LMHF Report Webcast Link

12/22/11

LMHF Report - Game #18

EDMONTON 4

VS.

MINNESOTA 1
--------------------

So the key game tonight was that the oilers came out early and were very aggressive. You don't often see that kind of attack from them early on in the game. I think there's something about playing Minnesota now that has this team riled, because they tend to come out with a lot of pop and they're slightly angry when they play the Wild. This is something that you don't see when they play a lot of other teams even division rivals like the Flames and Canucks.

Minnesota, while missing a bunch of its better players still didn't put forth a very strong effort. They were slow from the beginning and never really had much of a chance in this hockey game. The Oilers were very good, don't get me wrong, at least for the first couple periods. Some of this is on the Minnesota Wild though, for having what was a fairly bad night. If you look at their recent record, it isn't exactly surprising. So I'm Ggnna give them the Oilers a lot of credit for the way they started tonight as I noted earlier.

Nick Backstrom didn't have a very good hockey game but he was also beat by some very good shots and I think we have to give the Oilers shooters credit for what they were able to do. They took advantage of loose pucks and pressure situations to score some very nice goals. I'm specifically speaking of of course Jordan Eberle's goals and Lennart's goal. Ryan Smyth's goal was not the greatest in the world, but good on him being persistent and identifying the puck was still loose and tapping it off Backstrom's Skate into the net. The Minnesota goal wasn't anything to really be concerned about, as we had just killed off a major penalty of course, which I'll get into in just a minute, but the Oilers were playing good hockey at that stage and a loose puck came to Heatley and he took a very good shot which #35 couldn't really see. Despite eventually catching the Oilers in shots Minnesota, didn't really play a very strong name and I think if the score we a bit closer you wouldn't of seen a lot of the play we did in the late second and third periods.

And speaking of the refereeing in tonight's game I have seen few games refereed as badly as that one. The Oilers bore the brunt of some absolutely atrocious officiating in terms of the call on Petrell the call on Gagner and some other things that were missed including Anton Lander taking some abuse, Ryan Jones being hit away from the play, and some other plays that really should've resulted in power plays. I really don't like how NHL referees take such liberty when a team has a substantial lead, and if you paid attention at all to the Nashville-Columbus game tonight I'm guessing there were some referee-effects involved in that score that ended up going from a 5-2 Columbus lead to a 6-5 Nashville win. Columbus is a bad team but the same thing could've happened to us tonight with the way the calls were being made if our penalty killing was as bad as it was last year. If you look at the Petrell major, which wasn't even a penalty much less a major, you'll see that Petrell not only let up, but tried to keep since Zidlicky from going into the boards. He either caught an edge or launched himself into the boards, I don't know what's more embarrassing. If you were actually at the game, you would've seen Zidlicky talk to Petrell after the hit in what looked like a very understanding manner rather than an angry manner, so I think he understood what was going on. If you want to talk about 89's penalty, well Sam lightly tapped the Minnesota player on his arm, and then the Minnesota player'ss arms went up and the stick hit him in the face apparently. Somehow that resulted in a four minute minor penalty. Everyone at the game was quite confused by what exactly had happened on this play and obviously quite surprised that we wound up having to kill off a double minor. The Eager penalty was also not a penalty. As usual our pal Clutterbuck dove into the boards as he was gently tapped by #55. I think this penalty was almost worth it as the Oilers were doing a very good job of imposing their will and making Minnesota keep their heads up as they played. So even though I don't think there should've been a penalty, even if there was going to be one called I don't have that much of a problem with Eager taking it. I will however criticize Darcy Hordichuk for stupidly hitting the goalie on purpose and thinking he can get away with it.

