2013 LMHF Report Game #16




I haven't watched the Oilers do that to a team in probably seven years. It isn't that they stormed out of the gate like they did. That has happened even during some of our darkest days. It is what happened after that. It was the rest of the game that was most interesting to me.

When we've gotten big leads in recent years (such as against Chicago not that long ago) and immediately backed off, allowing the opposition back in the game to some degree if they put forth any effort whatsoever. This is a sad way to win a game even if you come out and score 6 or 7 in the first. It just makes you worry.

Tonight we got a huge lead and then said to that incredibly annoying Canucks team that has given us so many damn fits...come and take it from us. Good effing luck.

This was not a night of sitting back even though we didn't score another goal. This was "we know we're in control and we're going to show it to you, rub it in, and make you know it." We controlled the puck, passed more than usual, made sure our plays were going to work and went about the business of a win. This wasn't as huge or gradual as the game 6 win against Carolina quite obviously, but there were times when it felt like that.

This squad went for every puck, didn't second guess and committed to each decision. Amazing to watch a team do that.

Not to mention the referees certainly called the game to the score. We should have had an absolute ton of powerplays. All earned through effort and making the Canucks frustrated. It was rather disappointing that this didn't come to pass because that team earned the chance to rack up some crooked numbers tonight.

In the end of course it didn't matter. This game was ours from the first.

I don't agree with Vancouver's decision to pull Schneider. What exactly was he supposed to do on either of those shots? Certainly take a time out but that was an instance where the luxury of Luongo led to a bad coaching decision.

I am disappointed no Oilers player took the opportunity to rearrange Kevin Bieksa's face tonight. If there was ever a time and a place to do it, this was it. Mike Brown should have been told to do so by Krueger. If his play wasn't pathetic enough, the jerk even took off with the game puck because, ya know, he's cool like that. What a loser.

That will be the extent of my negativity I believe. Way too many good things tonight to bother with some of the nit-picky stuff.


Taylor Hall took this game over from the very beginning. I wasn't surprised he got the chances he did. The man can find a gap and make a team give up a chance with the very best of them. I was a little surprised he got those first two shots on net top shelf like he did. That's something that has come a long way from the start of his career as I'd maintain that he would fire both of those over the net. Tonight he made no mistake and it wasn't even really a big deal. He just came in, took a shot and picked the corner. Another day at the office. Wow. The first goal was interesting in that he nearly had a referee and a linesman in his way. Hall's had more run-ins with the officiating crew this year than I can remember anyone else having. Part of it is that his speed is on you so fast that I think a lot of the officials struggle to anticipate it. The good news is tonight it didn't go the other way and end up in our net. Hall's third was a no-brainer. On a night like tonight, if you're a talented player and it is going that way for you, you go to the net just like he did and it tends to find a way. It was a lot like Gagner in the 8-point game. You just knew. He didn't get any more but he could've had 6 or 7 tonight and not batted an eye. Again, between the missed powerplays and the fact that the Oilers played a much more deliberate afterwards held his totals in check a touch. He also passed to Ryan Whitney on a 2-on-1 where Luongo was dead which baffled me. There were more chances in the third. He had this one under control, period.

His linemates Eberle and Hall played pretty tremendous games as well. They both had their passing hats on for most of the night and both made beautiful things happen. Hall's second goal was set up on an absolutely perfect play by Hopkins to send Hall in free and clear. Eberle was skating to the puck well and dishing passes off all night. He set up Hall for that Luongo highlight save in the third. He also made an amazing effort while tired at the end of a shift in the second to drive the net for a scoring chance and drew a penalty. The entire line was just rolling all night. Imagine what they could have done with the 8 or powerplays they deserved.

The Paajarvi-Gagner-Hemsky line didn't put on a show tonight but were still quite good. Hemsky set up a number of chances and got a couple himself. I can't believe he missed the combo of passes from Magnus and Sam that led to him with an open net in the first to make the game 5-0. It was a bit of an awkward sequence but he never misses those and it was weird. He also took a big hit from Sestito and kept going which was admirable. Magnus was excellent and drove the net for two great scoring chances off the posts. Very solid game from him. Gagner played more of a support role tonight but did his job.

Nail Yakupov did some really nice things this evening. There were a few good passes but I think most will remember his hit on one of the Sedins in the second period. The kid knows when to lean into someone and definitely uses his skating to great effect for hitting. He's the anti-J.F. Jacques in this sense. He gets the absolute most out of his speed, size and hitting opportunities. Horcoff had one of his better nights in a while, pressing the play and staying disciplined rather than overskating. He is built for a team that stakes itself to early leads for sure. He just hadn't remembered how to play with confidence like we saw tonight for some time. We're not going to talk about Ryan Jones because I said I wouldn't be focusing on the negative.

The fourth line did some of its job. I certainly can't complain about the job Smyth and Petrell did. Lennart specifically took the opportunity to get himself a couple decent scoring chances and get shots away.

