EDMONTON 1 (again, yep)
SO, I find it really amazing and revealing that the post game conversations I've had the opportunity to look at while relaxing with my son before writing this report have taken the tone that they have. I knew that the main topic for discussion would be the one thing that was actually accomplished this game - someone, namely Taylor Hall, finally had a shot at that skating piece of trash Cal Clutterbuck, took it, and hammered him. It is about damn time. In an era where this type of "hockey player" is allowed to run around without fear of the traditional method of response to his type of "game" (that being a thinly veiled elbow to the teeth that netted you no penalty), you have to take your shots when they come and #4 did. Kudos to him for seeing the opportunity and trying to blow up that loser. I'm guessing there will be people around the league thanking him. I'm frankly a little sad the moron's leg isn't busted up. If Hall had been coming the other way, that moron would have jumped a foot off the ice, went for the head, then ran to the nearest official he could find to hide. This is because he's a coward. He's a coward who can't handle the repercussions of the way he plays the game. He's a coward who tried his damndest to make what is apparently a charley horse look like a career ender. Our guy went for a hard hit and kept playing the game. Respect earned tonight Mr. Hall.
I can't believe the reaction of some people. Edmonton Media, bloggers, twitters (emphasis on the twit) and forum posters who think this was "stupid" and other such things. What is wrong with you right now? Have you actually lost your minds? I'm inclined to say the past number of years have rotten your brains at this point. Yeesh. Get a damn grip. A guy went for a hard hit on a dirty player. Messier used to clothesline guys and get props afterwards. Scott Stevens would have ran Clutterbuck out of the league. The game has changed in a bad way when it is the Steve Otts, Cal Clutterbucks, Steve Downies and others who are defended by officials, fans and from the other players.
Credit to Ales tonight as well for not taking any of that moron's crap at the end of the first period. Shoulda dropped the gloves and shown everyone what kind of pansy the Wild have playing such an integral role on their team.
Speaking of the Wild...not impressed. Weak squad, boring hockey, no attack to speak of and didn't do anything defensively to write home about. They're strong in the neutral zone but that's just about it. Where were Bouchard and Parise? Crazy that they'd be so invisible out there. Maybe it is just a function of the game they play.
We made some mistakes tonight but our main malfunction was just having no speed or desperation heading into the Wild zone. We didn't drive anyone back, dazzle with passes or draw any penalties. We need to draw penalties with our speed to win hockey games. The first line kept slowing down. The second line had no rhythm. The third line was mildly effective. Why did Krueger bench line 4?
I'm starting to doubt our new coach some - especially now that there is a rather attractive coaching option on the open market. I liked the adjustment in the third period that saw the HHH line put together some really solid shifts. Everything else was kind of in shambles. 91 and 56 saw almost no ice on a night when there were a number of our higher end players that didn't get it going. We are sticking with a system that clearly doesn't play to our strengths and doesn't generate 5-on-5 offence. How many stretch passes have you seen this year? Forwards flying the zone with speed to an opening? Innovative breakout plays? Effective zone entry tactics? Changes need to be made and our coach is adopting far too much of a stay the course attitude. This was epitomized by the lifelessness of tonight's game. I may sound a little crazy for saying this...but didn't Ben Eager look like a guy who might get a line going tonight? He won't on most nights, but a guy like Bowman could always read when a guy like that was on and his star players needed either a kick in the ass or just a different set of skating lines to think about. It was worth a shot when we had nothing to lose. This is not a 2-1 team. We all know that. Why doesn't our coaching staff? I doubt the head man is getting much from his 2 Assistants and that might be a place to start to see some change. I think we all also see that management could have reacted to the challenges we've faced this year with subtle moves to blunt the impact of injuries while shoring up roster depth and has not. To me this means that they have no intention of winning anything this year or are completely incompetent. One of the two. Of course...I also find the idea of winning nothing this year to be something an absolute incompetent would try.
SO, on to the players.
- Can't allow either the second or third goals. Still dipping his blocker shoulder and you can tell the video guys have it pegged. He's allowed a bunch of goals in that exact same spot this year. He must have been completely asleep on the second as he was not in a proper butterfly and barely even moved. I'll give him a pass on the first but not those two. Subpar performance. Not that it would have mattered too much but we could win 2-1 in an SO once in a while I guess.
