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11/28/11

LMHF Report - Game #11

EDMONTON 1

VS.

NASHVILLE 2
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So that's two very frustrating games in a row for me. Obviously the one on TV was a little harder to take, but this one of course is an evening and a live event so it is always worse when a game like this happens. A lot of people are just going to declare that the Oilers played badly tonight...they did not. The game could be broken up into two rather clear halves. Pre-Major and post-major. This picture/time may be approximate as it also has to do when #35 went on a tear and ripped off a bunch of world class saves all in a row.

Before the penalty, we were playing a pretty solid game. The chances were coming reasonably frequently and it really looked like we'd win. 14 was going strong along with his linemates, Hemsky and Horcoff were tugging along a struggling Paajarvi, and Gagner looked to have found some of his stride along with Jones (who was having one of his best games as he often does against Nashville) and Belanger. Things looked really good in terms of attacking and we were generally keeping Nashville to the fringes despite being outshot. Our D were playing an aggressive but simple game. It was really looking like the recipe for a win.

Then Ryan Jones delivers a clean, solid, beautiful hit in return for the BS that Tootoo is busy perpetrating and it all goes down the tubes for some reason. We got that 5 minute major for bodychecking, but it specifically didn't hurt too much. This was because our continued aggressive play combined with some ref-guilt resulted in multiple penalties to the Predators. We couldn't take advantage of the less than 5-on-5 action and indeed our goaltender put on a display the likes of which you might see once a year, with a sequence of saves that were truly sublime.

I figured this series of events would simply boost our chances; especially after Tootoo took another penalty. For whatever reason we were suddenly useless. Every puck was just out of reach. Nearly every player overskated their check constantly. The puck was a hand grenade. It had nothing to do with getting shots...they were forcing absolutely everything from passes to possession to shots to dekes. It was just ugly. I'm sure some of this was the ice, but we also won 9-2 on that ice so that can't be all of it. I don't know whether we were suddenly tired and completely out of gas or whether we got completely off our game plan or what. It was just ugly after that. Despite some intermittent pressure, we never really contended for the game again. All the pop was gone. It's sad to see games like that because one individual effort could have taken it. One rush (we totally stopped rushing, btw. It was all dump and not much chase which DOES NOT WORK FOR US), one tip, one great shot....we had none of that left for whatever reason. It was very perplexing.

I'm not saying the game was in hand, but we were building a win for a decent part of this game. There's a comfort level there on most nights, which I say in the positive because it means we know we always have a chance.

Nashville didn't look good at all, save for a couple strong spurts and Weber/Suter. They just aren't very talented. Their goalie looked to have gotten hurt in the third and I'm fairly confident that if we could have tested his ability to go side-to-side we would have scored easily, but we just couldn't manage it.

I have to criticize Renney's use of the 4th line tonight. Hordichuk made some mistakes early, including having a man WIDE WIDE WIDE open in front and missing him because he couldn't be bothered to pick his head up and look, but #16 should have been out there in the second to cause some NSH player some grief. Instead...he comes out when we're losing in the third...NO.

I know we're going to lose games like this because we're far from a complete team as yet, but it is ones like these that make me angriest in many ways because they are there for the taking and we just give them away.
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Khabibulin
- He was all-world tonight. No doubt. At least 10 utterly beautiful saves and boy was he focused. He also prevented multiple scoring chances by positioning aggressively, pokechecking and/or stick lifting a couple guys and everything else. He was on tonight. His flurry of saves in the second period should have been more than enough to spur this team on to victory, but it was for naught. I hope he's not discouraged after this sublime effort.

Whitney
- While he played fairly decently, you can really tell he's not all there. He struggled at the opposition blue especially and didn't have any of the offensive game in him that we're used to seeing. I can specfically recall when he joined a rush and got the puck in the slot but instead of attempting a minor drag and shoot that I'm sure he would have last year, he made a low percentage and low quality pass to Horcoff. The puck may have still gone in anyway after caroming over to Hemsky and resulting in a pile-up, but Whitney should have finished that play and showed no interest. Come to think of it, he didn't seem to be patrolling his own zone with much ferocity either. Disappointing effort from #6.

