Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 25: Grime Time

Looking over the Wild roster I can't help but think that there is zero chance in any universe the Wild finish anywhere close to number 1 in the west. For starters, this is a team that sports a +5 goal differential, of which I'm sure at 3 least 3 of the +'s are SO goals versus the Oilers (unless I'm not mistaken those are counted). It's been fairly well established that goal differential is a solid indicator of actual team ability, and their 12th ranked goal differential is probably a hell of a lot closer to the their ability than what the standings indicate.

The list of how lousy Minnesota is in their underlying numbers is a long one:
  • 1.0 5v5 GF/GA, 13th
  • 14.4% PP, 23rd
  • 83.9% PK, 14th
  • 26.2 shots for a game, 27th
  • 31.3 shots against a game, 24th
  • 33 Points, 1st*
*one of these things is not like the other

Does that look like the number one team in the league? Not a chance. This is a mediocre team which almost assuredly will crash back to earth. They have 22 of 27 players who sport an on-ice 5v5 save percentage of over 930.

Really at the end of the day I'm only pointing out how overachiever the Wild are to frame my disappointment for this loss. This is not a team that should be beating the Oilers in our own barn after we built a 2 goal lead on consistently superior play. Their defence is mostly a whiskered, low-cost, lunch-pail brigade, and their offence is mostly cast-aways and checking forwards. It frustrates me to no end that teams like that are reaching such success by grinding out every last little bit of free-flowing joy from the game (perhaps I'm being a bit sensational, but no one is ever going to mistake the Wild for an exciting team).

Some other notes from the game:

  • The reffing was a cross between ringette and beer league reffing. Soft calls all over the place and a complete lack of consistency. I'd say Jackson and Hebert need some remedial reffing lessons.
  • Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, and Smyth are magical wood fairies in the offensive zone. Nuge is a lubricated trojan out there, screwing everyone with his slippery moves. Eberle is an incredible cycler and soft-spot deliverer. Smytty is Smytty
  • Peckham continues to struggle to find a balance between sucking and not sucking that much. Still too much suck in his game.
  • Whitney still is nowhere near his old ability level. His defence has become something of a liability, and I'm getting more concerned as he plays more games and his level does not seem to rise.
  • Sam Gagner is coming on strong after a bell-end first quarter, and he was snake-bit this game on a couple of close chances. If he keeps this up, he may still have a shot at 40 P's.
  • Nikolai Khabibulin is a lousy shootout goalie. Stop. The indians are in the gorge. Full stop.
  • Belanger seems like he should be an effective player with his wheels and puck smarts, but when is the last time you remember him making a great offensive play? How many great offensive plays has he made all season? How much more power play time can he possibly fucking receive until Renney realizes Belanger is raping my eyes with his suck. This is a guy on pace for 20 points. Stop the madness already.
Some singletons after the gap and then a denouement.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 22: Afternoon Delight

This is Amber Heard. She is both proof for and against a god.
For: She's into girls.
Against: She's into girls.
Much ballyhooing was made of the 'since time immemorial' curse of the Minnesota Wild. We had not escaped from St. Paul with a victory in the last 17 attempts (0-14-3), and they showed a remarkable statistic that the Oilers had held a lead for something short of 90 minutes out of a possible 1000 or so. That tells you how badly the Oilers had been put on the rack and stretched by the suffocating no-budget defence-first system.

Thankfully, relief came early for the Oilers, as Jebbers crafted a cute little goal by button-hooking off an outside drive and sliding the puck into the blue that Smyth jam-jobbed behind Harding. It was exactly the kind of mixture of skill and sweat that a dynamic duo of Eberle and Smyth can bring to the table on a nightly basis. Smyth creates havoc, and Eberle distributes and occasionally snipes.

