LMHF Report - Game #41




And so, mercifully, it ends.

While it was hard for my fellow fans and I to watch what was going on down on that ice tonight (I dare not call it hockey), we stuck it out and were there pretty much to the bitter end. Many even sat around much longer to wallow in the sadness of another lost season, and dream of what might be come next September. Of course, the thing is that we won't get near as excited as we did this past September, when a young team appeared to be ready to take a large and important step forward, but was left without reinforcements and quickly began taking on water under the assault of the more veteran and experienced squads they were facing. It didn't last and we were again stuck in the mud.

Tonight was sad for another reason. It is customary for the home team to acknowledge the home fans, even if very briefly, at the conclusion of the final game of the year. Our team, whose fans cheered through all the junk games where no effort was given and were loud for every goal that was scored, rarely booing, waltzed to the dressing room without so much as a raised hand or a nod. It doesn't bother me too much, as I believe they'd deserved a hearty booing reserved for those who feel so secure in their jobs that they spend the whole time doing them badly, but many others were quite offended by the fact that the team didn't stay around for even a small encore. Not a smooth move from either the players or the coach, who should have been directing such an effort. The excuse that they were upset after losing is not valid, as then they would have cared during the actual game and put forth a much stronger effort.

I was glad to be there for what may be the last time we see Teemu Selanne in Edmonton. Along with Pavel Bure, he was the guy that shaped in my young mind what a pure goal scorer was, ripping through defences and terrorizing netminders with a blazing shot. He wasn't able to find the scoresheet tonight, which is surprising considering he regularly lit us up like a cheap pinball machine over the years, but he was still there, finding the lanes and firing away. I'll be sad for the people of Winnipeg if he doesn't give it one last go in Manitoba next year, though I will certainly understand if he concludes things and sails off into a long-since-earned sunset. He's always been a fabulous player and by all accounts I'm aware of, a gentlemanly one as well. That I got to see one of the best at putting the puck in the net so many times is something I really appreciate.

There were no such legendary stories to tell about our team tonight. It was obvious from the get-go that this was a team that knew its season was over and didn't feel the need for even friendly competition. You'd think a home team facing another team with nothing to play for could at least put on a show, try some things and maybe entertain. When Eric Belanger came out to take a defensive zone faceoff in the third period with absolutely no relevance to the season, I was utterly bewildered. The lineup decisions and no alterations to any of the game plan were less inexplicable, but still very strange to me.

I'm honestly surprised no one tried to grab the spotlight. Our two goals were interesting but not really when put into context. Both were scored off the rush as we tend to do. One on a recovery from a miss and one by possibly the finest breakaway deker in the game. We were beat on a play which, due to its simplicity and finality, was one of the saddest plays I've had to watch. I can't help but think we may have witnessed the metaphorical end to another career on that play.

I know a lot of this isn't specific to the game that just happened, but you tend to reflect at the end of the season and this is as good a place as any to share those reflections. Please add any if you have them and wish to share.

- Well, I suppose there wasn't much he could have done on the second Ducks' goal. I have a problem with the Bobby Ryan shot, even though Sutton was screening him because Dubnyk went and made himself small again. That should have been a simple, positional save. One thing that Dubnyk will have to learn is how to avoid the deer-in-the-headlights look he has on breakaways like Getzlaf's to close it out. I loved his aggressiveness to stop Bobby Ryan's chance in the first, and he was solid most of the night. Just some small, yet important mistakes. Then again, he would've had to throw up an SO for us to win the game. Not happening.

- The line of the future? At least one of them? Quite possibly. Despite what was a sort of off-night from Eberle and Hopkins, these guys looked like they fit together quite well again. #14 and #93 still need to get more used to passing to #56, but other than that they add up fairly well. Eberle's goal was indeed a beauty, and came after a shift with #83 taking Teemu's place on the wing. They had strong chances earlier that shift and the one after. It's possible THAT is actually the line of the future...though maybe just at crunch time. Eberle almost deked himself out before vanquishing Deslauriers. Amazing. And a good play by Hemsky followed by a great pass by Hopkins. Aside from that, I thought Eberle and Hopkins looked a little too much like guys who know the season's over rather than a couple guys trying to get each other some hardware. While this doesn't mean they played badly, they were missing that little extra step. Hartikainen was one of the few who did in fact play like he wants a job. I hope management is watching because I have a feeling more of them than the coaches will be around next year. Teemu drove the net, hit people, took a couple really good shots and did a very solid job of identifying and picking up his check on the back-check. Very mature plays from a young guy. He has to make this team next year.

- Flawed from the start but they tried to get something done. Jones, aside from driving the net and a couple hits, was a passenger yet again and got caught staring at the play multiple times. I honestly hope he's traded in the offseason. Going forward it is important to have leaders, but they have to be good enough hockey players to be part of a championship squad. He's just not. Similar to when Jones played with the kids, this arrangement allowed the opposition D to key on Hemsky and Gagner. The result was somewhat odd. Despite scoring a solid goal on a follow-up play (I'm surprised Hemsky didn't get an assist as well, as he made a little play near the net to set it up), Sam got boxed in by defenders all night long and often stopped skating. This meant it often fell to Hemsky to go one-on-two and one-on-three all night with no passing options. The result wasn't great but the effort was there. He made a very nifty spin pass in the second to set up a chance, and really flew when he got bumped up to play with #s 14 and 93 as noted.

- I said during the game that I've never seen a line of veterans with decently proven track records who are so incapable of scoring. Sure, Smyth is on a tier above the other two because he's actually gotten a few things done this year and especially 5-on-5, but even he has to be a lot better to remain on this team. I counted a couple tips and a couple chances generated from plays below the red line as positives for him. I could see him not coming back this year though, as the early season fairy tale gave way to sloppy, tired play late in the season. If a coach can figure out how to deploy him and not pay him more than 3 mil, you think about it. Otherwise the story book doesn't end happily. Belanger somehow got out with Gagner and Hemsky, and missed one of the easiest chances I've seen a while. This man is the epitome of how comfort can be a bad thing for some players. We heard before the season about how he was so happy to have security...apparently he needs to be constantly playing for a contract because there were so many nights this year like tonight, where not only was he bad offensively, but he made key mistakes such as on the second Ducks' goal. He and Horcoff both blew that one terribly. I don't think Belanger can bounce back for this team. I'm not sure Horcoff can either. Aside from some small sparks early in the year, the fire was totally put out this year. He had absolutely nothing to give in the offensive zone and tonight was no different. No speed. Constant missed chances. Bad passes and bumbled pucks. It was tough to watch.

- #37 laid some hits and played his position as usual. I don't suspect he'll be back next year as a new coach won't see him in the same way this one did. I hope for his sake that he's able to catch on in the NHL, as there's a balanced player there but not one that we need sadly. Just not quite good enough. Hordichuk did his job I suppose, engaging Parros (who is as we know actually a half-decent player) and having a fight as well as throwing a couple hits. I still hope he's gone. VandeVelde didn't do anything of note.

- Is this the end of Whitney? I've gotten to thinking that it is possible we should deal him for next to nothing and take our chances spending some dollars in the offseason. Watching a guy who was a Norris trophy candidate on a horrid team for a decent part of last year, not even come close to being able to hold off Getzlaf in OT was just sad. I'm not sure he could have played a worse game if he tried. I get that it is hard to bring max intensity, but you'd think he'd want to accomplish SOMETHING. I'm supposing that Schultz got a star for not allowing multiple goals while lugging around a boat anchor. I didn't see a ton from him, but he plays a quiet game. So sad about the state of Whitney. I want to hope, but I'm so damn tired of hoping rather than seeing and knowing.

- Yikes, scary! Sutton was weak on the puck all night, didn't move it effectively and didn't really hit that much. Barker couldn't seem to remember where the opposition blue line was and kept neglecting his duty to hold that line when we needed an offensive chance. I'd really love it if both were gone before the start of next year, but it appears we're stuck with Sutton.

- At this point I realize I'm not sure if Petry played with Teubert...oh well. It is hard to watch D at the moment. I liked the physicality that Teubert was able to bring and really want him to be able to take the next step in terms of using his talent by the fall. We could use a #7 next year like the player he is capable of being (better than Andy Sutton in most ways). Didn't get his shot through, which is too bad because he had chances. Petry was okay. He joined the rush and made some solid defensive plays.

Well, last one for the year. I don't know where we're going from here, to be honest. I thought last year was as low as it gets but maybe I was wrong. This year was horrible to take, because we saw what could be from time to time. There is so much that needs to change around this team right now and those that can't see that should be turfed. The journey from losing to winning is a tough road, and it doesn't seem as though we've even begun. What the future holds? Who knows. I just can't see how this all will be worth the pain without a repeat of the show we saw in the 80s. Those things don't happen anymore. Why is this necessary?

Let's end this on a positive note. Thank you to everyone who took the time to read, comment and otherwise participate in the game reports this year. The readers are what keeps me going during these darkest and loneliest of evenings as a fan of the Oilers. You make this worth doing. Thank you very very much.


LMHF Report - Game #39




Well, I could see the narrative coming in this one from some time before the game. The Oilers, in a coach-led quest to avoid being "pushed around" as Renney incorrectly believed they were early in the season in Dallas (they just stunk is all), iced a lineup designed to avoid this sort of fate. Problem? Well yes, because the crew on the ice tonight was left with very little in the way of scoring options.