In the end though despite the fact that all these penalties meant we had to keep our most dominant line off the ice, we did enough tonight to win and that's really what was important. I don't understand why Tom Renney won't break out Eberle and Hopkins or something to that effect during some of the extended penalty kills to keep them fresh. This wouldn't hurt the team and would keep the young guys moving, which I think it's very important in a game like that.
------------


Hall-Hopkins-Eberle
There can be no doubt that tonight the key was the kid line. From the very beginning, Eberle and Hopkins especially were playing a fantastic game, exhibiting great puck control and driving through the Minnesota defense. As with the Detroit game, the Minnesota defense and forwards had no answer for either 14 or 93. Hall started off the game a little bit slowly. He gave away the puck I will say about seven times in the course of a couple shifts including on a power-play where he wasn't really under pressure for any length of time. It was very odd to see him having this much trouble. He was also falling all over the ice. That's not a particularly unique occurrence with Taylor Hall, but he was doing it even more so tonight. If I were him I would really think about putting more edge on my skates. I don't see how he can continue to think that he's getting that much of an advantage from what appears to be not much hollow on his blade if he's going to spend the whole game including several chances to break away from the pack, on his butt. His penalty shot effort appeared to be more a symptom of him being tired than making a bad decision. I was surprised he didn't break away from the defender more cleanly when he had the initial chance quite frankly as he would usually make that into a cleaner scoring opportunity. On the penalty shot he really appeared to be tired and took what I would describe as a pretty futile shot on net. He had Backstrom beat if he went high and I really wish you'd consider going upstairs more often on those opportunities. The good thing was his missed chance didn't cost us much because as I noted his linemates were having an excellent game. Although Hopkins only managed one point he controlled the puck excellently in all zones. He kept it away from the Minnesota defenders very well, creating time for both 14 and 4. I don't know if there are enough superlatives to describe the way Jordan Eberle plays hockey. It is amazing the feeling you get when he has the puck and time, because you know he's going to score a goal. On his second goal, you knew he'd finish about both three seconds before he actually put the puck in the net. He had the time, space, and angle. The play might as well have been over. I can't believe how bad Nick Backstrom, one of the best goalies in the league looked on that backhand deke. That was gross. On his first goal he made a very nice pick off of an attempt to clear the zone by the Minnesota player, walked into the middle, fought off a couple of slashes, stickhanded just the right amount of time to get around the defender and finished. It was an absolutely beautiful, exceptional, and elite-level play. I maintain the Jordan Eberle is right now the best hockey player on this team. There is simply no other way to describe how valuable he is and how complete the game he brings is on any given night. He is simply excellent. That is not taking anything away from Hopkins, Gilbert or any of the others, but he is just that much better. I am still a little worried about Taylor Hall as he did not pass the puck as much as he could've tonight. He could have generated several more scoring chances and did not. This is the reason why Jordan Eberle did not get a hat trick and while unfortunate is not a severe problem and clearly did not prevent us from winning. That's the important thing and this line is the reason we won tonight.

Smyth-Horcoff-Gagner
The Smith, Horcoff and Gagner line did their job in most areas tonight; especially on the penalty kill as that was a very important part of the game. They did very well in clearing the puck out of their own zone unlike some others. On five on five they weren't as flashy and I know Smith scored that goal but the interesting part of that goal was that Smid and Gilbert were the ones in on the forecheck while Horcoff and Gagner covered for them at the blue line. This is not a bad thing and if it works I will take it. The main thing that this line did all night was simply to move the puck into the opposition zone and keep it there for a period of time. They did not allow Minnesota to generate offensive chances while they were on the ice. That in a lot of ways is all they had to do because our first line was so good, but on many nights that would not be enough. I hope they can improve to where they were earlier in the year and believe they will. The thing to watch for the rest of the season is that if we are competitive we need to monitor Ryan Smyth's ice time very closely so that he is not overplayed. This would be a disaster come the playoffs, should there be any. If we are going to talk about Horcoff in a little more detail, I say he played a marginally better game than he did against Detroit in pretty much every area. Gagner is still in my opinion not the right man for this line but he did his job to a decent degree tonight. I don't know why he isn't being more effective or dynamic in the offensive zone. Perhaps he's just trying to keep his game more simple. That's okay for now but I'd like to see him be more dynamic in the offensive zone and take more of his shots. He needs to play a little more like Jared Stoll would on that line.

