September 25 2008 08:20AM
Classy move by the Oilers last night to be wearing OM decals on their helmets honouring Jussi Markkanen’s young son Oli who passed away earlier this week in Moscow.
Before the game started you got the feeling this might be a dud game. Something about the Panthers makes you think snoozefest. Well, it was the Oilers who came out sleeping, getting out-shot 7–0 in the first 1:52 that led to the Panthers’ Janis Sprukts sniping one off the post and in. In fact the Oil managed one measly shot.
But rather than give you a look at the play-by-play, I’m going to focus on a different player in each period: Lubomir Visnovsky in the first, Fernando Pisani in the second and Jeff Deslauriers in the third.
In his first two shifts, he had more blocked shots than passes, 2–0, because the Panthers had the puck the entire time. Let’s say this is not what I expected to report. I don’t think the Oilers want him to lead the team in blocks.
His fourth shift showcases the range of his skill set. Every pass he makes is tape-to-tape, whether it is two-footer up the boards or a 30-footer through the neutral zone. In the offensive zone he reads the play incredibly well. He is in constant motion when the Oilers have complete control. He never stands still on the point. Moreau controls it on the right boards, and Visnovsky senses an opening, darts to the slot, receives the pass, but fans on his shot. Then he uses his speed to be the first guy back, picks up the puck at the side of the net, calming skates in front of the goal and with a man all over him, deftly dumps it up to Pisani.
There is 3:57 left in the first and the Oilers have one measly shot. I guess I won’t be reporting on Visnovsky’s offence. Wait: Panthers just took a penalty so we will see him on the PP.
Okay nothing has changed. He doesn’t touch the puck for the 1:08 he is on the ice. The Oilers can’t get set up and spend most of the PP trying to penetrate the Panthers zone. The Oilers get a 5-on-3 and he is back out. This time though, he plays the left point with Souray on the right side. The Oilers plan will be to set up Souray with the one-timer. Again, Visnovsky is constantly moving and talking. You can hear him yell all the way up in the pressbox. He only touches the puck once, and he lays a saucer pass across the ice to Souray. Horcoff scores a PP goal, but Visnovsky isn’t involved in it.
The period ends tied at one, but the Oilers were outshot 16–4. Visnovsky is a treat to watch. I suggest one game you focus on him. Sometimes I don’t think we really appreciate the skill of top-end players because we only watch them when they have the puck.
I run into Jason Strudwick on the catwalk and decide to do some serious investigative journalism. On the HF Boards I noticed posters were dying to know exactly what he and Zack Stortini were talking about during Monday’s game against Vancouver. Strudwick starts laughing because many of his buddies have been texting him saying he was on the broadcast.
Turns out he was imitating Sasha “The Pitbull” Lakovic, the former tough guy who had stops with the Devils and Flames and was somewhat of a lunatic on the ice. Strudwick was recounting a story where in warm-up Lakovic was shaking and vibrating as he yelled to Strudwick, “Struds we are going man, we are going.”
“I was telling Zack how Lakovic was so jacked up he was vibrating as he yelled at me. I told him ‘Relax, it’s only warm-up.’ Funny thing is we didn’t even fight that game,” chuckled Strudwick.
“I remember Sasha’s infamous quote about him being a pitbull and he was going to grab the NHL and shake it up,” roared Strudwick. “Guys told me that sometimes after a game he would ride the bike naked. He was a different guy, but he was tough.”
So there you go Oil fans. I said it the first time I met Strudwick: he will be one of the best quotes in the room, and he should fill the void left by the departure of Greene and Reasoner.
Note: Pisani won three of four draws in the first period.
I sure don’t know how to pick guys that are around the play tonight. Through eight minutes, Pisani hasn’t touched the puck and his line has been involved in very choppy shifts. He is good at stops and starts in the neutral zone.
At the 9:00 mark the Oilers get hemmed in, and Pisani stays with his man. He knocks Stefan Meyer to the ice in a one-on-one battle and the pucks squirts to Smid. As the Oilers go on the offence, Pisani gets the puck behind the net, and makes a soft pass to the point. A weak shot from Wild and the play is dead. Not much happening.
Oilers tie it up on the PP as Liam Reddox gets his first from Penner and Schremp. Schremp makes a great pass to Penner in the slot, his wrister is stopped, but Reddox bangs home the rebound.
Pisani in the circle to the left of Deslauriers and he beats Horton cleanly with the basic draw it back on your backhand (It’s the only draw he wins this period). Oilers control and Pisani moves up ice, he takes the pass at the Oiler blue line and then makes a nifty pass to Penner. With Penner lumbering down the right side, Pisani passes it off the boards behind him, and it ricochets off directly on Penner’s stick. His line keeps Florida pinned deep for the next 30 seconds and he moves around but never gets the puck. After an iron-lung-like 1:10 shift Pisani and Moreau get off.
Pisani is definitely not a flashy player. He always seems to know where to go. He doesn’t get caught out of position, nor does he take many risks. Outside of the faceoffs, it doesn’t seem like playing centre is that difficult for him. The one thing you’d like to see him do more often is get in the slot in the offensive zone. With Moreau and Penner he could be more of a shooter. That should come with more games, you’d hope.
