Oilers vs. Penguins Postgame: Fun To Watch, Actually

Pittsburgh Penguins: 3

Edmonton Oilers: 2

Pre-Game Quotes

“Edmonton has not been hot at any facet of the game.” – Bob McKenzie

“It’s over. It’s over.” – Darren Dreger

First Period 

Funny to see Devan Dubnyk chatting with the linesman at the start of the game. The linesman was laughing, which I would normally take as simple conversation, but in the aftermath of the Burrows/Auger incident I’m going to assume it was evil laughter and the Oilers will be punished with, umm… lots of offside calls. That’ll teach them.

Shawn Horcoff a late scratch? I wonder, again, about his health. Hopefully there will be some clarification as the game goes on.

I can’t help but notice that the aforementioned Auger is a referee in the game tonight; I’m taking that as a good sign.

Apparently Zack Stortini was supposed to be a scratch, but Horcoff’s late absence changed that. No clarification on why Stortini was supposed to be out.

Decent first shift for the top line of Gagner, Penner and Nilsson. That’s a pretty sketchy top line, though. According to Cuthbert, Cogliano was slated to play wing but moved to centre in place of Horcoff at the last minute.

Sam Gagner double-shifted, playing with Stortini and Moreau to take the defensive faceoff. It says a lot about both Gagner ‘s progression as a hockey player, and about the quality of this team, that Gagner’s being asked to do that job.

Jacques, Cogliano and Stone are just a stunning mess in their own zone. They manage to get the puck but have no idea what to do with it, and subsequently can’t clear the zone. Jacques is the worst offender, as the puck dribbles between his skates; I have no idea why this guy is consistently listed as a keeper by the various people advocating the tear-down of the team. He can’t score, and it’s not like he can play a defensive role either.

Pat Quinn’s well-dressed tonight. I’m not always a fan of his three-piece suits, but the subtle black pinstripes are a very nice choice. He seems grimly determined.

Zack Stortini draws a penalty (high-sticking to Jordan Staal) leading to a very good looking power play; unfortunately the unit couldn’t convert despite generating some nice chances.

Ray Ferraro’s an excellent analyst; I miss hearing him on Oilers broadcasts more regularly. His critique of the Jacques, Cogliano and Stone trio is especially enjoyable because he’s basically criticizing them for doing thins too simply; all driving the net rather than showing a little more finesse. The thing I like so much about that sort of comment is that it’s a rare one; commentators are forever berating players with “keep it simple” and saying that they overcomplicate things; sometimes it’s the truth but the reality is that the simplest possible play isn’t always the right one. A little bit of nuance is a welcome change.

Cogliano now between Moreau and Staios; I wonder how much ice-time Jason Strudwick’s going to see tonight. It’s a shame; I recall him being relatively effective on the wing last year.

5-on-3 for the Oilers as Craig Adams hooks Potulny and then Evgeni Malkin jumps into the air to hit him. An excellent call by Auger, who I’ve criticized before. I’m not sure what Malkin was thinking, jumping up to hit Potulny; that’s just a stupid play.

The period ends after 12 seconds of 5-on-3 play. Matt Cooke’s a player I can’t stand, and sure enough he jumps Sam Gagner from behind after the whistle. He’s always been a weasel and it’s great to see him continue that trend in Pittsburgh.

First Intermission

A real shame to see Carolina lose to Detroit tonight. I was pulling for them.

The discussion starts with the Sergei Gonchar hit on Cal Clutterbuck, and Bob McKenzie called it a “free shot”. I’m really not sure why the panel is supporting Gonchar, aside from the fact that there’s a general dislike for Clutterbuck. It was an illegal hit, away from the puck, and there should have been a suspension. Of course, Clutterbuck’s idiotic statement afterwards doesn’t help his case at all.

There’s a tendency to ignore items like the NHL donating $100,000 to the relief efforts in Haiti, but the reality is that it does help and it deserves a bit of a shout out.

Second Period

Shawn Horcoff described as “violently ill”; presumably it’s the flu and not connected to his shoulder.

The 5-on-3 generated some solid chances , and finally Andrew Cogliano converted on a pass from Patrick O’Sullivan. He’s had a good game, despite some of the struggles of his line. Marc-Andre Fleury deserves some credit, too; he made a great initial save but Cogliano put away the rebound. The other assist to Lubomir Visnovsky.