Eager-Belanger-Jones
- The worst line for us tonight was the third line. Ben Eager played a fairly solid game and he was the strength of that line. I don't think many people would have predicted that before the game. #55 hit a lot of people and won many races to the puck which was key to maintaining control of the play and the puck. I really liked how focused he was and that he went to the right spaces and generally did his job. As a bonus he also annoyed several Wild players and I must say that after the game as he was yapping at them and they were very annoyed I was smiling and chuckling. If you look at his linemates however, this story is not so positive. Ryan Jones had a very strange game. He bounced the puck off the metal pieces in the boards on three separate occasions. Once this generated a scoring chance but the other two times it generated turnovers. While he can't be blamed too much for this he can be blamed for being out of position on several occasions, missing chances to clear his own zone and not covering his man properly. He wasn't the worst member of this line however, as number 20 took that honor. He missed many chances to clear his own zone (especially on the PK), was out of position on several occasions and once again did not do anything in the offensive zone. Wait a minute, that's not quite true; he actually took a shot from the goal line that had absolutely no chance to score. He then skated away in frustration and confusion. I have said before that I do not know what is wrong with Eric Belanger and nothing tonight really changed. I just did not expect such a solid performer to be a constant source of disappointment. He plays a simple game that in the past has resulted in goals and I looked forward to watching him play it in Edmonton. Oh well.

Petrell-Lander-Hordichuk
- Anton Lander had a very solid game tonight. If you look at the way he skated, the physical contact that he made and the choices he made with the puck, it was all good. When Lander plays like this he reminds you that he is going to be fairly special at some point. Also Petrell played a really solid game until he was kicked out for his non-penalty. His goal was a great example of checking your man, winning a race and then taking an exceptional shot. Because he doesn't get a lot of good scoring opportunities you forget that #37 has a great shot that he showed in the preseason. He went roof on Backstrom with ease. It is great to see a guy like him have success because he does work hard. He is also smart and large which helps. Aside from the good goal he hit several people cleanly and played a generally solid game. Hordichuk didn't get a chance to do too much tonight other than take an incredibly stupid and unnecessary penalty. If he is not going to annoy the Minnesota players then he has no business in our lineup.

Gilbert and Smid
- Tom Gilbert and Smid played a really nice game tonight, which doesn't seem to be exceptional this year. The exceptional thing tonight was noted burst in to dominate the offensive zone and set up Smyth's goal. It is really hard to say anything negative when these guys are hitting, passing, shooting and defending so well.

Potter and Whitney
- Corey Potter also played a nice game. There were several instances in which he deftly separated the Minnesota players from the puck and made a play to one of his teammates. He's in the odd position of bailing out Whitney right now. #6 spent much of the night roaming, chasing the puck badly, and making iffy passes. I'd say he was a little bit better than lately but still really iffy. He refuses to shoot the puck or skate into the offensive zone. Potter was excellent on the PP, and it only really slowed when he wasn't on it any longer. The only bad thing #44 did really was that he nailed Taylor Hall with a shot, then after #4 had come back, almost did it again! OOPS!

Petry and Peckham
- Petry played a solid game in terms of his defence, but for whatever reason he struggled slightly on the powerplay point. It was the same sort of awkwardness as last game. Part of this might be his teammates playing to Potter's style, but that can only account for so much. Peckham was pretty average, which is an improvement.

Khabibulin
- Khabibulin was excellent tonight and you knew it from the very beginning. You know when an Edmonton goalie is stopping Mr. Bouchard that it is a good night. The way he robbed him in close in the second period was stunning. He was so patient to out wait the shooter like that. He was aggressive when he needed to be as well, kept his pads flat on the ice and was two steps ahead of everything. Absolutely sublime performance. Shame it wasn't an SO.
---------

Big win that we needed very badly. It really is unfortunate that things went the way they did in terms of having to kill penalties because this should have been a rout.

12/19/11

LMHF Report - Game #17

EDMONTON 2

VS.

DETROIT 3
-------------

Back from Maui, sorry for the absence guys! Hope you read it in the last report and didn't think I vanished!

So, a couple new tonight tonight: this is the first report I am making using my new iPhone 4S so hopefully it goes well and I'll be able to get most of this done on my drive home now which would be really nice and save me some time as well as capture my thoughts quickly and get the report out sooner. The other thing that was a little bit different was where I sat to watch the game; I was in section 119 row 4, so I was really low didn't have a great view the game in terms flow and breakouts etc. like I usually like to watch but does give a lot of interesting views of other things so we'll try and take advantage of that perspective tonight.