It is blatantly obvious that every time you've got 28-93-14 on the ice, a half-way intelligent coach will stick 3 players to 93 and 14, then simply challenge Jones to get open and the remaining 2 to get him the puck in a position where he can't screw up. This is a really difficult way to play hockey. 56-89-83 was okay and at least consistent. 37-10-94 is a disaster of epic proportions from the get-go, because there is almost zero chance they will get in behind the D, almost zero chance they'll win a cycle game and very little chance they will score from anywhere else (long Petrell shots, Smyth crashing the puck through the goalie and Horcoff using his face to bash one in remain possibilities). The fourth line is so bad I might just exclude them from the break down. Completely and utterly useless.

BUT, you say, our powerplay is the key to our success! And right you are...unless you have a coach who has no idea how to deploy his slightly altered lineup. A mightily struggling and possibly still injured Horcoff remains plastered to 14 and 93. Jones gets time even though he showed more talent in taking his idiotic holding penalty than he did at anything else all night. Hemsky, despite having strong shifts with 14 and 93, never finds himself with them on the PP. 89 can't win a faceoff? Send him out there AGAIN! Hartikainen is driving the net, winning draws and hitting people? Pine young man! Old man Smyth is having a rough night? Meh, he'll figure it out.

Seriously, what the hell???

Another great example of things I just can't understand from our coach was the PK at the end of the game. Down 3-1, the only sensible thing to do is get your talented players out there, cheat some, and try to force a break. Did we see any of this, even in a game where Jordan Eberle generated a SH breakaway? Nope.

By the end of the game everything was on blend and double-shift and bench and spinspinspin around...it was weird.

I could go on. The point is, we were set up to fail tonight. Of course we didn't score against the Stars...we barely had a hope as things were arranged. Throw in a really rough night in our own zone for the defencemen and some average goaltending and you've got yourself an easy loss. What a waste.

- He was okay tonight, but just okay. Bit hard on the first Ryder goal but it never really should have gotten that far. The Ribeiro goal would have taken a highlight reel save and he almost got it. The second Ryder goal I'm not sure. The thing I noticed most tonight was that Dubnyk was missing pucks everywhere. Whether that was knocking them down with his stick behind the net (whiff!), blocking them at the side of the net (ooph!), or trying to catch them in his glove (bamph!), he failed at this everywhere. Lack of focus? Lack of confidence? Lack of skill?

- Yikes. Ya know, these guys have been so good for such a bad D group for so long, I've got to give them a pass tonight. Petry made a couple ugly, ugly plays on the Dallas goals, but it was bound to happen. This is one reason why Stauffer shouldn't be talking about how he's already ascended to the ranks of a top-2 dman. He's a long way from establishing himself there. Smid pushed the issue offensivelv in the third, which was good to see because it reveals some of the "take your team on your shoulders" mentality that most really good defencemen have. They'll be better against the Kings for sure. I wouldn't want to be one of the forwards that has to face them all night.

- Whitney started off the game quite well, but as things wore on he either got tired or lost focus. From the middle of the second, his passes were ugly, he didn't hold the line in the offensive zone and he kept bobbling the puck. There was a footrace in the third that revealed most of what we need to know about how his feet are doing...he wound up getting the icing, but what should have been a nice coasting skate turned into holding the Dallas player off with all he had. Not good. Schultz had another quiet game save for the one foray into the offensive zone during the 2-on-1 he took part in. He got a shot on net, but peeled away far too quickly as he could have gotten his own rebound very easily. Aside from that, he was not bad but not great either.

- Potter was to blame on one of the Dallas goals as well, but otherwise played an okay game. He wasn't asked to do a lot and got a couple of shots through. Sutton struggled with the puck tonight and gave it away on a number of occasions. He also screwed up the chance he had to create an odd-man rush coming out of the penalty box.

- Yeah....no. Not worth the effort.

- Ill-conceived answer to a problem we didn't have combined with generally poor efforts. Horcoff's game was by far the worst of the three and likely left everyone wondering why he was allowed to play tonight. Some of the effort was there, but he lost the puck on a number of occasions, made bad passes, couldn't get shots away and took a couple dumb penalties. Really unacceptable game from him. He even did a double-spinnerama behind his own net...Smyth was better, though not great. He needs to play a support role for a line where players are attacking, which is something he did late in the game with a combo I can't remember. He can't be the attacker anymore. The most useful thing he did was the big ugly slapper he took that hit Lehtonen in the chest that impacted his reaction time and allowed Hemsky to score a tiny bit later. He struggled with the puck some but didn't make a lot of mistakes. Petrell did his job. Landed some hits, moved the puck forward, skated hard. The thing is, that is a fourth-liner's job description, not the guy playing against some of the other team's best.

- Aside from a point in the second period where they struggled with giveaways to some extent, I liked what this group brought. They consistently moved the puck up the ice and at least created some offensive opportunities. Gagner wasn't able to pull the trigger tonight, Hemsky didn't get a lot of shooting lanes and Hartikainen drove the slot well but couldn't knock anything in. The thing about Teemu is he always moves the puck to the net. Whether it is his oddly accurate and evasive shot that somehow always finds its way through, or bulldozing through defencemen (he owned Souray on a number of occasions and should have drawn multiple penalties), the guy just gets it done. He even won every draw (I don't agree with the 1 loss he was credited with) he took. Ales got boosted up to play with Eberle and Hopkins for a time, and they looked dangerous other than the fact that Eberle looked uncomfortable on the left-hand side. It was a fairly medium game from #83 though, as he was getting by the initial Dallas line but not the secondary line. Gagner as I noted couldn't pull the trigger and didn't utilize the complementary parts of his game enough. Still, these guys were at least decent.

- Jones was terrible. Seriously, for a guy receiving no defensive attention to not be able to get open, keep up or avoid taking stupid penalties (that hold at the end was clear as day, on the PP and a couple hundred feet from our net and he whines?!?!) is brutal. He's got a really easy job playing with those two and showed no signs of being up to that task tonight. While Hopkins and Eberle weren't exactly dynamite either, they were at least doing the right sorts of things. Hopkins had the puck on a string and made the Dallas D look silly. He also fired unexpected shots on a couple of occasions and was just off the mark. Eberle generated a breakaway where he made a great move and simply didn't get the puck over the pad. He also made a play in the third where normally he would have faked the shot and backhanded to Hopkins for an open goal, but Dallas actually read it. I was impressed because that move has worked all year. 14 and 93 never quit tonight, and I think it would have been at least 3-2 if not for the penalty late.

I heard some of the post-game comments talking about effort and even though they were from the players I don't really agree that was their downfall tonight. Bad planning at every turn (including Kelly freaking Buchberger diagramming the play with the goalie out...) led to their loss and their effort led to 32 shots (though not great shots) and a number of powerplays generated.

Bad plan + no execution = loss. Simple.


LMHF Report - Game #34




You could tell very early on in this one that unless the Oilers got some exceptional individual efforts, this one would be a loss. It looked so much like so many of the games this team has lost this year from the very beginning that I was not exactly optimistic.

I hear Tom Renney went off the situation in the dressing room after this game. That's a BS cop out there coach. A bunch of this is YOUR fault.

Two things doomed the Oilers from the get-go tonight: their pathetic, PeeWee style breakout scheme, and the fact that once in the offensive zone, their attack from the beginning of games is geared toward the perimeter and rarely ever changes other than when rush chances create something else. Any coach worth his salt can see when these schemes isn't working and either has an alternate scheme to run that his players know, or asks for the leaders to show some creativity and lets the horses run so-to-speak. Renney only knows how to keep banging his head against the wall.

It would have taken very little to throw the Sharks off in terms of the breakout. If on just a couple of occasions the defenceman would have skated up the middle and the forwards would have changed their skating lines to accomodate, or try a breakout where the wingers skate different paths and the center is the one looping outside or across the zone...any of these little nuanced changes could have opened up the boards so that our somewhat challenged defence core would be able to make passes up the wings again...no changes came and the playbook in our own end stayed the same from the beginning to the final buzzer. Absolutely brutal.

On the offensive front, the Oilers have been utterly stymied by every single team they have faced this year that puts all five defenders in a collapsed pentagon on the inside portion of the ice. They absoutely refuse to skate through this grouping, and change nothing to make it shift to another side. Because our defencemen have not proven to be capable offensive weapons at 5-on-5, they are not a concern. Suddenly we're trying to score from behind the damn net. That's very easy to defend against. The teams that own us do it in this manner. It is absolutely brutal to watch because you see it from the very first shift. The only line that had any success against it was the Omark-Gagner-Hemsky line, who didn't score tonight because their primary triggerman (Gagner) had a pretty rough game. Then they get broken apart for playing the coach's system and have the pleasure of Belanger joining #s 83 and 89 for the shifts during the most important part of a game where you're down 1 goal...absolutely unacceptable. The kids haven't figured out how to break down this D set up on their own yet, and have to rely on powerplay chances or rush offence in order to contribute. Their supposedly experienced coach should be able to help them get Eberle open in the middle of that grouping and either force SJ to shift or allow capable passers Hopkins and Hall to find #14...but he doesn't have anything. Perhaps I'm being too harsh on a guy that has Kelly Buchberger running his forward group...NAH, he's got Krueger if he wants and could always take it over himself. That's his job.

Can the excuses Renney. You've got a ton of weapons up front and the fact that you can't help scheme them scoring chances is a shameful mark on your coaching ability.

Back to other topics...

The crowd was pretty blah in this one. I think the subpar play at home lately has finally taken the wind out of those who were still cheering this season and because of that it was very quiet (even for a Monday game against a non-rival). Really sad but at least it wasn't the Dallas game.

The goals we scored were both on turnovers and didn't really reflect any control of the game. I don't think there was any lack of try from the lineup tonight though. San Jose is a decent team that didn't exactly come in and dominate, but it still takes more than effort to break through and beat them.


