Oilers vs. Rangers Postgame: I Seem to Recall the PK Being Bad Last Year...

Jonathan Willis
November 06 2009 07:22AM

Edmonton Oilers: 2

New York Rangers: 4

Believe it or not, there are positives to be taken out of last night's game.  For starters, at even strength the Oilers actually outscored the Rangers 2-1.  Continuing in that theme, at even-strength the Oilers actually tied the Rangers in shots; both teams had twenty-two.

Where things fell apart was on special teams, but more on that in a moment.

Oilers Three Stars, According to Me

1. Lubomir Visnovsky.  Again, the veteran defenceman had a very strong night, and was easily the best of the Oilers rearguards.  Even without the goal (on a beautiful backhand shot) he had a very good game, with an active stick and serenity and poise under pressure.  It seemed like he never left the ice in the final five minutes of the game, but surprisingly he had less ice-time (21:08) than either of Gilbert or Grebeshkov.

2. Dustin Penner.  In a night where the penalty-kill surrendered three goals, Penner played nearly five minutes on it and wasn't on the ice for a single goal against (and his success on the unit this season makes me feel a little silly for criticizing MacTavish using him there last season).  He played effectively with Patrick O'Sullivan, always a threat to steal the puck and generating several rushes while down a man. 

3. Jason Strudwick.  That's right.  Jason Strudwick, a guy I've criticized a ton over the last year, had a quietly effective game and Steve Staios looked far better paired with him than he did with Taylor Chorney earlier in the game.  On a night with some suspect defensive plays, Strudwick looked for all the world like a safe and dependable presence.

Random Thoughts

I hinted at this above, but Taylor Chorney and Steve Staios were paired in the early going, and they were shakey.  The coaching staff rather wisely switched that tandem up, putting Chorney with Visnovsky and Staios with Strudwick.  I've already discussed how Staios' play seemed to improve with Strudwick, but Taylor Chorney also got a lot better once he was paired up with Visnovsky.

Speaking of Steve Staios, he wasn't awful, and I'm inclined to give him a pass on the evening given that he's just returned to the lineup.  Ditto for Mike Comrie, who improved noticeably as the game went on after a poor showing in the first period.

Patrick O'Sullivan was two players tonight; on the penalty-kill he was an effective and aggressive forechecker (he was on for the Callahan goal, but it's hard to blame him for that one) but on the powerplay and at even-strength he seemed out of synch with the rest of the team and looked shakey on the point.

Is it just me, or is Robert Nilsson doing his best to submarine his NHL career?  After a training camp where Jim Matheson reported he'd added 15 pounds of muscle and was in the best shape of his life, I rather confidently figured Nilsson as a comeback player.  Nope.  He seems exactly like the guy who played last year, and that guy looked like someone who would be more comfortable in the SEL than the NHL.  All the injuries have kept him in the lineup, but if a decent NHL forward became available (Mike Peca would be nice), I think he'd slip right through waivers unclaimed on his way to Springfield.

Steve MacIntyre's something else entirely, because there's no diminished performance here; he's always been a fighter who can't handle a regular NHL shift.  The writing was on the wall in the offseason when Quinn reminded us all (several times) that he liked fighters who could play regular minutes.  Last night, MacIntyre got one shift, took a stupid penalty in the offensive zone, and got stapled to the bench.  Quinn has refused to dress him when any other option presents itself - even in games against division rivals - and I have to wonder: what's he still doing on the team?  At this point he's dead weight; the coach won't use him and this team could really use another option up front.  On a completely unrelated note, off-season addition Chris Minard (who played 20 games in the NHL last year) has nine goals in 11 AHL games.

People will be calling out the power play all over Edmonton, but honestly even at a 25% clip they would have only added one goal, and they aren't the chief culprit here.  No, that honour falls to the penalty kill - specifically the Moreau/Cogliano forward pairing and the Gilbert/Grebeshkov defence pairing, who were both on for two goals against.  Cogliano talked after the game about how it's harder to kill stick infractions than roughing penalties, but c'mon now: it's two minutes short-handed either way.

None of which excuses the Oilers for taking stupid penalties - especially in the offensive zone.  Pisani and Moreau were the culprits here, with Pisani getting his stick up on Michael Del Zotto (who went down like he'd been shot) for a double-minor, and Moreau taking one of those aggressive, easy-to-kill penalties: needlessly pushing a Rangers player to the ice in the offensive zone.  Both are veterans, and both were the only Oilers in the box in the third period.  It's difficult to say which brain cramp was stupider; Pisani had six minutes of penalties on the night, but he is coming back from injury and the high-stick was probably careless rather than intentional, while Moreau only took one penalty, but it was pointless and stupid over-aggression with less than seven minutes on the clock.

