Hurricanes vs. Oilers: Post-Game

I took the time to sit down with the notepad for tonight’s game against the Hurricanes, so despite the fact it was a 7-1 loss we’ll revisit it. It wasn’t all bad; in fact it was one of the least excruciating blowouts I’ve watched over the last few seasons*. More after the jump.

First, some quick thoughts on the Oilers.

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Nikolai Khabibulin: Going strictly by comments made by the play-by-play crew, Nikolai Khabiublin had a good game which was just one small part of a good season. Rather than focus on his goals against average (over three) or discussing his at best mediocre save percentage, Quinn and DeBrusk opened the game by highlighting that Khabibulin ranks 10th in the league in total saves. Later on, the game’s outstanding play went to Khabibulin, for a decent but not extraordinary save on Joe Corvo (one of four he made on eight shots; obliviously Kevin Quinn went on about how win or lose Khabibulin makes outstanding saves). In reality, Khabibulin struggled; the first goal was the result of a juicy rebound while the third was from a sharp angle. The other two weren’t as bad, but Khabibulin simply wasn’t very good.

Devan Dubnyk: Devan Dubnyk, on the other hand, was fairly good – making 31 saves on 34 shots. He was frequently called upon while the Oilers attempted to killed penalties, and made a variety of highlight quality saves. Dubnyk now has a 0.933 SV% through two games, and given that this is a rebuilding year and the young goaltender has been solid to date, I hope we start seeing a more equitable distribution of starts – at least as long as his performance makes it worthwhile.

Ryan Whitney: Tonight was a bit of a mixed bag from Whitney. On the one hand, the Oilers only goal came about in large part thanks to a very good cross-ice pass, he played the body reasonably well and showed smarts often enough. On the other hand, he missed a feather pass from Kurtis Foster that led to an ugly chance against and occasionally looked just a little slow (though he’s smart enough that it doesn’t show often).

Tom Gilbert: To say it wasn’t an overly impressive game from Gilbert, is a bit of an understatement. The first goal against can be chalked up in large part to Gilbert; he made an ill-advised pinch, then lazily poked at the puck and took his sweet time back-checking (Sam Gagner was two steps behind Gilbert when the puck was turned over and got back much earlier). He finished minus-3 and didn’t do much to stand out in a good way.

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Theo Peckham: I’ve been a fan of Peckham since he was an AHL rookie, and I was reminded of the reasons why over and over tonight. He’s nasty and aggressive, but not in a stupid way. In the first, as the play-by-play crew blathered on about what a physical force Steve MacIntyre was, Peckham laid out a big body check which resulted in a turnover (the MacIntyre love continued without pause). That physical play continued all night, largely without being noticed, and a hard point shot of his was redirected by Zack Stortini for a good chance. He finished the night with 12 minutes in penalties thanks to a 10 minute misconduct caused by a scrum late in the third. Led the Oilers with 17 minutes and 26 seconds of ice-time at even-strength, and is deservedly climbing the depth chart.

Kurtis Foster: One of two plus players on the Oilers roster tonight, it was Foster’s heavy one-timer which led to Edmonton’s lone goal. I tried to key in on him tonight and found him awkward looking but generally effective in both the offensive and defensive zones. He has reminded me a bit of guys like Bergeron and Grebeshkov in that he’s a little gaffe-prone, but there wasn’t much of that tonight (the only real hair-raiser was the pass that Whitney missed, which is pretty hard to blame on Foster) and it feels like he’s settling down after a tough start.

Ladislav Smid: The evolution of Ladislav Smid hasn’t been terribly fast (as Lowetide likes to say, he has developed by sundial) but it’s getting easier to like the way he plays. Tonight he occasionally looked a little too aggressive (Staal made him look really bad on one play) and I still haven’t figured out what he brings to the power play but mostly he was smart, physical and he even hit a post late in the game.

Jason Strudwick: Strudwick was on the ice for the game’s first three goals and tonight was a fairly typical game for him: just a little bit slow, not prone to wisdom when distributing the puck, and occasionally showing puck-carrier tunnel vision. He’s still physical and willing and when his ice-time is limited (as it was tonight) his struggles are relatively minor.

Andrew Cogliano: Andrew Cogliano led all Oilers forwards with 18:26 of ice-time and eventually replaced Sam Gagner on the top line; he also finished plus-1 in a 7-2 loss. Generally he had a good game; he generated offensive opportunities, he battled physically, and he almost broke even in the faceoff circle. It was generally a good game, but it was marred a little bit for me by some selfish play on Cogliano’s part; he grabbed Tuomo Ruutu’s head and pulled him down to the ice, leading to a penalty against, and took a couple of extra shots at Joni Pitkanen (Pitkanen had high-sticked him earlier) which might have been called. Other than that, a very good game.

