2014 LMHF Report - Game #19




In a stinking shootout...

I haven't seen a game where the Oilers have played that badly and yet had seemingly endless chances to win against a non-joke opponent in a long time.

If they cash on the PPs in the first, they win.

If Perron scores on the breakaway (always go forehand kids), they win.

If Perron scores in the shootout, pretty sure they win.

There were others as well. Just couldn't push it over the top with that little bit of individual effort that sometimes bails out a truly bad performance. Make no mistake, I'm not saying the Oilers were good. They were far from good.

Have to go to Eakins' approach before we get to the players. Just to clarify - when I talk about Eakins and criticize his decisions, I am not saying "IT IS HIS FAULT AND IF WE JUST CHANGE EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE!", but what I am saying is that he makes a lot of mistakes that mean the team doesn't start from an optimal position to win, or adjust properly within the game. The lineup he used tonight handicapped his squad to start with - especially that he is still playing Yakupov on the 4th line, still had Lander in as well, and reverts incessantly to 4-93-14. His failure to adjust properly lay with his D. He did not trust the only pair that had a reasonable night - Belov and Marincin. Their icetime needed to be elevated in order to maximize the Oilers' chances tonight and Marincin only played 11+ while Belov got 15+. Unacceptable.

This team is so bad at home, and so bad against the sad sack East...It is truly amazing how bad they are against teams that all of their competitors are beating. Only Nashville also has a losing record against the East. Stunning.

Another stunning thing is the Oilers powerplay - specifically their complete inability to enter the zone. How do you effectively neuter a powerplay driven by skilled forwards and puck possession? Tell the D to bring the puck into the neutral zone and then tell the forwards to dump it. This "system" they are running is disgusting. They can't win the battle for the puck because the timing is completely off. Even when the puck is carried in, they are clearly all directed to stop and attempt a sideways or backward pass, despite the idiocy of trying to make a play where the defenders are concentrated. All that has to happen is for the forwards to drive deep into the zone after receiving the puck near their own blue line. This is in no way difficult.

I will say this for the Flyers - they make breakouts look easy. Theirs move at lightning speed when compared to the Oilers. The wingers carry that speed and gave the D fits trying to slow them down all night. Part of this was because the Oilers were clearly not playing a high pressure system (unlike, say the Philly PK) but still, the skill, timing and positioning involved made the Oilers look like children by comparison. Sad.


- An Oilers player shot the puck softly into the bench. Dubnyk went to catch it. It came out of his glove. I'm not joking. He can't even catch a softball.

- Very good night where he was completely left out to dry and still nearly won the game. Many impressive saves including a breakaway pokecheck followed by a sprawling dive. Lots of glove work. A great stop on a shot that hit an Oilers defenseman in front (Dubnyk is still frozen in place looking for that puck). Several stops where he made himself big and it worked out. The only disappointment of the night was the SO, where he was clearly scared of Giroux and guessed wrong on Raffl (moved his blocker under instead of up). Got plenty of applause and deserved it. Didn't come out for his star, which I respect.

- As I said, the only pair playing decently well. Marincin made two dangerous passes up the middle that were bobbled, but was otherwise quite solid and again a strong presence in the corners. He does this better than most of the roster and has shown so over several games now. Belov broke up a bunch of plays in the neutral zone and was definitely one of the best Oilers over the final 40 when most of the team was out back taking a dump. Not the offensive presence I'd like him to be tonight but solid in the other two zones.

J. Schultz-Ference
- Playing this pair for so many minutes is likely what cost the team the game. I blame Ference in a way for all three regulation goals against. He took a stupid penalty that set up the first PP goal. On the Flyers second goal, both he and Schultz were covering nothing. Specifcally Ference because he had to block the passing lane and instead just stood around debating which forward to take in an odd-man situation. On the third Flyers goal, which I know was a 5-on-3, there was zero excuse for whatever the hell Ference was doing in front of the net. Pushups? Squats? I don't freaking know but it wasn't playing hockey and it was pathetic. The only positive things he did were two rush breakups in the third period. Eakins trusts him and he really shouldn't. Right now Corey Potter, Martin Marincin, Taylor Fedun and a number of others who are not regulars would be a much better option any time the play goes to the front of the net. Far from the positive that many thought the addition of Ference might be, unless he is relegated to #6/7 and quick, this contract is going to be a huge blunder. The defensive defenseman who can't play defense. Brilliant. Speaking of defencemen who can't play D, Justin Schultz had an "off in the wilderness" night tonight. Despite a few brilliant passes, his reads were wrong, his pinches ill-timed and his defensive coverage effectively useless...yet he gets 28+ from the coach. This is the state of the D on this team.

Petry-N. Schultz
- Well, that last pair was bad. These guys were only better in that they didn't get lit up. Petry made so many boneheaded plays I can barely count. When he wasn't icing the puck, he was putting a lazy wrister on the opposing goaltender's stick, setting up a horrid line change. He gave the puck away multiple times, got burned clean multiple times and took two penalties to boot. Lovely. Nick Schultz made a number of defensive mistakes and wasn't good with the puck either.


Have to cut this one short guys as I have a long day ahead tomorrow. Please add what you thought of the forwards. I basically thought Yakupov was brutally mishandled, Lander needs to sit, Gazdic didn't get to do his job, the vet line was just okay, Perron was quiet but solid, Eberle had an off night, Gagner is still wandering, Hopkins was better but still not strong on the puck, Hall never quit but couldn't quite pull through and Joensuu needs to be playing fourth line minutes. The forwards weren't great, but they can't work with the guys who are keeping it out and moving it up. They have no hope.


2014 LMHF Report - Game #18




Did we just witness something important?

I'll readily admit that I was considering both not writing and not going to the game at all tonight. I'm not sure what made me head to the arena like always. Whether I'm a glutton for punishment, an eternal optimist or just so turned in circles by this hockey team that I don't know which was is up - it could be any and all. This team is more than enough to make you crazy.

The Jets appear to be an absolute mess. I know it was the second in 2 nights but man...Their best players had awful nights, especially Byfuglien who was victimized on multiple goals and then thought he'd take a couple swings at a small Russian to somehow remedy that...not smart. He needs some serious focusing in if that sort of performance is anything close to typical. The Jets' D as a whole turned the puck over even more than the Oilers D on a bad night. It wasn't that there was no pressure but man were there ever a lot of bad passes. The Jets are supposed to be a further down the road team with some veterans...when you see Andrew Ladd acting like such an unglued moron you know something is truly wrong. A lot of people seem to be bagging on their goalie too...I thought that Pavelec was the only thing that kept this from being a 12-2 hockey game.

I didn't see the complete 60 minute effort a lot of people saw. Don't get me wrong, the team was good enough to win for sure but for a lot of the game the outcome was in doubt and looked a bunch like the first game this season against the Jets. We fumbled that game away and either missed or were denied enough times tonight that I could see the game drifting in that direction.

The thing about this team is, while they have serious trouble with bends and climbing hills, when they see a straightaway and their foot finds the gas, they are not going to be stopped. The execution was ruthless on the goals they scored tonight. Nearly all were things of beauty.

The secret? Nothing special really. They finally went back to sending attackers through the slot and funnelling the puck there. It isn't rocket science but this team seems to have a serious amount of trouble doing it consistently. The Flames of all teams made them look completely incapable. We'll know this is something more than a momentary flash if they come out Friday and get to the middle of the attacking zone effectively. They have enough talent that they will find pucks there most every night and finish enough chances.

For those who were not watching - this is what I think happened leading up to and at the end of the game - in the second period on one of his few shifts, Yakupov was driving hard to create a scoring chance and bumped Pavelec. Nobody really noticed at the time but I'm guessing a WPG coach or player caught the replay where it basically looked like Yakupov clotheslined Pavelec. Yakupov was getting extra shifts in the third and - as he often does - concentrated on skating hard, finishing his checks (the idiot stat man gave him 2...TWO...he probably had 8-10) and trying to create chances. He ran into a number of Jets and on one shift where he was particularly causing a ruckus, Mark Stuart tried to hit him high. Luke Gazdic was only a few feet away and having none of that, so he jumped right in and fought Stuart. Yakupov changed nothing and was still getting shifts from Eakins. Yakupov made the play to Hall at the Oilers blue line, sending them away 2-on-1 to create the 6th Oilers goal. Hall looked for and then made a perfect pass to Yakupov who buried it after beating Byfuglien, and got two big slashes for his trouble. To his credit, Yakupov turned and stared the big moron down. Byfuglien went off giving the Oilers a PP. Eakins sent Yakupov right back out to get another one, probably thinking that things would die down. Then Andrew Ladd decides he's going to blatantly ignore "the code" and go after Yakupov with his stick on the draw. This is the exact opposite of what you expect from a guy like Ladd based on reputation. I really didn't get it. Then for some reason Bogosian thinks he has to stand up for Ladd (??????) and spears Yakupov. Talk about special. The crowd went insane for #64. I was a little disappointed that he neither got a star nor credit for a fighting major.

So there we were, the Oilers won 6-2. Amazing how things can turn over the course of three nights. I have no idea what to think of where this team goes right now.


- UGLY on both goals. The first shot through the wickets was very Roloson-esque in that he didn't go down in the butterfly properly. He also severely overplayed the second goal, allowing the tip in at the side of the net. It is very true that Lander had no business not having his man, but still no excuse for the goalie to be out of position. Aside from those two he was excellent in terms of both some strong key saves and moving the puck. It makes such a difference to have a good passer back there.