Ever since the kid line has been broken up, there seems to be a slightly better mixture of attributes between the top 6 -- not that there was anything glaring before -- but each line has a responsible centerman (RNH/Horcs), a guy who can distribute (Hemsky/Eberle), and a wrecking ball/garbage man (Smyth/Hall). It has also meant that, generally speaking, Hall is forced to face tougher competition. A quick check shows that this is true, as Hall's Corsi Rel QoC (Relative Corsi Quality of Competition: a measure of how often the player faces opponents who are outshooters), is splitting away from his former linemates (becoming a larger positive, indicating he's facing tougher opposition). This isn't really a bad thing, as Hall has been one of the toughest defensive forwards on the team, something that generally is overlooked when talking about the Kingston Cannonball.

Moving down the lines, in lazy fashion, we arrive at the potpourri line, which features The Frenchman, The Hair, and The Hobbit, and once again there wasn't a lot of offence to speak about in their game this afternoon. Gagner and Belanger picked up their 4th and 5th assists of the season, which coincidentally is their point total, and it was as mucky a pair of assists as you'd ever see. The team would probably be performing at nearly an elite level right now if Gagner, Belanger, and perhaps Pajaarvi were performing any where near their previous expectations. Of the 15 points handed out this afternoon, 2 went to defenders (Pecks and Gilby), and 11 went to the top 6. Of course you're not going to see big numbers from your third line every game, but until Jones was bumped down, the bottom 6 had a combined one goal. That's not a lot of offensive depth, folks, and it will have to change if we will succeed this year in the unspoken about place where a silver cup is won.

Winding back to the back-end, we immediately see what a glorious, beautiful thing it is for Whitney to push Peckham into the bottom pairing, and while Whitney was actually kind of a bag of suck (compared to pre-injury Whitney), Whitney with his knob turned to suck is still a sight better than the coarse, simple game that Peckham is turning out these days. I was a huge fan, but I'm coming to think there is some kind of brain parasite living in my buildings water supply, a parasite that gives me bad optics for bottom pairing blueliners. I can't figure out where all my praise for Peckham went, but his ability to escape the zone while maintaining Oiler puck possession is almost non-existent at this point. Whitney played 16, and Peckham 18, but as Whitney eases back into a healthy state of mind (if this is possible), I would expect that see-saw of time-on-ice to reverse dramatically.

Finally, the Russian bear continues his strong play, giving the Oilers exactly what we need. A .938 effort keeps him firmly in the 3rd spot overall for save percentage, and now it just remains to be seen what kind of endurance we can expect out of the grizzled vet. Making the unspoken-of-place will be determined heavily by how well our goaltenders can maintain this level of play.

Solo selections and a curtain call after the dashed line.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 21: Dr Jekyll, meet Mr Hyde

"'O God!' I screamed, and 'O God!' again and again; for there before my eyes--pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death--there stood Henry Jekyll!"
- Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Chapter 9

Like the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the Oilers can't seem to split the monster from the man. One night they can be a rain of quicksilver skill and youthful exuberance, and others, a ragtag bunch of of hairless weasels. Their offence has oscillated from lizards-asshole dry to jungle abundant, and the teleporter room has been busy on the back-end as we zap fresh faces in and out of existence on our blue line. Through it all the Oilers have managed a respectable 11-8-2 record - 13 overall in the league, with a 13th ranked offence and a 13th ranked defence*.

*cover your eyes if you are superstitious

On this night, they were more beast than doctor, and while the distinction is arbitrary, this writer has decided the beast nature is scoring goals. For the second time in three games, the Oilers offence and scintillating skill dismantled the opposing team for a solid 2/3rds of the game. The shots after the first period were 13 to 3, and remove the arena, you would have thought the Oilers were playing at home. Rinne let out some so-so rebounds and maybe could have thwarted the Oilers with a couple of highlight reel stops, but it wasn't so much a product of his underwhelming work, it was more a product of the team around him not being ready to play.

When Lindback came out to start the second you knew the Predators would probably make a concerted effort to push back -- see if we were as tough as we showed in the first period. Their counter-attack was consistent in the middle frame and there seemed to be small eddies of mustard yellow oozing into the Oilers zone on a regular basis. Even though the Oilers got trounced on the shot clock 18-7 in the middle frame, Dubnyk was calm and capable in net, and gave the Preds no reason to think they were going to get back into it. It was a bamboo middle frame for the Oilers, and when the third rolled around, the 4th goal of the game by the pocket playboy officially sucked the rest of the blood out of the SabreCat veins.

