Thursday, April 06, 2006

Upon Further Review: The First 40 Min Against Calgary

I taped this game because I usually record games against the higher calibre teams. It pains me to refer to the Horses With Gay Moustaches in this light but such is life.

It really helps to tape the games if you're looking for tendancies and possible future trends. If you're like me you're too caught up in the moment to catch everything as it happens. A lot of the little things things elude me so for specific regular season games I'll tape a game and watch it while I'm on the treadmill and try and keep a mental note. And I do this for all playoff games obviously.

Anyway....just a few things about the first 40 min against Cgy on Saturday night, ie I did tape the last 20 but I recorded over it as the Oilers basically quit after Kipper made that big save on Torres. So that's the overwhelming lesson from the third period;)

We'll start off with the defense and I'm happy to report that Bergeron played a helluva game. I was really starting to worry about this kid as it looked like he'd lost all his puckhandling confience and i that happened to him then obviously he wouldn't have a lot of value. He'd fallen into this habit where he was hesitating with the first pass and would constantly skate backwards in his own zone. In this game though he was making the first pass without any hesitancy and they were on the tape. He also had the little stickcheck going again where he pokes the puck away from the forechecker. It doesn't seem like it would work on a regular basis but he gets a lot of mileage out of that tactic. His partner Staios played well too. An excellent night for that tandem. And in the whole looking for trends department it's no surprise that Bergy looked like a new man once Tues night game against the Yotes.

Spacek played absolutely terrible. This is a game where if he wasn't with Pronger he could've easily been a -3. On the 2-0 goal, which was mostly Smyth's fault BTW, Spacek has a chance to make things better by just following his forward to the net. He instead floated over to stand alongside Smith and while Smith did his job of taking the shooter the other guy bounded in to knock in the rebound. I wonder if all the minutes aren't starting to catch up a little to Jaroslav. That's something to look for down the stretch. Maybe it was just a blip though. Pronger was Pronger, BTW. Steady to a fault. I didn't think he'd had a good game but when I watched it again I don't know what I was seeing the first time. He ever took a little run at Iginla but Jarome got out of the way. I'm still waiting for Pronger to crosscheck someone in the face but maybe those days are over.

A good enough effort by the Smith/Tarnstrom tandem but built mainly on the back of the former. Dick didn't have a overtly bad game and he didn't run crying to the bench once the hitting picked up. But Smith was out there just begging guys to hit him. It's funny that the Leaves traded him because they go nuts over their players and there would be statues built to this guy outside the AC. Think of those playoff battles they've had with the Flyers. You're telling me he wouldn't have made an impact?

On to the forwards. Very disappointed in the Horcoff line. They saw a lot of time against some combination of Simon-German-Ritchie-Lombardi, read "soft" minutes. Not to mention that a lot of times they were facing the defensive tandem of Marchment and Hulse. They scored their goal against the Hamrlik/Phaneuf tandem but they should've been piling up chances all night on the aforemention five man unit. Another thing I noticed about this line is that Hemsky was brutal in his own end. I'm talking Comrie bad. Remember that big leg save Rolo made when the score was 3-1? Well the chance started because Rolo threw out a huge rebound on a nothing shot. Donovan was able to get the rebound on net because Hemsky simply waived at him. The puck wound up back to the point and Bergeron went out of his way to try and block it leaving Hemsky down low with Staios and facing all of the Flames forwards. So in that respect 47 was panicking. But then Hemsky rushes out as well leaving Staios one-on-three. Rolo stops the point shot and then Staios blocks the attempted tap-in. We're all thinking that MacT will go back to power vs power with the Horcoff line next season and I think that would give Lowe an easier job in filling out the other nine forward positions. Hemsky's got a long way to go if we're gonna depend on him to even be able to post a plus in such a position

The Peca line was out for blood all night especially #'s 37 and 18. Peca flattened Langkow the second shift after Laraque proved that Simon can't build a time machine and he threw another couple of beauty hits as well. He even made a couple of nice passes and of course got in behind the Flames D for the breakaway that would be thwarted by Kiprusoff. And in a move that would foreshadow a goal in his next game Peca almost scored a shorthanded beauty in the last minute of the second period. He went inside out on Phaneuf and had Kipper hauled out of the net before Iginla came out of nowhere to stickcheck him. Moreau was an absolute beast, carrying the puck and skating with vigor and a nice hint that he's finally healed. Dvorak made that one bad pass in his own end but he also set up Stoll for an open net shot that Stoll muffed.

Allow me to interject for a second and comment on a couple of Flames players. Iginla kills the Oilers and he sucked in Torino so that gave me another reason to hate him. That being said I can't remember the last time I saw an offensive player also to make such a difference defensively. Maybe Yzerman when Stevie still had his fastball. Or Federov. Or Modano or Sakic. Or Forsberg. OK it seems like I've seen a lot of those guys but this guy is special no doubt. On Phaneuf...tough as nails with a shot harder than than Clay Aiken in an NBA lockerroom but right now the guy isn't all that great defensively. Or at least not to me eye. You can see the Marchment influence where he'll go out of his way to make the big check and that's fine as long as he doesn't have to play the tough minutes. Right now he's a lot more Hootie than he is Mick Jagger.

