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1/29/13

2013 LMHF Game Report #3


EDMONTON 4

VS.

COLORADO 1
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I know people love the dramatic victories and games with crazy endings or bizarre incidents. I get it. It also inspires some of the more interesting Game Reports. The thing is, I much prefer a game like tonight. I'm the kind of guy who wants to win the Cup in 4 games, not 7, and have a 6-0 lead going into the third period. I like to watch my hockey team win, win well, and win going away. I like to see players do what they're supposed to do. I like to see a team exhibit control of the pace and the puck. This type of hockey removes a lot of drama from the game...but I'm not there to see a play...I'm there to see hockey. Tonight we played hockey.

I accept that the crowds that attend these games are not full of hockey nuts who pride themselves on analyzing a game. This is one of the only reasons I'm able to have even the limited amount of tolerance I do for the people yelling SHOOT all the damn time. I'll spare you guys the annual rant for now. I will say however that it is very unsettling to hear people getting all agitated when we're busy dummying the Avs on the powerplay. These hockey players know you only need one shot to score. They know you're looking for a great chance. I'm very thankful that they remained patient almost the whole game tonight. It is a big reason why we came out on top.

We were also patient 5-on-5. I know this is a point of concern for a lot of people right now. The thing is, at least for tonight, we controlled the puck and dictated the pace save for about five shifts. The chances were there and we put good pucks to the net all night long. Constrast that with the Avs having to shoot from weak angles and the outside of the ice. There was a reason they looked impotent and were not drawing penalties as we were. When we play in this manner, we'll win games whether we score all our goals 5-on-5, or on the powerplay. The first line alone could probably have scored at least 5 tonight. While the fact that they didn't is not great, the thing is that they were controlling the puck, keeping it a LONG way from Dubnyk, and not getting frustrated.

When it came to how we scored the goale, they were beautiful plays to watch:

1. After a beautifully controlled powerplay, the Oilers get two forwards near the net (including Hemsky who I've always said should play down low and close to the net). A well executed, low and tippable shot comes in through a lane, a screen turns into a little bit of digging for the puck and then #83 pops his stick on a loose puck and we're in business. Good all-around goal.

2. Hall takes a nifty little pass from Whitney, makes another nifty play to Eberle who cuts in and rifles it home like only he knows how to do. They even bang in the rebound for good measure after the shot whips back out of the net. Perfect rush play made at that same angle we see so often from that line. They're just tremendous at making that forward play off the wall as opposed to the more common completely lateral play.

3. After another controlled series of plays. Hopkins makes a lovely read through the seam on a half-shot/half-pass to Hall, who tips it off Horcoff and in. Again we had patience, puck control, created a lane, got two guys towards then net including one down low and to the side, and they score. It isn't rocket surgery. That positioning + that skill equals goals all day long.

4. Brilliant effort by Sam Gagner to get to a loose puck and battle the Colorado defenceman to the ground. Yakupov flies in out of nowhere and makes absolutely no mistake on the empty net so that he comes out of an iffy night in the black. Well done.

Colorado was certainly lacking some players tonight and they did well on the shot clock, but aside from a few shifts they were not threatening and did not push us too hard. After the Avs scored their only goal we almost immediately responding by generating strong scoring chances. That's exactly what good teams do. If we continue the efforts we saw tonight for the most part, we're in the money most nights.
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Dubnyk
- The goal he allowed was itself weak. He got caught defending his post badly and couldn't recover from an initial shot. Aside from that and a couple ugly rebounds, he was excellent. Definitely a bounce-back performance after the Calgary game. I just wish he could find a way to stop all the bouncing in the first place.

Whitney-Potter
- They were on for the only goal against and certainly guilty on that play. Whitney got caught a step away from the play and Potter got lost in the corner. It wasn't all on them and the play was a little awkward but they definitely could have handled it better. Whitney made a stronger effort tonight. He still struggled to get into position at times, but the nice play to Hall and a couple solid shots at the net served him well. He's not the dominator out there anymore, sadly, as tonight would've been the kind of night where he'd dish out a couple nasty hits in the past, but he did enough. Potter made some passes and generally had a quiet game. They don't really need him to jump in this year so on nights like this he certainly fades into the background. He did use his size fairly well to keep the Avs to the outside though.

