Friday, January 14, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 42: Pushback

You could see right from the moment the puck kissed ice that the Oilers were not going to go easy in this one. Laddy and Pecks got the flippers off awful quick when one of the opposing fishies swam into the home crease. I like this kind of stuff, not only does it send a message to the whole team that there's going to be pushback in the game, it also gets a lot of them emotionally involved. The earlier that emotion finds its way into the Oilers game, the more success they tend to typically have. Peckham remains a Hammer out there, taking shit from no one and nailing anyone who gets too close. One particularly sweet play was Peckham crashing the Jumbo Jet to the ice behind the net and feeding him a healthy diet of cross-check sandwiches to his lower ribcage. It positively warmed my heart.

In terms of why the Oilers handily beat the Sharks, it was a consistent back-check from our forward group, amazing goaltending from Dubnyk, and finally, timely scoring from our most skilled forwards. On a night where Hemsky nets 4 apples, and Hall scores a pair, the back check and overall defensive presence of the forward group will definitely be overlooked, but they covered for any mistakes our Dmen made and were full marks for keeping the Oilers on the rails towards a win.

Dubnyk was absolutely outstanding tonight, making 41 of 43 saves (.953), and only allowing a triple-X goal by Jumbo Joe and then a junk time 6 on 4 tap in. The rest of the game the Jolly Giant was a mausoleum door in net. Unshakable, cool, and most of all, big. To my eye his angles were spot on, and I honestly think that some teams are actually paying attention to his burgeoning ability - drawing up strategies designed to thwart big, good goalies (anti-Luongo tactics). His 0.922 save percentage currently has him ranked 9th in the league, and I tell you what, as good as Khabibulin has looked at times, he never made it look as natural as the Doobatron does. In the beginning I wasn't sure about the decision to keep Dubnyk, but the coaching staff clearly knew what was up, and Dubnyk is playing a sensational brand of hockey.

Hemsky finally reached top gear and his freewheeling play was the primary catalyst for much of the nights offence.Sometimes he just has that glint in his eye, and nothing short of the hand of god will be able to stop him it seems. He finished 0-4-4 +4 with two shots in 16:24 of icetime. He also nearly had two other in-close chances that he could have passed into the net but he missed both by a couple inches. We've seen Hemmer go on streaks playing at this high level before, so lets hope the Pardubice Prince is primed and ready to go. Maybe he's just juiced he's on the Allstar team...

Taylor Hall has a 3 point night (2-1-3 +3) over 17:21 TOI, and his 5 shots were tied for most on the team. It was his second game in the C spot, and he upped his FO% from 38% to 40%. At least it's moving in the right direction, but clearly he's going to need some time to work the kinks out. Otherwise I was happy with his game, but his first goal was a near thing (I, like Hall, actually didn't think it was in at first), and his success was more a product of his tenacity and line-mates than his natural gifts. Not that it's bad for him to get a little boost now and then, but we've seen Taylor play more inspired hockey and get worse results. Such is the game I guess.

In terms of the opposition, I thought they played us fairly evenly, even though they out shot us every period by 5, 5, and 4 shots. It's hard to envision a team like theirs dominating even one playoff series, and considering they have been WAY better on paper in the past, it might just be another disappointing season in the ol' Tank. Teams that can match up with Thornton in the center position defensively (see: NOT the Edmonton Oilers) are going to make life very difficult for the Sharks who have a 16th ranked offence in GF/G. Their Dcore seems to have no real anchor, and as much as I like Boyle he's not my ideal #1 all-situations Dman. He's -13 this year and is a minus player over his career. In other words, some of the Oilers looking good in the offensive zone is due to the Sharks mediocre defence and even more so, suspect goaltending (Niemi is .907 and Nittymaki is .901). Nittymaki looked like he was doing an epileptic break dance on Penner's goal, for instance.

Thoughts on some individuals and a conclusion after the hop.

