Saturday, February 12, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 55: We Have a Weiner

I imagine this is what a Dustin Penner off-day looks like
I contemplated several titles to properly capture my dissatisfaction at the ineptitude of the Oilers this afternoon, but quickly realized it wasn't going to be possible inside the confines of a single row of sensationalized lettering. I settled for something kitschy when thoughts of a 'The Toilet Bowl' headline picture left me a bit uneasy.

When you go up against a team that sports one of the worst goaltending tandems in the league (Elliot ranks 39th in the league for sv%), and the very worst goal differential, on home ice, well you expect the Oilers might be able to flex that powerful core that many expect to start emerging sometime soon. The kids are well acclimatized, the D and forward lines somewhat stable, and arguably the worst team comes-a-calling; I expected better from this Oilers team. I expect better.

The usual apologist fuckery applies, yes, they got closer to that coveted first place draft choice, and yes, if you are someone who salivates at the thought of moving Pennertration out of town for a couple of picks you are happy to see him at just about a dead-ringer pace for 30 on the year. Otherwise I was not very happy with anyone's game outside of maybe Hemmer and perhaps Vandermeer.

The ref's decided to interject in the games flow quite frequently, and to be honest it doesn't matter which way the sword is swinging, the Oilers still manage to hurt themselves. Case and point, the loss today: whether it was lost momentum on a goal-starved PP or the obvious game changer PK goal against, they both set the table for a rookie mistake finisher.

Adding to my frustration was that dynamic duo on the CBC mic's. I figure if we got to overtime the hyperbolic arc of bullshit being spun for Kovalev by Mark Lee would have reached truly epic proportions:
Mark Lee: And here's The Magnificent Wizard himself, Kovalev, with the puck, a sensational climax of a Hockey Playing God -- Kovalev cuts into the zone with such grace -- UNBELIEVEABLE! HE'S FLOATING IN THE AIR, WHAT MAGNIFICENCE, WHAT SHEER AND UTTER BEAUTY -- MY HEART IS GALLOPING IN MY CHEST, KEVIN, LIKE A GIRL WHO RIDES A MAJESTIC STALLION FOR THE FIRST TIME ON THE GLEN FIELDS DURING A LIGHT RAINFALL *cries*
Kevin Weekes: Absolutely, Mark, absolutely.

Every time that cotton-for-nuts ice sculpture touched the puck Mark Lee had to drop out some ludicrous adjective like 'Magnificent' or 'Wonderful'. Yea, his 26 points are really burning up the league. That's 5 million bucks of slacker Russian with 13 goals in 50 games, and his points per 60 of 1.28 is in line with Peter Regin, Jesse Winchester, and Nick Foligno. The only good thing is that his 35+ contract comes off the books after this year, unlike some other Russian who is making a touch less to suck a little more. Speaking of Khabibulin, he apparently set the post-lockout record for consecutive losses by a goaltender (14) with the .833 effort tonight (20 for 24).

Long story short, the Oilers bungled a lengthy 5v3 again, managed a meager output of 18 shots on a replacement level goaltender, turned it over a ton, and simply did not play with enough guts to deserve a different fate.

Individuals after the hop.

Taylor Hall - Was one of his least effective games as an Oiler, even going back to his first dozen. He played 18:30 with 4:41 of that on the PP and managed a shot count equal to the Oilers playoff chances. I think he skated well, but did not manage the puck on his stick with much foresight. For a guy with indy-car wheels and a bullet-train for a shot I don't expect he's going to turn up many zero shot performances in the future. He hasn't scored in 4, and only has 1 in his last 7 - hopefully the Cogliano move between him and Ebs has not stalled his 25/25 season I was hoping for. He still finished +1, but I know we can see more of the kid. I want to see a couple games where he takes over, like he did versus his first tilt in T.O. (and was held pointless, ironically).

Jim Vandermeer - He's kind of been an unsung hero recently for the Oilers, playing some of the safest, hardest hockey of any of our defenders. That bullshit call by the zebras in the first was a classic example of what Vandermeer brings to the table: hard nosed, simple defensive play packed into an effective body check. Peckham's edge seems to have slipped a bit recently, and Vandermeer has taken up most of the slack in my estimation. He was +1 in 15:40 with a shot, and just by my eyes he still be body-movin.

