Oilers Vs. Avalanche Postgame: Keeping Up With Carolina

Jonathan Willis
January 18 2010 10:19PM

Colorado Avalanche: 6

Edmonton Oilers: 0

Well, that was a disaster. Just this afternoon, Bob Stauffer was mentioning how the Oilers had been losing a lot of games but hadn’t been blown out; I’m not sure it qualified as a wish but if it was it got fulfilled tonight. Ugly, ugly, ugly. I didn’t think the Avalanche were actually all that impressive, but the Oilers ineptitude almost made them look that way.

First Period

This is going to mark me as an oddball, but I’m genuinely excited to see what Marc Pouliot can do in his first game back at the NHL level. This has been a season of AHL players showing they might have NHL futures (Ryan Potulny, Ryan Stone) and it would be nice if the Oilers’ first pick in 2003 could use things that are his strengths (positioning, faceoffs) to prove he can hang on to an NHL job. I can’t really explain why I keep holding out hope for this guy, but I do, and that’s what I’m focusing on for this game. He’s coming off four strong games in Springfield, and hopefully he can carry that on to the NHL level.

A T.J. Galiardi breakaway is the best chance so far, and the ice has been tilted a bit in Colorado’s favour. Jason Strudwick is all kinds of slow, but he stayed with Galiardi enough to impede him.

Marc Pouliot Watch: His first shift with Moreau and Cogliano started with the puck coming int o the Oilers zone. Pouliot got it to Smid, who moved it to Stortini, then Pouliot bailed out Stortini as the latter lost the puck, carrying it in for a shot on Anderson.

The Oilers have Pisani listed on the third pairing instead of Strudwick. I’m now trying to decide if that would be an improvement.

The Oilers’ checking line of Horcoff, Pisani and O’Sullivan is out for another defensive zone draw; Horcoff loses the faceoff, and while the line did a good job of limiting chances it was still a little bit scary. Sheldon Souray made a blind backhand pass from right in front of the net that resulted in a Colorado chance. A very nice illustration of why it’s way better to start in the offensive zone.

Brutal hit from J-F Jacques on Ryan Wilson, sparking a physical reply from Chris Durno. I wonder if it’s payback for the Wilson hit on Moreau the last time these two teams played. Wilson turned at the last second, and Jacques ended up hitting him from behind.

Four on four is entertaining; watching Sheldon Souray and Tom Gilbert bumble around in their own end isn’t all that enjoyable, but Nilsson and Penner came and bailed them out and Nilsson ended up with a nice chance on Anderson.

Gagner’s a joy to watch right now; somebody ought to tell him that Game 1 is Game 41. J-F Jacques comes out of the box; he loses a puck battle cleanly along the board as he shied away from a hit. I seem to recall Mike Milbury beating up on Patrick O’Sullivan for almost that exact same play.

Decent tilt between Stortini and McLeod; Stortini took a few more shots.

John-Michael Liles scores to make it 1-0 Colorado. Visnovsky abandons the side of the net to take the man in front while Gagner’s doing spade work to cover for Smid, who gets caught a little high. The real problem: Robert Nilsson, standing in front of the net all by himself watching it happen.

Nilsson now with Pouliot and Moreau, and that trio has a good shift as Pouliot generates two chances. I swear, I’m not imagining this; Pouliot’s having a very good game.

Sheldon Souray takes a penalty for grabbing Chris Stewart with his free hand, and the ref will call that every time.

Jason Strudwick with a very nice play to break up a pass on the penalty kill.

Matt Duchene scores after Colorado gets back into the zone; they peppered the net and the penalty killers, and while Penner was able to block shots the Oilers couldn’t clear the zone. 2-0 Colorado.

Oilers with a nice clean breakout, but the pass from Visnovsky lands in Jacques skates and as he looks for it two Avalanche players jump into the Oilers zone with the puck, leading to a good 20 seconds of pressure.

Marc Pouliot takes a penalty for kicking out Chris Durno’s legs; it was a bad penalty to take. I laughed a little bit reading Pouliot’s thoughts on Durno after the play, but he can’t do that sort of thing if he wants to stay in the lineup.

Nice penalty-killing work by Moreau and Potulny, who clear the zone with relative ease.

Very, very nice kill for the Oilers. The Avalanche couldn’t get setup and the Oilers just kept dumping the puck down the ice.

Dustin Penner with a fine chance on the shift after the penalty kill. Nilsson made a lovely blind pass to Penner who saw the puck deflected over the net.

