Monday, February 7, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 53: Tower of Power

The above is Devan Dubnyk if he was turned into a medieval painting of Babel. He can be a cloud-scraping, marvel of a man when the opponent isn't handed gimme goals and flagrant rebounds from misplayed pucks. On a night where the Oilers clearly entered a visitor rink with little opening pep, his strong play was the lifeline the Oilers needed after dropping something like 20 of the last 24. The interesting thing about Dubnyk's night was my impression that his effort tonight was no better or worse than what he has been regularly delivering for the Edmonton Oilers. This is probably the best sign for Dubnyk: he can get shutouts without playing the best hockey of his career, something that seemed to be a little more necessary for a guy like Deslauriers (who I continue to have a soft spot for).

Two other guys in particular stood out to me in the victory, playing almost carbon copy games: Teddy Peckman and Jimmy "Bones" Vandermeer.

Theo played 23 minutes tonight (I imagine close to a season high), including over 5 on the PK which thwarted all of the Preds feeble attempts. Peckham also He-Man slammed Spaling to the ice with a few minutes left in the game to put a exclamation point on the postgame headline. Spaling made a kind of squishy-popping noise when his body pancaked into the ice, his flippers dangling from violence-shocked fingers - it was like an icecream van running into a cement truck.

Vandermeer played one of his best games as an Edmonton Oiler, going +2 with an apple (initially credited with the goal by eventually given to Eberle). He was giving stiff-arm jolts all over the ice (or as I like to say fisting dudes), I probably counted a half dozen forearm shivers that nuked unsuspecting Predator players. Aside from a brutal third period giveaway, he was full-marks for delivering a board-rattling, tongue-biting performance.

This was of course a product of the increased ice time the entire D core played when Gilbert missed the entire third period. The Sportsnet replay showed Gagner's knee slam into the top of a prone Gilbert's helmet. If I had to speculate on an injury, I would say minor concussion, but it's probably just as likely it was a precautionary thing. Let's hope so, as the last thing we need is our last big minutes Dman to go down with a concussion. That is unless you think the Oilers need help in securing the first overall draft pick.

edit: Joanne Ireland just confirmed it was a precautionary thing, and he is expected to have no lingering problems.

In terms of the offence up front, I think the Omark/Gagner/PRV line did a great job in generating momentum in the game - they were essentially the first positive shift in the entire game for the Oilers, and they really worked hard in both ends of the ice. I could be wrong, but tonight I saw as much tenacity with Omark on the wrong side of the puck tonight as we were used to seeing with him in the opponents zone. He's never going to be an elite defensive player (how many 5'9 guys have ever won the Selke? A lot of 5'11 guys it looks like) but if he sinks his bulldogs jaws into the defensive side of the game I figure he can at least saw it off with middling opposition. To be honest, I think he really needs to be more tenacious defensively if he wants to secure a top 6 role in the future. A good step tonight, as I'm sure the coaching staff has been preaching this exact message to him.

If the Gagner line provided the spark, the Cogliano line started the fire burning. The line finished with 2 goals and three apples, and a combined +6 with 8 shots. Eberle made a couple of beauty plays including a backhand dangle that led to a post and a near goal on the ricochet. His tip goal was classic Eberle, great hands in the right spot. Hall only had one shot, but he looked confident carrying the puck and seemed to defer more to his linemates in this game. Cogliano had been spotty offensively most of the season but he certainly has made a run at salvaging a season that was in danger of being a total disaster. Good for him, as earlier in the season I had mentally purchased him a one-way ticket to wherever-the-fuck after his generally dismal first half.

Maybe the best news in all of this is even with the Oilers win we are still dead last; the NYI's, NJD's, and TML's had done enough winning recently to allow us exactly a one point cushion to remain in the basement after a win. Let's hope this trend continues so that we can win without an ounce of guilt.

Jim Vandermeer - He was a really strong body out there tonight. I mean he just was clobbering dudes, and doing it in such a confident, nonchalant manner that the referee could not possibly assess him a penalty. It was like 'la dee da CLOBBER la dee da BREAK UP A PLAY' all night for him. I had a discussion a while back at his deadline worth, and I'd have to say that if he can play like that a bit more regularly, maybe we could even swing it into a third rounder (I was pegging him to be worth less). On that note, the Staios trade still puzzles the fuck out of me today. Sutter must have mixed medications or something.

