Thursday, December 16, 2010

Postgame: Linus Christ

Balls. Either you got 'em or you don't. Ales Hemsky has balls; it's the same quality of character that allows Hemsky to try the exact same toe-drag dangle 5 minutes after getting knocked on his ass for it. Linus Omark has balls. I mean you can go on and on about his elite edge control, his ultra smooth stick handling, or his sometimes omnipresent passing - no question he's got a boatload of hockey talent. But more then all of those things, Omark has and plays with the huevos of a star, the cohones of a champion, the jujubes of -- well you get the idea.

When he's got the puck on his stick you get the sense that he is willing to try just about anything, and it's almost like hes more comfortable with a hulking defenceman draped across his back. It's like he's mentally processing that's one less guy that can block my pass. He's not muscling guys in the corner (because he can't really) but there were a couple of puck retrievals where he used hand dexterity and his ninja profile to get a puck back to the point or forward to say a waiting Paajarvi.

Of course, and actual hockey game went down during the resurrection as well. I think there were probably four key things that I noticed about the game:
  1. The Oilers did not lose the special teams battle. They didn't win either, but for the Oilers not losing the special teams battle sometimes seems like a minor miracle.
  2. The Oilers dominated the goaltending battle. Mason was about as far removed from Calder form as Sarah Palin is from Russia. At least two soft goals, and a poor choice on Boucher's part to leave him in between the first and second period. He'd been yanked 2 of his last 3, how does a coach keep him in? The Oilers were being demolished on the shot clock. Columbus had more shots in the first 9 minutes then the Oilers have had in games this year.
  3. The Oilers dominated the goaltending battle. Khabibulin, on the flip side, was full marks for making a lot of grade A scoring chances look routine. He wasn't just stopping them, he was not giving up easy rebounds. If not for his heroics in the first, this is a different game no question.
  4. The young guns had some pop. Eberle boosted his point total to 22 points with two excellent goals. In doing so he climbed into a three way tie for the rookie scoring lead with Skinner and Couture. Hall had his first 3 point night of his young career, and while he wasn't quite the dynamo like versus the leafs, he was making great touches all over the ice. Paajan was playing that solid north-south game he seems to favour, and seemed to have some decent chemistry with Jesus Omark.
All said and done that was more than enough checkboxes to give the Oilers a fairly easy evening. The third period hat trick goal by Huselius might as well have been a Dolphin's tear in the sea for all it mattered.

Individual players and a conclusion after the hop.

Linus "Source of Eternal Salvation for all who obey him" Omark - Apparently Jesus has been called that in the Bible (Hebrews 5:9), but all kidding aside I really do wonder what his potential tops out at. A player with his package of skills and tenacity and try is hard to quantify. Will he be an above average offensive threat? His ceiling is certainly in that area, if not higher. I do like the fact that all three of his touches for points tonight were integral in the goals. His first goal in the NHL was actually kind of pretty, as he kicked a flip shot rebound (oops Mason) to his stick and slammed it home in a great display of hand-eye. His first apple of the night came off of a unreal no-look between the legs pass behind the net to the tree-in-the-middle-of-the-desert uncovered Penner. His second assist was off a blue line dangle and a quick shot through a screen that bounced off O'Marra for the other Swede to slam into an empty net. Good, smart hockey all night, and his stats line (1-2-3 +2 14:53) certainly reflects that.

Jordan Eberle - What is there not to like about the kid? He had 2 goals in about 17 minutes of ice, and was also a solid +2. I'm beginning to realize that for all of his skills (great stick handler, with patience and vision), his best asset is actually the way he thinks the game. He constantly delays, button-hooks, and deceives to increase the chance to score or make a pass. It's like a Tight-Aggressive poker player: he waits for good hands and when he gets them, he plays them aggressively. Jordan's spirit totem is clearly the Shark. Did I mention he's got good hands?

Magnus Paajarvi - What I like about Magnus' game right now is the fact that hes actually a good board presence, and he has very good instincts in terms of playing a simple north-south game. That hard-nosed simplicity netted him his 4th, and I see a lot more like that coming for him in his future. As he bulks up a bit more to NHL spec, he's going to win more board battles than he loses, and his north-south finesse game should transform into more of a power game.

Taylor Hall - It's a weird Galaxy we live in. Kim Kardashian can earn global fame and unending riches for being a genetic freak of booty (basically SFW), and Taylor Hall can have a 3 point night when his game wasn't half as dynamic as his previous effort against the Leafs. But when I say less dynamic, I don't mean less efficient. Hall was still burning around the rink making good touches. For whatever reason the puck didn't follow him around as much, but that might have something to do with the other lines actually having more jump - therefore the was less contrast. If Taylor Hall can have a so-so night and still finish with 3 points, we are probably in a good place. And don't look now, Taylor Hall is second in the rookie race.

Dustin Penner - It was an 'on-switch' night. Because of this, Brule and Cogliano briefly looked like effective top-nine forwards again. I don't know what it is about these three but they really do seem to play better when together. No question a lot of that is the D-train dragging along their box carts, but still if I'm an Oilers coach, I keep that unit together. Maybe you can push up the two lil' guys bottom numbers enough to make a decent trade at the deadline.

Jason Strudwick - He was lousy, and ended up a +3, one of those 'aha you suck as a prognosticating stat' moments. I wish him all the best in his life outside of hockey, but it's time for him to get into restaurateur-ing or perhaps work on that golf handicap. He does not make good decisions with the puck, and even his straight-bones defending, stuff that should be drilled into his veteran skull, seem off. Reacting slowly, positioning himself incorrectly, passing poorly. Shawn Belle is 100% a better option at this point. Why is this change not taking place? Do we not want to hurt his feelings?

Nikolai Khabibulin - No chance on any of the goals, and was so composed in the net even when the Oilers d-core went chinese fire drill in their own zone for the first. Finished 37-40, .925 and really has been the spine of the team. We rely on him to keep us in games while the young'uns settle in and TCB the offence. Another 100 of these efforts and that contract is paying for itself!

D-Core - More or less sucked. CBJ took us to the woodshed in the first, and most of that was due to a tentative, clueless defensive effort. Whitney was +4 with two apples and was easily the best defender, but unfortunately he can only sop up about 20-25% of the defender minutes a game. Since it was a blowout from mid-point on, the D times were spread out, but right now our total suckitude in our own zone has got to be disconcerting to the coaching staff. Is it just me or are we talking about a shitty D-core every game?

In Conclusion

Start with a dose of good offence, add a slathering of bad defence. Fold in a special teams saw off. Add vastly superior goaltending to taste. Mix ingredients, bake for 60 minutes, and the smell of victory will be wafting through your arena.

I wonder if Linus Christ can play defence?


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