Brett Clark takes a hooking penalty on Gagner, although the call could have gone either way (Gagner had his stick up to). Denis Grebeshkov promptly makes a stupid pinch that gives the Avalanche an odd-man rush.

Second Period

No intermission segments from me today; let’s face it, the intermission segments on pay-per-view aren’t that interesting.

The Oilers power play isn’t all that interesting; Dustin Penner made a nice move to give Souray a chance to use his shot, but other than nothing terribly threatening. Lubomir Visnovsky hurt T.J. Galiardi with a shot that didn’t get through.

Wilson’s doubtful to return; these Avalanche players are dropping like flies.

Faceoff stats are 14-6 Colorado.

I don’t know what happened to Sheldon Souray from last year, but he’s looked lost in his own end tonight. Just a series of bad plays that keep resulting in Colorado chances.

Jason Strudwick wins a foot race! Sure it was against David Koci, and sure he had a head start, but a win’s a win. This comes on the heels of a nice shift for Shawn Horcoff, who lost a puck battle but then went and won it back and held off three Colorado players while the Oilers figured out who should step off the bench.

3-0 Colorado. Kyle Quincey took an innocent shot that looked like it deflected in off Ladislav Smid.

Denis Grebeshkov got thumped with the puck coming out of his own end, but Sam Gagner came back and helped him out. I’ve been very impressed with Gagner’s play of late.

Andrew Cogliano is saying not nice things after taking a high stick in the face. No idea why Galiardi didn’t get called for the penalty.

Ladislav Smid went after Yip in the corner after Yip grazed Deslauriers.

Ugly shift for Potulny, Penner and Nilsson; they were penned in by the Colorado kids, who generated chance after chance after chance.

Great to see Tom Renney’s name come up under Kelly Buchberger, who remains pessimistic about the Oilers play. I actually enjoy Buchberger interviews as a rule; he doesn’t sugar-coat anything.

Andrew Cogliano finally draws a penalty as Tucker shoves a stick between his legs; the Oilers go to the power play.

A slightly better power play that time around, but still nothing worth mentioning, really. No serious chances.

End-to-end action; Colorado had the puck just sit on the goal line as it almost squeaked through Deslauriers, and then Potulny came back the other way with a chance in close. Visnovsky had a rare moment with the puck as he coughed it up under a heavy forecheck leading to the Colorado chance.

Beauty chance for Patrick O’Sullivan off a very nice shift for the Horcoff line.

Denis Grebshkov pinches up to centre, leaving Strudwick and Jacques on defence; the puck turns over for a Colorado 3-on-2. Strudwick is taken out of the play on a give-and-go, and Jacques doesn’t do anything about the forward standing right in front of him because he’s not remotely intuitive as a defenceman. 4-0 Colorado.

Moreau just thumped T.J. Galiardi. The much maligned captain has had a pretty good game, all things considered, and the fourth line is having a good night as a unit.

Denis Grebeshkov never saw a pinch he didn’t like; it’s killing me tonight.

Third Period

No intermission interview for Gene Principe because there’s some kind of closed door meeting in the dressing room. Gene explains all of this in very animated fashion, doing a little dance as he waves his arms towards and away from the dressing room.

After a Stauffer/Chabot interview (I’m actually a fan of what Stauffer does; as far as paid Oilers employees go he’s relatively outspoken) Principe gets to interview Rick Olczyk. No word on whether Gilbert Brule can clear waivers or not ;)

10 seconds into the period and Colorado has a serious scoring chance. This doesn’t bode well.

And just a few seconds later Patrick O’Sullivan draws an interference penalty has Kyle Quincey knocks him down; but that power play only lasts a few seconds as Dustin Penner takes a hooking call.

Big pokecheck by Jeff Deslauriers; Matt Duchene blew by Jason Strudwick and came in all alone. Just moments later Horcoff stick-checks at the puck and trips Liles, giving the Avalanche a 4-on-3 power play. Sticking with the seconds later theme, Kyle Cumiskey blows the puck by Jeff Deslauriers from the point to make it 5-0.

I can’t believe the puck didn’t just go in; Gilbert had an empty net off a Gagner rebound, but Kyle Cumiskey is playing multipurpose man and blocks the shot.

Pouliot gets rubbed out entering the zone, and in retaliation Zack Stortini throws a vicious hit at the boards. The boards are surprisingly resilient, knocking Stortini to the ice.