- Probably the best game I've seen from him since he was injured a couple seasons ago. He broke up several rushes, played well in the corners and settled back into his role on the powerplay decently. It wasn't the Corey Power Potter Play for sure, but it was much improved over other efforts this year.

- No big mistakes tonight which is about as good as I think he gets. He did alright on the PP and maybe made the forwards think a little harder about their passes to the clue line. I still hate having him back there though. He stood up when called on late, which is certainly something.

- Struggled with the puck at the opposition blue line which is unfortunate. A lot of bumbling. He was strong defensively, physically and with his pinches though.

J. Schultz
- The first time I can say that he honestly looked dynamic in quite a while. He was jumping into the play at the right times rather than just for the hell of it. Passes were crisp. Good read and pass to set up the Gagner goal. The only thing he needed to do better was to get his shots through from the point. He just wasn't firing it.

N. Schultz
- Invisible, which I've concluded is a good Nick Schultz night. No glaring errors serves him well.

- I was glad that he was able to convert Yakupov's pass because he'd been given an absolute gift by Hemsky early in the game and somehow missed by a LONG way. I mean it was ugly. He didn't have much chance to miss on his goal, but the read that got him in position was lovely. He needs to do more of that. Pretty solid D on a night when he had some tough forwards to deal with.

- I honestly didn't see much from Lander aside from his missed check on the second WPG goal. I'd really like to see Arcobello get back in on this line now that the wingers have had a game like this. Yakupov may have had the most produtive sub-7-minute game in history. The setup to Petry will be a matter of debate. It really looked to me like he looked and saw Petry then made an absolutely perfect slap pass to a spot where my grandmother couldn't miss the net, but his reaction was kind of subdued so I'm not sure it may have been a bit of a fan. Either way, that shift with he, Eberle and Perron on the ice changed the game by getting it to 4-2. The floodgates were open after that goal. Yakupov's goal itself was an example of really hard work in his own end, getting the puck to Hall with a second or third effort, then absolutely busting it to the net for the goal. I've already covered some of the shenanigans that ensued but needless to say if you didn't love #64 before, you should now. The guy plays tough, hard hockey and when Eakins figures out how to let that happen, the man will not be stopped. I applaud that Eakins sought to give Yakupov extra ice tonight after the result was becoming clear. He made the most of it and put up a number of solid shifts. He did have one sequence where he struggled in the defensive zone because he was trying too hard, but that can happen quite easily when you've been on the bench most of the game. Gazdic handled an enforcer's job better than I've seen an Oilers player do it in a LONG time. With the score 5-2, he saw a WPG player take a shot at Yakupov and didn't ask nicely, didn't wait, just went at him. Got some good shots in too. That was perfect. Then he kept up the chatter in the penalty box when he knew he had an unstable WPG group in there across the way. Perfect. I just wish Eakins had sent him over the boards for the last shift with Byfuglien on the ice. Question - do you just run up and crosscheck the guy in the neck at that point or do you go hard to the net with a big smile on your face and wait? I'm guessing the latter.

- Another game where the two vet wingers were excellent. Smyth worked really hard this game and made some things happen that he hasn't in a long time. His damn paddle-stick and slow skating stride kept him from probably 3 or 4 goals and two breakaways, but at least the puck was headed in the right direction all night. Gordon read his role perfectly and was the support man all over the ice for these guys. He just plays the game the right way whether the team is winning or losing. Hemsky was sublime. Every time he is placed on the right side of the PP good things happen. It is incredibly stupid that coaches go away from this. He is more comfortable shooting from that side and showed so tonight by establishing his shot early. That led the WPG PK to expect a shot when he fired a perfect laser pass to Eberle for the first goal of the night. Amazing play. He set up both Smyth and Gordon multiple times the rest of the night. Excellent game.

- Eberle and Yakupov were the two guys who really impressed me by going after Byfuglien in the corners. They battled him hard for the puck and even though they didn't always win, they muddied the water enough that there was no smooth play for the Jets to make and Byfuglien had to work much harder than he likely does normally. Eberle was very strong in the offensive zone tonight and really seemed into the game. Make no mistake, having only a regular visor made a huge difference for Gagner. I'm convinced he doesn't get his goal with it on, and the bumbles and hesitation that have marked his game lately were gone. Was he perfect? No, but for the most part Joensuu and Eberle covered him defensively and he could play an offensive support role. The puck funnelled to the net and that led to offence. Very nice. Joensuu was up and down. There were times where he fit in very nicely, grinding out the play and finishing checks. He also got behind the play a few times though. He'll need to work at it to keep up with these guys. I'd rather see Yakupov get a shot so long as he knows the kind of game he needs to play. That might lead to defensive issues though. I don't know. It's a tough decision.

- Very good line. They were smooth enough all night that I honestly don't have much to say. You knew they would break through eventually and they did. Perron's goal was very nice. Hall's was beautiful - he forced a turnover with his forecheck in the corner then headed straight to the scoring area. Hopkins made a wonderful pickoff and then calmly fed hall the puck. Just perfect.. Liked this combo a lot. I'd rank their performances Hall-Perron-Hopkins. Hopkins can still be better. His shot is still missing.

The rollercoaster continues. Maybe we just saw a team come together. Maybe we just saw the youngest and most talented of the young forwards achieve a major breakthrough. I don't know...but we'll be there watching I'm sure.


LMHF Report - Game #17



St. Louis - 6

I'm starting to think that most everyone has no clue what's actually going on with this team. I would have thought that everyone watched the Ottawa Senators on their epic adventure from horrendous to decent hockey team that won nothing. At this stage, even that would be a victory for the Edmonton Oilers.

Eakins certainly doesn't get it. The guy with a worse record than George Burnett when he got canned only got two questions from the sad sack Edmonton press core tonight and in his answers managed to reveal that he's wandering in the woods at this point. When you've reached the point of only having questions and no answers, you might as well be done. He also praised the team's play in the first. Sure, they were pretty good. The thing is, if your game plan when played to perfection results in zero goals for and in fact you come out of the period losing, there's something very wrong. It might be that your team is much worse than you think - might be that your plan is wrong - might be that you prioritize the wrong things. No matter which of those or other possibilities it could be, you are not on the right page.

Looking at the first goal against, which effectively was the game (which might be the saddest thing about this "team"), Eakins couldn't even get the analysis of that right...everyone is looking at a bad change. Sure, you don't want to make bad changes. It doesn't come up if Eakins doesn't have Andrew Ference on the PP. This is bonehead-stupid for a myriad of reasons, but mainly because Ference is a bad shooter and passer. Of course he forced an inappropriate shot that rang the boards and went directly to the STL player coming out of the box. He then went back in front of his own net and effectively did nothing while the Blues scored. That choice by the coach and sequence by the captain was the problem. Neither seems interested in taking much responsibility for anything. Eakins is always either silly-positive or asking pointless questions, and Ference can do nothing but talk about the fact that "some guys here have been losing for a long time" despite the fact that he can't play D effectively.

Watching the Oilers play against strong teams this year, specifically those with a strong defensive system that keeps opposition forwards out of the middle, has been amazingly frustrating. There is a complete and utter inability by the Oilers offensive players to break down the defensive walls, and ZERO adjustments in strategy from the coaching staff. The plan is either to hope for a massive breakdown or fire idiotic shots at the opposition's legs all night. Tonight it was the latter. I'm sure some Blues players have mild shin bruising. What a victory...

You knew this one was over at 2-0 if you didn't at 1-0. The way the team had no idea how to respond...as if they knew they must be perfect to beat the Blues...you cannot approach a game that way. Even last year, the team was capable for a decent amount of the season of having an offensive outburst that would bail them out. How many times has that happened this year? How many times at home? Maybe one?

The powerplay is a sad joke at this point. I don't know of another team that shoots so badly from the blue line yet continues to attempt the strategy. The team also won't set up a shot from the middle (which is easier to tip as well as put on net), won't set up in the faceoff circles and won't drive the net. I'm not sure how exactly you hope to score without doing one of those three things. That they also allow so many SH goals is just amazing. I've never seen a team so skilled at letting the puck escape the zone without control while outnumbering the opposition.

In case you haven't figure it out yet, no player reviews tonight. There is no point. Everyone was varying degrees of terrible.

Tonight was one of maybe two or three games I've ever been to where I thought of leaving early. I seriously considered leaving with about 17 minutes to go. I suspect if my wife and son weren't on their pre-Christmas family tour of southern Alberta I probably would have headed out. There's just very little point wasting any time after the first period right now. This is not a team that knows how to win with 10 great minutes. Or 30 decent ones. They have no clue how to swing the pendulum.

I'm seriously considering the status of my season tickets at this point. If you know how bad things have been for the past number of years, you know how far gone things seem to me. It is one thing to sit through bad hockey with some light at the end of the tunnel. I see none right now. I see an organization completely adrift, poisoning any good that comes its way. I highly doubt the high draft picks management is relying on to take them to the top will stick it out much longer. Why would they? With the way that "top line" got beaten on tonight, I don't think they can take anyone to the promised land for quite some time if ever. Why stick it out here?

You know what I miss? The team that scraped and clawed to get in every year. Why? Because the only reason that team didn't improve and win was salary constraints. It had nothing to do with not having #1 draft picks in the lineup. In today's system that team could add in the offseason and the deadline, while keeping good players and challenge for the cup. This embarrassment we must watch cannot. I seriously question whether it ever will.

Not looking forward to Monday.