- I see this pairing two separate ways tonight. First, they did some really nice things in terms of standing up at the opposition blue line and keeping the puck in. They generated multiple scoring chances this way in the first and I give special credit to Mr. Peckman for handling the puck so well in his season debut and getting solid shots away cleanly. They were also pretty decent in their defensive end in terms of positioning and playing the man. They could have been more physical but that is okay. The flip side of all of that is that they don't move the puck effectively. We need even our third pair to get the puck to our forwards effectively. Fistric has the talent to do that but rarely takes the time or has the confidence and tonight was no exception. Peckham probably doesn't. At least they're playing better than Whitney...damn is that sad.
- Goat horns to Nick tonight. Two absolutely brutal sequences leading to two Wild goals. I don't know how a veteran NHL defenceman noted for his defensive play can be so horrible at the 2-on-1. Doesn't take away the puck carrier effectively at all and no aggression to force a mistake whatsoever. He also did nothing offensively and didn't hit anybody. Not good. Justin had a pretty quiet night with only a couple offensive adventures that could have actually resulted in anything at all. I'd like to see him go riverboat more early in games and at the end of games where we need a goal. He has the skill to play rover at those times.
- I'm going to give a collective MEH to these two. A couple giveaways but nothing too horrible. Also nothing that stood out in a big way which is too bad in a game where we needed a spark. I'll reiterate my call from last game - why hasn't Smid absolutely buried someone lately???
- Barely played. A mistake to use them this way in this game. Much as the third line picked it up the fourth line wasn't doing anything wrong in its limited icetime and #56 specifically was showing some jump.
- Certainly the strongest game from this group that we've seen. Smyth scored of course and also made the play to set up his goal by getting the puck free and to Belanger. He was also in on the forecheck much better than in past games and didn't get caught chasing so much. Belanger played mainly a support role and did it pretty well. If only he could actually shoot the puck. I like that he got in the faces of some of the Wild players from time to time as well. Eager had the best game of the three. He was looking for his and landed some good ones including and absolutely crunch-job behind the wild net on Brodin. He carried the puck well. Got some pucks off and generally mixed things up while staying out of the penalty box. A fine job.
- Nail had a weird game. Got a couple good shooting chances and didn't convert. Made a great play to Gagner who couldn't handle the puck (a common theme tonight). Also made a couple of really weird passes to a Wild player in the first and to absolutely no one in the third. He's really struggling to find his spots at the moment. I just wish he'd float a bit more (seems like an odd thing to say I know) because he'd probably find more open ice that way. Gagner was pretty bad tonight. He couldn't do anything well with the puck. Yakupov gave him a gift and he missed. He was sent in on a breakaway and rushed himself so bad he lost the puck despite having time and space. He couldn't corral the puck on numerous shooting chances. Very very weird game from #89. Looked like he'd grabbed the wrong hand of stick or something. And what was with that goofy spin in his own zone and skating himself into corners? Ales didn't have a great game either. While he was a little better in the offensive and neutral zones than his linemates and showed some real life when bumped up with Hall and Hopkins, his reverse play in the third was ill-timed and resulted in an unfortunate goal when combined with Dubnyk's weak effort. I get trying to make something happen in a game that was going like this one but that wasn't the time for that play.
- #14 is in a genuine slump. He's not getting to his usual shooting lanes, is slowing down in the offensive zone and just generally not playing the game he knows. It is very odd to watch. I recall a play in the second (I think) where he had the puck along the goal line with both Hall and Hopkins WIDE OPEN in perfect shooting position and instead he shoots with zero chance to score...for a guy with supreme hockey awareness that's just terrible. He's not trusting his instincts at all at the moment. Might need a fresh look on a different line to do it. Or at least some strong practice time. Hopkins was just okay to me. He missed the net on his best shooting chances (again), was decent defensively and could have made some things happen. I did notice a few times that he was skating to the wrong side of players when attempting to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Not sure why he'd do that. Hall was frustrated and rightly so. He didn't make a lot happen tonight despite a lot of effort. I expounded at length on the hit above.
Disappointing and frustrating. The most important home stand of the year. Crummy. Not "lose your minds" crummy like some are making it out to be, but crummy nonetheless.