tonight and went down easier because of it. To cap it all off, the goofs in stripey pajamas gave out 10 mins times 2 just because they felt like it. Back to training for these jokers.

Chicago controlled the puck well after our initial solid play to start the game. They made our D look pretty weak a number of times, mostly in terms of their ability to change speed. I lost count of the amount of close plays where Chicago simply turned it on for a couple strides and made the Oil D look like an unmoving blob. That was disheartening.

We were not able to generate consistent offence for a number of reasons, but we had enough bursts to make this a contest. No one seemed to have their net-finder functioning well tonight though.

----------------

Dubnyk
-He was solid positionally and kept us in it long enough that we could still have won. Not much to be done on Bickell's move, Sharp is a very good shooter and Kane is too. Both the Kane and Sharp goals also saw horrible defensive coverage miscues. He made a couple great saves, one on a Hossa breakaway, then another on a near breakaway and rebound after the "Hemsky penalty". He certainly wasn't the problem tonight.

Gilbert
- Tom on the other hand was part of the problem. I was wondering if there was something physically wrong with him tonight like a migraine or some sort of flu. He kept skating into the wrong corner or giving the puck away clean while there were skating lanes open. He made mistakes on both the Kane and Sharp goals, but also a decent number more in the corners. He's almost never that bad in that area. When Peckham is covering for Gilbert's mistakes and not the other way around, we're not going to win many. He also didn't create anything offensively. Ever since Gilbert went from being an offensive feature in his rookie year to playing second or third fiddle, his offensive game has suffered. He doesn't play as well instinctually as he used too. I wonder if this aspect will ever fully return when I see him play games like this, that could have been salvaged by a great shot and a rush.

Peckham
- Just okay tonight; he needed to be more physical against a Chicago team we're actually capable of intimidating now. He also covered up a couple of Gilbert's mistakes but wasn't too great on the goals either. No offence from Theo tonight. Also wasn't too impressed when he got hammered by Seabrook; must've been off-balance or something ( I hope).

Smid
- Not near enough skating with the puck; which is his strongest play from the defensive zone. His positioning was just okay, and like Theo he needed to be more physical for us to win tonight. No forays into the depths of the offensive zone, which is a change from the last time he was here. Maybe that gameplan is out the window?

Foster
- Let's see...terrible defensively (he got skated past more than anyone), no offensive contribution (even when he gets the puck in the clear it's like he's lost all concept of what to do) and went to the penalty box. Ya know when you're discussed as sitting over Jason Strudwick things are bad for a guy who was excellent offensively very recently. Please take him back for something Tampa!

Petry
- He either got a really bad break (aided by a bad decision by Taylor Hall to pass to him) or made a bad read on the Bickell goal. On first glance it looked like he wasn't in proper position then played the pass horribly, review seems to confirm that but I'd be interested to know what everyone else thought of that play. With that many white sweaters high, Hall probably shouldn't have made the pass. Petry was not as slick as usual tonight, muffing several passes and not showing a lot of his slick skating. He wasn't too bad defensively, but that's not really the trademark of his game.

Vandermeer
- Meh, I'd say he held his own. He got blown by a little less than Foster, so at least he wasn't the worst defensively. Certainly not at the half-decent level he was playing before the injury. Good shot to set up Eberle though, I liked that choice.

Omark
-Drew the Oilers first penalty in the third finally. I really like the way he plays the game so my reviews will usually be positive and this one's not an exception. He's still winning nearly every battle along the boards for the puck, looks solid at the point on the powerplay, and set up both linemates as well as getting a couple chances of his own. The one intriguing thing for me about Omark is that his tenacity combined with board skill could actually make for an excellent defensive player if the coaching staff is willing to spend the time to teach a guy who clearly thinks the game through. Sometimes this type of guy is "harder to coach" but the results can be substantial if you're able to reach them.

Paajarvi
- Magnus continues to show his wheels and generate chances that way. He wasn't exactly a sniper tonight but that's okay. I'm still not a big fan of using him on the PP as it doesn't appear he's learned that skillset yet, but I think he will. 5-on-5 he's a joy to watch play. There was a sequence tonight where he outskated and schooled Marian Hossa...if that doesn't get you excited about a player I'm not sure what will.