I have to update you on the fight of the pre-season so far. Guillaume Lefebvre and Tanner Glass drop the mitts and start chucking. Lefebvre is a lefty and he lands three good blows, Glass to his credit absorbs them and lands a good left of his own. It’s great watching two lefties go at it. Not much defence in this tilt. Lefebvre lands a few more and now Glass ducks down, Lefebvre attempts some uppercuts, but they don’t seem to connect. Glass shoots his head back up and lands a few more lefts of his own. Both of these guys can take a punch. Decision to Lefebvre, who has had a pretty solid game and his skating has surprised me.
Pisani ends the period one for three in the dot.
I am ever regretting my decision to shadow Deslauriers. I’m not a fan of goalies—I like goals. Anyways, early on I notice that Deslauriers is great at maintaining the crouching position for long periods. He loves to bend over and watch the play the entire time it is in the offensive zone.
He trips behind the net going to get the puck on an Oiler PP. This is the second time tonight he has stumbled going to play the puck. But he hasn’t looked at his skates yet, so they can’t be dull. On the PP he likes to slap his stick exactly four times to warn his teammates the man is coming out of the sin bin.
He has only faced one shot this period so far, so it’s hard to comment on his movement. At a timeout he skates to the bench and drinks from the water bottle. God, this is killing me. Do something, talk to your goal posts, skate around, or shake your mask, anything. This might be the worst blog segment ever.
At 9:59, he shows his acrobatics sprawling across the crease and somehow making a save with his skate blade as he lay on his back. Then he has the awareness to follow the puck, while still on his behind, and snares the rebound with his glove resulting in the biggest applause of the night for him.
Deslauriers has the best seat in the house as Peckham and Duco drop the gloves for the second time tonight. They go at it about ten feet in front of the goal, and JDD doesn’t even seem to yell encouragement. He doesn’t shadow box either, but he gives Peckham a pat on the behind with his stick when it is over.
Next time I profile a goalie I’m only doing it in the shootout when I know he will be involved heavily. Just in case you didn’t know, Deslauriers catches left handed and he definitely has the most copper-coloured gear of any Oiler goalie. I also notice he has a pink breast cancer ribbon on his mask and a name I can’t make out. I will have to ask him after the game the significance of that. See I knew I’d find something that was blog worthy! (I didn’t catch up with him in the room; I will get the answer at the skate tomorrow.)
He has now faced four shots this period, and three of them came in one flurry.
On a delayed penalty he takes three hard strides and then hears the whistle, but continues to the bench. He laughs with Dubnyk when he arrives at the bench. Who knows maybe they time his skate from the net to the bench?
On the ensuing PP he sits in the crouching positions for the first 39 seconds, then strides backwards and stands up. He repeats this throughout the PP.
Period ends and Deslauriers faced four shots. Tough job being a goalie sometimes, I should have covered him in the first when he faced 16 shots.
I’m not shadowing anyone. I will just enjoy the game. And in case you were wondering there were no breast flashers tonight.
Hemsky, Horcoff, Souray and Visnovsky start the extra frame, and 36 seconds in Visnovsky draws a penalty behind the Panther net. Penner and Schremp come out as the D-men stay. The Oil are two for six so far tonight.
They don’t accomplish much. Hemsky comes back out and Ballard tries to stand him up at the blue line and gets a piece of him. Souray rushes in, tosses the gloves and starts chucking. This is the third fight tonight where an Oiler has rushed to defend a teammate. Clearly they want the message that if you touch their skilled players there will be consequences out there.
Souray gets the instigator and a major. They will play three-on-three for 1:01, and then Florida will finish the frame with an extra attacker.
Bryan McCabe gets booed every time he touches the puck in OT. Not sure why Oilers fans hate him so much. I guess they don’t like overpaid, defensively-challenged D-men.
My Oiler picks, Horcoff, Schremp and Hemsky. The Panthers will go with Stillman, Horton and Zednik.
Horton goes first: he skates in fast, pulls it back and wrists it home.
Hemsky up: he walks in, goes to his backhand and scores. That might be the first time I’ve seen Hemsky go backhand on a shootout.
Peltonen walks in, gets to the slot, slides to his right but Deslauriers follows him across and makes the save (I didn’t pick him. Clearly Peter Deboer should listen to me).
Schremp comes in slowly and goes to the same move as Monday, deke down low, and it works as he slides it home.
Stillman wheels in quickly and uses the Messier move, backhand five-hole on the ice to tie it at two.
Horcoff walks down the right side and snaps one off the pad of Beckford-Tseu
Zednik skates in goes to the back hand and Deslauriers slides across with the pad.
Pisani wheels in down the middle and fires wide and high.
McCabe to a chorus of boos: he comes in, does the leg kick deke and somehow squeaks it home. After scoring, he lifts his stick above his head and skates all the way back to the Panther bench pumping it straight in the air taunting the fans.
Penner: he walks in and dekes to his forehand, but Tseu goes with him and makes the save.
The Oilers are now 0¬–2 in shootouts this preseason.