Colorado makes it 6-0 as Duchene blows by Strudwick again. Sheldon Souray sees it happening, makes a desperation dive to knock the puck away. Duchene flips the puck over to Yip, who Strudwick has moved to cover (although not well), Yip flips it back to Duchene and Duchene puts it past the now prone Souray and into the net as Penner desperately tries to get back. Jason Strudwick has been absolutely terrible tonight.

10 minutes left, but nobody has any doubt about what the outcome is going to be.

My game summary in a single sentence: Ethan Moreau has been one of the Oilers six best forwards.

Nice chance for first Ryan Potulny and then Robert Nilsson, but Anderson, as usual, is splendid and prevents either from going anywhere.

I’ve spent some time thinking about it, and I now wish Fernando Pisani’s clone were the sixth defenceman instead of Jason Strudwick. I’m not sure there’s a slower defenceman in the league.

Chris Durno takes a weird call as he bumps Deslauriers, falls down, and trips Grebeshkov all at the same time. The tripping call is the one the referee settles on.

Power play starts. Power play ends. The less said about the interim, the better.

Horcoff with a brutal, brutal give away in his own end. It goes nowhere, not that it matters at this point, but he can’t make that play. 

Oilers Three Stars, Plus DFF Star

Plenty of competition for the DFF star tonight, not so much for the other three spots.

1. Tom Gilbert. Aside from the odd moment, Gilbert was effective tonight, which puts him miles ahead of some of his fellow blueliners, and most of his team.

2. Sam Gagner. Once again the Oilers’ most dangerous offensive players, although if that’s not damning with faint praise I don’t know what is.

3. Marc Pouliot. A nice game for Pouliot, playing his fourth game in four nights. He managed three shots and did a fair bit with his smidgen of ice-time.

DFF Star: Tom Renney. Yes, that’s right, Tom Renney. Normally Jason Strudwick would get this honour, but let’s face it: it wasn’t Jason Strudwick who sent him out for more than 20 minutes against the Avalanche. Let’s just break that down into even-strength ice-time, to see what happens:

  • Denis Grebeshkov – 17:55
  • Sheldon Souray – 17:42
  • Jason Strudwick – 17:31
  • Tom Gilbert – 17:08
  • Lubomir Visnovsky – 14:29
  • Ladislav Smid – 12:41

All hail Tom Renney, getting done what needs to be done. 

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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 Crash
January 19 2010, 09:16AM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

I wonder what the thoughts are in acquiring Tootoo when he is a UFA this year. I guess that is if Nashville lets him get that far. He'd be more of a replacement for Stone or Jacques though, not that 15 goal scorer you are looking for.

I've been preaching this sentiment for weeks now....bring on Tootoo and a couple of others of his ilk...for starters

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#52 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
January 19 2010, 09:23AM
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@OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

Tootoo is probably more valuable then all those 4 you listed. The only thing I would question is how much is he going to get? 1.5+? That is where I may start to shy away.

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#53 Chris.
January 19 2010, 09:29AM
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I've said from the start: the longterm damage this season will inflict on this franchise will outweigh the benifit of a top three pick.

There is (was) only one thing players around the league respected about Edmonton: the commitment to winning. Players knew walking into this market that the spotlight was on; and nothing less than their very best would do... Sure the Oilers haven't had a lot of talent but there was always a late season push, some fight, a level of dignity and pride...

I guess what I'm saying is that if injuries have taken their toll: fine. If management wants to start two kids in goal: fine. But, If Tom Renny is purposely rigging results by playing Strudwick ahead of Visnovsky against top competition: NOT COOL!

Pilots don't intentionally steer aircraft into storms looking for a silver lining. Sure, it would be nice to have the first overall pick... but an entire season of a storied franchise is infinately more priceless than a single player. There have been more than 400 players in Oiler silks who played 2500+ regular season games with the intention of winning every night... To think that this managment/coaching group would sell out that legacy for a period longer than half of an entire season for the sake of drafting one prospect makes me sick. It's sleazy. It's wrong. It's embarrassing. You always do your best with what you have... otherwise you start to hate yourself.

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#54 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
January 19 2010, 09:31AM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

Tootoo is probably more valuable then all those 4 you listed. The only thing I would question is how much is he going to get? 1.5+? That is where I may start to shy away.

Ya, I'd take him over the 4, I just think upgrading the 4th line (where we have decent wingers) should be well down on the priority list compared to upgrading the 3rd line (where we basically have no wingers)

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#55 roughneck
January 19 2010, 09:51AM
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Well that was ugly. Perhaps I miss something but I am of the opinion that an evaluation of goaltending prospects when the team in front of them is so inept is akin to evaluating which slave did the best job of avoiding the lions before being eaten.

