Oilers at Penguins, G13/08-09

This is Greg Polis. 35 years ago hockey fans like me wondered how many goals he might score on a real hockey team, as he always lit the lamp at the All-Star game.

Pittsburgh’s history has for the most part been an offensive one. They had a big line in the early 1970s (Syl Apps, Jr-Lowell MacDonald-Jean Pronovost) and they had guys like Polis who once ripped off a 30-goal year.

Unlike teams like the Flyers and Islanders, Pittsburgh could never get enough actual players to make a run. That trend continued right through until they drafted Mario, in fact you can trace the Pens getting top pick to a series of stunning trades for spent forces.

This current group of Penguins looks dangerous any way you slice it. The offense is led by Malkin (12gp, 4-14-18), Crosby (12gp, 3-12-15) and Satan (12gp, 6-4-10) and their goalies have save percentages (.925 for Fleury) that imply major league status.

Their record (6-4-2) is very similar to the Oilers (6-5-1) despite the fact that the Penguins have enjoyed home cooking more often (tonight is their 7th home game, Oilers play their 10th road game this evening) this season.

Oilers are led by the lollygagger Hemsky (12gp, 3-9-12), Ethan Moreau (12gp, 4-4-8) who apparently has become Bobby Hull and Sheldon Souray (11gp, 3-6-9) who had a glorious chance to put the team ahead last night late but missed the net.

Last night’s GDT at this blog is one of the best items we’ve had here, all kinds of input from very smart men and women. If you have time, a zip through those comments is well worth it. One of the points that came up last evening was a suggestion that MacT is using this as a development season as opposed to a season when winning is the only important factor.

I think MacTavish has always used the early portion of a season to see what he has in each player, give them a chance to fill the role, and in doing so trusting these players will be better in multiple roles come the thaw. A good coach looks at his roster and picks out the players who he needs to bring along in various roles so they can be counted on in springtime when the playoff run comes. This entire season, from the wonky away sked to the use of kids in elevated roles, is designed for a strong run in the final 25 games.

There are things about MacT’s coaching that I can agree are baffling: his “semaphore signals” powerplay or his stubborn use of Pisani at center. I imagine he’s using the players on special teams that he’d like to see fill that role as the season wears on.

Let’s look at PK time for forwards:

  1. Brodziak 3:06
  2. Horcoff 2:52
  3. Moreau 2:52
  4. Pisani 2:40
  5. Penner 2:00

Now, let’s look at who was doing the work one year ago:

  1. Reasoner 3:10
  2. Stoll 2:53
  3. Moreau 2:48
  4. Horcoff 2:47
  5. Brodziak 2:31
  6. Pisani 2:28

Two of the six men in rotation from one year ago are gone (there are 6 listed from last season because of injuries, etc and it is likely that there will be at least 6 averaging over two minutes a game this season. Candidates include Gagner, Pouliot and Cogliano). From these numbers we can see that Brodziak is getting a bump and Dustin Penner has a new job. A “team need” is a veteran right handed center and we can see from this list that it has an impact when the team is a man short.

So, I think there’s method to the madness for MacTavish. We can suggest that Pouliot might be a better option than Penner and the season may develop in this way but the coach wants to use the big man short-handed and has decided to do it and cut his PP time (Penner is at 56 seconds a game on the PP this season, down from 3:43 a game one year ago).

Craig MacTavish wants Dustin Penner to be a solid option on the PK come spring, and he feels that the club has enough weapons offensively to borrow the Big P from the PP. The early results are not good, but he hasn’t reached the point where gassing the plan and running Cogliano or Pouliot out there is a reasonable choice.

He may get to that point, but he’s giving his original roster makeup idea every chance to succeed in the hope that it works. You know, he’s pretty good at this stuff overall. Especially PK and EVs.

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402 Responses to "Oilers at Penguins, G13/08-09"

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  1. RiversQ says:

    I’m sure no one will read this…

    “Gagner’s jump up to the top line paves the way for Shawn Horcoff to be reunited with Erik Cole, this time alongside Fernando Pisani on the second line.”

    …but you gotta love the fucking Oilers don’t ya?

    I’m still high on Gagner’s improvment this year, but… the dude has been nonexistent for three games (especially at EV) and has made some back breaking gaffes in the last week and he’s going to the top line?

    Don’t eat that Billy.

    Newsflash: Whatever line it is that Gagner has been put on, it ain’t the “first line.”

    As for Tencer, the book as closed on him a couple of years ago. He’s got nothing to say that Allan Watt hasn’t already told him.

  2. HBomb says:

    RQ: Yes, I read it.

    The Oilers are clearly changing strategy here. They’re going to feed the Penner-Gagner-Hemsky trio some softer assignments to generate offense. For the guy on the number 8 bus, this will be viewed as the “top line”.

    Pisani-Horcoff-Cole is going to be the second line (third in the books of some, senseless as that may seem), but they’re going to take on nasty assignments at ES. And I think they’ll do quite well with it – that’s got the makings of a STRONG power vs. power trio.

    From what I see, it’s what New York did with Jagr last year (Hemsky being the Oiler analog). Whatever line he was on was defined as the “top” line, but the Shanahan-lead 2nd line were the ones taking on the tough matchup, IIRC.

    It’s an interesting strategy, methinks. And I hope it works.

    Glad to see Pouliot getting a shot at 3C, not glad to see Nilsson stuck with Brodziak and Stortini. Someone’s going to have to “suffer” though – the Oilers currently have seven top-six forwards and ten, perhaps even eleven, top nine guys. If they could get the goalie situation sorted out and make room for a Brule or Schremp, they could feasibly ice four solid lines and leave Stortini AND MacIntyre in the stable 80% of the time.

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