- Aside from that one stellar save in the second period, he was pretty bad. It is one thing to have an iffy defence in front of you playing an inferior system, but you cannot be giving up obscene rebounds at every turn and unable to use you glove hand. That catcher is going to cost him the chance at being a #1 goalie in the NHL. The fact that he couldn't even come close to getting it on Thornton's shot was shameful. He had time and Thornton telegraphed. The first goal was horrible in that Dubnyk lost the puck despite 3 separate chances to cover up. When your goalie's idea of defending the net involves making himself small and spinning in a circle, then complaining to the ref, you don't have much hope. The third goal was another classic example of Dubnyk playing too far back and not facing the shooter aggressively. In short, I thought he was horrible tonight and the good saves he made were largely only possible due to his own poor rebound control (the 'ol save percentage boosting "Roloson Special"). Yuck. If we'd had a capable goalie, I would've pulled him after the first one. Not ready to play.

- The bright spot of the game for me. You might as well start coming up with a nickname involving bodychecking and punishment for these guys, as they dropped bombs on the Sharks forwards all night. You expect it from Smid, and he was at his best in terms of the hitting tonight, but Petry had himself locked on and with Smid defending from strong positions, decided to take runs at various Sharks. Absolutely wonderful display of making the opposition pay. Where I will dock Smid a bit is that he didn't exactly move the puck as well as he usually does and I didn't see any productive sojourns into the offensive zone. Petry on the other hand was excellent in the first and early second in terms of moving the puck, and jumping into shooting lanes in order to hammer the puck. He needs to keep doing this. In the third, he took a little too much on himself and actually messed up the forwards on a few occasions...oops. Play of note was a nice little recovery Petry made in the second on the rush where Smyth batted the puck into the netting...he made a nice defensive play there. Little things showing big improvement.

- I didn't notice Nick Schultz at all tonight. This can be a good thing for a defensive player...but why do I get the feeling that it was he who was feeding a bunch of those pucks up the wings to no one or a covered winger? I can't confirm so if anyone noticed that please post. Whitney scored a really nice goal by joining the rush, deciding to shoot, then changing his angle in Eberle-esque fashion and letting a ripper go. It was a beauty that some of our forwards could really learn from. Defensively, I didn't think he had nearly as good a game and didn't play the physical game he needs to in order to succeed against San Jose.

- Rough game for these guys. My favorite sequence of Sutton's was his adventure into the offensive zone where he rightly held the puck in a position where his linemates should have been able to get open and receive a pass...the thing was that they never really did. Too bad as it could've been very pretty. That was one of the few times all night when an Oiler was in a threatening position with the puck in the Sharks' zone. Potter probably had the worst moment of the night, with a horrible giveaway after a bit of a desperation play in the third period. Not good and at a time when he needed to be making offensive moves with the puck. In the defensive zone these guys were pretty bad all night and Sutton had a ton of chances to hit people but backed off. From a guy with a limited skillset who really needs to be physical to contribute, this is horrible.

- Eager made an excellent play on a high pass to glove the puck and generate a rush for himself in the first; only to miss the net. He simply didn't have any room and didn't make a angle-change that would have given that room to him. Disappointing that he couldn't convert on that as it looked like a great chance and he was moving with speed. Aside from that I didn't see a lot from him during the course of the game. There was a little bit of physical play but not much and he didn't get under anyone's skin that I could see. Jones had a couple solid hits, but did not get in behind the SJ defence at any point and didn't contribute to the attack. Belanger as has become usual did a whole lot of nothing. His promotion to a scoring line was a slap in the face to the other members of the team.

- This combo didn't really work for anything by making it a little bit harder for SJ to score. I know in many ways this is their primary purpose, but we cannot afford to spend so much of the game with very little chance for offence. Unfortunately, Smyth was moving slowly again tonight (aside from some hits and general meanness) and Horcoff is unable to deploy his speed at present because he is so bad with the puck. He singlehandedly screwed up several chances in the third, and it is embarrassing that he is out there when we've got 6 skaters going for the tying goal. I know this isn't his fault, but he could at least get out of the way and let the talented guys perform. His job in that situation is to win draws and get to the net. He did neither. I didn't notice Lennart except for a couple of hits and it should be noted that the bottom six combos fluctuated somewhat throughout the game.

- As I noted above, this crew had most of the few effective offensive sequences in terms of actually getting to the front of the net. Hemsky and Omark worked the boards and the offensive side of the neutral zone very efficiently in the first period and this probably should have generated a goal or two. Unfortunately for whatever reason, #89 didn't have much go tonight. It almost appeared as though he was sick or just a bit off, because he wasn't in the right spot on many occasions and made some utterly perplexing plays with the puck. Aside from a big slapper on Niemi, he was pretty ineffectual. Hemsky and Omark both tailed off somewhat after the first, and when that was combined with the breakout strategy (which doesn't play into the style of this line AT ALL), it led to a pretty weak offensive push. They did have moments and Hemsky certainly could have scored on a couple of occasions, but in the end you need results. Still, not having these guys (at least two of them) out at the end is a mistake. There is no argument for 10 and 94 over any of these 3 outside of faceoffs. I'm not sure this is the right combo, but it can work if another line is pushing hard and wearing down the D. These guys will control the puck and people will get open...but you have to convert.

- Honestly, probably one of the poorer efforts I've seen from these guys. If any group was going to break free of Renney's idiocy and take over the game, it would be these guys who could then open the door for line two, but they did not. They seemed content to stay on the perimeter and hope for a rush chance. Hall got his and made no mistake. I sure hope he learns the power of his shooting ability and stops doing that stupid backhand-fivehole garbage soon. Eberle couldn't seem to find an opening with the puck or contribute in his own zone all that much which is unusual. I still see Hopkins as being off of his peak earlier this year, but he was more dynamic in the center of the ice tonight and that is a positive sign. He also got shots away from some places that none of his teammates were able to, which is a plus.

So, another disappointment. And to top it all off, I have to miss the next three games for a work trip and when I came home I stepped on an inch long pin that was sticking out of the floor for some reason...talk about stabbing you when you're already down for the count. Oh well...hopefully this leads to massive firings of Oilers coaches and management...a guy can hope.


LMHF Report - Game #32




What a giant pile of garbage. My friend who accompanied me tonight has come to about 1/4 of the home games each season for the past 3. She figures that's the worst game she's been to. I'd be inclined to agree. Even in blowouts and bad efforts there's usually something that is even mildly entertaining. Tonight's game was the definition of boring.

A lot of people at the game we saying that they didn't see a lot of effort tonight and I'd disagree with that sentiment. It was not that we went out there and had no try, but much moreso that we went out and tried really really stupidly. I'm not sure I've seen such a confusing and awkward effort from our team in a long time.

Our passing game wasn't great against the Blues, who put on a clinic in terms of keeping their passes short and crisp while closing gaps on the Oilers as they tried to advance the puck. Dallas wasn't near as good at either aspect of the game but still managed to keep the Oilers bouncing the puck around the ice to no one in particular. If we could have connected on even a half-decent amount of the passes we attempted in the first and second period, we win this game going away. Instead, players were hesitating, second-guessing, re-routing, bobbling and basically doing everything possible to screw up. It was amazing.

One exceptionally weird thing about this game was that it probably should have ended 0-0. Both meaningful Dallas goals were horrible, they added an empty netter and then we got one in garbage time. It is not every day that you see a game played that sloppily.

Don't get me wrong, the Oilers had chances. The amount of times Ales Hemsky hit a player with a pass in a dangerous shooting area tonight had to have been at least 8-10. Hall got the puck in his office multiple times in the second period alone and couldn't do a bloody thing for some reason. Though I am usually in favor of shaking the lines up in such a game, I thought it was a mistake to take Hall off of the line with Gagner and Hemsky. They hadn't connected yet and were having some confusing/frustrating ventures into the offensive zone, but they were also generating enough chances that eventually one would have bounced in or finally come off Hall's stick smoothly. It was only a matter of time. The other lines I wouldn't have minded, but not that one. Then again, this is the price you pay with 91, 23 and 56 on the farm. All the bottom sixers you could elevate on nights when people go cold are in OKC.

I'm really sick of talking about how bad the officiating is, but I will say this; if it is true that the Oilers are getting after the officials vocally I understand, but if it isn't doing anything you might as well snap a little bit, REALLY get their attention and maybe scare them some. If you're going to passively complain and get treated the same or worse, you might as well crank it to 11 and really get something going. What's the worst that happens so long as you keep it short of physical contact? They've been patient enough with this BS all year. They play a disciplined speed game that should draw a ton of penalties, yet are grabbed, hooked, and interfered with by the Detroits, Vancouvers and Calgarys of the world and don't get a thing. Time to change the approach.

As I got into above, I didn't really mind the top line so much. They didn't connect but the chances were being generated and the puck was moving the right way. They were a couple connections off from being money. A couple of times, they hit the line with speed and went offside. Just so you know how I see this, the puck carriers job is to make sure his line hits that blue line with as much speed as possible, and he needs to make sure that puck gets to the blue paint quickly. This sometimes means extending and always means having the puck fairly forward. Gagner and Hall didn't do this and it cost the Oilers two very nice looking rushes. Hemsky was the one hitting the line at break-neck speed both times. Another time, Hall made a great back pass, opening up a lane and Hemsky was a step too late getting there. All of these guys slightly miscued and it cost the Oilers some glorious chances. These plays could have been the game. It is not good that they whiffed on them, but at least they had the opportunity to begin with.