Dustin Penner: I wanted to call this an indifferent game for Penner, but even ignoring the goal he was still a positive difference maker. He had a good night on faceoffs, seemed to win more battles than he lost, and generally played well. I’m always struck by what an ugly player he is stylistically, but he can be that and still be effective, as he was tonight.

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Ales Hemsky: A beautiful player stylistically, this was one of those games for Hemsky. He always seems to have his fair share of shifts where he dances around the offensive zone with the puck, and he can be a sneaky physical player, but on the whole he simply didn’t generate much tonight and that isn’t acceptable for a player with his skill-set.

Sam Gagner: Gagner was on the ice for all four even-strength goals against, and while he wasn’t to blame in a lot of the cases (he back-checked hard on the first goal, for instance) he didn’t generate much offensively and he was occasionally caught with his pants down when the puck started heading the wrong way and lost a few too many puck battles.

Magnus Paajarvi: I wasn’t impressed with Paajarvi this evening; he lost a few puck battles and didn’t look comfortable in his own end. The raw tools were obvious, but he looked a lot like a rookie tonight.

Gilbert Brule: Brule finished the night minus-2 but I didn’t think he was that bad. He was better than solid in the faceoff circle, engaged physically and made some nice plays in the offensive zone. He’s not a Selke candidate but he isn’t lost without a compass in his own end either.

Ryan Jones: Jones had a quiet night, but I did notice a few things; he doesn’t shy away from traffic in either zone and he made a couple of very solid reads in his own end (he bailed out Tom Gilbert at one point).

Colin Fraser: Fraser had a rough night in the faceoff circle (38% win rate) but aside from that I thought he played a relatively solid game. He’s a solid fourth line centre and that’s what he looked like tonight.

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Jordan Eberle: I love the way Eberle plays the game, but tonight wasn’t his finest hour. Along with Taylor Hall, Eberle was stapled to the bench to start the third. He was the Oilers’ most dangerous player in the first and I thought he played well on special teams, but he also got caught low on a 4-on-2 the other way and coughed the puck up to Tom Kostopoulos, who he proceeded to trip which led to a penalty shot.

Zack Stortini: Stortini started the game on an ugly note, making a dangerous hit on Jamie McBain which led to a penalty, but once that was out of the way he was very impressive. Stortini created havoc in front of the net, threw some big hits (including one on Eric Staal) and generally looked like a solid contributer.

Taylor Hall: The game started with a debate on whether Hall or Skinner would be the better player (because it’s never too early to evaluate a player’s career) but the ‘Canes rookie was certainly better tonight. Hall didn’t have much impact on the game, but did look frustrated and eventually got stapled to the bench by Tom Renney, finishing with just 8:47 in total ice-time.

Steve MacIntyre: Played a little under two minutes, and had one shift in the offensive zone where he looked pretty decent before the puck changed hands and he tried to get up ice in a hurry. He’s never going to be very useful when there isn’t somebody around to fight, and his only play of real significance on the evening was a sequence where he grabbed Tom Kostopoulos around the head from behind and tossed him to the ice, leading to a penalty. It would be nice if Tom Renney had a guy who could handle a regular shift to plug in whenever someone gets hurt. I suppose that’s another way of saying I’m looking forward to the end of J-F Jacques’ conditioning stint.

Other Stuff

Looking for a drinking game that will get you totally smashed? Take a drink every time someone (*cough*Louie DeBrusk*cough*) says “momentum” on an Oilers (or for that matter any) Sportsnet sportscast. I started counting early in the first and had hit a dozen before I lost track late in the first.

Am I the only one who sees the irony in a commercial extolling the psychological aspect of poker which subsequently directs players to an online poker site?

The penalty kill remains the ugliest festering sore on this less than successful team, and I can’t help but think that some of that is from the way everyone sort of just stands still once they’ve found their little box-shape. It’s not just personnel.

They still play the Baha Men in Carolina. I wonder if they know that it’s 2010.

Despite the way Louie DeBrusk sees the game, I’ll take “no penalties” over “getting momentum with physical play” if only because the latter always seems to lead to penalties, and this being Edmonton, those always lead to goals against.

That Jeff Skinner’s pretty good. THN’s draft issue had him ranked 25th, for the record.  That said, it’s probably a little early to praise his consistency at the NHL level, and it’s way to early to have the Hall vs. Skinner debate.

Say what you will about the game tonight, the Oilers were the more physically dominant team; Carolina (with the exception of Staal and Ruutu) generally refused to engage.

