Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 35: Pfffbbblllllltttt

here we have the SS Oilers Playoff Chances
Is the sound of the remaining wind going out of the Oilers sail. It might have been the lackluster second period. Perhaps it was Khabibulin looking painfully mortal on the third (game-winning) goal. One could easily point to the ominous chance of losing Whitney for any considerable amount of time. I'd say it's a combination of all of those things. The three items illustrate perfectly why the Oilers chances of making the playoffs are similar to Tiger Woods endorsing monogamy.

The second period was a failure both for the Edmonton Oilers as well as anyone tuning into the Sportsnet feed. This is because the Oilers don't have the urgency of a team that needs to now win almost exactly 2/3rds of every remaining game to make it into the playoffs. It's like when they stick the frog in the pot of water and then slowly boil it. The frog would be going crazy if dropped into hot water, but slowly bring it to a boil and it sits there passively. The Oilers don't have that urgency because its so damn early in the season (or in the analogy: because the pot takes a while to reach its boil). I don't even know if I can blame the coach or the players for this. Mission critical at game 35? That's a tough sell for any hockey player; they simply needed to be better at an earlier stage in the season.

Khabibulin was mortal in this game. He didn't really shit the bed, but that was only because the Oilers didn't really give him a chance to outside of a few obscene scoring opportunities (the 2 on 0 comes to mind). Because the Oilers are balancing on the edge of catastrophic ruin every game, one bad goal by Khabibulin is easily enough to sink the Oilers. Unless that changes, even strong play from Khabibulin throughout the rest of the season will not be enough for a playoff spot.

Finally, defensive depth once again is a serious concern for the Oilers. Losing Whitney early meant we started seeing 90 seconds of Foster on the powerplay. I don't know if I'm in the minority here but Foster being the number one option on every powerplay is starting to piss me off. His shot seems like it should be doing damage, but consider this: he leads the team in shots, and has the second most PP time of any Oiler, and we are 23rd on the PP in the league. Foster has 3 goals - all on the PP - but it's time the Oilers rethink their PP strategy. If you are going to have Foster teeing off ALL THE TIME, place a big body in front. Is it too much to ask? Let us pray Whitney just tweaked something (dantencer's twitter says we won't know till tomorrow - it's 'some right ankle thing').

Individual thoughts after the hop.

Ladislav Smid - I liked his game tonight - 20 minutes of solid icetime. That was a glimpse of the big-minute dman that we were hoping to see regularly starting last year. He has not been making a lot of mistakes lately and he's still chopping and hacking enough to keep opponents wary of being inside his personal circle. A benefit of his added confidence seems to be translating to him making a couple of nice offensive touches a game. Might this finally be the realization of Ladislav "Top 4" Smid?

Ales Hemsky - A great play on the first goal (which he somehow got an assist on), and seemed to have his wheels. He didn't really challenge any Sabre on an offensive foray which is probably just due to a shit-poor second period and a general lackluster performance from Cogliano after the first 10 minutes. He should be handling the puck for most of the PP every game.

Jeff Petry - I think he played a game that showed both the promise he possesses and a predictable lack of forcefulness. He got his first assist of his young NHL career along with two shots and turned in a team worst -3, but I don't think he was a primary fault for any of the goals. He even got in a bit of PP time, and for a first game it really was a fairly decent first game. I wouldn't be surprised if someone keyed off his -3 in a HFBoards post tomorrow, but personally I was surprised to see that big ugly number beside his name. It felt like he played more solidly then that, and I think he did. Just like the AHL it looks like he's going to have a period of adjustment.

Nikolai Khabibulin - Softie third goal that was a big black death knell ringing from the depths of a twisted church of infinite loss. Or at least that's what it sounded like to me considering how flat the Oilers looked leading up to that goal. It was a bad angle from Hecht, who seems to be continuing the parade of ex-Oilers that like to embarass us. I'm not down on Kabibulin, but he cannot let in a bad one if we want to win recently.

Andrew Cogliano - It's my opinion that Cogliano has stopped being a net-positive NHLer. I don't know how he lost all of that juice that powered his offensive numbers in previous seasons, but the juice is gone. He still has world-class wheels but he never uses it to crash or bang into offensive areas or put the brakes on and sift that cross-seamer onto a waiting cannon release. Tonight he seemed to have jump for his first 4 shifts or so, and then the realization that he cannot generate offence at an NHL level sunk in and he played the waterbug game that could just as easily be duplicated by Patrick Thoresen.

Jordan Eberle - The best of the kids tonight I thought. He's relentlessly cerebral with the puck and that sort of always-go-for-a-high-performance-play mentality is going to power a profitable NHL career in my estimation. When Eberle has the puck on his stick, you know its going to danger areas at approximately the right speed in approximately the right spot. Once he gets his NHL fine tuning down, and Hall has a more finely calibrated trigger, it will be a beautiful relationship.


The team was simply not good enough. More over it was not desperate enough. The Oilers chances on sportsclubstats hit 1%, and short of 8-10 game winning streaks this game tonight might as well have been the mathematical elimination. We are 13 points out and every team in the west has a better points percentage. On the plus side we still have a gaggle of rookies to nose-pick over and potentially another fall for first type run.

Perhaps Tom Renney was a teensy bit premature in declaring the Oilers playoff bound.


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