I wasn't officially on the hook for tonight's game, but I took some notes anyway. The Oilers were having trouble keeping their forecheck going tonight, and the Senators were good at keeping them mostly to the outside. Few Oilers were getting through to the net with authority, and Gerber showed up to play tonight the times they did. I also had to listen to the Senators broadcasters - they're not too bad a set of homers, but if I'm going to listen to homers I'd at least like them to be MY homers. The lead guy also can't count and doesn't know his history, saying "You can't help but get choked up a little when you see those four Stanley Cups they won" when describing the Edmonton dressing room. As he was saying this, the five Cups were quite clearly displayed on the broadcast... he was also an hour off later on when converting timezones. I guess he's not used to travelling to Alberta. Anyway, on to the game.
With Hemsky out, MacTavish had to juggle his lines somewhat, with Reddox playing with Horcoff and Penner. Sportsnet also had Stortini playing third pair D with Smid and if they had Staios dressed, I missed it but it must have been up front. Not sure where they got that idea. Other lines started out with Gagner between Nilsson and Cole again, Cogliano centering Moreau and Pouliot, and Brodziak with Strudwick and Stortinaios - er, sorry, Stortini. Pouliot got smoked early on though, and Brodziak wound up between Moreau and Cogliano. With the exception of Horcoff, none of Edmonton's best players really stood out, and that's probably why they lost a close one.
Smid, 5: 16:40, -1, no hits (but he was fairly physical as we've come to expect), 2 takeaways and a giveaway, one blocked shot. I thought he could have had Spezza's stick on the goal, but Spezza's shifty and it was a bang-bang play he scored on. Other than that, a quiet night for #5. He did challenge Neil in front of Garon at one point, but seemed to think better of it - just as well, I don't think the Oilers can ice anybody not named Steve MacIntyre who can take #25.
Horcoff, 7: Two assists and he was good everywhere he usually is, forechecking like a demon and backchecking too. Not so good on the faceoffs tonight.
Nilsson, 5: No points but he looked good forechecking with Cole and had 3 hits. MacT rewarded him with icetime, he was among the leaders for forwards. Still, he can't score if he doesn't shoot and he didn't set up any dangerous chances for his linemates either.
Cogliano, 5: He finished even with one shot, but he looked a bit slow (or maybe Ottawa was just faster). I had him down for a + in the second period (good defensive play that turned into a nice rush) and a - in the third - he didn't get over fast enough to cover the opposite side and that left a lane wide open for the Ottawa power play. Faceoffs!
Moreau, 6: Goal was the result of a good forecheck and he was one of the more dangerous Oilers forwards. The two of his three shots that didn't go in were quality.
Staios, 5: Pretty strong 5. Two more shots than Nilsson, although neither were particularly dangerous. Two blocked shots. But he was on the ice for 1 ESG and 1 PPG against.
Cole, 6: He had a good game, banging bodies (3 hits) and a couple of his patented rushes. But the rushes went nowhere and he hit the crossbar on a breakaway, albeit one where he really only got the puck under control late. 4 hits to lead the game and he won as many faceoffs as Cogliano. Fairly ineffective on the power play, although he only had a minute. With a point he'd have been a 7.
Penner, 6: He was physical enough, but he had 4 giveaways to go with his assist. When he gained the zone with Horcoff and Reddox, he forechecked like mad, and in the third he made a great move on Heatley in his own zone to set up a nice rush. Still, not a night to remember. His early chance summed up his night: just not quite fast enough onto the puck to make things count.
Grebeshkov, 5: No "oh crap" moments, but I did have a couple of minuses against his name - once he couldn't contain Ruutu and that led to the first Spezza chance, and the other was a great chance for Donavan in the third when Grebs couldn't slow him down. Both times Garon bailed him out, but not good moments. He did get a hit credited, although I must have missed it.
Strudwick, 5: Did what he was supposed to do - he was physical and managed to help with a couple of good forechecks.
Souray, 6: Like Cole, he was physical. Two shots and two blocked, one hit. Ate up 22:55 of icetime. Any points and he might have had a 7, although he was in the box for the game-winner. The penalty he took wasn't bad like Stortini's, but it wasn't a great one at that stage in the game either.
Stortini, 5: He also did what he was supposed to. Except for the bad penalty on Foligno. He did make a great move in the third to keep the puck in at the opposing blue line. He did forecheck well and was trying to hit, but nobody was co-operating tonight.
Brodziak, 6: He was skating well, was physical, and killed 2 minutes of penalties. Did exactly what he was supposed to do.
Visnovsky, 6: He needs to get his shots on net - three misses and a blocked. He turned the puck over a few times, although he made a nice recovery to draw a penalty on Alfredsson in the first after one such. He also made a great move to stop Donovan on a one on one in the second.
Gilbert, 6: Wound up +1, had 4 shots and 2 blocks. Made some nice plays in his own zone too, and set up some nice rushes. But I don't think his +1 was really deserved. (Actually, I'm not sure how he wasn't +2 - he was listed on the ice for both Moreau's and Reddox's goals, and those were both ES.)
Pouliot, no grade: He played ok for the half the game he did get in, but Foligno knocked him silly and out of the game. Hopefully he's ok; he'd finally put together a run of good games and it looked like he might actually partially cover his draft number.
Reddox, 7: Kind of a weak 7, but he gets the benefit of the doubt for harassing the Sens players and participating in some good forechecks with his linemates. His goal probably should have been Horcoff's, but I don't think it goes in without him in front anyway. 3 shots and 2 hits.
Gagner, 6: High event game for the young man. His line had a lot of trouble clearing the zone in the second period, and some bad work by him led directly to a great Ottawa chance. Similarly in the third, he tried to skate the puck out of trouble and lost it to Ruutu. That was counterbalanced by a great steal followed by some demon work down low in Ottawa's zone in the third, and some general great cycling other times in the game. One shot and 0 points in 20:40 of icetime isn't good enough though.
Garon, 7: I didn't think he made any big mistakes, and he had some great saves after d-zone gaffes. Spezza's goal was hard to defend against, and Alfredsson's was just a great shot. Lee's came after the PK coverage broke down, maybe he could have had that but maybe not. 22 saves for a bit of a weak 7. Strong 7 if he'd stopped either of Alfredsson's or Lee's shots for the point.