Friday, October 28, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 10: Pick Your Poison

I choose nun-chucks. Wait a second, is the woman considered
poison too? Hrm, still gonna go with nun-chucks.
It's a little known fact that on a yearly basis, pop machines kill more people than Sharks do. What does this have to do with the Oilers 3-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche? Not a lot actually unless I use some witticism like allowing 40 shots a game is as dangerous as playing with a pop machine. More likely I'm running out of ways to describe the Oilers efforts, which seem to be facsimiles of copies of clones of previous efforts.

The script goes something like:

  • Score a few goals (preferably no more than 3)
  • Allow between 0 and 2 goals (preferably 1)
  • Win the special teams battle
  • Play with grit and intensity
 The Oilers followed that formula to a tee, more or less, with the sawed off special teams result the only blemish to that game-plan.

It's hard to analyze the game without immediately pointing out the exceptional performance again by an Oilers goaltender. Devan Dubnyk had a swarm of maroon and blue bastards streaming into and around his crease all night and managed to keep his head in the game and body square regardless. He made one particularly brilliant save that actually wasn't even considered a shot. If I'm not mistaken there was a puck blown down from a Hejduk high stick, which Dubnyk got a toe on, and moments later, another Av attempted to swipe the puck in, and Dubnyk managed to get the back of his paddle on the shot and steer it away from the net. Note, this all took place after the whistle had blown. Regardless, Dubnyk played a great, tough game, and his big body was a memory-foam mattress back there. Now, who do you play next game?

It was necessary too, as the Avs completely trounced the Oilers on the shot clock, ringing up an impressive 41 to the Oilers piddly, pathetic 19. It is still clear that the Oilers have a lot of trouble generating offence off the rush, and the team speed has not really lead to a lot of odd-man situations either. As impressive as the Oilers defensive posture has been early in the season, the offence has remained relatively stagnant. The kids did not have their best night - Hallsie had a couple solo dashes and Eberle had plenty of PP touches - but the obvious decision to keep RNH remains the correct move in this authors eyes. His defensive awareness is already at an NHL level, and aside from his McLovin' type body shape, he can still skate with anyone and uses his stick well to prevent his check from doiing much.

And look at that, I was in the flow writing about the lackluster punch of the cannons aboard the Oiler ship and I started gushing about defensive game. Jesus, what has become of the vaunted run and gun Oilers, with their dynamic offence? It is like we have made a pact with a devil: we will sacrifice our dynamic offensive game and become the best defensive team in the league. Granted, we were already bags of shit at producing EV offence last year (29th if you remember), so I guess seeing more of the same is not necessarily surprising.

Speaking of offence drier than badger breath, Magnus Pony continues to be stuck in a swampland of slim production. He had one great chance off a Gagner pass, and I think we are finally seeing some storm clouds living behind the eyes of Pony. He's starting to get a little frustrated, and so are his fans, who can't help but love the huge, athletic, skilled Swede who just hasn't been able to biscuit deposit or deliver yet. I'm rooting for Pony, I really am, but I think it's time Omark got back in the lineup. Give him a game from above and some time to munch stale Skywalk popcorn and lukewarm orange drink to refresh mentally. It's not time to roll out the sophomore slump card yet, but we are getting into a red zone with Maggie.

All told, it was another gritty effort where the Oilers were basically out played, but got exceptional goaltending and timely scoring and special teams play. I'm feeling less comfortable about these defensive efforts, as we are simply giving up too much ice and allowing too many shots. The bounces are just bound to start going in against us unless we lower those shot totals against.

Individuals and conclusion, etc below.

Magnus Pajaarvi - His icetime continues to drop, and he got approximately 4 seconds of PP time tonight. His EV ice was down to a miniscule 10:31, and it continues to trend downward. He still is an ace defensively, but one thing I've noticed about Pajaarvi, is he rarely one-times pucks. He should focus on that part of the game, as he has the rubber to get into the soft, dangerous spots in the opponents armor but typically gives the goaltender plenty of reaction time as he cradles and fires pucks. One time them Pony, one time them.