Linus Omark - Since I went over the three stars in some depth in the body of this post, I will start taking a look at some of the secondary players in the win. This was an inconsistent game for Linus. He had three lousy penalties in ~17 minutes of icetime, including one where he lost the trailing Dman in the slot and his mildly effective hooking netted him two in the box but didn't really stop the scoring chance. I do really like him with the puck on his stick, and his patience and vision remind me a lot of Hemsky. He teamed up with Hemmer for his goal, a nice little greaseball goal down low off of a Hemsky shot that rang off the post. It's exactly the kinds of goal you would see him score in the KHL, and as long as he remains a fixture on the PP I expect he will pop a few more grease nuggets into the net.

Andrew Cogliano - Played a useful little game, and his goal was a great under-the-bar shot that maybe the goalie should have had. His 16 minutes of ice included 4 on the PK, and if he keeps playing like this perhaps his days in E-town were not as numbered as I surmised. I never doubted he could be a useful player, but when he's not contributing offence he is no better than your typical Reddox (wheels, grit, PK ability). As long as he keeps putting cargo in his boxcars he will definitely have a place on the team.

Tom Gilbert - Full marks for Tom tonight, and his +3 with 3 shots reflected that - he was a solid presence on both sides of the puck and ice. He didn't really look over matched at any point, and that isn't easy when the Sharks have some top-flight shooters and Gibs plays 30 minutes. Six and a half of those was on the PK, and he also logged another 5:28 on the PP. Truly one of those solid all-around efforts that we've seen from Tom in the past (and netted him his 4M contract). It would take a pretty amazing second half to be full value contract wise this season, but he's off to a good start in that regards anyways.

Theo Peckham - I think he's proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's going to be an NHL regular at this point. He played 21:22, second most amongst Dmen on the team, and also the most PK minutes at around 7. What is interesting is both Petry and Smid had almost 3 more even minutes of ice time, indicating that he was playing #4 minutes at evens. I wouldn't look too much into this, as he's still very early in his NHL career, but at least at the moment it looks like the coaching staff has more faith in Smid, not to mention...

Jeff Petry - He played basically the same amount of EV time (17:27) as Smid and Gilbert and even mixed in a minute and change on both the PK and PP. It's pretty clear that the coaching staff has quickly become comfortable with Petry playing in a regular rotation. I continue to like his game, for all the same reasons as I have been gushing about before. His first pass looks to be not only NHL quality, but top-notch NHL quality. He consistently displays good movement off the puck and I really like where his head is at when he touches the puck in the offensive zone. He made one major gaffe that led to a high quality scoring chance (passed the puck up the middle, Don Cherry would have a fit), but for a raw rookie, he looks NHL capable. Unless there is some sudden regression, he's big show ready.

Magnus Paajarvi - He finished with an A and +2 in 16:12 on-ice, and had another huge outside burst that led to a scoring chance. One thing that worries me a bit is he CONSTANTLY seems to have a hard time getting shot velocity. And I don't only mean on his after-burner beat-downs, I mean when he has the puck in the slot or against the boards, he rarely seems to get it on net with any velocity. This is a product of him needing a bit of extra space to charge his shot up, and his general lack of wrister velocity while moving with the puck. I don't think I am the only one seeing this. That said, it's not a huge concern, as it's something he should, will, and can work on. When you compare his release to Hall's, for instance, it is like Smytties slapshot compared to Webers. The last thing we need is an heir to the Muffin-Shot throne.


The Oilers played a good road game, feasted on sub-par Sharks goaltending, and got 5 star 'tending themselves. That is a winning formula regardless of the opponent. So ends a long winless streak, and begins the Oilers trek into the second half. There are bound to be some god-awful games along the way, but this wasn't one of 'em. Hopefully they can give the jaded, bitter Oilers fan (and their optimistic brethren) something to cheer about on the way to the draft lottery.


Post a Comment