Oilers vs. Sabres Postgame: Two Men Down

Buffalo Sabres: 3

Edmonton Oilers: 1

After a strong performance against Ottawa, the Oilers weren’t as good tonight against Buffalo.  Second games in back to back nights are often like that, and while nobody wants to make excuses it would have been remarkable had the Oilers won this game.

Oilers Three Stars, According To Me

1. Nikolai Khabibulin.  Played a very solid game in net, and the save that comes to mind in particular was the stop on Thomas Vanek when the latter was all alone in the slot.  Looked very solid on the evening.

2. Dustin Penner.  Aside from the late-game combustibility of his sticks (what was up with that – seriously, three sticks in ten minutes?) he had a solid game, particularly on the penalty kill.

3. Denis Grebeshkov.  A solid night was spoiled by a late game knee injury.

Random Thoughts

The biggest issue coming out of this game are injuries to Liam Reddox and Denis Grebeshkov.  First, here’s the hit Reddox was injured on and which Clarke MacArthur got a five minute major for:

It’s a dirty hit and well worth five minutes and the game misconduct, but it didn’t strike me as one where MacArthur meant to injure Reddox.  Watching the play, it was a split-second decision and I’m inclined to give MacArthur the benefit of the doubt here.  Pat Quinn emphatically disagreed, saying "he knew exactly what he was doing" after the game.  He also said that Reddox’s wrist "was all blown up" and that "his head was smacked too".  I’d suggest a short suspension (one to three games) is a reasonable outcome here, but feel free to discuss that.

As for Grebeshkov, the Oilers tweeted that he is done for the trip with a knee injury and on his way back to Edmonton.  They didn’t say but it seems almost certain that this came on a knee-on-knee hit towards the end of the third period.

People will (rightly) criticize the powerplay tonight (Quinn was livid in his post-game conference) but it’s worth noting that the Oilers did manage 13 shots and their lone goal came with the man advantage.  At even-strength they have just seven goals in their last six games.  Buffalo also carried the play against them tonight while at five on five; only the power play kept the Oilers close.

For all the whining about Hemsky’s negative impact on the power play, let’s keep in mind that since the lockout he’s been the Oilers’ best player with the man advantage.  Yes, the power play sticks too close to the perimeter and passes too much, but Hemsky’s greatest strength is his passing and on-ice vision.  Asking him to charge into the slot, bull his way to the net, and so forth reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of his role on the unit.  The problem is that everyone on the team seems to think they have that same role.  For example, Cogliano had a strong game but with Craig Rivet down behind the net and Penner manhandling the defenseman in front, he just passed the puck back to the point – he needed to take advantage of the opportunity, either by going to the slot or giving the puck to Penner.  Instead, the opportunity was lost as Rivet got up and the Sabres covered the point man.

Steve Staios had a strong game (on the first goal, he blocked the shot twice) but got turned inside out by Derek Roy late in the game.

A game after both callups looked strong, Ryan Potulny was the goat on one goal with a lackadaisical back-check that allowed Steve Montador to walk in all alone.  As for Reddox, it sounds like he’ll be around for a whilke but "around" will mean hanging out on the injured reserve.

What did everyone else think?

  • I'm no fan of Pierre McGuire but during the broadcast last night he pointed out how in past eras guys didn't finish that big hit from behind in the corner, they would let up and give a small bump instead of bearing down. That's the problem nowadays, guys don't let up.

    That's selective memory at its finest. I've been watching this game for almost half a century and every single "era" has had guys who respected their opponents and guys who didn't. You pick and choose guys, you can find a whole list of each from any time.

    An example of a player of the current era who does have respect is Zack Stortini who is a very consistent hitter who plays the body at all opportunities but when he sees a guy's numbers he doesn't cream the guy. It is possible.

    On the other hand the league has always had guys like Matt Cooke, Denis Gauthier and Gary Roberts who will look for an opponent in a vulnerable position and nail him as hard as they can. Buddy has his back turned? Great, he can't defend himself, hammer him. That's the kind of #$!+ that has to be policed, and it's been a problem since forever.

  • David: I think it was Potulny. Ray Ferraro singled him out on the intermission, although the angle he showed wasn't great (low angle, with the duilty party very far from the near (defensive!) zone). It was certainly the "Springfield Line" of Potulny and Reddox along with Pisani who got burned on both Buffalo goals. Those guys played well in Denver and Ottawa but struggled last night, esp. Potulny.

  • Bob Cobb

    Potulny comes back and could have helped on the check, but he does go to an open man in front of the net.

    Reddox comes off the bench and fails to get in play and take Montador, who is surely his man.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    late to the post, but since you asked for what we think, here it is Jonathan:
    you wrote: 'but Hemsky's greatest strength is his passing and on-ice vision'

    the problem here, with this club, is that these 2 strengths are nowhere to be seen this season…
    aside for the 1 game when he first played with Penner and Gags, Hemsky was mediocre at best.

    yes, he is good value for 4 mil, but when all the youngsters on the team think: 'pass it to Hemsky first' he's doing more harm than good to the team right now

    maybe instead of praising his past seasons (the ones from 2-3 years back, I suppose, because last one was quite poor) the media (be that official or blogger) should get on his case. help light a fire under his feet and push the issue forward: either show your talent at least every other game or request a bloody trade.

    to me it looks like Hamsky is coasting waiting for a new contract. and he's slowing the team down in the process.

