Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 5: The Little Engine That Couldn't

They thought they could, they thought they could -- nope. They can't.
If there is one surprising thing early in the season, it's that the Oilers are playing a Lemaire-esque stingy brand of defence. They have allowed 10 goals over 5 games (tenth best in the league, and only three teams above them have played as many games), and pro-rated over a whole year, the Oilers would have been the best defensive team in the league last year, by almost twenty goals. Which means, of course, this is probably not maintainable. In comparison, Tampa Bay has already given up 26, and Ottawa 30 (Put options all the way for Ottawa).

The bad news is the Oilers offence is also ranked 25th, with ten goals as well. Again it's early, but it's hard to tell if the offence is weak because the defensive focus, or because we don't quite have the offensive juggernaut we are all envisioning. I would guess a bit of both.

Renney usually has a fairly spot on quote summing up the game, and I felt he was once again on point with this one:
"It was sloppy. But we hung around & maybe a year ago we might not have been able to do that." - Coach Renney on his team's performance.
Whitney and Horcoff also chimed in:
"That's a game we've got to win. It's pretty disappointing because we feel like we gave away a couple points." - Ryan Whitney
"We didn't play well enough to win that game. We weren't skating & we made it far too easy on them." - Shawn Horcoff
In the end the play was not so far imbalanced that it felt like the Oilers were desperate (our guys had the chances at 14-15), but when the Flames turned up the gas, Whitney's rust and the teams general fatigue became factors. Whitney looked a little lost at times, but when you have been away from the professional game for 300+ days, you will look a bit like the fat kid picked last for kickball. His reads weren't great, and he was often too advanced up the ice to properly get himself back into the D zone to cover a streaking forward. The usual crispness of passing and smart positioning all just seemed to be on a different wavelength with the rest of the team. Of course it's expected. He's not going to go from zero to Niedermayer in one game.

Sutton continues to lumber around like a... lumberjack, and I question why guys like him and Barker are playing while Petry sits. I still haven't figured out the methodology by which they are scratching defenceman. It seems like the policy is, if Petry plays a decent game, scratch him. The only thing that I'm scratching is my head. Would Petry really give the Oilers worse minutes than Barker? Or Sutton? OH BUT - HIS MUCH VAUNTED OX STRENGTH...

A couple of comments about the Flames broadcast. Sometimes I wonder if we are spoiled to have a pair of guys who aren't total ass-clowns when it comes to bias. Occasionally Louie will question penalty calls in a specific Oilers fan fashion, but Quinn rides even keel, and the color is usually deferential towards other teams stars and abilities. Maybe *I'm* biased, but it's just all Flames all the time with those two dross garden-gnomes in the booth. This is not the first time I spun the bottle with these guys either. I've had to listen to plenty of their broadcasts over the years due to the shared Oilers/Flames broadcasts, and I still think they come across amateurish.

In terms of the Flames game itself, well instead of jumping on an Oilers team playing back-to-back games, they did a trust fall, and rode a half dozen scoring chances late into the third period. At which point the Oilers promptly folded their tents after playing almost 55 minutes of more or less air-tight hockey. I think based on Renney's comments you can see he wasn't truly disappointed, and it seems like he feels like that kind of effort is a step forward for the team. Oh yea, and our special teams are good? Queue up the Twilight Zone theme.

Thoughts on individuals after the hop and a conclusion.

Taylor Hall - Notable by his absence. Suck it up princess, they invented buckets for players pushing themselves way beyond their limits and vomiting into them on the bench while battling an ugly flu. THAT is what a bucket is for. Truly, the kid line seemed to be far less effective, and not just because of Hall's absence. It was also the fact that on the road the kids will get line matched, and while they did OK for the most part, they were on the ice for the tying goal, and I'm there will be some postgame discussion with The Nuge about that.

Devan Dubnyk - He rattled off a fine a .929 performance, and I don't think there was much fault on either goal. One puck was a deflected slot laserbeam and the other a cacophony of bodies, pucks, and Smid going full retard at the side of the net. Clearly Smid hasn't watched Tropic Thunder yet. No blame to lay here. Side note: if I was his drug dealer I would definitely refer to him as Double D. Didn't Kipper admit to smoking Mary Jane? Those goalies, I tell ya!

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - I put in a call with his agent about dropping the Hopkins so I don't have to type out all these damn letters every time I do a post game write up. Seems reasonable. Plus his nameplate wont extend to his forearms. Kidding aside, he still managed a basically decent game, and led the team with 4 shots. Made a nice pass to Omark in the third, and one of the fun things about the Nuge is that yes, he gets flattened, but you will notice he still makes very deft touches from his knees or even when hes collapsing to the ground like a spaghetti sculpture getting a 2 by 4. Give him a man's body and he shall dine on much vagina.

