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.


2014 LMHF Report - Game #3




So, I'm not seeing it.

I didn't see whatever it is everyone and the Coach claim to have seen tonight. I didn't see the Oilers play an improved game tonight. Can someone point me to what exactly these guys are watching that led them to this conclusion?

I saw a team that couldn't get sustained pressure in the offensive zone all night. Ever.

I saw a team that couldn't even enter the zone on the powerplay. It was pathetic. This thing should have been over on PP chances alone.

Is a team doing these two things ever going to have a successful game? Nope.

Eakins made a few mistakes tonight and it is important to look at them:

- Arcobello playing with Hall and Eberle. He might as well have put a boat anchor on each. #26 couldn't keep up. Plain and simple. This completely ruins your rush offense as well as quick attacks to the net. A perfect example happened in the second period when Eberle drove the slot and saw a teammate to his left in the open ice. If this were Hopkins, a great scoring chance was there for the taking. Arcobello couldn't get close. Could he be useful on our fourth line right now? Sure. You can't have him here though.

- He played the fourth line in our own zone after they'd been hemmed in the shift before - then kept playing them afterwards even though they had another sequence of being completely boxed in.

- Claiming that the PP's issue is shooting, rather than the fact that they're all bobbling the puck, getting out of position and making bad passes is both wrong and misleading to his players. Eberle was already listening to this tripe. If this had been the order of the day, Smyth's goal doesn't happen (the shoot morons were yelling the whole time that Schultz and then Hopkins had the puck, thankfully both made the right play). Shooting when there are blockers in the zone can only be done when the play is in motion. This powerplay isn't moving anyone around at the moment. Would it kill someone to buzz the slot every now and again?

- Eakins is not picking up on the fact that his defensive scheme isn't working at the top of the zone. Where other teams have had intense pressure on our point men and created attacks off bad pinches, we have backed way off, either allowing a shot or a passing play to develop. This work work with the level of talent on NHL blue lines. It needs to be fixed. It is also hampering the breakout.

- Not elevating Boyd Gordon. He needed to play with Hemsky-Hall or Eberle-Perron tonight. No sense in leaving him tied to Smyth. The guy had been on a roll and this game derailed it.

Getting away from Eakins, I will give credit to the Canadiens for playing a reasonable game. They were tough in the defensive corners. I don't think the Oilers won a single 50-50 battle down low. They missed Joensuu big time in this game. Even a guy like Omark, who could have slowed the play and sent the puck to the net, would have been useful. An offensive juggernaught the Habs were not.

Their fans were annoying as always. I never will understand cheering like they're watching a european soccer game. Not in Canuck territory, but not enjoyable to be sure.

It is true that MTL's second and third goals should have never happened. Goal #2 saw a trip right in front of our net, and Andrew Ference got picked to created the 2-on-1 on the third goal. Why in hell he was pinching like that I have no idea, but that doesn't change the fact that there was a penalty there. The thing is, it wouldn't have mattered anyway. We had nothing offensively aside from some posts that came off of rush plays.

If that's better, we're in a heap of trouble.

- It took him a while to settle in, but he kept the team in the game long enough that they should have been able to take control. Not saying he couldn't have stopped some of them but he was good enough really.

- Needs to be better. Didn't play a physical game, didn't get his shot away, didn't exactly dominate defensively either. Here's the thing - I know I get frustrated with Petry faster than most people, but that's because I see the toolbox he's working with and expect more. He has very few games in which he takes control. Ugly effort on that two-on-one. He took away nothing.

- Better game than the last few but not amazing. Made some hits. Decent D.

- Too aggressive playing with Justin Schultz. Got a couple shots at the net and that's okay. Again, decent defense but certainly not dominant. Big mistake on the third goal as noted above. He can't be doing that.

J. Schultz
- He's not making the dynamic offensive plays that make his game worthwhile. Just isn't moving at the same pace and that was evident tonight. Second guessing his passes maybe?

N. Schultz
- Got blown by on a couple of rushes. This is what I view as his principle mistake and he still hasn't corrected it. Not making strong passes going out of the zone. I wonder if he's headed for the PB for a game or two in the not too distant future.