    Mr. Nilsson this morning stated as well that the game was ok.
    When you cannot score on a 5min PP it's not ok and the press should say that.
    Same goes for all the scoring on 5-on-3…

    Rightfully so to see a livid Mr. Quinn.

  • dragon:

    Hemsky played hurt last night, and I'm not going to call him out because of it. Same as Staios his first game back (he's looked much better since).

    I honestly believe that the Oilers PP w/ Hemsky > Oilers PP w/o Hemsky. Until I'm convinced otherwise, I'm not going to state the opposite.

  • My only issue with the Hemsky quarterbacked PP is that he hangs on to the puck too much. If it was, as you described, a passing clinic, I wouldn't mind so much, so long as the other team was left wondering where the eff the shots were going to come from. But a bit more often than not, Hemsky will look for an opening, and if he doesn't see that great cross crease pass, he'll loop around for a bit and see if it's there right after.

    I'd like to see him hang on to it less.

    And Cogliano, yah, he caught my attention when I saw Penner staring at him from in front of the net, stick on the ice with no one between them, and he decided to go up the boards (or wherever it was) with it.

    Penner's a very capable net presence, they're wasting a valuable commodity when the vast majority of the time they're just looking for the cross-crease pass. I'd like to see them fire into the crease area once or twice on the powerplay to keep the defense on their toes.

    And btw, awesome game by Staios last night. Yes, he's still looking for his jock strap, courtesy of Roy. But aside from that, he was fantastic. That Montador goal was disappointing as hell because he made two great shot blocks and because everyone else was watching his shot-blocking tutorial, Montador was left uncovered.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      I remember watching Washington earlier this year. Not one player held the puck for more then a second or two. They were constantly moving the puck. And what did that do?, it made the defenders back off a bit and gave Washington room to make a play.

      We have so many so called playmakers, why can't we do the same? Instead we have one guy hold on to the puck for thirty seconds, then the opposition send two attackers after that guy and we turn the puck over.

      • Interestingly enough though, inspite of having infenitly higher skill almost accross the board, the Caps have only scored one more PP goal in 2 more attempts then the Oil.

        Just because it looks better doesn't mean it is 😉

          • Wouldn't you think on talent alone that AO/Semin/Backstrom/Green/Knuble/Poti etc etc should be worth far more then one extra goal over Hemsky/Vish/Horc/Gagner/O'sully/Gilbert/Penner etc etc?

            If they are far and away more talented yet barely out producing, that should point to their system actually being inferior to the Oilers,

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Still they are better and take Poti off of there that is just embarassing.

            It's not like our PP is that bad overall it is just inconsistent. And yesterday was the first time we scored on a 5 on 3 in 6 chances or something, not exactly an appealing stat.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            But with the Caps, one just "knows" they will score 5-3 with those guys, or down one goal with 5min of 5-4, one expects them to play desperate and deliberate to get the puck on/in the net.

      • I don't remember what it was.. 3 for 7 or 4 for 7 maybe. And that for sure gives the team a fair boost up the PP rankings.

        Just checked, and yes, 4 PPGs… take those 4 opportunites and goals away and suddenly the Oil are 18.1%, good for 21st in the league. Amazing how one game can make them look a fair bit better at this stage. So I'll continue not getting too excited about our PP.

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          I was actually pretty shocked when I seen that. Thing is what good is it to go 4 for 6 in one game , but then 3 for 20 in two games after that and 5 games before that.

          Revised numbers

          Side bar as I am looking at stats, how was there 18000 people in Buffalo last night? There were quite a few empty seats.

          • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

            This is one thing that came up with the whole Balsillie thing earlier this year…

            Attendance talks about the number of tickets sold, not the number of asses in the seats.

            They inflate the numbers in Phoenix by giving tickets away, but the recipients don't always show up.

  • Racki: I certainly haven't fogotten Gary F. Suter.

    As for that 4-for-7 PP night, that happened while Hemsky was on the shelf. It may have been an idle comment to that effect by yours truly that sparked the latest uproar. I'm not anti-Hemsky by any means, but I think it's fair to say he's a flawed gem. Some see only the gem, and some get hung up on the flaws. I try to consider the whole package.

    I honestly believe that the Oilers PP w/ Hemsky > Oilers PP w/o Hemsky. Until I'm convinced otherwise, I'm not going to state the opposite.

    JW: I agree with this.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Back to the Caps and back to consistency in 18 games this year the caps have 3 games without a PP goal, the Oilers on the other hand have 10 games out of 19 that they don't have a goal.

    That is the problem I have.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      Unless the PP goals are scored in the latter half a of blow (ie the 5th goal of a 5-1 win). I don't really think you can place more value on spreading your PP goals out vs lumping them together.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        Yes but only getting PP goals in 9 of 19 games is not a good stat. It shows the inconsistency of this team. Of those 10 games 7 of them were 2 goal games or less. Fact is when the PP doesn't score we have won 3 out of 10 games, when it does score we have won 5 out of nine games.

        • Inconsistancy isn't necesarly a bad thing when you are scoring at a high rate during the games it's clicking.

          17 PP goals, they could be in 17 different games or they could all be in 4 games… Niether way guarantees you more wins.