Sunday, October 9, 2011

Home opener thoughts

Sunday October 9th 2011,

The Oilers open the season off against a Pittsburgh team that has so far beaten 2 teams that the Oilers have had a hell of a time with over the last couple seasons, the Flamers and the nucks. They already have 4 points to the Oilers 0 and with guys like Malkin looking to take the team over in the absense of Sidney Crosby so far the penguins have been a force.

Well tonight we got a good example of what happens when an unstoppable force runs into an immovable object. There were alot of great things I saw from this team tonight but I am going to start with the goaltending.

Dubnyk got the start and he made no bones about showing the fans, the coaching and the team alike that he is here and he wants to stay. He did everything a tender needs to do a game besides score goals. He looked to be in the best shape I have ever seen him in and his speed and reaction to plays seems to have taken another step. If there is ever a time where the team is going to feel comfortable getting rid of Khabibulin the time is fast approachng.

I could sit here all night and blabber on about some of the amazing saves I saw tonight but there was plenty more to talk about.

One thing that stuck out for me was that the team as a WHOLE seems to want to be harder to play against. I think I saw a miracle out there but late in the second period an Oiler player knocked down a Penguin and actually took the puck. What was even MORE crazy about that was when the player turned around it was HEMSKY!!!  I just about died when I saw that. (yes I tuned in late so I may have missed more of that)

Then there was Smid. I dont know if maybe my eyes were giving me fits but I actually saw him being tough. and wouldnt you know it but it was BEFORE the whistle went. I have been hoping to see him do that for so long I had given up hope that he would ever figure out the difference.

Barker looked to me to be a step behind everyone else and I am still unsure what we are going to see out of him in the long term but Sutton looked to be every bit the beast I hoped he would be. Again it is nice to see some real toughness back there one the blue line and Sutton made sure he patrolled his side of the ice with authority.

RNH Looked like crap in parts, and he looked lilke a star in others. I am going to chalk it up to a steep learning curve making the jump from junior to the NHL and Ill be fair to say that for the most part he has looked like he is adjusting pretty well. What I liked the most was even though he was being pushed around a fair bit he seemed to simply focus in on the puck and just kept driving toward the play. I dont see him having to score alot of his goals in the "dirty" areas in the long term but it WAS nice to see that he is driven enough to go there if he has to.

The rest of the team as a whole seemed to be pretty well on par with what I expected to see. Again I didnt see the first period OR that first goal so I can't judge that at all. But from where I sat, the PK is miles better than it was last year. The team is using its speed much more effectively and they are actually capable of out playing the other team... something I thought was at least another year away.

Maybe its too early to say but I dont think this team is going to be sitting with a lottery pick this year. Playoffs? I doubt it, But 30th? Id bet against it. In my opinion there is too much there and they are still putting it together. They cant possibly be that bad again.

Then again, maybe its late and im just excited from the first game of the season...

Until next time.

A Cracked Crystal Ball

So there was a post up from Dangerman just a couple weeks ago (read it here) where he did the imaginable and invited me to tear him a new one if his predictions for the opening night roster were wrong.

Well guess what?? Looks like Ill be having some fun tonight. :)

So first and foremost, the one prediction most people were going to disagree with... Ryan Hopkins was in the lineup and YES he made you look like a buffoon. I wont harp on that too much cause Im pretty sure you will hear it enough and Ill be honest I didnt think he would last on the team either.

Then there was Whitney, I guess you kinda get a pass for that just cause if he WAS healthy there isnt much mistaking that he would be on the team in the exact position you had slated.

I wont give so much a pass for Gagner though. He WAS healthy when you made the prediction and Im thinking that you should have known better :P

Brule was a complete bust. He probably should have been sent down BEFORE training camp the way he ended up playing but I guess thats how it goes.

Of course its really a product of circumstance that Omark made the team but since you invited me to harp on you for the predictions thats what Im going to do. Where was your crystal ball on that one? I dont think he fits all that well but lets be honest, with any injury anywhere they are going to make a spot for Omark.

So I guess other than that you did pretty well. A "passing" grade if you will. But in the future you wanna make sure you ask the person you buy the crystal ball from why there is a big crack in it?

Until next time.

How To Fix the Forward Line Combos

After watching tonight's game against the Penguins, I got to thinking (I know, I should stop thinking), how does one team have so much individual talent but can't do a damn thing thats team oriented? They just don't have the playmaker, shooter, netcrasher setup entirely yet. At any rate, I would take the lines he drew up tonight and throw them in the garbage. No syncronicity, no role definition, just a mish-mash of players skating up and down the ice trying to will the puck into the other team's net. Since we are starting to know that the Nuge is going to be here all year, may as well start finding a home for him in the lineup.

- RNH is the playmaker, Paajarvi is the shooter, and Smyth is the net crasher. Paajarvi has shown a knack for playing the right side and its an experiment that I would try here. Let RNH's vision take over and Smyth does what he does best and thats net-crash.
- Hall is the playmaker, Horcoff is the shooter, and Eberle is the stealth rogue net-crasher. Hall is the speedy puck transport being a pass/shot option, Horcoff is a straight up shooter and Eberle plays the role of hovering around the net picking up garbage. The line has the ability to improvise a bit/change roles on the fly, but this should be the template. Horcoff is keeping the seat warm until Lander can take over there full-time.
- I'll admit, this line won't do much of anything, Omark is the playmaker while Hemsky is the net-crasher, doesn't do much for me either. What it will do though is allow Hemsky to be in the game, taking a regulare shift, where on the power play, hopefully the real damage will come from him. Omark will be rendered useless on a line like this hence the reason why I think its time for him to move along.
- As much as I'd like to have Jones have a bigger role, he won't as long as Hemsky and Omark are here. All three of these guys would have huge roles on the penalty kill. Otherwise, 5-on-5, go out and be as greasy as can be.

Sutton Gilbert
Barker Petry
Smid Peckham

- This defense isn't getting any better or worse until Whitney gets back, so it is what it is. But as long as they play like they did tonight where, they block a ton of shots, get sticks in lanes, and just make life difficult for the other team they will be fine. Key is not to take any needless risks for this D unit, just keep the play in front of you.

- RNH gets the half wall here, not Hemsky, but RNH. Smyth and Hemsky play around the net on their off wings. Paajarvi play the point on the umbrella setup and Gilbert plays across from RNH for one-timer purposes. The key is to have puck movement and one-timer options all over the ice.

- Hall gets the half wall here, with Horcoff and Eberle playing around the net on their off wings. Hall and Petry play pitch and catch across from each other while Barker gets the point on the umbrella style power play. The key is to have puck movement and one-timer options all over the ice.

- The players that should be relied upon the most to get penalties killed.
- The 2nd unit. Sticks in lanes and watch your area.
- The "just in case" unit.

All in all, the Oilers need some basis of cohesion on their lines, just throwing out random players together and hoping they work, just doesn't work. Find a playmaker, a shooter and a net-crasher and work from there. I will admit, a lack of right handed shots really hurts this forward unit, something I hope Mr. GM will fix in the future.