Our second line was a bit of a different animal because Petrell played on it. While Hopkins and to a lesser extent Eberle both had opportunities, they were largely individual efforts, not including passes or even using teammates as screens or picks. This meant there wasn't much ice to play with and kept these guys from being really effective tonight. I'm torn on what to say about Lennart. In a sense, he did what he does best in terms of being positionally safe, landing some good hits and getting to the front of the net. Indeed he had a couple of really solid tips that could have gone in...but the thing is that he so messed up the dynamics of the rush attack that the odd-man situations both Eberle and Hopkins thrive on were not created. Lennart isn't good enough to do his own thing, so the Stars could effectively double team both of the other guys. That's not going to end well and it didn't tonight. One really cool thing I noticed Hopkins doing, is that he keeps making really small passes to himself on the rush. It is something I've never really seen from a hockey player and keeps the opposition very off-balance. This appears to be why he's so effective with the puck. I will say though, that he has not been the same player since coming back from his first injury.

After those two groups, it was pretty sad. The mishmash of the remaining six players does not have enough talent to make up a single line capable of putting goals on the board. This won't serve you well over any kind of averaging-out period. When some of the best passes on the night are made by Darcy Hordichuk (credit to him, in the second he was patient, kept his head up and made some truly sound decisions out there), you're not going to succeed. I maintain that without Paajarvi's speed to change the dynamic of the third line, no sustained attack is possible. Opposing checkers can simply play back and wait for the Eager, Smyth, Horcoff (or similar) combo to make a mistake with the puck. They always will if you don't let them get behind you. Horcoff was doing a whole bunch of skating and creating a whole whack of nothing all night. His choices with the puck were weird even for him. Smyth kept thinking he could make a play behind the net and the Stars shut him down easily. Eager didn't have that extra jump he needs. I will give credit to Jones as he did a good job of driving in on Dallas and always made sure to finish his check. I already mentioned Hordichuk's most meaningful contributions to the game. Belanger needs to be sat. He contributed absolutely nothing to this game, and his attempt at checking Dvorak on his goal was absolutely embarrassing. What is wrong with this guy? Seriously?

I have a hard time harping too much on our D tonight. I liked the balanced combinations and the fact that they really didn't let Dallas beat them aside from the odd Trevor Daley rush and the unfortunate run-in Corey Potter had with Khabibulin. For the most part, these guys did their job. If I had to pick one area though, I would criticize their decision-making as they approached their own blue line. Many times tonight, Dallas simply backed off and let the D rush the puck up. For whatever reason, guys like Whitney, Potter, Petry and Schultz especially decided that this meant despite the speed they were carrying, a forced pass would be necessary. I'm quite sure that at least one D man could have generated a goal with a solid rush up the middle tonight as Dallas was standing still. Whitney was especially guilty of pass-forcing, but I was certainly glad he showed initiative with the puck at times. He got set up for a fabulous chance by Hemsky and couldn't finish...odd...two games in a row where Gilbert probably would have scored...

For a guy who is defensively skilled and doesn't show much offensive potential, Schultz sure jumps up in the rush a lot. He actually does it quite smoothly (I'm sure a function of his sound skating) but just can't seem to add any pop to the finishing effort. This is really too bad. One nice thing we have going for us right now, is that both Petry and Smid are playing a mean game on D, dishing out some abuse. I just wish #5 would stop doing that side-block (he's going to get hurt) and maybe drop the gloves from time to time (he's got a nearly unblemished record there).

As for Khabibulin, did it really matter what he did tonight?

I think I had more fun tonight eating dinner, driving home, and writing this report than I did watching the game tonight. Yuck.

Call up 23.


LMHF Report - Game #31




I felt pretty good headed to the game tonight to be honest. This seemed like the kind of night where we might really storm out of the gate. I was actually surprised when that didn't happen. Silly me.

We had a whole lot of nothing going on in the first period. I'm sure some of this can be credited to the fact that STL is a good hockey team. but in the first period you also saw the Eager-Horcoff-Jones line get an absolute ton of shifts. There's no reason for this. The line isn't great defensively, has very little offensive capability, and despite the fact that all the players on it are "quick", can't keep up. This combo was a mistake by Renney that I'm sure was somewhat aided by management sending Paajarvi down (which we can debate the merits of separately) and hurt our team tonight. The lines that need to be out there in the first getting us the lead did not get enough icetime to impose their will on the Blues and break them out of their system (which is a good one).

The Blues seemed to enjoy a bunch of success pushing our breakout to the left wing with strong pressure. This ability waned as the game went on but in the first period it appeared to be quite obvious. One thing I've noticed over the course of the year is that our team always lags behind in terms of adapting its breakout. Often times, it will take until the second or third period for us to change when another squad has us shut down. That's unacceptable. Tonight it was obvious that the boards were effectively closed off and it took forever for us to try a passing game geared more towards the middle of the ice. Once we did that we were much better for a time.

This one got away from us for a lot of reasons. There were several occasions where the momentum seemed to be headed our way only to be stifled.

Smyth's major was an obvious one. It looked very clearly from the live POV that Smyth's stick got caught which pushed Polak off balance, then Smyth let up quite a bit but still managed to take his man into the boards. I can't see why this should have been a major outside of local minor hockey and there certainly shouldn't be a suspension. The thing that bothers me most though, is the way the refs refuse to make a call, and instead stand around staring at the injured player as if they're taking their cue from that. That is no way to officiate a sport.

Then we had the Hall/Hemsky collision. The game may already have been done due to the fourth goal, but this shift was really buzzing when Eberle left to be replaced by Hemsky. Ales saw Hall with the puck and read that he'd probably loop back and tried to hit a lane to the net with speed where Hall could get him the puck. Obviously this didn't work out, the puck went the other way and a penalty shot resulted. Pretty crummy turn of a events and a mistake (though one based in trying to make the right play) from Hemsky. The thing is. Renney's understanding of this was different...and completely incorrect. He seemed to blame Hall for being out on the ice too long and said something to the effect of "he should have dumped it". What idiocy. The guy has the puck on a string all shift and you're losing...you have to try to create there and the best way to do that is for your best players to have the puck on their stick.

There were many other little things that didn't go our way, including multiple chances for defencemen to score. Between Whitney (3), Barker (2), Schultz (2) and Potter (1) at the very least, all of these guys could have been on the scoreboard. I don't know why they were jumping in so much, but the pucks came to them and they couldn't finish. It doesn't surprise me from Schultz (other than that he jumped in), but it does from the other three.

St. Louis' finest efforts were reserved for the front of their own net. They made several pokes, stick lifts and positional plays at just the right times to squelch the scoring chances of guys like Eberle, Hall and Eager. Pietrangelo and Colaiacovo led the way in this department (Carlo especially).

- You know #40 is going to have a bad night when he's not coming out of his crease. Tonight he played well back in the net and got burned repeatedly because of it. More than this, he didn't look into the game at all. No focus, very slow and unreactive (at least three other pucks hit him without him even looking in their general direction), and just bad positionally as well. One of his poorer efforts and he should have been pulled after the second goal. Renney is bad for leaving his goalies in. The Nichol slapper was completely embarrassing and if that isn't an obvious sign that a goalie is off, I don't know what is. The MacDonald wrister was nothing to write home about either. He had clear looks at both. Brutal.

- I suppose this was part of the reason Renney didn't use the hook earlier. Danis made a couple decent stops but also played like you'd expect an AHL goaltender to. This is no Martin Gerber. Both goals scored against him were moving quite slowly and went past the left pad. I'm not saying I expected him to stop them (especially the penalty shot), but that doesn't mean I'm not disappointed in the quality of goals he allowed.

There is almost no point to going on. If you get goaltending that bad, you probably shouldn't win. Still, we had moments...and OTHER moments.

- I feel as though I should start with the positive no matter how limited it may be. I remember one solid pinch up the boards, a couple strong drives to the net that could have resulted in goals, and a lot of unpenalized crosschecks that surely wore on the Blues backs and patience. Aside from that, he was horrible and the major reason outside of shoddy goaltending that we lost this game. Perhaps tied for that honor in fact. He pinched horribly on multiple occasions (some of which led to goals), took a bad penalty that led to another, and generally made more work for his poor defensive partner all night. There is no way #13 should see the ice next game and I'm still perplexed as to why he played tonight.

- Made the best of a bad situation. He fumbled the puck a couple of times at the opposition blue line, but tried to play physically and did his best to cover for Barker's defensive gaffes. He did okay at this. The thing is, when you play Potter with a guy like Barker, he can't use the strengths of his game such as skating with the puck, jumping in, making plays and making some daring passes. He still managed to get to the net a time or two, but his effectiveness was limited in his role tonight. Great shot on the goal. He picks corners well.

- Made some interesting things happen, especially offensively. The slap-pass he made to Hall in third, though likely too late, was sublime. It seems to be the one play he has in the repertoire that has not been impacted since he was at his best. He also drove the net, sometimes at strange points (such as a rush with Hemsky and Hall where he overtook Hopkins...why?) but he was unable to get a strong puck at the net to capitalize. Defensively, he was just okay as he missed his check on a few occasions and didn't really impose his will physically.

- Very interesting first game from our new recruit. I wasn't expecting him to go to the net aggressively and get a couple chances but he did, which was nice to see. I don't see a lot of close-in shooting or finishing ability though as he kinda flubbed both. Defensively he relies mainly on skating it would appear. In 50/50 races, his quick start and smooth stride serve him very well and he won just about every one of these that I recall. I can only remember one "pass to no one" up the boards as someone had mentioned might be a problem. and even this one was likely due to miscommunication. He doesn't really look for the hit, but that also means he's in good position a lot of the time. I look forward to seeing more from him...though I think his ideal partner may have been Gilbert...crap.