All I really want to say about the D is that they were excellent tonight. They were aggressive, hit people, made good passes and hurt the Canucks when they got the opportunity. As a unit they were exactly what you needed them to be.

Dubnyk wasn't tested a lot, but made probably 5 really excellent saves to preserve his SO. I was impressed by his confident positioning and demeanor, as he sometimes allows the pressure of a lead to make him nervous. Not tonight. Very well done.

Above all else, it is fun to smack that hockey team around and expose their weaknesses. We did it.

The key will be to remember the lessons we learned tonight and build on them. Continue attacking. Play with confidence. Impose your game. These things are true when you're winning 4-0, tied 2-2 or losing 4-0. They are true from the drop of the puck in every single game. The things we did tonight will work. Period.


2013 LMHF Report Game #14



ST. LOUIS More than zero

This report is being done mainly for posterity's sake. I'm not going to waste a lot of effort writing about whatever the hell THAT was. Frankly I've already gotten more enjoyment out of my very late dinner of hot wings and curly fries than that game provided. The best moment of the whole game was when some girl licked a guy's face on kiss cam and then won the BVJ tickets. Seriously. This was 1993 bad...

Those of you who follow these posts know I don't go really negative very often. I try to see the positive even in the worst of games but this was really hard to take. Then I'm on my ride home hearing the media in this town making more excuses for this hockey team and also claiming that the players aren't happy that the fans booed them tonight. I'm not sure I buy that as I only heard Horcoff's words and I know how the media operates when the team plays a stinker...but simply claiming the Blues were good and that fans shouldn't have booed that abomination of a "hockey game" is a joke. To think that I for some reason should cheer for a team that has been as bad as this one for so long, has absolutely STUNK at home since the beginning of last season, and put forth absolutely no effort after what qualifies as a three week vacation in terms of an NHL scheduling break...You've got to be completely insane. It is bad enough that this horrible homestand we just choked away is considered "playing better". We've really been that horrible. Amazing.

First off, the Blues played a solid defensive game and that was it. The Oilers have beaten plenty of teams that have played solid defensive games. The other squad pushing back a little against your attack is no reason to throw in the towel and play like complete boobs. I saw more basic passes missed tonight than I've seen in a long time. I haven't seen that many players skate away from finishing their check in forever either. The goals the Blues scored were pretty bloody weak and the result of bad efforts by the Oilers, rather than strong ones by St. Louis. You can't just give away games like that and expect respect.

The Oilers had precisely one line going for any significant part of the game. The Hall-Horcoff-Hemsky line generated chances in the first and second periods. Hall is still only maybe 75% but was certainly better. Horcoff was just okay and Hemsky made some things happen. By the third things had degenerated to the point where even these guys weren't effective and Horcoff was as bad as I've seen him in a long time. Hall kept falling down, couldn't beat anyone and couldn't even seem to get his shot away. Something's up there.

Pretty much everyone else was utterly terrible for almost 60. Let us highlight some of the worst offenders:

Mike Brown has already stopped hitting people. He also made horrible plays with the puck, skated himself into corners several times and it was actually embarrassing to think that guy we watched tonight was on an NHL roster.

Ryan Smyth spent the whole game reaching his stick at people while not skating.

Eric Belanger is an embarrassment to the jersey and should never see Oilers ice again. It is bad enough that he's fallen off as far as he has since we've acquired him, but tonight he peeled away from every check, made no offensive effort and basically just quit on each shift at the first sign of adversity. It made me sick.

Ryan Jones still thinks he's a defenceman in the offensive zone.

Ryan Whitney should hang em up to preserve his moderate legacy. This is not the guy we watched before and it never will be again. He was horrendous tonight. We really should have moved him by now. It sucks what has happened to him but we can't will him to be better.

Why won't Nick Schultz hit anyone or make a decent pass?

Watching tonight hurt my brain. Listening to the commentary after the game made me want to damage it.

How long are people going to continue making excuses for this hockey team? After games like tonight, this team should hear it from everyone, fans, media, and themselves. They should expect it, accept it and take responsibility. The short season opportunity these guys are trying so hard to throw away isn't going to come around again for a long time. Having a great home schedule to close the season where you're constantly playing the teams you need to edge out to get into the playoffs is an opportunity you don't see often either.

That's about all I can muster for now. If you feel like ranting go ahead and do it here. If you feel like defending this hockey team, get your eyes checked and your head examined. The excuses are so old at this point.


2013 LMHF Report Game #13




In a freaking shootout....

Unacceptable shall be the word of the night.

Another home lead going into the third...another loss. Incredibly unacceptable.

Tonight the chances slipped through our fingers at times. The 4 minute powerplay after Havlat went stupid comes to mind. We made more errant passes than I've seen in a while. A lot of that was on us but SJ also happens to have very aggressive and skilled penalty killing forwards who forced the play and hurt us badly. Until Gagner shifted things a bit and got a good screened shot away we looked pretty sad.