2014 LMHF Report - Game #16




Boston's a good hockey team with a wide assortment of skilled hockey players. I think we all know this - but that doesn't change the fact that they were ripe for the picking and got away with one tonight. Big win for them playing through the flu and leaning on Chara, Iginla and a goalie I'd never heard of. Chad Johnson had a hell of a game tonight. This wasn't one where the Oilers made an iffy goalie look good by putting a bunch of bad shots on net. They were pretty good at getting chances tonight. Not as good as early against Carolina but should have been good enough. They came close a bunch and the rebounds were certainly there.

Random story - man are the concession workers slipping. Not only were there not hot dogs ready as we stood at the front of the line in the second intermission, the cashier just up and left his post. The guy behind us in the line was actually able to just walk right into the concession as a goof. He could easily have taken free stuff. Not one of the people back there noticed or cared. What a joke. Next we went down a level and waited in the slowest line ever for some truly inefficient service. It was amazing even by Delaware North/Northlands standards. This new building can't come fast enough when we're talking about the experience at the games. Wow.

So I hear the coach doesn't think the PP is bad? It is at the very least set up to fail. Low percentage passes through multiple defenders and only one D who also happens to not be able to defend the 2-on-1 or control the puck at the top of the point??? That's not going to work. Larsen is not Chris Pronger. He's not even Boris Mironov.

It was a relief to me to see that the Oilers weren't really pushed around tonight. Boston did control a lot of the area near the nets, but the Oilers got there enough to have a chance to win. That's what I was looking for tonight.


- Do I even have to say it? Well, apparently I do because there are actually people defending aspects of his performance tonight. Unbelievable... Even before he allowed the dump-in goal (and make no mistake, that's what it was), he had nearly bailed into the wrong corner on a previous Boston shot. He was not ready for this one. Expectations have been lowered so far with this guy that if he makes an average NHL save, it looks grand. That is so sad. It's like how Ryan Potulny can look like a strong NHLer on terrible hockey team. On the second Boston goal, the Schultzes were out of position and Sam Gagner was covering no one, but that doesn't excuse Dubnyk for being so far back in his net. He has no chance on a good shot or a moderate screen from where he was positioned. Third goal, good play that the D played terribly. I still hate that Dubnyk laying there on his butt. Slide across and stay up so you at least have a chance. Maybe Marchand scores and maybe he doesn't, but the fundamentals don't hurt. Flopping when your last name isn't Hasek is one of them. Should have been pulled after the first goal. Eakins needs to discover his inner Mike Keenan. Keenan was never shy about pulling the goalie and Dubnyk tips his hand very early in terms of what kind of night it is going to be.

- I stood and cheered when he made a routine glove save and actually kept the puck in the glove. That's how bad things are right now. He faced the couple testers he saw well, moved the puck a few times and was just solid. Good enough that they had a chance to come back. He should start until Bryzgalov is ready.

- He was solid but quiet aside from a couple really bad shifts during the second period where he made some really bad defensive coverage decisions and couldn't pass all of a sudden. He led of a few minutes where the Oilers suddenly forgot that you don't make lateral passes all the way across the ice in the neutral zone against a team that good.

- He got in a few faces, laid some solid hits and was generally pretty good. Would've liked to see him on the powerplay tonight, especially after they gave up the SH goal.

- Played the two 2-on-1's he faced terribly, one resulting in a goal and one not. You cannot sit stale in the middle as a defenceman. If you go down, as Larsen tends to do, your last move must be toward the puck carrier and you need to be angled toward him. If not, it is quite easy to get the puck through. Bobbled the puck a bunch on the point during the PP. Part of this isn't his fault as the Oilers are currently set up to attempt a pass through two defenders to the point, which is very risky and at the very least leads to pressured possession. Not what you want to have happening. Larsen got pushed around a bit in the corners as well, though not as much as I expected. Just an okay game from him.

- Well, tonight at least he made a couple strong defensive plays to even out the fact that he once again stood around in front of the net taking no one on several occasions. I don't know how a guy who is clearly known for leadership and D could be so bad in this area. I notice him get beat this way in literally every game.

J. Schultz
- Didn't really get the offense going in any meaningful way. Don't remember him moving the puck particularly well or rushing the net. He needs to do those two things very well to have strong games. What's wrong with him right now? Just NHL growing pains maybe?

N. Schultz
- Made a couple strong defensive plays early, then went back to getting owned. Survived but wasn't very good. Now that I think about it, maybe Justin bailed him out. Not too sure.

- Jones contributed one thing to tonight's game - he picked Krejci at the blue line on Perron's first goal. Aside from that he was off his wing and kept missing the puck along the boards. Lander didn't seem to do anything. Gazdic contributed to the effort tonight. Taking Lucic off with him is about the best tradeoff the Oilers could expect and good on him for drawing the fight out of #17 with the Oilers behind. Double good that he landed a number of really solid shots in the fight. Followed that up with a couple decent forechecking shifts. He's not going to do much more than that!

- This line did some nice things but didn't really threaten. If I remember right, Yakupov's best chances came before the change. He got a couple decent shots away and his play with the puck actually improved after the switch but he couldn't find the chances. Joensuu did basically what is asked of him, got in the Bruins' faces, took a colossal beating in front of the net all night (especially from Chara near the end) and skated well with the puck down the wing. Liked his effort a bunch. Gagner not so much. He got a breakaway chance on Johnson and looked surprised to have the puck. Didn't get into the shooting lanes, didn't shoot, didn't move the puck well. He needs to be so much better than he is playing right now.

- Liked this combo working together as they are very responsible on the ice. Arcobello does struggle to keep up at times but it could certainly be much worse and #s 83 and 4 aren't exactly slow boats. What was missing from these guys, oddly enough, were the flashy plays tonight. They were trying to grind it out more than anything I suppose. That's not exactly playing to their strength but they did okay with it. Needed more work to get the puck to Hall in the shooting areas. Sure wish Arcobello had a shot to go with the rest of his game. Loved the shift where Hemsky got under Marchand's skin and drew a stupid penalty.

- Well, David Perron has been the most consistent and best Oilers forward this year. Tonight was no exception. The first goal was a gorgeous individual effort from the neutral zone onward, zipping past several Bruins then using one as a partial screen as well. Perfect shot there. His second goal was interesting as he was able to hold off Patrice Bergeron and execute a one-handed wrap around at the same time. Johnson helped by being extraordinarily slow to see what was happening but still it was an exceptional play. Two wonderful goals. Couldn't get the third despite driving hard to the net and drawing the Bruins' ire the rest of the game. Hopkins was okay but kept missing the net with his shot. He'd taken this out of his game to some extent earlier this year but it seems to have crept back in. That's too bad as he really could've helped the cause tonight. Eberle had a mixed game for me...he seemed to be in the right place a bunch of the time but just a half-second off. Rebounds, shooting chances, even defensive coverages. Just not quite there which is too bad. Certainly got robbed by Johnson a couple times.

In the end I'm happier with this effort than I was against Carolina. They were outplayed in the goaltending department. That's really it. How they're supposed to walk into games knowing that they need to score 5 in order to win and feel confident rather than nervous I have no idea. When Bryzgalov gets back in and is given the ball, we'll see a much more real take on what this squad might be able to do. They need to upgrade on D, no question, but man what a couple big saves a game wouldn't do.


2014 LMHF Report - Game #15




Don't get me wrong, I'll take that over the Calgary or Phoenix games any day. Tonight featured entertaining efforts, some highlight plays and a nice amount of goals. Tonight was also a much closer game than it should have been for a number of reasons, but one in particular. He's the first player reviewed in tonight's report.

Getting away from the goalie, let's talk about the powerplay. Yes it produced the winning goal, but it is making too many mistakes. The default play is never to skate it deep or drive the net. This is insanity and when it is this consistently observable, it means that play is coached. They have all kinds of trouble getting into the zone and set up because of this. Once you miss that first window, it only gets more difficult. Even sometimes when they do get set up, they make horrible passes in the direction of the point, where either an opposition player is standing or an unprepared and ill-equipped Oilers defender is ready to bobble the puck or miss the net with a weak shot. That isn't going to work. This powerplay also doesn't move. I couldn't believe I was watching a 4-on-3 PP in OT, stand there in box formation making itself easy to play against and not attempt to break into the middle. They are incredibly fortunate that Eberle got three whacks to score the winner. That design was terrible and gave no secondary passing options.

Did the team back off? Probably late. I didn't see it before the latter part of the third. Instead they'd reverted to some old, bad habits and also got horrid goaltending. You do get nervous when you think you cannot allow a SOG. They stopped trying to drive into the slot, which gave them success and chances in the first and second. Why you'd revert back to the Calgary gameplan I have no idea. Should it have mattered? Probably not. Carolina is a pretty bad team with subpar goaltending at the moment, a weak D and not enough offense to bail them out...they remind me of another team just on a different scale.

Not many penalties tonight but a couple of ugly ones. I didn't see the Potter play, but Hopkins nearly got himself hurt by turning his back to the play. Not worth a two minute powerplay to have your neck busted but these guys keep doing it. I'll never understand what made that play acceptable and removed the need to protect yourself at all times on the ice.

But hey, we did win.