Final thought: for those out there who figured that Craig MacTavish and his whole losing the room/hatred for skill/inability to motivate were the biggest problems with this team, has it's performance under the dream team changed your mind?  The biggest problem with this team was always the roster, and while MacTavish wasn't perfect (see: Penner, Dustin and his treatment last year) watching the same problems pop up under this group is a tell: players were rushed to the NHL too early, and veteran players were shown the door too quickly and replaced by guys who simply aren't up to the challenge yet.  I thought that in the new rich owner/salary cap era the Oilers would be finished developing players at the NHL level, but apparently not, and this team is still working on the players Kevin Lowe introduced two years ago.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#51 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 06 2009, 09:59AM
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freeze wrote:

Also, Chorney's stash is filling in nicely. Shocking for such a young guy. Too bad Penner didn't go in on that. His stash last year was hilarious and suited him.

LOL. Peckham is getting the porn stache.

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#53 Ccubed82
November 06 2009, 10:03AM
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I didn't hear the extent of Stones injury, does anyone have any idea of when he might be healthy enough to be back in the lineup?

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#54 Hemmercules
November 06 2009, 10:05AM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

Yes, he's one of the few guys that plays phisical. The team is TP soft right now (and has been for a few years) remove Moreau and it compounds it. He's also chipped in with 5 on 5 production that should make some of our "scorers" feel shame.

3 points in 15 games is 5 on 5 production that our other player are feeling shame about?? I'll give him some credit, he is a +1. Smid has more points than him right now.......

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#55 Dan the Man
November 06 2009, 10:07AM
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@Jonathan Willis

Is the system Quinn is utilizing that difficult to learn?

Colorado has adapted to a completely new system this year seemingly without any problems.

This team couldn't play MacT's system either so I'm gonna lean towards the thought that they just aren't very good.

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#57 smiliegirl15
November 06 2009, 10:10AM
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@Jonathan Willis

Both Moreau and Cogliano are better than that though. We have seen them play better. Maybe we need a full time player psychologist to help them with the mental game. They seem to be their own worst enemies (see Shawn Horcoff).

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#59 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 06 2009, 10:14AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Guess who is more physical than Edmonton:

Toronto.

Not every problem gets solved by hitting more. In fact, most problems don't get solved that way.

Problems get solved by scoring more, which comes about because of shooting the puck more, or by being scored against less, which comes about from both good goaltending and limiting shots on net.

There is more to playing physical then just hitting.

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#60 Ogden Brother
November 06 2009, 10:16AM
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Hemmercules wrote:

3 points in 15 games is 5 on 5 production that our other player are feeling shame about?? I'll give him some credit, he is a +1. Smid has more points than him right now.......

1. You were talking about the last 2/3 years.

2. Even this year he has as many or more EV goals then all but 4 guys

EV goals/min:

Moreau .012 O'sully .009 Gagner .014 JFJ .011 Hemsky .009 Cogs .010

The only players with significantly better 5 on 5 goal scoring the Moreau is Brule/Penner/Comrie

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#61 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
November 06 2009, 10:17AM
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@Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

Thecaptainethanmoreau: "There is more to playing physical than just hitting the guy with the puck."

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#63 Milli
November 06 2009, 10:19AM
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Another craptacular display. What I'd like to know is what happened in the first 6 games that ain't happening now? This is a real frustrationg team to watch. I've got tickets for the 17th and am really wondering if it's worth the drive and cash to watch a team not compete? It's night and day right now compared to the team I really was having fun watching at the start. And, when you really look at some of the role players we let get away the last few seasons, gotta shake my head at the mgmt and direction, like was said earlier, the cup run combined with 20 good games and we seem to be sadled with small young ineffective players

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#65 Hemmercules
November 06 2009, 10:20AM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

What do you expect we gave Jacques, Brule and Stone full time jobs, not sure how many more prospect/rookies could be brought in.

It's not that we aren't getting hits from some guys, but the problem is we have Hemsky, Penner, O'Sullivan, Gagner, Cogliano, Comrie, Horcoff and Pisani who just aren't physical players. Now sure there are games where some of these players play physical and get dirty in the corners, but it isn't their game. You can't blame Moreau for the lack of physical play, when more then half the top 12 players don't play with sandpaper.

If those 8 players at least had one more hit a game each and weren't afraid to go into the corners at all times then we wouldn't have any problems.

And explain to me how Cogliano has more hits then Penner? Never knew until now.

Ugh, I'm tired of talking about Chopper already.