San Jose wasn't particularly good at the other parts of the game. In fact, until they killed off Havlat's penalty they looked like a whiny old team who wasn't dealing with losing very well and wanted no part in the effort of correcting their current trajectory. We had them on the mat and then let them up rather than kicking them in the ribs.

I have to single out our coaching decisions again tonight. I don't enjoy it but these are now repeated mistakes and that is not right in a professional sport where everything is broken down over and over. People are paid a lot of money to get this stuff right. Having Mike Brown out there again late, playing with a modified fourth line of Smyth and Petrell (with the only youthful player in Hartikainen riding the pine for no damn reason AGAIN) late in the game, paired up with Whitney who was having a horrible game and Fistric who couldn't pull all that dead weight was a recipe for disaster. Many people knew it. Our coaches for whatever reason did not. That is the third straight game the Brown, and more importantly the coach's decision to play Brown, has played a significant negative part for the Oilers in the third period. Unacceptable.

Once again Yakupov and Hartikainen pay the price for unseen crimes and a goon and a slow old vet get the benefit. Once again it costs us. Unacceptable.

I also don't know why this team cannot possibly figure out 4-on-4. This isn't rocket surgery.

The refereeing was atrocious tonight. In the first period, when a couple iffy calls went our way I mentioned to LMHF#2 that we'd pay for this later if we didn't capitalize. Come the third period that came true. There were a ton of picks, holds and interference plays that went uncalled while SJ got an opportunity and capitalized. I don't ask for much from the zebras because of the BS internal politics that is rife in their profession and the speed at which the sport moves, but I do ask for consistency rather than this back and forth, score-based calls crap. It is an insult to the game. Unacceptable.

Those searching for positives can speak all they want about "points in five" and whatever other barfle they wish to spew. It's not going to matter at the end of the season. This team being "close" to the playoffs isn't going to matter either. Management and the coaching staff have put this squad in a place where it is constantly walking a tightrope with no net. Any mistakes, missing players or bad turns and they are sunk. There's no cushioning to fall back on. There's no excuse for that.

Niemi was terrible. We should have lit him up bad.

Worst three stars picks I've seen in forever. Should have been 1. Couture 2. Gagner Easily. 3. Another Shark, maybe Boyle. Not an Oilers player.

Player reviews will likely be a tad short tonight. I'm not happy. Feel free to add details you saw in the game.

- No good tonight. The first goal he was completely lost on, regardless of how it eventually wound up in the net. Goal #2 was the same story with a little more help from a confused defence. He still should have covered the puck and not be sitting there doing nothing in his net. Goal #3 is from way too far out to beat him clean. The Couture SO goal I'll give him, but the Boyle goal was embarrassing. Getting faked out and laying there on the ice while a defenceman casually slides it into the open net is just brutal. It was like watching a power hitter who has never seen a curve ball before...except it was a 10-year-old's curve ball. I'm sure he'll bounce back, but he did the team no favours tonight. They still should have been able to win him a game for a change.

- Not the right pairing. The Oilers coaches seemed to be trying to match size with size and it worked briefly but fell apart. Whitney continued his points streak but that was the only positive. He was on the ice and guilty for two of the goals and in the penalty box when the other was scored. He went back to being bad in the corners and bad with the puck in his own zone tonight. Fistric was just okay trying to back him up. Disaster on the first goal though.

- Smid was okay and his usual physical self. I'm getting really tired of watching Petry stumble all over himself though. For a supposedly offensively gifted player, he had multiple chances tonight to either score or get a great shot on net and did nothing with those chances. Hemsky found him in the slot with all the time in the world and he couldn't do a damn thing.

- Don't like these two being put back together much at all. They were struggling when we last saw them together and weren't much better tonight. Justin made a great little play in OT to break up the rush but was lacklustre otherwise. He didn't hit anyone, got beat in the corners, missed even seeing a streaking Hemsky for a sure breakaway in the third period and was just generally sluggish. Nick wasn't really much better. He certainly made a good play to get the puck to the net for Horcoff to score his goal, but aside from that he was just too passive AGAIN tonight. How are these mistakes not being corrected? Since when did Nick Schultz not hit people to separate them from the puck?

- Teemu effectively didn't play so it would be wrong to say much about his game other than that he was okay while he was out there. Petrell had a rough night. He was way out of position on the second SJ goal and part of the myriad of mistakes that led to the third. He doesn't bring enough other things to the table to be making mistakes out there. Brown didn't fight anyone when some of the SJ goon squad were giving us problems. He didn't keep his hitting game up. He couldn't clear the puck out of our zone. Unacceptable and the third game in a row that he has had a pronounced negative impact on our ability to win. Again, more on the coaches than him. It is not his job to PK and to be playing important minutes in the third.