Speaking of the pocket playboy, Jordan Eberle showed you why he's going to be a premiere offensive player in the league for a long time. What can't the kid do? He passes, shoots, and dekes at an elite level, and actually wins his fair share of board battles, all packed into a 5'10 frame. His two goals tonight were something I expected to see a bit more of from Jordan, basic snipe jobs enabled with some slick-stick puck sickness. I think both his goals were under the blocker, and while they don't have the same pop as bottle-blasting ceiling jobs, it is a perfect example of Jordan's game. He gets the job done.

Aside from Jebbers, the usual suspects were doing the damage for the Oilers. The top six has been the top six, and once again Horcoff has been Scorecoff, Hemmer has had two breakaway goals in two games, and Ryan Smyth -- 10th in league scoring -- was traded for Colin Freaking Fraser. Oh yea, and the Hopkins kid? He's 11th in league scoring.

The defence was really the only sore spot in the game, and by defence I specifically mean the bottom three defenders. Alex Plante, I'm afraid to say, looks like he has a zero percent chance of becoming anything but a bottom pairing defender. For a supposedly big-bodied, physical guy, he was getting rag-dolled by much smaller players, and that's ignoring the fact that he moves at the pace of a segway out there. Tuebert to my eyes was marginally better (he actually had 1:15 on the PK), but that's like saying Ouzo is better than Sambuca - they are both pretty awful in my books. Just constant running around, bad passing, and generally being turned into giant, bumbling pretzels under the mildest third line pressure imaginable.

Peckham to my eyes also continues to struggle, and is actually the reason I advocate a trade from Tambellini that goes further than a stop-gap style depth defender. Peckham might do as bottom pairing for a borderline playoff team, but I'm not sure he's shown me I want him in the #5 slot for a game in the Stanley cup final. I almost wanted to go back in time to last season where I was mildly impressed with him. Did I imagine Teddy Peckman as a competent defender? Was I viewing him through a fractal haze of purple-blotter acid? How long could we maintain? I wondered. How long until one of us starts raving and jabbering at this boy? What will he think then?

Some singletons and a denouement after the click.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 19: Weapons of Mass Destruction

Yea I went for the *really* big photo today, to represent the amount of ass kicking the Oilers dished out
It's not every day the NHL's top team comes waltzing into our barn with their fannies still red from getting bottom-blasted 300 clicks south. You'd expect a certain amount of beast nature to be exhibited by the road team, especially one that beat the stuffing out of us recently, and is playing against our severely injury ravaged blue line. You had Hall on a 9 game goalless drought, and some recent practices with the kid line broken up. The Oilers had sucked plenty of hind-banana over the last 4 games -- all losses -- and I'm sure the pessimists were prognosticating a crossed-t-and-dotted-i type performance out of the once removed cup champs.

Of course,the hockey gods like to play dice once and a while. On this night, for whatever reason, they were rolling a stream of 7's for the Oilers, and the results were staggering:

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins0-5-5 +3
Tom Gilbert1-3-4 +0
Jordan Eberle1-3-4 +2
Taylor Hall3-0-3 +2
Shawn Horcoff1-2-3 +1
Jeff Petry0-3-3 +5

At some point you could do nothing but lean back on your couch with a toothy grin on your face and enjoy the ride. I mean the Oilers were speed-bagging Chicago in the johnson from puck drop, and were a pack of baying wolves right up until the last second of the game. Hemsky's sexy partial-break goal a minute in eventually got buried under an avalanche of future Oilers offence, but Hall was smart to key on the goal as being a big part of the eventually W. They had been handled easily in the first period by their last 4 opponents, and getting ahead seemed to allow them to breathe properly.