All I mean to say is that Moreau is relatively ineffective: hitting some, not blocking shots, not getting points, taking stupid penalties, constantly injured.

I couldn't believe he wasn't benched after that horrible penalty last night. That "c" must give him alot of rope.

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#66 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 06 2009, 10:23AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@Ogden Brother Jr.:

What? Fighting? The Leafs are good at that too.

You're kidding? How about getting into the corners to dig the puck out, how about standing in front of the net take abuse from the defence?

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#67 freeze
November 06 2009, 10:23AM
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I thought Cogs was ok last night. He was giving more effort than most of the team but unfortunately his linemates didn't help him out much. He did have a team high 6 shots on goal.

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#68 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 06 2009, 10:24AM
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Hemmercules wrote:

Ugh, I'm tired of talking about Chopper already.

All I mean to say is that Moreau is relatively ineffective: hitting some, not blocking shots, not getting points, taking stupid penalties, constantly injured.

I couldn't believe he wasn't benched after that horrible penalty last night. That "c" must give him alot of rope.

Believe me I don't want him on this team any more then all the haters, but until they bring someone in to replace him I think we have no choice but to keep him.

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#69 freeze
November 06 2009, 10:26AM
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smiliegirl15 wrote:

Both Moreau and Cogliano are better than that though. We have seen them play better. Maybe we need a full time player psychologist to help them with the mental game. They seem to be their own worst enemies (see Shawn Horcoff).

I believe the team does employ a sports psychologist.

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#71 Ogden Brother
November 06 2009, 10:31AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@Ogden Brother:

C'mon now. Moreau's goal against the Islanders was a total fluke, and reducing the sample to the last 2/3 games means that any idiot who was lucky enough to have a pass bounce in off Radek MArtinek's skate is going to look RED HOT.

1. I didn't reduce the sample to the last 2/3 games? I took the whole year?

2. Other guys have fluke goals as well.

3. With the teams inabillity to score the last 2 weeks or so, seems pretty silly dicredit one of the few goals because it's a fluke.

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#72 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 06 2009, 10:35AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Ogden Brother Jr.:

Then why are guys like Horcoff, Hemsky and Pisani consistently labelled as soft players? They go into trouble areas (hell, Hemsky's taken murderous hits several times over the last few years for doing it) and they take abuse. Why is Tom Gilbert, a very willing shot-blocker, labelled soft?

No, for the most part when people talk about 'playing soft' they mean hitting, and they measure it by hitting. Otherwise, I wouldn't have to listen to the constant garbage directed at some players who have no problem paying the price.

They don't do it all the time, there are games Hemsky just floats around. He needs to be in those tough areas every chance he gets. And doing just one thing I would call them soft as well.

D-men are different. Are Gilbert's blocked shots much different then the rest of the d-men when you compare minutes played?

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#74 BK16
November 06 2009, 10:38AM
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@Jonathan Willis

I consider playing soft losing one on one battles and not being able to clear our own zone most of the time more so than the actual hits we deliver. I'm not really concerned if we have more hits on the stat sheet than last year (the stats for hits are inconsistent anyways). I think we mean to say the same thing here, this team lacks true character. Opposing teams just hem us in our zone and fire countless shots until they score and we look like a pee wee C hockey team in the process. I would be embarrased to be an Oiler on this team, and the problem is it seems that most in that dressing room are perfectly content with collectng a big pay check instead of showing some heart and pride in their performance. I guess it's easy to say that as a fan because we aren't playing the games and don't know what goes on behind the scenes, but I for one am SICK of watching this uninspired play.

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#76 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 06 2009, 10:39AM
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For the record I don't expect those 8 forwards to change their game, but if some of them don't then this is something that needs to be addressed by tambo.

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#79 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 06 2009, 10:42AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Ogden Brother Jr.:

Gilbert's blocked shots are still high allowing for minutes played. They dwarf, for example, the numbers put up by Sheldon Souray (who nobody accuses of being soft, for obvious reasons).

As for 'doing just one thing', do you mean then that players who don't hit are 'soft'? I can't honestly remember a time I've seen Horcoff shy from traffic, for example, but he is labelled soft because he's not a hitter. Ergo, hitting = not soft, soft = not hitting in the minds of most people.

Horcoff might have been a bad example as he generally does play in the corners.

As for Gilbert's blocke shots the only would that looks like probably does less in the minutes played is Grebeshkov.

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#80 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 06 2009, 10:43AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Also, for everyone interested in playing the soft / inconsistent / lack of character card, does anyone remember who the poster boy for that was last year?

Dustin Penner. The same Dustin Penner who, now in a vastly expanded role, has been the best forward on the team.