- Not a great game. Some very small episodes of brilliant passing but he also got caught flat footed a couple of times that really stick out for me and didn't get his shot through all that effectively. Needs to be making decisions at a higher speed than tonight.

- Whole lot of running around doing nothing. Probably the main culprit when the fourth line got caught in the zone because even though he's "speedy", he changes direction so slowly that a team like MTL throws him out of position in a heartbeat. Bad.

- Showed why he can't be a regular in this league when Hall broke in with him. He had absolutely no clue what to do. Even a guy like Georges Laraque would have driven the net with his stick on the ice. Acton was caught looking around and totally flat. No defensive gold to bail out his weak wingers. I do like that he's not afraid to muck it up in a scrum, but especially when he's not winning draws, that isn't enough.

- Had the one good sequence of a hard hit drawing a fight that should have also produced a PP through the instigator rule. Other than that, he struggled more than previously to help in the defensive zone and get the puck out. If I had my druthers he'd stay longer than Brown but I doubt he does.

- I'll give him this - I'd take him on the fourth line because in only a few minutes a night he could probably drive the net well enough to make a difference. His goal and another very similar play that didn't result in a goal were clear examples of that tonight. The thing is, when the puck isn't next to the net he's absolutely lost. Every time the puck game his way, he either lost it immediately or took so long to do anything that Montreal simply took the puck away. He went offside multiple times because he couldn't turn. He was undisciplined and easily frustrated. If he's not on the fourth line or in the PB when Joensuu returns, something is very wrong.

- Disappeared into the background a bit tonight. I'm blaming his linemates but perhaps he was just more focused on D tonight due to his assignment. Still strong on the dot but he got lots of PP time and was not a contributor.

- Looked lost out there. You can almost see the gears trying to turn and just not quite click in. He's not instinctively skating to the open areas and the team has forgotten how effective they can be when the puck flows through #64. Then he got frustrated and played an even more limited game. Needs to relax, have some fun and get back to playing his game.

- Pretty decent for most of the game. Hit a couple posts and made some guys miss. Struggled a little at the opposition blue and was not effective on the powerplay. Was very effective when played with Hopkins and Hall. This combo should have stayed together.

- Said all I really want to say earlier. He does nothing but frustrate me in that role.

- So, I don't know about you, but my go-to play when there's nothing available or I'm being checked is not to simply throw a behind-the-back no-look pass. Apparently Perron thinks this is a good idea, as he did it tonight several times. Unless you have Wayne Gretzky reading your mind from somewhere else on the ice, this play just won't work. Perron was also a tad distracted by the scrums tonight and didn't push the play in a meaningful way.

= Struggling. Stepped it up after he got nailed in the third. Simply not creating opportunities to get his shot away. I get the sense the constant line shuffling is frustrating him. Still, he needs to be better than this at creating dangerous opportunities.

- Another pretty solid game from him. Can definitely run with the minutes he's being given no problem. Landed several good hits where he was on the defensive side of the play and prevented the MTL attacker from advancing. Classic example of how you can hit effectively as a medium sized player.

- Not what he needs to be. Kept getting to the opposition blue and passing BACKWARDS. Made absolutely no sense. He's another guy who looks like he's trying really really hard to learn the system and pay attention to where he's going rather than just playing. I've never seen him so lost on the breakout and rush as he is right now.


Overall I see a confused team who is out there training rather than playing. They need to figure this out quickly or the losses will pile up fast enough that they kill you at the end of the year. You can't be having to think everything through in your head on the ice. You need to be reading and reacting. Too many players on this team are doing that.


2014 LMHF Report - Game #2




In a freaking shoot-out...

So that was a good example of the best and worst types of on-ice performance we're going to see in any given season but maybe we have a higher high gear than in years past. I'm probably one of the few that would take a world-class ten minutes over only a 'good' full sixty on most nights, but we saw what that could accomplish tonight minus a couple more minutes that would have put this one away.