Petry
- I don't recall any particularly spectacular plays, but he had some strong moments moving and controlling the puck. I didn't see any defensive lapses from him tonight really, which is always a positive. I'm still not sure he's getting the rushes started as well as he needs to, and this was more evident in the second half of the game.

Peckham
- There was a play in the third where Theo had a Predator lined up inside the blue line all the way from the bench. Theo of last year would have clobbered that guy and jumped back into the play...Theo of today backed off the hit and then got himself out of position somehow as well. Didn't move the puck well enough, didn't cream anyone and took that goofy penalty on Tootoo (which if he was having a great game would have been worth it just to make him look like the moron he is). Not a strong effort.

Teubert
- He was really strong in the first half; aggressive, physical and solid on the puck. In the second half, he was too aggressive, missed his checks, bumbled the puck and created odd-man rushes in the wrong direction. I suppose to some degree that's a rookie playing with a struggling young partner, but he still has to be better than he was as the game went on. Still like his trajectory and his chances to be a factor for this team in the near future, but he can't have many more nights like tonight without getting sent to OKC.

Gilbert and Smid
- Might as well group these guys together. They were both pretty good. I loved Gilbert stepping up to make a couple nice hits. Smid could have been more physical but I understand that he's got to much minute-responsibility to be laying random beatings on people in scrums around the net. In some ways that is unfortunate but at that is because he's good.

Petrell-Lander-Hordichuk
- As I alluded to earlier, #16 had a bit of an off game. He missed that pass, missed some hits and didn't get Nashville off their game in any meaningful way. He also didn't get a chance to do so in the second period, but we can only really judge his on-ice play. #37 and #57 played pretty solid games, each both giving and taking some bumps as well as generating a couple of decent chances. They weren't really given much chance to influence the game, but they did what they could.

Jones-Belanger-Gagner
- Belanger played bad enough that at one point he got taken out for Lander. He really couldn't find any offensive flow or positioning and bobbled the puck or made bad passes on a number of occasions. Usually this is compensated for by strong defensive play and staying high in the offensive zone to get the puck back to his linemates but I didn't see that tonight. Jones came out like crazy, winning races, landing hits and generating offence. The first half was an excellent effort. I really didn't notice him after the five minute major for whatever reason. I don't know if he backed off or what, but the effectiveness and the jump that was carrying his line and giving Gagner room to work were gone. Sam certainly played one of his strong games despite that fact that his senseless giveaway and the subsequent NSH goal will probably be what he is remembered for. He got to the net with the puck strongly, made some excellent passes and dekes, chose well in terms of when not to shoot and showed a lot of speed. What's still missing? He's got zero finish right now. Sam of a couple years ago scores 2 tonight easily.

Paajarvi-Horcoff-Hemsky
- I suspect there will be some negative reviews of Hemsky and Horcoff after tonight but I don't buy it. They played mostly strong games and put forth some serious effort to try and get another goal or two. Hemsky did more skating tonight than I've seen in quite some time and set some excellent plays up. Horcoff hit the holes, got open for shots and supported well. There was a problem though, as that #4 guy wasn't patrolling their left wing. I suspect that with him there, at least 2 goals come out of this line tonight. I know there were some giveaways and less than ideal plays, but many were the result of #10 and #83 having to do way too much of the skating and play both wings. It is really too bad Horcoff went weak-backhand on his breakaway...he had Lindback beat through speed and only needed to take a strong forehand shot. This was not exactly the seizure of opportunity that fans of #91 (and I count myself among them, but not as high on his offence as others) were hoping for. He was near-horrible in fact. He didn't get past anyone despite receiving several excellent passes in quality areas (he either had speed and backed off or never turned on the jets depending on the situation). He failed in close and lost the puck several times and also failed to get shots off when in the open. I maintain that part of this is because his stick is too long to make intricate plays with the puck or be a strong offensive player in close quarters. He can't get by on flying wide and making weak attempts at the net for long. You give #91 another chance next game, after clearly speaking to him about skating in different lanes, playing assertively, hitting people (he gave up at least 5 good hitting chances and 2 specifically resulted in ineffective D) and understanding that he's out there to produce offence. If he can't figure that out in half a game, he's back on the 4th. It is really a shame that both Linus and Teemu are hurt in OKC. I don' t think Magnus is actually ready for this. Too many fundamentals to work on.

