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3/29/11

LMHF Report Game #39

EDMONTON 0

VS.

LOS ANGELES 2
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We're almost there people. I feel at this point that even I am dragging a couple limbs that have given out behind me and staggering towards a finish line that is guaranteed to be there but at so many points this season has seemed so far away and so pointless all at the same time. It reminds of hobbling the last 6 miles of the half marathon I ran in Vegas because I had leg cramps the likes of which I couldn't have previously imagined. I wonder if the players feel that way. I imagine that for them the cramp is located several feet higher in a part of the body safely ensconced in a large plastic helmet.

This isn't going to be the usual game report. There was far to little of any consequence, either positive or negative, to write in the conventional fashion tonight. A ton of games this year have been listless and borderline painful, but this one joined the select few that featured almost nothing worth watching and were an effort to keep your attention on. It was really sad that they put THAT effort out for Rod's last game. Also, when you give a radio guy a banner, it's supposed to have a microphone on it, not the number of games he called. Sitting next to numbers such as 99 and 31 will now be 3542...yeah...

The goals we allowed fit with the game in that they were sad. LA didn't look like the kind of team that wanted a playoff spot in that they were almost as bad as we were. Their second goal came because Jason Strudwick somehow managed to have Theo Peckham deke him out...that's an accomplishment I never thought I'd see for several reasons. The other was some sort of slow-developing play that left Ladislav Smid laying there awkwardly in the crease. That's never good. Smid made more exceptionally strange plays tonight than I've seen from him in the last 20 home games combined I'm guessing. It was just strange.

I felt bad for Jordan Eberle because it looked like tonight the weight of trying to carry the team right now finally came crashing down on him. I saw him dump a puck to the middle of the opposition zone during a 5-on-5 situation...you'd never see that from him during "go time". He looked tired and a little lost tonight. I hope we're not beginning the process of ruining a sublime talent and sublime hockey mind somehow.

Once again, Teemu Hartikainen was one of the only decent reasons to watch the game. He made a couple really excellent plays; one was a drive to the net that started with a between the legs move to get past an LA defender and ended with a shot from his knees, then he made a beautiful rush play in the third that somehow found the post and bounced out to VandeVelde, who failed miserably on the conversion. It wasn't a night for goal scoring. #56 didn't thump anybody tonight, but did match up well physically with several large Kings, including Matt Greene. There seems to be at least 2 times a game so far where you could very well think that his last name should be Selanne.

Our goaltender looked like he was sleepwalking through the game. As I mentioned, the goals were iffy and LA put forth a pretty sad effort, so he wouldn't have had to do a lot to stop everything. Tonight's another one of those games that shows just how much relying on shots for a picture of a game is a mistake.

Looking down the lineup, there wasn't too much else to see really. Linus set up some nice plays but none were converted and he just missed out on a third period goal; Magnus skated a mile and didn't generate chances as LA played sturdy D; Andrew skated a bunch as well...but I was randomly watching some clips of 2008 compared to then, this guy has fallen so far back. It's really unbelievable.

We couldn't even get a good fight going tonight to at least provide some spark or entertainment...not from MacIntyre, Peckham, Strudwick, Jacques (we're so bad he was out during the final minutes trying to score btw...all he did was hit Liam Reddox) Jones or anyone. This game was totally devoid of any passion whatever. I had a feeling they wasted the last of what they had against Calgary and it appears that was true. Perhaps the only way for us to beat Vancouver next week is to dress a lineup of goons and chuck batteries on the ice.

I certainly don't enjoy writing such a bitter account of what is usually, even on a bad night, a much better experience than most other things. But there are times when it might as well have been on the TV or radio...and this was one of them.

3/26/11

LMHF Report - Game #38

EDMONTON 4

VS.

CALGARY 5

In a stinking shootout...
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Damn...

This one hurts...this one stings...this one sucks.

If you were in the building tonight, you remembered what it was like to be a fan of a hardworking hockey club. The Oilers busted it for a substantial part of the game. The fans were there from the word go urging them on. It was truly fun to be an Oilers fan again tonight, even if just for a while.