I couldn't believe how bad this hockey team was for the first 45 minutes. It wasn't a case of effort not getting results. It also wasn't really a case of slacking. It was a case of terribly played hockey. The amount of turnovers from nearly everyone reminded me of a time in the early 90's when the Oilers couldn't make a pass to save their lives. Even the horrendous teams of the past few years have had spark. Those 90's teams were hopeless and frightening.

If we're going to look for positives in the first 45, I'd immediately highlight Yakupov, Hemsky and Hopkins. They were really the only players who had anything going offensively. Yakupov nearly scored a couple separate times before the wall came down. Hemsky saw the game was going sideways and tried to put the team on his back for a bunch of shifts. This isn't an ideal role for him as he's best when wheeling-and-dealing, but he still shows some pretty stellar stuff from time to time when playing super hero. That dangle and shot in the second period was just gross. Only a great stop by Brodeur kept that out. Hopkins was the breath of fresh air the team needed. While they did get down, he kept that top unit's heart ticking until they found the beat enough in the third period to be effective.

It is worth looking at how Eakins used his bench in this game. In the third period it seemed as though he was basically running 2 and a half lines. Part of this was out of necessity with Hamilton out, but instead of giving the fourth line a bunch of shifts as many coaches would do when down three and playing a crummy game, Eakins gave the game to the horses to see if they could run from behind. It appears that they can. Looking at the TOI in the game summary seems to verify what I saw by eye. I do find it interesting that Yakupov and Hemsky only got just under 17 minutes total. They must have been used more surgically because they were all over the place in the third making things happen. Anyway, just wanted to note that if this is the new coach's response to being down 3 or more - to run the top guys ragged for a comeback or die trying - I agree with the approach in almost all circumstances.

Where I will say Eakins need to do some work is on his "swarm defense". It is leaving the point men wide open and also sabotaging the breakout as players are out of position. Having that winger in the slot the way he does doesn't serve a purpose and having to chase all over the place just feeds chaos. Need to iron some of these things out.

Also, Eakins talks a bunch about "moments". Watching this team let its foot off the gas on the final powerplay was a sad moment and a huge strategic mistake. This was the time to finish the job and he has them sending in one forechecker. That won't do at all with a PP and 4 minutes to go when all the momentum is going your way. Stupid strategy that almost cost them the 2 points. Against a divisional opponent I would have been pretty angry.

Great to get to see Martin Brodeur in his final season. LMHF#2 is a big fan and really appreciated the chance to see him. He was stellar for two periods and I'm not sure much can be said about anything other than the SO goals and maybe an overplay on Hall's goal. The guy's going to go out playing some terrific hockey. Very cool to see him get an assist too. Guy has always been an amazing puck handler and it was certainly on display for almost all of tonight.

A lot of people seem to be debating the turning points of this game - I saw two offensive and two defensive worth discussing:

The first Oilers goal came on a powerplay that was a bit of a break. The thing is, the PP hadn't been very good tonight and most of the time was spent chasing the puck back into the defensive zone to regroup. For them to execute was a big deal. That it was Hopkins in his first game back was probably also a big deal. Hopkins makes that play of getting to the puck quickly and tapping it in at the side of the net better than anyone else. There have been chances like that in the two previous games but no one's been getting them. He did and it got them on the board. I didn't see the team kick into high gear at this point though.

It was after Ference's goal that the team started going. It was a bit of a weird goal. Justin Schultz was probably trying to send the puck off the boards to the low forward but it happened to go to Ference. His choice to shoot was a good one with three Devils screening their own goalie but it takes skill to thread the needle through a crowded shooting lane like that. He did well to make that happen. At 3-2 the players and fans were into it for sure.

The defensive plays came very close together. I believe both were at 3-2 but I could be wrong. LaBarbera made a key cover when the Devils were threatening that stopped a play that was really looking to be headed into the net. The Oilers were scrambling and this stopped it. Smid also made a really important poke play on a puck that was headed to an open Devil with an open net. Big deal.