- This man is simply incapable of doing the job asked of him. I had a guest with me tonight who doesn't get to a lot of games. I explained to him that the Oilers problems this year have been centered around defense and goaltending. Too many times, they need 4, 5, or even more goals to win. Mid way through the game I said that they'd win so long as that guy (point to Dubnyk) doesn't cave. He did. This has been way too common this season. On the fourth goal, a Skinner slapshot that was never headed low, Dubnyk went down. All he had to do was stand up and not be so far back toward his net. On the Eric Staal goal, he had a defenseman that while not back far enough to make a proper play, did still take away the drive to the net. All Dubnyk has to do is stand tall while cutting down the angle and Staal can't beat him. Instead he plays his angle wrong, something that he's done many times throughout his career, and flops down. Absolutely terrible. This Jordan Staal goal started with a terrible effort in the corner from Gagner, who also missed his assignment in front of the net, but again Dubnyk is down, back, and blocking nothing. Ruutu's goal was less his problem, but he did allow a big rebound, then a shot that went right through him because he was flopping down rather than in good fundamental position. He probably made 3-5 very good saves, and a nice play to get the rush going before the OT winner, but the team never should have been in that position. For this team to have any hope against a squad that can keep forwards out of the slot most of the night, Bryzgalov needs to come back and be the clear cut starter. Way too many nights like this for Dubnyk.

N. Schultz
- Ugly effort in front on the first Carolina goal. He was doing nothing and covering no one. You cannot get caught like that and especially on the powerplay. There is a very specific job description for the Dman in the low box, and it doesn't involve staring at your feet. He settled down somewhat the rest of the night, but looked to be scrambling on a few occasions.

- I feel like a broken record, but overmatched in front of the net again tonight. He never has position and allows far too many tips/screens/rebound chances. Better moving and skating with the puck tonight though. No glaring opportunities generated by guys skating by him.

- Fairly typical Potter game since the injury. Good in the corners - the man can win battles, bad in front of the net because he's too passive and gets in too close to the goalie. Just mediocre at moving the puck and no getting the puck to the net.

- Aside from a semi-sloppy play on the Jordan Staal goal, He had a fairly strong defensive game. Didn't see him do too much on the opposition blue line though, which he needs to do to be effective.

J. Schultz
- Did I miss something or did he have a really quiet night on the ice tonight? Just didn't see a lot of, well, anything.

- Quieter night from him as well. Made a mistake on the Skinner goal for sure and was pushed around by the Carolina forecheck at times. Also struggled to reconnect with the powerplay. Hall specifically couldn't find him as he tended to drift on the blue. Liked that he tried to go to the net but didn't like the execution. He just doesn't have the shot for it.

Gazdic- Lander-Jones
- Not much going on here. Both Jones and Lander are getting their icetime PKing right now and that didn't happen tonight. Not effective on the forecheck.

- I liked this line despite the fact that #s 26 and 6 both deferred to Hemsky for most of the night. He had to solo a number of his offensive chances because the other two weren't keeping up with the play. A couple of these efforts were highlight of the night material if finished off, but unfortunately Cam Ward stopped a wonderful deke and a Carolina defender made an excellent whirling pokecheck save to prevent a gimme for Hopkins from Hemsky. He played a really solid game and moved the puck in the right direction all night. Arcobello was quieter, but got to the slot from time to time and set up Joensuu's goal with a great little forecheck, move on the defender behind the net and pass out front. Good on #6 for driving to the high priced real estate. He read that sequence perfectly and capitalized for what should have been the key put away goal. I hope this line stays together for next game, but that Joensuu and Arcobello take it upon themselves to play a little more assertively. Hemsky will find them if they get open.

- Not the most rambunctious game from Perron but it just wasn't needed tonight I suppose. His effort was certainly there and he went to the right places including winning battles on the forecheck. He was fairly out of sequence on the powerplay though and never really got anything going. Eberle and Hopkins also struggled here, especially #14 who made some horrible passing choices. Hopkins was going to the scoring areas with intention to shoot more than I've seen him doing in a long time. It paid off with a nice goal and there could have been more. This line did get to the front of the net early by focusing their play to flow to the slot, but back off that later in the game. I'm really not sure why. It was working very well.

- Bad game defensively for Sam Gagner. He got burned on two of the Carolina goals and also contributed to the puck heading the wrong way on the PP on several occasions. Hall did this as well. Yakupov actually kept things pretty simple. Hall's goal in the first cements for me that we can place a check mark next to "beats goalies clean with wrist shot" on his review. This wasn't always the case for #4 and he missed high a ton during his first 2 seasons. Now he has the thing under control and hides his target selection until quite late. He beat Ward very smoothly after Yakupov pressured and passed the puck to Gagner. Yakupov's goal wasn't as clean, but came from the Oilers getting the puck and man to the high scoring area. They did this more in the first 10 minutes than the whole game against Calgary. This line led the charge. Yakupov also rang a slapper off the post on a similar set up later. These guys were certainly good enough offensively, but drifted as the game went on and couldn't deliver the finishing blow on the 5-minute power play. I like what they do as a combo, and Hall does cover up some of the mistakes, but Gagner really needs to get to work on his game everywhere but in front of the opposition's net.

In the end, an ugly win. If this were the playoff race I'd probably be jumping up and down. As we're a long way from that, I'm kind of disappointed. They made an easy win look very, very difficult.


2014 LMHF Report - Game #14




Well, that didn't last very long. I'm starting to think this team might not have the capacity to get on a roll. The 07-08 and 08-09 teams both had periods where they looked like they may never lose again. I haven't seen that from this core group yet once. They are always several precious steps from falling backwards into the crevice again.

A good team walks into tonight's game with a ton of confidence after the 8-2 win, knows its opponent is in the second half of a back to back during a long, losing season, and dispatches them in the first period, coasting most of the rest of the way to take care of business on HNIC.

In case we had any delusions floating around...the Edmonton Oilers are not that hockey team.

I won't take tonight's result fully away from Calgary. I've seen very few teams as committed to keeping their opponent out of the middle of the offensive zone as the Flames were tonight. The Oilers helped out a ton by taking the path of least resistance (the outside) and then either taking harmless shots or making insanely stupid cross-blueline and backward passes in the offensive zone. How these guys couldn't learn from the way they attacked the net the other night I have no idea. In the top 6, outside of David Perron, not one guy showed any appetite for taking the puck to the net until the last minute of the game. This is with multiple powerplays for...it isn't like the Oilers spent the night slogging away five-on-five.

I honestly don't know what they are doing as they enter the attacking zone. It is too odd and too constant to be a spontaneous decision of the players.

One thing is clear - other teams show a complete lack of respect for the Oilers' point shooting potential and this season they are right to do so. No weapons back there right now. Belov misses too much, Petry takes too long, Justin Schultz has given up, Ference can't shoot, Larsen's too weak and Nick Schultz I don't believe realizes that he is allowed to shoot the puck anymore. The D know how to move to the net - there was a sequence tonight where both Justin Schultz and Martin Marincin went to the slot at the same time - but finishing has not occured this year. This is a black hole where offense goes to die. I'm going to continue to advocate strongly for blowing up the D. For whatever reason tonight made me miss Pronger more than I have in a long while. He'd do that wobbly walk under the derrick as the last guy on the ice and you just knew there was a chance we'd win every single night. On a bad PP night, he'd go stand in the middle of the ice and just blow one by everybody. We have absolutely no one who can have that impact on the team's psyche and on the game. #1 picks and all.

Odd that even after playing what I'd consider a rather pathetic 59+ minutes where they mainly just wore themselves, this team still had a chance to win. Calgary didn't really attack all night, which again is somewhat on them and somewhat a credit to our 5 standing D. They didn't do a lot but they also didn't give up a lot of odd man rushes. Then again, neither did the Flames. I haven't seen that much scrambly play and botched...well...everything, in quite a while now.

On the losing goal, our forwards were gassed after Eakins didn't elect to use his timeout. He'd had 6 forwards on the ice for the last minute and then sent them right back out in OT. That's a big strategic mistake in a game where they had already been frustrated and wearing themselves out. I'm not saying their effort were smart...they were all over the damn place in fact.

- Played good enough for this team to win. Down too early on the first goal of course. Absolutely embarrassing trying to play the puck behind his own net. He fell, threw a stick, gave the puck away, missed it and I believe once actually made one of the simplest plays a goalie is asked to make. I'm not bagging on him because as I say, he was indeed good enough, but how can a professional be so bad at a basic requirement of the job?

- Pretty medium game from him. Had some very off shifts in the second. That still doesn't mean Eakins shouldn't have played him more than 15+ mins on a night where they only have 5 D. He needed to see more ice. No reason for Justin Schultz to play over 27.

J. Schultz
- He was either gassed, unfocused or something, but not very good tonight at all. Very little impact on the game for the positive, which is amazing when you play nearly half of it.

N. Schultz
- Just okay defensively, and didn't make any strong offensive plays.

- Just all over the place. Excellent skating with the puck and some really nice passes. Horrible when he faced a couple two-on-ones. He has no clue what to do. Not even close to a threat to shoot tonight. Bobbled the puck a bunch.

- Was doing fine until the headshot.

- Beat again for the Flames first goal. Apparently he thought there should have been a penalty called? I didn't see anything but it was at one of the angles where it is harder for me to tell. Looked like Ference being Ference to me. Okay otherwise.

- Did he play? Not really. Not sure why he didn't go punch someone in the mouth after the Petry play.

- Ran around and accomplished absolutely nothing. Par for the course.

- Drew a penalty, did okay on the PK despite Jones trying to force him to play both point men on several occasions.

- Very quiet night and a big fat ZERO on the dot. Yikes. Just couldn't seem to get his feet going or have any impact in the offensive zone. That's not going to translate well for him. Had a couple of good shifts on the wing with Hall and Gagner though.