Smyth-Hopkins-Eberle
- Eberle was the guy who nearly dragged us kicking and screaming to victory tonight. In addition to his goal, which was an excellent little play based on patience and shot choice, he generated several other excellent chances and just barely missed. He was the one constant and certainly could have gotten the job done given a couple small changes. Hopkins was just okay...he had one particularly bad shift in the second period where he got caught out too long, turned the puck over and nearly caused a goal. The thing is, he also managed to land a nice hit and make a goal-saving defensive play on the same shift. There wasn't a ton of fireworks from #93 tonight but he was fine. Smyth started strong but appeared to get very tired as the game went on. I can understand why, but this is something we'll really have to watch.
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I think the important thing to take from tonight's game was the lack of discipline and distraction that shaped the play in the back half of this one. It isn't that we didn't have the talent, weren't prepared or didn't have the chances...we just got WAY off the plan and no one dragged us back there.

11/20/11

LMHF Report - Game #10

EDMONTON 9

VS.

CHICAGO 2

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I sat down last night to write this post at almost 3am after a long night of fun and celebrating. I honestly don't think I could have gone to sleep before then, as in some ways the smile from that game is still carrying me today. It was an incredible game and something I really didn't expect or see coming any time soon. I had really low expectations going into this one and was of course blown away.

There was a really cool moment in the third...while everyone was caught up in the moment and chanting "We Want TEN!", I had a flashback...we were playing Buffalo in January of 2009 and getting waxed...when Buffalo got to 9, a similar chant went up as a jeer and very sad cry about how our team was doing at the time. It's been a long long road since the summer of 2006, but I suspect the moments like last night, where the shoe is on the other foot and we're the crowd giving its team a standing ovation during almost the entire last minute of the game, will become more frequent as we go along. There was also a time when the Hawks waxed us in a very similar fashion to what happened last night and to give them a bit of their own back was very satisfying. I imagine the Hawks must be thinking it is about 1986 and Alberta is a crappy, crappy place to go for two games.

While there were a couple bad goals allowed by Chicago tonight, so much of the difference between a game like last night and the Ottawa game comes in the little races and puck wins along with making sure you take a properly placed shot. We won so many little races or reaches for the puck it was unbelievable. We outskated the Hawks all night long, which is not an easy thing to do. Instead of squandering early chances, we put the puck where it needed to go. We chose proper skating lines and made a ton of tape-to-tape passes. I think the most important thing we did though was that the forwards to a man all came back fairly deep into their own end all night long. They knew the defence were going to be in tough, short-staffed and facing a strong opponent. They knew that the past few games had seen a lot of struggles in terms of getting the puck moving. They also seemed to know that their only chance at winning this was going to be to score a lot of goals and either run away with it or trade goal for goal and come out ahead at the very end in a high scoring affair. Thankfully for all of our blood pressures, the second scenario never came to be.

I have to give a decent amount of credit tonight to Tom Renney and his line combinations up front. Though it appeared they were only drawn up the day prior to the game, it became clear immediately that the Hawks would have to deal with three fairly effective lines. Lately we'd been down to only two of those lines and that was killing us on nights when one of them wasn't going. The combination of Lander, Jones and Horcoff certainly didn't run around making a bunch of things happen offensively, they were able to control the puck, play smart positional hockey and generate some rushes. I imagine this line came into being because of Lander's strong game the other night, and it changed the matchups pretty drastically for us. While this line could handle some defensive responsibility, the Hawks had no answer for either 94-93-14 or 4-89-83. When these lines were re-combined for powerplays in more familiar combinations from this season, nothing much changed. There was a flow to just about all the combinations last night.

