I've concluded that Jason Strudwick is a strategic plant designed to ensure a first or second overall draft pick. Only that can explain both his inexplicably bad play at the worst times, and the fact that he's on the ice in the first place.
Not only did he manage to put the puck right on James Neal's stick at the end of the game, but even though Taylor Chorney pinched and couldn't get back on Dallas' third goal, Strudwick did absolutely nothing to break up that 2-on-1. He just kind of stood there. It was ugly.
The amount of errors and little plays in this game was rather staggering. From Moreau taking a sure goal and ripping it into the wrong mesh off of Fistric's stick, to Penner missing a wide open net on a gift with almost no time left and Visnovsky somehow hitting the post with Turco out of the play and half of a net available for an easy little slapper. Things were all over the place tonight. It leaves me in a difficult place in making any sort of big assertions about how the game either should have gone or how it felt like it went. I'm at a bit of a loss.
Dallas seemed to sit back after they got their lead and were content to wait. They didn't play particularly well. Their 4th goal was a brutal collapse by all on the ice punctuated by Strudwick's play. Their third was a blown pinch by a rookie and a horrid 2-on-1 by a vet. Their first was a fluff shot missed from the point by a rookie goalie.
I'd almost forgot that Jason Strudwick also scored their second goal for them. Jeez...is it possible to have much worse of a night than he did?
So I don't think this is a matter of them outplaying us. Bogus calls in the first (especially the O'Sullivan call which was beyond weak) got us way down but we had enough guys with the finger on GO tonight to come back.
I think the most controversial thing to discuss would be the play of the 18-10-34 line. They controlled the puck deep in the offensive zone more than any of the other lines for certain. Yet, I would say they accomplished the grand sum of nothing. The cycle to me is an unneeded illusion of effectiveness best preserved for the third period of games where your team has a lead. It is true that it's very difficult to be scored on if your team is strong on the cycle...yet...when you never even threaten to score despite all that puck control...there is a problem. I'm willing to grant that if 10 and 34 had a better winger than 18 playing with them they may very well have generated some offence tonight. 10 was more intense than I've seen him in quite a while. I saw the footrace winning that's been missing from his game for some time. His efforts towards the net however were lacklustre at best. Either weak shots misdirected or generally bad choices. Pisani was the most effective in the zone. He took some good shots and none found twine. He also pulled up behind the net and made efforts to get someone in position the puck. It didn't work, but at least he was making the right play. Moreau again was better...it's almost like SOMETHING has come back into him ever so briefly...he still wasn't particularly good.
Gagner's line was without a doubt our best. I say specifically Gagner's line because that's what it was tonight. He ran the show. From his excellent job of drifting into perfect position on his first goal to the amazingly quick shot on net he generated (I have no idea how he got that off in time) that created the last goal, he was very good. Sam played with intensity tonight. Maybe a little too much early on which resulted in his penalty, but he did well with it as the game went on. I noticed specifically a second period play where Dallas was breaking in, and it was Gagner, the guy who's footspeed is constantly on trial, who chased down the Dallas player and took the puck away. He was pretty vicious about his puck tonight. Penner showed flashes of his earlier self in plays like his drop pass to Visnovsky and walking around players, but his finish and his bull charge to the net were missing. He had at least 4 glorious scoring chances and came away with nothing. That's really too bad. He had the chance to be the difference-maker tonight and wasn't. Cogliano played a largely complimentary role in my eyes, not making any big plays but likely providing enough support if the other two played so well. They seem to have a little something going these three.
19-16-12 wasn't as effective to me as they have been. I still liked the intensity with which O'Sullivan played. He's playing with the puck at a higher speed and it's making a tangible difference in his game. It was good that Potulny stuck with his goal...though I considered it mainly Turco's ineptness. Nilsson however led a disturbing trend of this line getting into dangerous territory, then simply doing nothing with the puck. A line whose sole job is to take solid shots and capitalize on the rushes it generates cannot operate in this manner. They're also quite pedestrian in their defensive zone.
Pouliot did some interesting things. He was entering the opposition end in a manner that showed creativity and poise. Also he was a little physical at times. I hope he keeps this type of play up. The other two guys...did a whole lot of nothing. Stortini got absolutely popped by Fistric and then did nothing at all...not acceptable.
One huge problem, and in my estimation the one that cost the Oilers the game, was taking too many shots from out wide. These shots are either easily stopped and turned over, or miss the net and were turned over. The forwards were especially guilty, but so were Souray and Visnovsky.
Devan suffers through another tough loss. I thought he played just fine except for goal #1. He has an interesting habit of diving flat on his stomach to play a puck. He seems practiced at it and makes it look easy. He was very much hosed on 3 goals tonight, though I suppose he could've stopped the 3rd. He almost did stop the 4th despite it's silliness.
I've already commented on Strudwick...wow..but Chorney I didn't mind. Even the pinch where he got burned wasn't a particularly bad decision. He brought a bit of a physical element which I don't remember from last time, and is certainly confident enough with the puck. I hope he gets the chance to play some down the stretch for us to see what we've got so that we don't have to wait on him next year.
Grebeshkov logged a bunch of minutes tonight and even though a couple turnovers he made might get the press, I quite liked his overall game. He compliments Visnovsky quite well when he plays a balanced game. That was the pairing way back when last season I do believe.
Visnovsky was dynamic many times throughout this game. I simply love to watch this man play hockey and his point play gave us many more chances to score than if it had been someone else.
Souray needed to stop shooting from the outside. His defence however was improved.
Gilbert plods along...but was again solid.
Well, here we are again. I'm not sure how many more artful ways this team will find to lose this season...seems like we've already seen most :(