Also contributing was the shaky goaltending of Emery, who probably signalled the start of the stampede when he let in an absolutely ghastly bad angle backhander from Ryan Flow. Once the team has to start worrying about the stay-puff marshmallow man minding their net, the tightness and lack of confidence seems to permeate all aspects of that teams game. And let's be honest, with some of the three-headed monsters we've had carouselling through the Oilers goal in the past, we know a thing or two about how bad goaltending can affect team performance. Khabibulin played an OK game opposite of the hipless wonder, but he also let in a softie so it's hard to say he was really dominant. By the time he was making most of his saves, the team in front of him was playing with a lead that varied between 4 and 7 goals.

You can't blame just Emery, however. Chicago was playing a pretty deep, soft stance in their own zone, and when you don't stand up the Oilers speedier players, they get to that scoring horseshoe (that I always blab about) and start doing damage. The offence was also heavily bolstered by a 4 for 7 power-play, and it was one of those nights where all the bounces just seemed to end up in the back of the oppositions net.

There were a couple of footnotes to the game that still will twitch a few whiskers. For all the explosion of offence, once again virtually all of it came from the top 6. In a 9 goal game, Gagner, Belanger, and Pajaarvi all went pointless. This is considering they all got a decent amount of 5 on 5 and PP time -- the coach wisely started boosting their shifts when the game was out of reach for CHI. I do think that we saw some flashes of a better version of all three tonight, but its hard to say when the other team was bent over the pommel horse and getting the wrong end of a rawhide belt. If the Oilers are going to have any shot of making the playoffs, we can't have Pajaarvi on pace for 4 points.

Individuals after the hop, and then a final word.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 18: Eye Raped

I don't know who this is, but this was my exact face
after period one
I imagine there is a moment in every rape victims life when a some small, innocuous happening brings all the feelings of revulsion and helplessness bubbling back to the surface even against all efforts to the contrary. Well the Oilers raped me for two seasons, and tonight's game was the brush of stranger's fingers across the back of my neck. It was the part of the movie where I curl up in the fetal position in my shower, fully-clothed, and mix my warm tears into a cold shower. It was my fault. No one was making me watch the Oilers. I was asking for it, considering they had been so bad for so long. I deserved it!

I don't even really want to get into the details - I mean, I will, but it's just going to be a big rant, so screw you and read it. This was a turd-cake with shit frosting, sprinkled with crap nuggets. We managed a pathetic 24 shots, against a team that has the 4th worst defence in the league. Our goalies couldn't stop a three-legged turtle, and the official I-want-to-wear-Khabibulin's-jock-on-my-face fan club has disbanded. More Dmen down to injury, slumps spiraling into infinity, and finally, all of the bad mojo that pustulated on the flesh of the former franchise is forming red bumps underneath the skin once again.

For a moment, the Oilers played the game as I expected them to: a team that had lost 3 in a row on the road coming into their home barn with a throaty, anxious crowd awaiting them. For the first 7 minutes they ran the Senators ragged, like the eventual lottery team should look like. And then a couple fuck-ups, and the Oilers lay a couple eggs in their own zone and voila it's 2-0 after 9 seconds of giving it to the neighbour's dog. I'm not sure what the game plan was, but if it was 'play like pantywaists and allow AHL talent to walk all over you', then mission accomplished on this night. Because that's what they did. All of that jump and fire immediately vanished from the Oilers game, and aside from Nugent-Hopkins, the rest of the team folded up shop and boarded up the windows for the hurricane known only as Zenon Konopka.

Zenon fucking Kenopka scored against the Oilers tonight. His career high in the NHL is 4 goals, and over his last 208 games, he's scored 9 goals. Dubnyk looked like a downs-syndrome breakdancer on the goal, but really the game was long over at that point. I was already beyond frustrated at Debrusk who was making fucktarded statements like 'they have really put the pressure on the Oilers tonight'. Oh you mean their MONSTER 3 shot second period? No, no, wait you mean their POWERHOUSE 6 shot third period? Perhaps it was their relentless physical game led by Michalek, Spezza, and Da Costa? Give it a rest Debrusk - I give Ottawa no credit. We sucked hard enough that we might have lost to a WHL team tonight.