Before delving too far into the final result, I have to give most of these guys a ton of credit; they were outclassed severely in terms of talent on the ice tonight, but they showed what effort can make up for in the first 50 minutes of the game. That style of play will win you a ton of games with a proper lineup on the ice. I hope those players who were either watching from the press box or sitting on the bench with some of these guys fighting for careers took notice of what guys that have no business being in the NHL just yet (or in some cases, are just barely cracking the surface and should be struggling, not thriving and blowing people away) did on that ice to a team fighting for its playoff life.

What should have been the turning point of the game was Devan Dubnyk's utter robbery in the first period. Their were two candidates for POTW in this game and that was just an amazing save. It turned out that wasn't to be, but at least we got to see it.

We also got to see the first NHL goal from a guy who I believe will come to define this team's future in a much more meaningful way than any of us could have thought. There was another FInnish guy whose name ended in "nen" that did a ton of good work for us and was a big part of championships. His modern counterpart looks to be well on his way. More on that later.

I'm going to hang part of the loss tonight on the coach. That might seem a bit goofy, but he underplayed some guys in the third (specifically #56), sent MacIntyre back out after his first stupid penalty to hurt the team dearly, and he needed very badly to call a timeout when it was 4-2 and didn't. He could have guided these guys to a win tonight and didn't.

Some of this is also on the referees; I have never seen such bad and inconsistent reffing in all my years of watching games as I've seen this year. It was absolutely abhorrent that we didn't get a PP until OT. It was an absolute joke that the linesmen were missing offside calls. Those guys should be absolutely embarrassed after that disgusting display. They might as well have been deflecting Calgary the puck.

Lastly, we lost because we are undermanned and just not very good. Our goalie, who looked ready to lock it down in the first, came apart as the game went on. Though I'm not saying goalies should have an easy time with breakaways and the third goal is squarely on Jim Vandermeer, I'm convinced that Dubnyk got way too amped up on that goal and whiffed. The same thing happened on the Staios goal, as Dubnyk overreacted in his reset and wasn't ready for a quick shot. Everyone was overplaying every single play at that stage, but Dubnyk's got to be calm there. I don't know why he wasn't. Getting beat on point shots like he did also stinks. Don't remind me of Mr. Salo.

I really hated losing to those guys tonight. We had victory in our sights and absolutely blew it. In a year when we've had almost nothing to cheer about, there was a chance for a massive cheer against a massive rival on a Saturday night on national TV and we blew it...not to mention they blew the first Sports Select ticket I've played in probably a year (thanks DET and WSH for doing your part). UGH....anyway, let's go through the PLAYER REPORTS
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Dubnyk
- As I said, he looked really good early but you could feel it slipping away from him from the second period onward. He was overplaying the puck and making easy saves look difficult. I don't know why he suddenly got nervous but it was painfully obvious. It's really too bad; he's played well and deserved better so many times this year, but then his team shows up and he cracks. Crummy.

Vandermeer
- You cannot make a mistake like he did to allow that Glencross goal when all you do is play a simple game. I don't know what precisely crossed his mind when that happened but I hope it haunts his dreams tonight. I couldn't believe it when Renney had him out there for the 4-on-3. At what point do you say "no coach, that's stupid, play Linus or Teemu"? I know you don't do that but COME ON. He didn't hit anyone tonight which really surprised me. I thought he'd be in Calgary's face more often.

Petry
- Very mixed tonight. He made some really nice plays with the puck on his stick when he decided to skate it, but he didn't get the job done at the offensive blue line and gave the puck away in his own zone when he tried to move it. He overplayed moreso than just about anyone else and got caught trying to bat the puck awkwardly several times. It cost us. I feel bad for the guy, but he needs to be better and IS better than that. I won't dog him for the closing his hand on the puck call; he tried to bat it straight down and the puck got stuck. Not sure if you could see that angle but it was evident live.

Peckham
- I liked the physicality he brought in tonight's game; as he certainly went looking for hits and landed some. Was surprised he didn't fight anyone. He didn't make any spectacular plays with the puck or do much at the offensive blue line, which was disappointing.

