Saturday, April 2, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 78: A Ray of Ligh-nus

Hey, think you could send down a D-man as well?

In what was likely his best ever game as a pro, Linus Omark absolutely demolished the Vancouver Canucks. His final score line read 1-1-2 +2 with 4 shots in 19:52, and more then the raw numbers, he was a joy to watch on the ice. When he's got the puck velcroed to his stick and a defender super-glued to his ass you constantly get the feeling that something crazy could happen at any moment. I'd only be half surprised if an errant slash on Omark revealed an intricate cybernetic structure under his forearm flesh. He's almost robotic the way he moves the puck around the edges of his body to protect it from bigger, stronger opponents. I've had a long debate on HFBoards about jumping to conclusions about Omark's relatively abysmal defensive numbers, but during the last 15 games or so he's been running at about a 2.5 goals against per 60, and his running average previously to that was about 3.8 goals against (which was about the worst on the team aside from Saint Strudwick). It's slowly getting better (~3.6) and I can't help but give him a free pass into next season, at least for the first quarter of the season.

Aside from all the Omark gushing (take that Sedin frogs), there was a hockey game that was played that didn't revolve around the orbit of the Swedish meatball. It seemed pretty clear from the outset that the Canucks were only going to take what was given to them, and aside from a couple of cycle shifts by the ugliest twins in the NHL, that didn't equate to very much. The Edmonton Oilers, for pride or whatever fucked up reason Renney was conjuring, simply wanted the win more. Corey Schneider (who by all intents and purposes has had one of the better backup years in recent memory) promptly let in a weak one to the Baby-Faced Assassin, and you could just see the Canucks accept their fate. Who could blame them? A bunch of raw, hungry AHLers and a bunch of competitive athletes with a dump-truck of wounded pride are exactly the kind of team that would have the best chance to beat the Canucks on a night like this. Not good enough to wake the slumbering beast, but good enough to Houdini a couple of goals out of the lineup. You think the Canucks would react like that if it was a potential playoff matchup coming into their building? I doubt it.

Some other bright spots for the team continue to be the Finnisher, PRV, and Petry.

Harski has literally done nothing but impress me from day one, and I just love the kids rough-riding, hard-charging compete. I'm willing to bet good money that Schneider bit hard on Harski cutting in on his left (leaving Omark for the wide-open tap-job) was because he had played so forcefully in the game. I was sure he was going to go flying into the net and try to jackhammer the puck over the line, and when he made the nice diagonal drop dish to the Meatball, all you could do was grin like a fool. P.S. Hardcore mathletes might notice Harski has an abysmal +-ON/60 of -1.85 - fortunately the +-OFF/60 is -2.11, indicating two things. 1) Since Harski's callup, the Oilers have been brutal, and 2) He's been outperforming the rest of the team 5v5 (but only by a little bit).

Magnus has really come into his own as a player. He backchecks like a demon and his world class wheels are the envy of every Mike Modano lover out there. He still plays a bit too much on the perimeter, but as an Oilers fan you have to feel like upper-decking Rush Limbaugh when he dangles at full-flight on an NHL defender (how Bieksa is 4th in the league for +/- still baffles me). More moves at full flight and getting his nose jammed into the crease will lead to nothing but an explosion of offence next year, especially if the puck-wizard Omark can keep the puck out of his own net a bit better in '11-'12.

Petry was cool as Hannibal Lector in a butcher shop, and I think the first thing a random would notice about the kid is he has a nice set of tires on him that he uses effectively to move the puck when the passing option is choked off. There is no question that there is a bit more reluctance in his offensive game since his first call-up; I'm guessing the coaching staff has told him to simplify his game until he's a bit more mistake free. Well that time is now, as far as I'm concerned. I'm not sure he's ever going to have the defensive acumen to play the kind of Charlie-Sheen defense needed to get number one minutes, but if he adds a bit of edge to his game and continues to progress offensively, he looks like a sure-fire #3, possibly #2 Dman.

All-in-all, it was probably the last bright spot in a miserable Oilers season, and until the next cycle of optimism starts up with another 1/2 pick in the fold, there's a long, boring spring ahead for most Oilers fans.

Individuals and a conclusion after the hop.

Jordan Eberle - I wanted to start with ol' gap-tooth because nary a word was spent on his countenance earlier; a grievous injustice for a guy who had a solid (if unspectacular) two point night. He really does find a way to put up points even when he's not getting the best looks or linemates. Eberle has a game that I would describe as compact and efficient. He makes good on a high proportion of his scoring chances (hence efficiency) and he also has a very single minded determination about what he's going to do to generate in the offensive zone (which I internalize as playing compact). How about this new-NHL adjusted player to find a comparable for: Mark Recchi. If you went back and adjusted all of his junior and pro numbers, you might see some similarities (outside of the size and playing style). 1-1-2, even, with 2 shots in ~13 minutes (Renney has reduced his minutes without Hall).

Devan Dubnyk - On a night where most of the Oilers deserved praise, sometimes the Giraffe will be overlooked. He has made very few obvious mistakes in his first full(ish) year, and I don't think we've seen the best Dubnyk yet. Improvements in the blue line should help lower shot totals and chances against, not to mention his growing confidence as he shows up some high powered offences (Babcock had some nice things to say about Dubie). Perhaps 50 games for him next year? 40 of 41 for .976 - stellar effort.

Andrew Cogliano - I think he's finally figured it out. He has been playing a relatively simple game that includes a healthy component of back-checking and defensive awareness, and then using his wheels and button-hooks to help generate on the opposite side. He's 23, and statistically he should still be able to push out a bit better offensive numbers as he enters his prime years (statistically 25-27). If he can deliver solid defense in the mean-time, perhaps he does have a place on the Oilers. He's definitely got a stiff upper lip (although that's probably from scar tissue). Had 2 apples and over 20 minutes of ice - a strong effort.

Ladislav Smid - If only Smid could play like that every game, he's be a lock for a solid top 4 Dman. Unfortunately I've asked the question to many times with his yo-yo performances and I will not be further swayed until he puts together a block of 40 or so strong games. In the mean time, chalk another one up on the strong side of the ledger. His gap control was excellent and he won numerous puck battles against some tough forecheckers. We really need a guy like him to help stabilize our backend, especially when the injury reaper comes a knockin'.

Chris Vande Velde - This was probably his first game as a pro where I actually thought to myself 'maybe this kid is a player'. Until that point, he had shown a couple flashes, but not in a consistent enough fashion to make me think he would be with the big club next year. He likely still won't, but his hard checking effort in tonight's game gave fans a glimmer of hope about his future and showcased some of his better assets (puck battles, face-offs, some offensive vision and cycle ability). Grats on his first NHL P.

Gilbert Brule - What the fuck? Will an idle breeze injury this guy now? He just can't get his health on track seemingly, and I just can't see how he fits into the Oilers long term plans. It's too bad, as he plays the kind of game that could suddenly turn-around and deliver NHL results. Maybe in another life.


For a brief, shining, scintillating moment, Oilers fans around the world tasted success in the form of the President Cup winners blood. Savour it Oilfans, as we've got a lot of sunshine and rain to pass through before we can feel like that again (unless, that is, the Oilers deny the Flames the chance to enter the playoffs by beating them in the last game of the year - wouldn't that be something).


Post a Comment