Oilers vs. Canadiens Postgame: Firewagon Hockey

Edmonton: 4

Montreal: 5 (SO)

The Oilers were *this* close to giving Devan Dubnyk his first NHL win. Not that Dubnyk was particularly good (except for in the shootout), but that has to grate on the goaltender. It was an odd game, to be sure. Neither goalie was sharp, defensive miscues were the order of the day, and neither team took control of the game. On the plus side: Firewagon Hockey!

There was some nice skill to be seen from the forwards; Robert Nilsson’s wrist shot was a beautiful thing to behold but Sam Gagner one-upped him with an absolutely perfect shot from a brutal angle, and the two combined to give the Oilers their first two goals. The next two were less pristine: Andrew Cogliano was the beneficiary of some hard work by Dustin Penner on the third goal and the fourth was a hard shot by Horcoff through a screen that somehow eluded Halak. After that offensive outburst the Oilers scoring touch went missing in the shootout, as all five shooters either missed or were stopped.

On the defensive side of things, the Oilers actually weren’t bad. I like the Johnson/Peckham pairing the more I see it, and in this game Peckham stood out with some vicious physical play. He finished the night with seven of the Oilers 21 hits. Ryan Whitney blocked a shot with his knee and didn’t finish the game, while defensive partner Tom Gilbert made some brilliant offensive plays and a couple of uglier reads in his own end. Overall, the top-four wasn’t bad. The bottom pairing, on the other hand, was brutal, on the ice for three goals against, and to my eye Jason Strudwick was the worst player on the ice for either team. I haven’t been this mad at a defenceman in a few years. He was caught pinching on the Plekanec goal (Gagner couldn’t get back in time to cover him) but that was nothing compared to the Moen goal.

Strudwick, the world’s least offensively capable defenceman, somehow gets caught pinching down to the opposition faceoff circle, and the Canadiens break the other way. Gagner has apparently learned from earlier in the night, and is covering; he and Chorney are backing up to handle the three-on-two. Ganger blocks first a shot and then a pass as everyone scrambles to the front of the goal. Dubnyk’s down at this point; at his left is both the puck and depth forward Travis Moen, who keeps swinging at it. Standing right behind him is Jason Strudwick, who has caught up to the play. Strudwick is 6’4”, 225 lbs, and aside from his reputedly charming personality the only thing he brings to the table is a physical element. Does he knock Moen down? No, he stands there, staring at his back for about two seconds, until he realizes he should probably do something, at which point a goal has already been scored.

(In fairness to Strudwick, the third goal against wasn’t his fault; Chorney got caught in the corner and the Cogliano/Brule combination in front of the net made the bizarre decision to just skate away, leaving Strudwick caught between three potential Montreal shooters. I was a little surprised to see the mainstream guys name Cogliano first star after that decisive display of defensive delinquency, but it was a third period goal so it’s possible they’d submitted his name beforehand.

Nick Kypreos also mentioned something interesting – he said that Visnovsky didn’t want to be in Edmonton, his heart just wasn’t in it, and thus he had to go. I hadn’t heard anything to that effect; indeed, Visnovsky seemed perfectly happy to play in Edmonton whenever the subject came up. I don’t know if Kypreos has some behind the scenes stuff or if he was just filling airtime, and I’d be curious to know the answer.

 

Oilers Three Stars

 

1. Dustin Penner. Penner was in power forward mode tonight; he almost scored a beautiful goal on a breakaway but wound up catching the post instead. The Andrew Cogliano goal was all him to; he had two whacks at the puck at the side of the net and Cogliano swooped in and finished the job.

2. Robert Nilsson. Nilsson didn’t see a lot of ice-time but he looked like the good Nilsson tonight, and his goal was of the lovely shade. When he’s flashing brilliance he’s a fun player to watch.

3. Theo Peckham. Peckham reminded me a lot of early Matt Greene tonight, for both good and bad. On the plus side, he was a physical force and once again looked like a capable NHL defenceman when paired with Aaron Johnson (perhaps a duo to look at as next year’s third pairing?). On the other hand, he took two minor penalties against one of the league’s best power plays.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Those rumors on Lubo were out in December about how he was sad or something.

    So is the east just that bad or are the Oilers just playing that much better since the trade deadline? So far all 3 eastern teams had problems with us.

  • DoubleJ

    Vishnovsky has a wife from LA I believe. He's a Pro I don't think he cared where he played. Kypreos is just a loud mouth filling up airtime.

    Would Vishnovsky like to be closer to his wife's family probably. But he played hard every night in Edmonton. I don't think Vish could have played harder then he did for us.