Strudwick
- Struggled through it tonight. The refs missed some calls that should have gone against him as he did a lot of grabbing, but thankfully he managed to not make any huge mistakes that wound up in our net. I guess that's a plus.

Gilbert
- Tom played an absolutely phenomenal game for much of tonight. He was defending like a mad man and making a lot of simple plays with sticks and positioning that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. This made it even more puzzling when he decided to play like a colossal idiot in OT. On the powerplay, he rushed a pointless and impossible shot to the net with more than enough time left to set up a 4-on-3 play that should have at least had a chance to end the game. I don't know what happened. So very frustrating...

Smid
- He was excellent in the defensive zone. Beat on the Flames forwards all night and made their life in the corners brutal. When the play got crazy, he was the guy to grab the puck, skate it, slow down and make a pass. Got to keep this guy as we grow; they don't just show up out of nowhere.

MacIntyre
- Get this idiot off my team right now. It wasn't bad enough that he takes a stupid penalty putting Jokinen in a headlock for no apparent reason...but then he tries to make some convoluted sort of hockey play and crosschecks a guy offside???!?!?!?! That's an automatic penalty you moron...He doesn't fight, doesn't defend his teammates, doesn't deter anyone...send this idiot to that Quebec goon's league where he belongs. He could be the nicest guy in the world, but he was a big part of costing the team the game tonight.

Jacques
- Is a terrible, terrible hockey player. Watching him do his once-per-game miss-a-hit routine always makes me laugh. I'll give him credit for a decent shift filling in for Magnus, but trying to watch him and MacIntyre on the same shift made it want to wretch.

Fraser
- Well, as someone pointed out, he's almost caught Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen in points now...He did work hard tonight on the PK and made some decent plays; I just can't get enough out of his game to really say much because he doesn't really make defensive or offensive plays that often. I nearly forgot though, that hit he laid in the first was probably the best thing he's done all year. That was textbook and beautiful. Show that to kids learning how to hit people away from the boards.

O'Marra
- He did some nice things even if he was outclassed by a decent margin. There was a sequence in the second where he came of the boards with a little deke and made an offensive chance. He went to the right spot and took a really smart low shot to set up the Reddox goal. He didn't land any really big hits but he always gets to his man and makes contact. The thing about O'Marra is that you can tell his baseline skillset is higher than a lot of the pluggers we have floating about. I hope he works his butt off in the summer and takes a good run at our 4th line C job. He's working like he wants it.

Jones
- You know, I'm kind of torn here...he did a bunch of really good things tonight. There was his goal obviously; and he made a great defensive play to break up a dangerous Flames chance in the second period, he hustled and got his stick in the way of many sequences tonight. Jones is at his best when he's in a leadership role on his line as "the talented one" rather than backing up some skilled guys and that's what he was most of tonight. The only issue I have is that his game tapered off at the end and he didn't seem to have any push left to finish this one off. Maybe he just got too much icetime? Also, again on the coach, why in hell was he in the SO? It's all well and good to be able to break the glass with a wrister like he did, but we have much more talented players that sat this round out on a night when we should have been all in for the win.

Reddox
- He will never get the credit he deserves, but that was a truly superlative effort on his part. He hit people, he made offensive plays, he made a ton of defensive plays, he PK'ed well, got the puck out of our zone, skated like a madman. The guy made every single shift count. His play to set up the Jones goal was one of the smartest sequences you'll see: he pushed the Flames d-man into the boards at just the right time to avoid a penalty AND get the puck, then he settles the play down, walks out and finds O'Marra in perfect positioning. That was an absolute thing of beauty. I'm very sad he didn't get a goal tonight; he really deserved better and took a leadership role in this one through his effort. Give the guy a contract and start him in the NHL. He doesn't lose us games (a lot of the others do).

Paajarvi
- I must admit I missed what happened in the corner that led to him skating off the ice woozy; what exactly was that play? I will say though, for him to then get up and not only make it to the bench but actually stop to try to take a pass and negate an icing while barely able to stand up was one of the most courageous efforts I've seen. The rest of the night he was really good; flying down the wings and skating the puck to safety. He also used his shot a little more than usual and JUST missed a couple really nice ones. Once he realizes all he can do on those plays, he will be unstoppable. Really too bad his first period deke chance had to be pulled off the goal line by a Calgary defender; that was a great little move. He appeared to not even know he scored, but that was an excellent second effort and a well earned goal.