Souray with a nice hit on Malkin; I wonder if that was payback for Malkin’s ridiculous jump-hit on Potulny.

Sign in the crowd reads: “The Sidney Network” (TSN, get it?). I’m not big on those signs, although I’ll admit I chuckle every time I see a “Marry Me, Sidney” sign, like the one held by the woman in the wedding dress in Calgary (picture’s up at Puck Daddy).

A great play by Andrew Cogliano to clear the net; he flipped it to J-F Jacques, who turned it over without getting it out of the zone. Those plays just kill me; they’re the reason I have issues with Jacques. Yes, he can hit, but is it enough?

Ryan Potulny with a slap shot that made Marc-Andre Fleury’s finger bleed. The guy’s a goal-scorer; always has been, and he’s one of the few revelations this season. I sincerely hope the Oilers offer him a cheap, one-way contract and lock him up as a depth guy because he can play anywhere in the lineup.

Ladislav Smid with an undetected elbow on Malkin; Malkin’s been highly visible offensively but it almost feels like the Oilers are targeting him.

Stone with a strong forecheck; the puck slides free to Jacques who gives it to Stone and Fleury makes a gorgeous save. Very strong shift for that line.

Andrew Cogliano, who has been very engaged, hit Crosby hard and was immediately nailed by Mike Rupp in retaliation. Two minute penalty to Rupp; just the latest example of undisciplined play by the Penguins, who have been ugly so far.

The power play was fairly uneventful until Patrick O’Sullivan took it on himself to charge the net, generating a solid chance; after the rebound he flips the puck to Visnovsky who scores a one-timer. The Penguins lack of discipline tonight has cost them dearly.

The Gagner, Nilsson and Penner line has been pinned in their own end twice tonight, and Dubnyk had to be solid. He hasn’t been too busy but he’s had a fine game.

Brad Watson whistles Ladislav Smid for cross-checking; Smid hit Malkin three times with his stick but still shook his head in disgust after the call. Quick memo: if you don’t want to go to the box, don’t cross-check the guy three times in three seconds. A no-brainer call for Watson.

The miserable Penguins power play remains inexplicable. Fortunately they have a chance to play against the Oilers PK; unfortunately for them the first chance of the power play goes to O’Sullivan, who has a nice shot on Fleury.

The Penguins power play looked horribly lackadaisical, but out of nowhere Bill Guerin had a break away and that seemed to spark things. Dubnyk coolly shutdown the ex-Oiler, and looked no more flustered as he stymied the Penguins’ offence. A very nice game for Dubnyk, whose AHL track record suggests that he should be the Oilers goalie of the future, and whose play tonight might get him another crack at being the goalie of the present.

J-F Jacques had a very nice play where he simply overpowered Kris Letang; he gave the puck to Nilsson who charged on net and had a gorgeous little deke before he bowled over Fleury. Fleury went back after Nilsson, and then Cogliano jumped Fleury, and then every Penguin on the ice dog-piled the net. Nilsson claimed afterward that he was pushed, but his elbow connected cleanly with Fleury’s head. No damage done, and the play ended with minors to Nilsson and Fleury.

Second Intermission

A good, solid game so far. I haven’t enjoyed an Oilers game this much in a long time.

Quoting Darren Dreger: “The Oilers have come to realize that they cannot win without a superstar.” Chasing a super star has cost this team the last two summers.

Quoting Bob McKenzie: “This is a last place hockey team with a first place payroll.”

TSN has Tom Gilbert’s cap hit listed at $5.0 million; it’s actually $4.0 million.

Now, Dreger’s going on about the need for a “cultural change.” Give me a break. That was the rationale for dumping Craig MacTavish and installing the new all-star coaching staff. This isn’t a culture problem; it’s a talent problem. It’s way too simple to simply call this a culture problem and suggest that installing some new leaders will fix things; it won’t. This team needs to be rebuilt top to bottom, to make it a deep and capable team.

TSN ran the picture of the Calgary girl in the wedding dress, and followed it up with a guy in a wedding dress at the Edmonton game. Both bore signs requesting Sidney Crosby’s hand in marriage. I think I’ve reconsidered my stance about Edmonton; it is the fan’s fault nobody wants to sign here. With that as the benchmark, I’d sign in Calgary too.