After the game Renney had a couple of quotes that further pissed me off:

"We had a good first period going and then they got their 2-on-1 goal and we didn't do a good job recovering." - Coach Renney
Gee you think? He also mentioned that Jeff Petry's hurt hand is getting x-rays, but he thinks it will be fine. The last time he said someone was going to be fine, it was Whitney, and he missed a month. I'll take my medical information from Renney like I'll take my Rhinoceros cock, none at all please.

Not much point in doing a write up on individuals tonight: everyone sucked.


Zenon fucking Kenopka.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 16: Dose of Reality

Oilers fans just got a little more Red Pill tonight
It was inevitable that at some point the clock would strike 12, the glass slipper would not fit, and the carriage would become a goopy, gut-filled pumpkin. The Oilers should not be cowed by the declining-but-still-good Detroit Red Wings, and certainly should not be backing down physically to their slight -- and mostly soft -- Euro-flavoured team.

There was only one player who I actually really liked in the game tonight, and it's probably somewhat predictable considering we lost the game because of inferior battle and physicality. I doubt they gave him a star, nor will he be praised much in print, but I thought Ryan Jones quietly displayed the kind of fight and I've-got-the-crazy-eyes that the team needed right from the disc dropping to the H20.

Aside from that, we simply did not flex any of our supposed team traits: air-tight D, tenacious back-pressure and checking, and rock-solid goaltending. Not to say Khabibulin was bad, but he struggled with rebounds and was beat cleanly by a Kronwall piledriver from 50 out. Not like .964 was ever going to be sustainable, and really we should expect the Oilers to show a little more offensively with the lineup they have -- i.e. provide more run support.

Belanger is starting to piss me off more than a Scotiabank commercial. Some of the worst, dumbest, most asinine commercials on TV, and that's how much Belanger has been sucking. He's made one nice play on Smytty's PP goal last game, and his staggering stat-line of 16gp 0-2-2 with 20sog is leaving much to be desired... Like for instance a competent NHL centerman. I rag on Stajan for making 3.5M for the next 3 years, but Belanger is in basically the same boat. Thankfully he's making almost half the amount of Stajan (god that was a bass-ackwards signing). He's still -- somehow -- averaging about 1.5 minutes of PP per game. If I was the coach I would plant his ass on the pine during the PP until he can show me some 5v5 offence.

*And let me tell you, those Scotiabank commercials really fucking piss me off. "You're richer than you think" -- well gee, if I'm a fucking moron who can't handle my own money than yea, maybe I'm surprised to find that crumpled up 5 dollar bill trapped underneath a couch cushion -- while I drool on myself

 The veteran line wasn't particularly effective tonight, which is forgivable since they have had a run of a lot of strong, two-way games. Sometimes the god of bouncy black rubber puck decides to bounce it just a few inches to the left and turn a potentially heroic night into a humdrum effort. Hemsky still seems to be rounding his game out, and while he can still put it on a string and huff catnip, his cat-like abilities aren't generating a lot of in zone chances quite yet. He's 5gp 0-4-4, and you'd expect that if he's going to have anything resembling a big year, he's going to need to shoot and score a bit more.

The kids had a few shifts with some heavy forechecking, but were scoring as much as they would during their grade 10 Halloween mixers (although wow is that ever changing in the age streaming porn and chat roulette). The kids really can look brilliant at times, but really I'm just concerned they are not doing much more than maintaining possession and buzzing around the ice. It's positive they can have a couple monster shifts a game, but for the love of god, shoot the puck more. The line only had 4 shots combined, even though they averaged about 14 minutes of time at evens.

The D-core is looking a lot shakier against better opponents right now, and much of the early season mysticism surrounding Potter is now starting to resolve into a more even keel picture of the big guy. He stays cool still, but when pressured he can have a tendency to make a bad pass or give-away (to be fair this is generally universal amongst Dmen to some extent - except Lidstrom, who is a cyborg). I'm not really down on him (yet), but he's played his two worst games in a row here.