So are we suppose to wait til next year for someone to do the same? Just about every player on this team has been given a chance at an expanded role.

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#83 Hemmercules
November 06 2009, 10:58AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Ogden Brother Jr.:

You're missing my point. My point was that motivation and character are often assumed to be the problem when other problems exist. In Penner's case, he's better this year, but last year he was healthy-scratched, kicked off the first powerplay unit, and often skated on the third and fourth lines - despite being the best LW on the team.

This year, motivation and character are questioned, but it's possible (even probable) that the real issue is these players aren't as good as Tambellini thought they were.

Poor little Tambo. One of the toughest jobs in the NHL right now.

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#84 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 06 2009, 11:00AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ OGden Brother Jr.:

Blocked shots from last season, with all defencemen adjusted to Tom Gilbert's ice time:

Peckham: 167 Staios: 166 Gilbert: 136 Vishnovsky: 127 Strudwick: 107 Grebeshkov: 100 Smid: 90 Souray: 70

So, Smid and Strudwick are gritty, but Gilbert's soft? Not based on willingness to block shots.

Like I said elsewhere that is one area of the game and for a defenseman generally they should hit some more. I wouldn't really care if Gilbert was soft and played well postionally kinda like Lidstrom, but he doesn't yet. Grebeshkov is in the same boat, if they aren't going to be physical they have to be able to beat guys with their smarts in their own end.

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#85 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 06 2009, 11:00AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ OGden Brother Jr.:

Blocked shots from last season, with all defencemen adjusted to Tom Gilbert's ice time:

Peckham: 167 Staios: 166 Gilbert: 136 Vishnovsky: 127 Strudwick: 107 Grebeshkov: 100 Smid: 90 Souray: 70

So, Smid and Strudwick are gritty, but Gilbert's soft? Not based on willingness to block shots.

Like I said elsewhere that is one area of the game and for a defenseman generally they should hit some more. I wouldn't really care if Gilbert was soft and played well postionally kinda like Lidstrom, but he doesn't yet. Grebeshkov is in the same boat, if they aren't going to be physical they have to be able to beat guys with their smarts in their own end.

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#86 MattL
November 06 2009, 11:02AM
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Lofty wrote:

I hope Katz gets serious about putting a better product on the ice and buys out some of these contracts soon.

Nilsson- enjoy your money, have a safe flight back home.

Pisani- Has been payed to sit in the training room most his career, now he can do it at home.

4.5 million...

"Nilsson- enjoy your money, have a safe flight back home. "

I think you can just DRIVE to Calgary these days.

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#87 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 06 2009, 11:05AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Ogden Brother Jr.:

You're missing my point. My point was that motivation and character are often assumed to be the problem when other problems exist. In Penner's case, he's better this year, but last year he was healthy-scratched, kicked off the first powerplay unit, and often skated on the third and fourth lines - despite being the best LW on the team.

This year, motivation and character are questioned, but it's possible (even probable) that the real issue is these players aren't as good as Tambellini thought they were.

I understand that and I don't really blame what MacT did to Penner last year, although the players didn't react will to that. Penner only has himself to blame, but at the sametime is it his fault that he is our best LW? Even when he was first signed here, he was thrown into a poistion that he shouldn't have been in.

My original goat for this year was whoever plays first line LW, simply because we don't have one. Now Penner is showing different, but can he keep it up when it is expected out of him?

I like Penner and thought he'd do better this year, but he has be more then just better, he has been great. He plays like a power forward at times and drives to the net. If he were to do this all year he will be that 30+ goal scorer that the team has needed. And while he doesn't hit, his name can be scratched from the soft list (if he continues playing like this).

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#88 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 06 2009, 11:06AM
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@MattL

He'll go back and play in Sweden or the KHL.

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#89 freeze
November 06 2009, 11:07AM
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MattL wrote:

"Nilsson- enjoy your money, have a safe flight back home. "

I think you can just DRIVE to Calgary these days.

If Nilsson leaves, who will go to musicals with Gilbert?!?! Who!?

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#90 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 06 2009, 11:11AM
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freeze wrote:

If Nilsson leaves, who will go to musicals with Gilbert?!?! Who!?

Maybe Gilbert's play improves because he is staying out too late at the musicals?

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#92 David S
November 06 2009, 02:25PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

LOL ;)

Admittedly, Tom Gilbert's 'man's man' blog at oilers.com doesn't help make him seem less soft.

After reading his blog and thinking about his Halloween costume, I'm starting to think that Gilbert really is a "man's man".

If you know what I'm saying. And I think you do.

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