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1/23/13

2013 LMHF Game Report #1


EDMONTON 3

VS.

SAN JOSE 6
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Soooo....wellll......yeah. Welcome to the first LMHF Game Report of the 2013 season (I refuse to say 12-13 because we didn't play in 2012). Needless to say, that was not the experience I was expecting during our home opener. Even in recent years, it has at the very least tended to be a fun game with some memorable moments and some wins to boot. That was not in the cards tonight.

For those familiar with the format, they will know that tonight's Report is a little off. For those unfamiliar, usually I will speak broadly about the game then run through each player individually. After games like this, things usually get a little more condensed as there is simply no point in going player by player through garbage.

I have to start tonight by observing two things related to coaching. Keep in mind I'm not trying to sewer Krueger right off the bat or anything silly like that. Just because he's the new guy doesn't mean he isn't on the spot every game just like everyone else. In the first period, Oilers defenders to a man were chasing behind the net on the PK and two-man chasing below the goal line. This created many of the odd man situations that led to SJ's quick offensive outburst. Your entire defence does not forget its fundamentals and do something like this without direction. I have to conclude that Ralph had some strange defensive scheme that he thought would stifle SJ's cycle game. How wrong he was. To not adjust immediately when he saw what was going on was a huge mistake and played a part in us losing tonight.

The second thing I must address is something we have talked about before and that is knowing when to pull your goalie. Anyone who was paying close attention could see even after two goals had gotten past Dubnyk that he was not on tonight at all. The pucks he did stop were shaky saves and he had absolutely no control of himself or his game. At this point, or 3 goals, or 4 goals, pulling him was an absolute no-brainer. That our coaching staff sat there and waited out the period so that a goalie who couldn't stop a beach ball could end any chance of a comeback is on them and completely unacceptable.

We also had issues with the breakout (SJ shut down the boards and we didn't change tactics), line adjustments (barely any) game management (time outs, and no Ralph, the TV time out doesn't count) and other areas. This was a monumental failure from the word go.

Everyone in the building was simply shocked. To have to boo our team off the ice in the first home period of the season (and hopefully our worst period of the season) was the last thing any of us expected. Maybe the young guns were going to come out and hang six on SJ then coast in for an easy win...or gut out a close one, but not THAT.

As usual, the promotions were okay. I must say the first period ruined my appetite though. Didn't win anything and couldn't get into any of the Oilers stores without dodging a mass crowd and then waiting to pay. No thanks. The players tossed their sticks into the crowd at the end of the game which was a decent touch I suppose.

Anyway, seeing as this is the first one...maybe we will run through all the players. I'll at least give it a shot.

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Dubnyk
- I know many will say that he had very little chance to make saves...the thing is that goalies must make one or two of these at the beginning of most games. #40 had absolutely nothing tonight. He couldn't control rebounds, was too far back in his net, made himself small on shots where he had trouble seeing, and even hesitated and retreated on an easy puck retrieval behind his own net. In a lot of was I blame the coaching staff for not pulling him earlier, but come on man...you've got to learn to bounce back. If these brutal games are part of his make up, and he can't handle a little bit of hype or pressure...he won't be our goalie in the long term.

Danis
- Rock-solid. Maintained his positioning. Wasn't tested that much but was equal to what was presented. Couldn't ask for more. Where Dubnyk looked frazzled from the first, Danis looked utterly comfy.

Whitney
- This game frightened me about Whitney's future as an NHL defenceman. While the passing is still there to some degree, he is lost positionally in his own zone right now. That is truly all you've got when you're a dman with limited mobility whose offensive skills are in free fall. He was horrible on the PP and disrupted otherwise good possessions on several occasions. He even bailed on keeping a puck in the offensive zone during the third period when it looked like he couldn't use his left foot to stop properly...Bad news.

Potter
- The penalties need to stop. I don't know where this is coming from to be honest. Last year he was at many times a guy capable of being physical but not paying for it. Need to get back to that if he's going to stay in the lineup. I'd have him ahead of Whitney right now even with the suspect play. Missed too many offensive chances as well.

J. Schultz
- Hard to judge him on this game. There were a couple defensive mistakes and he got chasing just like everyone else. When the score was so lopsided he properly took more chances than I think we will see him take in the future. Above all he did show his ability to pick a spot, get to the slot and give an option. He's also not afraid to forecheck in the corners which is great. His goal was a well placed slapper that he probably needs to use more in the NHL. I worry some about his wrister's effectiveness...his release is almost too smooth and slow to beat an NHL goalie. Great for a tippable point shot...but not a goal scoring machine. Eager to watch him in a closer game. Definitely Pitkanen-esque in his ability to skate up and then back into the play seamlessly.

N. Schultz
- We basically want him to be invisible, right? Well, after the initial shelling, he basically was. Would love to see a more physical approach from him but don't think we'll get it.