I hope everyone got to enjoy that game last night. If you didn't, find someone who PVR'ed it. I already know that LMHF#2 did and I'll be heading over there sometime soon to watch it again. Being there was pretty special. There was an atmosphere in the building that is unique to a Saturday game against a historic team that also happens to be very good right now; and one that has had to deal with a lot of disappointment lately. It received a heavy dose of joy, fun and craziness last night. Our boys also didn't let up. Early on, the goals fired them up and the referees made them angry. After that they were all over both the Hawks and the refs for the rest of the evening. There was an intensity that I haven't seen in a long, long time and it was great to watch.

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Hall-Gagner-Hemsky
- Well, I think the rust is off for Ales. As soon as you saw him skating with true authority through multiple Chicago defenders, dodging a well-positioned hit and driving to the net with no option but to score, you knew he had returned. That goal was big. Converting the first chance of a game really sets a tone; and when it is done in that way by one of the less-hyped players (let's face it, Chicago's whiteboard was probably all 93, 4, 14 and possibly a little 94) meant that Chicago had to be ready for multiple sources of offence on the night. Even though most of what Hall generated subsequently was driven by the PP and the other kids/Horcoff, I enjoyed watching Hall and Hemsky play because of their ability to use the "climb the ladder" strategy to advance up the ice with strong lateral movement. If Hall can learn to pass and touch pass in the same way Hemsky does, these two will be silly good together. Even already, they play in convenient position when relevant to each other. If Hall's driving, Hemsky's high up and open for the pass. If Hemsky's working his way up the RW as is his trademark, Hall swoops into the slot. When Hemsky gets the puck at his blue, there's Hall on a streak down the LW. I could go on. It was beautiful, fast, ruthless hockey. Hemsky was strong, though not perfect the rest of the game. He made a whack of solid passes and mainly found his comfort zone with the puck. Hall got locked in the zone very early in this one. You could see it on his face; when he scored his first two goals he barely even seemed to smile. He was on a mission in this one and wouldn't be denied. People think Hall is a rush scorer...he isn't. Not a wide rush scorer anyway. Guys like Hemsky do that. Hall is at his best when he uses his speed to be positionally strong and create offensive levels that the other team has to deal with. Hall's office is right beside the net where he scored two of his goals tonight. That's another reason that Hemsky playing with him works well. He's got such and excellent wrister when standing still and needs to specifically set it up more. His third goal was a thing of beauty. He was still locked in and motivated, steamed into the O-zone and delayed just long enough that he could go perfectly through the D's legs and shelf on Emery. Just outstanding and what a way to net a hat trick. Later he got sent in on a rush and nearly scored (I couldn't tell if Hemsky whacked the puck after Emery went down or not) and we were robbed of our 10th goal by an official who didn't realize Hall was just taking a mini-break beside the net after barreling into it head-fist. Apparently the stripes don't realize they're dealing with Gumby. That also robbed Ales of a multi-point game, which is really crummy. When it comes to Sam I'm somewhat conflicted. He clearly did not have a very good game in terms of what he did with the puck. There were a lot of iffy passes and the shots he took weren't particularly good. Both Hall and Hemsky started feeding him the puck to try and give him a chance to get something going and get a point or two but there was nothing doing. I liked how he moved through the neutral zone with speed, but he couldn't make anyone miss and couldn't take an elite-level shot. It has become clear that Gagner is at least 1-2 steps below our top level talents in terms of being able to create and force offence upon the other team. The thing is, he did clearly do a decent job of supporting what was a strong line. I'd give him a chance for a couple more games, but it will be important to watch closely in terms of what he's actually accomplishing.