- This was a weird combination. Basically what it came down to was, get the puck to Eberle and hope something good happens. The other two either couldn't keep up, or in Jones' case were too busy cheating in the wrong direction (AGAIN). This very nearly led to a goal similar to the third goal on a couple occasions. Credit to Jones on his goal, he did the work, took the puck and beat a completely asleep Antti Niemi. Very good play but that was all he did. I do note that Gagner took that faceoff for some reason. I can't help but think the Jones we originally acquired would have dropped the gloves during that little skirmish he got himself involved in. I know he's got eye issues now or something, but the fact that he has basically dropped the physical part of his game and seems to think he can coast by on his offence and penalty killing is a pretty sad inditement of our depth (or coaching or management depending on your perspective). Smyth was pretty slow and weak along the boards. He got beaten for a lot of pucks in our end. He fared better in the offensive zone, but I still can't understand why there isn't always an Oilers forward standing at the side of the net opposite him when he goes for that slow wraparound. You know the puck gets there most of the time so why not be ready to bang it in? We could have had three of these tonight. Eberle was okay. He showed some good things but didn't really get a lot of time and space. One of his best plays was a sneaky little low shot that generated a rebound and should have got us a goal.

- Probably our best line in the offensive zone...which didn't stop our coach from messing with it yet again. Yakupov played a pretty solid game. In the first he came in with the puck on a 2-on-1 with Gagner. I'm still not too sure why he didn't just walk in and beat the goalie as he was given all kinds of time and space. He did make a good pass that Gagner could have finished but no reason to take the risk when you're as good as #64. Finish that play. Nice little pass to set up Gagner's PP goal later. No major mistakes and a fantastic hit in the third period. You could tell he was a little miffed and he took it out on the Sharks. Also had a second hit that shift. Beautiful. Paajarvi was pretty solid as well. I really liked the way he drove the net with the puck and got back to make some solid defensive plays. I do wish that he would stop burying his head on the rush though. Again tonight (as last game) he missed passing chances as he entered the zone because he was already winding for a shot. Gagner was our best player by a fair bit tonight. He scored his goal obviously, rang a great shot off the far bar in the third that Niemi is still looking for, beat players and carried speed into the offensive zone all night. He was the one guy who was taking the puck into trouble and coming away with it. Even made that bloody spin move delay pass in the second period that could easily have resulted in a goal. Great effort. Is it time to talk contract extension with #89?

- Something was very wrong with Taylor Hall tonight. I can't help but think he may also have been stricken with the flu. He was slow, really slow. He was getting knocked over at every turn. He couldn't beat anyone (with or without the puck) all night. I admire the guy's effort but if there's something that wrong with him he needs to sit or have a very limited role. You could see during the breaks that his face was sagging and there was no extra energy at all there. With Hall lagging, Horcoff and Hemsky were required to adjust. They've been playing a very fast and dynamic game lately that didn't change enough to accomodate their ailing teammate. One of the most common plays we see recently is Hemsky coming down the right wing with the puck, he'll cut in and pass as Hall breaks through the middle with speed. They also make this play just inside the zone at a slightly different angle. This play was mangled tonight because you could see when Hall when to apply the afterburner it just wasn't there. This is why you had so much chaos at the blue line and why the PP struggled. Hemsky was pretty good despite this, though his SO effort was not his best (either forehand wrist to top shelf or backhand roof ALWAYS). Horcoff did okay for himself on the draw but was largely missing in the offensive zone. His goal was obviously a solid read and drive and I applaud him for the timing.

It is going to be tough to win when Hopkins is out at the last minute and something is clearly wrong with Hall...BUT, we still should have come away with this one rather than snatching defeat from the claws of victory again. While the effort was far from perfect, I can't help but note that the effort was sabotaged yet again by ill-timed and illogical changes to the lineup/gameplan. Making these mistakes to lose, rather than simply being best or outworked, is unacceptable.


2013 LMHF Game Report #12




To be honest, we were better against Detroit. I am certainly a results man as any of you who have read for a significant period know, so I'm much happier with a number of things tonight. Nashville certainly isn't as good of a team as Detroit though and that's a big part of why we got the win. The two points are what matters in the end and we did some nice things in terms of execution during tonight's game.

The first ten minutes were an absolute no effort, no organization snooze fest. It really felt like an early game for everyone in the building. The Oilers were sluggish, behind the play and couldn't complete a pass to save their lives. The Predators had no jump whatever and were sloppy. The fans were silent. It was about the farthest thing from riveting.

The good news was that after that we picked up the play significantly. Our lines started producing some chances and we just sort of plodded along from there. Nothing electrifying but certainly the prospect of a victory.

It is no mystery that Nashville is about as exciting as drying paint. They play a system honed to allow a mediocre team with a solid goalie and a franchise defenceman to compete. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with this, but it doesn't so much lead to entertainment. The scoring was exactly the same in the last two games but this was much less interesting.

Krueger did okay for himself tonight against another pretty strong coach. For most of the game things were kept organized. I still hate that Mike Brown was asked to PK and that he and Jones were out there for a disastrous sequence that resulted in Shea Weber's goal. I also hate that he chopped the bench at the end of the game and sat Yakupov again. That didn't help us win - it made us more vulnerable. It also sends the wrong message to a top rookie who was having a solid period.


