Monday, October 23, 2006

Phx/Edm Pre-game: Moreau-less or Here comes the PP!?!?

The biggest story heading into tonight's game, at least in the longterm, is that Ethan Moreau will miss the first of what is most likely to be many games with a shoulder problem. That will lead to some line shuffling and let the speculation begin.

Early on MacT's been using 11 forwards with 4th line centre Reasoner occasionally jumping into Stoll's third line slot and 4th line winger Patrick Thoresen jumping all over the place. Of course Thoresen's been moved up now so Winchester moves into the 11th spot and either of young Mikhnov or Jacques becomes the 12th forward. I'd expect to see MacT eventually lean heavily on 10 forwards though that strategy shouldn't be overly evident in the next four games with the docket consisting of a home and home with the hapless Yotes and a visit by the Caps. Of course in the middle of all this there's a trip to Anaheim so come Wednesday night just count how much combined TOI is used on the 11th and 12th forwards and I doubt it will eclipse 12 minutes.

The 94-10-15 line did some good work on Saturday night, ie +2 whilst being matchup up against ZBerg-Datsyuk-Holmstrom, so I'll wager the Moreau-less MacTactics feature this line front and centre in a power versus power matchup. Thoresen looked fine auditioning on 71-83's left wing so I'd expect them to stay together and get the easy min and on the third line look for a reunion of sorts with Torres receiving an early reprieve from the fourth line to jump up and team with Stoll and Pisani. That line will see the second toughest matchups and look for Reasoner to spell Stoll some on this unit. That leaves Reasoner on the 4th line to run a couple of mandatory fourth line shifts with Winchester and one of the kids and I'll say the Oilers go with Mihknov as the 12th forward tonight because at this point Jacques is more ready but Phoenix is so pititul that we should be able to break in the greenest kid without the growing pains being too unbearable.

A couple of last notes on the forwards.

- It will be cool to see 14-34 reunited as those guys did some good things in last year's playoffs. I'd wager though that Peca and Pisani drove the results for that line. Torres did lay out some damn fine hits but I remember Samsonov drawing in on that line in G2 and Anaheim and those guys didn't miss a beat

- Thoresen didn't look out of place playing with 71-83 on Sat night. He seems like he can think the game with them and he was making some quick passes but they were just a tiny bit off. I'd suspect that line will snipe tonight but then again you could say that about any line with Phx being the foe. #28 should also see his PK TOI increasing as well. This is a big chance for the Norseman and I'd suspect he'll rise to the challenge.

Let's just get this out of the way shall we? Since scoring late in the second period on Oct 14th in Colorado the Oilers PP is 0 for it's last 21. That's a bad slump for any team but it's especially disturbing when you consider the kind of unit this team can ice. I don't expect this slump to last much longer but I said the same thing heading into Saturday night's game as well. For as much consternation as there's been over the team's 5-2 start, and it's obviously because the city's press corps wants the old days of firewagon hockey to return, the only problem I have early on is that the PP isn't clicking and the longer the slump goes the more MacT will want to revert to wasting PP time on guys such as Bergeron, Staios and maybe even Tarnqvist because we really don't know how effective he can be in such situations.

On the surface the Oilers 3-1 win on Saturday night doesn't look overly impressive considering that these aren't your older brother's Wings and Det was playing it's third game in four nights. But if you throw in a PP goal then it's 4-1 and that plus the fact the Oilers soundly outchanced the Wings would put this game in a much improved light.

The Oilers could be 8-3 come next Sunday morning and the PP might still be lagging. I wouldn't bet on it though and I'd say they break out tonight. That being said the Oilers will really need them come Wednesday night in Anaheim.


Blogger PDO said...

Last game we played against Phoenix was a 7-1 shit kicking.

I expect something similar tonight. Whoever is in net is going to suck, Gretzky seems to be trying to get fired, and well..

The 'Yotes just suck.