Going into the game against Detroit you don't really ever know what's going to happen for us. We usually play quite well against the Red Wings at Rexall, but these are the Red Wings and we do have trouble with them generally. Tonight's game turned out so heartbreakingly typical when it comes to Detroit in that they scored late again on a crummy goal and we lose a close one.

It wasn't a particularly bad effort but it wasn't that great either. To give a clearly view of some of the things I'm going to pass along, I was right behind the bench sitting just to the left of that little gap between the two benches. When our players come off the ice they do not look happy right now. They don't look angry (which would be okay honestly), but just listless and tired and depressed.

If this is what the problem is we we need to look at solving it in a bit of a different way. When Detroit comes to the bench, they are focused, their eyes are alert and their heads are up. When the play is on, they are all watching, ready and jump over the gate. Our guys are looking down or just slouching and sauntering our of the gate.

It's not just a single player or even a couple guys. Eberle and Hall are pretty damn intense, but the rest are pretty iffy at this stage. I guess I'm not totally sure, but the coaches never really seemed to do anything to give the players a kick in the butt at all. I was amazed how little the coaches said. Kelly Buchberger said and did almost nothing all game (now that might be a good thing)

The biggest difference between Detroit and Edmonton was watching their decisiveness. The wings were skating in strong and very decisive lines, whereas we are constantly looking around trying to figure what to do. That one half stride is making the difference over and over again all game long. It because obvious why we're losing games and it sure doesn't look like a matter of percentages at this point.

Khabibulin
He played a pretty solid game and made some really solid saves moving side to side. He couldn't do too much on the game winning goal as Dan Cleary seemed to have tied up his legs, but he still got a piece of it anyway, which took a solid effort. You certainly can't fault him for this one.

Hall-Hopkins-Eberle
Hall gave a strong effort and I was relieved to see his speed return because I thought the last couple games he'd been a tad shy a a little slow. Unfortunately he gave up way too many opportunities to pass and instead tried to drive through on his own. This often results in a bit of *wow*, but he doesn't seem to convert these into goals. He's also got great linemates who are open. Detroit really had no answer for these guys and their speed. Watching Eberle work through the middle against Detroit's best and seeing the best they could do was waive their sticks was pretty special. That's an elite player right there. Great little goal in the late second as Hopkins made a good choice to create a loose puck in the slot and Eberle cruised in to rip it where Howard couldn't get it. Beauty. Hopkins and Eberle both had generally strong games save for the last powerplay of the game. I wonder if Eberle had a headache or something tonight as I saw him get something from the trainer in the second period and chomp it down before putting his mouthguard back in.


Smyth-Horcoff-Hemsky
This line did a fairly strong job against their opposition, and Hemsky appeared to have a fairly strong game. The only thing he's really struggling with is that a lot of shots are getting blocked. You can see he wouldn't normally want to shoot so often but he's clearly been directed to force it and it's not going well. I wish that the coaches would take that pressure off and tell him to stop because it's not helping the team and you don't have the ability to create separation from the shot-forcing headspace. He did make some nice passes that unfortunately weren't converted. When he was coming to the bench, he didn't look any more down than any of the other guys. Even Smyth looks frustrated and kind of dead-eyed. 94 looked a little tired again tonight which is not a surprise but his defensive positioning and corner efforts were there. He also got to the front of the net but wasn't as effective as he has been. If anyone on this line struggled it was Horcoff, who couldn't find the lanes to set up for his shot and was a little iffy skating with the puck. Solid D all around from these guys though.

Jones-Belanger-Gagner
Jones gave a pretty good effort tonight, especially considering he took a good whack in the first and had to spend a decent amount of time icing his nose. He came back strong after that and obviously scored the breakaway goal which was a nice effort. I don't agree with putting him in the SO at this stage because his goals come due to speed and urgency on those breakaways, but I would consider him on the 2nd PP with Gagner struggling so much there. Belanger was passionless tonight and looks like he truly has no confidence. At least early on he'd give that great defensive effort and provide something. I wonder if there's some sort of bigger problem there for him right now. Gagner was okay five-on-five and was one of the guys giving the most effort. It really looked like he was hurt in the second and Buchberger asked him if he was okay going out for the third but he seemed to be. Nothing really exceptional but at least the effort was there til the end.