- One of #5's weaker games in a while. He missed his check on a few occasions, including the fourth St. Louis goal. I also didn't see a lot of work on the opposition blue line, much physical play or skating strongly with the puck. I'm sure he'll rebound.

- He was also a little off tonight, but not as much as Smid. There weren't a lot of times where he skated the puck up, but there were still a couple. He hammered a shot off Halak's mask after making a nice little play that was very impressive. He also maintained his hitting for puck separation style of play, and used his size well in tonight's game. This guy's certainly improved a bunch this year.

- I sometimes wonder if Hordichuk doesn't fall on purpose when he goes for the first punch in a fight and misses. He fell after such an effort tonight and it looked a little too easy. He landed a couple of hits but didn't really do too much. That assist he got was, I suppose a solid hockey play anyway. The shift that resulted in that goal was a good one for the team, as was a shift near the same time that drew a penalty, so they were effective in this way. Petrell did a bunch of solid work on the PK, got in well on the forecheck and made an effort but couldn't get a decent shot off. Belanger wandered around the lineup as the game went on, never really doing much of anything other than very very slowly getting a shot or two on net. Blah.

- I noted some complaints about this line above. Eager was probably the best of the three, as not only did he give a good effort in the offensive and neutral zones, he broke up a couple dangerous looking St. Louis rushes including one where he was the last man back. Impressive stuff from a player like him. He couldn't get any offence going tonight, but I'm mostly going to lay that at the feet of Jones and Horcoff. Jones hit a couple people, but had the chances to do more of that and backed down. He couldn't provide a spark and couldn't use his speed to get in behind the St. Louis D. Because he was not pushing for offence and Magnus is no longer on the line, this group looked like it was playing in mud half the time. Horcoff once again struggled mightily with the puck, overskated his check more often than usual, and just didn't make a lot happen. This line was boring and not particularly great and getting the puck headed the other direction.

- Smyth was struggling from the get-go tonight, as he was not winning any races and was forced to rely on an outstretched stick to try to make plays. As those of you who play or have played hockey know, this rarely works. He also wasn't passing the puck in a particularly effective manner. Gagner was a little better but not much. He wasn't getting the puck as much as he usually does and seemed to be out of position for some reason. There was just no pop to his offensive game. Because of this, Eberle essentially had to get the puck and get himself to scoring position rather than go to that position and get it from Gagner or Smyth. This is hard work and the Blues took advantage by impeding him well and often taking the puck. Eberle still could have scored, and probably should have at the end of the second. This would have tied the game and I'd guess we would have had a very different third period. Twas not to be tonight. Good to see Eberle on the PK as well.

- This line was oh so close to having an amazing night. There were too many dynamic little efforts to count by all three of these guys and for whatever reason the finish wasn't there. Hall missed a half-empty net in the first after great passes from the other two. Hopkins was making little flick saucer passes to himself and the others all night long as well as getting shots of his own on. Hemsky was cruising the open lanes and filtering the puck to the front of the net for both his linemates and the defence. The only thing they got to show for these efforts was pretty but not enough. Hopkins skated to an open spot at the Blues blue line and just missed a solid pass effort from Schultz. He didn't peel off but instead headed to the net. Hemsky was first in, and knowing Hall was directly behind, lifted the STL defender's stick and kept him going out of the play, Hall then swooped in for the puck and fed a wide open Hopkins who made no mistake on the roof job. Beauty goal. I'm going to say here that you cannot play Potter and Barker (emphasis on the Barker) with these guys. I've never understood why coaches match 3rd pairing D with first pairing forwards and tonight was a perfect example. They had zero support on the opposition blue line and that meant the three forwards had a much larger area to control. It just didn't work out. The line broke up for a short time after the Hall/Hemsky mix-up, but got back together and looked good. I would strongly consider Gagner with these guys, or the crazy part of me would recall Paajarvi and try Hall at C. Try and keep up with those freaks. So, despite the minus-2, I think they were right on the cusp.

Disappointing but understandable loss. Inconsistent goaltending, shoddy D and missed chances will get you every time.


LMHF Report - Game #30




Ya know, I should really be happy after a win like that. We went out and pretty much shut down the highest scoring team in the league through a combo of great goaltending and some really nice play in all aspects of the game, but I'm just angry right now.

Part is that because I've had an angry day for some reason. Seems like just about everything that came up today was positively rage-inducing. If the Oilers had lost I don't know how I would have made it home without screaming or breaking something (not valuable and my property rather than anyone else's).

But we did, and if this had been a game during a playoff race and we'd put forth that effort I would have been absolutely overjoyed. From top to bottom tonight that crew knew they could win and went out and did it. That was plain great.

I am really angry at the lack of reaction to the Scott Hartnell play though. That damn coward ran and hid on multiple occasions, dodged shifts and evaded any kind of justice for the cheapest of cheap plays. Let there be no doubt that knee was in response to a hard hit earlier by an Oilers player (Potter I believe). Where were the Oilers when #91 got hit? Where were they when he left the penalty box and never should have made it to his own bench? Why did Ryan Whitney let the refs intervene? Why did the coach clearly keep Hordichuk off the ice? Talk about a horrendous reaction to a horrible play that could cost a young man who was really getting his game going, significant time and possibly serious damage. You do not let that go unanswered and if you don't want to go after Hartnell, you go slam Voracek or Schenn or someone else. You take a shot. You don't take that garbage sitting down. We are not marching to the playoffs here and to let that go because you're scared of taking a penalty is complete and utter BS.

Most of the rest of the net the Oilers actually handed the Flyers playing style quite well. They gave Simmonds the business even as he tried to hide behind that jaw guard and wouldn't shut his yap. They defended against the speed players, push the defence and managed to score on our old pal Ilya despite the fact that he appeared to be on tonight.

It is obvious that if we're able to run multiple effective lines out there, and get a decent effort from the defence, we're probably going to do well. The recent changes that we've seen in Calgary and that stayed in place tonight (until Magnus got cheapshotted) appear to be working. We're able to attack routinely with two effective offensive units and are getting strong efforts from most of the support players below them. That third line could be better, but we'll see who they call on to replace Magnus. I suspect it will be Jones in which case we'll be back to having an ineffective third line as the dynamic just doesn't seem to work there.

Lastly, and almost as rage-inducing as the Hartnell situation was the officiating. What an absolute joke. I'm surprised Taylor Hall didn't skewer a linesman and get himself suspended. He was abused more than I've seen just about any player get in that building in a long time. There were hacks, slashes, tackles and plenty of other BS all night. Nothing. Our goalie got whacked in the head and crosschecked in the back. Nothing. Multiple players tripped, blocked, held, everything you could thing of. Nothing. Blown icings (which are totally inexcusable). Blown offsides. Total and utter BS. That crew should be fined for that effort, and our coach should've gotten himself fined talking about them (he didn't).

I was distracted by some personal stuff a couple times during the game tonight, so I apologize if I miss something (predominantly in the second period) and please fill in any crucial stuff you noticed.

- Fabulous effort. His positioning was great, he didn't wander and he never overplayed the shooter. His reflexes were good and rebound control was much stronger than usual. The only time I saw him waver a little was at the end of the game when he appeared a little distracted and missed a couple easy to retrieve pucks. One of his best efforts.

- These guys were tough, skated the puck well, passed well, held their positions and got just a little bit of retribution on the Philly players tonight. I'm still not sure exactly why this pair is working (though it might be because Smid has become the kind of guy who can play with anyone) but it certainly seems to. They did a great job of tilting the ice in their team's favor pretty much all night. My favorite thing about Petry lately are his confident rushes and that continued tonight. He protects the puck quite well when he makes these plays. I only wish Smid had dummied Hartnell by the end of this. Seemed like a job for #5 if the coach wouldn't let #16 off the bench (though I'd have had no problem with Hordichuk taking a 10-game at the end when Hartnell couldn't get away).

- If one pair struggled for the Oilers tonight, it was these guys. Sutton struggled with the puck some, lost track of his position and added absolutely no toughness whatsoever. You'd think he'd drip into the rage stash tonight but then I remember that's not who he is. I'm wondering if he comes out for Peckham one of these nights...but I don't know they seem to really like him there. Gilbert was better than Sutton but also got caught wandering and wasn't as effective with the puck as he can be.

- Something observers might not notice about #44 is that he can be mean. When he gets angry, the hitting steps up, the sticks slash across people and the gloves go into the face. This is when he's in many ways his most effective and we saw that tonight through hits, toughness in front of the net, several scrums and other sequences as well. He wasn't perfect with the puck, nor did he create as much offence as he could've, but it was a good effort. Seeing this play from Whitney is a much more common sight. Aside from his under-reaction to Hartnell, he played really tough, stuck it to the Flyers and chipped in with solid offence from the opposition blue line. He was commanding the puck, which is something you haven't seen from him as much since his return. Another positive night for #6 is always a good story.

- I didn't see much at all from #s 57 and 37...they were quite invisible to me to be honest. I remember a Petrell hit or two and a PK shift or two from Lander but maybe I missed something. Hordichuk did what he could with the limited time he had. The effort against Shelley was a decent one and I can only imagine his frustration at being plastered to the bench in a game like that.

- These guys seemed to be going along pretty well until the BS play on Magnus. #91 used his speed well on both the forecheck and several backchecks, Eager was getting open in attack lanes and getting scoring chances (unfortunately he didn't cash on two that were pretty simple-looking), and Belanger was moving solidly in a support role without getting in his linemates' way. Things didn't look near as smooth after #91 left because of the loss in speed, but the efforts of the other two were still pretty solid.

