Friday, March 19, 2010

Amateur Night - More HNIC Reflections

Heading to Ireland for a wedding in just under two weeks. Life has been busy plus I'm a pretty mellow guy so I haven't really been thinking about it but I'm starting to get excited a little. This will be my third trip to Ireland and this will give me an opportunity to explore Dublin a little bit more. As I have written about before travelling to the same place is something I enjoy, you get to know where you are going and as a result you can go a little more native, as it were. Most of the time I will be celebrating my man in Dublin's wedding with his friends and family and when I do get out it will be partially familiar haunts and partially north of the Liffey, which I have seen little of. Other than Montreal and the Island I've no real places that I can claim even partially as my own (outside of my hometown and my home now) other than Dublin. I am looking forward to returning once again.

St. Patrick's Day just past and expectations amongst many was that I'd be out drinking but I'm not a big March 17th guy. I'll have a pint of Guinness at home and once in a while I'll make a wicked Irish stew but I've only ever been out once on St. Patrick's Day. Its a little funny because most of my favourite pubs here are Irish ones but on the 17th they're just mental. I was once at McVeighs on the 16th having a pint and the place was manic as they prepared. A patron asked the bartender what the next day would be like and he replied that they'd be lined up at ten outside, for a noon opening, and that the bar would be full of poured pints before they opened. They'd be hard pressed to keep up.

Not my scene.

The best line I ever heard was a time we were at the Communist Bar on the 18th of March and we were talking to the dear sweet bartender and asked her how it was the night before and she grimaced and said that it was the worst day of the year for her.

Amateur night. Place is packed as hell and not a single one of them can hold their alcohol. Its a disaster.


Amateur night is a perfect description of what we witnessed last weekend at the ACC. I wanted to revisit that experience because in my original post I spent most of my time ranting and raving and so I just wanted to give a few more impressions.

Bruce always gives terrific recaps and I need to echo something that he says quite often, that I am always amazed at the size, speed and skill of these guys, its just incredible and I am always astounded. Anyhow, some more thoughts.

As I said before the Oilers are small. The difference between them and the Leafs was pronounced. Gagner, Cogliano, Brule, Comrie, Potulny, Nilsson plus Chorney on the back end. All of them small. And of course O'Sullivan was not out there either. And on top of it for the most part they were not strong on the puck, either unwilling or unable to win puck battles. Brule is nice and aggressive and was not afraid of anybody. Cogliano also quite aggressive, probably buoyed by playing in front of family and also by having Penner on his flank. He was less effective than Brule physically though. He was willing but not really any more than a nuisance when it came to that part of the game.

Gagner shows well but he was between Minard and Pouliot. Pouliot was aggressive but the wing is not his thing and Minard was absolutely invisible. Gagner was wasted there but the options are limited of course.

Horcoff was in the same situation. Comrie played little because of the penalties but when he did he did not do much. Crazy soft hands though. Unbelievable. Memorable moment from him was cutting across the Leafs' blue in the second waving his stick like a madman for the pass from the Oilers' blue. I'm talking waving it like a guy trying to get rescued from a desert island. Totally over the top and a little odd.

Moreau didn't do a damn thing. Weird little vignette early in the game during a TV timeout. He cruised over and talked Whitney's ear off. He then went over to Gilbert and began talking to him. Gilbert half listened for a second and then skated away while Ethan kept yapping. Funny stuff.

Horcoff looked more like his old puck hawking self but he wasn't the player I saw three years ago here - that game he and his linemates owned everyone the Leafs threw at them. Of course his linemates that night were Smyth and Hemsky. He's a favourite of mine though and he had a decent game, making some nice plays on the defensive side of the puck.

Brule's goal was terrific. A heavy shot, extraordinary release and this in traffic. I can see why the Oilers like him. The breakaway flub was unreal though. Not as unreal as the three on oh for the Leafs though. Looked like beer league all the way to Stallberg going in alone. Of course he probably didn't even know he had company. How often do you get a three on none anyhow?

Very little to say about the fourth line. They did little. Ended up getting minused by the Leafs twice although neither was really their fault except for Potulny losing the draw on the Kulemin goal. Quinn had them out after a couple of TV timeouts though and Wilson immediately responded with what little quality he had, the end result was a lot of trouble for the Oilers. Poor bench management by Quinn.

On the blue well I mentioned before that Gilbert was great and he really was. He's a smart smart player. The Leafs are shitty but they are big and they are fast and Gilbert played keepaway most of the night with them with deft passes and quick little reverses against the flow of play. Just wonderful intelligent hockey, all quick stick, fine positioning and excellent decisions. Whitney was fine too and a couple of big guys like this might do alright for the Oilers going forward. They're not bangers but they're mobile and they can move the puck.

Chorney and Strudwick were awful. Strudwick got beaten outside by EVERYBODY. Terrible.

Johnson was solid. He's aggressive, certainly not afraid of anyone and I'm hopeful they sign him as a bottom pairing guy.

Peckham was ... interesting. I was really watching him and he had an strange strange game. Before the Bozak goal he looked just fine. He's a big big kid and he's rugged. He makes guys pay the price. I like Peckham. His comments show that he knows what he has to do - play a simple aggressive game and use his size and that's what he does. He skates well and he moves the puck smartly. His positioning and angling on the cycle is pretty good. His reads are where he's struggling. The Bozak goal was a killer, came out of nowhere, just boom he was behind him and after that he got a little tentative and he struggled. Of course he certainly kept the Leafs honest with his reactions to Phaneuf. Maybe a little over the top but he's trying to earn his spot.

He looked better than he showed early this year and the potential is there. He showed better than either Greene or Smid did early on and he's a better defenceman than Chorney. Interesting to see where he ends up. He strikes me as a guy who will improve with experience and lets hope so.

