Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Prom Night be Damned, I'm Doing an Oiler Post Game

Tonight marked the first game since opening night I was able to watch an Oiler game from start to finish and as such I wanted to put up some of my post game thoughts. Most of the focus on other blogs and in the mainstream media is going to be on Ryan Smyth's return to Edmonton (and rightfully so) but despite Smyth being the Oiler of my generation as well as the NHL player who gives the most meaning to my hockey fandom, Ryan will not be the focus of this post. Apparently for the good of us all I've decided that emotions are for real life and observations are for blogging. Here goes:

Interesting to see 10-14-83 get the majority of shifts after Avs powerplays - looked to me as if MacT was hoping to get at least one goal via counterpunch. I thought he might have been tempting fate a little bit using so much youth on the PK in Horcoff's place but it certainly seemed to work out alright, what with the rejuvenated Marty Reasoner holding down the fort along with help from Brodziak, Cogliano, et al. The one PK Horcoff played a significant role in of course was on the Reasoner penalty and then you had Gagner coming out for the last 7 seconds or so - I know this because I panicked a little bit on the couch when I saw there was still enough time for Colorado to get a chance together. Based on past posting history (whenever ago that was) it should be clear that I lean towards caution in terms of situational match-ups and I do so especially in the case of youth. Thankfully, MacT gambled right tonight, and that is all that I will say about special teams.

Jarret Stoll has the same overall skill level as he did when he peaked last season but nowhere near the physical assertiveness and control. Sakic sure made him look awful down low for a goal but I won't dwell on it. Assertiveness is a word I might use a few more times in this post so I will warn you now but it only seems appropriate for me to note Stoll's lack of it on a night when Raffi Torres was showing us how it is done. One of #14's best games that I can remember in recent history and I loved the physical aspect of his game tonight. For the naysayers, look at tonight's game tape and tell me that he can't make a pass - they were quick, clever, and on the tape (if only for one night only - please understand that I know I am talking about him at his best).

Speaking of quality physical play, I saw Dustin Penner throw people around at least a couple of times tonight, including what I considered to be a questionable hit leading to Tom Gilbert's goal in the 3rd period. The goal was expected based on the pass he got and his positioning and the assist was a fluke bounce off his skate, but the net effect towards helping Edmonton win was definitely evident tonight. By my eye, Penner has shortened his shifts up since the beginning of the season - can anyone comment on this? I remember reading an astute comment somewhere that suggested that Penner looks exponentially gassed as his shifts wear on and it would be nice to see that a concerted effort has been made in this regard.

It seems odd that I would go on this long without mentioning the excellent play of Samwise and Andrew. Gagner is clearly not at a point where he can create space for himself offensively and gets thrown around quite a bit but he consistently makes great plays when he does have the puck with time. Again I will skim past his excellent two assists and point out a smaller example of something he does already at 18 that shows me excellent NHL vision. I believe it was in the last portion of the 3rd period with Samwise in possession but at the end of a long shift in the neutral zone. He looks cross ice towards Sanderson but the direct passing lane is blocked so he makes a very heady play and makes a pass too far for #8, off the boards, and back into Sanderson's lane for him to skate onto. Did anyone else notice this play? IMO, no one on this team other than Hemsky makes that pass.

Cogliano too had a great game. I don't know how many extra scoring chances he will create over the course of a season through speed alone and I don't know what percentage of those will actually end up in the back of the net but it is always fun to watch a player do things that other players can't. In #13's case of course it may have resulted into one or two semi-harmless pucks directed at Budaj but also one or two that end up in the net on other nights. He could also teach Brodziak a thing or two about how to play a 2-on-1. Not that #51 had a bad night - in fact he had a solid one in my books - but he is an example of a player who could stand to be more assertive when he has the puck. I did notice that where a player like Gagner may occasionally err on the side of trying to create too much (see his last rush of the game for example), Brodziak often errs on the side of the safe play. It is a nice counterbalance to see and I can certainly see how he is being called this crop's Pisani by some.

If it seems after all this that I am surprisingly pleased with our players for a loss, please understand the context in which I write. I am fully aware that Edmonton is re-building and am employing the "small victories" approach to the current season, process over results if you will.

Another plus: Staios and Tarnstrom didn't look exposed as Edmonton's #1 pair. Tarnstrom was in position most of the night by my eye and even laid a few checks while Staios was very solid but for one giveaway I didn't like in the 3rd. This clearly won't always be the case but props to them tonight. Gilbert too, but get Grebs the fuck out of here. Heck, Roy looked good tonight but for some reason Grebeshkov had to take the world's most useless penalty and follow it up by making an obscene spin attempt at the blue line leading to a Colorado goal. Putrid.

Finally, Jacques played his best game that I have watched at the NHL level. Touched the puck a few times, got it towards the net once or twice, and hit people nearly every shift. Bueno.



Blogger Black Dog said...

really have like what I have seen of Torres this season - he is playing with confidence, doing his job in the D zone, movin the puck smartly

We're not seeing the play die with him much at all and even when he does not score he is playing well.

10/24/2007 9:10 am  
Blogger Jonathan said...

A few things:

Great game summary. My only addition would be that I thought Matt Greene played like he isn't really Matt Greene- you know, intelligently.

On a different tack, I wish Pierre would shut up about the team needing Souray's shot. The problem with the PP has nothing to do with not having a hard shot from the point, it has to do with complete reliance on that hard shot and Hemsky skating in circles at the side boards. At some point this season, MacT will need to realiz he's got 5 players on the ice, not just Hemsky and the point men. When you play the PP like it's a 3-on-4 you get a 1 for 33 PP.

10/24/2007 10:21 am  
Blogger Showerhead said...

Edmonton's powerplay woes actually make me want to look at some video from some of the better run PP units in the NHL. I hardly think my tour through CISAA/OFSAA qualifies me to be an NHL x's and o's guy but damn if Edmonton's special teams woes don't make me want to try my own hand at understanding how to best create chances with the extra man.

10/24/2007 5:38 pm  

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