Tonight seems like a night where we really should try and pump Winchester.


10/23/2006 2:14 pm  
Blogger namflashback said...

I'm sure the line isn't the same as 14-37-34 in the playoffs, but there was certainly some key "on the rush" plays from Torres to Pisani that were difference makers. Could have been the tying goal in G7.

Comrie seems like just the kind of opposition centre to get one of these against.

10/23/2006 2:37 pm  
Anonymous momentai said...

This game looks like it's going to be a fun one for Oiler fans. Too bad I'll probably miss the first half. I have class at the University for my Japanese course.

It's going to be an interesting night for Mikhnov as he gets his first taste of the NHL. I really hope he does well because of the fact that we've been waiting so damn long for the bugger to do something.

I'm also going to be interested in how MacT doles out the lines tonight. It might not be as much of a concern tonight as you said Dennis... but ANA is a completely different story as Carlyle is going to want to stay the fuck away from the Horcoff line with Selanne.

I'm a little worried about the Stoll/Torres/Pisani line to be honest. Stoll needs at least another season with his current role to make me feel anywhere confident with him taking some of the big minutes. Coupling him with Torres and concerns abound from my perspective... MacT might be crazy, though... and hand Sykora the second toughest ES minutes. Who knows?

And for the record, I believe Stoll/Pisani/Moreau got the Zetts assignment last night for the most part. I think I saw Horc out against Lang the most often.

10/23/2006 2:43 pm  
Blogger Showerhead said...

I'm looking forward to this one for all the standard reasons:

1) I'm curious to see how the fans react to Georges

2) I'm curious to see how Mikhnov plays, even if in limited minutes

3) A convincing win might help finally crush my secret fear that the Oilers will find a way to piss 2 points away against lesser opposition

4) If Morrison starts there is an off-chance we can hear the guy give another interview...

5) And of course, if there's going to be a blowout for us this season, odds are decent that we can get it against Phoenix.

10/23/2006 4:55 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

I'm not really expecting much from AM and here's why. When's the last time an Oilers rookie actually created scoring chances? The awnser is Hemsky as he used to set up 18 all the time back in '03 before 83 would eventually move on to form a line with Smyth-Marchant down the stretch.

Of course Ales is probably gonna be a special player and he was younger than AM and didn't have the pro experience of AM so that's not really a good comp.

But here in Oct of '06 there's not really much of a chance for AM to succeed. The best way for him to break in would be if everyone was healthy, it was a home game and MacT was giving all the tough min to the Horc and Stoll/Reasoner lines and then AM could go up and play the LW on a cherry mintues line with Hemsky and Skyora. But that's not the case so I don't know how much we can expect from him anyone.

10/23/2006 5:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

pdo - gretzky is part owner - no? They may be tanking on purpose to drive the fans away and move the franchise. Best explanation I can come up with.


10/23/2006 5:24 pm  
Blogger PDO said...


I don't think anyone in Phoenix gives a shit either way, to be honest. They've got one of the best basketball teams in the country, a football team on the rise (with a stud QB to boot, Leinart will likely be a big thing for a long time to come), and it's warm out side.

Horcoff draws Doan and Sykora draws Nagy.

You heard it here first. That Sykora line isn't that bad defenisvely, Hemsky's improved a lot since a year ago, and Thoresen (okay, is it Thoro or Thore? I need to start getting this right.) is atleast an improvement over Raffi.

14-16-34 get the cherry minutes, and hopefully 34 can use those minutes to pot one.

8-19-26 get the craps, and I expect to see 19 fill in for 16 a few times.

16 still seems like trade bait to me, especially if we can have a C come in (78?) and hold down the 4th line spot.


10/23/2006 5:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dennis, you seen any clips of Mikhnov fromt he preseason?

I'm already getting excited to hear your post 1st period description of his defensive zone coverage ;)

Unless it's improved a bunch, I'm expecting a Dennis Miller-esque rant. Might be tempered if he's done some stuff offensively though.