Smyth-Hopkins-Eberle
- Two of the best games I've seen Oilers forwards play live from two of the players on this line last night. It was incredible. I remain adamant that Eberle should have been a star, and quite possibly first star because he made a ton of things happen early. The play he made to hold off the Chicago defenders, turn the corner and hit Smyth with the slickest of little passes was utterly sublime. It also seemingly came out of nowhere. The guy just makes things happen. Then he and Hopkins started making music...and it was over. The thing about the all-kid line is that much of the time Eberle gets overshadowed in Hall's attempts to rush and Hopkins deferral to #4. #14 plays the game at about the same speed as Hopkins, and in the same amazingly smart way. Not only was the finish on Eberle's goal an absolutely perfect shot, it was generated by a brilliant skate past the opposition and no-look pass by Hopkins, which was generated by some lovely transition play in the neutral zone. It was like watching a couple of race horses get loose and just GO. Then they combined for the 5-on-3 Gilbert goal with their behind the net play. I pitied the Chicago defence at that stage. Teams are going to have to put that on video and attempt to break it down, because it's brilliant. With Hall heading to the front of the net, and Whitney as a better shooting option once he gets back, that 5-on-3 will be SCARY. They can cut out front, hit a defenceman, or hit Hall in the slot. So long as they keep drawing penalties (and their skill says they will), this is going to be a challenge for the rest of the league. Lost in much of the euphoria was another strong game from Smyth. He played more of the support role that I spoke about in terms of Gagner, but did it at a higher level with very few mistakes. He was in his office for his goal and generally supported either offensively or defensively for the rest of the game. You could see he was having fun. As for Hopkins, what can you say really. He's a superstar. Every single time he got the puck he made something happen. Opposing players cannot adjust to him. Even in games where the other kids are shut down, he always makes something happen. In games like last night, he notches 5 assists (and had one taken away apparently or it would have been 6) and makes it look easy. He just gets around people and generates speed out of nothing like on his rush to set up Eberle. His passes are flat and perfect. There was a sequence in the third where the Oilers were going for their 10th and Eberle, Hall and Hopkins all got going...I kept yelling for Hopkins not to score because he needs assists...at that point he was 2 from the NHL record in a single game held by some guy who wore #99 whose jersey was hanging in the rafters a ways above where the play was going on. Thing is, #99 wasn't exactly subjected to video review of his assists. I suspect in 1980 the stat line would have read that #93 had 7 a's last night. That we're talking about a preposterously young and far from his peak #1 center doing these things is utterly amazing. Apparently he also has a flair for the dramatic and likes to show up huge for HNIC...no complaints here!

Lander-Horcoff-Jones
- I didn't know what to expect when I saw these guys lined up for the opening draw. I could see the appeal because if they're effective it frees the offensive guys to attack secondary lines all night long. I lost track of exactly who was matching who once the score went crazy, but I'm assuming these guys got some heavy defensive responsibility early on. Horcoff was huge in this game, keeping up with the kids on the PP and managing a goal of his own as the result of some hard work and solid positioning. He's really transitioning into an effective leader of this particular squad of guys. I've never had any problem with him being elevated to that status because he's always been one of the Oilers that even when his game wasn't very good, he said the right things and had the right attitude. In games like tonight, it's good to see that he can keep up with the offensive guys in some ways. He again, is playing a supporter role in a lot of ways, but doing it very well. He and Smyth are primary on the PK, where they are pretty much always good. Jones scored an ugly, ugly goal but I was more impressed by the fact that he did it right after taking a stick or something to the face on the shift before. He was back and driving again. Also, if you're going to put the puck on net, he did a good job of picking at least a tricky spot. In a game full of that much offensive flare, Jones' head down and skate approach doesn't exactly grab headlines, but he was positionally good enough and giving enough effort that things are fine. Lander was probably the most quiet of the guys on this line, but that was okay too. He was in the right spots, minding his check and keeping his game simple. It is quite hard to believe that he seems to have just quickly snuck by several players into a position of responsibility, but his pedigree is certainly showing in that he, even when given responsibility, doesn't seem to play bad games really.

Paajarvi-Belanger-Eager
- Honestly they didn't do much at all aside from one strong shift where they could have scored. Magnus got a strong push to try and get him some offence, but as I'm sure has been pointed out by many, all he was able to do was skate down the wing quickly. He was not back to making strong defensive stops or drawing penalties really, and thus just wasn't very effective. He needs to figure out that he needs to stop or cut laterally on some of those rushes if he ever wants to score there. I still think one of the problems for Magnus is that his stick is too long and he's not able to make quick lateral plays with it. So long as he's stuck in straight up and down mode, he'll be stuck not scoring. I could definitely take or leave Eager at this point. He avoided hits on several occasions last night and there's no excuse for that when the rest of the squad is playing such an intense game. I didn't exactly expect to have to question whether he'd play an enthusiastic game. Belanger didn't have a responsibility for much of anything last night and as such I didn't really notice him much. I'm not worried about his lack of offence to be honest, because to me he looks like the kind of guy that will go on a real streak at some point.