Cogliano
- Had an absolutely phenomenal shift in OT. I saw more hard work and confidence in that effort of keeping the puck alive and getting a chance than I have most of the season. He actually kept up to his linemates most of the night and was a positive influence, which was good to see. Worked really hard on his PKing, but needs to stop overskating and use his speed more appropriately.

Omark
- I'll note the mistake he made first: in the second period he fumbled a puck at the blue line that could have ended in a really good chance because it led to a turnover in a dangerous area. The thing about that play was if the puck doesn't bounce on him, he's got Paajarvi on a clear breakaway on the far wing, which is what he was trying to set up. Other than that he was excellent. He owned the corners as usual; was all over the Flames' puck carriers, made a nifty little pass to Cogliano that set up a Magnus' goal, and was dangerous in the offensive zone all night. Renney screwed up in not using him enough late, on the PP, or in the SO. Just stupid. If you were watching, you saw that Linus did a great job of gaining the red line and making simple plays deep into the zone later in the game, as well as not passing to the blue line but instead making a safer play down behind the Flames net. Lots of maturity already.

VandeVelde
- This guy should be in way over his head but somehow found a way to swim tonight. I think he's a very strong contender to make the team out of camp next year. Though his game is a lot quieter than his linemates from tonight, he went to all the right places and made some really strong plays either for the puck or with the puck. If he continues to develop, he'll be an NHLer and probably a pretty decent one. I hope he can find a niche and exploit that. His overall game is very balanced and he just needs to find a way to elevate something.

Eberle
- I really liked what I saw from Jordan tonight in that he showed he could lead a line. I'm not sure if it was obvious on TV, but the support and safety that he gave his linemates, while still making solid plays with the puck and doing a ton of things right, was astounding. He's so poised and wanted to win this game so badly...I can't imagine how bad he feels after this one. It's really a shame that they don't hand out automatic penalty shots when penalties are taken as late as the last Flames call was, because he was absolutely locked in on that play; no way bonehead was making that save. We've got our future captain and it is always a joy to watch him perform; I just hope that before too long I get to see him leading a line of disturbingly talented players with the same kind of effort to victory in a playoff series.

Hartikainen
- We have seriously hit the jackpot. If you want to teach someone how to play hockey, find tape of this guy in tonight's game and show them. I don't know how you come into the NHL so early and do what he's doing. In that second period, you'd swear he was the second coming. He was churning away, making plays and getting chances all night, then he beats a Cgy defender, goes around another, skates into two players and shoots while both of them have stick position and are interfering but scores...such an amazing play. Go watch it somehow if you haven't yet. Mere minutes later, he just PASTES Sarich. You should have seen the boards flex on that hit. Sarich nearly wound up in the 10th row. He skates hard, he knows his position, he can toe drag and nearly scored another beauty with that move, he makes passes and backchecks...the kid is just tremendous. If we can find one more hockey genius to add to he and Eberle, we will probably have the smartest and most unique line in the NHL in only a couple years. It's one thing to see these uber-talented guys like Hall, but the Teemu Hartikainens of the world are often just as important when championship time rolls around. This might seem like hyperbole and a bit much for a guy I've only seen a couple times, but seriously people, this guy is something very special. They don't build em like this anymore. If I knew what number he was going to wear, I'd go out and buy a jersey right now. I saw someone say "I'd take a whole team of Hartikainens" earlier tonight. Couldn't agree more.
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Crazy night, wild ride, but found some positivity in it. It hurts that we couldn't celebrate as big a win as we're going to see this year, but I guess that's why they call it the blues...

3/17/11

LMHF Report - Game #36

EDMONTON 1

VS.

PHOENIX 1

VS.