Eager-Lander-Petrell
Eager played a bit of a strange game in that he showed some speed but didn't bring the physicality. I've noted that at the end of games especially, he backs off hits that he needs to make. He's not effective if he can't land those legally. His line could have got on a roll early as they got a strong scoring chance in the first but failed to capitalize. #37 looks to be struggling some and could be due for a trip to OKC. Lander also got beat a couple times and wasn't very good with the puck when he got the chance tonight. One cool thing about being up close was being able to hear how powerful Lander's stride is...wow.

Whitney
Ryan Whitney is not anywhere near 100% and the things I'm noticing the most are that he is not pressing for offence and that he is angling himself strangely during the play. As 6 either receives a pass or leads the rush, where last year he'd get into the zone and make a play or shoot, he backs off and forces what is almost necessarily a bad pass. This is screwing up his teammates and leading to turnovers. I suspect he thinks he can't get back into the play. He's also positioning himself facing into the middle of the ice all the time, even when he should be facing the opposition goalie or even the boards. I don't know if he's bracing or what but it makes everything very very awkward. He needs to get this stuff figured out. Of all the guys, he may have had the deadest eyes at the bench which I can tell you from last year isn't normal.

Potter
Corey Potter is playing a very strong, very big game. I didn't realize how big he was until I actually got to watch so closely and you can see how he positions himself to use his size and reach well. It was also very impressive to see the way he's looking and moving his head, as it becomes obvious that he's following the game at the same speed as the kids. That's really impressive for any defenceman, much less one we picked up from the minors.

Gilbert-Smid
Gilbert and Smid played their typical and boring 2011 hockey game. That's not a bad thing at all. They played solid D and Gilbert jumped into the offence effectively several times. If his shot is a touch more on, we win this thing going away with the chances he got. Smid put forth a really solid game and skated miles.

Peckham
There's no hiding that he's a big part of the problem right now. He's not getting to pucks and when he does, he's making mistakes that aren't small. It didn't cost him too much tonight but it certainly could have.

Petry
He fought really hard on the play to set up goal #2, but I don't know if his efforts were the smoothest. The result came to pass, but not without 3 or 4 failures first. He did pretty well for having to haul around Peckham all night, but I still wouldn't have put him in there on the PP at that stage over Potter. Certainly a bucketload of talent but I'd really love an Igor Ulanov type for him to play with on that third pair.
-------------------

I've got to say, I'm weirded out by Renney's line sequencing late in the game. You'd think he would be looking to get the kids 3 shifts with 5 minutes to go and it doesn't seem that way.

Both Hall and Eberle were the angriest after this lost. They both went VERY hard and showed it on their faces. Thanks for the effort 4 and 14.

So far the Siri dictation method is pretty iffy...I had to do a lot of editing and it came out choppy. We'll see how quickly it learns.

12/1/11

LMHF Report - Game #12

EDMONTON 2

VS.

MINNESOTA 3

In a freaking shootout...
--------------------

Driving home in the car tonight, I got to thinking that either I must be losing my brain, or the commentators were watching some other Edmonton versus Minnesota game that I was not aware of. There will always be disagreements...usually over nuanced things, but tonight there were some things said post-game that made me turn the radio off several times and wonder what exactly was going on.

I'd rate this as the third straight game that we simply placed in a sealed envelope and handed to the other team to open when they saw fit. The Oilers controlled more of the play in the first two periods than they did against Nashville, and did some really excellent things. It is interesting that someone remarked that they had been pushed around in the second period. I LOVED the way they finished the second and began the third in terms of being physical. They managed to knock two Wild players out of the game and sent a number more flying all over the ice. The first two periods were adding up to be one of our more physical games...then the tap was turned off for some reason.

I have a lot of strategy criticism to offer regarding tonight's game. It began with the puck drop...I would have started Hordichuk and got right down to business. I also wouldn't have effectively sat him down on the bench for the second straight game. Either find an offensive player you can dress, or play the guy. Late in the game, Renney had just sent out the Hopkins and Belanger lines, then with about 3 minutes to go, inexplicably double-shifted Hopkins' line despite the fact that the Horcoff unit had just had a strong shift. They didn't accomplish much of anything and looked quite tired. There was no reason to rush them back out when they were one Horcoff shift from a fully-rested shift with the game on the line. Then, Renney also played the third line AGAIN before the game was over. Moronic...In overtime, Jordan Eberle (who was our best forward AGAIN) didn't get a shift until the fourth line change (and who runs FOUR units in OT anyway???) and played with Ryan Jones...I couldn't believe what I was seeing. How he isn't out there with #93 right off the hop is beyond me. He only really got the one shift and wasn't able to muster anything. I'd argue with the SO choices on principle, but the fact is with the way the shooters performed we should have won anyway.

