Sunday, January 16, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 44: In My Mind I'm Clapping

And it's true, in my mind, there is a palpable excitement as the Oilers continue to free-fall towards a shot at two dynamic swedes, a Burnaby-Joe clone, and a gangly francophone center. The problem is, my heart is along for the ride, and in pain - it's painful to watch your team continue to work hard and lose another winnable game. Separating your heart from your head, well... Let's just say matters of the heart usually don't make sense.

You could not help be a little heart-broken as the Oilers miffed another game where all that was really required was a single power play goal to consolidate a fairly strong effort. It was dangled in front of our noses: down a goal, a 6 on 3 with a good half minute. Exciting, yes, but when the dust settled the Ducks were off to the nearest Chucky Cheese for soda pops and laughs, and the Oilers, heading nowhere, were a slumped over, dull-eyed lot.

It was an evenly played game, both teams looked like NHL squads for the most part, and the even shot totals (28 each) reflected the balanced opportunities and power play time (Ducks had an extra minor). Of course all of tomorrows main-stream media, e-ink, and blood-painted walls will point towards the 2 to 0 PPG advantage the Ducks enjoyed and they would be right. It was a big factor in the final outcome, there is no denying it. But when the Oilers PP goes 0 for 38 - 11 games in a row, it's not just the elephant in the room, the room is made of elephants. In other words, shit is simply getting statistically weird for it to be so bad for so long. The Oilers have been playing much more solid hockey of late, and yet the PP just continues to look worse and worse.

I guess I would be remiss if I simply pointed out the problem and didn't offer some thoughts on a solution. I can tell you one thing, I was happy to see Foster off the #1 PP. Since it's so abysmal, I suggest a couple things:
  • Hall on the point. Kid's got a great shot, and seems to have trouble handling it on the half wall currently.
  • Use four forwards and overload PP #1: Hall, Hemsky, Omark, Penner, Gilbert
  • Do not use Smid on the PP #2: PRV, Gagner, Jones/Cogs, Petry, Foster/Chorney
Nothing too earth shattering, but a little mix up can't hurt right?

In terms of positives, well there was zero question in my mind, this was Paajarvi's best NHL game, bar none. Magnus was magnificent, and using his powerful skating stride to take the puck pretty much wherever he pleased. You know that moment when something finally just clicks in? Like when you were 11 in the shower and then after applying the soap... Wait, bad example. OK, you know when you were with Sally in the back of your parents four door and she... Let's just say that for whatever reason Paajarvi moved with great purpose tonight, and he just oozed the nonchalance of a skill forward who had the game spread out before him like a lusty maiden.

Continuing in the positive vibe was the Swedish Swashbuckler and Samwise. All three linemates were supporting each other with excellent fore-checking, passing, and off-the-puck movement. They all played approcimately 18 to 19 minutes, and combined had 4 points (both goals), and were +6 as a group. On a night were the entire top line looked flat, and Hemsky couldn't buy a pass from an ETS vendor, it was a good thing too. You simply can't have successful one line teams in the NHL anymore, if you want to be elite, you need secondary scoring. God knows the Oilers have a long way to go until they have Kesler-like results on their second line, but at least nights like this stave off the 40 of rye and deep-throating a .357.

There is really only one other thing to mention before getting to individuals. Before looking I was pretty sure that MacIntyre had one of the highest penalties taken per 60 in the league. Sure enough, for players who have played at least ten games, MacIntyre is #2 league wide (4.6 Penalties taken per 60 minutes of play), behind only Trevor Gilles (5.6) a similarly useless bag of shit and sandpaper that is helping the NYI dial up another season of suck. If he's not Karate Chopping the assholes who are knee-bombing our kids, I ask you, what use does he have? To help us practice our PK more often? Thankfully he only got 2 minutes of icetime tonight - which would have mirrored the time he spent in the sin bin if Luca Sbisa hadn't scored the first Anaheim goal during Smak's dunce-time. They might as well have let him out early for good behavior since he's not beating up anybody.