Magnus Pajaarvi - Still shows off his great physical abilities every game, but is still struggling to find a way to translate it into consistent offence. I'm willing to be quite patient with P-vag, mostly because I love his frame and toolbox, and it seems like an inevitable thing that he's going to at least surpass last years numbers. I fully expect him to heat up when Gagner's return forces some offensive depth down to his center position - say a Gagner or Scorecoff. He barely cracked 12 minutes of ice, and I think his time is going to stay into that area until he starts producing a little more.

Corey Potter - Still kind of reminds me of Souray, the good version. The version that didn't throw his team under the bus or break stupid little bones in his wrist. He will probably never be anywhere near as impressive as a shooter, but his defensive game, size, and passing all emulate Souray closely. For a freebie, that's nothing to be sneezed at. Currently he has clearly outperformed Peckham, and if that doesn't spark the Mulatto mauler, well he's going to be in the 8th slot pretty soon here - AKA the front of the AHL bus. A PP apple in over 20 minutes, -1, 1 SOG.

Shawn Horcoff - I thought he performed very similarly to his game on Monday, and that's definitely a good thing. When he brings the offensive flavour to his game he's more of a Neapolitan icecream kind of player, giving you a little bit of everything. And I'm not going to say that Chocolate is the scoring part, because that's racist. Now if Hemsky can unfuckulate his shoulder, we might be able to squeeze some of the value out of the 5.5 pound dead albatross hanging around Horcoff's neck.

Ben Eager - I have no idea what sparked his hissy fit, but I do know that Renney hates that shit. Perhaps it was Renney only giving him 3:45 in ice. To my eye he doesn't bring a heck of a lot more to a game, good or bad in comparison to Petrell (who played a mammoth 15+ minutes at evens). Petrell, however, is a jewel in the crown of the Oilers so far solid (10th in the league) penalty killing.

Anton Lander - Has yet to establish his NHL caliber game, but you see little glimpses of where his hard work and smart positioning could pay off. He's no physical beast, but he has shown that he thinks the game well, especially below the puck, and against lesser opposition he's also shown biscuit in basket type abilities as well. He had a glorious chance in the dying seconds to tie it, but Kipper stupid gipper-toe got it. That would have been a sweet first NHL goal, ah well. You have to wonder if he will get the hatchet when Gags draws back in. I still think so, as he hasn't quite done enough to unseat anyone else.

Ryan Whitney - Rusty as pirate-ship's anchor, and he seemed to have his cruise control engaged most of the game. He was displaying a basic lack of footspeed that I will entirely chalk up to cobwebs and a lack of basic early season lubrication. I'm not expecting he will be scoring at 0.65 PPG clips any time soon, but a healthy, motivated, deep-dishing Whitney improves our team so much that I'm understandably anxious to see even a glimpse of his pre-surgery form. I hate to say it but sometimes when I'm in the fetal position over the latest loss I softly cry and wonder if I will ever be loved. That and I question if Whitney will be the same player after getting his soft-tissues probed and snipped etc. I was surprised to see he ended up with over 21 minutes. I guess that's easing him in considering he was up amongst the league leaders for a while last season.

Ryan Smyth - Wasn't his best or his worst game. Captain Canada gives you the same damn effort, the same damn flow every game. The consistency is great for the team, but if he get's much more than 20-20-40 I will definitely be surprised. He's playing BIG EV minutes right now, though, and at 16:42 at EV, only Whitney played more EV minutes on the whole team. It seems like Renney is leaning on Smyth to provide a consistent defensive presence every game. If he can chip in 20 while doing that, it's probably a checkbox on the really-fucking-long-list-to-check-off-before-we-make-the-playoffs list.


Feaster is a tool. Oh, the game you mean. Well, we looked bedraggled by the end of it, and the Flames eventually caught a whiff of our burned out malaise-onaise and took the fight to us at exactly the right time to get a result. Don't get too comfortable Flamers, you've still got a lot of offence to generate from mystery sources while you pray that Ol' Kipper doesn't capsize in rougher waters. In the meantime, the Oilers still have some kinks to work out, and surprisingly its on the offensive side 5v5. Not special teams, not goaltending, and  not defensively. Whodathunkit?

P.S. Oilers if you send down Petry I will be most cross. There's no way Barker or Sutton has outperformed him.


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