Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Postgame: Deja Vu

I hate harping on the same points over and over again but its all the same problems happening over and over again. In case you missed the Oilers formula for failure it typically goes:
  • Allow first goal
  • Do not score on the PP
  • Get scored on the PK
One other thing that we've also seen of late is Khabibulin playing well. Whether its a function of our defence playing a simpler game or the three crones spinning the loom of fate I'd guess the former. Our defence HAS been better defensively. The problem is that it is sacrificing puck movement for simplicity. If it weren't for Whitney and to some extent Tom Gilbert, we'd have approximately zero defenceman who could make a pass to a forward under pressure. The typical defensive flow without those two goes something like:
  1. Opposing team chips puck into zone
  2. Lumbering Oilers Defenceman (LOD) utilizes below average footspeed to recover puck, opposing winger hot in pursuit
  3. LOD panics and rifles puck along boards
  4. Speedy Skill Winger (SSW) utilizes wheels to intercept puck moments before opposing center arrives
  5. SSW returns to consciousness and scrapes themselves off of the center ice, their last memory was them attempting to chisel another LOD slap pass off the boards before getting bunker-busted by the roaming centerman
Repeat that for 75% of the LOD ice time and you see why we typically get outshot: fully 2/3rds of our D-core cannot move the puck under sustained pressure. There was a point when I thought Smid might be one of those guys who could shrug off the buzzing bees and make crisp waffle passes to streaking centerman but I'm really beginning to wonder.

Thoughts on individuals after the hop and a conclusion (it doesn't end well).

1st Line - Samwise-TFH-Ebs: This line was the teams only consistent offensive threat. 12 shots, an apple for TFH. They are really smart at penetrating the middle ice at about faceoff depth. Both Hall and Ebs like to push in from the boards and once they draw a defender up they try both passing and shooting. Gagner was probably the best player on the line, one play in particular when he powered to the middle of the ice on a PP netted the Oilers the unsuccessful 5v3 PP opportunity. I like seeing him confident and aggressive like that. Hall had a couple gaffes, and I think he over stayed his shift a couple times as well.

2nd Line - Cogs-Penner-Jones: Either mildly effective or moderately useless. A couple of shifts in the middle frame that looked good, culminating with Cogs having two of the best scoring chances of the game. Unfortunately Cogs methodology involves On-the-stick-off-the-stick and combined with his shot velocity that's not scaring San Jose's decidedly below average goaltending. Jones was totally invisible, and PRV got some shifts with this group if I'm not mistaken.

3rd Line - O'Marra-Omark-PRV: Ineffective. Completely ineffective. I don't think O'Marra made any defensive gaffes but he sure doesn't do anything offensively. The roller coaster with the Swedish Meatball continues. Is he good? Does he need a centerman?

4th Line - Fraser-CrazyTrain-Storts: Surprisingly effective in limited ice. Stortini had a couple shifts that indicated why he's one of the few knuckle-draggers that can generate momentum without doing the bad-boy tango. I think he can be an effective 4th liner, and I'm still a little curious how he's fallen so far out of favour with the current establishment considering his only competition is Tweedledee and Tweedledum (take your pick who's who). CrazyTrain should get the Nobel prize since he's clearly invented an invisibility cloak that can hide a 6'3 230lber for 6 minutes.

The D-Core - Solid defensively, sub-par offensively. I see they credited the late goal to Penner, so all of you cackling in your buttless pantaloons still have a chance to see Whitney crack the most useless record of who-cares ever. I'm praying that Petry and Marincin both turn out to be studs - if that is the case we might have the pieces to be a cup contender without hitting a home-run in the draft or on top of the trading table.

Khabibulin - He gets an underline too, in this case it's acting like a gold-star. He was solid throughout and made a couple of dandy point-blankers on The Great Traitor. I'm actually having a hard time remembering the last time he had a crappy game. He looks totally in control of his game, and if this keeps up I don't see how the Oilers will end up in the bottom five.


I think JFJ's time is coming to a close with the Oilers - I mean it just has to doesn't it? I think you could tie a hockey stick to a badger's face and get better on-ice results. Strudwick as well is so bad that I'm starting to consider a 'Strudwick' when the dman rims the puck around the boards even when there is no pressure at all. They just can't keep on jobbing it up every game when there are plenty of options that would not only give the Oilers a better product on the ice but allow those younger replacements to get valuable experience. I also think perhaps some of the steam may come out of the Oilers as the team finally starts realizing, holy shit we actually need Horcoff and Hemsky. The adrenaline rush is over and unless the kids find ANOTHER gear, I predict choppy waters ahead.

Even as I type this John MacKinnon tweeted that he's not missing Horcoff in this lineup. Great, because O'Marra certainly looks like hes going to translate that AHL offence just fine!


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