* Author’s note: This may say more about the sheer volume of blowouts I’ve watched over the last few seasons than about the actual entertainment quality of the game. Thank goodness the Ryan Smyth trade put my soul out of its misery years ago.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    Wow the sportsnet broadcast crew got critiqued
    worse than the Oilers by Jonathen
    News flash they lost 7-1 the Oilers to a man were awful including the coaches
    Sportsnet crew on the other hand were not bad

    • Skidplate

      Khabibulin is no longer a motivated hockey player. I have been asking to have him removed and let the two young goalies get their ice time while we rebuild.
      Get rid of him and we will have a better team at the end.

  • Ducey

    Looking for a drinking game that will get you totally smashed? Take a drink every time someone (*cough*Louie DeBrusk*cough*) says “momentum” on an Oilers (or for that matter any) Sportsnet sportscast

    Or listen to the radio play by play and count the # of times Michaels tells you inane information during the course of play. He is driving me nuts.

    Tonight I listened in the third for about 10 minutes while in a cab home. He told me 3 freaking times that he and Stauffer were announcing. He mentioned the Canes were dressed in red with black and white trim! He mentioned the score every f’ing 17 seconds and the time in the game every 20 seconds. All of this while the play is going on. Meanwhile you don’t know who has the puck or what is happening.

    I like his style but the substance is lacking at this point.

    • Rogue

      I agree. Just tell us what is going on, not where every player was born and how many apples he had the last game. I like Michaels, but his ” Uncle Johns Bathroom” info is tooooo much. Let Bob do the color. Yuck

    • VMR

      The one thing that annoys me about Micheals is his telling me that this team is going left to right and the other team is going right to left. I dont care about left and right just tell me if they move the puck forwards or back.

      • ubermiguel

        I know! That and the jersey colour thing struck me as really odd.

        Do other play-by-play guys do this? To be honest I’ve only ever listened to one play-by-play guy my entire life, guy by the name of Rod Phillips.

  • @ Gene:

    Besides, the PK (and Khabibulin) were the real goats tonight, and that horse has died and then been beaten to nonexistence.

    It’s almost indescribably awful, and PP goals agianst is now just an expected part of any Oilers game.

    • Wanyes bastard child

      I think he put the 4th line on the PP because the game was a foregone conclusion by that point and also because for the last few games the 4th line has been stepping it up and playing with more energy than the rest of the team.

      While they may have not been producing much in the way of points, they have been cycling the puck and really not been looking bad when they get there time on ice.

      As for Hall and Eberle being stapled to the bench I believe it has something to do with Hall slamming his stick against the glass in the second and Eberle tripping up Konstawhatever for a shootout chance. Renney was probably trying to calm them down and learn from the experiance… I dunno.

      All I do know is that the Horcoff haters better back off, yes it is one game but this small sample size should just prove how valuable he is to this team and just how much he can do for us. The calming influence on the rookies not withstanding but just that veteran presence out there shift after shift, even if he is not winning a faceoff or scoring a goal he still tries hard and never takes a shift off. And lets face it he is still our best FO man and 13 games in one of our best forwards.

      Also is it just me, or should we start every game with Cogliano getting a stick to the face so he can play with a fire in his belly and go out there with an edge to his game?

    • Chris.

      You wrote: “Sam Gagner: Gagner was on the ice for all four even-strength goals against, and while he wasn’t to blame in a lot of the cases (he back-checked hard on the first goal, for instance)”

      I think you need to rewind your PVR a little… especially on the first goal. Gagner blocked Gilbert in the neutral zone, took some hard strides at the blue line and then switched it to glide from the top of the faceoff circle all the way in: limply wagging his stick at Dwyer who skated in alone.

      • Skidplate

        I saw the play different. Gilbert pinched, but still had a chance to hit the Canes player breaking out. Of course Gilbert chose not to and he was the one that rubbed into Gagner, causing him to lose speed and angle to the play. Of course this was live action (no PVR).

  • What the heck is up with giving “MVP” Khabi the play of the game? Is there some kind of agenda at work here?

    The tradmed’s continued fluffing of Khabibulin is beyond bizarre. A coordinated attempt to save face for one of the biggest organizational blunders in recent memory, or perhaps a coordinated effort to pump up his trade value?

    I don’t like to spout off conspiracy theories, but this is just getting to be too much.

  • Jonathan, even though I don’t always agree with your point of view I really like your work. Having said that, I have only one question…

    Are you drunk?

    We just watched what happens when one of our few key players goes out and the lines have to shift to compensate. Smac nullified what was a pretty effective fourth line, Strudwick was overplayed (and we know how that ends up), Cogliano had to work with Jones, Eberle and MPS were lost and on and on. Compared to what we saw in Chicago, that was a wholesale team melt down.