- There's no question in my mind that Hemsky's game has come around in a big way. Once again tonight he was moving quickly with the puck, dangling, making plays and going to the net. The only thing I find alarming is that he doesn't seem to be finishing the plays he usually does; specifically the play where he drives the net and backhands around the goalie. Perhaps he's just being defended well but for whatever reason he couldn't score tonight. Hall's speed and better than normal reading of the play as the Oilers headed into the attacking zone resulted in some chances from some rather mundane-looking sequences which is always impressive. It was also impressive that despite take the abuse I noted above, Hall didn't get frustrated to a large degree, kept after the game and didn't give an inch until the final siren. He showed the competitor that he is tonight and I just wish he could have got an empty-netter or whistled a puck by a ref's ear to let him know he's there. On the goal he did score, I'd been bemoaning the fact that Hall was stuck at the point and the dangerous passes kept winding up on Horcoff's stick, then Hall slides down and buries one from the office. Classic. Horcoff was decent in a supporting role 5-on-5, but missed out on a ton of chances due to iffy puckhandling and bad shooting decisions. To his credit, he did actually have Ilya moving on the penalty shot attempt, I just wish that he and Hall would abandon that damn move that sacrifices all the strength and advantage you have on a goalie. It almost looked like he changed his mind half-way into the penalty shot. He's got to bear down and finish some of the chances he's getting as a result of the plays by #83 and #4. To his credit, the positioning and work are there, but he's just horrible with the puck right now.

- I've pretty much run out of superlatives to describe Eberle, who had another night where he showed you that he is the best Oilers forward. He was excellent in all areas, scored the second goal and led the absolute domination that is the Oilers PP. With this guy on the ice the game is just under control and if not for superb Philly efforts to stop him, he gets three or four tonight. Smyth was strong-ish. More okay than good. He did a lot of hustling, but was making some plays quite slowly (the pass to Potter at the side of the net after the brilliant Eberle feed springs to mind) and didn't get a lot of effective pucks to the net. He also didn't really make mistakes though. Gagner couldn't seem to get much going but the good news I suppose is that he didn't need to. There were shots directed at the net and a few nice passes, but not the hyper-dynamic game we've seen from him lately. Nothing wrong with these guys tonight, just didn't pop your eyes out. Gagner was pretty good on the PP though.

Unfortunately I have to face the reality that tonight's game may have been the last time I see Ales Hemsky at Rexall in an Oilers uniform. I will be missing the PHX game and thus tonight was it. I was hoping for magic, but I also believe it would be a massive mistake to let him go when the asking price in terms of a contract seems so reasonable compared to the open market. I truly hope my next piece of writing won't be a tribute to the guy who inspired my name, and that I can just continue writing about him in these game reports, but I guess only time will tell. I just hope that sanity, which has been so lacking with regard to this team for many years when it comes to their best players, prevails in the end. We've had too many good ones ripped or thrown away. Let it end here.

Hope you all enjoyed tonight's game. Imagine it was part of a playoff race or us chasing the division crown. Would have been an utterly amazing night. I'll take good...but amazing beckons.


LMHF Report - Game #29




Well, I think I was cautiously optimistic heading into the game tonight and LMHF#2 was thinking win...but we found out pretty damn fast that wasn't going to happen.

I think this homestand was for whatever reason contingent on that Toronto game. They fought off a lot of things and should have been able to get a win that night. In the two games since we've pretty much been listless.

I still don't understand why 4-89-14 don't get the starting shift at home. I apologize for those who listened to the radio on the way home and already heard Rob Brown go on about this (I think it is one of the first times we've agreed about anything), but we were talking about this in the first period. We were losing before that line even saw the ice. It might not have mattered with the effort they put forward tonight, but on a given night I can't see how starting that unit is a losing proposition. If you're going to lose at least do it with your guns blazing a bit.

I'm starting to question Krueger's ability somewhat. Last year he appeared to have some interesting ideas, but these games he's had responsibility for seem kind of iffy and he has trouble making adjustments. It was blatantly obvious that the Canucks were being left open in the high offensive zone and nothing was done to adjust to this reality, so it cost us the game. I think I actually saw a couple players checking their watches before remembering it was time to shoot from the point. When it wasn't the point, it was guys left totally alone in the slot. Combine this from tonight with what he was saying in the media, and he certainly doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who should be sticking around after this year is done.

Vancouver played okay. They were strong in terms of standing up defensively and got enough offensive chances to win. They certainly were off their game in the early second and combined with a stronger and more disciplined Oilers effort, this was a time when the tide could have turned but the Oilers were not up for taking advantage of this shift in momentum, so the game eventually turned back on them. You never got the feeling tonight that the team was going to get rolling. Not once.

A lot of the lack of flow to our game was on the defence once again. Not one pairing were making consistent passes. All blew defensive coverages. Once again I'd say that Smid-Petry were the strongest followed distantly by GIlbert-Whitney and Sutton-Barker. We're not going to win games where that is the case.

Up front, when you've got one line including a center who should be in Oklahoma City leading the charge, you're not going to outscore the Canucks. This didn't have to be the case, but it was.

Throw on top of all that some seriously mediocre goaltending and you've got the recipe for a lopsided loss. Those don't smell very good coming out of the oven. It was a generally crappy sports day as I watched Phil lose in a playoff on a day when no putts would drop, then watch the Oilers embarrass themselves and all of their fans against the Canucks. If you haven't been to the games or encountered them in person, you have no idea how much it stinks to watch your team make it that easy for Canucks fans to cheer. Talk about a crummy long weekend Sunday night.

- Left with an injury but didn't look to be on his game. I'm not saying he is responsible for what happened but he certainly wasn't locked-on tonight.

- For a big goalie, he sure doesn't do a very good job of making himself big. He gets beat clean on shots that have no business getting right past him and tonight was no exception. You never got the sense that he was in control. If I ran the Oilers, I'd trade both goalies away and never look back. Neither seems capable of elevating to be the kind of guy who consistently gives the team a chance to win.

- Seriously disgusting. I didn't know Barker could get worse than he has the past couple games but he managed it tonight. There was a sequence in the second period on the Canucks fourth goal I believe, where he made at least three mistakes going into the corner with an edge on the Canucks attacker and basically generated a goal himself. When he wasn't busy passing to the guys in white, he was getting out of position or getting passed with minimal effort on his was back into his own zone. With Sutton, aside from the obvious mistake on the fourth goal by Barker, you could pretty much say the exact same things and add in the stupid slashing penalty he took against Lapierre. Talk about pointless. I guess #25 at least landed a pretty big (and clean) hit in the second period, but that's the kind of thing he needs to do all night against this opposition.

- This pairing doesn't work. Seriously. Separate them. Now. Gilbert turned the puck over at least 5 times in the first half of the game, with most of those being totally unforced plays where he just made a horrible pass. You don't usually see that kind of play from him. He was also over-chasing Canucks attackers and didn't hit as much as he has in other games this season where the club has needed a boost. Whitney did a whole lot of nothing in all zones all night. This was certainly the most blah game I've seen from him since his return.

- These guys were the best of a bad bunch as I noted. Smid made some nice physical plays and actually passed the puck well from time to time, but also hit some rough patches where he was beat clean but Canucks players, bobbled the puck, didn't keep the puck in the offensive zone (thinking of a specific, easy play in the second) and generally looked a little bit off his game. I liked that Petry stepped up physically and was decent in terms of his positioning, but he wasn't as effective with the puck as he has been lately.

- The thing about Belanger that has me absolutely rattled is his offensive positioning. He simply does not know where to skate. On several occasions tonight he had the opportunity to get set up for plays created by the work of his linemates and instead looped off into some completely useless space on the ice. The few chances he did get with the puck were wasted as he slowed down and took way too much time to get that stupid snap-shot off or missed the net with his backhand. The coaching staff needs to sit down with some old game tape from his previous seasons and figure something out here. Petrell skated hard on some shifts but didn't really accomplish much. Eager took a stupid penalty and wasn't really hitting people. In a game like this, you need the Canucks to be intimidated by #55 and they were not in the least.

- Despite the goal they generated, this was a pretty bad night for this line. Smyth was sort of off and on all night. He'd have a strong shift where he'd get speed through the neutral zone and drive in deep, or make the nifty play with which he set up Horcoff, but he'd follow that up with a horrid pass to no one, getting beat to a puck badly, or getting totally out of position to create a situation where all three Oilers forwards were on one side of the ice. Not good. I know he's tired from being overplayed, but they need to figure out some method to maintain his effectiveness. This was one of the worst games I've seen Horcoff play in a long time despite the fact that he scored. He gave the puck away in the defensive zone and routinely was out of position which are two things you just don't see from him normally. Horcoff also backed away from several opportunities to hit people, and was having to chase the puck around a bunch tonight. Yuck. Jones at least made an effort and took a bit of a beating, but he should really be hitting more people and even fighting on nights like tonight. This line was bullied around by the Canucks and nothing at all was done in response even though all three of these guys should be able to take care of themselves.

- Certainly our best forward line tonight. I was skeptical of playing Lander here and I still think they'd have been better with a different C supporting strong efforts from both Paajarvi and Hemsky, but the problem is the guy they need might be Jarret Stoll or Kyle Brodziak and they no longer play for this team. Lander stepped up decently, staying mostly as a support player either playing high or driving the net. Paajarvi made a strong effort on most shifts including jumping ahead of the play more often and of course getting open in the slot for his goal in the second period. He very rarely goes to the slot so that was good to see and also good that he was rewarded with a goal on a strong shot and screen by Lander. Hemsky and Paajarvi had actually switched sides on this rush and that should be a formula that works. Hemsky nudged Paajarvi with the best performance on this line tonight, as he was routinely able to skate through and around the Canucks D, mostly passing as they were actually respecting his shot in their positioning for most of the night.