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#56 David S
January 19 2010, 10:01AM
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Chris. wrote:

I've said from the start: the longterm damage this season will inflict on this franchise will outweigh the benifit of a top three pick.

There is (was) only one thing players around the league respected about Edmonton: the commitment to winning. Players knew walking into this market that the spotlight was on; and nothing less than their very best would do... Sure the Oilers haven't had a lot of talent but there was always a late season push, some fight, a level of dignity and pride...

I guess what I'm saying is that if injuries have taken their toll: fine. If management wants to start two kids in goal: fine. But, If Tom Renny is purposely rigging results by playing Strudwick ahead of Visnovsky against top competition: NOT COOL!

Pilots don't intentionally steer aircraft into storms looking for a silver lining. Sure, it would be nice to have the first overall pick... but an entire season of a storied franchise is infinately more priceless than a single player. There have been more than 400 players in Oiler silks who played 2500+ regular season games with the intention of winning every night... To think that this managment/coaching group would sell out that legacy for a period longer than half of an entire season for the sake of drafting one prospect makes me sick. It's sleazy. It's wrong. It's embarrassing. You always do your best with what you have... otherwise you start to hate yourself.

I 100% agree.

It strikes me that at some point last summer, after having struck out once again trying to acquire a superstar, management finally said "screw it, we're going to the basement to get our boy".

Ethically I think its wrong, because we're so obviously throwing the season to get that coveted pick. Its borderline abusive to the players, not to mention the coaching staff. And it sure doesn't reflect well on the franchise.

Its a ruthless improvement strategy. Something I dare say Lowe would never contemplate. After thinking about it for a while, I've come to the conclusion that the only guy capable of such a move would be the calculating businessman that now owns the team, Darryl Katz. Its just a guess of course, but I'm now willing to bet our new owner is having alot more to say about how this team is run than we think.

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#57 Chris.
January 19 2010, 10:25AM
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@David S

I suspect Katz had a hand in the Horcoff extension... consider their personal relationship, and then just look at the timelines...

Or how about Comrie?

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#58 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
January 19 2010, 10:29AM
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Chris. wrote:

I suspect Katz had a hand in the Horcoff extension... consider their personal relationship, and then just look at the timelines...

Or how about Comrie?

Ya, I've always felt Katz was a big part of the Horc extension. Like you said "look at the timeline"

After weeks of negotiating with Hossa, their were reports that Horc was one of the key figures in the negotiations. Katz strikes out on Hossa, looks at all that cap space burning a hole in his pocket and decides to flex his financial muscles by giving Horc a huge deal.

I'd also guess he had a big part of Comrie coming here.

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#59 Chris.
January 19 2010, 10:53AM
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The lifespan of an NHL career can be short. For Oiler management to intentionally flush 1886 precious man games down the toilet without any type of positive support is criminal. Players won't forget this...

It's been said a 1000 times over...to really turn things around this franchise needs to draft well, and slowly break in only high quality prospects; in shelterd roles; with the support of a strong cast of NHL role players signed to value contracts. How does aquiring one quality prospect help that model if every other player with a pulse and a brain is motivated to avoid Edmonton like the plague? UFA's keep getting younger... IMO, This epic slide, sans any kind of support will serve as a more critcal deterrent than reasons like geography, or a hard travel schedule to the kind of players who are truly committed to winning. Shame on the Organization for being so obvious...

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#60 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
January 19 2010, 11:48AM
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Chris. wrote:

The lifespan of an NHL career can be short. For Oiler management to intentionally flush 1886 precious man games down the toilet without any type of positive support is criminal. Players won't forget this...

It's been said a 1000 times over...to really turn things around this franchise needs to draft well, and slowly break in only high quality prospects; in shelterd roles; with the support of a strong cast of NHL role players signed to value contracts. How does aquiring one quality prospect help that model if every other player with a pulse and a brain is motivated to avoid Edmonton like the plague? UFA's keep getting younger... IMO, This epic slide, sans any kind of support will serve as a more critcal deterrent than reasons like geography, or a hard travel schedule to the kind of players who are truly committed to winning. Shame on the Organization for being so obvious...

that is one way to look at it. saying it 1000 times over doesnt make it the right way. in a perfect world, it makes perfect sense.

in real life, it aint gonna work in edmonton.

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#61 Bruce
January 19 2010, 11:59AM
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Hey JW, good game summary, nice to read the descriptions of actual hockey action. So much overviewing just now, so little detail. Your praise of Gagner is particularly heartening. Cuz if this season isn't about player development, than what the f*** is it about?