Third Period

O’Sullivan with a brutal pass that fortunately doesn’t go anywhere. It’s too bad; he’s had a solid night up until now.

Penner with a breakaway; he’s poke-checked by Fleury. Penner outworked Malkin to generate that opportunity, but after the save Crosby had a chance that was turned aside by Dubnyk.

Penner’s an interesting player for Edmonton’s future. As G.M., would you bet on the last four years or bet on his breakout this year? I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle (i.e. 30/30/60 range) and for me that means if someone’s willing to offer up first-line compensation for him he might be worth trading. Not that I’d shop him; just that I’d be willing to listen to offers.

Great chance for Pisani, who will be another interesting decision for the Oilers. For the record, I’d try and sign him on the cheap; at a reasonable rate not only could he outperform but he brings things (ability in all three zones) that the Oilers aren’t rich in. Two years, $1.6 million (total) or something like that?

Tyler Kennedy pulls the Penguins to within one goal. Ray Ferraro thought Dubnyk was weak; I disagree because it was a premium chance, right from the hash mark, that just squeaked through. The real issue here was Cogliano losing the puck battle to Staal and Visnovsky getting caught too close to the net.

Lovejoy is a funny name.

Ryan Stone takes a penalty that has Pat Quinn shaking his head, and no wonder; it was a weak and foolish hook on Malkin. There’s still almost 15 minutes left and only a single goal advantage for the Oilers.

Great stat that reflects Gonchar’s value to the Penguins: the power play is 10% more efficient with him than without him. Matt Cooke scores to tie the game at two; that goal had a little odour although Tom Gilbert wasn’t blameless either.

Gagner and Nilsson with some gorgeous passing to setup Penner; that was as good a chance (including the breakaway) that this line has had.

Gonchar drilled Patrick O’Sullivan right in front of the Oilers’ bench. As I write this the Penguins go ahead 3-2; the replay shows a poor play by Smid behind the net that Staal banks in off Dupuis’ knee. No blame for Dubnyk there, but that’s a 2-0 lead blown. In fairness to the Oilers, they didn’t go away; things just went badly. Moments ago, the top line had a great chance, but things have just gone badly.

I do feel compelled to note that the Oilers record while leading after two (not counting this game) is .750, 26th in the NHL; last year under MacTavish it was .893, 9th in the NHL. There are things the Oilers are better at under Quinn, but their defensive game has gotten worse since MacTavish left town.

Ethan Moreau’s mouth is bloodied by the puck. He’s actually had a fairly good game. Ray Ferraro’s talking about how his spirit seems broken and this isn’t the same Moreau as years previous; personally I don’t think Moreau’s been the same player since his coming back from two awful years of injuries. He wasn’t any better last year, people just cut him more slack (possibly because he played half the season with a broken hand).

The Oilers are falling apart and Pittsburgh is all over them. The Cogliano line was hemmed in for a long time. Ferraro says the best way to protect a lead is 200 feet from your own net, and of course he’s right.

Patrick O’Sullivan with a long range muffin; it was actually the right play as Sheldon Souray gave him the puck but he didn’t have many options.

At this point my DVR stopped; I apparently neglected to add the half hour in case the game went long (I always use the DVR so I can skip commercials; watching lousy hockey takes enough time without them). No worries, though; nothing seems to have happened in the final few minutes and Pittsburgh kept the lottery drive alive with a 3-2 regulation win.

Stars: Oilers Three And Dive For Five

1. Patrick O’Sullivan. A very nice game for POS, who charged the net for the Oilers’ second goal and setup the first one with a beautiful cross-crease pass. Also played a solid even-strength game, for the most part.

2. Dustin Penner. The top line wasn’t great, but Penner and Nilsson both had some quality chances. Penner was the best player on his line and a dangerous guy tonight.

3. Andrew Cogliano. Cogliano played a very solid game, scored a goal and was physically aggressive, yet again. This is not a guy to sell for 10 cents on the dollar. Unfortunately, he was also on for every even-strength opposition goal against, as his line (with Moreau and Stortini) lost the matchup battle against the Staal line.

DFF. Ladislav Smid. I could have put Devan Dubnyk’s name here, but Smid was just a step behind tonight. He was directly responsible for one goal, not that great on the other one, and took a silly penalty to boot.

That was the best Oilers game I’ve watched in a while, with lots to like but no damage to the lottery drive, and I hoped everyone else enjoyed it despite the quiet night from Sidney Crosby.