The goaltending? Well, JDD was brutal. Just brutal. Scrambly and too deep in his net and got beaten high twice. Dubnyk was better but the Kessel goal should have never happened.

A word or two about the opposition. The Leafs I think are in tough down the road, I don't think they have the prospects coming up that the Oilers do. Having said that they have a ton of speed and size up front and on the back end. Hard to say if Bozak, Kulemin, Hanson and Stallberg will amount to much but they are big and they are fast and worst case I think the Leafs might have some solid bottom sixers. Kessel looked good. Fast and a terrific set of hands. Amazing release.

The Leafs aren't much but boy the Oilers barely pressured them. Second to the puck all night and lost all of the puck battles. No surprise though. Their two best centres were saddled with awful wingers. Gagner or Horcoff and Penner might have done a little more but there's so little there its hard to make anything out of that roster.


Coach pb9617 said...

Moreau didn't do a damn thing. Weird little vignette early in the game during a TV timeout. He cruised over and talked Whitney's ear off. He then went over to Gilbert and began talking to him. Gilbert half listened for a second and then skated away while Ethan kept yapping. Funny stuff.

Unfortunately, these new-fangled rinks have boards, so Gilbert couldn't get far.

David S said...

I've been stunned at Gagner's linemates that last few games. I mean, Minard and Stortini? C'mon! And Comrie in the PB? WTF? Then we had Pisani on for the 4 X 4 in OT? Inexplicable. And don't get me started on Moreau.

I really thought when we had 30th in the bag Quinn would release the hounds for the few remaining home games. Guess we have to make extra special super sure.

Black Dog said...

David - They have two wingers on the club right now, three if you count Pouliot as a winger and as a guy who can play that position in the top nine.

And then a bunch of fourth liners.

So you have three centres and two or three wingers so two centres get boat anchors to drag around. Having 13 play with Penner and Brule shelters him plus it gives them an opportunity to see him in an offensive role. It may also be a simple pump and dump.

With Gagner and Horcoff at least you know you have one guy on each of the remaining lines who can keep his head above water. If Cogs has scrub wingers you know they're going to get destroyed. Horc did last game of course so there's no guarantee but I htink that's the idea.

uni said...

I agree with your assessment of the Leafs future...the cupboard looks pretty bare. I don't know what Bozak, Hanson, and Stalberg will amount to though, but it's conceivable that one of them at least is a legit top sixer. If two of them pan out they're suddenly not so bad. Kadri though the book is still out on, and he's a young guy, and as douchey as he's been I won't start rooting against him yet.

I think the only hope the Leafs really have right now prospect wise is the UFA market. If Burke can restock through college and European players they might avoid disaster. If anything Burke has shown he's capable of signing free agents so there's a chance, albeit the jury is out on how much of one.

I'm hoping Tambellini learns a bit from Burke himself and targets some more college players. I though Lerg was a good sign but so far they haven't followed up. With a rich owner willing to spend the only thing college and Euro signings cost is money and they should exploit it. After all, Penner was a college UFA wasn't he? Also my verification word is "bating", awesome.

Black Dog said...

Bozak has impressed me and Stallberg is definitely an NHLer although hard to say where he fits in. Guy can skate and he's big so if he has any sense he should stick somewhere.

Hanson is still finding his way.

Read an article over the weekend, apparently the college free agent market is going ot dry up they figure, I think the jist is that this is the last hurrah. Prior to the last cba any guys drafted only had two year tied to the club that drafted them and then they were free so teams shied away but now its four years so they figure clubs will be happy to draft them.

Hard to say how guys will pan out but at this point the Oilers certainly have the more impressive prospect group - small sample size but MPS certainly impressed me more than Kadri at the WJC and Kadri is pretty well their #1 prospect I think. And he couldn't hold a candle to Eberle either. Of course it could mean nothing down the road but he did not impress.

uni said...

I think there might be less available but there are bound to be guys that get passed over by the time they hit 21, and can be signed as free agents from that point onwards. There's a good chance they'll still be late blooming 21-23 year olds in the college ranks.

I mean both Penner and MacDonald were 23 when they signed no? Unless the new CBA increases the exception for entry draft eligibility above 21 years of age and having played 1 season of hockey in North America.

Black Dog said...

Sorry, which MacDonald? Colin? He was drafted by the Oilers, I think.

Not sure about Penner. Could have been because I think he broke his leg pretty badly so he missed a year?

But yeah you're right there will still be guys out there, just less of them and probably more longshots.

Bruce said...

Bruce always gives terrific recaps and I need to echo something that he says quite often, that I am always amazed at the size, speed and skill of these guys, its just incredible and I am always astounded.

Hey, thanks, Pat. Of course that is a most elementary observation, kindergarten stuff, but it is still a point worth repeating occasionally. Particularly noticeable when one gets a seat close to the ice. I'll sometimes go early for the pregame warmup and stand right down by the glass just to get a taste of the size and skill if not the speed.

I liken it to when I go observing out at the dark sky preserve. I have (on an amateur level) a fair bit of knowledge of what's out there, and I may have a list of particular deep sky objects that I might be planning to look at through my telescope, but on a good night I'll get out of the car and the first words across my lips will be "holy shit that's a lot of stars", and that thought will just kind of hang with me all night.

uni said...

My bad, I meant Andy McDonald...Colin was a way too high 2nd rounder.

Bruce, one of the best memories I have is that Summer when the we had 2-3 days with no power in the GTA. It happened just when Mars was closest to the Earth and you could see a tiny orangish speck, I wish I had a telescope then cause I've never seen that many stars since I moved here. That's one thing I've missed after moving here, pitch black night and a sky full of stars you could just gaze at for hours.