Smid-Petry
- Plenty of physicality from Smid tonight and I'm noticing that he's improved the way he uses his size to separate guys from the puck when he can't land a big hit. There were a couple of specific plays in the third where he did this. For the most part he just kept things quiet which is pretty much his job. Petry got caught out of position a couple times and made an ill-advised pinch or two (including an awkward attempt to keep the puck in during the third period that nearly resulted in a dangerous rush) but aside from that it was a normal game from him. Lots of skating, solid positioning, good passes. This pair is pretty boring in a pretty great way when they play well.

N. Schultz-J. Schultz
- Justin didn't light up the scoreboard tonight, but was a steady presence on the powerplay once again. I've seen few guys able to go side to side and stop the puck so calmly as Schultz does. He also doesn't force shots or telegraph his passes. This is key as the Avs tried to be aggressive up top at times and were fooled by Schultz + the forwards most of the time. He managed to get in his usual couple drives to the net (which are so fluid and effortless they might as well be poetry) and unfortunately couldn't finish a really great chance he had, but if that's a fairly normal night for a rookie Schultz, we've done enormously well. Nick wasn't so smooth but didn't make any mistakes that cost the team. He threw a few errant passes and got caught out of position at times. He also left himself vulnerable to hits which is something you really have to watch against Colorado. They aren't the greatest forechecking team in the world tactically, but they do love to go for the big bomb every now and again. You have to watch your head. Same warning to Hemsky, Paajarvi and some others as well. Get an elbow up.

Paajarvi-Belanger-Hartikainen
- This line was a vast improvement over previous units and did some really nice things as a group. They drew penalties, protected the puck and forced the Avs to work hard in the defensive zone. Teemu needed a good game tonight and he delivered. His domain was the wall of the opposition's end, where he either controlled the puck or forced 2 additional Avs to come get it from him. Absolutely the way he needs to play the game and that was great to see. The crowd appreciated it too. Magnus drew a penalty with a nice little rush up the boards and cut to the net in the second. It was a shame Belanger couldn't score on this and a couple of other plays Magnus generated. He also managed to dodge a nasty hit that was headed his way and improve his board work as well. The only thing he was guilty of again was getting a little out of position at times and trying to skate too much. It will come with some line stability. I can't help but feel the Belanger we thought we were getting would have scored at least one tonight. He always seemed to be good for a greasy one on nights where his line played like this against us. Not so tonight despite a couple really nice chances. With that said, he skated hard and provided solid positioning support to his young linemates. Good enough. The 4th did their job tonight.

Smyth-Horcoff-Petrell
- These guys were better than they have been in that they were gaining the zone and directing some pucks toward the goalie while playing a fairly solid defensive game. In a sense that's all you need but they should be capable of more, especially after the competition they got from line 4 tonight. Smyth wasn't as far behind the play or away from his checks as last game, and he didn't make any goofy mistakes or take bad penalties. Error free is okay I suppose. I could do without the bad shooting and weak wraparound attempt when you have open teammates in the third period trying to close out a game though. Horcoff was okay. I do recall seeing him skating away from the puck as it headed toward the net, which was incredibly odd but I think that was on the PP. He just kind of ho-hum did his job 5-on-5. The thing is, he seems to have slowed down some and is not really getting in on the forecheck effectively. We need that from him. He might be more suited to playing with Paajarvi and Hartikainen actually, as they are puck retrieval and zone-gaining kind of guys while he could provide positioning support. We'll see how things shake out. Petrell was pretty silent and got pushed around a bit out there. I'm surprised he hasn't been tougher this year.