Theo Peckham is starting to firmly establish his game now. Which is to say he's showing his cement block feet and general lack of finesse when moving the puck out of the D zone. I was one of his boosters last year as a guy who was playing dependable, simple hockey, but perhaps with a bigger engine on the car we need a more agile suspension -- or some other weird not-exactly-well-thought-out analogy indicating we need better pucks out the back to help the forwards generate. Peckham isn't even really bringing the wrecking ball to his game recently, and he's only credited for 13 hits this year, something like a hit per game. That's simply not enough, and I'm seriously tempted to drop the Mulatto Mauler moniker. I hope this stagnation is not permanent, but I'm definitely craving a more dynamic option in the #4-5 hole.

Long story short, Detroit looked like the better team, played like the better team, and won the game without giving up a lot to the Oilers even when we pushed a little bit.
"We had small successes along the way, but that's a good team that took advantage. Our battle level weaned as time went on." -Renney
Some individuals and a curtain call at the conclusion.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 14: Blue Collar Boys

Yes, it's Toews with the cup. Right before two girls show up.
The Oilers have been a bit like a sports-fan gloryhole recently, providing the same basic pleasures, but without the visual excitement. If the word gloryhole conjures up greasy, dim, piss-yellow-lit backrooms, well it's sort of an analogy of the Oilers play recently. It's grimy, it's a bit ugly, and its delivering results. The Habs sawed off the first period with the Oilers -- perhaps out of respect for their record or speed --  but once they realized the Oilers could be roughed up and outskated a little bit, they cranked it up and took it to us fairly firmly for the last 30 or so of the game. If you want a stat that paints the picture of pablum the Oilers produced offensively, consider this: the Oilers had 8 shots at EV total.

Thankfully for the baying stats wolves -- they can't wait to jump on the Oilers shot differential which is starting to devolve into ugly -- we have a certain goaltender who is sporting nanoscopic 0.98 GAA and an unfathomable 0.964 save percentage. He's played so well that I can't even bend my fingers to type out the usual Khabibulin slam or slander referring to his veins running clear or something of that nature. He's simply played too well. It's not like he's been a product of a Lemaire-built steel trap; he's had to make some legitimate hammer-time stops. The guy is confident, battling hard, and making virtually every stop that is expected of him. At the end of the day, all you can say is молодец.

To be honest, I wasn't totally displeased with the Oilers defensive effort on the night. We saw a lot of good things. Typical Petry, for instance, who can play huge swathes of games with nothing but his impeccable poke-check on display, and a basic, smooth performance, only to watch him make a soft give away with about 80 seconds to go in a game the Oilers lead by a single goal. He really looks like a stud oftentimes but it's clear he's going to need some seasoning before he can play top opposition. As far as out top pairing, Smid and Gilbert continue to look like top pairing guys for the most part, and aside from one shaky play in the third, they had another big minute (Smid 22:13, Gilbert 24:08) hard-nosed (surprising from Tommy boy) game.

The forward equation was a bit uglier. I have to give it to Debrusk, once and a while he actually shows some pointed observational skills and frames in a way that doesn't make me cringe (see: every time Principe opens his mouth -- yes he's a love or hate kind of guy, I'm in the hate group). He said that the Oilers were not being urgent enough in the neutral zone. I agree with you 100%, big guy. I saw Lander, RNH, Belanger, and Gagner all get back checked, pick-pocketed and generally owned in the neutral zone by CH forwards and they simply were simply going rape-victim when they felt a little pressure on their backside. The kids pulled off one of their shifts of pocket-sized, phone-booth wizardry in the third, but besides that it was easily RNH's worst game of his young career.

