Well, I'd really hoped not to have to resort to this so early on in the year, but that was incredibly boring hockey. I was worried when I saw the lineup that we'd either win and it would totally ho-hum, or we'd lose and look silly as a bunch of regulars couldn't beat the Canucks D team. We were unmotivated and in this game and got beat by a bunch of hungry semi-pros fighting for scraps. That's kind of sad considering the talent we had in the lineup.
Our problem tonight was one that was very common last year; we did a very bad job of getting open, and skating with and without the puck to get open. This was why we had no shooting lanes on our powerplay and offensive chances were so scarce all over the ice. We didn't have either that extra jump required to get into the gaps or that strategy to break down what was not a strong Canucks D.
A lot of that started from the back end. They were not strong with the puck and often simply sent it in a direction aware from where trouble might have been. They were not pressured, they were just in a sloppy rush. It was unfortunate to see. I'd send out a couple of these guys tomorrow if I were part of the coaching staff.
Unfortunately I don't think the 91-10-23 combo is going to work out. I know that's a quick read, but they really didn't follow each other's instincts. Horcoff can't process mentally what these guys are going to do, and the Swedes have trouble adapting to playing with a "stuck on the rail" kind of player.
Ultimately we should have been more motivated tonight. We lost and it was rather disappointing.
I had a different view of the game tonight, as my sister was able to get some tickets in row 4 behind the Oilers defend twice net, so some of the observations might be a little different than usual. You see more of the small plays and personality of the players at this level, but it is more difficult to see the flow of the play and the depth of the players and puck. I've found the best spot seems to be either in the top row of the lower deck or bottom row of the top deck.
And of course with this being a game against the Canucks, it wouldn't be complete without random Canucks fans causing a ruckus...today it was three of them bothering 4 girls, being asked to stop, then threatening to fight several Oilers fans. Bad idea. Sometimes, you really wish they would follow through before security arrives and they'd get what they deserve...
- They really didn't do too much to highlight his return to Rexall, which kind of surprised me. His game tonight didn't feature a lot of direct offence, but he did showcase his unique forechecking and defensive skills and gave that Canucks some serious trouble as puck carriers. I'll preface the year of commentary on Smyth by saying I don't much like his style of play. He often plays well, but I'm constantly left feeling like he's not doing all he could be. From his crappy uncurved stick that I maintain has cost him a boatload of goals to his ugly slapshot, I just don't enjoy it much. Doesn't mean he's ineffective.
- I have strange expectations for Hopkins (which is what I will be calling him btw; I loathe hyphenation) in that I don't expect him to blow me away. Even though he's a first overall pick, I just haven't gotten the impression that he's ready to come in and make a pronounced difference right away. That impression was built upon with tonight's performance. You can see he's good - he goes to the right areas, is solid with the puck and chooses good skating lines. He is not, however, an electric player. I liked his assist as a quick and smart play to a well positioned teammate, and he made some good things happen. He wasn't the puck-retrieval machine I'd heard about though. I see good things coming from him of course, but was not blown away (as I expected not to).
- Great little goal during an otherwise quiet night. When he gets room and a chance to make those moves he almost always finishes. I was quite surprised that he missed his two chances right by the side of the net; one in the second and one near the end of the game. He certainly didn't play badly (he almost never does), but he didn't jump right out and make himself noticed. I don't know if he and Smyth are appropriate linemates. Smyth needs a "get it to the net" kinda guy and Eberle isn't that; Eberle needs someone who can hit him in stride or find him in the open and Smyth isn't that. I guess we'll just have to see.
- I know he generated some offensive chances and went to important areas with speed, but I still wasn't all that impressed with his impact on the game tonight. His shots were off the mark again and he wasn't making that one last move that's required to score goals. He's also not making many passes thus far; and needs to do this in order to make a full impact. He was at his best on the PP in the second, but when we needed a game-changer, he wasn't there. It's preseason so I won't bug him too much, but some talented players eat preseason squads for breakfast and I kind of expect that out of Hall.
- I've seen people musing that it looks like he's got an extra bit of speed this year and I can indeed confirm that Sam looked to be skating in a much more powerful and somewhat faster way out there tonight. It will be interesting to see what he's able to do with that added asset. He was staring at the puck rather than looking ahead a little too much, which is probably a rust thing. He did have a more confident manner about his game, so I'm optimistic that he'll show a jump forward to start the year. I hope for his sake he doesn't take his spot on the team for granted. I liked that he did a lot of talking to his teammates during the game, trying to explain the intricacies of the gameplan to some that might not have it just yet.
