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Oilers 7, Blue Jackets 2 -- player gradings

I have offered to assist in David Staples' latest project over at Cult of Hockey, namely to grade the Oilers' players on a game-by-game basis. This is a collective effort, I'm just one member of a team of markers. Last night's Columbus game was my first contribution to the cause.

The scoring system is as follows: 10, perfect game; 9, extraordinary game; 8, great game; 7, good game; 6, above average game; 5, average game; 4, below average game; 3, bad game; 2, terrible game; 1, trade this player or send him to the minors.

Oilers 7, Columbus 2. A strange night in which Oilers were outshot 39-19 yet won in a laugher. Despite the offensive support Dwayne Roloson was the key performer frustrating the Jackets time and again. As they pressed they became vulnerable to the counter attack, and the Oilers made their chances count with some outstanding execution in the offensive zone. Nearly a perfect night on special teams, with the powerplay effectively going 3-for-3 (with one goal coming 6 seconds after the expiry of a penalty), and the PK unit killing a creditable 6 out of 7. Dustin Penner was an inspired presence on his return from the press box. A huge turnaround win for the Oil after three consecutive losses including two blowouts in regulation.

Shawn Horcoff – 8: A complete game from Oilers’ most complete player. 4 shots, 3 points, 2 blocked shots, 1 takeaway, a winning night in the faceoff circle. 23:21 TOI including major contributions to both special teams.

Robert Nilsson – 5: Decent game, not a major factor. Just missed the top corner with a wicked rising shot in the first period that an inch the other way would have made the highlight reels.

Andrew Cogliano – 7: Flying all night. A goal, an assist, +2. Had a couple penalties, one dreadful turnover and just 31% in the circle, but the good outweighed the bad by a lot.

Ethan Moreau – 6: The lone minus forward on the team, but contributed mightily to a good night for the PK, and a solid night defensively with 3 hits, 3 blocks, and a takeaway. Questionable decisions with the puck at times.

Steve Staios – 5: Am not liking Steve’s game much of late, but he came up with some big blocks and contributed to a shaky but mostly successful PK unit. Was on the ice for both Columbus goals and none for the Oilers.

Erik Cole – 5: Had some nice puck battles on the boards, had a secondary assist but really didn’t bring much offence to the table. Didn’t even attempt a shot. 0:00 on both special teams, just 13:18 ice time at even strength.

Dustin Penner – 8: Tempted to give a 9. An exceptional performance from the gentle giant in his 200th NHL game. Responded to his benching with his best game as an Oiler, scoring once and contributing directly to three other goals with his massive presence in front of the net. 3 shots, 3 hits, +2, and a thorn in Pascal Leclaire’s side all night long.

Jesse Boulerice – no grade: Scoresheet says he played all of 2:27 with a complete blank in all stats, but the only time I even noticed him was when he was late to the party on a post-whistle scrum.

Dwayne Roloson – 8: Outstanding performance from the veteran playing his 3rd game in 4 nights, facing 112 shots overall. 37 saves for the second night in a row, many of them top notch. Best penalty killer on the team.

Denis Grebeshkov – 6: Seen him good, seen him bad, seen him both at once. Made some real nice high skill plays getting the puck moving in the right direction. Lost a battle to Nash on the 4-2 goal and nearly got burned later in the same shift by Umberger but Roli saved his bacon.

Jason Strudwick – 5: Looks very much like a 7th defenceman. Just a little slow reacting to the puck at times. -1 on Huselius’s goal, but contributed almost 5:00 without a GA on the PK so gets a bare passing grade.

Sheldon Souray – 8: Displayed his booming shot with an unstoppable goal and a rocket off the bar. Beautiful pass to Cogliano for another goal. Was major contributor to both special teams, and finished the night +3 at evens. Was on the ice for 5 goals for and none against. Unnecessary penalty that led to Nash’s goal was his lone blemish.

Kyle Brodziak – 5: Tough night for the kid saddled with Boulerice. Only 8:09 ice time, half of it on the PK. Someone referred to him as a "defensive specialist" but he’s still very much a project in this role.

Lubomir Visnovsky – 7: Tidy night’s work, goal and an assist, +2. Some very nice work with the puck, good positional play, 3 blocked shots. Played with Grebeshkov in the latter part of the game as MacTavish put Gilbert with Souray at both even strength and the first unit PP. That experiment was a major success.

Tom Gilbert – 8: Probably played his best game of the season, a goal, a helper, +3, and 3 blocked shots. Looked composed with the puck when under pressure, a trademark of Tom’s A game, and broke the puck out of his end well.

Marc Pouliot – 7: Finally broke the ice with his first goal of the year which stood up as the game winner. Impressed me with his all-ice game, some real smart plays with the puck in his own end. Also made a "hero play" behind Roloson One of 5 Oilers with 3 blocked shots.

Ales Hemsky – 7: Earned his marks on the PP where he set up two goals, and a third just after the expiry of the Jackets’ last penalty. Was pretty ordinary at even strength otherwise. His turnover at the Columbus blueline late in the second let to Huselius goal that cut the margin to 3-1.

Liam Reddox – 6: Lots to like in this kid. Has good defensive awareness, and lots of try. One of 4 Oilers with 3 hits. Looked alright on the PK though’ was on the ice for the one PPGA.

Sam Gagner – 6: A little better showing for Sam after a very rough stretch. Finished with 2 assists, +2. Made a good play to lead the rush before Penner’s 5-2 goal that ended any doubt. No shots on goal.

Craig MacTavish – 8: The beleaguered coach made all the right calls on this night, bringing Penner into the lineup and inserting him back on the powerplay unit; switching up the top two defence pairings and finding some immediate chemistry; and especially with coming back with Roloson on a night where the armchair experts, yours truly included, thought it was a poor idea to ride the veteran. Roli proved us wrong, and MacT right, with a first star performance.