One trio that was playing the neutral zone game the right way, the veteran line, is actually a microcosm of the Oilers success this season: for every time that one part of the team sea-saws back to the ground, the other half takes off. Except that for most nights the threesome playing the game from above is whoever is paired with Horcoff and Smyth. Smyth has been absolutely full value this season, and whatever karma/zen/spiritual happiness he acquired by returning to his roots, it has spilled full force into his game. Smyth has been making almost no mistakes and providing a brand of offence that really no one else on the team seems to have figured out. There was even a little bit of magic fairy dust sprinkled on Ryan Jones as he scored a nice shortie tonight that was basically the reason the Oilers won.

I have a feeling that Renney was pretty grumpy in between the second-third and postgame as well. I figure he marched into the room and gave them about as firm a scolding a young team can handle after a gritty 3-1 win on the road. If you need evidence of this, look no further than this gem of a quote from him post game:
"I’m glad Khabby found the rink tonight. It took the other guys a little while to get here." - Tom Renney
Individuals and a bow on it after the leap.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 13: Guts, No Glory

Vampire Smyth does not sparkle in sunlight
Dave Tippett is a guy who has managed to produce some remarkable results with a lunch-pail brigade, a couple of sound defensive mantras, and a basic lack of empathy for anything resembling exciting hockey. He's had 40 or more wins 7 of his 8 NHL head coaching seasons, and is another in a long line of coaches that really has zero option except to employ a basic sandpaper strategy to win games because miserly scrooges run the front-office finances. I suppose you can't really blame the dude, defensively sound hockey has proven time and time again that it can trump virtually all offensive strategies, and it's been a rare team in the modern era that has scored its way to hoisting the silver mug of Stanley.

Strangely enough, the Oilers have become something of a carbon copy of such a team: a defensive juggernaut with modest offensive output. In constrast to the desert dogs, however,  we have a rich owner (they have none), a fanatical mouth-foaming fanbase (they have none), and we are stocked to the johnson in offensive talent (who? Doan? Kyle Turris? Vrbata?).

On this night, in the mirror match extravaganza, the 'Yotes made a few more good plays, blocked a few more key shots, and generally were slighty stingier overall. The Smid call that led to the Aucoin PP blast was total bullshit - at least based on the replay CBC showed me. The game was tight enough, in a feudal warfare kind of sense, that one lousy reffing call was enough of sand-bag on the scale to tip the final result. The Jones cross-check in the dying moments was also conveniently missed, even though he had just handled the puck, and surely both refs had a clear line of sight to the infraction. Maybe if the Oilers get that PP, the game gets tied up, and then we'd need Nostradamus to sort out the result.

Alas, it was not meant to be, and like we all suspected but could not prove, the Oilers will not finish with 158 points - it is now a mathematical impossibility. Honestly, this writer might be concerned if it looked like we didn't deserve to be in the same building as the Yotes, but we played well enough to maybe sneak out a point or a W. After being stifled in grubby Tippett tactics in the second, we found our walnuts in the third and managed a pushback that got us within a shot of a different result. The shots ended up 30-26 for the desert dogs and Dennis had the scoring chances 14-13 for them as well. In reality, a close game decided by a PP and a softie by our big guy and a slightly bigger, more experienced, and more determined Coyotes team. All in all, I felt like the Oilers basically played the same game they won them 6 in a row, and it gives me a modicum of belief they might be more successful and longer lived than a Kim Kardashian wedding.

One thing I didn't like, was the incessant fellating the CBC guys provided for the Coyotes at basically every turn. Every time an Oilers player would get hit, suddenly PHX is a team full of wrecking balls 'pushing us around' and 'making us pay the price'. They would make one simple back-check, and then it was 'expert defensive play' and we had to listen while they rattled off how incredibly dominated the Oilers were getting. It was like those two chodes were watching a completely different game. For all the lack of Edmonton offence, it wasn't like Pheonix was cycling in our zone for 16 hours and going globe-trotter on the Oilers D-core. And just when you thought those clowns were done with spewing the exact same observations about the exact same topic, they'd start up again like a first-generation Daewoo CD player skipping back to the beginning of a track. Thankfully we don't get the CBC goon-squad that often, or I might be tempted to go with radio delay and a muted TV.

Individuals and a wrap after the dashed line.