To the Stoll line...I tried to figure out why 16 was benched in the 3rd period and I thought I found a hint early on when I noticed Reghr knocked him down in front of the net and Stoll didn't go back at him and didn't even look at him. Right then I was thinking that maybe he was one of the guys who MacT was talking about when he said some fellows wouldn't pay the price. But Stoll went on to throw some checks. But I have a theory as to why he was benched and I think it was because he took yet another Oilers Penalty Special: the stick foul. Samsonov had a couple of moments and couldn't corral a loose puck to the right of Kipper which would've given 12 an open net. I was really disappointed in Torres because this kind of game should've been one where he could've made some noise with a hit or two.

The MAP line did some solid work no question about. MacT sent them on twice as the first shift after a goal and they always did the job. Pisani was Pisani and BG was out there even thinking the game a little more than usual and trying to set up 34 in the slot. MAP looked ready for the rough stuff and showed some playmaking ability.

PP: They blew a big chance with a 53 second two man advantage and it happened when Stoll elected to try for a pass instead of a shot. Pronger was pressured on the left point but quickly made the pass to Stoll. Now 16 finds himself in a four on two situation. Stoll tried for a tap in pass to Horcoff for the left side when he could've waited for 94 to create some traffic in front before he used the hammer and hoped the screen worked or the Oilers used their man advantage to knock home a rebound.

PK. Good job all night by the PK. Not an overly good job of clearing traffic on the Ference goal but if you watch the replay you'll see Rolo was turned side on before that shot was taken. I don't know why. The 3-0 goal was poor netminding plain and simple.

Netminding: The 1-0 goal wasn't as bad as I thought. Rolo made the decision to try and stop the pass with his stick instead of committing all the way and making the save. So not the best decision mind you but at least he was thinking of his feet and reacting. That's a good sign the rust might be coming off. The 2-0 goal came when he lost sight of the rebounding. The 3-0 goal was brutal though. Huseslis took the pass off his skate and put it to his stick before shooting it. Rolo had loads of time to get over but when he got there he was falling over and it went off his shoulder and into the net. The 4-1 goal wasn't pretty either. Overall the Flames didn't have a whole lot of chances. There's one that came off a turnover that I can't totally remember and then there was Iginla come down the left wing and snapping one off Rolo's glove and then the bar.

At the end of the game the Oilers did indeed deserve a better fate. Horc dribbled one through Kipper's side and just past the net and Smith hit the crossbar when it was 3-1. Stoll and Samsonov blew chances on empty nets, Peca had a breakaway and Smyth threw up two or three screens on Kipper that the bastard ultimately fought through. MacT referenced suicide hockey when talking about the own zone turnovers but it's always damage control time in Edmonton in terms of protecting the netminding. A little more finish and a little less all world tending at the other end and the Oilers could've easily scored at least four goals in this one.

So I guess what I'm getting around to is this team's due. If you're hitting the ball hard your average is gonna climb. And the Oilers are starting to score runs right now but there's also some diving catches in the infield and some sliding catches in the outfield going against them. Not to mention that if you equate netminding with pitching we'll see that our pitches are walking a few too many batters as well;)

I think a few of us have been waiting for a big streak. After withstanding an early seven game losing streak this team went on a hellish tear puncuated by the 5-3 win over the Kings on Dec 23rd. That was the high point of the season and we were doing it with below average netminding. There's a lot to be said about how good your team has to be from the defense out to rack up that many points while having to look over your shoulder every time the puck goes into your own end. But somewhere along the way things went awry and here we are.

In looking at the Flames game it was no surprise that the Oilers smoked the Kings two nights earlier and that they would do the same three nights later to the Yotes. And for those of us that have been waiting for a streak I'd say this team's been playing very well since the first game in Vancover. They're just 4-2-1 in that streak but they're back to outchancing teams and by a wide margain on most nights. Go back three mores games, ie vs Van, Det and Cgy and we're 5-3-1 and I'd say outchanced the other teams in nine of those games.

Six games to go and right now the batters are seeing the ball well and the fielders are making just about all of their plays.

Now about that pitching...


Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Ya, they are strating to put together a string of outchancing teams.

The Oilers haven't had a run like this since December, November was a good month for them this way too I think. 8 of 9 at where they outchanced the bad guys at one point in the eleventh month.

I don't know what happened in January and early February, but as bad as the Oilers record was ... it could easily have been worse. They weren't outplaying the other team very often by my eye, and in a lot of games where they were owned. I'm thinking that health issues must have been a factor there.

Then three strong games coming out of the Oly break ... then the trade deadline and back to struggling. Granted, changes to the lineup almost always hurt in the short term, while players adjust.

Now's the time to really roll though, they need some dominant performances to make sure that a bad bounce or bad call aren't enough to cost them points against MIN, CHI and STL. And as you say, the signs are all there. They'll need 5 of 6 points of these next three road games, and that's not likely, but they need them.

4/06/2006 5:29 pm  
Anonymous LittleEnglish said...

I love those comments about the Flames and Phaneuf's shot LOL

4/06/2006 11:16 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Dennis, as always, great commentary. The one thing I have noted over the past couple of weeks is that the Oil are a four line team again and I think that has made a lot of difference. Back in mid season they just seemed to grind teams down with strong contributions from 12 forwards, rather then 7 to 9. Now they have a 4th line - MAP, Pisani & LeGG or Winchester - who can eat up some minutes and give them decent quality minutes at that. And Dvorak and Moreau (esp. Moreau) are giving them a lot more now that they appear to be better physically. Throw in Peca, who appears to be playing like, well, Mike Peca, and things look a lot better. There are no wasted minutes coming from the forward - running in place as it were. A good time for everyone to get healthy and find their games.

4/07/2006 6:14 am  

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