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Senators 3, Oilers 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.

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.

I had the opportunity to attend the game Tuesday night and found it frustrating in the extreme as the Oilers found a way to lose, in regulation, to a team that hadn't won a road game in two months. This continues a frustrating pattern of regulation home losses to (other?) non-playoff teams -- Toronto, L.A., Florida, now Ottawa. The Oilers need to be making hay in such games, and their lack of offence in the friendly confines is hard to fathom, and their seeming unwillingness to work as hard as the other guys unacceptable. Last night Ottawa played with far more determination and desperation, and deserved the two points. Oilers needed a couple of guys to step up in the absence of Hemsky, and instead played uninspired hockey for the most part, mustering just 7 shots in the first 33 minutes. Oilers did generate a number of scoring chances, but far too often shot wide, fanned on the puck, or didn't get the bounce. The squad lost too many puck battles, starting in the faceoff circle where they collectively went 17-28, 38%, including one that led directly to a GA and none that resulted in any offensive chances.

Ladislav Smid - 5: Looking comfortable, competent and at times commanding in the third pairing. Night's work was undone by a poor read on Ottawa's first goal in which Smid drifted into the low slot to cover Heatley (who was briefly open and calling for a pass) while neglecting Spezza who slipped in behind him to tap in Alfredsson's perfectly timed pass.

Shawn Horcoff - 7: Battled Ottawa's top guns to a standstill (+2/-2) and generated some decent chemistry with Reddox. Tough night in the circle, where he fared well in the neutral zone (4-2, 67%) but poorly where it mattered (3-7, 30%). Cleanly lost the faceoff to Spezza and didn't obstruct the big man from driving to the net where he ultimately scored the game's first goal.

Robert Nilsson - 5: Had a fine game without the puck, but did absolutely nothing with it. Row-bert just isn't feeling it these days. 3 hits, 0 shots.

Andrew Cogliano - 4: Always impresses with his speed through the neutral zone but his line too delivered not much in the offensive zone. His continued poor performance in the faceoff circle (1-5, 17%) hamstrings his line, which didn't start once from an own-zone draw. Got sucked out of position on the powerplay GA that decided the game in Ottawa's favour.

Ethan Moreau - 5: Also got burned on the GWG when the Oilers PK lost its shape yet again, allowing a free shot from the slot. Skated hard, was rewarded with a goal and very nearly another. 0 hits.

Steve Staios - 5: No problems with effort as usual, but coverage problems in the defensive zone persist. Was victimized by Alfredsson on Ottawa's first goal.

Erik Cole - 6: Skated miles, worked hard. Led the Oilers forwards in TOI (21:23) and all Oilers in hits (4) and attempted shots (8). Hit the crossbar on a weird breakaway from the corner, increasing what must surely be his league lead in goalposts hit. His iron-to-net ratio is out of this world. Still, Cole seems to be a one-man show out there at times, and for all his effort his line didn't really click.

Dustin Penner - 3: Seemed to have gotten out of the wrong side of bed. It was one of those days when his big body was uncoordinated, as pass after pass seemed to go right through his stick. Normally a master of body positioning, Penner was a day late and a dollar short to far too many puck battles, losing far more than his share. Most irksome of all was his unwillingness to compensate by throwing his big body around a little bit. Had a nice deflection which led to Reddox's goal, but Oilers needed way more from the big man. 3 missed shots, 4 giveaways, -1.

Mathieu Garon - 6: A solid night's work for the most part, although 3 GA on 25 shots is nothing special. Did make a number of fine stops, including a dazzling paddle save off of Spezza in the first. Trouble handling the puck

Denis Grebeshkov - 6: Solid, mostly uneventful night. He makes a lot of plays with his tremendous skating ability, especially laterally.

Jason Strudwick - 5: I'm liking Strudwick as a forward more than I thought I would, which is to say MUCH more than I do as a defenceman. His lack of speed is a detriment but he played a strong game along the wall, moving the puck safely and taking the body. Safe, but limited.

Sheldon Souray - 6: Didn't get much chance to strut his stuff on the powerplay, as the zebras pocketed their whistles for the most part. When they finally remembered where they were, Souray was the victim of a very borderline holding penalty which ultimately cost the Oilers the game. Also screened Garon on Alfredsson's goal. Sheldon did move the puck effectively for the most part, and Oilers outshot Ottawa 12-5 while he was on the ice.

Zack Stortini - 6: The crowd was really buzzing anytime Zack was out there, especially on the forecheck where he was winning lots of races to the puck and subsequent puck battles on the end-board cycle. He is far from the best skater on the team, but nobody skates harder. on this night his effort stood out like a sore thumb. To my eye had way more than the 1 official hit he was credited with, presumably the solid crunch on Neil. Would have had a 7 except for an unnecessary penalty.

Kyle Brodziak - 6: A versatile night in which he centred an effective fourth line, spotted in on the wing in Pouliot's absence, and played well on the PK where he led Oiler forwards in TOI. A solid 60% in just 5 faceoffs (there were just 45 total on the night). 0 shots, however.

Lubomir Visnovsky - 6: Played well enough but didn't bring enough offence on a night Oilers needed some. None of his four attempted shots even hit the net. He and Grebs played effectively as a pair, with each covering off the other's defensive gaffes.

Tom Gilbert - 7: An effective night with 4 shots, 2 blocks, +1 and a Corsi of +10. Landed a couple of beauty body checks in the first, neither of which seemed to register with the RTSS counter for whatever reason. When Gilbert does decide to step up as a surprise tactic he can be an effective hitter.

Marc Pouliot - 5: Graded on half a game (5:41) in which he generated 0 shots, hits, or positives or negatives of any type. Left himself exposed for the big hit, although in his defence he certainly took the hit to make the play. Oilers were even more discombobulated after he left the game.

Liam Reddox - 6: A surprise choice to replace Hemsky on the first line, generated nothing offensively before scoring on a zero-foot shot to tie the score 2-2 late in the second. Was a new man after that and played a real solid third.

Sam Gagner - 4: Did not build on his fine performance against Nashville. Had plenty of opportunity in 20:40 TOI (more than Horcoff!), but created next to nothing with just 1 shot -- in fact the Oilers as a team had just 5 in Gagner's 20 minutes. 2 giveaways, and was just 5-9, 36% on a night Oilers got owned in the faceoff circle (again). Managed to stay out of the sinbin after a recent rash of bad penalties (6 minors in 3 games).