Oilers Vs. Panthers Postgame: Visnovsky Always Gets A Star

Jonathan Willis
December 07 2009 09:18PM

Edmonton Oilers: 3

Florida Panthers: 2

That was a good, entertaining game that could have gone either way. When Pat Quinn does finally keel over and die from a heart attack, you can bet money it will happen because Jeff Deslauriers decided to do his Marty Turco impression for the 100th time. 

Oilers Three Stars, According To Me

1. Lubomir Visnovsky. I got called out last game for always awarding Visnovsky a star, but he always seems to deserve one and tonight was no exception. Goal, assist and calm play under pressure. Remarkably, of the 15 scoring chances the team recorded at even strength, Visnovsky was on for 11 of them. He's the best player on this team.

2. Robert Nilsson.  Nilsson showed the drive and courage that he's showed at his best, and even managed to land a big hit in the neutral zone.  He also dodged a big hit from Bryan Allen, and Allen ended up dropping his teammate Gregory Campbell instead on an ugly play.  Again, Quinn bumped Nilsson up to the second line from time to time and he seems to have gotten Mike Comrie's spot on the power play for the time being.  Three points in three games for the Swede who I can't help describing as "enigmatic".  Scored a shootout goal, too.

3. Shawn Horcoff.  A decent game from Horcoff, who scored the Oilers' first goal and also the winner in the shootout.  I'm still perplexed why a guy with his shootout record took so long to find his way into the rotation; probably because he just scores and doesn't do it as slickly as some of the young kids.  Aside from that he forechecked well and had two hits that I saw.

Random Thoughts

On another night, J-F Jacques might have found himself in the three stars.  He still has limitations but he saved a sure-fire goal against in the second period, and threw several crushing hits including one that levelled Bryan Allen behind the Panthers' goal.  He might be playing a little higher in the batting order than I'd like, but he's an NHL'er.

Gilbert Brule had an okay game by my eye, but the one thing I note about him is that he plays on the very edge of legality.  His penalty for boarding tonight was earned, and he's thrown several hits of that nature in games past (the hit on Filpulla comes to mind).  His penalty on Ballard was a little on the selfish side but since the two of them were jawing all night I was a little surprised not see Ballard fight him, and I imagine Brule was too.

Dustin Penner looked ordinary again; fortunately it's happening while others are scoring. 

Jeff Deslauriers is going to kill not just Pat Quinn but me too with his puck handling.  I like puck-moving goaltenders, but when it comes to guys who can't do it, I prefer ones like Vokoun who don't bother trying.  Still, I suppose it shows confidence if nothing else.

Sportsnet mentioned Cameron Abney as a prospect, but if he has the career Steve MacIntyre does I'll be surprised.  Yeah, he was his team's most improved player last year; a difficult feat, given that he'd played all of four games the year before.  Still, the offence is coming: last year it took him 48 games to reach the one goal, four point mark, and this year he's done it in only 26.  Progress, sort of. 

I think we're far enough along now that I can whine a bit about the coaching: watching first the fourth line and then the Staios/Strudwick pairing take shifts against the Weiss line late in the third drove me nuts.  I know Quinn doesn't like matching lines, but come on.

Speaking of Staios/Strudwick, what a brutal, brutal pairing.  Fully half of the Panthers' chances came against Staios and Jason Strudwick coughed up the puck plenty.  It's Ulanov/Cross all over again.

All in all, another win, but I refuse to be optimistic.  Despite that, there's no law against enjoying them while they come, and I'll confess I had a blast watching tonight's game.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 Benhur
December 08 2009, 09:18AM
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someone posted that the Gilbert/Souray defensive pairing was good...I must disagree. I cring everytime Gilbert has to battle for the puck. He usually turns it over and we end up scrambling around or give up a goal. We could use another Smid type Shutdown defenseman ... hopefully they trade Gilbert for one.

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#52 roughneck
December 08 2009, 09:35AM
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The panther shooter tutor has no top corners? Awesome!

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#53 BBOil
December 08 2009, 09:56AM
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While I'm not overly pleased with Staios' overall game, I think he is alright as a 6th D just as Strudwick is alright as a 7 or 8. I also have to say I had a soft spot for Ulanov.

One positive thing you can say about both Staios and Ulanov is they seem to have a knack for getting hit by shots whether they mean to or not. Didn't work out too well for Stevie last night, but worst case scenario we could put him in net for his puck handling skills.

I also agree JDD may not be great with puck on his stick, but as long as he is stopping it from going in the net I'm happy, and right now I'm fairly happy.

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#54 MrOiler
December 08 2009, 10:09AM
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"I refuse to be optimistic."

Where's the old objectivity, Willis? The record is 13-13-4, 4 points out of 7th, with 52 games to go. And the team has managed this while having the highest man-games lost record in the league.

With the exception of Chicago and one Vancouver game, they've been in most of the games they've played.

You see a mirage, I see a team that's coming to play most nights.

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#55 Dodd
December 08 2009, 10:17AM
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Gilbert is a liability down low. He has been directly responsible for at least a goal - against per game as far back as I can remember.

Last year's points came most from D-men, but this year will be different. What we need from Gilbert is shutdown ability, not a shot from the blue line (we have that in Vis and Souray).

Oh Matt Green... you are missed.

PS - a record number of "beer - spit - shots" occurred each time JDD tried to fumble the puck while 20 feet out of the net.

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#56 Dan the Man
December 08 2009, 10:32AM
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@David S

You make a really good point about Strudwick, it's not his fault he's being used so much. He played 18:33 last night and has averaged 16:30 minutes of ice time this year. I'm curious as to why Lubo is only playing around 21 minutes a game, I'm pretty sure he could easily handle 23-24 minutes.

Looks like the Oil not only roll their 4 forward lines but their 3 d-pairing as well. Struds might fair better playing only 14-16 minutes a night.

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#57 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
December 08 2009, 10:32AM
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@Dodd

To be fair, I don't think he's playing the puck with the intention to fumble it.

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#59 Milli
December 08 2009, 03:06PM
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I agree, and really wondered why Staios and Struds where on the ice in the last 2 minutes. Vish is playing great hockey, and Tom Gilbert has really found his game.

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#60 Boris
December 08 2009, 03:29PM
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Numbers don't lie, but you can make the numbers look which ever way you want...as a fan, a true fan of the Oilers, I prefer to see the glass half full... some people are just not happy unless they are bitching about something...

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