- He wasn't as wobbly as in the preseason, but he still wasn't great. I can't fault him for getting beat by Jagr as that shot has baffled goalies for a long time now. Jagr owns us. Brunner's shot was stellar. That guy is a deal on that contract he got. Would have been a great add for most teams in the league and I can't see why it took so long for him to be taken. He went down too early on the Ryder shot (which is an issue that both of our goalies have. The thing was, Justin Schultz played this 2-on-1 so badly...taking away neither the pass nor the shot, that LaBarbera had to guess. He did guess badly though. The fourth goal...on one hand having your own Dman butt it into your net is pretty unfortunate. On the other, he was out of position and bobbled the puck. Got to have that one and bail your guy out.

- Very frustrated with his game tonight. He got beat clean at least 3 times when he actually had a step on the attacker. There's no reason this should be happening to a guy who skates as well as Petry does. He had several chances to get shots on net and didn't deliver. Passing was 50/50. It isn't that he was really terrible but that he can be so much better and wasn't.

- Made the key defensive play I noted above, but didn't really stand out. He's not skating the puck out of the defensive zone as much as he needs to in games like this. This is one of the strengths of his game and he struggles when he doesn't utilize it. No big hits that I recall but he was okay defensively.

J. Schultz
- I know Martin Brodeur praised him after the game, but aside from a couple adventures into the offensive zone that turned out fairly well, Schultz was pretty bad. He got beat in the defensive zone way too many times and wasn't maintaining a close enough gap with his check. He had Ference with him most of the game in an attempt to sort of bail him out but the plan didn't work that well. I'm sure he'll come back with a stronger game, but he may be struggling with Eakins' system at this point.

- This game was a struggle for him most of the way. He didn't get his shot to the net, turned the puck over too often, and looked confused in his own zone at times. The mean edge wasn't there either. I'm not worried as this is a very talented guy who is barely acquainted with the NA game, but he certainly needs to be better.

N. Schultz
- Didn't see him very often. This usually means he played well.

- Two things: I know he had his stick held on the Ryder goal and that should have been a penalty, but wasn't he already out of position anyway? Too far out wide. On the Elias goal, he should have rotated towards the puck after Hopkins lost his man. The thing is, as I've noted before, Ference gets lost in front of his own net from time-to-time and this can cost the team. He actually shouldn't have been on the ice at this point either, but that's a different point. Very good shot on the goal as I noted, and he was generally solid.

- Landed a couple decent hits and caused enough of a ruckus to instigate a fight. I suppose that is what they ask of him. The thing is that his ineffectiveness on the breakout hemmed his team in the its own end on several occasions.

- I liked that he got under the Devils' skin enough to draw a crowd but did not like that he alone drew a penalty. You have to draw the other team in if that's where you're going. Positionally and on the PK he was fine.

- Same problems as Brown. Though I like his skating and ability to take a pass, if he doesn't make more things happen than tonight, and doesn't improve on the breakout, he will be gone pretty quickly.

- Hadn't done much when he went down with an injury. Very unfortunate for him as this may have been his only decent chance with Smyth in the doghouse and Joensuu out. The downgrade from #6 to #48 is very evident and when you don't take advantage to prove you can contribute from lower in the batting order you do yourself no favors.

- He did enough that he wasn't a hindrance to the team. I know a lot of people probably liked his performance but as an offensive unit the lines he played on didn't have any flow for a long time. While the hitting is an admirable trait for most, I'd like to see him drop it except for when he has a chance to really lay someone out. He's not a good enough skater to get back into position after a late hit so these don't serve much of a purpose. If he cuts this out he'll be much better positionally.

- Hamstrung at the beginning of the game because he had to essentially fly solo. He gave it a go but that isn't his game and the puck wasn't coming at the right time to utilize his shot. This started happening after Eakins began bumping him onto the top two combos. He seems to work best with either Hall or Hemsky which isn't a big shock. Most guys who are as good as he is can play both wings without much trouble but I do wonder if he needs to be on the right side. He just seems to be more effective from over there and that was true tonight as well. Still not being used properly on the powerplay for some reason. I'm really struggling to see why/how it isn't happening. Missed a chance to make it 5-3 on a rebound. I've been surprised a couple of games in a row now that he hasn't managed to finish from there as he keeps getting to the puck but doesn't finish. Loved the shot-pass off Brodeur to Hemsky. That's becoming a signature play for #64.