- Quite good through most of the game and especially the sequence late in the third where things got scrambly in front of him and he made several very nice saves. I would like to point out though that on both the goals he allowed he got caught reaching out an arm rather than moving his body to stop the puck. This is a bad habit that he displays fairly regularly and results in a lot of the "one bad goal" commentary on #40 (along with going down WAY too soon). You'd hope the goalie coach would catch this and be working on it, but who knows with the guy who was 4th string behind Red Light Racicot and JC Bergeron as the man with the plan.

- Smid was a mean presence in the corners and net once again. After more than one whistle he drove guys out of the crease and was warned by the refs (but never penalized which is the key of course). Just like last game he skated the puck out of trouble on numerous occasions. He even had a nice little foray into the offensive zone but forgot the key to any Ladislav Smid rush - move the puck before the faceoff dot. He always loses the puck once he's beyond the faceoff dot. I was very meh on Petry's game tonight. A couple nice carries but generally was running around in the defensive zone and requiring Smid to cover for him again. It didn't lead to the type of chances that occurred last game but it wasn't pretty either. Needs to work on his positioning and using his skating effectively from that positioning rather than leaning on it as a crutch.

- Why can't Schultz play odd man situations properly? You'd think an NHL veteran of this long would know what to do by now. He's had a number this year, but the 3-on-1 that he encountered tonight was just awful. He did absolutely nothing to prevent the scoring chance. You have to either attack aggressive and early or take away the highest percentage pass. Two on ones he doesn't seem to come out very well either. Just don't get it. Aside from that play he was pretty average. Good to see Fistric back in as an upgrade on Peckham or Potter. He threw his weight around a bit and was generally very good on the PK. Had a little bit of trouble with the puck, especially in the neutral and offensive zones but it happens. Hopefully he improves next game.

- I think this is the first game where I'm going to say Schultz was really off. That's quite an accomplishment for a rookie but we're not going to take it easy on him. The delay of game penalty was a loss in focus combined with likely trying to miss the referee which is no good. He made a couple horrible pinches including one in the third that could really have been decisive. No really strong offensive chances and both his positioning and passing left something to be desired. I'm sure he'll bounce back fine. Whitney mostly had a solid game. He wouldn't go into corners and punish people even when he had them lined up which frustrates the hell out of me, but he did play very well in the offensive zone and put some strong pucks toward the net including one that resulted in Paajarvi's goal. Good to have that reliable presence back and will likely increase his trade value as we approach the deadline.

One thing to the defence as a unit - take some shot blocking lessons from Smid. This sideways-one-knee crap is going to get you hurt.

- This line annoyed me on a number of fronts tonight. For one, if you watch they will always overskate their checks on the forecheck. A line that isn't going gangbusters for goals and succeeding cannot attempt this sort of play. It leads to what happened tonight, which was a bunch of slower than average skaters chasing the other team back down the ice. That doesn't help anyone. Brown was not particularly physical other than a couple of sequences where he tried to hold the puck in the corner. His PK effort was terrible, but then again he has no business being there. Smyth was slow and useless most of the night. He gave the puck away a ton of times including a real stinker in his own end. I will credit him for faking that stupid slap shot and passing to Eberle for a great scoring chance though. Petrell was the best of this group. He was moderately physical and of course made no mistake on his SH scoring chance. Lennart has a really nice shot but unfortunately is not talented enough to set it up very often. When he gets a chance like that he'll convert more often than not. PK'ed well.

- Ryan Jones made a good play in the first period to win a battle with a Nashville defender and send Jordan Eberle in alone. I state this off the top because that was pretty much all he did. He was all over the place, overskating his man on the penalty kill and it could have cost us more than the one goal that it did. He has no business playing like that. He also left the offensive zone early on nearly every breakout and slowed the play down if he got the puck. You cannot be doing that on a line with Eberle and Hopkins. In the offensive zone, he kept backing away to the point where one of the defencemen would then have to pinch in reply (rather than a forward covering for a previously pinched defenceman). This completely screws up the offensive flow for his other forwards and made Hopkins and Eberle have to go into the corners far more often than you'd like to see. Thankfully, Eberle brought one of his best games in a while and evened out most of that performance. It is true that he missed two chances that should have been goals. The turnover Jones created left Eberle to walk in completely alone. I submit to you that last year and the previous year, Eberle makes one move and fires it by Rinne. Tonight he tried to outweight a giant goalie with a bunch of deke moves. He actually had the five hole briefly but waited past that too. Strange. I also submit he would've buried Smyth's pass last year. Got caught second guessing himself on that one. The thing was, he was moving and bouncing around, hitting, deking and making plays tonight. He'd gotten back to the game he plays well. This led to a great quick little pass to a WIDE open Paajarvi for a PP goal, then even more importantly, he took the puck from Taylor Hall (in past games he would have backed off), walked in and decisively fired one past the goalie. THAT was an Eberle play. Very well done. Hopkins was just average. I don't say this to criticize it is just that I did not see what I look for from a good Hopkins game: some excellent passing through small gaps, a nifty shot or two and big defensive break ups. He didn't really do any of that but also didn't make mistakes and moved the puck forward. Not bad, just not great.