10/23/2006 5:55 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

No I haven't seen anything from AM in Oilers silks. So he's wearing 8 eh? I don't know what to make of that...I mean Joe Murphy was my favorite Oilers from those 90-92 teams. Looks like Miko's off on the wrong foot already;)

BK...I wouldn't mind dealing Stoll as he still hasn't shown he can be counted on at ES. That being said his trade would bring about two questions:

1: Who's gonna be the #2 ES centre behind 10? Skyora's likely to leave this summer and MAP's status is up in the air. Maybe we'd just make Reasoner's line the #2 in terms of ES min and Lupul and Hemsky would form 2/3rd's a super cherry mintues line, ie one of them would have to play the offwing of course. This would probably mean 34 moves up with 94-10, 19 plays with 18 and maybe Thorsens and then you have Lupul/Hemsky plus a young centre. Maybe Schremp and we could all close our eyes for 45 seconds at a time;)

2: If Stoll goes then it weakens our PP. he's one of the guys that MacT will put on the point but if he's gone then you're likely to see three dmen out there. Only thing that might save us would be Lupul/Smyth and someone else down low and Hemsky and someone else up high. Probably Horc or Schremp filling out the PP.

10/23/2006 6:05 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Great post and good comments.

Not too much to add except that I really agree with the Stoll talk, especially the "trusted forward on the PP point thing". The guy can skate backwards really well for a forward as well, I noticed that tonight. That may not matter much to a lot of coaches ... but I bet that it does to MacTavish.

And I think that he's stepped into the role a bit better in the last couple of games. He's been a bit stronger on the puck, of course it helps a tonne that Pisani is rounding into form.

Sykora is gone after this season for $ reasons no doubt. And he's going to rack up some stellar counting numbers playing these cherry minutes with guys like Hemsky and Bergeron. I see Stoll stepping back into that role next year ... and his counting numbers will surge, which makes the two year deal awkwardly placed.


This Thoresen is a damn good hockey player. I was worried that the Oilers would be too weak in possession ... but with Lupul being a much better overall player than I thought he was, and Thoresen coming out of nowhere, well it's just feeding my natural optimism. :-)

It's early yet, there are surely losing streaks and winning streaks ahead of them. But this looks like a damn good team right now.

Also ... anyone else wonder WTF was up with the Sykora line vs DET? Maybe a New Jersey flashback for Petr, dunno, but that was some passive hockey. I mean surely we all wanted to see them cut down on the blue line turnovers from the VAN games ... but I think we were all thinking that more often they would "dump and chase" not "dump and retreat". Damn.

Raffi has got to get going, but he will.

Smid still scares me, but maybe a shade less so. That Tjarnqvist guy will continue to take on some brutal minutes as the one trusted guy on the left side. And it's D-zone draws against good players when he's subbing in for the kid with Staios too. He's probably the third best defenseman on the team, but right now he's the most important one.

Today's VicFact: At 5on5 last season Chris Pronger had 3 first-assists. How many does Shaggy have so far? I think three, maybe more (unnanmed vs CGY on a Niinimaa-style lob pass, Lupul last game vs VAN, then Horcoff tonight) no? Is that meaningless ... absolutely! But any stat that pisses on Pronger is a good stat right now. :-)

10/23/2006 11:50 pm  
Blogger Asiaoil said...

It's a big year for Stoll - the unenlightened will see the 3rd line gig as a demotion - nothing is further from the truth. He's been getting kicked around a bit and I'm not surprised - but it's early yet. If he's still getting owned in March then yeah he's trade bait - but I think he's up to it and I'm not a fanboy of 16. If 16 can get it together with 18 and 34 by the time playoffs roll - we are looking good. If not then him and MAB make a damn fine top pair dman package.

