Oilers Grades for David Staples' Cult of Hockey
Dustin Penner 6 - Played a simple but solid game tonight and was willing to drive the net. He was a bit slow on puck retrieval and was beat repeatedly along the boards. He did display some finesse tonight which is a part of his game we barely get to see.
Shawn Horcoff 6 - Worked hard at puck retrieval and was willing to take punishment along the boards. Almost converted on a Hemsky set up but his 10th goal of the season will have to wait for another day.
Ales Hemsky 7 - Displayed some great heart by taking the big hit and coming back into the game right away without letting off the gas pedal. Was not rewarded for his hard work but was an important part of a relentless Oilers attack tonight.
Robert Nilsson 6 - Similar to Hemsky, Bobby was not rewarded for his hard work tonight but his unyielding attack forced turnovers and intercepted passes. He didn't react to being benched in any comparable manner to Dustin Penner but he looks as if he should be coming around some time soon.
Sam Gagner 8 - Sam fricken Gagner. Tonight, Sam Gagner really showed why he was the 6th overall pick in the 2007 NHL entry draft. It's been anywhere from a fan's worst nightmare to a slick playmaker this year. It's required a love-hate understanding so far this year. I've criticized him for being too weak on puck retrieval and on the attack. I've also berated him for his frequent turnovers at the opposition blue line. On this night, however, he worked hard on the boards, forcing turnovers, converting on his chances, and not backing down from anybody. He showed some spark tonight with both Pouliot and Cole (but moreso Cole) and it will be interesting to see what MacTavish does about that line for even strength. He also showed that he was willing to simply dump and chase when the blue line was covered and it shows that he is willing to make the safe play too. His defensive zone coverage was on par as well. I hope Sam Gagner keeps it up and proves me wrong some more.
Erik Cole 8 - Boy oh boy. He keeps playing hard and leaving everything out on the ice. But tonight, the difference was he was actually rewarded for it and perhaps MacBlender has finally fund the right linemates for the Cole-train. All aboard!
Ethan Moreau 6 - Stood up for his teammates without hesitation and was not afraid to enter the opposition zone with a head full of steam. He may have gave up the puck in a few vulnerable spots but otherwise was remarkably solid.
Andrew Cogliano 7 - May not have been as flashy as Sam Gagner or Ales Hemsky but he gets the job done. Took the puck hard to the net and was accurate with his passes gaining the zone. Worked hard and was rewarded for it.
Marc Pouliot 7 - Some guys don't get awarded offensively for their hard work. Hemsky and Nilsson, along with Pouliot, made important contributions to the team tonight and it shows in the final score, not on the statistics sheet. Pouliot adapted well despite playing on a few different lines and drove the net hard and was reliable in both the offensive and defensive zones. Solid game.
Jason Strudwick 5 - Was great in the Nashville zone tying up pucks along the boards and making the Predators' D work overtime to get the puck out of the zone. Nothing special, and another day on the job.
Kyle Brodziak 6 - Was tenacious and had a little extra jump that we didn't see in either Strudwick or Stortini, but nonetheless was an important part of stifling the Predators puck movement.
Zach Stortini 6 - Did not let up on his forecheck and actually looked up to speed tonight as he chased down forwards and D-men in the Nashville zone. Did not do anything dangerous in his own zone and landed some timely hits.
Tom Gilbert 5 - Played an intense game in the first period, and was an important part of nullifying the Predator's offense. Didn't do anything special and was caught making some dangerous passes out of the zone. Good game overall.
Sheldon Souray 6 - Was a calming presence on the blue line tonight and was never caught making any bad passes or dangerous plays. Scored a goal and he allowed the Roloson's and the Gagner's to press the attack.
Lubomir Visnovsky 8 - Great puck movement and cool under pressure. The Nashville forwards love to punish opposition D and he was able to move the puck unscathed. Stellar play tonight and he continues to earn his paycheque.
Denis Grebeskhov 8 - Like Pouliot, he did not get awarded offensively for his work tonight but don't be fooled. He was taking hits left and right to make the play and he was never caught out of position at the wrong times. His crisp passes and well-timed rushes and pinches allowed the Oilers to maintain their momentum throughout the game.
Steve Staios 5 - Made dangerous plays and blind-sighted passes that handcuffed Ladislav Smid more than a couple of itmes. However, he more than made up for it with his work on puck retrieval for the pass to Nilsson which drew the penalty that led to the Souray goal, and the pass that led to the Cogliano goal.
Ladislav Smid 5 - Played a solid, defensive game tonight. Good complement to Steve Staios.
Dwayne Roloson 6 - Made 28 saves and for once, he didn't have to win one for the Oilers as the whole team won it for themselves. Rebound control was great though he needs to work on choosing better times to play the puck as a few times during the game he almost forced some Oilers turnovers though the Oilers D recovered amiably.
Now all we need is someone to take care of Jordin Tootoo and wipe the smug smirk off his face. One of these days he's actually going to harm someone with his cheap shot style of hitting and he will not be the only one to pay dearly.