-I liked what these guys did again tonight. They struggled on a couple of shifts in their own end but I suppose that is to be expected as they're not the greatest defensive unit. Magnus made some really nice backchecking plays during the game though and Gagner moved the puck out better than he usually does. Gagner also had a really nice night on the penalty kill, including the play to set up the second Oilers goal. First he outworked Kostitsyn and probably should generated a delayed penalty, then after Kostitsyn completely bailed on the play (I figure he thought that a defender could jump from one end of the bench and do better than an offensive forward could. Horrible judgement but I think there was actually thought at work there) he had Weber dead and took his sweet time to make a play. It is a really neat thing to watch the thought process of a gifted offensive player when he has time like that. It looked like Sam actually wanted to get Rinne to cheat towards to the pass and then let go that half-slapper thing he loves so much. I'm sure he would've scored too. Instead Rinne forced the pass and good ol Lenny made no mistake. Great little pass it was too. #89 made some other nice things happen too and I enjoyed that. Yakupov was a little quiet but got two very nice shots in on Rinne that required toe saves. He just needed to be a little closer to the net. His positioning was better but he oddly seemed to get caught a little flat footed at times. No real mistakes in terms of giveaways or anything. Magnus had another solid game both positionally and effort wise. He's settling in (in a good way).

- Relatively quiet night for this crew but they still looked quiet good for me. The best scoring chances for Hall and Hemsky actually came on a shift where Gagner jumped in as C. They also had another phenomenal shift where Horcoff just wasn't sure what to do in the offensive end as #s 83 and 4 dummied the opposition. Not a lot to add to that really. They did their job mostly and while they didn't put up a goal as a unit, they certainly had a part in winning this game. Credit to Horcoff for his PKing.

A win is a win is win. We'll take it.

I would however like you to imagine what this forward roster could do for a moment:

Hall-(Better version of Horcoff-Hemsky
(Big scoring winger)-Hopkins-Eberle
Hartikainen-(Better Petrell)-(Younger, Faster version of old man Smyth)

That's what we need to shoot for if we want to make the dance. I'm not optimistic of the top line happening this year, but the rest could if there was any desire at all to make it happen.


2013 LMHF Report Game #11




Well, where to start...for the first game back from a road trip (which has a cliche as a snoozer where the home team comes out flat) this was certainly an interesting game. Many, many things to cover which always makes these discussions more interesting.

The night started off with mild annoyance...I'd read that the Oilers were having an equipment sale and checked it out in hopes of scoring a brand new stick. They had a bunch of them, many interesting models and at fairly reasonable prices for most. Thing was...despite this being an "Oilers' Store" operation, they wouldn't take my Oilers money. Not impressed.

The game started fairly slowly but soon the home team picked up the pace. Once the Oilers did this and at any time during the game where they put forth a smart and consistent effort, they made the Wings look really really old. This was very refreshing and I would say that for 3/4 of each of the first two periods, this was the case. That's not perfect but if you do it for three periods you'll usually take the game going away with no problems. We didn't do that in the third.

One thing that was really noticeable in the first two periods was the way the Oilers were not going to stand for any of Detroit's usual crap. For the inexperienced, Detroit plays hard in the corners, uses a lot of well placed (and illegal) sticks, picks and other borderline plays that many other squads are penalized for. Usually the Oilers either let this play get to them and take penalties or get worn down by it and essentially pack it in. Tonight was different. For two solid periods the Oilers went into the corners with their elbows up, their sticks drawn and gave Detroit everything the could right back. It was really refreshing and hopefully a model for the type of play we'll see from this team going forward. That was a huge reason they had a two-to-nothing lead that should have probably been four-to-nothing.

Another reason was our attack. The lines that seem to have worked themselves out since Horcoff and Hartikainen got back in the lineup really give this team three lines that can put pressure on and a fourth line that (when it stays focused) can really beat on the other team's defencemen in the opposition's end. Many of us have called for an approach like this for some time and it does indeed work when you don't fiddle with it. Detroit couldn't handle our speed, couldn't match lines and couldn't break up the quick, short passing game that was deployed. This was a beautiful thing.

But that couldn't stay set now could it?

It wasn't the beginning of the end, it just sealed the deal. In the third the Oilers were not quite the same team. They back off too far (some units worse than others) and the fourth line suddenly decided its job was not to punish the opposition puck carrier but to sit back defensively. That line is nowhere near good enough to skate from a laid-back defensive posture. They're sitting ducks. After the game had become a one-goal game, Krueger shrunk his bench exactly the same way he did against the Blackhawks. The result was more of the same only worse. The lines lost any offensive momentum they had and inferior players who had already been having their weakest period were given more prominent roles. Mike Brown took a penalty (whether it was weak or not is irrelevant, he plays a game that can take a penalty like that at any time) in the place of Nail Yakupov, who was having a pretty decent game and had made a truly sublime effort on our second goal. Then a puck is directed into our net by our own defender and there is no lead any longer. Suddenly it is back to what was, you know, working...but it was too late.