    The only thing I can think of was that you forgot to add the sarcasm markers (~), because I’ve never seen you be so generous and level-headed to what was in fact a total calamity.

    • It’s a LOOONNNGGGGG season son. Might as well not dwell on the loses we knew were coming. They can’t all be exciting third period comebacks.

      Willis should pass whatever he’s trying but not inhaling over so you can calm yo nerves.

  • I completely agree with Peckham. He does not shy away from skilled forwards, he will throw himself into there path just to put them on the ice. Even though he got a 10 minute misconduct I really enjoyed the play where he pawed Staal. Showing everyone he doesn’t care who it is he will mix it up with them and also stick up for MPS.

    Could he be the second coming of Matt Greene???

  • I also think it’s sweet during those poker commercials when they’re like “THIS IS NOT A GAMBLING WEBSITE!!! But if you want you can come here and give us your credit card information and play for real money.” SSSHHHHH.

  • Jonathon
    – I really like your articles in general. This one was good because you systematically and rationally described each player, and commented on the specific attributes that the player usually exhibits.

    – Your more stats based articles are also helpful, because I think you pitch them at the right depth for guys like me.

  • Skidplate

    I couldnt believe that there was no urgency last night in the second period, it seemed that carolina had slowed up a bit, and the oilers were in the offensive zone with a chance to get a decent shot on net, and they just passed it into the corner, and eventually lost the puck. No traffic in front, Hemsky and Gange will not take a decent shot from the side of the net they try a little flutter pass through 3 guys across the crease, Makes me crazy

  • Skidplate


    There was one point where he probably would have been penalized if the referee had seen it, and I didn’t like that. But for the most part I enjoyed his fire.

  • Ender

    Nice article, JW. Anyone who takes the time to offer an opinion on every Oiler in the lineup for a game that, quite honestly, was unwatchable for me . . . well, you Sir are a dedicated writer, I’ll give you that.

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    Am I the only one who sees the irony in a commercial extolling the psychological aspect of poker which subsequently directs players to an online poker site?

    You are not the only one. It’s only a matter of time before they invite you to make some real money by out-thinking their new online Shell Game.
    “Follow the ball, win the big money!”

  • VMR

    Debrusk lost my respect a long time ago when he was on the ice when Bucky got pummled and Louis was kind enough to bring his stick and gloves to the box for him…also I am tired of his “Nationole Hucka-Leak” but there are things about all our broadcasters that are anoying but we still listen to them like:

    Bob S. constantly calling three components a tandem ( three headed goalie tandem ) or the other day the three guys on a line a tandem). And his long winded seemingly unrelated information on some player before he gets down to the comment.

    Jason G. How about his ” ask a queshon” or “talk to me about…” or how many times he states “by any strech….” during a broadcast.

    there are a lot more but does it really mater when it is the information and not necessarly how it is stated. Yes Quinn and Debrusk can be over the top but it is the game we are interested in and not necessarly the guys making the comments. Could be worse, we could have the Calgary play by play guy…….

    • VMR

      You know what else is annoying? Some guy whining and complaining about broadcasters, and not having the smarts to know how to spell correctly. Your points lose all credibility, or maybe it just shows us that we shouldn’t care about them anyways. Just a thought.

      • bigrroberto

        Because a guy fat fingers a few times and mis-spells a word his points aren’t valid? Are you high? This is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve read on here in awhile, and that’s saying something.

        ~rolls eyes~

      • bigrroberto

        Funny, I didn’t see you critizing JW….must be because he didn’t make any spelling mistakes. Just because they are at times annoying, doesn’t mean I don’t listen to them or did you not read the complete post…

        Hey everyone! Make sure you don’t make any spelling or grammer mistakes or your point will lose all credibility !! acording to Peter.

  • Broadcasting isn’t easy; I know I couldn’t do it. I haven’t listened to Michaels, but I do generally like DeBrusk, who talks about the game from the vantage point of an NHL energy guy. Most times, that’s valuable.

    @ David S:

    It’s going to be a long season of losing, and after a few long years of losing I’m trying to teach myself to find and focus on the positives.

    We’ll see if it sticks 😉

  • bigrroberto

    So this is only a few games after the oilers pot 7 vs Chicago, and tonight i see Pitts let in 7 and then i see St. Louis (they have been very good thus far) let in 8 and only scored 1.

    I’m not excusing the oil, i’m just starting to get the impression that the line between a good and a bad game has become dramatically thinner in the NHL as it it currently is.

    When the top teams are stinking it up just like a bottom team perhaps blowouts are just a reality of the times in the NHL.

    But hey, the oil got some work to do and some holes to fill, no question.

    I just don’t think it’s wise to read too much into this loss.

    And certainly don’t read too much into the benching of a couple kids. They will be OK.