Here are my thoughts on the lineup the Oilers iced last night:
Having only seen the Oilers on a web feed so far this pre-season, I was excited to see them live in action. They easily fulfilled the “live” part, but the “action” was pretty sparse. Despite erasing a 2-0 deficit and holding a lead for about a period, the Oilers effort last night left me a little cold.
The first period was by far the worst, with several defensive miscues and about 9 forwards who seem to think they are irreplaceable in the lineup. The first Lightning goal featured a defensive breakdown of epic proportions, as Ryan Malone was all alone in front to tuck in a rebound. The Oilers penalty kill let them down on goal #2, as Martin St. Louis wired an Alex Tanguay feed to increase the deficit to 2-0.
The Oilers clawed back with a nice power play goal by Robert Nilsson, who is making a strong case to stay on the team. Andrew Cogliano converted a partial breakaway to make it 2-2 after being sent in on a stretch pass by Denis Grebeskov. Tom Gilbert buried the third goal on a wrist shot from the high slot after a nifty feed from Gilbert Brule, who picked a covvenient time to show up.
Holding the lead until the wee moments of the game, the Oilers passed up several chances to put the Lightning away on the powerplay, and the 5 on 5 play was mediocre at best, with only Ryan Stone and Robert Nilsson putting in consistent efforts. Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, who was a little shaky on the St. Louis goal, effectively barred the door for most of the 2nd and 3rd, twice stoning Steven Stamkos from close range.
While I will comment on the power-play in a separate post, the Oilers penalty kill is worthy of a quick mention. While the penalty killers (Brule, Stone, Moreau, Reddox and even Penner) were not terrible, they had no answer for the puck possession and quick puck movement of the Lightning forwards. Furthermore, the Oilers continued difficulty in the faceoff circle would haunt them, as an ill-timed Steve Staios penalty in the offensive zone with 10 seconds to play in OT gave the Lightning the win. A quick face off win by the Bolts, followed by a heads up pass to St. Louis for a slap shot that he simply blew by Deslauriers ended the Oilers night.
The lines and pairings broke down as follows:
Cogliano-Gagner-Nilsson– Easily the best trio of the night. Ethan Moreau started out with this unit, but was very lacklustre and was soon replaced with Robert Nilsson, who had all kinds of jump. They provided most of the offense and clearly like playing with each other. They could use a little more size on the PP, but they move the puck well and Cogliano looks better on the wing.
Penner-Schremp-Eberle– All of them did some things individually and Penner played well in 4 on 4 situations with Brule. Schremp is trying way too hard and is a little snake bit. Eberle is talented but needs a little seasoning, and Penner needs Horcoff and Hemsky.
Moreau-Brule-Stone- The second best unit on the night, for my money. Moreau was mostly invisible save for one shot he rang off the iron. Stone was the best of this trio, and plays a rough and tumble game with some offensive upside. He hits a lot and that is skill that is rare on this roster. Brule showed some flashes, but also disappeared for stretches at a time. He did have a real nice pass to Gilbert for the 3rd goal.
MacIntyre-Stortini-Reddox– The 4th line bunch didn’t see the ice much, but they competed every shift. Reddox skates miles covering for MacIntyre, who often put himself out of position trying to kill someone. Stortini did ok in spot duty at centre, and was a bit of an agitator. Reddox also saw duty on the PK, where he did quite well.
Visnovsky-Smid- The de facto first pairing, they played a pretty decent game, save for their miscue on the first goal. Smid is developing into a pretty good shut down guy, and opposing players don’t get much when he is out there. Visnovsky was his usual smooth self, and really needed some help on the PP. The only one with a clue out there.
Chorney-Gilbert– The two former collegians played pretty well together, and Gilbert is showing an increased offensive acumen. As a former Chorney fan, and recent Chorney detractor, I was very pleased with his game. He is staying within his comfort zone and is thriving as a result. Skates well and making nice passes, he also did well on the PP. I have no problem with him as the 7th defender.
Grebeshkov-Staios- Steady Steve played a solid game and was pretty physical for an exhibition game. I still like how Grebeshkov plays, but he was really fighting the puck last night, which cost the Oilers a lot of precious time on the power play.
Deslauriers- I really have no idea about goalies, but found his performance adequate. He was suspect on the two St. Louis goals, which were stoppable in my opinion. The 3rd lightning goal was redirected, and the first one he could have used some defensive help. That said, he made up for these possible miscues with several big time saves. Looks like he wants the backup job in the worst way.