Gilbert-Smid
- As has been the case this season, they were our best defensive pairing even with the stats as they wound up. Gilbert made some excellent reads and was getting his shot through including his goal and the assist on Hall's second period goal. I honestly didn't see much from the defencemen last night as this game was largely about the forwards...which is amazing to say when Gilbert goes out and gets four points. Smid let Gilbert play his game, which seems to be his job pretty much every night now. Somehow in all the excitement and goal scoring, and despite Smid's strong puck moving, he was once again blanked on the board. Talk about crummy. Between the two of these guys they killed 14 minutes worth of penalties...wow.

Petry-Peckham
- What a night on the stats board from these two. It wasn't totally benign either...Theo was finally physical and moved the puck with a lot more care and attention than he has of late. When he plays like that he's useful, but early on he was still having a decent amount of difficulty. Jeff Petry showed how well he can move the puck to his forwards in a game where the forwards were getting into proper starting position. Pretty exceptional. What I hope really comes from this is that the confidence builds quickly for both of these guys.

Teubert-Chorney
- These guys had about the game I was expecting. #33 hit some people and was not quite as good as his previous appearance (likely due to the rush of arrival and the pairing) but held his own okay. I've been generally impressed with most of his efforts. Chorney was okay, but wasn't really able to contribute offensively. Hemsky found him twice with perfect chances to make something happen in the second period and both times he couldn't make it work. You're not going to get much better feeds as an offensive defenceman. He needs to deliver on those.

Khabibulin
- I thought he was decent. Chicago didn't really get a ton of great chances even though they threw a lot of shots our way. The first Chicago goal is one he certainly would have had a couple weeks ago. Our goalie situation could still be a problem yet, but I think we've found the strategic way we're supposed to attempt this winning thing. Khabibulin's job then becomes to be Fuhr and just stop one more than the next guy. I know that's easier said than done, but we appear to be able to run & gun.
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Sorry for the lateness guys, it's been a long couple days but because of the nature of the game, I still felt it was important to get written. What a game. Seriously, if you didn't get to see it, go find it. What a night. Here's to many more!

11/17/11

LMHF Report - Game #9

EDMONTON 2

VS.

OTTAWA 5
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So, those of you who have been around for a while will recognize this type of game report. On nights like tonight, I don't find it particularly relevant to break down the performances by player. As a team we were so bad tonight that even the bright lights if there were any are worth a quick mention and that's it. I was once +2 with 2 Assists in a 9-2 loss...funny story but it obviously didn't matter very much. The short time where the team played well and the very few players who did anything positive tonight are worth just about as much aside from perhaps Lander's beautiful goal (he looked to change where he was trying to shoot mid-fire because he had his head up and saw Anderson had dipped his shoulder, then took advantage, just PERFECT).

I was in a bad enough mood by the end of this thing that it really angered me when Ryan Jones got excited about scoring to make it 5-2...and off his foot no less. Head to the bench and sit down #28; you just scored a completely meaningless goal on a night when you and your team are taking a beating and you've done absolutely nothing to stop that. That was not the time to whoop it up. I was also disappointed in the other players who celebrated and the fans who were overexcited about it...yeah, I was mad.

If you watched the warmup, you could see this team is off. The smiles are gone. The passes aren't crisp and the players aren't skating with much authority. The shots also weren't very good. Ironically enough, the only guy who actually looked like he had some jump was Taylor Hall. He buried the puck in the warmup and made Khabibulin look like a statue...maybe that was an indication of things to come.