- Well, if it wasn't time to break them up when they started allowing goals in Toronto, it certainly is now. This group had a whole lot of nothing tonight and in fact seemed to get frustrated very early. Hall, who was having a decent game but not finding any results, starting attempting (badly) to hit people (which isn't so bad) and flicking the puck all over the place (which is) when he had open men. It wasn't pretty. I'm not trying to jump all over the guy and be angry, but he has to take a rough night in a different way than that. Trying to do it all yourself or having a physical fit aren't going to turn anything around. Gagner seems to have lost the magic as he was not getting through Canucks defenders, couldn't get his shot away quickly, and routinely made bad passing decisions. He was hesitating with the puck on many occasions tonight when he wasn't a few games ago and this gave all the time the Canucks defenders needed. Eberle was probably the best of the three, but couldn't get open with the puck in the slot or drive wide around anyone. Just nothing doing for these guys.

I will give the Canucks defenders credit for excellent stickwork in front of their own net. Many times tonight when a dangerous pass or shot came through, it was tipped or a stick was lifted at just the right time to stifle a would-be scoring chance. Not a good night for our crew. Hoping it is better against the Flyers.


LMHF Report - Game #28




I had to let this one marinate for a while after the game before sitting down to write. Lately there's been a lot of inspiring things happening on Rexall Place ice and tonight was sadly devoid of them. So, I enjoyed a post-game cigar (originally intended as a 'victory dance' for all you ID4 watchers out there) with a friend, had a chat and then set out for home. Now, here we are and I think it is pretty clear what happened to the Oilers tonight.

First of all, we just weren't very good. Passes were not connecting in any zone really and rushes were very hard to come by. This team thrives when it is able to generate a rush and either score directly off that rush, or force the opposition to make a mistake as the result of the rush. Tonight none of that was happening and we were unable to improvise anything else. In reality, we probably shouldn't have even got the one we did.

Major credit to Colorado tonight. They were standing up very well at their own blue line and forcing the Oilers to slow down upon entry, and when the home squad gained the zone, they forced the play to the outside and were very disciplined about keeping it there. The Oilers are not a team with a lot of strong perimeter attack players, so when you take away the play to the slot, you take away most capacity to generate offence unless our defencemen are having a good night getting the puck on net. They were not getting shots through tonight at all and thus there were no rebounds to pounce on. That's the book on how to play the Oilers right now.

It didn't help that our powerplay looked shaky and defensive efforts were not resulting puck possession. We were simply beaten tonight, no more, no less really.

- He wasn't great and it appeared that he made a rather massive blunder on the Johnson goal that changed what would have been an even first period into an excuse to lose one. If you're going to wander, you have to be able to reset yourself and it appeared he never did. The defensive coverage wasn't great on that play, but it still shouldn't have resulted in a goal. There was not much he could have done on the Olver and Landeskog goals, but we needed him to make at least one of those saves if there was a hope of victory tonight. While Colorado played a strong defensive game, they weren't offensive dynamos by any stretch.

- Once again, the effort of this pair was pretty bad. Neither used their size effectively throughout the game and turnovers were the order of the evening. I'm still trying to figure out where Barker was shooting in the second on the powerplay when he fired what appeared to be a pitching wedge way up high into the netting. I've hit lower flop shots. He is eager to shoot the puck, but on a night like tonight when Colorado is clogging the shooting lanes so well, his attempts are nothing but glorified turnovers. Defensively he was weak. As for Sutton, he was also weak defensively, couldn't move the puck to save his life, didn't have any effective offensive sojourns and also didn't stand up for Hall when he was crosschecked in the back. Leaving that job to Horcoff when #25 is on the ice is pretty sad.

- This pair struggled mightily tonight and I'd put most of the blame at the foot of #6. While the goal scoring plays appeared to feature #77 in the vicinity of the puck, Whitney spent his night lunging for pucks and getting beat without taking the man or the puck (at the opposition blue especially) which was creating all kinds of havoc for Gilbert and whichever forward (most notably Paajarvi and Hemsky on a number of occasions) to deal with. This is no way for a guy who can be our best defenceman to play. He also had absolutely nothing to contribute offensively tonight. Gilbert was just okay, but as I said, that appeared to be mainly because he was busy covering up for Whitney. One interesting thing was that the Paajarvi-Hemsky-Whitney trio rushed in again and Magnus did indeed go back to Whitney again, but this time they got the shot off and there was a much tighter gap between the group.

- These guys were easily the best of the three defensive pairs tonight. The eyes and the stats showed that quite clearly. Both were on their games defensively and did what they could to gain possession. They moved the puck okay and did some nice things at the opposition blue. I'm not sure why Petry isn't getting powerplay time with #s 13, 77 and 6 struggling as they as, because he certainly deserves it at this point. I'm not sure enough could be said about what Smid does for this team right now. He's been a rock back there all season and is even improving his offensive reads and shooting decisions. Lock that man up.

- 2/3 of this line really didn't see much ice at all. I can recall one quasi scoring chance for Lander and not much at all from Petrell. Eager had another positive game aside from the penalty he took. He was jumped up to the third line on a number of occasions and made the most of it, getting in on the rush, making a few passes and actually beating Varlamov on a couple of shots (but missing). This is probably the most effective way to use Eager. I would have liked to see him take more shots at both Wilson and Winnik, who each tried to cheapshot our guys in addition to their previous indiscretions, but I guess there's only so much you can ask.

- This was a better game from Jones as he showed a decent amount of jump, drove the net well and actually managed to corral some passes from time to time. Smyth was pretty mediocre and seemed to have an issue with falling to the ice at times during the game. I think he may have been trying a tad too hard to draw a penalty. Belanger was nearly comatose in the offensive zone. I don't know why they don't have him simply stay as the high guy in the zone all the time, because he never does anything when he gets a puck down low. It is pretty ugly.

- Not near as good of a night from this group as against the Leafs. I'd still say #s 91 and 83 were a decent bit better than #10, but they weren't able to generate the kind of pressure, rushes or chances that their speed allowed last game. I will give all of them credit for defensive efforts as they were forced to backcheck hard on several occasions, but this line has to produce offensive pressure at the very least. Magnus wasn't the driving force he was last game and didn't really get away any great shots, but he was moving with some authority. Ales struggled to find open men and forced the shooting situation a little too much tonight. There seemed to be something in the neutral zone shutting down the natural flow that existed for Paajarvi and Hemsky last game. I'm guessing they'll find it again against Vancouver. Horcoff is having a real tough time right now when the puck comes to him and he's standing still. For whatever reason, he isn't able to pass the puck quickly at the moment and it is causing him to turn it over and get caught out of position. He's also gotten away from screens and a supporting role in the offensive zone, which is causing him some difficulty. On a semi-interesting note, I finally got to check out a couple of Hemsky's sticks tonight at the Oilers' store to see what Renney and #83 are busy bickering about...I too can't see how he's able to use the thing. The blade is incredibly short, with very little curve and the stick is also extremely short and somewhat weak-feeling. If I leaned into a slapper with this thing I'm pretty sure I'd snap it in half. Weird. It is very different from the stick that Ales started with, which I quite liked and featured a strong curve and longer blade.

- This is as shut down as I've seen this crew at home this year. Aside from some chances for Eberle that were largely self-generated in the first period, they didn't have much of anything at all. Hall wasn't beating people on the wide drives, Gagner was getting the puck taken away from him, and Eberle couldn't get to the slot for a shot. Gagner looked like he had his first 'off' game in quite some time, getting frustrated at the lack of shooting lanes, passing badly and peeling away from plays too early. Hall didn't have any real passing game, which is always what shows in his strongest efforts. Eberle was probably the most consistent Oilers forward tonight, but wasn't able to will goals tonight.

A pretty simple loss where we were simply outclassed. It is frustrating because you know the team is better than that, but hat tip to Colorado, they wanted it more tonight.


LMHF Report - Game #27

We lost. To Toronto and this strange team in stripey uniforms.

Odd to face two opponents at once, no?

This is not one of those losses that will just go away. There were so many reasons we should have won. There were so many reasons we needed to win. There were so many things that went against us and we overcame them. Then, as things reached what seemed like the inevitable and glorious conclusion, it all went wrong again. I'm having a really difficult time with this one.

First off, I'd forgotten how bad Leafs fans are to deal with. It goes beyond booing the home team, shrieking like girls at every half decent play and celebrating like you've won a playoff series after the game. A friend of mine who was at the game even witness a Leaf fan on the concourse mocking a young Oilers fan who was getting sick at the intermission. How no one beat the tar out of that guy for acting that way towards a kid I have no idea. Stand up for yourselves in that rink people. No one deserves to walk in and act like those jerks did. Sure, there were some good ones who were respectful, but I'd put that number at about 5%.

Strange look of the night: the Oilers have apparently taken a cue from other teams around the league and colored the dividers between pieces of glass. They are now blue. It isn't sharp-looking.

We started this game out less than perfectly, but that shouldn't really have mattered too much. Having the other team burst out with two quick shifts might put you back on your heels a bit, but it usually doesn't turn out like that. I'm going to get one of the player reviews out of the way right now:

- He stunk. He was horrible on the first two Toronto goals and then actively battled to make even the simplest save subsequently. He should have been pulled after 2 goals or at least after the first period for that reason alone. It was horrible. Any time Toronto actually got a clear-ish chance he was dead to rights and hoping for a miracle. Absolutely brutal performance and he's lucky he only allowed 4.