Ryan Smyth - Was given credit for the third goal - I didn't see any definitive replays but it came after the game so obviously the command center treehouse reviewed it and made the call to change the scoring. He finished the night with 1-2-3, +2, 3 SOG, and 19:56 of ice - a monster amount for a forward. He gave a good, honest, gritty effort once again, like the dependable junkyard dog he is, and his line is working hard to make sure they are not the culprits for a goal against. Their defence and power on power match-up play has really made a huge difference early in the season.

Devan Dubnyk - It seems like virtually every post I make about the big kid is a broken record recording put on loop. He's big, he's calm, and he doesn't take guff from no swine to quote Hunter S. What more can you ask from the big guy? He made a couple dandy stops, and you know shooters look up and see that towering mass of synthetic padding blotting out the sun and try to pick the finest little corners. Dubnyk, I would guess, is getting a reputation as a *gasp* excellent goaltender. His 40 save (.976) bumped his season save percentage to .938 and that's good for 7th on the list.


The Kids - Perhaps I'm just being lazy, but they had a combined 1 shot in 13-15 minutes of ice time each, and generally were not able to get their spin cycle game going on anything above gentle rinse. That sounds like something that might be on a washing machine anyways. Call the Whirlpool police if I'm wrong. Nothing much to worry about, unless you are expecting 80+ pt games from all of the kids. Let's not get crazy here. I'll take a couple 50's and maybe a 60 and call it a year.

Theo Peckham - Played a less suspicious game tonight, and he actually lead the team with 3:47 of PK time. I was fairly high on Peckham by the end of last year - willing him to be a Greene type (something we seem to desperately need) - and I saw a glimmer of a dependable defensive defenceman tonight. Will he ever be top pairing? In the SEL maybe. In the NHL he will have to make do with chiclet generation, the odd body slam, and crusty defensive play.

Andy Sutton - A weird goal off the Petrell hammer-time, but I actally didn't hate his 15:33 of ice tonight. He's still one of our most sheltered defenceman, and slow as a heroin-injected Ox, but when the game requires a big body and some garbage removal from the blue arc, Sutton does a great job.

Tom Gilbert - Continues to play the biggest minutes on the D core, and is almost always out against the top lines. The biggest haters of his (note: never this writer) must be deep in their caves of embarrassment right about now, plotting his eventual demise. Top-4-Tommy might be here to stay folks. This is really just a continuation of his play that leapt to the forefront with Whitney gone. Did you notice Tom actually punched some poeple this game? A little edge to his game is exactly what the Michigan native needs to nail-down a top 2 role.

Cam Barker - His goal was penty nice (good dish from Sammy boy too), but I can't help but look into his eyes and see zero chance of his employment continuing in the NHL. All of the fire has left the eyes, and his half frown, half reh-tard face screams paycheque collection at this point. Maybe I'm reading too much into body language and facial expressions, but I can't shake this feeling that this is the reason a #3 OA finds himself on his third team so early in his career. He's playing 3rd pair minutes, and doing fine, I suppose. He keeps this up and he might be able to win a little love from the Oilogosphere and I.

Ladislav Smid - Is another guy in need of a cut-and-paste section on most post-game write-ups. He simply goes out, blocks pucks, face washes dudes, and exercises good gap-control every game. Maybe it would be a different story if the Oilers weren't winning; blocked pucks would become missed passes, face washes would become ineffectual physical play, and good gap-control would be sidelined by his complete lack of offensive output. In the mean time, though, we have lean mean Smid and I'm liking the simplicity and effectiveness of his game.

Conclusion

The Oilers have started playing with fire a little bit recently, and the last two wins we have gotten fairly outchanced and significantly outshot. For whatever reason we are having difficulty generating much offensive push after getting even the most miniscule leads and more over we seem to be almost completely useless off the rush. I think Oilers fans everywhere are praying that when the Defence corrects back to mean (We aren't going to finish below 1.5 GA/Game folks), our Offence does as well (our current GF/Game might be the worst number recorded in the mordern era if the season ended now).

Regardless, points are points, and we are just one step closer to the play___s. Oh, and tops in the NW division. To quote Gandhi: Suck it Flamers and Nuckleheads*

*paraphrased

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