    • Jason Gregor

      Actually Visnovsky was divorced a few years ago. He and his girlfriend has a baby in Edmonton last year. She lived here the entire time with him.

      Visnovsky is 33 and his window to win is getting smaller by the week. He didn't hate Edmonton the city, in fact he liked the snow, but the situation on the ice wasn't great. When guys reach his age winning is what matters most, and I think he realized that winning wasn't going to happen here. He was never a disruption in the room, but it is fair to say he is happier in Anaheim because he liked the west coast, and they are a bit better. ALthough the Ducks won't make the playoffs either.

      Let's not get on another, Edmonton is a bad city campaign. When, or if, this teams becomes a consistent competitive team, players will play here regardless of the cold weather. A winning atmosphere makes everything better.

  • DoubleJ

    See, now Vis is an example of the classy way to get out of this city. Instead of spreading rumors and making public demands he keeps his mouth shut, plays with a smile on his face and privately asks to be moved. Gotta love Vis, a pro from Day 1 and a helluva player!

  • Dan the Man

    In an interview just after he'd been traded Vis was saying how much he liked Edmonton. He could have been lying of course but he still went on record as saying he really liked it here.

  • I was surprised that none of the Oiler shooters in the shootout went high on Halak.

    Well, Brule did and hit the crossbar…

    Oh well, the loss sits fine with me. The Leafs won and that's all that matters at this point.

  • Oilers once again just barely eeke out a loss ? After trade deadline for one game, we looked like a team that was going to get bombed/lambasted every game down the stretch . Tams and entourage are down assessing , wining and dining Hall and Sequin for the draft . No matter whom the Oilers seem to put into this deleted lineup our team seems to shine , and looks like a team for first time in a long time . Go figure , they are having a difficult time losing now . Dyslexic or what ? I dare to say, we almost look good enough to be a playoff team now . Weird wacky season .

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    "Nick Kypreos also mentioned something interesting – he said that Visnovsky didn’t want to be in Edmonton, his heart just wasn’t in it, and thus he had to go. I hadn’t heard anything to that effect; indeed, Visnovsky seemed perfectly happy to play in Edmonton whenever the subject came up. I don’t know if Kypreos has some behind the scenes stuff or if he was just filling airtime, and I’d be curious to know the answer."

    And the ego of Oiler fans shrinks a little more.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        True enough, just seems funny watching people scramble to try and convince themselves he wanted to be here (not that he didn't want to be here 100%).

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          I really don't see it making a difference. At this point how many of the guys want to be here? The only thing that is keeping the mood somewhat positive is that it isn't -30.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Nope, doesn't change anything. The team is still (estimate) a bottom 1/3 "desired" place to be regardless of it's record, obviously when they are last overall theirs very few players that would want to be here.

            The sooner people except it the better.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Lowe said it before he wants guys that don't want to be here to be gone and bring in guys that want to be here. Jones, Johnson and Whitney all were excited to come here. Jones and Johnson are fringe NHLers and know Edmonton is a place to get their careers back on track, Whitney wants to be a #1 d-man.

            Maybe these are the guys we should target in the off-season? Guys that are happy to get a job. We aren't going to be that good anyways, so maybe it's worth the risk and maybe we find a couple gems to build our core around.

  • Dyckster

    Regarding Vishnovsky, there was an article on Smid last week (weekend maybe) and it touched on the effect Vishnosky had on Smid's game this year.

    At one point there was a Smid quote about the Vishnovsky trade where he said something to the effect of 'he's happy now'.

    It was part of a bigger quote but it stood out to me as one of those things that perhaps unintentionally revealed more than it meant to.

  • Shannon

    "Nick Kypreos also mentioned something interesting – he said that Visnovsky didn’t want to be in Edmonton, his heart just wasn’t in it, and thus he had to go. I hadn’t heard anything to that effect; indeed, Visnovsky seemed perfectly happy to play in Edmonton whenever the subject came up."

    In fairness, it must be really hard to be a professional athlete on a losing team. Even the most devout Edmonton lover would start to feel frustrated by this team.

    Additionally, any player with some PR skill is never going to say, "Yeah, I'm tired of losing and I'm not really feeling the city. It kinda sucks having fans breathe down your neck all the time and I'm looking for a way out."

    Hopefully he finds success with his new team.

    • Most pro athletes can stand being on a losing team because they know you don't win all the time. They also know management will do everything in its power to give them the tools to get better ASAP (see Phoenix Coyotes).

      Problem is the Oilers aren't a losing team. They're a TANKING team. Big diff. Visnovsky just finished playing with and against the best players in the world. Coming back to this must have been demoralizing to say the least.