- Go watch that goal if you haven't seen it. Just a gorgeous shot from the faceoff dot. Pure scorer style. He had actually jumped a couple faceoffs earlier and nearly had similar chances. He made no mistake on this one after Arcobello did a good job of tying up his man. The amazing thing was, he almost scored from nearly the exact same spot, but on his knees a couple minutes after. Amazing. Tonight was a great example of the fact that he makes his presence known, whether that is with a highlight reel goal or simply crashing the net and getting in the other team's face. I'd rank him just below the three guys I noted in terms of the 60 minute effort, but when it was go time he was right at the top.

- Probably a better game from him tonight, but I still see struggling. He's not getting into shooting position and getting the puck on net as often as he should. When he does, as on the little break he got tonight alone with Brodeur where he took a low shot rather than making a move, he's not doing the things he would normally do. The shootout goal was classic Eberle, but we can demand more from him than he showed tonight. Lots of icetime though and did a fairly good job on the PK.

- What a pleasant surprise. He upped his game again tonight and is someone going PPG. While no one expects him to keep this up, I'm guessing the sound positional play, good decision making and faceoff wins will continue. He managed to keep up with the offensive guys as they took off which is something not every checking C can actually do. Really solid game.

- He recognized early on that the team was struggling and attempted to carry them over the finish line. He didn't do that but did help keep them in the game long enough that the win was still there for the taking. One thing you had to notice about Hemsky's game tonight was that he won a bunch of puck battles when the Devils had clean possession. That's not an easy thing for a guy like him to do, but the effort was there and the skill did the rest. Great little play to set up Hall for the fourth goal. He knew where #4 would be and got the puck to that area. Beauty. Couple mistakes of note in the first but other than that a very strong game.

- Well, all I can say is the look of relief on his face at his goal was only surpassed by the relief of the fans. He was on the borderline to start getting booed tonight. There were a ton of people expecting a turnover every time he touched the puck. For quite a while he actually obliged. It wasn't just cross-ice passes to the opposition either. It was little plays in the corner and trying to make simple passes. Nothing was working. When he got the puck with skating room he would bumble it. Not good. I remember vividly when he made a five foot pass in the third thinking that was the first successful pass he'd made in 3 periods. It wasn't but that was how bleak his game was looking. The goal was excellent especially because HE WENT TO THE FOREHAND! Maybe the BS backhand move is dead. We can hope. Getting around Brodeur's pokecheck isn't easy, and credit to him for going to the right ice to give Hemsky a play. He did indeed come through with the game on the line.

- They don't win this without him. Huge minutes. Going full speed all night. I was amazed to see him leading nearly every rush when the "Big 3" were together. I really didn't expect zero rust when he hadn't played in months. Never underestimate Hopkins I guess. One curious thing though: They seemed to be setting up his shot from the Yakupov spot - I don't know about you but I don't think his shot is strong or accurate enough to be firing away from far out like that. Oh well.

The fans booed the players off the ice at the end of the second period tonight. They deserved all of it. They also deserved all of the cheers they got as the game picked up in the third and ended with LaBarbera finishing off the Devils after Eberle and Perron went shelf. That's just the way the game goes sometimes.


2014 LMHF Report - Game #1




Well, that result was quite unsatisfying but we definitely have a lot to talk about after tonight's game. Even though it was only the first game, we learned a lot about this hockey team and especially our new coach. I like a lot of what Eakins has been saying. The thing was, because of the way he utilized the preseason we didn't really get to experience how a game would flow when two points were on the line and now we have.