Team Kimmerly/Meier 3
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Truly amazing. I don't know if I've ever seen a game where the referees make a 3-goal difference. Maybe one of those playoff games versus Dallas long ago where we got 14 straight penalties or whatever it was, but this one takes the cake. Trying to make up for it with a phantom "closing hand on the puck" penalty just made it look even worse. How exactly he called Whitney's in, I have no idea. They showed an angle at the game that clearly showed it outside the net and not moving...though from what I recall when hearing about the rules on overturning a refs decision, I believed it was mentioned that there must be more than 1 angle to verify? Stupid process. It's also a stupid process when, if the video proves the puck couldn't physically have been in the net, but we can't see it not in the net, it's a goal (based on the on-ice call). What silly rules this league has. Legal hits on stupid players who like to stare at their own skates will get you 5 games but a swinging chop with a stick will get you the equivalent of a minor. Omark was tripped. The guy takes more beatings than just about anyone along the boards and now he has to deal with this garbage? Unbelievable. Obviously the chance late was not covered...but that was not the reason they gave at the game...they announced that it was called off due to interference on the goaltender...a) where's the penalty then? b) Jones was clearly shoved it. That was a completely legit goal.

What a stupid series of events to decide a hockey game...

There were other chances and things that could have changed of course, but rarely do you see a spectacle as sad as that so I thought it deserved a lot of commentary. Tonight's game was actually a fair bit more entertaining than a lot of the game this year. I say that because the young guys and callups really played like they were after jobs. There were strong and enthusiastic efforts all over the ice. There was a fair bit more hitting that usual and most of it was done well as part of the play and with strong positioning (unlike Jacques-style hitting). This was really nice to see. Obviously we weren't equipped to take on a team that may be playoff bound, but we made due.

Anyone else find it incredibly sad and amusing that the OKC guys on the PP had a better system and more success generating chances than the full time Oilers? Wow...

Phoenix isn't going to make the playoffs if they put forth too many efforts like this. We outworked them pretty badly with our AHL affiliate playing. I was betting on these guys coming in here and being motivated...but it appears they were looking past us. They got by with some help from the stripey people.

PLAYER REPORTS
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Hartikainen
- I quite liked his game from the beginning of the second onward. You could tell it took him some time to settle in. In the first, he got a great chance on the PP for his first NHL goal and instead tried to pass through multiple defenders to GIroux...he was obviously a tad nervous. Once he settled in, he was more forceful. I really like the way he lines up and hits people. It's a very proper hockey hit and it sounds HEAVY. The sound of the first hit really impressed those in attendance. His assist wasn't flashy, but he also contributed to that goal by going to the net and providing a bit of a screen. After this he started to skate with some real force to the net and nearly scored on a quick play down low. He was a decent part of driving the Oilers' momentum in the third and got rewarded with a couple extra shifts. I can see why this guy might be a player. If I had to say something about his game that needs to improve, it's that he sets up to drive the net but doesn't seem to want to follow through. No reason he can't.

Giroux
- He's such an odd player to watch. I really liked the way he hit a number of people tonight. If he did this more often he'd probably be an NHLer taking a couple shifts 5-on-5 and then as a powerplay specialist with a team. He couldn't convert on a couple chances that he got for shots, but his best chance came off a tip play that he and Omark were successful as setting up. You can tell they've run it before. What I don't get about Giroux is why his positioning is so atrocious. If you're a bad skater, you really need to be good positionally. He is not. He will literally stop in the area he thinks in the scoring area and leave everything else to his teammates. Unless you're scoring 40, that's not acceptable. To be 100% honest, it's hard for me not to be mad at Giroux...physical gifts, clearly talented, just clearly hasn't ever given enough of a damn to capitalize on his talents. That's a special kind of brutal.

VandeVelde
- To be honest, he was pretty invisible to my eyes. I didn't see him do anything exceptional, especially in the offensive zone. I don't think any of us were expecting miracles, but you never know what will stand out. I'd like to watch him play again, but on initial impression I don't think he'll be good enough unless it's a long road.

O'Marra
- He did what he's done in his appearances in that he's not an amazing skater but works hard, hits and takes care of himself. I thought he might have a better performance on the line he was playing with, but the lines didn't stay together for very long so that went out the window. I still like him better than Colin Fraser...

