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

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.

  • Hemmercules

    The oil always push out hese huge efforts in the last ten minutes of the game (unless they are up by one goal, we all know how that goes). If they would play half that hard during the rest of the game they wouldn't spend 40 minutes in their own zone.

    Lubo was a man possesed last night, he was solid gold all night in my opinion. If we only had another player just like him.

    My vote for worst penalty of the night has to be Moreau. Pushes a guy down thats not even involved in the play, right after our second goal. That totally deflated our momentum at the time. Pisani looked more like he was just battling hard and took a couple unfortunate calls.

  • God, that was brutal. I hope most of you didn't pay for the game.

    No skating and terrible passing to guys either covered or standing still. No one was really hitting. They seemed to stand still and turn to follow the puck around which left a Ranger open almost every time they were in our zone. No one seems to know how to get open or get a puck to the net. Absolutely zero urgency to try and score or win. Most of our D just wilt under the forecheck and I'm not sure exactly why. It could be that no one is open or in the spot or they just don't get it yet. I hope Renney is right about them "almost getting it".

    weak sauce…. just like the rx1 beer.

    • smiliegirl15

      I loved Peca when he was here, but there's no way he'd sign here again. I remember him mentioning how hard the schedule was for him and his family. He wants to be out east.
      But I agree – even an old Peca would help this team right now.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        At this point Peca really has no choice, if he wants to play in the NHL again and if Edmonton wants him then he may have no choice.

    • Hemmercules

      I agree, but only for the year to bolster the pk and provide some depth. He could provide some punch, but we don't want him long term, especially with limited cap/roster space and the need to sign r.f.a.s. Not only that, if they decide to give either MPS or Eberle a shot, then they won't want to be dealing with the same limited roster space they started with this year (though it hasn't been a problem given the injuries and flu).

  • This team is slowly turning into that group of mediocre players that we all watched in Rexall Place last year.

    Flu, injuries or not, you still need to play inspired hockey, especially when you only won once in your last seven.

  • Without really paying a lot of attention to the game last night I think you summed it up pretty good. Coaches can change but the 'suspects' in the copper & blue stay the same. I think it says an awful lot about what is in Springfield if Quinn doesn't mind having SMac sitting on the bench for 58 minutes.

    Maybe Quinn doesn't think anyone down there would be more useful? I can't wait until we get some more healthy players back so MAYBE we can ship an asset out of town for new blood. Chorney has played well in the games I have watched, making Gilbert expendable?

    I thought that with Henrik Lundqvist not playing it was a huge break. One of the best goaltenders in the league & we can't beat his back-up.

  • Librarian Mike

    Well, if all MacIntyre is doing is running around and getting bad penalties in the offensive zone, he shouldn't be on this team. That, or I suppose they could make him captain…

    • ZING!

      Yeah, SMac seems like a great guy, but you can't burn a roster spot on a guy who's barely going to play. He's only going to get worse if he spends most of his time on the bench or in the press box. Let him go, or let him get some games in at the AHL level and bring up Potulny or Reddox.

    • smiliegirl15

      Seriously, you cannot compare SMac to Moreau. Moreau may take stupid penalties from time to time (too often yes) but he does contribute to the team and provides a lot of the grit a few of our boys are lacking. Get a coffee and come back to post when your cobwebs clear.

      • The problem is that I haven't seen Moreau bring a lot of that this year. He isn't doing what he needs to and that will probably cash his ticket out of town. (hopefully along with Nilsson) But do note that he is my goat so I will point out all his short comings.

        • smiliegirl15

          There are worse players on this team than Moreau. We need players like him who can play minutes, hit and shoot. I believe he's also playing on an injured foot (not bad enough to keep him out but bad enough). I wish more of our players had half his heart. He is exactly the kind of player you have to have on your team; they can't all be superstars. Goat he is not.

          • Moreau should be a better leader on this team, though. Taking dumb and lazy penalties is not something done by a captain.

            I wish Moreau was like a Mark Messier-type captain where he calls out his teammates and demands a better performance from every player. Someone has to do it and this team doesn't have someone like that. I can, maybe, see Sheldon Souray doing this instead of Moreau.

            I honestly think this team is capable of being fourth or fifth in the West, but they don't have the leadership in the dressing room. There is no one willing to step up and lead this team. No one is vocal. We all hear about the "flu", or, "yeah, we lost again, this isn't good" from just about every player in that dressing room after the game. This is purely tiresome.

            Time for Moreau to step up.

          • Hemmercules

            In all honesty I can only think of one player thats less effective than Moreau and thats Nilsson. All the heart in the world doesn't mean squat if you are totally ineffective. He has an average of 1 shot per game and 1.5 hits. He's not good on the PP or the PK or at even strength for that matter. I love how his interviews always seem to trash the things that he doesn't do. I like Moreau, great guy, but he has really done zero to help this team the past 3 years in my opinion.

          • Hemmercules

            You can honestly tell me that Moreau has done anything remotely effective for the oilers in the lasts 2 or 3 years??? He's being outdone in every aspect of the game by Brule and JFJ right now.

          • 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.

          • Hemmercules

            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…….

          • Dan the Man

            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

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            That may or may not be true, but if you replace him it won't be with Brule or JFJ they already have spots on this team. I have zero issue with moving Moreau, my issue is who do you replace him with? Even from within if it is Potulny or Reddox, doesn't that make us a softer team?

          • Hemmercules

            I'm not saying he will be replaced, my original post was just saying that he's ineffective. Chopper isn't going anywhere, thats one of the contract the Oilers are stuck with until the end for sure. I find it hard to believe though that we don't have one prospect that isn't capable of 2 or 3 hits and 2 shots per game playing fourth line minutes.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            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.

          • Hemmercules

            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.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            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.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    So Horcoff's first game out and we win more draws then we lose?

    Macintyre needs to go in my mind. As much as I want that super heavyweight what is the point if the coach doesn't play him? Wouldn't we better with Reddox or Potulny at this point? Couldn't be worse.