Eakins' penalty kill will be a bit of a work in progress but could become our killer secret weapon. Tonight for the most part he ran out Acton and Gordon whenever there was a faceoff and had them race off for Hemsky and Hall when there was a chance. Eberle and Perron also saw limited time but it focused mostly on those first four. You could see the opportunities for rushes and scoring chances that came as a result of Hall and Hemsky being out there. The one thing they will have to watch is that as skilled guys they see the vulnerability of the powerplay near the point and chase the puck a little too much. Discipline will be required in that space going forward but make no mistake, other teams will have to adjust to this style of play. I like it a ton.

Eakins wasn't afraid to make small adjustments to his lines at key points during the game. The one I noticed most was at the end of the second when he ran Yakupov out with Hemsky and Hall, then Joensuu with Eberle and Perron (I think that was it anyway but maybe there was a C in there. I know Joensuu was jumped up). He did this because some of those players were doing good things and he knew he could get away with it because there wasn't much time left in the second. That's a lot more Scotty Bowman than Craig MacTavish and that's a good thing.

The defensive system is a work in progress to be sure. If you watched our three units tonight, you'd have noticed them getting caught both chasing the puck and stuck behind their own net. For the most part the forwards did their jobs but the D are going to have to review the playbook. It wasn't really for lack of effort that mistakes were made but instead confusion led to pucks in the net. I'm guessing this will improve significantly.

After Trouba got in Arcobello's face, Eakins sent the goons over for the faceoff. This got a great reaction from the crowd and seemed to send the right message even though nothing actually wound up happening. This was part of an overall tone to the game that was fairly clear. We didn't take much crap tonight despite the fact that the Jets have a bunch of big boys who like to impose their will. We have several guys who are fairly mean and were definitely showing it tonight. If this keeps up it will pay dividends. I'm speaking mainly of Gazdic, Belov, Joensuu, Ference and even Perron who is chippy in a way that is productive.

The powerplay made some mistakes in that it didn't flow through the shooters enough. I know we scored twice but the play still has to flow through shooting chances for Yakupov and Eberle to be as effective as it can be. This is also true with the goalie out. Neither really got a good set up all night. That's not a coincidence - it is a strategic mistake.

Two players were deployed far too much and at the wrong times by Eakins - Smyth and Arcobello. I'm sure Eakins trusts Smyth because he's a vet and Eakins can probably relate some of his grinder game to the old man but that is no excuse for not bumping him off the top line earlier and it was preposterous to see Smyth out there at the end of the game trying to equalize. #94 has no business there. None. I'm worried that Eakins will lean on Smyth for far more than he's capable of for too long and it will hurt this team. Arcobello was also out there when the game was on the line. I know there aren't a lot of choices but Boyd Gordon and Taylor Hall can handle getting double-shifted with the game on the line. Especially after what Arcobello showed tonight.

Overall there were things I liked and didn't like but there are a decent amount of positives to take and it will be interesting to see how Eakins deploys a more complete roster.

On to the goals:

1 - Gazdic
What a debut for a random fourth line enforcer. He now gets to say that he scored on his first shift in his first NHL game. That's Mario-type stuff. Pretty incredible. I'm sure the quality of that shot will improve in his mind over time, but credit to him. He surprised and handcuffed Pavelec and the Oilers led 1-0.

2 - Gordon
I always question playing the faceoff guy on the powerplay but here's an example of where it worked out. Gordon positioned himself well in front and got his stick on a Schultz special wrister. The play that Justin made was really nice because he sold the pass to Yakupov and then delivered a very tippable wrister straight through the maze while in motion. Hemsky and Hall had played catch before this and Yakupov was a solid decoy. Very nice unit-wide effort.

3 - Hemsky
I'm sure that as Hemsky cut across the zone there were all kinds of people whining. They don't understand why he makes this play and probably still don't even after he buried the goal. He knew he had Wheeler dead and made him look like a complete twerp, then held on to the puck long enough that Byfuglien was completely blocking Pavelec's view and then made no mistake. Textbook Hemsky.

