My thoughts on last night’s game, and some news and notes from elsewhere.
On Last Night’s Game
So I went over to a buddy’s place and watched the Oilers play Montreal on RDS last night. It was a good game, and it felt to me like they played better than they had in many of their recent wins (including the Saturday game against Toronto). Some scattered thoughts from the game:
The fourth line looked awful. Liam Reddox had an ugly giveaway within the first ten minutes, and things just got worse after that. Stortini, Brodziak and Reddox were penned in their own end on at least three different shifts, and looked very much like the weakest of the Oilers’ four lines.
The first line wasn’t all that good, either. Maybe I’m biased because my expectations are so low, but Ales Kotalik looks not only like he isn’t a fit skill-wise, but also speed-wise. I’d put money on Dustin Penner in a foot race between the two, at least based on the last two nights. Hemsky picked up a point, but he’s slumping right now and neither he nor Shawn Horcoff looked great last night.
On the bright side, the second line was excellent. Sam Gagner had a couple of funny moments last night, but he scored a garbage goal and was generally creative. Marc Pouliot had a tremendous game, in my opinion, showing some moxie (Gagner wouldn’t have scored if Pouliot hadn’t been in there taking the punishment and poking the puck free, plus he went after Stewart after the latter clocked him to end the second) and some skill too. I’m not convinced that Pouliot’s role in the NHL is going to be on a scoring line, but he was a good fit last night. Robert Nilsson looked okay – he made one big hit in his own end and showed flashes of skill but seemed tentative to my eye.
Andrew Cogliano was buzzing all night and was a constant threat. The buddy I watched the game with is a Canadiens fan (why else would he have RDS), and Cogliano was the player that made him nervous.
Speaking of my friend, about half way through the second he started predicting what Steve Staios would do as he approached the puck. He was right every time, and every time he said something to the effect of “around the boards” or “chips it out”. I’ll say this for Staios – he’s consistent.
And since I’m talking about predictable defensemen, what an awful game for Jason Strudwick. He looked a step behind for most of the night, and on the second Montreal goal he was embarrassed by Mathieu Dandeneault (of all people). He ran out to challenge Dandeneault and blew by him, leaving two Canadiens at the right side of the Oilers’ net. Ladislav Smid had to decide whether to drop to the side of the net or hold the slot, and elected to stay in the slot (probably the right decision, given the Montreal player not far behind him), which allowed the Canadiens to bang in a goal from the right side.
Chorney to Manitoba?
The Manitoba Moose are looking for a puck-moving defenseman for their playoff run, and it’s possible that GM Craig Heisinger is considering Oilers’ prospect Taylor Chorney. Chorney’s been far better over the last half of this season, and if the Moose were interested I think the Oilers should consider loaning him there. Playoff experience, even AHL playoff experience, will only serve him in the long run.
Oilers Apologize To Springfield
Kevin Prendergast, who seems to be the Oilers’ point man on all things AHL, issued an apology to fans of the Springfield Falcons yesterday:
“We are in the business of winning hockey games and we failed miserably in Springfield this season. On behalf of the Oilers we apologize to the fans in Springfield who have supported this team through a very difficult year. We will begin plans immediately in addressing the problems on the ice this season and promise that we will do everything we can to put a more competitive and winning team on the ice next year.”
Next season will be the third and final year of the affiliation agreement between Springfield and Edmonton. Looks like any Oklahoma City plans will need to wait another season.
Ever Curious How Tough Minor-League Defensemen Are?
Here’s a scary story about Fort St. John Flyers defenseman Kip Noble, courtesy of energeticcity.ca:
Noble took a big hit from Spirit River’s Mike Lefley, in the dying seconds of the third period, of Saturday night’s game four. The game went into overtime, where it was won by the Flyers (Jeff Shipton with the winner), giving FSJ a 3-1 series lead. The hit happened when the Rangers dumped the puck out of their zone, after tying the game up 3-3. Noble raced back to retrieve the puck, after icing was waved off by the officials. He was hit into the end-boards, and lay on the ice for several minutes before skating off on his own steam.
So that doesn’t sound so bad – he skated off under his own power, right? Here’s the rest:
He was taken to hospital, where he remains, as of Monday morning, according to GM Rob Larson. Noble is suffering from a separated shoulder, a broken rib, and a collapsed lung.
Noble had a nice career over in Britain and was the MVP of not only the Flyers but the entire league (the player he beat out for the award, by a single point, was Mike Lefley). He also won his seventh best defenseman award this year, and if he’s injured it will seriously hurt their chances of qualifying for the Allan Cup, which replaced the Stanley Cup as the pinnacle of senior amateur hockey achievement in 1909 after the Stanley Cup Championship became a professional competition.