We have sick skill on the 2nd line and these guys are going to put up monter numbers - call me crazy bit I think Sykora may do an extension after Jan 1. Yeah he could get some extra dollars on the open market - but he's smart enough to know who is driving his results and may just want to have a real hockey experience over the last part of his prime hockey years.

Good god Hemsky is coming along - that 5th goal tonight was just pure swagger - the defense was simply swimming and hoping pass - then zing and it's in the net. Other teams watching our film are not happy about dealing with the 2nd line. Just wait till Lupul get s settled....

Thor - explain to me how this kid was not drafted and what does that say about scouting?????????? Smart smart smart and tons of effort - easy to see why MacT wants him to marry his daughter. He could do real damage on that 2nd lin.

10/24/2006 2:13 am  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Good point on Pronger there, Vic. He did have his worst season in terms of ES offense overall though. He's also in a bit of a freefall decline - that was his third full season under 1.00 ESP/hr and he was above 1.00 that previously.

Of course, the true shocker is that Peca barely edged him out with just 0.9 ESP/hr. That still blows me away.

This begs the question - how much of the Oilers' team 5V5 GF problems last year were due to the fact that the #1 ES dman and the #2 ES centre were incapable of generating offense? Probably a lot.

10/24/2006 9:31 am  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

OK asked me to do it so I will: you're crazy;)

Seriously though...I think the biggest lesson UFA's earned last year was you can't be picky if you want to make your money. There's only so many dollars for each team to spend and if you don't sign within that first week you might not get as much as you'd hoped for. 71 could wind up having an awesome year in Edm because 83 gets better all the time and he'd much rather pass than shoot so 71 should wind up with 35 goals I'd imagine. But I still can't see him coming back and honestly I don't know if the Oilers can afford him anyway.

Staios and Smyth are looking to get paid and the only way I could see 71 being brought back is if the Oil let 24 walk and decide to seriously allocate most of their monies towards the forward corps. They're pretty much doing it right now considering what they're paying MAB-Smid-Greene combined but if they bring back 71 I think it's a flat out decree that any future success will be seriously dependant on the forwards and netminding.

And while I'm not saying that 71's production is easier to replace than 24's minutes I would offer that the Oilers have a lot more NHL close forward prospects than they did on the defensive side of the ledge.

Vic...that was a nice stat and to tie that in with Asia's assumption that some people think 16's getting busted down a little by playing on the "3rd" line...of course we know that the 3rd and 1st lines are playing the tough min and it seems to me that Stoll's getting the old Horc treatment, ie sink or swim before we decide what to do with you. Of course Horc never had a Reasoner who could step in every now and then and help out. But if 16's up to the challenge then what we could see next year is two centres in 10-16 who can go head to head and then come out on top. 94-10-34 and 18-16-28 and then Hemsky plus Lupul plus someone else gets the cherry mintues. All we'd need would be a capable centre who can keep up. OR if it looks like 16 needs to be babied then he gets to play with 15-83 and Reasoner jumps up with 18-28.

So Vic...just counting home games because that's when MacT gets the last call...who's seeing the hardest and softest min among the forwards? The's D pretty easy to figure out and I'd imagine the forwards are too. But can you come up with something specific? you're saying nothing basically happened either way when Peca or Pronger was on the ice?

10/24/2006 1:31 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Dennis: Definitely for Peca - my word for him last year was "soporific." He didn't generate any offense and it appeared that he didn't help his linemates make anything either. Good thing nobody else on the ice could do anything either.

It was less so for Pronger because the team scored some goals while he was out there, he just wasn't the one making the plays and generating the offense.

10/24/2006 3:05 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

As much as I would love to see Sykora return and as much as he might want to return if he puts up big numbers he will get a big offer.

If the Oilers even get him at a discount (say 3-4M - yeah right) then they either have to let Smyth walk or let Staios walk and move Stoll or Torres for Stevie's replacement (Duncan Keith/ Z. Michalek - yeah I know)

It might happen, it could happen but it probably won't happen.

10/24/2006 7:13 pm  

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