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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.