4 - Joensuu
He was already having a strong night when this goal came and I was very glad to see him get rewarded for his effort, especially in the first two periods. The guy is big but has some hands as well so I suspect we'll see him set up in front like he did on this one a bunch during the season. The Jets had no answer. Eberle got absolutely robbed an instant before Joensuu banged in the rebound and a ton of credit goes to his effort on this play. The Oilers powerplay went to the net hard and wouldn't be denied.


- The headliner in tonight's game for all the wrong reasons. It wasn't just the weak goals which we will get to in a moment. He was shaky in the net from the very beginning and save for a brief spot in the second he never got things right. Easy shots were vexing him and when he wasn't awkwardly covering up, he was kicking out obscene rebounds that had his collapsing defence scrambling. I don't absolve them of blame, but there was just no way to help Devan out tonight. Scheifele's goal was a rookie mistake on angles and Dubnyk admitted as much. You can't let your team down out of the gate like that. I don't give him a pass on the Little goal even though he was partially screened. He either wasn't squared up properly or plain wasn't ready. There's absolutely no excuse for Trouba's goal. That was a Tommy Salo post-Belarus special. I also have a big problem with the fifth goal, because while his D was indeed scrambling, he was all over the place and wound up allowing the goal because he was nowhere near the net. You can't drift around outside the crease as a goalie. He was the component of the team that didn't play well enough to win tonight and he should wear the horns for that. To his credit, he seemed to accept responsibility.

Belov- N. Schultz
- Much like his efforts in the preseason, Belov made a bunch of parts of the game look silly easy tonight. The puck flowed from his stick out of the zone into transition like it was nothing. He bullied guys around his own net. He made pretty good choices when it came to pinching and wasn't shy with the puck on the opposition blue. With all that said, he did make some mistakes, getting caught out of position on a couple of occasions including one severely so that led to a goal against. What I struggle with is whether Schultz was actually the majority player in those mistakes. What is for sure is that Schultz is attempting to block the puck incorrectly. He was down on one knee multiple times tonight and it cost the team on the Little goal then almost again later. As a vet he knows that this isn't the way to do it and that you have to be moving towards the shooter as you block in order to cut down the angle. Not good enough. I'm wondering if despite being and 'A' Schultz gets chased off the team before too long this year. There were some things he did better than last year in this game but he made a ton of the same mistakes.

J. Schultz-Ference
- This pair looks like it will work. Justin made a number of strong plays including for his assist at the opposition blue. Probably my favorite was how well he read a developing play to get himself a chance at a wide open net coming off the right side. Unfortunately he couldn't corral the puck but you could see the play unfolding perfectly in his head just a second ahead of the actual pace of play. Just a beauty thing to watch happen. Defensively he was fairly strong aside from being caught behind the net at times. Used his active stick to break up a few plays. Ference was strong in the corners and played a basic, mean game on the blue line. I noticed the one area that still concerns me though...he doesn't contain his man well in front of the net. He either loses position or gets outworked at times. This was true on the fifth goal and a couple other times during the game. It doesn't have to be a big thing - but if you've ever played the position and been good at this part of the game as I was, you're surprised he hasn't found a coping strategy. I relied on controlling the opposition's stick and bringing a player down as I fell if things got desperate. Ference also got some shots through, but he also had enough opportunities that there should have been more. Too many blocked, tipped and prevented.

- This pair struggled to move the puck to safety a lot more than they usually do. Most of their difficulty involved getting beat behind the net. Smid looked at least a step off his normal pace and wasn't getting into position quickly enough to lay any hits. This is a big part of his game when he's most effective. Not sure why this was happening tonight. Petry wasn't making as many mistakes, but also did some weird things. In the third when he stepped into the slot with a great scoring chance he fired so wide he wouldn't have hit a barn. It was UGLY. When this line was out with the Hall unit, they couldn't get the play going for their forwards. I'm sure they'll bounce back.