Jeff Petry - His mistake pretty much put the noose on the game for the Oilers. I will say that I still am pretty high on the kid. For all of Weeke's brutal in-game observations, their constant gushing about Petry is not completely without merit. He is extremely cool with the puck on his stick and will often make the extra play to place himself into a better position to make an outlet pass or shoot a puck from the blueline. This impresses me in two ways: one, that he has the foresight to be able to hold on (at risk of a defensive bungle) to improve his ability to drive offence, and two, that he has the nerve to do it in the offensive zone, when it would be much safer to simply pop the puck back in. He's the complete dynamic defenceman that needs to be schooled a bit more on NHL Risk/Reward 101. For a rookie who played over 21 minutes, including more than 5 on the PK, I was basically happy with his performance even with the gaffe.

Sam Gagner - He finished -3 and only played 10:21 EV minutes, indicating his EV afternoon left a lot to be desired. His line managed 5 shots (about a third of the shot output), but was a combined -6. A couple of smurfs up to no good. They need to produce more, it's pretty simple. They managed no real sustained attack in the offensive zone the whole game, and this is probably part of the reason Gagner only got 14 total minutes. After a decent stretch, he's pointless in his last 3 and -4 with 3 shots. Comon Gagner, this is supposedly your time of the year.

Linus Omark - The Meatballian One can really be invisible sometimes when he's not handling the puck in the offensive zone. Since they were not getting a lot of puck control (shitty out-letting/zone-penetration or Ottawa pressure, take your pick) Omark did not look especially good this afternoon. Kreuger agreed with me, as only Reddox, Fraser, JFJ, and Jones received less EV minutes (Omark had 9:26). He should be tearing up the PP should he not? If he's a real-deal dynamic talent we just have to see more from him when he's getting 4:22 on the PP. His defence in its current state will not support his play unless he's potting on the PP.

Nikolai Khabibulin - To be perfectly honest, there was not a lot he could do in this game. Nothing he could do on the Petry bounce or the STUPENDAWSOMAZING Kovalev pass to Peter Regin goal, and Michalek and Butler's goals were HQ scoring chances. Michalek's popped it in  close range after his first shot ricocheted off a blue leg (which Khabi reacted to), and Butler's goal hopped off a blue stick in the low slot to beat Khabi blocker side. Aside from some kind of Wundersafen I am willing to bet good nickels that no other goalie in the world would have made a lick of difference had he faced the same shots.

Theo Peckham - Sometimes we trot out the 'good when we don't notice them' catch phrase, but generally this is not true for Peckham. If he's not bringing the thunder-god to the opponents and screwing on his meanest mauler face, he doesn't really bring enough of the finesse game to make someone who appreciates outscoring really fall in love with him. He looks like a serviceable 7th guy in such instances. Fear is a tangible thing against the toughest NHL'ers, and Peckham has slowly but surely built up a bit of a reputation around the league (according to Ray Ferraro) that gives him some bonus points when defending against the less hearty opponents. Let's hope he doesn't forget clobberin' time once and a while (Theo "The Thing" Peckham anyone?).

Dustin Penner - He took a little step forward last game, and took another little step forward again today. I can officially say he's exited my personal dog house, and with his scoring projecting to just a shade below 30 we once again are reminded why a big body like him can look so fucking good sometimes. He can bowl strong professional athletes over and still demonstrate enough raw ability to pocket a pair of red-paint marked pucks. I think the consensus coming out of the Oilogosphere is that if there had to be movement, they would prefer it to be Hemsky rather than Penner. I think I'm on that ballot now, as well. If only Captain Consistency would kick his ass once and a while.

Ales Hemsky - Speaking of the silky-smooth Czech, I have found that a lot of his gumption has been missing recently in Hemsky's game. When is the last time we saw Hemsky as the primary force in the Oilers offensive attack? Sure, he still puts up points, but when you pass as well as Hemsky does, its inevitable. What we need from Hemsky going forward is not just passing, though, We need an aggressive, dynamic forward who can deposit 20 per 82 and challenge Dmen with a couple of ridiculous dangles. I checked with my official stats octopus and he was telling me that Hemsky's dirty dangles per 60 (DD/60) was only at 0.46 this season, compared to averaging almost 1.75 over the last few years. I want dirty dangles, damn it!


I don't think there were a lot of positive signs in the Oilers game today - flat-out the lost season was writ in the faces of the Oilers and demonstrated on the ice. Against the leagues worst goal differential, on-an-11-game losing streak, team to boot. I've never looked forward to a sweaty dude at a mic so much since Chris Farley passed away.


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