- Slower and struggled a bit tonight, but no big mistakes or stupid penalties for him tonight. I consider that a success for Smyth at this stage.

- Kind of all over the place like Larsen. There were points during the game where he was clearly the Oilers best forward, then there were times where he really struggled. He at least tried to push to the net on a few occasions, and also generated the tying goal by getting a puck on net from the point when no one else seemed interested at all.

- His early spark and driving the net to annoy Calgary should have provided his teammates with some spark and attitude but this never came to pass. Perron struggled to get into the shooting lanes for himself tonight and no teammates were able to find him. He gave the puck away more than usual tonight in the corners, which might be the one weakness to his otherwise solid game. I'll deal with an occasional unsportsmanlike from him. At least he doesn't skate away or hide.

- Yikes. Rough game in the offensive zone tonight. Couldn't get a step on anyone and didn't get any really good shots away save for a powerplay shot off the post (Perron had one on the same shift as well). He needs to be much better.

- Pretty much the exact same as Eberle, but maybe even less effective. He is skating to really weird spots and losing the puck with almost zero fight at an alarming rate this year. Not sure what's wrong.

- Some good shifts, some bad ones, at least he was around the net I suppose. Made some UGLY passes though, which have sadly been a trademark of his game this year. This gets worse in games like tonight's where he is getting frustrated.

- Just not ready yet. Keeps getting whacked in the face. Where's the slapper? Where are the dekes? I wish we had Grabovski instead...

- Pretty bad game I must say. He's really struggling.

That's all I can muster tonight. Please add if you have additional insights.


2014 LMHF Report - Game #13




And now for something completely different...

I imagine if this team were being described on Top Gear, it'd be one of those extremely finicky italian cars they love so much. It doesn't run reliably, or often, but when it gets going, man it is something.

Tonight wasn't a classic dominating performance from start to finish and it didn't showcase one man taking aim at the record books, but it did show what happens when a team figures out a goalie and stops choking the life out of their hockey sticks.

The line combos didn't hurt either.

Colorado sure is an odd team to why. I can see how they'd play very well but also imagine that if their goaltending ever tanks even a little they are completely screwed. Then again it is probably weird to shut down their young players the way we did tonight. I was surprised to see that MacKinnon is kind of chippy. He had a couple different moments in addition to the run at Hemsky that left me annoyed. Wonder if he'll answer for that before the end of the year.

The Avalanche did the Oilers plenty of favors tonight by parading themselves to the penalty box. It actually could have been worse for them believe it or not. There were some bad calls and non-calls in this game.

Credit to Eakins on the new line combinations and the fact that he stuck with them. I'll get into more detail on the players later of course, but generally these combos gave them 3 very solid lines that were reliable enough to play pretty much anywhere tonight.

The Oilers team D was hard to put a finger on tonight. I'm not sure I can really remember one exceptional effort, and there were certainly some negatives, but they combined with Dubnyk to do enough to keep the team in the game which I suppose is all they really needed to do.

The Oilers goals:

First - Dubnyk makes two strong saves and Larsen clears the puck. It happens to bounce to what you could call a soft spot and a streaking Taylor Hall sees a chance and grabs it. He makes no mistake. Great way to start things off at both ends.

Second - Hall again. They'd had him set up on the wrong point for whatever reason but finally got him into shooting position and he left fly with a nasty one-timer. When you catch one of those it is going in. The fans had of course been whining for a shot. Thankfully the Schultzes and Eberles of the world don't listen to them. Big scoring on the 5-on-3 generated by a horrible Colorado penalty for playing the puck with a broken stick. Stupid, stupid mistake.

Third - Almost immediately after the Hall goal Hemsky makes it 3-0. This was an absolutely beautiful powerplay rush goal. Smyth was in position at the opposition blue, took a perfect pass on a great read from Arcobello and found his old friend Hemsky in the same spot he knows he'll always be in full flight. Hemsky does what he does from there, backhand around the goalie. Money. Absolute money.

Fourth - Had to wait a while for this one and you honestly weren't sure it was going to come after Colorado got back in the game. The most consistent Oilers forward this year took off on a two-on-one with Hopkins. He sold pass but everyone in the crowd knew Perron would shoot. He made no mistake low on the far side. Even if Varlamov had robbed him, Hopkins was right there to bang in any rebound. Perfectly executed.

Fifth - Strong board work leads to Hemsky spotting Arcobello in a nice spot out front, the puck goes to the net and Arcobello corrals it and makes no mistake. Really nice hard work goal from a group that had a very strong night.

Sixth - We're in garbage time now but the foot's still on the accelerator. Colorado had pulled their goalie and replaced him by this point. Smyth gets the puck in the offensive zone - it looks like he's trying to go to Perron but the Colorado D go to sleep and Eberle just walks through. Perfect pass to him and he roofs it. Another beauty.

Seventh - On the last goal Eberle had Perron for a drop pass if he really wanted. On this one, Gagner had Hall to pass to for a hat trick. You've got to think that Varlamov and the Avs D sees nothing but that pass. Sam reminds us he can shoot and goes top corner with authority as soon as Varlamov drops.

Eighth - Hall wanted this one pretty bad. He'd been stalking it for a few shifts now. Hopkins plays a puck off Hall's stick toward the net. The tip generates a rebound. Luke Gazdic had set up shop in front of the Colorado net and keeps the dman from getting to Hall. He cleans up. Hat trick. Not enough time left to score ten, but we won't complain.


- I'm not going to blame Yakupov on that first Colorado goal like many will. He made a good play to try to get the puck to Hall in the slot that was thwarted, then skated all the way back to his own goalie backchecking, only to have the puck tipped in off his skate. That's a crummy reward for probably trying too hard if anything. He was also on for the second Colorado goal, way out of position because no one was yelling at him that they'd changed a forward for a Dman. Then Dubnyk can't hold on to a puck he stopped with his glove. Why can't this man catch a puck? It's been a problem since his first training camp and it has never been fixed. Yuck. Some of the play between those too goals was indeed pretty bad. He ran around a bunch and basically got lost on the ice. He had a rough first half. He turned it around enough to at least keep playing and did have a really strong physical shift in the third. I liked that Eakins stuck with him through a rough spot. It would have been easy to sit him down and that didn't happen. He'll be better for it. Gagner was on the better side of okay but still not really going strong. He just doesn't control the puck well with that goofy mask obscuring his downward vision. I'm not sure why he hasn't tried something different. Very glad to see him get a goal. Hall was pulling away from defenders again tonight. He was a little iffy away from the puck, but as soon as it was on his stick he was going strong. Took some excellent shots, went to the tough areas and came away with 3. Hopefully this gets him started again. We sure do need him to play well and there's still time before the Olympics if he wants to make a late run.

- I've been asking for this combo and they didn't disappoint me one bit. They were not dominant, largely due to the fact that Hopkins didn't seem to be able to make things work with the puck for whatever reason, but they were strong. Eberle and Perron play the game quite well as a combo and as soon as Hopkins figures out where he needs to be in order to support that, this crew will roll teams over. You have to be on guard at all times because this line has three shooters and three strong passers rolled into only three people. As soon as they are in your end, you'd better get the puck back. Perron played the snarly game we are all growing to expect and love. That 4-2 goal was absolutely huge.

- These guys accomplished a ton in fairly limited icetime, especially Hemsky and Arcobello. I've already described their best play as a unit, which was the third goal. Arcobello was also a decoy on that play. He had a great night. He hit people, prevented the Avs from scoring on their five-on-three in the third by making a huge save with his stick, and scored a key putaway goal in the third. Absolutely excellent game from him. Hemsky was strong in all three zones and was rewarded with a beauty goal that only he seems to score and a very smart assist. I'm still trying to understand the penalty he got. I didn't see anything but the radio guys seemed to think it was a clear call? If it was, it just annoys me further because you really need to be able to defend yourself along the boards without getting penalized. If the NHL really wants to prevent injuries, this topic needs to be discussed. Smyth simply played the best game he's played since he came back. He was strong all night, didn't take the lazy penalties he's been prone to lately, made some excellent passes and went to all the right places. Suddenly everyone is playing well with Hemsky - Smyth especially. Who knew?

- Not a lot to say here. Gazdic did his job in a solid fight win over Bordeleau and also helped Hall get his hat trick which is about as much as you can ask from the guy. Well done. Lander I didn't see a lot of, but LMHF#2 and many others thought he played a pretty strong game. Jones was bad again...giving the puck away or not getting to it on his wing all night.

- Really enjoyed watching his NHL debut. He had one shaky shift in the second period where he looked unsure of himself. Other than that he was excellent. Nearly perfect decision making with the puck. Solid passes to open teammates. Really good work in the corners which is something the Oilers are missing right now. He even jumped to the front of the net and down low in the circle for scoring chances. Great job. It would be an absolute travesty if he was demoted next game rather than Potter...but the Oilers will probably do that anyway.

- He did some decent work in front of the net and managed to draw two call from getting sticked in the face, but didn't accomplish much else. STUPID delay of game penalty that could have really hurt. He had nothing but time.

The Schultzes
- Much as I don't really like this pairing, there seemed to be a level of comfort that helped in the defensive zone. Each knew where the other would be so even when there were screw ups (like Nick randomly falling to the ice in the second to create an odd man rush) things didn't go too badly. Justin was pretty shaky with the puck in the first. He looked to have Jeff Petry-itis at a couple of points, but settled in well the rest of the way.

- Got absolutely schooled by Duchene tonight, both on a specific play involving a spin-a-rama and generally. Yuck. Wasn't good. Why is Andrew Ference of all people playing the puck instead of the body? Kept things calm enough for the win, but there were some ugly moments.

