Friday, February 18, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 58: One For The Money, Two For The Show

After a relatively dour and acerbic center section, the Oilers have finally managed to achieve a small modicum of success. Les Habitants are not a team that are in the leagues upper echelon, but they certainly play a consistent enough game to give them full value for their 69 points and are all but assured a berth in the floppy, sloppy east. The Oilers got out-shot, and marginally out-chanced after a strong first period, but in the end, we managed to put away our chances while Montreal flubbed breakaways, cross-crease slam jobs, and a couple of twister sessions in the Oilers crease. I think it's quite likely that if the Habs had potted even one of those grade A chances I'd be back to status quo here, but they didn't and again I get to talk about some positives.

On the positive side of the ledger was my favorite gap-toothed baby-faced assassin, Jordan "Upstairs in a Hurry" Eberle. It was tough to tell from the replay whether he actually did snipe his goal top cheese or simply seven hole on Price, but regardless, his presence of mind to flip it up in tight was classic goal-scorer's instinct. Since coming back from injury on February 4th, he's posted 4-4-8 +2 in 8 games, while averaging about 17 minutes and 2 and a half shots per game. You kind of get the feeling that maybe if Eberle hadn't missed 13 contests from a slimy Kotalik czech, we'd be talking about Eberle as a final ballot Calder guy. As it stands it would take a momentus run of basically PPG play by Eberle to have a shot, which is unlikely on a lousy Oilers team, but still he remains one of the few reasons to watch Oilers hockey.

Hemsky continued his strong play as well, moving about the ice in an economical fashion, and once the Hab's D-core started slowing down he basically had his way with the puck and where it was to be delivered. I've said it a million times, but I will re-iterate: if Tambellini is going to move Hemsky this trade deadline, it needs to be for an overpay. In other words a solid, young roster player, a top prospect, and a 1st rounder. Will teams pony such a package up? I don't think it's too likely, but if a bidding war breaks out, who knows. According to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN, a GM said that Hemsky and Penner are in play, but Tambellini is wanting way too much. I really hope that is the case, as he's been a top 20 scorer since the lockout with a pretty awesome 324 points in 353 games (0.92 ppg) while facing tougher opposition.

Finally, the top performer for the game was the Slovakian Wall (notice I'm upgrading his country with every positive performance). In a twilight zone moment, Khabibulin played nearly as well as he had at the start of the season (remember the 4 zip drubbing at the start with the Eberle ultra-shortie? Talk about a million years ago). There was a lot of buzzing-bee-fucks in the Oilers crease tonight in the form of some midget Canadiens and a couple of larger variety wasps. I'm not sure the Habs goal should have even counted, as Pouliot gave Khabibulin a pretty good jimmy-leg while crashing the crease, essentially jarring the puck free. Anyways, he made a shitload of grade A stops and even though I've basically lost all hope in him becoming any kind of consistent, stalwart goalie (see: approach contract value), he definitely has the ability to pull the old magic out of his ass once and a while. If the Oilers are going to play spoilers, he could have a big part in that with a mini-run of above-average performances.

It was an entertaining hockey game overall, and after swilling from the bottom of the Oilers spit-jug for a dozen games or so, it was refreshing to get a free-flowing balls-to-the-wall game on the ice with minimal interference from the striped jailors. I'll be the first to suggest that with the Hab's D-core that decimated by injury they either need to make some moves or pull another rabbit out of their ass come playoff time, as they do not look to be in a good place to stop even the most anemic offence (see: The Edmonton Oilers).

Individuals after the hop.
Magnus Paajarvi - Probably had the most underrated game out there. He made a power-charge on a 3 on 2 where he completely owned the right-side defender and almost jammed in a beautiful goal. Whenever I iso his play, I always notice how damn smart he is with the puck. He already has top instincts when it comes to two basic things: maintaining puck possession and using his speed to defend. Paajarvi always seems to know when it's safe to move the puck backwards versus forwards, and slowly he's starting to assert himself a bit more, as seen by his slowly improving Corsi Rel. It was -7.2 about a month ago, and -4.2 today. He's 0-0-0 -2 in his last 6, but I don't think he's been playing worse at all. He's simply getting about 3-4 less minutes per game (~13 tonight) because of how well the top line has been playing, as well as the return of Eberle. Amongst all forwards he has the 5th toughest quality of competition and ranks 6th in +-ON/60. Great numbers for a rookie on a piss-poor defensive team. Oh and that breakaway pass to Omark in the third was an absolute creamsicle (a frozen treat; or alternatively a combination of the phrase 'made me cream' and a delicious popsicle).

