Grading the Players: 2009-11-10 vs OTT

Preamble: David Staples and I (and anybody else we can trick) are continuing our efforts at grading the Oilers on a per-game basis. For reference, the grading system.
Again the lack of a recording device is killing me. I’ve also missed watching any hockey at all for the last week, which is also killing me – gotta get some use from this Centre Ice package. But enough with the whining. Overall, it was a decent-enough effort. The forwards especially looked miniature – this is not to say I’ve swung the other way to “hitting HUR HUR WIN GAME” camp, but when 3/4 of your forward lineup looks like I would next to Dustin Penner, there’s a problem. They were getting outmuscled in the offensive zone, the neutral zone, and the defensive zone. This team can’t get Souray back quickly enough. Cheechoo in particular was a handful, but when isn’t he? Chris Neil and Milan Michalek were also thorns in the Oilers’ side all night.
Smid, 6: Steady Smiddy? A good, physical game from #5. No glaring gaffes, no brilliant plays, although he drove the puck deep at least once. Maybe he thought he should have been the 12th forward after all? At any rate, no complaints with his game, 19:31 of even-strength icetime. Only blight a -1 from being on the ice when Neil scored, but it’s not clear he made a mistake there.
Cogliano, 6: Did somebody teach the boy how to take faceooffs, or is Chris Kelly that bad? 3 shots, his line played well enough, and he was using his speed well in the offensive zone. He’s better now that he’s not just using it to sprint. Got sprung on a beauty breakaway and missed the net, that’s got to hurt. He also got absolutely mugged on a partial, even the Ottawa announcers were wondering how it wasn’t a penalty. I liked one sequence in the Oilers zone where he got muscled off the puck by Michalek, then he backed off a bit and took a run, separating big #9 from the puck nicely. Cogs wheeled and cleared. Smart, smart play.
Potulny, 5: I was surprised to see his ice-time, 18:17. Two shots and a hit, two blocks, mediocre night on the faceoffs. I had him between Reddox and Pisani, and he looked ok there. They got bottled up a few times, but were decent on the forecheck when they got it deep. I think the other two players were the drivers on his line though.
Moreau, 6: But for the Neil goal, I’d have given him a 7. 5 shots and a goal that was the result of dogged offensive zone coverage and some nice hands. But. And there almost always seems to be a but with Thecaptainethanmoreau, n’est-ce pas? I understand not wanting somebody hanging around the front of the net, and it takes a lot of power to stop Chris Neil, but I really didn’t like how he drove the big Senator onto JDD, and the fact that a goal was scored on the play as a result meant a docked mark. Sorry Ethan.
O’Sullivan, 7: gobbled up some icetime as a member of the best forward unit for the Oilers and got an assist on Penner’s goal, making a decent pass back to Staios on the line. Made some things happen, but he looked a bit slow at times.
Penner, 8: best Oiler on the ice most of the time. He was a force down low in the offensive zone in particular, I had 5 pluses next to his number on my sheets. He was at his best in the third and OT periods, forechecking hard and making room for everybody else. His net presence made Leclaire’s life difficult. No Trade Clause indeed.
Pisani, 6: part of a reasonably effective checking unit with Potulny and Reddox, at least at first (I didn’t see if this line stayed together all game, but I think so). They got bottled up a few times, and while Fernie’s reasonably big he still had trouble with the bigger forechecking Ottawa forwards. When he cycled with Reddox he looked pretty good.
Grebeshkov, 6: he wasn’t outmuscled, at least. He made a couple of nice pinches and played a generally safe, effective game. He was on the ice for the Cheechoo goal, but there wasn’t much he could have done about it; similarly he was on for Moreau’s goal, but had little to do with it. Made a nice pass to Brule for his goal.
O’Marra, 4: Probably not the first NHL game many expected for this high first-round draft pick. He played well enough in limited ice time (6:00), although when he was on the ice his line seemed to get bottled up. He had just 33 seconds of icetime in the third period, and none in OT. That said, he didn’t make any glaring errors either – I wouldn’t scream if he’s on the ice again tonight, but he’s definitely the guy to come out for Hemsky if #83’s back.
Strudwick, 5: not many threw him around, but he was slow. Two giveaways to lead the team’s skaters isn’t good though, not when your stock in trade is defensive dman. Reasonable effort though.
Stortini, 5: a bit of an up and down game. He looked slow out there, and while he was certainly willing, he wasn’t able to line anybody up and didn’t seem to be engaging many guys, although he certainly had Neil’s attention for a while. Still, he was a pain in the rear on the forecheck and didn’t give me any heart attacks.
Brule, 6: his goal was a bit of luck, but the fact he charged the net after taking the shot forced the goalie’s hand, and sometimes that’s what it takes to make your luck. 3 shots in 8:10 of icetime is pretty good, and he threw a couple of nice hits. I think he missed his check on Foligno on the 2-2 goal though, and guess who scored? A weak 6.
Visnovsky, 6: I had three plus signs and one minus sign against his name. He made some very nice defensive plays, using his stick well. On the minus side was his play on Cheechoo’s goal. On the one hand, he didn’t have a lot of choice; Staples noted the lack of puck support. On the other hand, you just can’t get stripped of the puck in the corner like that. I’m thinking the better move would have been to reverse it up the right boards or try to ice it – maybe you get a too many men, maybe you put it on a Senator’s stick anyway, but yeah. Still, not a terrible night, just not a great one for #71.
Gilbert, 5: Similar to Visnovsky, not Gilbert’s best night. He was getting pushed off the puck in his own zone and wasn’t creating a lot offensively either.
Reddox, 6: LW on the checking line, when he had the puck in Ottawa’s end he made life miserable and was otherwise zooming around. 5 shots and 3 hits pretty much sums it up for the ginger from Whitby. I’d like to see more production, but considering his size and how outgunned everybody else not wearing #27 seemed, he did well.
Gagner, 6: part of some dangerous chances for the Oilers and centering the best line, he even didn’t give too much away in the faceoff circle. No points, but not through lack of effort, and he was consistently good all night.
Comrie, 5: looked good on the half boards on the power play, but he needs to shoot more. He didn’t see much time in the third, although I would be willing to bet that was because of illness, not a lack of faith from Quinn. He showed well in the first period especially.
Deslauriers, 3: ouch. My instructions after the first period would have been “stay in your crease.” He made multiple mistakes handling the puck behind the net, and on one occasion dithered with it so long the Senators were unlucky not to score – I’m still not sure how he managed to get his stick in the way of the shot, but it didn’t seem like it was from hustle. When he was in his crease he played ok, but he was giving out some massive rebounds. Funnily enough, I wouldn’t say that any of the goals were his fault – Cheechoo’s was a great shot, he had Neil and part of Moreau on him for Neil’s, and Foligno’s was just a tragicomedy. But if he keeps playing like that, the Oilers will be on the wrong side of 6-3 games more often than not. I don’t grade on shootout plays, but he did reasonably well there.

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