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Oilers 5, Ducks 3 -- player gradings

Dwayne Roloson gigantic in Oil crease

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.

Well that was a wild affair in Anaheim last night, an intense game with lots of bad feeling, especially after the whistle. The long-overdue returns of Zack Stortini and J.F.Jacques helped the Oilers hold their own in the physical battle, as both made their presence felt in limited ice time. Oilers rode a pair of two-goal outbursts early in the first and second periods and as they tend to do, tried to sit on the leads for the whole rest of the game. Shots on goal were one-sided at 54-20, and shots AT goal even more so at an astonishing 93-30. In the third period alone, Anaheim directed 39 shots towards Dwayne Roloson, the Oilers just 4 at Jonas Hiller, and eventually 1 into an empty net that finally allowed Oiler fans to breathe easily for the last dozen seconds. I had long since turned blue at that point, as had the air in my living room with various oaths directed at Chris Pronger, Corey Perry, the officials, and whoever was the latest Oiler to not get the puck out of his own end. But we'll take the two points, and the big zero looks good on Anaheim too. To walk into their building trailing them in the standings and to leave with a one-point lead is a sweet outcome.

Ladislav Smid – 6: Ladi was one who had occasional difficulties clearing the zone, but played some strong defence and took his job of clearing Roli’s crease seriously as Todd Marchant discovered. Got a rare shift on the powerplay and forced a fine stop from Hiller with a well-placed shot. Finished the night +1.

Shawn Horcoff – 6: Workhorse led all forwards on both teams with 23:53, including 7:51 on the PK unit which spent much of the night in chase mode but wound up killing 8 of 9 Duck powerplays. A key assist on the game’s first goal, +1, and a very creditable 15-9, 63% in the faceoff circle on a night when 9 (!) other Oiler forwards won just 32% (12-27) of their draws combined.

Andrew Cogliano – 5: Made a nice pass to Pisani for the 2-0 goal, but spent much of the night riding the pine, posting just 7:42 TOI, as his linemates Pisani and Moreau contributed to an overworked PK unit. Just 1-4, 20% on the dot which is all too typical for Andrew.

Ethan Moreau – 5: One of the more effective penalty killers when he wasn’t in the box himself serving his 999th and 1000th career penalty minutes for another careless stick foul. Did not perform well at even strength, posting a team-worst -12 Corsi number, and was one of just two Oilers (also Gagner) to wind up -1 on the night. Contributed a humorous moment when he received a perfect breakout pass in his own zone and with nobody around, performed a spectacular pratfall and turned it over.

Patrick O’Sullivan – 6: Oilers actually outshot Anaheim 5-4 with O’Sullivan on the ice, one of just 2 Oilers with a positive figure (linemate Penner being the other). O’Sullivan also made a strong contribution on the PK, especially on a 3-on-5 late in the first with Horcoff in the box.

Ales Kotalik – 6: A fairly strong performance with 3 shots capped by the empty netter. Kotalik drew two Anaheim penalties, however took two of his own although I’m prepared to give him a pass for that cheap puck-over-glass infraction when he scooped a dangerous rebound from Roli’s crease. He plays a fairly robust game, and Oilers need as much of that as they can get.

J-F Jacques – 6: A rambunctious return. His first four shifts covered just 0:22 of TOI combined, yet in that time he had a fight and threw a booming hit behind the net which led directly to Brodziak’s game-winning goal and drew a retaliatory penalty besides. I’m sure David Staples will grant an unofficial assist to both JFJ and Stortini for their involvement in that "unassisted" goal. His careless four-minute high-sticking penalty midway through the third docks him one full mark.

Steve Staios – 5: Trademark gritty effort, but Oilers were outchanced 8-2 with Steve on the ice at evens and 9-0 on the penalty kill. Puck was in our end virtually all the time he was out there. He and Souray miscommunicated on Perry’s goal that made it 4-3 early in the third. 2 hits, 2 blocks, and somehow wound up the night +1.