Omark
- He played a really solid game in the offensive zone; dominated the corners, got the assist on Magnus' goal, found him for another great chance in front and generated some shooting chances off the boards on the PP. He made some iffy passes (though the whole squad seemed obsessed with the drop pass tonight). For a guy who has so many non-calls when he is abused, held, sticked, crosschecked and other things in the corners to be given a diving penalty while driving the Oilers offensive bus to what probably would have been a 2-2 score was really aggravating. Should have had multiple points tonight.

Paajarvi
- Probably spent more time playing the defensive position than playing forward tonight. His goal was really nice because he was in position and took a really smart shot on goal. Also had a couple other chances but couldn't seem to find any sort of dynamic deking. As always, he used his speed pretty well.

MacIntyre
- Actually made a couple passes and tried to play his position tonight. Very weird. No fight without Mr. TwitterFamous from PHX in the lineup, but he should have beaten up Boedker without asking after that hit on Hartikainen. Watching him stand there and do nothing proved just how useless he really is. I could put a 20-goal scorer there who could do nothing for cheap.

Cogliano
- I stood up and yelled that Cogliano was a bum tonight. Seriously, this guy has lost all of his scoring ability. Gets a breakaway...skates past the goalie and takes a weak backhand. Gets a penalty shot...skates straight at the goalie and shoots straight at him. Gets the puck in front of the net on a great feed from Eberle...takes time to wind watch...contemplates existence...shudders a little bit...remembers he's playing hockey...remembers there's a black thing on his stick...calmly returns black thing to the nice man in the large pads. What did he think he was doing??? He was brutal in the defensive zone and disrupted offensive rushes as well. UGH...

Eberle
- He played a really nice offensive game despite not getting any real support. He drove the net and nearly scored off his knees generating a PP, and made a few really nice passes into dangerous areas. He's the best forward on the ice right now and that should only be true this season if he was leading the OKC team to the playoffs. He ain't.

Jones
- He started off quicker than most of the rest of the squad, including drawing a penalty with some nice work behind the net, but he was one of the few guys who seemed to tail off as the game stretched on. Kind of a strange effort from him. Not at home on the PP.

Reddox
- Same ol same ol. Solid effort, never quits, hit some people and made a couple diving/extra-effort type plays that some people love him for. Pisani 2.0 finally?

Fraser
- Took a couple really weak shots on net and that was about it I guess...but at least he showed some toughness. Sad when he can't even stand out among this crowd.

Gilbert
- He was okay but couldn't seem to contribute anything whatever to the PP. The PP breakout, which used to be a strong suit of his, is now a mess. He used to make a strong pass from the D zone or skate all the way into the opposition zone and give to a forward. Now he skates to the red line, stops awkwardly and forces a play. Not exactly a finesse defenceman at his finest. He's being asked to do too much of course and is okay defensively, but his offence just isn't coming back, which is really unfortunate because that is what initially made him special.

Petry
- Chased the puck a little too much tonight. He looked nervous and a little twitchy as opposed to smooth and flowing like he had before. The major mistakes that had crept into his game weren't really present and he recovered well from the minor ones he made, but nothing special sadly.

Foster
- He'd be better as a forward getting in on the forecheck and hitting people (as he did once tonight). Did absolutely nothing with a boatload of PP time. How could he have fallen so far so fast??

Vandermeer
- Did a pretty solid job tonight. I really liked the couple times he took advantage of positioning and made a safely executed play towards the net. He could've scored on a couple of occasions tonight. Solid defence as well.

Smid
- Wore the 'A' tonight and did a pretty good job. Nothing flashy really, but solid.

Strudwick
- There was a point tonight where he took a puck in the ankle and was severely hobbled...if you hadn't seen it you wouldn't have noticed much difference in his play. The usual.

Khabibulin
- Two of the goals never should have happened so it's hard to blame him for those. He kind of moved out of the way awkwardly on the other though...wasn't pretty. He did make some nice stops.
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I will unfortunately be missing Saturday's game, so no report then. I really hope we don't resort to pulling goalies and intentionally missing the net in a knock-down-drag-out battle for 30th....