Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 54: Zebras on Parade

I imagine this is what a Tim Horton's drive-through
is like at 2 A.M. on acid
On the right here is a zebra messing shit up. Unfortunately zebra's tend to do that every once and a while, and this culminated in the two 10-minute misconducts given out at the end of the game. According to Tencer: Theo Peckham says he said 4 words to earn the misconduct. Horcoff says the offical refused to explain the calls on Peckham and Cogliano.

Now I've never reffed anything in my life, but I know what I think of professionals not being accountable for how they perform. It's bush-league. If you want to make calls on the ice, be the big man and own up to your decisions - say why, and say it confidently. How do you think players are going to react when the opposing team scores during their sixth consecutive PP, when clearly calls have been missed the other way? Guys like that, who don't give any slack after more or less completely hosing down one team, are not good NHL referees. You need to understand there is a certain give and take in the league while delivering a fair and balanced assessment of the action. In other words, next time they dole out two ten-minute misconducts, I'd hope the offending player would be intimating that they have given the ref's mother the ol' german sausage in the smokehouse. Otherwise put the whistles away, wussies - this isn't ringette.

Now with that off my chest (junk, garbage referees) I turn to the actual game. It was mostly a life-choked affair, the Oilers basically buoyed by the occasional burst of crowd noise and the odd bit of momentum from a bit of Hall dash or Paajarvi swagger or an Omarkian reverse-rag-doll. Chicago looked like a team that was in the playoff race, and desperately needed the two points.  By the end of the game the Oilers managed to turn it on and brought the shot total close, 24-26, but truly it was way too late, and Eberle's goal was nothing but some shuffling statistics and an already fading memory.

There were a couple of shifts (coinciding with stalled momentum due to Oilers killing penalties) where the Hawks obliterated the power on power matchup that I have been lamenting about. You'd think that a line with Horc, Hemmer, and Penner could at least give as good as they were getting, but for the first half of the game they were getting steam-rolled by Toews and Sharp. They were sutured up in their own zone, and couldn't even consistently clear the puck. In my opinion the big three are playing like the season is lost. You can see it in their compete level, it is a notch below anybody who is on a team desperate for points. Regardless of Penner producing some goals recently, this has been a brutal stretch for Hemsky and Horcoff especially. Horcoff is making a lot of fat dollars but when is the last time you saw him a) bring the puck over the opposing blue line, b) make a good pass in the offensive zone, or c) record a scoring chance? I honestly can't remember.

One other thing I noticed quite distinctly was the lack of smash-and-grab on the Oilers side tonight. There was very little physical engagement on the ice, and like I've pointed out a half-dozen times, the Oilers seem to go best when they get mad, get steamed, want blood. It might be more pronounced on a young team, when emotional highs can supercharge quads to give (the impossible) 110%. I think subconsciously all of the Oilers fans who are crying out for more team toughness have been conditioned to improved outcomes due to fisticuffs and in-game body-slams. That's why guys like Zorg are infintely more valuable than the JFJ's. Getting his furry yap running, and engaging the opposing middleweight in a polish hug-dance at least got some of the emotions up on the ice. I need to ask, who is going to be that guy in the forward ranks? Do we have one? Landeskog?

I thought the rookies played OK tonight: Dubnyk made a couple of great saves early to keep the game well in control, and after the Oilers settled down (and weren't killing penalties), the HOPE group did it's best to attempt to wrest the two-point meal away from the Hawk's talons. Each rook held the spotlight for a couple good chances in the game, and they remain the primary reason to tune into another broadcast of the Oilers getting spanked by a lineup of good or bad teams.

Individuals after the hop.

Devan Dubnyk - Tough night for double D's. He finished 22-25 for .880, but really didn't have much chance. There were two in close bang-bang plays and a breakaway, not especially stoppable any of 'em. I know Willis is harping on DD's inability to stop righties but honestly, I'm not really buying it. It's such a small sample size that I doubt he feel's to secure about it himself. Plus everyone knows, don't trust John's that have no 'h' in their name. Dubnyk will move on, not much more to be said there.