Dustin Penner – 8: Oilers’ best skater in his old barn, and posted the only positive Corsi of the night (+3). Also was the only Oiler to be on for more scoring chances for than against at even strength, and the only player who recorded +2. (Pronger was at the other extreme, posting a game-worst -3.) Penner led the team with 4 shots and more importantly, 2 goals, both of them giving the Oilers the lead. Landed 2 hits, went into the high traffic areas and paid the price to score the powerplay goal that put Oilers ahead to stay. Also drew a penalty with some dogged work along the boards.

Fernando Pisani – 6: Scored the 2-0 goal on a wicked snapshot, otherwise spent a lot of the game in Oilers’ end, especially on the PK where he played over 8 minutes. Seemed to be running on empty more than once at the end of too-long shifts. His experience and composure shone through at key moments.

Dwayne Roloson – 9: Sorry Roli, no shutout, no perfect 10. All you did was win the game for us. Of all the Oilers who played 6 games in 6 cities over 9 nights, the oldest one had the most energy and focus. A fantastic game for the team MVP when his club needed him the most. Dennis at MC79hockey had the scoring chances at 41-17 Anaheim, including no fewer than 19 chances with the man advantage where shooting percentages are significantly higher. Usually. The axiom about the goalie being the team’s best penalty-killer was never truer than last night on the Pond.

Denis Grebeshkov – 6: Spent a little too much time on his heels, and had a couple of his occasional episodes with the puck, including a brutal giveaway in the opening seconds of the game. Led the team in TOI at 24:47, and in blocked shots with 4. Grebs’ crisp pass to Hemsky allowed Ales to gain the zone with speed on the play that led to Penner’s powerplay goal, surely earning one of David’s unofficial assists.

Jason Strudwick – 6: The veteran delivered everything he’s capable of, a dozen minutes of grit and effort. Slower than tectonic plates, Struds kept the play to the outside for the most part, cleared the crease, and contributed a team-leading 3 hits. Surprisingly, co-led the club in attempted shots (4, tied with Horcoff and Penner).

Sheldon Souray – 6: Solid effort. A presence in the defensive zone who contributed big minutes on the PK unit. Didn’t have a big night offensively, in fact did not so much as attempt a shot on goal which may be a first. Nonetheless scored a late assist for his key shot block off of Perry’s last dangerous rush which led directly to Kotalik’s empty netter.

Zack Stortini – 7: Returned from a wholly-undeserved 8-game layoff to do what he does, which is exactly what this team needed. Levelled Wisniewski with a great open-ice hit, then came back hard on the backcheck and eventually intercepted Parros who was heading for Roli’s doorstep with malice aforethought. The subsequent fight was no surprise, but Zack winning it decisively was a little unexpected. Later crashed the net hard and created a commotion that was instrumental in Brodziak’s game winner getting through. One camera angle indicated pretty decisively that Stortini actually deflected that shot.

Kyle Brodziak – 6: Back in his comfort zone playing on the Plumb Line with Jacques and Stortini. Scored the winner on his only shot, blocked 3 shots and contributed to the overworked penalty kill. Just 5-8, 38% in the circle, which led to some of the extended zone pressure the Oilers endured.

Tom Gilbert – 5: The Ducks appeared to be targeting Gilbert for heavy forechecking, and Tom was coming out second best in the battle for puck possession a little too often for my liking, including on the first Ducks’ goal. Seemed to raise his battle level a little as the game went on.

Ales Hemsky – 6: His line with Gagner and Kotalik was outplayed for the most part, outshot 9-2 with Hemsky on the ice, and outchanced 8-2. Did make a nice play to Gagner that led to Penner’s powerplay goal, and a great play while being tripped to clear the zone on Kotalik’s empty-netter. Missed an empty net himself a few minutes earlier which would have alleviated my dangerously high blood pressure.

Sam Gagner – 5: A hard night for the kid. While he won’t back down from anybody, the boy against men aspect sometimes shines through in physical games like this one. 3-5, 38% on the dot. Did earn a powerplay assist on a smart feed to Penner on the doorstep.

Craig MacTavish – 6: His decision to insert Stortini and Jacques, while overdue, was the right choice for a physical opponent like the Ducks. The way his team backs up when it has the lead drives me crazy, but at this point of the season it’s all about results. Oilers got two points, the Ducks got none, and MacT gets a passing grade.