One positive outcome of last night's 6-goal pounding was that I no longer associate you, Jon, with the Oilers' worst loss of the season. :)

Not sure how you missed Moreau's penalty which, coupled with Souray's, led to a two-minute 5-on-3 resulting in the 2-0 goal. Hooking, down behind the Colorado net, well before the rush where Souray grabbed Stewart. For at least the 6th time this season, the opposition scored with thecaptain in the box ... each time for an offensive zone penalty.

Sheldon Souray made a blind backhand pass from right in front of the net that resulted in a Colorado chance. A very nice illustration of why it’s way better to start in the offensive zone.

Last night the Gilbert-Souray pairing took 12 offensive zone faceoffs, just 2 in their own zone. Whether that was Renney reponding to the early sequence you described here or (more likely) the random chance of rolling the defence pairs with 44-77 surely following Visnovsky rather than Strudwick! But it explains to some extent Gilbert's lack of ineffectiveness :) compared to other Oilers.

I don’t know what happened to Sheldon Souray from last year

I'm giving 75% of that to concussion and 25% to Souray losing interest in a one-sided season the same way he used to lose interest in one-sided games. We sure miss the Sheldon of 2008-09.

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#62 OilW30
January 19 2010, 12:36PM
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Someone at Lowetide's said that Olczyk dodged a question about insuring Khabbibulin's contract. Can anyone recap? Does anyone know if the Oilers were unable to get insurance for that contract?

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#63 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
January 19 2010, 01:07PM
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OilW30 wrote:

Someone at Lowetide's said that Olczyk dodged a question about insuring Khabbibulin's contract. Can anyone recap? Does anyone know if the Oilers were unable to get insurance for that contract?

It's interesting, but basically irrelavant for the fans sake. All that means is $$ out of Katz pocket...nothing to do with the team on the ice.

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#64 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
January 19 2010, 02:18PM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

It's interesting, but basically irrelavant for the fans sake. All that means is $$ out of Katz pocket...nothing to do with the team on the ice.

Shows incompetence by management once again, that is if it is true.

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#65 oldeschulemensch44
January 19 2010, 03:24PM
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@Crash

Tootoo for stone right now! i'd make that trade in a minute and the next one would be for avery. jacques is untouchable he is our future and possibly present enforcer. since those idiots let Macintyre go. never mind nuclear deterent go for MAD for those of you not versed in nternational relations Mutual assured destruction. boy i'm glad the cold war is over sic

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#66 oldeschulemensch44
January 19 2010, 03:30PM
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secondly how ironic that the two worst teams in the league played for lord stanleys mug just 5 years ago.......

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#70 Bruce
January 19 2010, 04:22PM
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JW: One other thing. I think you gave my man Zack Stortini short shrift up there in the game story, highlighting one turnover, one missed check, and a fight in which he "took" a few more shots. (A very ambiguous word in a fighting context that can mean give or take; to me Zorg won that fight.)

As for crashing the boards, at least he was @#$%^&* trying to hit somebody. He (barely) missed that time, but last night was credited with 3 hits, no other Oiler more than 1 (one). In the third period the Oilers were credited with exactly 1 (one) hit, by Zack Stortini.

Same thing happened in San Jose, Stortini played the fewest minutes on the squad but led it in hits, with 5. Again, at least he was @#$%^&* trying. Which stands out on this team just now, in a good way on the individual but in a very bad way in terms of what that says about the team. Last night, for example, I thought the whole Colorado team worked hard, whereas on the Oilers you could single out a small handful who seemed to be giving 'er.

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#71 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
January 19 2010, 04:40PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

Shows incompetence by management once again, that is if it is true.

Not really, I'm sure Katz would have agreed to an uninsurable contract before hand. If he doesn't care if he's stuck paying it out, why should we.

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#72 David S
January 19 2010, 07:58PM
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@ Jonathan - Shawn Horcoff "when healthy" is a top-six NHL player.

Right now he's running on cortisone, which is a temporary solution at best. He's far from healthy in his current state.

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#75 Bruce
January 20 2010, 09:12AM
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JW: You think Stortini lost the fight? Still not clear. All I know was it was the other guy with the nosebleed.

Agreed the "big hit" wasn't, it just stood out as somebody who gave a $#!+ when most of the team didn't.

And we agree Zack is a better alternative than JFJ, who brings similar offence (as in not much) but terrible defence and hockey sense. Too bad, we could use 3 or 4 guys up front with some size and orneriness who can actually play the game.

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