Yakupov-Gagner-Hemsky
- Both Sam and Ales were on and going tonight. It is unfortunate that they didn't generate more goals. I really liked how they bounced back from that unfortunate miss at the side of the net that Hemsky should have cashed (and has to cash) in the third by pressing really hard and getting another first rate chance where Hemsky completely dummied a Colorado defender and fed Gagner who had an open net and missed by half a step. That, thankfully, was one of the only times #89 was behind the play all night. He was really moving while at the same time staying in strong, supportive positions. He made good shooting/passing decisions and that was reflected in generating scoring chances. His extra effort to secure the empty net goal was the cherry on a very nice night for him. Hemsky scored a nice, fundamental goal, made some nice passes and went around a bunch of Avalanche defenders. If Yakupov would have had a better night, Hemsky sets him up for multiple goals with the moves he completed. Does this mean he didn't turn the puck over? Of course not. There is inherent risk in trying to beat a defender with a move at the top of the offensive zone. The thing is, if it works (and it did numerous times) your likelihood of a scoring chance is really high. Your team also has no excuse for not being in a supportive position at that stage and it should be fairly easy either for the trailing forward to scoop the puck (something the Oilers have never been good at but seem to be learning) or the defence ready to defend (as they haven't needed to join the rush yet). #83 worked hard and didn't get frustrated or impatient which is very important. Nail had a bit of an off night, losing his position at times and making a couple errant passes. He also did some nice things and unfortunately didn't get the puck enough in the offensive zone. But, Krueger sat him down then unleashed him when he had a chance to succeed and the kid did. Love #64.

Hall-Hopkins-Eberle
- Their best game of the season so far. They controlled the play really well, drove Colorado backwards and generated a ton of chances. Hall did what he always does on his best nights: rather than blindly drive wide and fail in getting to the net, he started cutting in high in the zone and looking to pass. The man is a much better passer than he gives himself credit for. He also did well for himself when he got stick at the point on the powerplay. Sometimes this is a really awkward spot for Hall but tonight he made it look pretty easy. He drove the play and also played well positionally in terms of choosing when to drive the net, when to peel off and when to float looking for a chance. These aren't things he always does well but on the nights he does, we win. Eberle was just magic. Great shot for a lovely goal, several more chances and a beautiful passing display. You can't do it much better than he did and to only come out with one point was certainly a shame. Hopkins almost seemed to be outsmarting himself tonight. In the third a puck came towards his stick and his foot lept out at it. He had time to take his deadly wrister and instead backhanded the puck. He over-read a couple of the offensive zone plays that should have resulted in great scoring chances. He's so damn close to busting out with a five-point game where he looks completely unstoppable...I just hope I'm there to see it. Great decision on the Horcoff goal as previously noted. As a line, the thing I noticed most was how many touch plays these guys tried for tonight. You could tell they were feeling it when the little flick passes and timing plays started to show up. It was a pleasure to watch. They're going to do something ridiculous in short order.

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I'm guessing there will be some who aren't as positive as I am about tonight's game. That's fine. I think what we saw though, was what we're used to having good teams do to us. We played well, didn't quite get the execution right, and allowed a bunch of bad shots. How many games do you remember going like that where were beaten by such teams? I remember a lot of nights seeing nothing but wristers into the chest from the goal line...I'm sick of them. This is so much better.

1/25/13

2013 LMHF Game Report #2

EDMONTON 2 (or was it 4?)

VS.

LOS ANGELES 1
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From sad display of futility to an utterly epic adventure ending in triumph. All in two days. These are your Edmonton Oilers.

It took forever. There was every emotion you could imagine at a hockey game, right down to the stupid drunk girl attempting to underhand lob a full, lidless beer from the second deck onto the ice and doing nothing but soaking everyone in sight. Everyone except her stayed. We all hoped. And it happened.

