Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 41: Win Some, Win Some

He'll also do Dumbledore impressions for a nickel
On the left is an example of a win-win situation: a humorous homeless sign. At some point in their existence, homeless took to laying out cardboard signs that made simple demands of the passing traveler. Generally the formula worked something like, 'Will do work for money' or perhaps 'Please give money, I'm poor/sick/pregnant'. This was not a win-win situation, because it usually fostered resentment or distaste from a distance - this would allow a passer-by to steel themselves against aggressive panhandling, or simply walk around it.

Then, as the world is wont to, the cardboard sign evolved. One of these groovy homeless lads had an epiphany that it might be beneficial to include humor in the sign contents. This might seem profitable (it is a business) for a number of reasons: people that are amused are more willing to pay for it, and they also pass on amusing stories to others, potentially funneling a few office workers or friends in the same direction. Dumbledore over here is probably not the originator, but at some point the idea spread to homeless everywhere, and if you google it, you will even find copy-cat artists. If you want to look at it even deeper, the sign works great for both parties: we get amusement, they increase profitability.

The Oilers win tonight was an example of a similar idea: even when the homeless man doesn't get the money, he still increases his profitability. Of course, the Oilers didn't actually win in the sense of putting up more goals than their opponent, that score was 3-2 for the Dallas Stars. But in the grand scheme of things, this was a positive step for the Oilers (and in keeping with the same analogy, was one for the Stars).

It's win-win for the Oilers since they have 0% chance of making the playoffs, and this moves them up the only standings that matter otherwise: the draft standings. Not only that, a win like this where we actually deserved to win is a positive mental step for the team. I've played enough team sports to know losses like that are nowhere near as disheartening.

In terms of the actual game I think the obvious place to start would be the shot clock, as it often shows, at a glance, the territorial edge. The final shot count was 41-20, and I think it accurately indicated both the quality of chances, puck possession, and territorial advantages the Oilers enjoyed in this game. At this point it would be tough to give the Oilers total credit considering they came into the game with the worst shot differential in the league at -7.4, but they did fore-check tenaciously and generally were full value for the 2:1 shot ratio.

As far as why the team received zero points after 60 minutes, well there are a couple of reasons. Shitty reffing was definitely at the top at my list until the Oilers tied it at two. It was fallacy for me to remove it from the list automatically like it seems like all fans do. Once the game reaches a deadlocked state its almost like all previous mis-steps by officiating etc is moot. This is of course not really the case, since a goal in the second by the Oilers likely would have changed the whole complexion of the game. The Omark bump of old rubber-band-groin Lehtonen was absolutely comical. VanMassenhoven had to make a snap judgment I suppose, but that was a brutal judgment. At least have the balls to call the interference then, not some ridiculous 'incidental contact' crap. Either Omark interfered with the goalie, or he didn't. The Smak penalty was also pretty farcical. Big Diesel barely bumped into whichever pussy-willow Dman that was standing their and it was like a rape-whistle went off and Smak was the only Mexican in the area. Finally, even the interference call against us was nothing but a botched make-up job for the earlier fumbling by VanMassenhoven. Its pretty clear, the guy doesn't bring much to the table except a lot of syllables and an 80's porno mustache.

Dallas also was very opportunistic with their opportunities - they shot 15% for the game, 3 goals on 20 shots. For whatever reason, it seems like a lot of the teams the Oilers play have both the time and presence of mind to make the extra touch that leads to truly five-star scoring chances. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced this is due to the Oilers always offering the contrasting methodology: dirty grimy goals and a lot of crappy, plugger stuff in between. How many players on the Oilers would have the wherewithal to pass up the close jam play like Ott did and pass back to the streaking give-and-go'er for the tap in goal? Gagner, Eberle, Hemsky maybe. To my mind we have been scoring a lot of plugger goals recently, which is fine, but there is a place for the extra pass in the game. Not everything has to be jammed on net with the hope that the goalie lays an egg.

In terms of raw performances, it was of course Taylor's turn up the pipe, and based on his 5 shots, 21:32 TOI, and a steady improvement as the game wore on, definitely something that is going to be worth following. He didn't have a great night in the dot (38.1%) but that's not an immediate concern. He's had all of 15 faceoffs previous to this game in the NHL, and I think he's allowed a few sub-par efforts in that part of his game while he learns the raptor-movements of the big boy faceoff. Debrusk commented on it several times, but I will re-iterate here: the kid has a L A S E R beam for a wrister. He of moth-eaten groins had a tough time handling Hall's hummers even from off-angles. I'd like to see that trend continue, and as he works towards hero (NHL) forearms, there is still probably a few more clicks of velocity yet to be gained on his wrister.

Thoughts on individuals after the jump.
Linus Omark - Allow the debate to continue! It's definitely Lee-nis, but he just told all the North American media to use the insensitive, dumbified version that Swedish Dandies with wispy blonde hair are currently giggling about. Look at ze silly Americans saying ze funny name! Well Sweidish Dandies your favorite player seems to have established himself as an NHL player. Some of the pie-in-the-sky notions are still debatable (could he ever hit Cammaleri type numbers? Gionta? Random-Midget-Skill-Player #3?). Even though he was pointless and -1 in 17 minutes of ice time, it may have been his best game as an Oiler, even considering the 1-2-3 night against Columbus. He had 3 shots and was buzzing tonight. He made a couple of slick pokes on the forecheck that netted him a puck off a lazy defender - the kind of stuff that if he pulls off a couple a game he's going to produce at the NHL level no question.

