Thursday, October 11, 2007

I Ain't No Movie Star But I Can Get Behind Anything

Caught my first glimpse of the Oilers last night. It was pretty well what I expected - a loss to the Wild. The Oilers always lose to the Wild.
The first two minutes the ice was tilted and Souray's flaws were there for everyone to see - slow and unable to execute a simple breakout without stumbling about. A Wild penalty changed the momentum and although the Oilers came out of the first down one, I would say the period was even, maybe even in favour of the Oilers outside of that first Wild flurry.
When the Wild scored on a broken play in the second it was game over though. They just choked the life of the Oilers who were too small, too impatient, too inexperienced - take your pick - to beat Wild on Jack Lemaire. My eyes glazed over and my mind wandered over the last half of the game. Jesus!
Anyhow, impressions:
Four games in, I'll take two and two. I figured this road trip was an 0fer from the start and also thought they'd lose against San Jose. Considering Philly edged out Calgary and thumped Vancouver it looks like those two points may have been a nice bonus too.
I think this team is better then I thought it would be. Its no great shakes but I think they will beat the teams that they are supposed to beat and surprise a few that they shouldn't. I would say that they are faster and more skilled but also far less physical then past Oilers' squads.
Hemsky was excellent, especially in the first - easily the most dangerous player for the Oilers. Looking to shoot more. Playing with a lot of confidence.
Penner has a couple of nice plays where he used his size to shield the puck and then moved it back to the point. He also seems to be able to drift to that seam in the slot pretty well - he got a couple of decent shots off that way. Overall I found him slow and underwhelming though. He can't keep up with his linemates for one.
The Reasoner line was solid - the puck tended to be in the Wild end when they were out there. Marty looks rejuvenated. Brodziak just looks solid - Pisani like lets say.
The play still dies with Jacques a lot but he showed more then he has. Stoll still doesn't seem like he's there yet. Pouliot to me had a terrific game. He made things happen.
Torres and Cogliano were a nice pairing out there although offensively the results don't match what Torres is doing yet. Nilsson came as advertised. Small, defensively not so strong. Soft, soft hands though. Serious skill there. He can move that puck. No results though at all.
Souray, um, didn't look so good. Made a great play on a two on one. Other then that, well, he can't skate and he can't handle the puck. Apparently he can shoot it though - TSN had their radar gun and they talked about his shot every two minutes.
Staios was solid.
Pitkanen can move that puck and he can skate. He also lost his man on the disallowed goal.
Tarnstrom did fine but I'd be happier if he was on the third pair. Still, he's a better option on the second pair then, say, Smid.
I can say that Greene was fine.
And, as you might tell by the pic above, I was impressed with Gilbert. A few times he guessed, got beat but used his speed and size to get back into position. In the third he made a terrific big league play on Gaborik, who got the puck in the high slot and had space to move - Gilbert closed the gap immediately and used his size to eliminate Gaborik cleanly.
So, overall impression - I like this club. They are going to lose a lot of games this year, sure, but there is a lot to build on. Its early but Cogliano, Brodziak, Gilbert, Pouliot and yes, even Nilsson, look like they may be able to do some things. Penner needs to get up to speed and the Souray signing looks to me like I first thought - bust. What needs to happen as well is that Stoll and Torres need to produce. As in put the puck in the net.
As for the PP - Jesus its awful. Souray made the point after the second that they need to move the puck around down low. No kidding! Move your feet, get going and make things happen. Saw Carolina play two nights ago - now they play five forwards, mind you - but wow! (As an aside Carolina as allowed one ES goal all season - isn't that something?) Move the puck, move around, break down the box and get your chances.
I hope things get better on the PP because a goal last night would have made a difference. Of course we heard that back in June of '06 as well so don't hold your breath.

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