Jeff Petry - I have no idea what bump in the ice they were talking about that led to the Petry whiff for the Bickell breakaway goal. It looked like a straight up bring-your-daughter-to-the-slaughter fuck-up by a young Petry. What was interesting is that I was pretty sure he was going to be offside even shooting that puck, so even if he got there and made good contact it would have been whistled dead. I definitely don't think you should jump all over a kid for making one mistake; it happened at high speed and it was a gut decision that went the wrong way. Exactly the kind of stuff that an NHL tummy learns after a few years in the stable. He's had his time scaled back a bit recently (15:30+01:23+01:47=18:40, -1, 1 shot), but I'm still generally happy with the way he's playing.

Jim Vandermeer - He's probably playing his best hockey as an Oiler right now. This is great news with a trade deadline coming up and gritty veteran Dmen always in demand at that time. Some people have mentioned that if Staios was worth a third last year, Jimmy should be worth a second. Hold your horses people, that trade would never have went down if Sutter hadn't poured pipe cleaner in his corn-flakes that morning. So yea, he played a decent little game, finishing +1 with an apple in 18:44.

Taylor Hall - I've said it in the past, I think Hall could produce a more effective game right now if he threw his body weight around a bit more. Opposing Dmen know when a missile has lock and tend to bail out or make shitty passes when their radar starts going bat-shit like a scene out of Top Gun. Taylor Hall brings no such fear to Dman, as he's going for the Ninja rather than Barbarian angle. He's got a decent frame, and I think he needs to engage it more to take the next step in his development. I guess it didn't really matter to a guy like Mike Modano (he averaged about 45 pims in his career), but we've seen what a physical edge can do for a guy like Ovechkin. Nice tip on the Eberle goal though - he's looking like an absolute lock for 25/25 or so.

Jordan Eberle - Not his best game overall, it seemed like a lot of the tricky things he was trying just weren't getting the right bounce or the right touch from a teammate. For a guy like Eberle this is not a concern, since he's so relentlessly cerebral. He will continue to make those sexy little jukes and no-looks and reverse drags every game, and even though most get stopped, it seems like a couple of high Q chances always arrive off his stick. A lot more than Hemsky has been able to say recently.

Magnus Paajarvi - Bad move by coach Krueger to only play PRV for a shade over 10 minutes. He has been one of the Oilers best two way forwards, and it baffles me how a guy like Liam Reddox get's more EV minutes than Paajarvi. Heck even Jones got about one less shift than PRV. I like his ability to get the puck moving in the opposite direction almost every shift these days, and I seriously can't fathom why he was played so little at EVs tonight.

Linus Omark - His penalty drawing shift is a perfect little crystallized moment as to why I think Omark can be a very effective offensive player. He pisses people off with his diminutive stature and his other-worldly ability to keep the puck super-glued to his stick. I don't think we've seen anyone in the past decade on this Oilers squad who has been so tough to knock off the puck. Honestly it kind of reminds me of Forsberg (Hey, it's my fantasy, I can dream what I want), who I have always considered the toughest I've ever seen to take the puck away from. He's got alot of other similarities to that guy as well, although he's a few fjords shorter. Krueger was saying Omark still needed to learn that in the NHL the defensive focus was the player, not the puck. If he can apply that tenacity on the defensive side with even half the fervor, he's going to be a minimum 50-point outscoring, penalty-drawing factory. Even if he doesn't sort out his defence, he will always have defensively-challenged UFA destinations like NYI to ply his trade.


Not much to conclude really. Chicago played the ice-hockey game better. The ref's gave the Oilers minimal respect. The Oilers stepped closer to the #1 pick, but Ottawa is sure a barn-full of shit right now. For the average Oilers fan, the race to the drainpipe is about exciting as it's going to until the trading deadline.


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