    • Wolverine_Oiler

      I had Mono once and it was during wrestling season. I wasn't out for 2 months. Maybe about a month. I don't understand why he's taking so long. Does anyone know?

      • I think the problem was that he caught mono when his body was already depleted from the flu, so it kicked the crap out of him. A guy like Comrie would do anything to play right now, especially since he dearly wants to position himself favorably for next year's contract negotiations. If he's not playing, you can bet its pretty serious.

  • Just got back from the game…
    – Devan Dubnyk had a solid first two periods. Wasn't bad in the third, but wasn't great.
    – Patrick O'Sullivan had a pretty good game IMO. Two nice assists.
    – Jordan Staal was fun to watch. When announced as the 1st star the 2 guys behind me exclaimed "he didn't even score a goal". Right you are there geniuses… but he did have 3 assists.
    – Speaking of the guys behind me, the one guy kept saying that "that Malkim is pretty good". Umm, I never noticed Malkim, but Malkin had some impressive shifts.
    – Nilsson was going into Fleury anyway, but he definitely added an extra shot.
    – Stortini wanted no part of Godard, and rightfully so.
    – Jamie Sale sat a few seats away. She is HOT!
    – Horcoff was throwing up all day. I believe he took the warmup before throwing up some more and calling it a night.
    – JF Jacques can skate and hit, but everytime that grenade… EERRRRR puck hits his stick, I can't help but wonder if there's about to be an explosion.
    – I liked Kris Letang tonight, too.
    – Funny to watch ex-teammates Strudwick & Cooke and Souray & Guerin interact during the warmup. Souray and Guerin shared a laugh about Billy G's stache.
    – That dilhole in the wedding dress… WOW!

    • Reggie

      Ya, did the two guys behind you even watch the game ? Staal didn't just get three assists, he generated the chances that got the goals. Without him, we may be talking about an Oiler win this morning.

      Those two guys must be brother's the guy who behind me who said that Guerin's in his mid-40's … ummm … 39. Turns 40 in Nov.

      I didn't think Letang looked as good as you did, but it was cool to see Cogs blow by him on the one chance in the second period.

  • Nice to see Wanye's still alive (just reading thru some of the GDB comments… ugh WT)

    EDIT: Wow Wanye… I can't believe you're married to Jamie Sale. But I practically nailed her tonight as she was less than 8 seats away from me, so… sorry bout that. I didn't even know there was any Jamie Sale comments before I posted mine here.

  • Jamie B.

    I wish Crosby had saved his good game for us instead of Calgary. Oh, well, maybe he can score a goal the next time the Pens play here, in about twelve years. Thanks, Bettman.

  • Interesting snippet from tonight's progam…

    Feb. 10th the Oil Kings host the Lethbridge Hurricanes on SONiC Wiener Wednesday. $2 Hot Dogs All Night. Presented by Waste Management

    That belongs on Jay Leno's "Headlines". Wait… does Jay Leno still have a show? Conan O'Brien? Please tell me Jimmy Fallon does not still have a show.

  • GReat game – Dubnyk probably deserved the win. But as Quinnn said after the game theses guys aren't making their own luck. How many games can you blame on bad luck in 1 season?

    Thanks for keeping the dream alive guys! #dff

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      As the guys on the team 1260 said, the Oilers showed they can play but are still alive in the dive for five. Isn't that all we want at this point, exciting hockey with a shot at Hall?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    That guy in the dress could be about something that sonic was talking about yesterday, I'll have to listen today to see if they put that guy up to it.

    Violently ill, wouldn't you be violently ill knowing you'd be played against Crosby and Malkin?

    I personnally didn't think the Gonchar hit was that bad. His legs and arms all came up after the hit so to me while it was interference that is about it.

    Nice to see that Dubnyk didn't get lit up this game. 28 saves against a top team is something this kid should be proud of.

    • Now we look back fondly on how Mac T used the goalies? The reason we have two unknown commodities in net is because he rode Roli into the ground. Don't get me wrong, I alsways thought Mac T got more of the blame than he deserved but his use of the goalies was ridiculous.

      I do however recognize that he was trying to save his job and squeak into the playoffs and part of this was due to the three headed gaolie monster mess.

      Jamie Sale is hot.