The Leafs will get crushed if they somehow make the playoffs. The Oilers adjusted early on to the Leafs cherry-pick centric offence and started intercepting passes, which is when the table started to turn. Once this happened, our top two lines began charging into the Leafs zone with some real fury. Those 6 guys all wanted this game really really badly and showed it big time. They weren't all perfect but boy did they ever put the hammer down, skating through checks, holds and grabs while forcing offence and getting physical with Toronto for much of the game. It was great to see and if they'd had better support in a couple areas it certainly would have won them the game.

I know that many people are going to be ranting and raving about the officiating tonight. Those people would be correct. In the last two games against Toronto, it is unbelievable how few penalties have been called against the Leafs even as we skate like crazy and take the play to them. The picks, hooks, grabs and trips were just unbelievable out there. Hall and Eberle especially were absolutely molested on several shifts and couldn't buy a call out there. That's pretty sickening when they're working that hard. It is bad enough that so much of the subtle stuff gets missed and that so many simple calls get blown, but when it is the blatant penalties where players actually go down, that's just sad. The play that turned this game ultimately, which to my mind happened before the Leafs third goal was a perfect example. Several calls could have and should have gone against the Leafs in the sequence leading up to Jones putting the puck out of play, the worst of which was Jones himself getting a headshot. Just sickening. But we responded properly and fought ridiculously hard to get it to 3-3 and then by some utter miracle have a powerplay chance to win it at the end. We didn't capitalize, but it never should have gotten that far.

In OT we looked like the team that was actually ready to take it. We were really revved up and I'm surprised more didn't happen in that period. We all know how it ended. More on that in the reports.

- Andy Sutton made a good pass to set up the Hall goal and intimidated the Leafs on several occasions into dumping the puck rather than rushing it in. Cam Barker was mean. That is the entirety of the positives comments I can make about these guys tonight. They were horrible. I'm not sure I've ever seen two guys combine for such awful giveaways so many times in a single game. It is bad enough when Sutton's off his game and making passes to Leafs players at the Oilers blue line, but then you add Barker, who has totally lost any and all that he had going on last homestand and you have utter disaster on your hands. #13 couldn't handle the puck to save his life. One of the poorest efforts I've seen from a supposedly half-decent defensive pair in a LONG LONG time. Most damning was their inability to adjust to Toronto's constantly passes from behind the red line into the slot. This opens them up for serious physical punishment and is easy to defend, but they both failed miserably.

- First off, this pairing is wrong. Smid needs to play with Gilbert. Even though they're mismatched, both of these guys gave strong efforts tonight. Both were physical and aggressive while maintaining defensive positioning and doing some really nice things with the puck. Petry especially stepped his game up, showing once again that he is capable of skating seamlessly into a rush and making a nice little tip. I have to criticize Smid a little though...even though the powerplay never should have happened, there's no way he should be trying to block Gardiner's shot in the way he did. That was not a good choice.

- I'm not a huge fan of the way they play together at the moment but they seemed to have a pretty solid night. Neither was as physical as they're capable of, which is a little perplexing in such an intense game. Gilbert made a pretty bad play on the OT goal. The puck carrier was cut off enough that he could have either played him aggressively or hit the ice and made the block (as there was pressure from behind so Lupul couldn't stop and out wait him) but instead he made some sort of odd stick play. This was all the result of a good decision followed by a bad decision by Ryan Whitney. Good decision to join the rush in OT to make it a 3-on-1. Always go for that. Horrible decision to call for the puck (that puck has to go to Hemsky or at the very least on net and Whitney is in the best position to see that) coupled with the absolutely baffling decision to wind up for the giant slapper. That's just asking to turn the puck over and give up a winning goal. Horrible, horrible, horrible. Other than that they were pretty fine including both filtering shots, passes and slap-passes towards the net from the second onward, but man you cannot make those mistakes in OT like that.

- Certainly one of their better games with Lander and Eager a decent bit above Petrell in terms of performance. Petrell certainly made a nice read and slot pass (that could have gone to either Lander or Eager which is often the mark of the best slot plays), but he eased up a bit as the game went on and didn't play as physically as he could have. Lander got a couple really nice scoring chances, was choosing great skating lanes and really had a nice game. He could have won it for us in the third but wasn't able to pull the trigger. Eager did about the best he could. The goal was a nifty little slot pick up followed by an excellent shot at a time when we really needed it badly. His fight with Brown was a "not taking no for an answer" kind of fight and he bashed Brown pretty decently. From then on, he landed some nice hits and took the puck to the net on several occasions. There is one thing he needs to change though; he engages with the guy closest to the puck way too early and rather than beat him to the puck (Eager's usually got more speed), he slows up and tries to battle him for it. This is inefficient. Eager is a skilled enough guy to retain the puck after he wins a race and needs to start doing that more often.

- If there was a line that let the team down somewhat, I would say it was this group. They are clearly not designed for offence, but still have guys that should be able to do something when they get the chances. I'd put #94 a fair bit above the other two in terms of performance tonight. He carried them by winning battles in the corners, keeping pucks alive and putting passes into areas where he teammates either received them or should have received them. I will dog he along with Horcoff for horrible positioning on the 3rd Toronto goal as you cannot go chasing like that on a PK. Jones really struggled to maintain his speed and receive the puck tonight. There were several occasions where he was set up for breaks either by the defencemen or Smyth and he either missed the puck entirely or bobbled it. Not good. Belanger was decent enough defensively and battled for the puck but was so brutally inept when he actually got the puck that it didn't really matter. There were several occasions where he had opportunity in a dangerous offensive area and didn't even make an attempt. Looking forward to #93 returning so that these guys get broken up, though what should really happen is a recall of Omark to spill Jones to line 4 where belongs and can reinvigorate himself.

- I'd rank them Eberle - Hall - Gagner tonight. This was the first time in a while that I've seen Sam try to force some plays rather than just making them happen and being patient with the puck. I can think specifically of a play where he came around behind the net and instead of waiting for an open man or getting the puck on net he whipped it through the slot way too hard and simply hoped someone would find it. He was still good, but he needs to remain in the zone. The best thing about Sam right now? He's remembered how to skate through people and is doing so when they pressure him because the puck is away from #s 4 and 14. It takes a solid player to handle that additional pressure. Hall did a good job of forechecking, skating hard, laid a couple very impressive hits and never ever quit on this game. His goal wasn't exactly a thing of beauty but it was a very good read and predicated on hard work. You could feel it coming. Once again though, he carried the puck wide without looking for (or looking off) his passing options as he came into the zone. Eberle was open an absolute ton tonight and Hall especially did not take advantage of the chances he had to find him. When the clock had about five minutes left, I said "it's Eberle time" and implored the guys to get him the puck whatever it took. Sure enough, he gets the puck, fights off a Leaf defender with a terrific effort involving strength and dexterity of his feet, then has the presence of mind to settle himself and unleash one of the most hellish wristers you will ever see. Amazing goal. Truly an elite play. He also made a very nice move to stay onside on the Hall goal. He was going all night and really made a positive difference for the team.

- Oh, what could have been for this crew. I'm going to put Horcoff lowest on the totem pole as even though I liked his positioning, desire, the hit he threw near the end of the game after getting skewered by two Leafs and a bunch of other plays, he really struggled with the puck tonight and gave it away or bobbled it under little to no pressure after solid plays by #s 83 and 91. If #10 could have been any kind of triggerman tonight, he'd have had at least 2. Magnus really played well for all three periods. I've hardly ever seen him moving so fast and with such authority. He did just about everything we could ask of him, firing two laser beams at the net (one robbed by Reimer and the other hitting the bar), drove hard with the puck, made nice passes and was generally excellent. I loved what I saw for sixty minutes from Magnus. This was also one of Ales Hemsky's best games of the year. From the word go he was after it. He took hits, skated though people, deked several leafs out of their shorts, hit a cross bar and a post and was all-world for most shifts during this game. If you can watch that game and say that #83 wasn't driven (and I know there are some that will) then I'll submit you should cease watching the sport. Shame he wasn't rewarded.

The OT Play
- I separated this out because I thought it deserved it and I wanted to note that I really loved the way Magnus played during regulation. As this play broke into the offensive zone, Magnus is flying along and the Toronto defenceman cheats towards him because he thinks #91 is going straight to the net. At this stage, Hemsky, who as I noted was flying and is due, is flying down the right wing and suddenly has a totally open path to the front of the net, where he'll no doubt go forehand-backhand around Reimer and probably score (he converts those a lot). The pass to #83 is an absolute no-brainer hockey play in this position. The defenceman will be totally discombobulated. Ryan Whitney should be yelling for Magnus to pass to Hemsky at this stage (clearly he wasn't). If you make the pass to #83 and something goes wrong, the option to #6 will still be there so long and he can hang onto the puck. You may also get a PP as Phaneuf would have to think about hooking/tripping Whitney if he's got to play body rather than puck. That 3-on-1 should be GAME OVER just about all the time. Instead, Magnus makes the worst decision he could. A weak shot would have been better. A forced late pass to #83 would have been better because you could have recovered. Even the totally unadvisable opposite corner shot would have been better because Tom Gilbert probably would have got the puck at center ice. Instead, the pass goes to Whitney and the rest is history. Stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid STUPID play Magnus. Dammit.

Well, that's about all the rage I can muster at this point. I think the sadness is creeping in. Can't believe we didn't walk out of there the winners on a goal by #83 in OT assisted by a flying Magnus Paajarvi after another clutch effort from the superhero in the #14 jersey. Dammit.