  • Zamboni Driver

    As much as people might believe in JDD (I'm still not sold he's ever going to be a #1, but am keeping an open mind)….I have zero time for Dubnyk. Yeah, he's young and big, but that save percentage is in the toilet, zero wins ever….

    I'm thinking AHL at best.

    Luckily we have a 11 zillion dollar fossil to be number one for 19 games next year.

  • Oilers4Life

    Remember just before the Olympics Visnovsky did an interview for his home reporters, mentioned the fact that it was going to be hard to leave the Olympics and go back to a team that doesn't win. He was always classy, but you gotta feel from that interview that he wanted out.

    On a side note, watched some of the Flames game last night, still hurts me to hear "Staios to Iglina", and see him in that jersey!

  • Oilers4Life

    On a different note, JDD should have played last night! Who cares about the 'system' the Oilers have with their goalies. You know it would have been a dream come true for him, and it's not like we're in a playoff hunt right now.

    Just my opinion, but you might as well make it fun for the players, too, and I'm sure the Montreal fans would have enjoyed seeing him, as well.

  • Good to know all this stuff about Visnovsky – I didn't look before tossing the article up, but he'd always been positive in the interviews I'd seen.

    It would make sense if he wanted to leave, although Kypreos' "that's why he had to go" comment still bothers me.

  • Chris.

    Didn't Brownlee hint months ago on Oilers Nation that Vishnovsky was unhappy and wanted to return to California?

    Maybe in return for not going public with his trade request, the Oilers promised to move him by the deadline.

    Also, while on the topic of moving potentially disgruntled defencemen, call me a cynic, but how long before Whitney (an American-born player who was also traded here from a California-based team)informs management that he wants out?

  • Jason Gregor

    I was also surprised by Kypreos' comments regarding Lubo's supposed desire to leave. However, I don't know about the rest of you folks but I'm not going to invest much time or thought into debating whether or not that's actually true.

    I'm not prepared to enter a debate based on an assertion generated by Nick Kypreos, Investigative Journalist and Hockey Insider.

    Yes, I know that's an ad hominem comment on Kypreos – but he cited absolutely no one in his claim about Lubo last night. He didn't even say that he'd "heard it from a source close to the Oilers." All he said was that Lubo wanted out and they moved on to another topic.

    It was a sloppy, un-cited assertion for Kypreos to make. And, quite frankly, it's little offhanded comments like that one that have helped turned Edmonton into a place where a lot of players don't want to go. The Oilers' record of the past three or four years is obviously the biggest reason but if you've got bozos in the media making unsubstantiated claims about players wanting out of Edmonton for non-hockey-related reasons, then that's a big problem.

    And it's not Edmonton's fault.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    No players want to remain basically with a losing team irregardless of location – thats just the nature of sports . Build a legit contender and very few want out . It's no different here than anywhere else – athletes are notorious bandwagon jumpers . Loyalty comes in winning and dollars . Dollars don't mean so much when they are attached to losing .

  • Liked the jump the Oil had in their game last night I must say.

    Positives: Peckham and Johnson were a force. Gags, Bru, Pens, Nils were making things happen all game. How about Minard? I thought he made some really nice plays! Even Horc was buzzing around

    Negatives: Struds, jeez he was brutal. Dubnik he didnt have the best game for sure.

    Cant wait for next year, Struds, Pisani, POS, all need to be gone! Especially with the Possibility of Eberle, MSP, or Hall/Seguin possibly crackin the line up. Need some speed and skill and those 3 will surely bring it.

  • Ducey

    Weird how you take out Lubo, Grebs, Staios and Moreau. Add in Whitney, Johnson and Peckham and an AHL'er or two and suddenly it looks like an NHL team.

    Imagine how good this team will be when it gets rid of Pisani, Strudwick, Souray and Moreau and replaces them with a bunch of rookies and NHL journeymen!

    • Jason Gregor

      O'Sullivan had the fingernail taken off on his finger after getting slashed. He might join team in Columbus and Minnesota.

      As for Whitney it sounds like a bone bruise, which can be very painful. He is to quote the NFL, "questionable" for tomorrow.

  • @ David S…

    I'm not sure if I agree that the Oilers are a "TANKING" team. If they are, they're doing an exceptional job of making it look legit.

    I think they've pretty much earned their place in the standings the old-fashioned way – by stinking it up on a consistent basis. When this season comes crashing to a halt in a few weeks, I don't think anybody is going to be able to level the same kind of accusations at the Oilers as the Sens or Pens or Devils had levelled at them.