- Tyler again looked like a relatively skilled guy who knows what to do on the ice and acts like he deserves this opportunity. There aren't a lot of nerves or unfocused plays being made by him at this stage, which is impressive. He's certainly not ready, but tonight he showed that he's certainly part of the conversation as we move forward. He should develop into the kind of depth player that good teams either have, or trade for something valuable down the line.
- I heard a lot of people dogging him after this one; some even blaming him for the loss and I don't get that at all. Did he tear it up offensively? No. Did he make a bunch of mistakes and cause pucks to wind up in his own net? No. Linus doesn't have to be an offensive dynamo to be effective. He wasn't good or bad tonight, but he's not a liability when he plays a neutral game. People really need to get over that. It had more to do with flow and line chemistry anyway.
- He used his speed to get to some open areas and get the puck, but wasn't really dangerous in the offensive zone. I've said before here that I don't think a mostly offensive game is Magnus' strength at this stage anyway, but tonight his game felt unfocused to me. He especially didn't seem to mesh well with Horcoff and it resulted in awkward turnovers where there wouldn't normally be any, and very few of the passes we usually see from the 23-91 and whoever combo.
- Individually I can't really fault Horcoff for much other than making one of the worst breakaway attempts I can recall (it wasn't a Scott Ferguson Special, but he did go completely the wrong direction and then PASS). He played an okay game and was pretty solid on the PK but didn't mesh well with his linemates and gave us a unit that simply wasn't all that dangerous. End the meddling and get him back with Smyth and Hemsky, or send him out with Hall and Eberle as before. Both of those were okay, this wasn't.
- I truly hope he continues to do his job as he did tonight. He hit people and he fought; all while from a solid hockey position and being responsible with the puck. I had low expectations for him and he's beating them by miles. We'll see if he can stay focused and keep it up; especially if the team starts losing in the regular season.
- Meh. He was okay on special teams but I really didn't notice him at all 5-on-5.
- This guy on the other hand, I quite like. If you're going to have a positionally strong, defensive minded forward, he'd better be solid with the puck and BIG. He's both. When you watch him closely, you can see how many different things he's able to read at once and it is impressive. He knew where to go and what to do faster than most, but with a defensive focus. If we'd picked up a defenceman of his ilk; he'd make the team (if I were Renney I'd try that by the way, but he won't). This will be an interesting guy to watch, as he gives yet another example of a guy who can contribute in multiple ways. I know he's older, but I hope we get some use from him in OKC and that he's one of the guys who shows well enough to be considered for callup.
- He was really a calming influence on Gilbert tonight and played a solid defensive game. He didn't do anything great but he certainly gave a different look that allowed his partner to play his game.
- A much more focused and mistake-free effort. The errant passes were gone. The standing still was gone. The lack of desire to drive the net and/or shoot the puck was gone. This was proper Tom Gilbert and certainly thought he was our best defender tonight. He didn't do anything crazy, but he played a solid game.
- A very mixed bag from Theo tonight. He threw some lovely hits and had a solid scrap, but he was weaker with the puck than usual and struggled some with his positioning including on the Nolan goal. He's got to be disciplined in his skating and positioning in order to be effective.
- He was looking really good early and tailed off late. I was prepared to write a very strong positive review after two. He looks much more filled out this year and was making decisive puck moves, but that performance didn't continue for all three periods as it looked like he either got frustrated or unfocused and made some mistakes with the puck. Glad to see a mostly strong night, but he needs to finish things off.
- Chorney doesn't have the physical gifts that a guy like Plante has. He must exploit the fact that he's good with the puck in both ends to be effective and improve to the level of NHL player. He isn't showing signs that this is occurring and hasn't improved his positioning or gotten much bigger either. It may seem rash, but I'd ship him out right now. I've actually been a fan of trading him for some time now, but I think his value is even lower these days.
- I'd cut him tomorrow. He was too bad with the puck, moved too slowly and was out of position too much. Is he ever going to realize the potential of his frame? I doubt it highly. He was required when we were very very thin on the blue in terms of prospects (even though he shouldn't have been drafted by us) but he just isn't now.
- He was pretty solid and looked to be very in control tonight. He really couldn't do too much on the goal he allowed and other than that he did his job. Devan looked much more composed, ready and focused than Khabibulin did on Tuesday.
- The goal he allowed was an ugly rebound. He did this a couple more times and wasn't punished as severely. He also half-whiffed on several saves made on shots that weren't actually that dangerous. I was really hoping that he would surprise, but Bunz looked about 10x as good.
I hope Saturday is much better than this one, which just wasn't very entertaining. Time to try some different combos as well.