Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 38: Growing Pains

I like Linus' icy eyes; he means business. Peckham is just a beauty
It was one of those games where the commentators finally tipped the 'growing pains' usage counter over 10k, and sure enough the old TV show was a fine backing for my latest photoshop endeavour. The Oilers played pretty much the same they have against all of the good NHL teams this season: poor first, strong third, a comeback and some kind of heartbreak.

When Ferraro fired up the replay in the first period of the Wings making 6 micro passes to escape the Oilers forecheck I immediately thought: 'wow, so that's what a breakout looks like'. To be fair, the Red Wings are more grizzled than Sean Connery in The Rock and that kind of coordinated, calm puck movement is born of a lot of experience and pressure situations. You can't expect that kind of movement involving anyone except for our most cereberal players (Eberle, Gagner, etc) or the better D-men (Whitney, Gilbert). Regardless, it is those kinds of observations that really make me miss Ferraro on the sidecar during Oilers broadcasts. Debrusk is alright, but he'll never have the same critical eye that Ferraro has - or his knack to point out playerism's that your game-flow hyptonized eyeballs discard arbitraily.

There were a couple reasons for the loss, all of which seemed to contribute equally: Khabibulin letting in a weak goal and/or not making one spectacular save, the pairing of Vandermeer and Foster (aka Chinese and Fire-Drill), and finally Cogliano and his representation as a second line center in the Oilers center depth (and I mean lack of).

Khabibulin is an easy case, as he once again let in a softie by Bertuzzi, and otherwise was fairly solid. Any soft goal by one of our goaltenders is usually the salt on the slug. We simply don't score enough to allow softies (see: Tampa Bays abysmal defensive numbers versus their point totals for the opposite of that although Rollie might have something to say). It's also a case of maybe if Khabi can make of of those unreal 5-bell 4-moon 3-dog saves, we make a different game of it. Not saying that it's good for a team to rely on those, but it certainly might have changed the outcome tonight.

Foster is quickly working his way up my shitlist and at the peak of excremement mountain soon I predict a legendary dookie battle with the Crappy Train himself. Who would win? He was -2 in 18:50 of ice time, and amazingly when they kept the puck away from Foster our PP actually looked momentarily dangerous. Vandermeer gets more of a free pass since he's been heating the mahogany lately. I'll say this though: he looked pretty brutal tonight, and you gotta wonder if Vandermeer will be right back in the Oilogosphere doghouse without Ryan Whitney as his partner.

Cogliano used to have a special place in the collective heart of the Oilers fanbase but I think the last rays of sunshine from that are quickly being transformed into vaporous whirls of acrid, greasy hate. He seems like a good kid but his mojo is gone, vanished, disappeared, dissipated. That three on one play where he passed to Penner who was the one guy that the defender was clearly engaging, well I'll admit I used a bad swear word out loud. It was something like 'Gosh darn Cogliano, you are a fine gentleman but I was petitioning god through my prayers that you would flex your testicular prowess and shoot the vulcanized rubber.' Shoot f--ker! would be the paraphrased version. Of all the guys on the team, he's definitely a guy that just needs to rip it. Crash it, rip it, bang it. Cogliano seems to be the fastest way to disrupt any chemistry between any random two wingers. Andrew "Circuit Breaker" Cogliano. 17:51, -2, and OFFICIALLY open for trade to anywhere. I expect the Oilogosphere feels the same way at this point.

I would kill for a Horcoff right about now.

Thoughts on individuals after the hop.

Taylor Hall - Why am I starting with him? I don't know really, except to point out that it's been back to back rather weak efforts by the Sundance kid. He doesn't have it dialed up for whatever reason but one thing that cant be avoided is the fact that two weak games coincide with Ebs being down for most of that. We've seen how successful top level talents can be surrounded with buoys.

Theo Peckham - Yes, I know he tripped and fell for the fifth red wings goal. That was a taste of what you are going to get every once and a while with the Mulatto Mauler. Otherwise I think he was the Oilers best Dman. Even with a goal in 21:07, and he still smashes stupid Swedish faces when they try fancy-dancy crap on him. If he could add an offensive element to his game... Beauty.

Kurtis Foster - He usually makes bad decisions with the puck, and any kind of speed play leaves him and his elephantine strides behind. I loved the fact that with Hemsky back he should be handling the puck less, and we saw that in the limited PP opportunities that the Oilers had tonight. I think I wouldn't be so annoyed if he was a 6/7 guy, but right now he's top 4 and that makes me sad.

Sam Gagner - He's got 8 points in his last 9 and he continues to show that his lack of athleticism will not deny him from regularly contributing offence. This was always the book on the guy: off the charts hockey sense and patience and limited physical gifts were going to yield a cerebral player that would do well with strong line-mates. That seems to be the 'Tavares Problem' - a lack of raw physical gifts requires you to rely on teammates a bit more than a burner like Gaborik would need to. 1-1-2 +1 in 16:56. Cogliano somehow played more minutes than both Gagner and Hemsky.

Ales Hemsky - Still a bit of rust on the guy but still had two helpers in about 17 minutes of icetime. Hemsky has definitely not hit his stride but its not like he's playing with allstars right now. His linemates have been shuffled almost every game since he got back and I'd like to see him get regular linemates, injuries permitting. It would also be nice for Hemsky to start shooting again. He's only averaging about two shots per game and I'd love to see him with at least another shot per. That might be the elusive PPG Hemsky we've all been making love to in our hockey fantasy pools.

Liam Reddox - Wow, is he ever miles better than O'Marra. Not only was he creating, he was also easily as defensively responsible as the Japan'er. He only got 10 EV minutes but I truly think Reddox is at the peak of his game right now, meaning a top flight fourth liner or a serviceable third liner. His drop pass to Brule for the first goal was full marks and he's a tenacious forechecker with his built in warp drive. Red Ox > Crap Train.

Jeff Petry - The old Petry dish took a positive step forward in this game. There were a couple of puck separation plays that he made that reminded me of Ryan Whitney (when Ryan's not looking like a porn star on pain-killers). There was a nice offensive foray when he made the Red Winger do a yabbo-doo at the red line and he walked top slot for a shot (that was blocked, but he was in the scoring zone for sure). He also had an (ill-advised due to lack of traffic) absolute rifle slapshot that Osgood butchered up into the stands because of its pure power. I don't know about the toolbox but those are some shiny f--king power tools in that box.


A bullet list of things I'd like to see:
  • Crappy Train demoted/waived/sent on errands in Bangladesh
  • Less Foster and Vandermeer (overload Smid if you have to)
  • Cogliano traded (D/C prospect please)
  • Less mentioning of 'growing pains' - we get it already
I half expected after the Oilers stormed back to tie it up in the third (gee when have we seen that before) that we would lose it in the extra frames anyways, so while losing in regulation stung, I had already pre-flagellated in preparation for the incoming SO/OT loss. At some point you gotta blame the coach for the lack of pop in the starts of the Oilers. I don't care if he has to spike the Gatorade with crystal meth, he needs to get a better, faster, more emotionally involved opening frame from the Oilers. How hard can it be to pump up a team full of rookies and tweeners?


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