We came out playing a really offensively aggressive game tonight which is certainly something we need to do in order to win. There was a massive problem though...when it came to finishing we had absolutely nothing. It wasn't that #41 in the OTT net was making huge saves...it's that we had time and space and didn't make him make any huge saves. The shots were weak, rushed or misdirected. We had all the go but none of the focus. If a team keeps this up and it is the theme of the game...they'll probably bounce one in and win anyway, but it is very tough for even very good teams to win that way. Teams without any goaltending, and who lose half their defence during the course of the game have absolutely no chance.

Make no mistake, both goalies were horrible. The last 3 OTT goals specifically were just bad. Michalek's goal was a horrible shot. Winchester actually stopped skating and looked back as if the play was ending before he scored his goal and neither the D, nor Dubnyk were able to use that to any kind of advantage. They were all sleeping in a game that badly needed to be turned around into a win. The Oilers needed this win really badly. OTT, while playing decent hockey right now, has a whole lot of non-players on their team and you've got to take advantage when you've got Chicago coming in on Saturday. The final goal is 100% on Dubnyk; missing that puck was inexcusable. I had a very very close up view as I was in much lower seats that usual tonight and that was just terrible. (thankfully I had a great view of the only highlight of the night, Lander's goal, as well).

When the kid line is on, they stretch the opposition's D, either forcing them to back up or creating odd man rushes. On every shift tonight, they seemed to fail to get past the OTT defence in any meaningful way, and either took weak shots through the D or put the puck behind the net where the OTT defence was waiting for it. They were beyond ineffective and got very frustrated as the game went on, Hall especially. Hopkins wasn't too horrible, but he can't lug that line on his own. I don't know why they've shifted their attack strategy so much and they need to hit the practice ice in a serious way to get it back.

When we were winning earlier this year, we did it through solid defensive play from our forwards and defensive units. Odd-man rushes were held to a minimum, players made smart plays with the puck, and we often held the puck in the offensive zone for an extra possession after their first attempted rush. We had none of this tonight. Paajarvi as part of his line with Omark and Belanger was excellent at this, allowing the other lines to attack a more tired opposition. We had 3 lines going that could push the puck. Well, now we have a slumping line of kids, a line of vets who is mostly consistent, and a useless third line. 91-20-28 will not score goals or control possession. They are not built to do it; especially with the D we're currently packing.

Speaking of that D, we appear to have lost 3 of them now. That's terrifying especially when it comes to Potter, but you know what is worse? That Theo Peckham (who I've always liked and want to cheer for) is still in the lineup. He's been horrible. He's been directly culpable for multiple losses and played a huge part in allowing 5 goals tonight. Even with the injuries, I'd still either try to trade him for a different type of defenceman while he still has some value, or waive him. It makes me sad because he really showed he had potential last year, but that appears to have been his high point. He got comfortable and has lost his edge, and now his confidence. Sorry Theo, you're costing this team games.

Tom Renney is not free from criticism tonight; in fact I'd say he did just about everything wrong. It was abundantly clear that #35 was off after the second goal and you have to yank him there...he didn't. He knew Sutton was hurting and didn't insist on calling up a defenceman which made us vulnerable to what happened tonight. Once we were down to 4 D, and had an intermission to plan, he didn't cycle 1 or 2 forwards back to D to fill in and take some pressure off an overwhelmed and undercapable D group (specifically Peckham and Petry). That's effectively giving up. He then was positive after this game...there was nothing to be positive about. Either say nothing at all and start fresh tomorrow or rip the team a new one. If there were any justice, at least 3 guys would be headed out and several would be called up from OKC...I sincerely doubt that will happen.

What you are seeing right now is the risk you take when you don't go get an insurance policy for this team. After we beat Washington and subsequently, we needed to go out and get a defenceman to keep results positive and make sure that even if we hit some bumps, it wouldn't be too bad. Now, we risk doing serious damage to the progress of our players. Some are getting very frustrated and it is totally unnecessary. After those 2 quick goals went in, everyone hung their heads. Good teams don't do that. There's no doubt that it is tough to come back after that deficit is built, but good teams buzz for the rest of the game and at least come close. We quit. That's unacceptable.

I'm not sure if there's much more to say. I'm plain pissed off after that effort.