  • Dyckster

    RE: the Jacques, Cogs, Stone line, it made total sense what Ferraro was saying. he mentioned on a 3 on 2 rush they were attacking in a straight line, minimizing their options. Also the fact that the puck carrier was in the middle of the ice. This is pretty basic stuff I coach my Bantam girls team NOT to do. The simple, "standard" setup is to attack in some semblance of a triangle, with the puck carrier usually coming in wide, not up the middle. Opens up the ice more (pulls d over exposing the middle for instance) etc, etc, etc. Do you blame coaching, player retention of the fundementals, or player indifference?

    No matter, it was a small example of why our team is struggling.

  • Greg MC

    TSN ran the picture of the Calgary girl in the wedding dress, and followed it up with a guy in a wedding dress at the Edmonton game. Both bore signs requesting Sidney Crosby’s hand in marriage. I think I’ve reconsidered my stance about Edmonton; it is the fan’s fault nobody wants to sign here. With that as the benchmark, I’d sign in Calgary too.

    Hope you're kidding about Calgary, yikes!

    The guy in the wedding dress is classic, that's funkin' funny!

  • Perfect game for the Oilers. Some effort and entertainment for the fans and a close loss for the good of the future.

    I thought the dude in the wedding dress was funny.

    Now back to the interwebs and more Sale searching…errrr…I mean work.

    • Jason Gregor

      What are you talking about. The biggest game of the year comes on February 1st. The Hurricanes and Oilers…for all the marbles…30th place. The atmosphere should be electric.

      • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

        It might throw Carolina off, having so many fans cheering for them.

        I think it threw the Bears off when they had to play in front of a capacity crowd in Winnipeg the AHL playoffs last year. There were more people in the MTS Centre each night in that series than there are in all of Hershey, PA.

      • haha ….. indeed… could be a HUGE battle in the grand scheme of things.
        I think the lounge staff are concerned enough about my sanity. A round of jaeger for the house after an Oiler loss might tip the balance.

        Did I really buy an Olympic torch last night? WTF?

  • Ducey

    Where is the love for Nilsson?

    He looked good last night. Good jump, some nice passes, that physical play down low in his own zone to turn over the puck, and driving the net.

  • Greg MC

    Not sure this is entirely appropriate, but your work just seems to get more and more honest every day Jonathan. I like the new format for your post-game threads, it allows for the reader to experience the game more truthfully than a traditional post-game tainted by the game's end result.

  • Greg MC

    on the odd-man rushes:

    this team is brutal, BRUTAL on odd man rushes in recent years, shoot when they clearly should pass and vice versa, rarely a trailer comming in for a clean shot from high slot etc etc…. brutal…….breakaways are different animal so I give them slack on those….

  • Jonathan Willis wrote:

    Now, Dreger’s going on about the need for a “cultural change.” Give me a break. That was the rationale for dumping Craig MacTavish and installing the new all-star coaching staff. This isn’t a culture problem; it’s a talent problem. It’s way too simple to simply call this a culture problem and suggest that installing some new leaders will fix things; it won’t. This team needs to be rebuilt top to bottom, to make it a deep and capable team

    The main part of Dreger's point there though was that they'd have to strip down the veteran core that's been lingering here, and I fully agree with that. Obviously it will take a miracle, a 26 of tequilla and a soon-to-be drunk GM in order to swindle a deal involving Horcoff. However, Moreau (whom JG mentioned was called about by Anaheim) and Staios could be potential targets by the deadline, Pisani's contract will expire this year, and I can handle seeing Souray and Visnovsky around next year (and by handle, I mean I'd love it). As for Horcoff, they can just suck it up and hang on to him if there are no takers.

    But I do get your point… I'm not chasing those names out of town for culture reasons.. I'm chasing them out because they really don't bring much anymore and are getting paid probably 2 or 3 times more kablingy than guys that do their jobs significantly better.

  • james_dean

    When the oil shed some veteran salary and open up katz wallet to pay some RFA's gagner, potulny, jacques to name a few;

    Tomas Plekanec could be a centre to play with hemmer/ hall next year (if we dont end up getting seguin). as a fellow czech rep countryman. although he is more of a setup man like hemsky he could help. if he isnt looking for the homerun contract, 7.6mil for 2years is reasnable.

    the kotalik trade didnt pan out maybe tambo would have better luck snapping plekanec out of free agency what do you think