This issue actually started in the second after Brown's fight. It is one thing to make interim adjustments and it did result in Hall being out there with Gagner and Yakupov to combine for a goal, but getting back to our regular lines and regular flow of play seemed to take forever. That's on the coach.

In the end I do pin this one on Krueger in a lot of ways. He screwed up at key points in the game, including repeating past mistakes. Were his players perfect? No. That doesn't mean he gets a pass for the decisions he made that were a detriment to the team's efforts.

Detroit IS indeed old and slow. They're dying as a team. They have some truly elite talent but otherwise are beginning to whither. It has helped that they have not been able to attract unrestricted free agents the way they have in the past. The only reason they were in it to even come back tonight was Jimmy Howard's play. He kept this thing close with some excellent stops off of some of our best players. It was very strange to watch the Wings struggle with systems play and overcommitment at times during this game. Can't say I remember much of that in previous games.

The Oilers really had no excuse not to win this game. We say this after every close loss, but those were HUGE points up for grabs tonight and the team gave this one away pretty damn badly. Shame. I don't know whether this team makes the playoffs, but the points that would put them in have certainly been attainable.


- He was only tested for a few brief flurries during this one. Aside from those times the Oilers D did a pretty decent job of keeping the scoring chances to a minimum. He was screened on the Filppula shot, sure, but he probably should have made that save. The Petry goal was obviously strange and Datsyuk's shot beat him well. Pretty solid effort. Definitely enough to win.

- Let's get right to it, shall we? Smid was excellent tonight. He was tough as Souray or Pronger used to be in the corners. He skated several pucks out of very dangerous situations when his forwards had struggled to move the puck out. He was just tremendous and even fired the puck a time or two. I thought Petry was having a strong game through most of the first forty. I've since realized it was likely that Smid was covering for his mistakes and just doing an incredible job of it. Seriously #5 was just all over the ice. Petry's trouble started in the third as he looked lost and made several questionable decisions with the puck. Then of course he scored on himself (which frankly happens to the best of us, just not usually as he did it). Then in OT, after struggling to the finish of the the third, he faced Pavel Datsyuk. The thing is, Petry had position, he was lined up, and moving at a decent enough speed that making a play on the forward should have been completely doable. Causing a turnover was even a pretty decent possibility. At absolute worst, he should have been able to haul down or hold Datsyuk to take a penalty. Instead he hesitated and might as well have been a pylon. A lot of people are on him about the 2nd goal. Even though it is Datsyuk the play I have a massive problem with is the OT goal. Not because it ended the game, but because it continued a trend of Petry getting beat cleanly when in good position and not being able to recover at all. This should be of great concern to all of us. On one hand he is receiving too much responsibility for sure, but there are no good excuses for some of the plays he's made in the defensive end (the Chicago OT loss comes to mind).

J. Schultz-Whitney
- Whitney wasn't great but was better than usual. You could see him being more decisive with the puck, deciding to press forward in instances where he wouldn't have earlier this year, and also playing physically in the corners. He was not as punishing as he's been in the past but he did commit himself a lot more to contact and did not fail on most occasions to get into the play. This was an effective approach for much of the game. I still suspect Fistric would play this style much better. Whitney did play the Filppula goal pretty badly, but he was also dealing with a miscue by his defensive partner and a forward we'll get to later. Justin Schultz was just okay for me tonight. He had some chances to be more physical and only sort of capitalized. While he took some good shots at the net, his passing seemed off and a tad indecisive. He overskated and made the above noted mistake on the Filppula goal. Overall I just expect more from #19 already and to see such a bland game from him is strange.

N. Schultz-Potter
- Potter's game was even more all over the place than Petry's but just happened to be missing the big blowup. In the first and second he was pretty decent, keeping the puck in and making some good passes and defensive plays. Through part of the second and into the third though, he kept backing away from pucks he should have won the race to, or not making a play he could clearly see was there. Again, he didn't really make any big defensive mistakes so I can't be too hard on him, but every now and again you think you see the Corey Power Potter Play guy returning and then he disappoints you which is sad. Nick Schultz was just okay. Yeah, just okay.