Gagner
- Missed chances were the order of the evening for Sam. He did a good job of getting open and the pucks got to him, but whether it was a pure whiff or just a miss/save, he didn't have the touch tonight. I'm a little worried about his confidence in his goal scoring ability, as he sure is missing a ton of chances lately.

Reddox
- Certainly enjoy watching Liam play over Jacques even if it's not going to be much icetime. Generally his work on the PK was alright, but they should give him a try with Penner or someone a little bigger because having he and Cogliano out there just covers way too little ice. Would've liked to seen some hitting from him tonight.

Jones
- He didn't follow up his Nashville effort very well. Needs to play with much more energy. Made one decent play to get the puck to Fraser in front of the CHI net in period 2 but that's certainly not enough.

Fraser
- Pretty boring game, but on his chance in the offensive zone, even with the puck bouncing you have to try to knock it down and go against the grain of a moving Crawford. That play could've been a game-changer and we just happened to have the wrong guy in that spot. He was okay elsewhere, but I still don't see why okay should be his limit. He has some tools but never seems to bring them to work.

Cogliano
- Watching him play with Hall and Eberle reveals the massive gap in their skill levels that is already present. It comes through in passing/receiving, shot selection, skating lanes and reads. Cogliano was reduced to near invisibility with these two. He is not a good puck support C, so the only way he can really have an impact on this line is to drive the net and own that real estate. He didn't do that. I still don't get how a guy who's only had one 2-goal game this year doesn't try to replicate that performance every night out...there was a formula to his play that night.

Hall
- Meh, he drove wide and got some shots but I didn't see anything amazingly dynamic in his game tonight. He actually looked a little tired in the third when they'd show him on camera. I wonder if he's going to get more proficient at setting up Eberle, who doesn't rely on the wide rush and can give Hall a better option than that wide-angle shot he's falling in love with a bit. Maybe time to throw Horcoff back with him.

Eberle
- He was the one Oilers forward I thought was really with it tonight and coincidentally got rewarded with a goal. He made some really solid choices with the puck, especially at the offensive blue line. He also doesn't take the stupid crowd-urged shots that a lot of his teammates do and thus doesn't give the puck away after that shot gets blocked. In a game with so many PKs, he, Hemsky, and Penner should all have had a go. I think that would have kept Eberle functioning at a high level. There almost wasn't enough ES icetime to run the 3 main lines through properly. Great that Jordan's baseline "nothing special" games look like this.

Hemsky
- I'm sure being on a losing team is wearing on Ales and the two guys ahead of him. They can brave-face it all they want, but all these men have played for the Stanley Cup and this has got to just stink. Ales still looks a little out of it from his injury, and he and Horcoff are not reading off each other like they usually do. I'd shake it up right now. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what's going wrong in Ales' game at the moment, but he doesn't seem to have that "lock in and get it done" approach to go to at the moment. He looks quite frustrated.

Horcoff
- Hasn't seemed to find his offensive game yet. There's not a lot of jump in his stride and he's not picking up the puck support turnovers that are the trademark of when is playing well. No shots or plays on the rush either. Funny thing is he isn't doing anything horribly wrong, he just looks stuck in sand to some extent.

Penner
- Dustin had some moments tonight where you just love his game. He ran over some people very heavily in the corners, drove the net and got into position for good shots. Unfortunately he didn't convert. I suspect if he makes the game 3-2 late on the chance from beside the net that he got we might actually tie it. Again, I haven't seen him in front of the net near as often as he needs to be, and the passing game he has is still absent. Finding Hemsky streaking wide works really well when he has that. I'm hoping it comes back, but this might be a wait til next year kinda thing...sadly.


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Losing sucks...no matter what's at the end of the rainbow. Very thankful I had entertaining company tonight otherwise it would've been really boring. Want more jump from these guys.

2/2/11

LMHF Report - Game #25

EDMONTON 1

VS.

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.