Even though these bad choices seem concentrated, they seemed to play a decent part in costing us the game. You should know that Kelly Buchberger was on the bench tonight and seemed to be very involved in all this, so I'm thinking it might be on him and not Renney, which would not surprise me as he's not exactly the smartest man they could have making decisions at that point. Either way, this is two home games in a row where the coaching staff has allowed their team to get stale as the game went on, despite two or three distinct rallying opportunities, and some of the blame must be laid at their feet.

As for the Wild, I remain incredibly unimpressed. They don't seem to do much of anything well other than tend goal and despite a whack of offensive talent they are not a dangerous hockey club for most of the game. It's very strange to watch. I was utterly gleeful watching Clutterbuck stagger around and the Oilers continue to push him around and ultimately force him to leave. It is so utterly satisfying to punish a guy who plays the game in such a wrong way. I still find it inexplicable that the referees call any penalties on his BS dives, as in the 1980s or early 90s, not only would these pathetic attempts to draw a call be ignored, he probably would have been sent off because he'd pissed off the ref. This kind of policing of dishonorable hockey players needs to be brought back. These guys deserve zero protection and should be punished for how they mock the game.
------------

Khabibulin
- During regulation and OT he was quite solid. The Brodziak goal looked bad, but I'm not sure you can really hang it on him. What you can hang on him is the difference between the SO win and loss. Koivu's goal was fairly good (although I'm still weirded out that #35 stretched when he had time to slide across), but the other three were pathetic. There's no excuse for the horrible leg-stick positioning on the Bouchard and especially Brodziak goals, and he had Heatley dead and still managed to screw it up. Not a good performance when your teammates get you some SO goals for sure.

Whitney
- He's really not the same guy at the moment. Just like last game, he's got no offensive presence in terms of taking good shots or making passes down low. He's standing at funny angles all over the ice and is not positioning himself well. Lastly and worstly, I counted nearly ten times tonight where he went into the corner and either lost the battle for an easily winnable puck or gave the puck away. That's unacceptable for a rookie...much less the guy who should be at worst our #2 defenceman even with all the rust. Loved what he managed to do to Clutterbuck and hope it was intentional. Very Souray-style thing to do and came at just the right time.

Petry
- First of all, I really liked that he stepped up his physical game. He made a number of strong hits where I actually had to verify again that it was indeed #58 making the connection. On the other hand, his positional game suffered and he was often forced to chase rather than employ his smooth skating game and also didn't make a lot of very nice passes. Very hit and miss from Jeff tonight.

Sutton
- Andy Sutton had the 2 nicest passes of the first, springing Ales Hemsky for a near-breakaway and hitting Hopkins with a lazer to set up our first goal. I don't know what they did with the real Andy Sutton but they can keep him. While Sutton's defensive play seemed pretty solid, the two plays that stood out for me were the massive hit he took behind our net (which should have resulted in a charging penalty) and a really stupid penalty he took in front of the Wild net when he (albeit fairly gently) crosschecked a Wild player to the ice. Such a weird game, but better than running Peckham-Teubert.

Peckham
- I don't know what it is about being down to 3 players that brings out the best in Theo, but once again he was excellent especially late in OT after Smyth's penalty. There were times tonight where got caught standing still and watching the puck, but generally he was okay. I'd still have played Teubert instead.

Smid
- Great job on Clutterbuck before and after Whitney got the kill-shot in on him. JUST missed a huge shot at him just before he left the game. Defensively he was strong but what else is new. He also dropped down and got a couple decent offensive chances again which is always good to see. Also great on the late PK in OT.

Gilbert
- Ho hum, another excellent game.