- Amazingly good night a primarily offensive defenseman considering he didn't get any shots on net. Made some nice passes and was good enough in the D zone to help out. Certainly seems to have the golden touch in limited action thus far this year.

- The saves he made in the first period kept the team in the game and were huge for both the squad and #40 himself. I don't think he makes some of those saves in the second and third if another gets by in the first. Certainly a rebound game and I was impressed but we'll see if it really means anything on Saturday night against Calgary. Dubnyk has a history of shying away from the important moments in his time as an Oiler and this is one of them. You need to beat that Flames team on HNIC in their second game in two nights. You must. He needs to remain focused and if anything improve upon tonight. Someone get this guy a glove that doesn't bounce the puck back out already...

Enjoy it tonight everyone. We hope it never ends.


2014 LMHF Report - Game #12




Another game, another pile of GA from which no one can escape. Let's look at them right off the hop, shall we?

First GA

Two PHX forwards on Belov behind the net, Ference skates around behind the net, and then out of position completely to chase into the corner. Both D are caught. Dubnyk has a puck come on net at rather unexceptional speed and does nothing but generate a rebound. Belov is trying to recover with Ference having abandoned his spot and also catches a piece of Dubnyk. Easy goal for PHX that could have been prevented either by Dubnyk proactively playing the puck as Bryzgalov does, or the Oilers defencemen not looking like Keystone Cops.

Second GA

The puck is shot in to the Oilers zone around the boards and Dubnyk fails miserably to make a simple play on the puck. His defencemen are now out of position and not prepared. Jeff Petry specifically, is in the middle of the ice doing precisely nothing, when a pass comes through the slot. Naturally he strikes his best flamingo pose rather than taking the attacker charging the net, and a likely still asleep or tired Dubnyk makes almost no effort to stop the PHX shot.

Third GA

A weak shot from the point is moderately tipped by a screening Shane Doan in front of the net. Supposed Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk is looking in the corner (or behind himself) as it goes into the net, rather than following the tip. At no point was this puck headed to his left, yet that is where he's looking. Unbelievable. This is the second goal already tonight where Dubnyk's first reaction is not to, ya know, try to stop the puck, but look to the side/behind him.

Fourth GA

The first really good shot and goal from PHX. Ryan Jones makes an idiotic back pass to Justin Schultz who loses the puck under pressure. Nick Schultz lays half on the ice instead of taking a man, then takes himself out of the play entirely. Ryan Jones skates behind the net to cover absolutely no one. Sam Gagner glides into the corner - presumably he had to fart or dropped a contact lens or something, Ales Hemsky comes in off his wing to lunge at Ribeiro but it is far too late. That was about as bad as it gets in terms of a breakdown.

Fifth GA

Jeff Petry decides that Keith Yandle is just way too much hockey player for him to handle, and kindly jumps out of the way so he can continue skating into the Oilers zone. Devan Dubnyk, reading that a defenceman has the puck and will probably take a slapshot...sits in his crease doing nothing until he drops to his knees and the puck goes in. Cutting down the angle would just be cheating...

Sixth GA

With the Oilers now in full on meltdown mode, Belov and Schultz lose another puck battle in the corner. Acton and Joensuu are both overcommitted so neither has the defenseman who takes a shot on net. Dubnyk again simply leaves the puck on the ice after blocking it despite the fact that there are PHX players in the area. They outmuscle Belov and it is in, Dubnyk having barely moved.

What an embarrassing pile of goals for Dubnyk and this defensive core. There was also a waived off goal where Dubnyk appeared to try to play the man instead of the puck in front of his own net...it was one of the more bizarre and pathetic attempts I've seen from a goalie.

There were a few interesting points during this game before it went south. If the Oilers could have taken a 2-1 lead into the first intermission I'm quite sure they manage to win this game by shielding Dubnyk from a few more shots. It still would have been a shootout because #40 was sleeping or something back there tonight but they could have gotten it done. They had the chances and did not capitalize. Once PHX got those two in the second this game was over. Make no mistake. The team knew in their minds that whatever they did, another puck would wind up in their net and they'd lose. It was done.

The Oilers PP was atrocious once again. I'm not sure what Dallas Eakins was speaking about when he apparently claimed the PP was doing something different prior to this game. It was the same old goofy setup that produces no shooting lanes and any aggressive PK can thwart. None of the stars stepped up with individual powerplay work so nothing was going to happen there. PHX is a pretty undisciplined team, but the reffing was also quite spotty tonight. Some of the calls the Oilers got were quite weak.

I will give PHX credit. They keep the puck to the outside and are very hard to beat on the rush when they want to be. The Oilers made them look about 300% better than they actually are in the offensive zone though. Gift rebounds, terrible goaltending and chasing in the corners to leave the slot open won't serve anybody well.

We'll highlight a few players but it isn't really worth going through the whole lot tonight. Those not mentioned were anywhere from beige to bad.


- Horrible. Not one big save. Not that this was his fault alone - but part of a goalie's job is to occasionally bail out a bad night from the D. This was that night and he might has well have stayed in the dressing room. He needs to go. For the Oilers and for himself. He's clearly lost any and all confidence. The guy doesn't look to be following the puck or making any second effort on the play. This will not work for a goalie. We all know that.

- Also horrible. You can't make such elemental mistakes as he's making in games like these. It wasn't only the goals I noted above either. Any time he is faced with a situation where he must react to something out of the ordinary the result is bad. He telegraphed a slap shot so badly I think the time keeper could have jumped in to block it in the first period. Perhaps this guy is an athlete and not a hockey player, I don't know, but you can't make the kind of mistakes he was making. Getting burned fishing by a puck by Keith Effing Yandle when you have position on him and totally bailing on the play??? WHAT?!? I could have played that better in Peewee!

J. Schultz
- Got beat for the puck very badly on several occasions tonight. He seemed unfocused. Really struggled to get his shots through from the point as well. Should probably spend some time in the PB, but everyone was so bad and no one else moves the puck up.

- Made several good defensive plays and passes tonight. Maybe the best of a horrible bunch.

- Eakins has absolutely lost his mind if he things that Mark Arcobello was bad tonight and worth singling out. Was he great? No. Was he decent on a pretty bad night? Yes. I will mention that he had a bunch of chances to make good passes to players in the slot and either passed over their sticks or rushed the pass, but he worked decently hard, finished his checks, set Perron up and was certainly okay. Eakins then said he's a good positional player...at this point I really wonder if Eakins understands the game. Not only was his assessment of #26's play tonight incorrect, but positioning is something that Arcobello doesn't do well enough at all.

- Had one sequence I really needed to mention - he's driving the net with the puck and instead of taking a strong shot from his shooting lane, he makes an utterly stupid pass to Belov which shortly thereafter results in PHX heading the other way, then he takes a lazy hooking penalty. Absolutely brutal. He's a boat anchor on that PP unit right now. Arcobello, Omark and others have more claim to that spot at this point. The only thing he MIGHT be worth keeping on the roster for is that he's a 4th liner who PKs.

- He was excellent. A total pain in the butt for PHX all night. Gorgeous shots for his two goals. Would no doubt have scored at least 4 if the rest of the team had decided it wanted to play. Spent the whole third period taking abuse in front of the net trying to score #3. His second goal was a thing of beauty for what came after as well. He scores, knocks down Larsen, trash talks Smith, skates into Larsen's face then right past Vermette. Absolutely hilarious. Which more of our players had his attitude.

- He's not his normal self. Despite the shot total, he missed a couple gimme chances and also showed on several occasions that he's a step off. The one I remember best occured in the second. He had the PHX defenseman a half-step beat and had no ability to pull away. Normally he would have been totally in the clear. At times he tried to adjust his game to compensate and just couldn't do it. He only knows one way and that's fine, but we need him to get healthy.

Well, that was truly terrible to sit through. This is a low place folks. Hope like hell Bryzgalov is back soon and that MacTavish goes out and gets Kulikov and Paul Ranger. This team needs help - recent wins against bad hockey teams notwithstanding.


2014 LMHF Report - Game #11




Well, maybe I'll have to head back to Palm Springs for the foreseeable future if we want this team to win hockey games for any sustained period of time. I was sad to miss what appeared to be a couple pretty epic performances and was hoping that the prospect of playing the Hawks would have this team ready to deliver an exceptional and possibly historic night. That of course, did not happen.

I'm not really going to rant and rave about what went on tonight. This was an odd sort of game and the 5-1 score doesn't really reflect what went on. Don't get me wrong, full credit to the Hawks on their victory. They are a very good hockey team that closed the doors early and didn't let the Oilers get much going after a pretty decent start to the game that could have gone either way.

At the higher level, what happened tonight was that the Oilers secondary offensive players didn't put up any points, and even though the top unit did, Chicago's top players were better. Ideally, these are the nights where at least one line in a strong top three lines can carry you to at least a point. Again, that didn't happen but it wasn't for lack of try from the forwards.

I did see plenty of struggle from the D tonight. There are a couple individuals in particular that I will highlight later, but in general the D couldn't move the puck to breaking forwards with any consistency. When this is going on, it is very difficult to get any kind of sustained attack going because there's just no rhythm to the game.