Jordan Eberle - I already spent a full paragraph on this sexy man-child, but I will reiterate: I love this guy. He's a little leprechaun on the ice, always trying to get his pot o' gold. He still has a bit of physical maturation ahead of him, but even more importantly, mental maturation that will lead to a higher efficiency. He already plays the game at a very high level in the offensive zone and has not been a bust defensively either (his +-ON/60 is about the same as Hall and PRV). On raw potential he strikes me as a guy who can clearly pot 40+40 if he's got a dynamic player flanking him. Thankfully, we have buckets of those.

Theo Peckham - Someone texted me moments after AK46 walked Peckham in the first: your "solid shut down defender" just lost his jock. It was a jab taken after I had made comments along those lines to this person the night previous. Yea, he did get walked. He got walked on the Dallas PP goal on Tuesday as well. He's never going to be a fluid skater that will be able to isolate and dominate speed-demons in the NHL. Where he excels is being a stiff belting to the lily-white behinds of forwards in the league who go into corners with him. Where he is valuable is when he's throwing his big frame in front of booming slapshots fearlessly. I think even my pessimistic friend would have to admit after the AK walk-job that Theo played a solid, if unspectacular game. Every team needs one, and I'm hoping we've found our guy in Peckham. He finished with a point, a +2, along with 2 shots over 21 and a bit. A perfect scoreline for the Mulatto Mauler.

Taylor Chorney - What in the world is going on? I thought this guy was supposed to be ruined by the callous, idiotic Oilers management? I don't really agree with the idea - how exactly do you ruin someone? So what if a player gets put in a tough situation, can't they still learn and grow? Regardless of that long, and potentially heated debate, Chorney played a really - and I would say surprisingly - good game. He finished with over 21 all-purpose minutes and had 4 shots, including a couple of offensive forays that showed he not only has he advanced since being underwater last season, he also does not have his confidence 'ruined' by those events events. I'll be the first to admit I wrote the little dude off, but he could be a great guy in the 5-6 slot who could sop up some PP time as long as he could be a positive defender against 3rd liners and their ilk.

Linus Omark - A somewhat diminutive game from the diminutive Swede. He had once solid, bulldog shift that drew a penalty, as well as a great breakaway try, but otherwise had an unremarkable 1 shot, 12 minute game. I'm rooting for him, but it's pretty clear that Gagger, Balls and P-Vag are firmly in the third line role while the Hall and Horcoff lines are rolling (and they are, currently). He still basically has good scoring rates (same pts/60 as Eberle, 2.12) and seems to be good for at least one XXX scoring chance per game. There simply is only so much icetime to go around.

Ryan Jones - His 15.5% shooting percentage and team-worst Corsi Rel among regulars (-15.2) still has me believing he will not be able to duplicate this success in the long term. That said, I still can't help but like the Guy. He has a great personality, and perhaps even more importantly, great hair. Everyone knows that some nice silky locks improve the teams chance of getting a championship (what is long-hair Brady's record like anyways?). If a team ignores his facts and wants to give you something solid in return at the deadline, I think you make the deal, but with a heavy heart. It was a typical night for him, 1 goal on two shots in about 10 minutes. He certainly has been efficient this year.

Nikolai Khabibulin - He went 36 for 37, or .973, and it wasn't just the volume that he faced, but the quality. The Habs had plenty of really good opportunities to score, even in the first period that the Oilers fairly handily dominated. Almost at any point if he had crumbled (as all walls eventually do), the Oilers could have easily fallen back into the same old doldrums. The tough part is I have no idea what this means for the Oilers. He's clearly not out goaltender for the future, and we'd like to know if Dubnyk is. We also need to get a bit of momentum on our side, so I guess you have no choice but to let Khabi play while he's hot. Once he slips up go back full guns with the giraffe. First star tonight by CBC's eyes, and I have to agree.


We are still firmly in last place (god damn it Ottawa, how can you be this bad), so a win here or there does nothing to jeopardize our draft position. In circumstances like that, I can heartily cheer on the Oilers with no guilt at slipping out of the coveted top drafting spot. At this point playing the spoiler role is just fine with me - ideally we'd get a chance to crush the Flames playoff hopes. Circle April 6th on your calendar, ladies and gentlemen. In a season of dismal failure, that will be about as good as a Stanley Cup.


Post a Comment