Gagner-Horcoff-Hemsky
- Okay, here's where this will probably get weird. I heard a lot of praise of Gagner tonight and some of it was absolutely effusive. I didn't see that from Sam at all. He certainly wasn't bad, but the guy couldn't get a decent shot off to save his life. Despite set ups from both 83 and 10, Sam was slow on the trigger and if he did get the puck away everything was either chest or wide. That's not a solid performance. He was also very hesitant when the puck wasn't on his stick, including on a rebound play set up by Hemsky in the third where he failed to score only because he stopped skating instead of getting to the area he needed to be in. Sam needs to be a bunch better than this in the offensive and offensive-neutral zones if he wants to be anything near a top six guy. I'm a fan, but this was far from a great night from him. Ales I found to be fairly average. He set up a decent amount of chances but didn't really drive much of the play himself and is currently struggling to get his patented drag-shot through defenders. I've never seen his shot blocked so many times as lately. If there are goat horns for this line tonight though, they have to go to Horcoff. He lost a ton of key draws tonight, thanks to the insane mentality of attempting the exact same approach even though he was getting beat cleanly every time. You have to trying something different...anything...when that starts happening. He did not. Minnesota's second goal sequence started because of an odd hesitation and failure by Horcoff to pick up his man at the blue line. He also had a number of sequences where he simply couldn't get the puck out of his own zone and had to have a linemate bail him out. Not to mention ANOTHER breakaway miss due to a poor shooting choice. Some of the issues weren't his fault entirely...for instance Gagner's bad positioning was requiring Horcoff to set up higher in the offensive zone to a point where he couldn't effectively connect on Hemsky's one-time passes, but #10 needs to recognize that and adjust rather than just plugging away. 10 and 83 need Hall back badly. He was the perfect linemate for them.

Smyth-Hopkins-Eberle
- This was one of Smyth's weaker games. He lost of lot of pucks in the corners for him, didn't really beat anyone with the puck, and looked visibly tired compared to Eberle and Hopkins. Some of this is on the coaching staff for overplaying him, but Smyth also has to be able to reach deep in games like this and help to gut out a win. Eberle as noted was once again the Oilers' best forward, scoring with what may very well be the best backhand in the NHL from his office and helping to set up another goal as well. I love that he takes winning and losing so personally and is so driven to getting the job done. He always demands more of himself. He had a few other chances and was just really good out there. Hopkins was a little less noticeable, but there are very few guys who could so seamlessly put away that pass that Sutton sent his way. He was also positioned perfectly. Great patience and moves to set up Eberle on what is effectively that same angled-pass play we've probably already seen 20 times this year. He did give the puck away a couple times, either in close or on passes and that is something he needs to watch out for. Teams are reading him in the defensive zone.

Paajarvi-Belanger-Jones
- The worst thing Ryan Jones did tonight was constantly get in the way. He disrupted a number of rush chances and offensive sequences by being out of position and generally awkward. Aside from that he was okay and did some nice things on the PK and in the neutral zone. I heard a lot of glowing review of Magnus after the game and I couldn't disagree more. While he tried some new offensive skating lines...he showed zero agility or ability to get around offensive forwards and create offensive space. He is still drifting WAY too far out of the play to cheat for defence, and this is costing him gap control so that he's then out of position and has to skate a bunch. For a positionally sound guy, he's on another planet right now and having to play nothing but catchup hockey. He got some shots away...but all weak and right at the chest. He's not doing any of the things that show up in his best games and that's very perplexing. It probably doesn't help that he's playing with Eric Belanger...who has apparently fallen down an elevator shaft. Watching Belanger early, he struggled offensively but made a bunch of subtle defensive things happen. He was bad in every zone tonight, never knew where he had to be and gave the puck away a bunch. Totally incomprehensible. He needs to see a sports psych or something because he's forgotten how to play the game and his disease is infecting other players.

Hordichuk-O'Marra-Petrell
- Good fight from Hordichuk and took/gave some solid hits in limited icetime. O'Marra looked slow and just okay positionally but also hit some people. Petrell was pretty good. I'd have considered moving him up the lineup at some point tonight.
-----------

So, there we are. Six game homestand is not off to a good start. No good.

*ADVISORY* There will not likely be a game report on Friday as I am headed to the airport very very early Saturday morning and will be in Maui until the 11th. Sorry guys but the beach beckons!