There was also an issue that I believe ties into the FLA and CLB games, but because I wasn't there I can't be 100% sure. The Oilers (and especially line 1 and the D) made a ton of passes to areas rather than players tonight. Against a bad team with undisciplined positioning, the Oilers' skill and speed would get them to most of these pucks. The Hawks, even without Mr. Hossa, are not this kind of team. They will kill you when your passes are not tape-to-tape - and they did that to the Oilers tonight even if every turnover didn't wind up in the net. They also played a very agitating defensive zone game that meant the Oilers were hit, slashed, sticked, poked and bothered at every shooting chance. This is a product of strong positioning and commitment to detail. Hopefully the Oilers learned something.


- It wasn't that he was outwardly bad - Toews should score on a breakaway, Kane should score when left completely unchecked, Potter shouldn't be putting the puck in his own net. I don't give him as much of a break on the fourth, but it was still a strong goal. The thing is, he was completely out of it on each of these goals. He wasn't putting himself in a position where if the shot wasn't made well, the puck would've hit him. The way he bit on Toews move - before Toews even moved - he might as well have pokechecked or did a sliding pad stack. He was lying on the around on Kane's play as well. I did see some effort to play a more stand up game on some of his saves, which is certainly a positive thing, but you can see how Dubnyk gets down on himself REALLY quickly and starts playing goal very conservatively. This doesn't work for his body type or in the modern NHL.

- I hope Dubnyk learns a few things from Bryz. He was thrown into his first game and came in with the attitude that he'd been here all along. He makes a strong first save and then rifles the puck up ice, actually getting it on net. He was cutting down angles, making some excellent saves and forcing other shots wide. Some of them were absolute robbery. He also showed tonight that he is a much better puckhandler than Dubnyk (though, most everyone is) and the difference that can make as his passes got the play going in the right direction several times. I see no reason why Dubnyk can't pick up on these things if he's willing, but I also see that while #80 may be completely nuts, #40 is completely fragile. I know which attitude I'd rather have in the net.

- In order to contribute to wins for this team, Andrew Ference must be good defensively and make simple plays with the puck. He did neither of these things tonight. The play I'll never forget was the horrible pokecheck attempt and subsequent penalty he needed to take in the second period. That's a Peewee mistake he made there...one that only happens when you stop moving your feet and give up position. It was shocking that a vet could make such a brutal mistake. Much as I bagged on Staios and Smith from time to time, they very rarely made plays as ugly as that one. Ference also made too many turnovers, got beat in the corner, and (as usual, sadly) didn't cover his man in front of the net. Not a strong game.

- Pretty medium game from him. Didn't make the goofy mistakes he's been prone to this year and certainly was more assertive in his game. With that said, he didn't make a lot of crisp passes and got outmuscled on a number of occasions.

- Really strong effort, especially in the defensive corners. The man should teach lessons. He's not at the Pronger/Pitkanen level, but he used positioning, size, strength and reach to his advantage all night and did an especially good job on some chances that Toews had to make plays. Belov was really focused on getting his shot away in the offensive zone and did a decent job of making these shots effective. He can still improve here. Better passing and especially more patience than the rest of the D tonight.

J. Schultz
- I didn't see a lot of highlight reel stuff, though like Belov he at least moved the puck fairly well. No glaring defensive lapses while still jumping into the play often enough to have a shot at making a difference.

N. Schultz
- Bad with the puck and didn't have the added physical element to his game that denotes when he is playing well. Not helping the team tonight.

- Speaking of not helping the team - you have to be aware of where you are on plays like the Oduya goal. Will you always prevent them? No, of course not, but he looked like he was in lala land. You can't just be drifting along in front like that. No exceptional passes to speak of. One shot where he made Crawford work a little bit. Any magic in his game is gone and that he and Schultz are playing ahead of Fedun is a travesty.

Speaking about our D as a whole - there are only two players I see as being placed to play on a winning squad - Belov and Schultz. Petry will always be the type of guy who can be a top dman on a bad team. I don't see him fitting in lower due to his contract going forward and he's not good enough to anchor a winner. Ference is already a defensive liability which is truly unfortunate. Potter and Nick Schultz are also rans who we hopefully won't have to talk about next season. They just don't bring anything exceptional to the team, and yes, your 5-7 dmen should be able to at least have SOMETHING exceptional in their game.

- Well, at least we have 1/3 of an effective fourth line. Joensuu is fine in this role and can move up if he's playing well or if something goes wrong. He got some hits, went to the net and generally did what he could tonight. Gazdic looked tired for some reason and was further behind the play than usual. I saw nothing of note from him. Acton is not an NHL hockey player. Period. Maybe a borderline NHL PK man, but that is it. There's no way he should play over Arcobello. Ever. If #26 were in, you have 2/3 of a useful fourth line. At least that's getting somewhere. Part of the problem for these guys tonight was that Eakins allowed them to play against Kane's line on several occasions. That's never good and they got completely owned. The coach has to know better than that.

- I'm a little puzzled about how these guys did tonight. They certainly didn't get eaten alive - but also didn't really generate much of anything. I can't recall Perron getting open for a single good shot. Gordon would have scored on a wraparound if not for a quick whistle in the third. Smyth had a good chance at the side of the net in the first but of course couldn't get the speed or height needed with his shovel. They were positionally decent, got some shots on net and generally did things right but didn't manage to contribute. Odd night. Perron was going to the net and being his usual annoying self at least, but both Smyth and Perron struggled to help the PP at all. Both need to be strong there for this team to win in its current configuration.

- Well, I'm not sure I've ever seen a line play for this team that can move the puck so quickly or gain the zone with as much speed. They were a touch off tonight - mainly because Gagner is still finding his way back and isn't going to his usual shooting zones - but sure look like the kind of line that's going to throw up a five goal night one of these games. Hemsky and Yakupov moving the puck in the first was magic. Chicago did very well to keep them off the score sheet. Yakupov will likely get a lot of attention for the Toews goal - two things - one, you can't expect that broken stick fan shot from the CHI dman, it looks like a break but it is a tough adjustment when you're already going the other way - two, he has to know that in a situation like that you take down Toews and take your two minutes. That's called a good penalty and that was the time for it. Hemsky tailed off in a pretty big way after getting hammered by a Chicago player on what should have been a penalty in the second. Yakupov got whacked in the face and should have drawn a penalty. No breaks for this crew tonight. Too bad as they did some really nice things in the offensive and neutral zones. They do need work in the D zone, but again, a lot of the issues there were because the puck wasn't coming to them cleanly from the D.

- Let's be honest, only two-thirds of this line is here right now. I don't know who that man was wearing #4 tonight, but he's not Taylor Hall. While the whole line was guilty of weak giveaways tonight, Hall made a ton of passes from a standstill position to absolutely no one. He just had no clue at a number of points throughout the game. No high gear speed either. Both Eberle and Hopkins knew to keep the puck away from him on the rush and avoided the usually obvious pass on several occasions. Not good. Eberle had the strongest game of the three. He went to the net and got some shots away, but he needs the other two going so that he can focus on his main role as the slot shooter. Hopkins was up and down, he'd make a brilliant play, then follow it up with two boneheaded ones. There was a sequence in the third where he got bonked at the blue line on a bad zone entry, then got the puck back, only to give it away like nothing. Hopkins was also never really in shooting position tonight. These guys really struggled despite looking like they were ready to go - it was quite confusing. I'm going to give credit to Chicago mostly.

So, where was this game decided? I'm going to say the two CHI goals in the first, coupled with the fact that the Oilers generated at least 3 golden rebounds in the slot, with Crawford completely out of the play and got nothing. They couldn't corral the puck and when the Hawks have a lead they are very, very good. What looked like a confident and energetic Edmonton team to start backed off as the game wore on, and despite the fact that it always kind of looked like they might just jump back into the picture, they just never did.

While I feel a lot better after this one than many other games this year, I sure do long for the day when I can simply be annoyed they lost rather than scrounging for positives in another lost season.


Advisory - No reports until after November 22

So, a nasty stomach bug has decided to take over and I'll be missing tonight's game. This means no reports until after the 22nd as I'm away on vacation starting next week. Bad timing I know!


2014 LMHF Report - Game #5




So, we're going to go in a bit of a different direction tonight. The approach I'm about to take doesn't absolve the players at all but there are some things that need to be said and I'm going to say them. Seriously considered not posting anything tonight. That was bloody embarassing and even more so with the crowd composition at a Leafs game. We couldn't even boo the team off the ice because of all the season ticket holders who are either part time fans or gave their tickets away.

Dallas Eakins is making too many mistakes and being outcoached night-in, night-out. Period.

Listening to him defend the team after the game, claiming that they only battle they lost was the execution battle...it was either a lie, delusion, or the man is incompetent. His team had one strong period, and even then they were disorganized. This guy is caught up in the "shoot and shoot from anywhere" game plan. It doesn't work. 30 of the shots tonight should be classified as turnovers. This team had so few quality chances it was amazing. He claimed they didn't get dominated...having that many odd man rushes generated against you, and having your goaltender have to make that many toe saves means you were dominated. I didn't mind Bachman tonight aside from the Kessel 2nd period goal as he got caught napping. He probably made 10 absolutely excellent saves, moved the puck to his team and played another calm game in the net.

Putting Gagner straight onto the top line was a mistake. He was going to be rusty and miss some chances at the very least. Even if you're going to take that chance, you surely don't give him the other team's best line as a defensive assignment right off the hop. They were set up to be destroyed and they were.

Eakins also has a foolish connection to the Yakupov-Eberle duo. He defended them after the game...one in which they'd just hung up their second -4 in a short time. Anyone watching (except the Coach apparently) can see that they do not feed off each others' games at all. Both did a few nice things individually, but they are never in the right place to keep puck control. They don't cover for pinching defencemen well at all and get exposed. They don't generate shots from the slot. Terrible and it is Eakins' job to notice.