Individuals and a wrap after the jump.

Magnus Paajarvi - I don't care that Gagner got the cursory out of town third star (and sportsnet's second as well), Paajarvi was my pick for best player of the game, and his five shots and goal should help my case. Best game of his NHL career actually. There was one play where I saw him get the Michael Jordan tongue out right before chipping around a Dman and easily wheeling past him to retrieve the puck in the corner. If he can ever get his shot sorted out, I'm going to get a Paajarvi poster and make a hole where the mouth-- Actually nevermind. He's a good lad. Enjoyable Ice Soccer from Panjarven tonight which culminated in a most impressive score shot.

Sam Gagner - After a couple of brutal games in a row, Gagner decided to get back onto what I'm assuming is going to be another point streak with a goal and an apple tonight. Call me now for ya free readin'. Anyways, he delivered the same crafty game that allows him to slip sneaky business from behind the red, make nice button hook looks and hit the trailer, and generally make more plays then The Situation in a tranny bar. He's generally good with the puck on his stick in both cycle and rush situations - perhaps even puzzlingly he may be better on the cycle. He can actually outperform his second line matchups once and a while as well. Not too often, but as long as Gagner has another two growth years the statistics say he should have, I suspect he'll be able to outperform secondary matchups on a regular basis.

Linus Omark - He is a tenacious fore-checker, and his propensity for moving his body into the scoring horseshoe (slot and surrounding area) is a great instinct for a scorer to have. He's been basically a scorer all of his pro career, usually putting up as many goals as assists, so I would expect his totals will balance out a bit as long as his playing time stays in the 15+ range. He's too good not to at least hit double figures in G's. He's feisty in the sense that he goes into tough spots and is perfectly willing to get corner-muddy even with a monolithic defenceman like Andy Sutton.

Jeff Petry - I know I've been giving him a regular tongue-bath on this blog, but damnit, he's certainly looked a lot better than I think anyone could have expected considering his earlier struggles in the AHL. I was prepared to see a certain rawness in his play, and that guys like Smid would be clearly separated from him (see: more developed). What has happened is Petry looks like a regular. I know the sample size is small, but if he can play solidly on one of the worst defensive teams in the league it bodes well for his future. Clearly we don't know what the picture will look like when he gets the top tier assignments, but so far he's really been one of the most surprising Oilers of the year. He played 14/6/3 (EV/PP/SH) for about 23 minutes of total ice time, and finished -1 with 2 shots. That was the second most minutes of anybody, so I think Renney is seeing what the Petry dish is growing. That double pad stack to stop a goal was also a pretty fantastic play. I think Khabibulin owes Petry a beer-- Scratch that, probably not the best idea.

Liam Reddox - Like I've stated in the past, I think we are near the peak of Reddox and his abilities. I'm not saying he will be worse in the future (or even not better), but I think especially physically this is the best version of Reddox we are ever going to get, and this is an effective devil's child. He had 5 shots in about 15 minutes of ice, and is just so much more effective than JFJ or anyone on the shit brigade line that you just have to wonder how he didn't make it over them at the start of the season. I can't imagine how hilarious Tambellini's comments will be if he sends down Reddox ahead of JFJ.

Nikolai Khabibulin - He was so-so. Flubbed the first Selanne goal, and actually had a fairly easy night except for a few uber high quality chances. Both goalies made mistakes in the end, so while the onus wasn't really on Khabibulin, once again if he's not perfect, the Oilers do not seem to have the formula to be successful.


The Oilers played a fairly solid game, all things considered. You don't become world beaters over night, and I suppose small victories, like not getting your panties blown off on the shot clock is a good place to start. Hall looked off, and may be entering the first slowdown coinciding with the ending of a junior season worth of effort. I'd say he likely needs an Eberle injection (nohomo) or perhaps another trip to the ACC where he's played two of his best games. For the other kid playing tonight, Paajarvi, well he might have just reached full NHL enlightenment. How's Kadri doing these days?


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