Smid
- Certainly ran around more than I'm used to seeing him do. Tried to force it after the goal barrage in the first then settled back into his normal game. Definitely not a game that played to his strong suits.

Petry
- Flashes of brilliance followed by stretches where kind of wound up in the middle of nowhere. Weird game from Petry. Would like to see either he or Potter given a shot on PP#2 (actually I want Schultz there and that unit elevated to #1, but we all know that won't happen).

Smyth
- Another guy whose game tonight worried me. He abandoned his check several times. He dumped the puck to absolutely no one more times than I could count. He was slow as molasses. He didn't have his usual ability to tip the puck. He took a stupid penalty. Just all around horrible tonight for #94. He's usually not able to sink that low.

Horcoff
- Kept getting thrown out of the faceoffs for jumping in too early. I don't know what that was about. On the PK he was running around like a panicking chicken. I don't know how much of this was due to whatever the defence were doing...but you still have to be a calming influence when you're a Horcoff-type player. Bad night for him.

Hartikainen
- Not the night I wanted to see from him certainly. I saw more positives than either of his linemates, as #56 at least hit a couple people and got possession on a few occasions. He did make some errant passes, get lost no knowing what to do with the puck, and didn't get open enough though. I don't think this line combo is going to wind up working out. The thing is, it really isn't Teemu's fault so I hope he isn't blamed and demoted.

Paajarvi
- Certainly a decent enough game for Magnus. While he still didn't turn the corner on the defencemen, he did make some memorable backchecks, attack the opposition blue line with speed, and get open for passes. That's really the three things you need from him. A good effort in a sea of garbage.

Petrell
- Didn't really see much of anything from him tonight. Not terrible, not good. Really needed to throw a hit or two.

Belanger
- One of the most common lines of the net was "what the hell is Belanger doing?". He seemed to be out for a Sunday skate...sometimes aware of the puck, sometimes not. It was plain awkward to watch. No signs of any difference from last year, especially with the puck.

Yakupov-Gagner-Hemsky
- You can see that these guys will work before too long. There are still some kinks but it is coming. Establishing a more dynamic breakout will be the first part of the equation for them. As players they are capable of leaving the zone with incredible speed and that will come. While they did get caught in their own zone more than once tonight (I specifically remember a play where Nail should certainly have gotten the puck that ended in our net) I'm much more inclined than usual to put this on the defencemen and their passing. When these guys got a puck on the tape they were off to the races. When we talk about Yakupov, sure he's a little chaotic, all over the ice and likes to press too hard to do it himself. There were times tonight where this cost him. Sometimes he actually gets in trouble by trying too hard on the back check. The thing is, he will realize he role is more simple than it seems at present. This is a guy who could score 3 or more in any given game. His first will probably be one we see many of over the years, a great timing read and easily rifling home a smooth pass from a teammate who knows all he needs to do for an assist is get it to Yakupov (beauty delay, drag and feed by Gagner on that play btw). He had another one in the third get away from him in the slot. He nearly had a breakaway just seconds after his first goal. This guy is ready to go nuclear at a moment's notice. We didn't have that before. Now we do. The coaching staff is already faced with the need to deploy him more on the PP because all you need to do is feather a puck his way and it might go in. I'm not sure they should continue using him on the point though...again, his role was a little too complicated. At this stage, he's Stamkos. "Stand here kid" is all they really need to do with him. Both Gagner and Hemsky had mixed games. At times they were getting the play flowing quite well and at others the passes were going all over the place and nothing was working. Really mixed bag. Still, don't trade #89 for Luongo...please.

Hall-Hopkins-Eberle
- Hall's goal was a really nice shot in a one-on-three position that we don't see from him too much. I hope we see that kind of shot more often. Prior to the third, Hall was playing a weird game in that he was rushing up and down the wings, not accomplishing much, then not finishing he checks and then getting frustrated. It was quite strange. Hopkins seems like he's an inch away from a 4 or 5 point game but just can't get things going. He's just that little bit off...but it is the most important little bit. Eberle did not play as well as he usually does tonight, though often because he was forced to go it alone on rushes or puck battles. He also missed the net a couple times which was just weird. I'm sure he'll be better next game.
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Well, 1 in the books with hopefully 23+ to come. I know I'm looking forward to it despite what happened tonight. There is some real optimism around this crew and I'd love to see them rack up a few wins in a row and see what happens from there.

This season of Reports may turn out a little different than past ones, as my wife and I are expecting our first child on March 1. I'm lucky in that she wants me to keep going to games and am hoping the kid is on time and thus concurrent with the long road trip! hahaha! So, if a Report is delayed or unavailable, that probably has something to do with why.

Anyway, let's have a fun year guys. We seem to be climbing in the right direction...right??!?

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