Sunday, April 01, 2007

A True Underdog Story

Today I got my first opportunity in quite a while to catch an Oiler game.

I'm going to leave that as a separate paragraph just so I can personally feel the sting of its phrasing. Anyhow, I tuned in about midway through the second period and stayed until the final buzzer with the hopes of seeing something in one of the kids that inspired me. Instead, here are some observations on Coach MacTavish's use of personnel.

Horcoff/Hemsky/Pisani was Edmonton's top line tonight and actually did a reasonably good job of creating chances and maintaining puck possession in Chicago's end for most of what I saw. The interesting part to note is that Hemsky was demoted to the fourth line for a stretch of the third period following a lazy giveaway that sent a Black Hawk penalty killer in on a breakaway for the game winner. Sportsnet's response to the demotion? "Hemsky right back out there in a new combination..." as if it were part of some brilliant tactic to right the ship, defeat mathematics, at get back into the playoffs.

Torres/Pouliot hooked up for Edmonton's lone goal and created a handful of other chances together. I've already forgotten who the other player on this line was but there play was an occasional bright spot. MacTavish seems to be a fan of Marc's as well in that he appeared to double shift him for a brief stretch in the third (likely corresponding with Hemsky's demotion) after Pouliot had been (mildly) effective.

Jason Smith still cares about the fortunes of this team. Lupul, on the other hand, played like he somehow magically has a roster spot guaranteed to him in the fall. Oh wait...

Smid impressed with a handful of rushes up the ice - it's kind of strange to see the Oilers gain possession in the offensive zone just by skating it in and #5 was able to accomplish that a few times this afternoon. It should be noted that Chicago is not the kind of team that would really expose our rookie d-corps (even Syvret wasn't losing battles in the corner) but there are some good things to be said of Gilbert as well. He seemed to be in the jack-of-all-trades category of player today in that he has no obvious strength but can get the job done by any means necessary. Maybe in 5-10 years he plays as a very reliable #4-6 guy on a good team somewhere.

The interesting thing about defensive ice-time today is that by my eye Mac-T was making no effort whatsoever to ride his top pairing (Smith). I'll get actual numbers up in a comment to this post but based on reading about a bag skate the other day and what I saw in today's 30 minutes, Craig MacTavish is coaching far more towards sending messages than he is towards winning hockey games. With an eye on the draft/the future, this suits me just fine.

"I'm fine. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit."


Blogger Showerhead said...

Here are total ice time numbers for Edmonton's d-men today:

Tom Gilbert 29:26
Matt Greene: 24:38
Jason Smith: 23:20
Ladislav Smid: 22:32
Danny Syvret 7:06
Bryan Young: 4:37

4/01/2007 4:29 pm  
Blogger MikeP said...

Smith's not getting any younger and the games don't matter. 23 minutes is still pretty respectable. It seems pretty obvious to me that MacT's leaning heavily on Gilbert and Greene to see how and when they'll break. For Gilbert it's a bit of trial by fire, for Greene it's to see if he'll temper or get traded to Florida for a 5th rounder and then disappear. Could also be a bit of a message for Smid, although Gilbert played a fair bit of PP and we already know Smid's not terribly useful there.

4/01/2007 5:13 pm  
Blogger Lowetide said...

Pouliot played exactly 10 minutes in the first two periods and then almost 8 in the third period. Agree on the MP-Raffi duo and on the Hemsky-Horcoff-Pisani line being solid.

ALL of these games post-Smyth trade can be put into the sentence that Vic wrote awhile back: the Oilers don't have enough good veteran NHL players.

I'm a prospect guy but this is hard to watch and pointing to Gilbert's play (as the Oilers site is doing in the game report) is interesting but I don't think there's any connection between playing 29 minutes late in the season when a team is running out the string and future success.

4/01/2007 5:29 pm  
Blogger Black Dog said...

That comment is right on LT and I noticed the Oilers' website making a big deal about Gilbert's icetime and the fact that he was second star as well.

I mean I like the kid and good for him but talk about grasping at straws, although at this point that's all we've got.

4/01/2007 5:45 pm  
Blogger Kyle said...

I thought Stortini was a bright spot today, but that was about it. Pretty tough to watch overall.

4/01/2007 11:20 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

It's strange days right now. As you say, Mactavish's actions aren't those of a man trying to win the game on the night. And I suspect that the veteran players realized that weeks ago.

4/05/2007 1:28 am  

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