I've seen a lot of games over the years now. A lot of things have happened. Never so many utterly strange and baffling occurrences in one game. I believe that was the worst refereed game I've seen live. Possibly not by a little bit either. The only game live or on TV I can compare it to was a playoff game in Dallas years ago where one of our arch-nemesis refs sent us to the box for no reason all damn night. Even that probably wasn't so bad. There are always games with utterly unbelievable calls, sometimes even ones that violate the rules of the league (there was at least one of those tonight and possibly another). This is never accompanied by two teams being completely stymied on the PP. It is never a group of young guns taking on the Stanley Cup champs after getting absolutely waxed two days earlier. You never see a game where both coaches could have legitimately charged into the refs' room and laid down a beating and had it make sense.

Well, until tonight.

A word on Johnny Quick - What a goalie. There was absolutely no chance you were beating him clean tonight. He was on his game, focused as hell and that made the victory all the sweeter.

Los Angeles also made it very very difficult to get to him. Our top six threw pretty much everything they had right at them all night long and the Kings blocked shot after shot, pass after pass and lane after lane. It was clinical. It was beautiful frankly. The thing was, they needed to put forth that effort.

Our top six had trouble getting things done tonight. Make no mistake, they were far from perfect. The thing is, they never quit. The coach kept throwing them over the boards and they charged, and charged and charged. Whatever else happened tonight, we may have proven that even a Stanley Cup D and top end goalie cannot stop this top six from getting the 'W' when they put their mind to it. If we bring this effort against a lesser squad, we're going to blow them out big time. Whatever else they did tonight including mistakes with the puck and missed chances, I am so proud of the effort they put forth. It won us the game more than anything else. Add in the adversity the striped team we were also playing against provided and that was nearly impossible. Yet we did it.

Greg Kimmerly has been an embarassment to this league for some time now. I don't know much of anything about the other guy but assuming their old rookie-vet system, it would be appropriate that the rook get fired/fined. You cannot allow that type of officiating to taint your game the way tonight's embarrassment did. It was bad enough that they made a bunch of ticky-tack calls. It was bad enough when they gave Smid an instigator period...much less two of them (can anyone actually find whether that is legal?). Then they blew the whistle early three times (two on the Oilers and one on the Kings). Then breaking the rules of the game on Hopkins' goal. I swear I thought they were going upstairs on Yakupov's goal...

On a sad note I've just discovered that my PVR cut the game short...of all the games to run really long...anyone know if there's a re-run?

Please share your stories from tonight's game...whether you were there or watching on TV. This is one of those we'll remember. A regular season game yes, but just like the Atlanta game for instance...but with high drama. Beautiful. On to the players...

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Dubnyk
- After some early help from his best friends, #40 settled in and got back to doing what he does best. He made some really excellent saves; especially in the second and third periods. It took a nasty turnover and a great move from an excellent player to beat him tonight. That will get him a 'W' on most occasions. Well done and a huge bounce-back. I hope he takes this one to heart.

Fistric-Whitney
- Fistric played a very solid first game as an Oiler. He chased one hit and got out of position which nearly caused a goal, and also played a puck into the slot but was otherwise excellent. Good PKing, laid a number of very solid hits and drew a couple penalties with his aggressiveness. That's exactly why he was acquired and exactly what the team needs. What was rather unbelievable was watching him having to cover for Ryan Whitney. While #6 was better later in the game, he spent much of it once again crusing around in no man's land, mishandling the puck, needlessly skating behind the net and generally making mistakes. It looked at times tonight like he couldn't make it from the faceoff do to the corner...that's really really bad.

Smid-Petry
- I know there will be some criticism of Smid tonight, likely relating to his penalties mostly. For one, it was abundantly clear that he asked and was answered rather than jumping his opponent which is not taking an instigator. Then the weird visor thing...and that new "smothering" rule is just terrible. The thing was, he came out of all of that really pissed off and fired up. For the rest of the game, he hit, moved the puck, defended like crazy on the PK and was a big part of this win. You have to love a guy who gives that kind of effort and finds a way even when things go squirrely. As for Petry, for much of the night he was the picture of poise. He skated the puck confidently and cleared the zone. He could have made slightly better passes (though I'm starting to wonder if the ice is even worse than last year) but was really really solid.