Theo Peckham - He finished with 7 hits (I think), a +2 in 23 minutes exactly. Similar to Vandermeer, he was giving the cat-heads a rough ride all night, and was a total warrior on the PK. His puck movement will always cause him to hover around the top 4 barrier, but he can play top 4 in a pinch and not look at all out of place. I think ideally he's a third pairing guy with first pairing PK minutes who chips in the odd even tally. He's young, big, mean, and exactly what a gaggle of whippersnappers needs to police the opposing ogres and lunk-heads.

Andrew Cogliano - I guess I owe this guy an apology. I had already put him in the back of the rusty truck with all the chickens on his way across the Mexican border, forever to be lost in the back country of some slave-driving Mexican Coffee farm. Or at least that was what I saw his value dwindling to. Fortunately for the Oilers and fans of, Cogliano has managed to turn his season around somewhat. In his last ten he's gone 2-5-7 +1, and averaging about 16 minutes a game. Pretty solid minutes, and he has not been a defensive liability. His RFA resign price should be fairly low, and I imagine he will see a boost on a more proficient team that the Oilers could ice next year, Tambellini willing (or able).

Dustin Penner - I'll get slightly off his case tonight, as he had 6 shots, made a couple nice plays, including a backhand butterball between Rinne's legs. In general it just seems like 20 seconds into ever Dustin Penner shift the guy is already out of gas. The puck will get trapped somewhere in the shadows of his big 'ol limbs and it seems like he's not willing to muck with the puck a bit to get it into the scoring areas. I've seen him do it before - I mean to say I've seen him be 100% more tenacious with the puck. I don't know if it's laziness or conditioning (I'd say some of both), but truly I have been disappointed with his games for a while now. Tonight should have changed my mind, but I find myself only mildly swayed. He has another gear, and he's not engaging it for reasons unknown.

Taylor Hall - First of all, he got 12:19 TOI tonight, the least amount of ice since November 9th versus Carolina. I don't blame you if you don't remember the game, as you probably blocked that painful one out of your memory. Oilers got swamp-spanked 7-1, and Ebs and Hall were benched for pretty much the whole third for sub-par efforts. I didn't feel like Hall had a necessarily bad game, as Eberle and Cogs had the same amount of EV time. It was mostly because Hall didn't see much PP time (1 minute), and Renney ran the Horcoff and Gagner lines with about the same ice time. It's kind of ironic that Cogliano, Hall, and Eberle generated the majority of the offence in that light.

Jordan Eberle - I think there is always a strange moment of panic for a fan when a player that you remember as playing godlike before an injury comes back and looks like a pretty plain player. You always have these sneaking doubts that maybe you were getting on board your own hype train and riding it to overestimation town. That little bubble of anxiety popped when Eberle deked into the slot on his backhand and nearly potted one in off the post. In 12:08 he had 5 shots, and went 1-1-2 +2. That's a pretty nice rate of sexiness from the gap-toothed genius.

Hemsky, Horcoff, Penner - They had a couple of nice shifts in the game, and potted one as a line like this should. Frankly there wasn't many directions to go but up from last game, which featured a lot of lackadaisical play from the threesome. They should be a dominant force against all but the most tenacious checking lines. I truly think that some of this is simply a lack of energy at being a dead last team AGAIN. I don't care who you are or how much you make, that's gotta be a drag knowing that ultimately all of your remaining efforts this season are more or less for show.

Devan Dubnyk - I saved the best for last. Dubnyk was truly a tower of power tonight, and his calm, cool play is one of the brightest spots for the Oilers org during this dark dance into the basement dwellers of the league. His .917 save percentage is 18th in the league among regulars, and for a guy playing his first real NHL minutes I would hope we might see a bit of improvement as the Oilers hopefully move away from having the worst GA/G in the league and Dubnyk gets more confidence and experience. He's had a .920 or greater in 11 of his 19 starts this year. I'd say that's a pretty nice little stat.


Thank god the Oilers won tonight, as I was seriously running out of ways to talk about the Oilers ineptitude. I would have started to bust out carebears analogies and long esoteric rants about the benefits of organically grown hydroponic vegetables or something. Because god knows it was getting tiring to write about a loss every game, regardless of the improving draft status.

Long story short, Dubnyk crushed the first period with 16 saves in the first, and then the Oilers offence was very efficient against the leagues best home defence. Add all that up and you have the kids with some gold stars, and He Who Blots The Sun with his first career goose-egg and mantelpiece item.


Post a Comment