Thursday, February 24, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 61: Drive It Like You Stole It

The title is also the name of a cool Glitch Mob song
The young Oilers are a team that takes its fanbase on a stolen car ride: brief spurts of exhilarating excitement, separated by long stretches in the slammer of suckitude. Last night was more 'stolen car' than 'slammer of suck' to be sure. The Rooks were moving in straight lines, and my favorite pumpkin-head, Penner, finally got of the snide to eclipse J-F Jacques recent 1 assist in 5 games run. Devan Dubnyk also played a great game, reminding everyone that the kid has serious game, and constantly reminding me that I have looked foolish being a fanboy for Deslauriers. To my credit I was never anti-Dubnyk. I just thought Deslauriers had a lot of untapped potential if he figured out his mechanics a bit better.

But I digress; Even being outshot 39-31 (29-16 after the first two periods), I felt like the Oilers played the Avs fairly evenly after an underwhelming opening frame. This is borne out by the meticulous stats kept by Dennis King over at mc79hockey, which had the Oilers sawing off the scoring chances after getting hustled at evens 3 scoring chances to 9 in the first.

I alluded to the CHE line (I'm pronouncing it in my mind like the Argentine Marxist revolutionary) playing well, and that's kind of an understatement. The trio combined for 2 goals, 3 apples, a combined +6 with 10 shots. Against teams with weakened immune systems (or shoddy goaltending: hello Brian Elliot), the trio can really cause some havoc. They have been refining their cycle game and they all can pretty much do whatever is required in a down-low cycle. All have speed (Eberle can be deceptive in that regard), all of them can handle the puck (Eberle is a patient lil' wizard at times and Hall is improving all the time), and all of them have been opportunistic around the net recently. I'll probably never be sold on Cogliano as a long term scoring line center, but what can I say while they are producing well as a group?

Devan Dubnyk has almost been entirely a positive revelation this season. Not only has he been mechanically quiet in his net, he's also shown a lot of smarts in how he covers cross-crease and behind the net movement. He uses his big frame to cheat a little bit when covering wrap-arounds as he will drop down into a butterfly even as he's moving to cover the opposite side of the net. This might be a no-no for a smaller goaltender, but when you are a precursor to some kind of gigantism disorder, you present a difficult cliff-face to put a puck over. In the end, he got the doo-doo on his face for the Hejdookie goal (big men always seem to have bullets bouncing in off their building-sides), but otherwise his 38 of 39 (.974) performance was a thing of big-man beauty. Not a ton of XXX chances, but certainly he played a smart game and earned his keep.

Vandermeer improved his chances to get shipped out to a contender with a consistent night. Word on the street that the vultures have been circling from at least a half-dozen NHL clubs, and you almost wonder if Vandermeer's team leading 24+ minutes (+1, 1 shot) were a calculated move from upper management to give his value a bit of a boost. It was the most he's played this season,and actually the most ice time he's seen since April 8th, 2008 as a member of Calgary. Regardless, he played the kind of simple, hard-nosed game that could certainly entice a team to slot him into their bottom pairing rotation for a playoff run.

On the flip side, Elliot looked like a pile of garbage formed into a human in the Avs net. His 39th ranked save percentage wasn't going to improve after his .839 night. I mean all you need to know about Elliot is that his page only has 20 likes. Pffsh, I could get 20 likes on my Pokemon Master Collectors page (Water Lizard assemble! or whatever they say). The Anderson swap looked strange to me earlier, and doubly strange after Elliot reminded me he has trouble handling 55 foot wrist shots aimed at his face.

In related good news, Ottawa managed to stop sucking hind-banana for a game and won 5-1, keeping pace with the Oilers recent 4W in 5 surge. That's guilt free winning baby. Come to think of it, that Anderson deal could be a thing of beauty.

Taylor Hall - He's back baby. This bee was buzzin' all night, and his 5 shot-1g-1a performance was an absolute nutshell of the future of Hall's game. I also like they he showed a bit of buzzsaw, giving some random Av a nice little forearm shiver as they crossed paths to reach their respective benches. He was saying 'Don't you know who I am, bitch? I'm Taylor fucking Hall.' If he can ever get that buzzsaw into his game on the regular, he is going to be an absolute force of nature on the ice, and make Tavares look like an elephant made out of cement. he's 6 points back in the rookie points race, and I think he has a legitimate shot as long as he can get the gap nearly even by seasons end. That Skinner kid is pretty damn good though.

Jordan Eberle - He's often the smooth peanut-butter to Hall's jam (which would make Cogliano an ampersand I suppose). He was typical Jordan Eberle: button-hooking and looking, dragging and delivering, and for good measure an upstairs heater off the pipe that will leave a ringing sound echoing into Elliot's nightmares. You can see times in the game where his lack of Hallesque raw athleticism costs him the odd puck battle, but he more than makes up for it when he's got the puck on his stick. Finished 1-1-2 +2 with 5 shots. Big game from the gap-toothed gunner.

Jim Vandermeer - Overall I think I've been happy with his game while playing with the Oilers. I think it's pretty obvious we have seen the best and worst Vandermeer can deliver, and while this is definitely in the 5-6 range, it does not seem to vary much from game to game. He's been pretty consistent, and his +-ON/60 of 0.41 is best on the current team (behind the injured Whitney's +0.99, however). He's not going to bring a lot more then a lunch-pail and hardhat most nights, but sometimes that's all the Oilers need when the wings on the plane are shooting big-bore shells.

Devan Dubnyk - I don't really have much more to add about his game tonight except that i feel obligated to put the best players of the game in the individual write-up-section. One thing I noticed tonight, and that I think has actually been improving is his ability to handle the puck. He looked confident out there tonight in his limited touches, and for an ability that was really an after thought for the guy, there might actually be a bit of untapped ability in that area. I don't think I've heard it mentioned once, but I'd love it if a guy like Tencer or Staples could bring it up with ol' Giraffe and get his thoughts on the topic. I'd also like to hear what people think about his long term potential as a number 1 in the league. So far I can't see any reason why not.

Tom Gilbert - He-of-rollercoaster-play had a decent game, finishing with a couple points in 21 minutes of ice time. Like usual, when he's on his game he can really just blend into the action in a seamless way and next thing you know he's got a multi-point effort. I'd just love to see this guy anchoring a solid second unit once the Oilers get some top end D talent (Larsson? Marincin? Petry?).

Ales Hemsky - Continued his solid play but was not rewarded on the scoresheet (he got a second assist on the Penner goal). He finished with 5 shots and was even in 18:12 of ice. He was handling the puck in a phone-booth, and I'm telling you, he's totally locked in right now. He was weaseling off so many grabby Avs players that it seemed inevitable that he was going to burn himself into some highlight reels. It didn't happen, but I'm trying to think of a season where Hemsky hasn't scored a dirty-dangle goal since he came to prominence and I'm pretty sure it hasn't happened. In other words I think he's due for a 5 star effort before the season is out.


It was a fun game to watch as an Oilers fan. I'm 100% sure that the kids robbing the car would have gotten caught if Elliot was a total disaster in the Avs net. At the very least the game would have been a lot closer than the 4 goal romp - the final score was probably a bit flattering in comparison to the strength of defensive game the Oilers played. That said, I really do think after that center section of serious funk, we have seen perhaps the very last glimpse of the valley of the shadow of death.


Post a Comment