Taylor Hall - Started slow, got slaughtered in the dot, but once he got his wheels under him he seemed to have his regular offensive presence. One thing I will say is he was not very 'sticky' in the defensive zone, a quality that two-way centers need to have in order to be effective at the NHL level. Horcoff is very 'sticky' in his own zone. Obviously it's early, but both Eberle and PRV are stickier forwards (dirty, dirty minds). He also popped off 5 hum-dingers in a big-boy-portion 21:32 of ice time. That's a big number for Hallsy, and something we may see more of as the last glint vanished from the Oilers collective eye.

Magnus Paajarvi - He is literally a step from scoring a monster goal almost every game. His outside power drive is still an NHL-work-in-progress but once he gets that move locked in he is going to be a total handful for any defender with average to below average foot speed. 2 shots in almost 20 minutes of icetime, I still find Pajaarvi's game to be strong, but he doesn't have to make the straight-line play every single time. If I was his coach I'd ask him to try to engage his creativity at least a few more shifts a game. Gasp, you mean try to stickhandle past an NHL defenceman? That's a pet-peeve of mine: Color guys saying in their most Grandpa-Tim, barnacle'd voice: Well sonny this is the NHL, those moves you used in Junior aint gonna fly round here, see? Screw that, I'm ready to see Maggie's huevos. I think I will like them... Like... Like beautiful eggs of gold...

Jeff Petry - This guy looks smoother than Mr. Roger's garroting Communist Mercenaries during a black op. If I'd gone full mancrush on him (which I have) I might even be crazy enough to suggest he's our best looking dman on the point during the powerplay (which I am). Ignoring his defensive abilities (they are already improving), he is a carbon-copy of Whitney with the puck to my eyes. No panic, just a bit of Jersey flap and laser-guided passing. He also has an excellent tolerance for blue-line discomfort as evidenced by a couple of tight handles by the kid with his back against the blue and an onrushing forechecker. He was +1, with 2 shots in 18:31, this kid looks real deal holyfield. Sense the mancrush in the Oilogosphere growing, I can.

Ales Hemsky - Old bessie' still has some gas in the tank. He looked smooth today, and I think the groin training wheels have been put on a dusty shelf for a while. He made at least one no-look cross-seamer beauty pass for a Gilbert one timer that just reeks of PPG Hemsky. Strangely enough even though I had a positive impression of him, he had zero shots and was even in over 23 minutes. I'm not sure the chemistry is necessarily there yet for the Hall-in-the-middle experiment but this could be a very dynamic duo with Ebs on the gurney a bit longer.

Tom Gilbert - He played a huge game with over 31 minutes of frozen sheet underfoot (-1, 1 shot). He's very inconsistent, but when he's on, he is an amazingly sharp, tactically sound defenceman. His motion off the puck is really pretty top-level, and I imagine on the team that wasn't near the bottom of the league offensively he might put up some bigger numbers. I really liked his game in the O zone tonight, and I think he had a solid one in the Dzone. It's too bad he's so inconsistent. We've seen Tommy gun play at a high level for most a of a season before, and it would be nice for him to solidify into that player. Imagine a Gilbert who's consistently worth 4M? That would go a long way in shoring up our D.

Ryan Jones - I think my man crush on Jones is more about his luscious locks (yea and you are going to stand there and tell me you haven't thought about Tom Brady in a shampoo commercial once?!), but regardless he is a beauty. Dirt cheap and crushing Kovalchuk's even strength scoring rates. In 14:35 of ice he had a goal and 6 shots to lead the team. He's tenacious and he works his butt off like only an NHL tweener understands. He is 2011's GlenX. Let's try not to fuck this one up, eh Tambo?

Steve MacIntyre - Well, he was integral in the Oilers first goal and Dallas' third goal. I see a Smak point like winning the lottery in Vegas. You don't jump right back on the table after winning the jackpot and try to earn bonus cash. The odds are against you, take your money and run! Unfortunately Renney was dazzled by the glitz and glitter of a 6'5 semi-truck with a pugilist nickname. That bedazzled state led Renney to run the 4th line out against the secondary offence of Dallas which might as well have been three Crosby's considering the relative gap in ability. Gee that's good thinking Renney! The results were inevitable and i saw it coming a MILE away. I refuse to give the Crappy Train an entry on his own, so as a sidenote I'm not happy he has prolonged his stay with a goal. To parrot Derek Zona's great heading, The Fourth Line Giveth, The Fourth Line Giveth Away.


Really gaining draft standing is only part of the puzzle (yea I'm looking you slide-ruler), as a lot of the Oilers future depends on the current crop of young'uns improving, but not only improving, but learning how to win. This game offers the rare trifecta: an improvement in the loser bowl, lots of ice and experience for the rooks and sophomores, and the satisfaction of a well-played game the team deserved to win. It still tastes sour, but you need sour to taste the sweet.


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