    If the Oilers were tanking, they'd be starting Brian Pitton in net. Or Floyd Whitney.

    • I'd agree that its not glaringly obvious the Oilers are tanking, but moves that could have been made (and were made by other teams) were not. I'm talking all the way back to this summer.

      As far as goalies go, it was patently obvious in the Olympics that goaltending was a huge part of the respective teams' chances of winning. We're polarized here in Edmonton because we haven't seen an actual NHL goalie in net since the beginning of the year. So much so that we're using our pinch-hitting AHL'ers as the new benchmark. In fact, they are a good part of the reason we suck – and intentionally so.

      Neither JDD nor DD are NHL starters in any capacity other than third-string emergency guys off the bench. That this problem wasn't resolved as soon as Khabby's back issues became obvious is another subtle clue as to our strategy this year.

      If you assume this team is tanking, most of the illogical moves (or lack thereof) become logical. Occam's razor my friend.

      • VMR

        I think it's not so much tanking as not being willing to give up anything to get a second rate hack that may not be any better than what we had. They'd never played JDD or Dubnyk and they're really at the point in there careers where they have to show some signs of developing or we have to cut bait and move on.

        The same held true with the 3rd line positions. We have a ton of possible 3rd/4th line guys who might be able to fill those rolls. Pouliot, Stone, Cogliano, Brule, Pisani, Moreau, Jacques, Stortini, Potulny. That's nine guys fighting for the bottom 6 positions and I'm leaving out the guys who at the start of the year were likely to be on the top two lines, plus a spare in Comrie. I dont see how you can justify bringing in another player without giving some of these guys a shot, certainly not a defensive grinder maybe a faceoff guy. Hopefully they learned who they want to keep, who is worth keeping, and where they need improvement.

        Injuries decimated the team and forced all kinds of weird line combos. They were being overly optimistic that some players would step up and grab a role but I dont think you can say they intentionally tanked anything.

        • Its just a theory Bruce. You could entirely be right, although most of the points you mention are usually addressed at training camp. For me, the issue is that I simply cannot believe Tambellini is that incompetent. Its just as likely that he has balls of brass by choosing to do what he's done. At the end of the day, we'll never know.

          While I grudgingly admit we need to find out about JDD and DD, no team with any thought of winning ices this tandem in any manner beyond starting one of them every 5 games or so as a backup to a real NHL goaltender.

          In the old "competitive" days, guys would bust a gut in the AHL to prove they deserved a chance. Then they'd have to knock the lights out when they came up to even maybe get a chance to crack the lineup. Now the only qualification seems to be "When can you get up here?".

  • Jason Gregor

    Fair enough, David S. I follow your logic, but I'm just not prepared to dismiss incompetence as tanking.

    That's letting the management and coaching staff (and players) off too easily.

    • I think its less individual athletic incompetence and more like management using assets a specific way for a specific outcome.

      For example, I can't malign a stalwart utility player like Jason Strudwick because he's been put into a position far beyond what he should reasonably be expected to do.

      Nor can I blame Chorney nor JFJ for being bad NHL'ers because in reality they weren't NHL'ers to begin with.

  • VMR

    There was a video interview with Lubo on a Slovakian website where he supposedly stated he wasn't happy in Edmonton, at least not with how the team was playing.

    It can be found here:
    http://tv.sme.sk/v/13939/lubomir-visnovsky-je-smutny-zo-situacie-v-edmontone.html

    Here's the translation:
    http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=23769799&postcount=11

    This was from early February, pre-Olympics. Don't know if that's what he actually said, but it wouldn't surprise me if he wanted to move on with his career.

  • Jason Gregor

    I thought the same about Visnovsky – I bet he requested a trade. Especially after he got dealt back to California – and he had a No movement clause too. I bet ANA was on a list of teams he handed to Tambo and said get me outta here – but he didnt do it in the media so is still classy in my eyes

  • Chris.

    Visnovsky spend the early part of his NHL career with a rebuilding club… Why on earth would he want to spend the rest of his career with another rebuilding club?

    • Chris.

      Well he must be ecstatic about Anaheim as they sure are ripping it up

      And with Selanne and Scott Neidermayer about to retire and Saku Koivu at the end of his leash Vishnovsky is still on a rebuilding club.

  • Chris.

    Kypreos doesn't inspire much greatness in my view. Vish played good for the Oil but the writing was on the wall for this small talented but aging d-man. Edmonton may not be the choice destination for NHLers but I wonder how those players in FLA, Phoenix, Nashville, Tampa, Atlanta feel knowing how tenuous their ownership is. In those cities people don't even want freebie tix.