- Certainly an interesting combo and as I noted they were very solid through most of the first and second. Aside from a few sequences spent in the defensive zone (where they are NOT good), they forechecked hard, hit people, made simple plays and generally gave Detroit some trouble. I liked that Mike Brown made solid contact on his hits, controlled the puck okay and beat on Jordan Tootoo again. I did not like that he'd go into the corner the was he did that late in the game and take a penalty though. To be fair to him, he had no business being on the ice, but still. You've got to keep that under control and if Ben Eager could do it (he seemed to have figured it out) then so can Mike Brown. Smyth did some nice things and won more puck battles than I can remember in a while. There was an interesting sequence where he took that stupid slapper of his (which impressed everyone but me), but then he followed up and made a no-look pass attempt to the front of the net. If anyone had been paying attention that could easily have been a goal. As it was, the rest of the crowd saw it as a bad play...crazy people. I liked it. Petrell built on Brown's momentum and laid some hits of his own. He also had a couple nice shooting chances but couldn't convert. Of all the guys whose game changes sometimes, he needs to remember the hard-hitting hard-shooting version of himself, rather than the one who plays too far off his man and gets caught because of it.

- Hell of a luxury having this as the "third line". Though maybe that is the next line...who knows. Anyway, Eberle had a better game than when we saw him at home last. He played his defined role of shooter and playmaker off the drive fairly well for most of the game. He could easily have scored at least one but didn't quite manage it. I know some will remember his attempted no-look to Whitney on the powerplay more than the decisive plays he made at times in the offensive zone, but he's back in the right direction. Made a couple great passes including one to Paajarvi in the third that should have been a goal. Hartikainen didn't do anything too flashy. I liked his (penalized) hit and that he seemed focused on getting the puck past the defender then chasing it down. He's very good at that. He also had a couple chances in front of the net, but continued a trend of what I'd call rushing his shot. It doesn't really get away any quicker and you're never precise when this happens. He needs to bear down and relax, if that makes any sense. Hopkins made some nice things happen in both the offensive and defensive ends but was missing any real 'WOW' in his game tonight. The passes were not as slick and he couldn't get his shots through for whatever reason. Not a bad game by any means but he just wasn't dynamic.

- This is fun line to watch play. They have very different styles, all look very different on the ice and each brings a unique skillset every shift. Magnus was focused on driving the goalie tonight and did so both wide and up the middle with more success than I can recall. His confidence is clearly elevated and he's finally using his size properly on that wide drive. Howard had to make a good stop on him. The one thing I will dog him for a bit is not having the same confidence in his passing. Twice he had a lane to Yakupov in the slot, looked up, saw him, and hesitated rather than making the pass. He shot the puck on net both times but these were much lower percentage plays than Yakupov from the slot. Aside from that I liked what he did a lot. Gagner was about what we'd expect this year. He got a little dirty in front of the goalie to pop one in the net nicely. He challenged multiple Red Wings physically, either in scrums or through hitting. He played a strong support role and got some good shots away. Overall he was really solid. Yakupov put together a nice game. He made two great plays on the Gagner goal, with his drive into the slot, and ability to maintain puck control then put a really nice shot on for the rebound to Gagner. Loved how he jumped in celebration even though it was Gagner who scored. The kid plays with such intensity and joy. That's a winning combo any day of the week. He also made some excellent passes, some mediocre passes and only a couple passes to no one. Half the time it is simply because he's moving too fast for everyone else. I hope they're able to start catching up a bit now that they are becoming more familiar with what his game looks like. Still didn't get #64 the puck on the PP near enough.

- Through two this line was gold. They took on the best Detroit has to offer and were routinely blowing right by like the opposition was not even there. It was a thing of beauty. Hall was great and Hemsky very good for the entire game. Why in hell Krueger wouldn't see the absolute necessity of playing them together in OT after the way they'd played in regulation I have no idea. Hall was a man possessed tonight. He skated straight past, around and through various Detroit defenders. He scored a lovely goal on a nice move in the slot while Hemsky drove hard as a decoy. Hall did a double toe drag and nearly scored. He did all kinds of great things and was unfortunately only rewarded with two points. Hemsky wasn't blowing by as many people, but his passing was excellent, his reads spot on, and his defensive effort strong. He nearly scored the goal of the year when he broke into the Detroit zone, played a perfect bank pass by a Detroit defender to himself, then was robbed by Jimmy Howard's stick. THAT was a play. Hall and Hemsky also set up Horcoff for what should have been an absolute gimme in the third and Horcoff didn't even get a shot away. I was really looking forward to giving the captain a strong grade tonight and through two periods he was indeed strong. He did overskate his check and get caught on the Filppula goal, but his strong support efforts while #s 4 and 83 worked their magic were more than balancing that out. Then the third game. He was all over the place in a terribly bad way. Missed passes, missed checks, turnovers, bad PK work...it was just a mess. He was useless in OT. Sour finish for what started as a sweet night. This trio will be really useful if the Oilers start to make a run. Hall and Hemsky are dominant together and a healthy Horcoff provides comfort and support (which sounds really funny) to both of them. We shall see.

Damn disappointing evening is what it really comes down to.

Also a note - I wouldn't recommend staying up late to wait for the report as I know some of you have mentioned you have done in the past. It is often feeding or changing time for my son during my writing and an extended break could mean a LONG wait for you guys. Enjoy it with the morning coffee (or Rockstar in my case) would be my suggestion.