N. Schultz-J.Schultz
- The "brothers" had some pretty iffy moments tonight. In addition to Nick's misplay at the blue line and Justin's failure to cover up on that play, they got their signals crossed on which check belonged to which Schultz on several occasions. Justin was also a little shaky at times at the point on the powerplay. You certainly couldn't argue with the results at the end, even if his shot got blocked on the Yakupov goal. These two can be better than they were tonight.

Hartikainen-Belanger-Petrell
- Belanger had a weird game. In the end he won an important faceoff. Earlier he had a couple great chances to score but didn't happen to think the black rubber thing bouncing around had much to do with the game being played. It was baffling. He also had a shift in the second where he took some abuse and got really annoyed. He probably should have gotten a penalty on this shift. Still absolutely no extra effort from him. He was clearly good along with Petrell on the PK though. Lennart was mostly invisible, missing a good scoring chance and not laying hits when he could have. This is unfortunate but he also didn't hurt us. Hartikainen did what he could in limited ice time, including a couple really nice drives to the net from the corner.

Paajarvi-Horcoff-Smyth
- It is not a good sign when once again the non-vet was the best player on the line. Magnus made some mistakes including either bobbling the puck or turning it over on a couple of occasions, but generally travelled with a lot of speed and got back defensively. Let's put Horcoff and Smyth's PKing aside for a moment. These guys should be able to compete 5-on-5. They are not. Smyth got roughed up early and then decided he was going to be a grumpy old man for the rest of the night. This meant a bad penalty, being way out of position, losing battles in the corners and giving the puck away on numerous occasions. He was not good at all. Horcoff was okay (but just okay) 5-on-5 and lost a ton of important faceoffs on the powerplay. Both Smyth and Horcoff were ineffective at tipping the puck and screening the goalie. These guys need to put in some extra work to catch up with the rest of the squad.

Yakupov-Gagner-Hemsky
- These guys really struggled to get going at times. Partially this was due to being pulled off the ice at inopportune times, but also each of them made mistakes with the puck. Hemsky was taking too much time on a line that is now a timing line. Yakupov was chasing too hard and getting out of position. Gagner was trailing too far behind the play. On the PP, at first they got too locked into having Yakupov down low where the Kings could lock out the pass. They adjusted later but did not come through. I still maintain they are the #1 unit and should be played first...but I'm not the coach yet. What I said at the beginning of the post applies big time to these guys though. They kept going. They kept pushing. They did not quit or try to do it alone or anything of that sort. They attacked the zone all night and finally broke through. Very proud of the way they kept going. What a goal by Yakupov. The most dangerous player I've seen in an Oilers uniform live. This guy is going to score 50 goals in a season. And soon. Krueger has to get him more PP chances. He will score a ton.

Hall-Hopkins-Eberle
- No line was asked for more by their coach tonight. At any point when there was a question, these guys were Krueger's answer (even when maybe they shouldn't have been). They were having a hell of a time getting to the center of the Kings zone. This is where they do their real damage and taking it away can shut them down for the evening. It is true that Eberle had at least 3 pucks go right through his stick tonight and again should have had at least two goals. This reminds me in some ways of the beginning of last season in that he struggled a little bit while still putting out a solid effort. Hopkins was, as he has been in the first two games, just barely missing on absolutely everything. You know he's going to bust out very shortly. I loved the way that he made sure he would make a difference in this one via his backchecking. You can really tell it is something he prides himself in and it resulted in shutting down a couple dangerous Kings chances. Hall did the same by asserting himself physically and I think his speed up the wing did eventually wear down the Kings to some extent. His desperation play to set up Yakupov's massive goal game after a night when everything he threw at the net got blocked or tipped wide. You could see how frustrated he was when the goal was disallowed...then violently signalling that the Yakupov goal had to count when the officials were looking like they were going to have another "conference". What an effort by these three.
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Does anyone have this recorded? Keep it. Wow. I still feel great. What...A...WIN!

1/23/13

2013 LMHF Game Report #1


EDMONTON 3

VS.

SAN JOSE 6
-------------------

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??!?