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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.”
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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.
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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?
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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