Am I the only one that took the lesson from Kessel's adventure with John Scott earlier this year? If Eakins wanted to get Kessel off his game right from the get go, he should have sent Gazdic to shadow him the first shift and let him know how things are going to be. Instead, his ideal use of his "enforcer" is to go for a leisurely stroll on one shift with Colton Orr after Gazdic had already stopped finishing checks.

I'm not as hung up on icetime as the media seems to be at this point, but if players aren't producing or are getting owned, you don't just keep sending them to the wolves.

I give him credit for benching Petry after that incredibly stupid giveaway. That was just a horrible play. I do wonder though - would he have benched him if he hadn't had 7 D?

And that play leads me to another point - I am starting to wonder about Eakins' breakout. Way too many passes are going up the middle. This happened specifically with Jones in MTL (after which he was promoted to the first line...) and Petry tonight. I also noticed that the D are specfically looking up the middle to the point where it almost appears that Eakins has preached this as a first option. I could see this MAYBE catching AHL teams off guard, but it is a recipe for giving the other team easy goals in the NHL. The two options seem to be either to pass up the middle (often to no one) or bounce it out off the glass (after which the other team counterattacks) - I'm sure any of you who have every played the game see the problem with this.

As an offensively gifted team, you probably noticed that the Leafs don't really dump the puck that much, and drive up the middle whenever they can. The Oilers keep talking about getting the puck deep and chasing...it doesn't work with this roster (or many rosters in the current NHL). This is a rush team. They need to hold the puck and create multiple attacking levels which break down the opposition D to create passing lanes. We're seeing none of that right now. It is abundantly clear that this is not part of the gameplan. The gameplan is to either dump it or fire shots from so far out wide that they just create rush opportunities in the other direction. Again, this is something anyone who has played the game for any length of time knows you just don't do. Giving them freebies is terrible.

Eakins doesn't get it. He doesn't understand his roster or the NHL. What Dave Poulin said on the radio before the game is interesting to me...he said that Eakins is very very stubborn. This can be a great thing - unless what you're being stubborn about is wrong - which it appears to be.

This game exposed our game planning, roster decisions and lack of ability to adapt. Sure we need execution as well...but you get what you set - and we're set up incorrectly from the get-go. That's why the Oilers have not controlled a hockey game all year.


2014 LMHF Report - Game # 4




Well, I can't say they didn't show up at all for this one. The first period was a perfect example of how you must execute when you have the chances or it will come back and bite you. This team came out and played one of their better offensive periods but kept either making mistakes with the puck or allowing Washington to block their shots. Part of this would seem to come from Eakins silly push to have the players peer pressure each other in to putting more pucks at the net. I've said it a ton of times by now - this isn't what good teams do. None of them. The shots are the product, not the cause. Good teams take shots when 1) They have a clear lane and a scoring chance, as Eberle should have on one of his early scoring chances where he ended up going back hand instead. Holtby was down and done, Eberle had the top shelf all day and made a bad decision; and 2) when the opposition is shifting directions with traffic. They can't effectively block shots when you're forcing them to move.

So then Ovechkin scores the first goal and the team wasn't the same from that point. The frustration set in, any remaining patience was gone to be replaced with frustration, and there was really no chance to win after that. The post game commentary seemed to give them credit for 40 solid minutes...no way. Any first 40 where you haven't scored isn't any good.

A lot of our troubles tonight stemmed from the inability to transition from our own zone. The defencemen have all adopted (or been forced to adopt, who knows) the approach of "just get it out". The thing is, this doesn't work in the NHL and it REALLY doesn't work against a team as talented as the Capitals. They have so much depth up front it is astounding, and their D has adopted a style that suits the rest of the squad well enough that they can be effective and create turnovers. Loose pucks are really all you need when that group of forwards have your back.

I haven't seen one game this year where the Oilers have looked like they were going to dominate. MAYBE parts of the Winnipeg game. Maybe. They are at best coming at the opposition in fits and starts, with extremely fragile psyches, a system that is very much a work in progress, a horrible PP that for some stupid reason relies on stopping at the blue line and backwards passes, a D crew who are allergic to generating offensive chances and spotty goaltending. It is no wonder they aren't winning.

I don't buy the "first game back home" stuff and if Eakins is already having to shorten practices etc then he has overplayed his hand and we will likely suffer for it before things get better. This team has so much that it needs to work on and they don't seem to be able to piece it together during games. Part of that is a lineup that has so little depth missing Hall, Gagner and Joensuu, but part of that is also the lack of comfort and lack of understanding of the system. None of the game is instinct right now. It is kind of a goofy line at this point, but as Maverick once said, if you think, you're dead. This game has to be a patient and controlled one, but reactions need to be happening much faster and more consistently. The amount of guys running into each other on this team right now, either literally or getting stuck in the same lane, is huge.

- Certainly not as shaky as when he left to start the road trip. The shots that beat him were pretty good except for Chimera's second goal as he was down way too early, AGAIN. Other than that he was solid. He did enough that this team should have had a chance anyway.

- So, we finally saw Jeff Petry take a slap shot. I'd be impressed except for the fact that he had the chance to take about 8 and only even tried to get away one. For those of you who saw the last seconds of the game, as Petry double, triple, quadruple clutched then started heading the wrong way when he could have gone to the net multiple times...can someone tell me what exactly he was doing? Is this guy so unsure of himself and his ability to get the thing away that he does that? He can drive the net and take on all kinds of opposition but he can't shoot even when he has room? It makes no sense.

N. Schultz
- Got burned badly on a couple of occasions and also had some nasty giveaways. I want to see Grebeshkov try to generate some rushes for this team instead of Schultz trying to play the boring game and still giving up chances.

- Hit and miss. He had some trouble pulling the trigger as well but didn't get the chances Petry did. Went down into the offensive zone a couple times and let loose a nice wrister as well. Struggled some in the defensive zone. He needs to lean more on the mean side of his game and he hasn't quite figured that out yet. Passing was a mixed bag.

J. Schultz
- One of the better games I've seen him play this year though still not as good as he can be. 3-5 good offensive reads including the one that led to his goal. Struggled with shooting from the point. He did stop Ovechkin with a nice poke check in the second, but also got caught running around against that line several times.

- Meh, he played fine. I liked that he went after Mike Green near the end and managed not to get a penalty.

- Also fine, though he especially did not have a good night in terms of getting the puck up to his forwards in a way that let them break out and rush down the ice.

- Okay, this annoys me. This line did not have a "good night". They did have one really nice shift in the second where they held the Capitals in and got some chances. That's great, I'm not complaining but it also doesn't mean they didn't get hemmed in their own zone multiple times. They did. They also had some hits and Eager zinged one that probably should have gone in. They were okay...but if Eakins is realizing that he needs a fourth line who can play, we need a much more talented one than this crew.

- Saddling Gordon with these two was cruel and unusual punishment. He played a fine game, doing all the little things we've already come to expect from him and even getting a couple decent chances. I was hoping Pitlick would build on his game in MTL but he did not. He was perpetually behind the play, did nothing with the puck and even got pushed around. That doesn't work when you're not going to generate offense. Ryan Jones got praise from a lot of people tonight because he pushed three guys over (all "highlight hits" where he used his arms instead of his body to push guys who were off balance) and a blocked shot when the game was over. Make no mistake, this was the typical Ryan Jones skate everywhere accomplishing nothing game. You know who a good team has instead of Ryan Jones? Jason Chimera. That's who we need. Start measuring against that yardstick rather than the pile of junk that's been on the ice the past few years and it becomes clear that the bottom six aside from Gordon is nowhere near good enough at present.

- I really wanted to see Arcobello good tonight. Honestly I tried very hard after what looked on TV like good efforts on the road and got the man points. He did nothing tonight. He simply tried in vain to keep up with Perron and Hemsky. He could not. Perron played quite well and Hemsky wasn't far behind, but they seemed to stumble over each other a bit. Their games may be a little too similar in terms of what they do with the puck (aside from Perron being a bit more of a shooter) and the lanes they pick. They even collided in the second period. Hemsky found Perron for what should have been a goal around that time as well but it didn't work out. They were probably better in the second than the other lines but it wasn't enough.

- What a weird game. Eberle comes out like a house on fire, charging past everyone either with the puck or to get a pass, could have had six by the middle of the second and ends up with none. Near the end of the first Ovechkin scores off the draw and the dive to a minus 4 game begins...so what happened on that goal? I'm still struggling with why Yakupov was headed to Ovechkin when he's the LW and Eberle just stands there doing nothing even though by all hockey logic I know, when a winger is back like that it is his man to take...what was going on there? The line continued to play decently enough in the offensive zone, but was putrid in their own zone including multiple times getting hemmed in by the Capitals. Not a good combo. Eberle and Yakupov especially just didn't work together well. No one is setting up #64's powerplay shot (which if you remember was a big issue early last season) - instead Eberle is sending no-look passes to Schultz? What?? Had to be a frustrating night for them because of how many chances they got early, but that's no excuse for what happened later. I did like that Hopkins kept going until the end, but everyone on this line had way too many shots blocked due to bad decision-making, either too slow or not making a quick move to secure a lane. Yakupov needs to have the coach simplify things and Eakins seems to have no interest. Not good.

Break up the "top line". They're not any good. Eakins won't do this the right way and promote Gordon, but you can't keep giving up what 64-93-14 did tonight. It won't win games.