- As a unit they did the job certainly. Gazdic and Acton especially. I don't think there's much more you can ask from your newly acquired fourth liner than to come up an assist short of a Gordie in the first game he's played for your team. That's impressive even if the goal wasn't art. What I liked about Gazdic's game was his ability to take a pass, decent skating and better positioning than I expected. He didn't get caught as much as Brown does and that allowed him to hit more and get more pucks. Good, strong win in his fight against a big dude. Acton showed off his speed tonight and did fairly well for himself. Nothing wrong with winning faceoffs, keeping things simple and only making mistakes related to the quality of your wingers. What I mean by this is that the line DID have a common difficulty for fourth lines which is getting stuck in their own zone. Not ideal but they kept it to a minimum. You all know what I think of Brown and it was a typical game for him minus the stupid penalty. Ran around a lot...didn't really get anyone solid and didn't impact the game. Good for him getting to the net on Gazdic's goal though. Surely threw off Pavelec.

- In the first period this was the Oilers strongest offensive line in more ways than one. Joensuu established the heavy game he wanted to play very early on. 'Strong' describes the way he played to a tee. He was imposing his will in the corners, in front of the net and engaged with defenders powerfully. There's no doubt the team was missing a guy like this, and one who can skate and apparently has a nose for the net would be a massive find. If he can keep this type of thing up we'll have an important piece. The only thing that I noticed happens to him sometimes is that he's not very good on longer shifts or when tired. He can get awkward and slow. This will require discipline to keep in check. Loved how he went right after Byfuglien and wasn't taking anything from him. You have to be bold to take that guy on. Gordon was pretty much as advertised other than that he struggled to figure out where his linemates were headed at times. There was confusion out there and oddly enough the veteran C was the one experiencing it. I'm sure he'll be fine after he settles in some. Good goal and a lot of strong work tonight. Yakupov was fairly quiet. Part of this was because the PP didn't set him up and part was because he was doing a lot of the chasing and trying to get the puck to Joensuu in front rather than being the shooter on his 5-on-5 line. He had a great chance in the third after Joensuu drove the net that he really needed to cash and didn't. That was surprising and disappointing. He looked good when jumped up to play with Hall and Hemsky. That's where he needs to go for now.

- I hate to do it, but this line was off tonight and it was because of Arcobello. He looks like a kid brother, skates and jersey too big who is out there trying to keep up and trying his damnedest but just can't. I saw him win one puck battle tonight in a role where he needs to be digging it out for Perron and Eberle to make magic. He had a perfect chance to tie the game in the third from a wide open slot and instead stood still, took way too long and took a poor shot with a winger streaking in behind the goalie. All he had to do was keep moving, or make a pass and that puck is in the net all day. He can't keep up at this level. Tonight exposed him in a way the preseason really couldn't and I'm not sure how he could improve from here really as it isn't the effort but the tools. Eberle was just okay. He started strong early but didn't do enough to get himself open with the puck. To be fair, he's used to playing a different role but should have been able to adjust. Perron had two really good chances to score that resulted in shots at the net but he missed. Very unfortunate but not a very flashy game.

- One of the worst games you'll see from Hall all season. Obviously the turnover that resulted in Trouba's goal will be looked at over and over. I actually have a much bigger problem that he went and put another random pass to the opposition out there right afterwards in the offensive zone. Even the best players in the league have to learn from their mistakes. Most of Hall's tonight came when he'd migrated back to essentially playing wing. I'm guessing he didn't notice but you can tell he's still trying to learn and maybe getting frustrated. He really struggled with the puck at times tonight, and when Hemsky would give him the usual lead on a pass, he'd miss it because he hesitated just a bit too long. That's not Taylor Hall. Very frustrating I'm sure and I'd bet we'll see a man on a mission against VAN. Smyth looked like he was trying to skate in a fat suit and playing with no hands. While his positioning was okay and he at least caused some trouble in front of the net, he couldn't keep up at the times when Hemsky and Hall got going. There's only so much a two man offensive unit can do. Hemsky was excellent for pretty much the whole game. Created a bunch of chances, scored a beauty and gave the team chances to close the game out.

Here we go. It is going to be a ride this year. The one thing I take from tonight - how the hell do you stop us when Hopkins and Gagner are back? I don't think you can. That was a big WPG D crew and forwards we took on tonight and they couldn't really manage when we played our game. Look out.