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.

Devan Dubnyk - His softie on Langkow was not the softest goal ever - it was off the pipe and in - but it certainly changed the demeanor of the game. He made plenty of high-caliber stops, including a nice pad stop on a Doan 15-footer, and didn't really have a lot of chance on the other two he let in. Long story short, I don't know that if Khabibulin was in net the result would be any different. It's weird to even imply that he's some kind of magical cure all for goals against - Khabi had some of the fanbase contemplating voiding his contract for the DUI. Anyways, the .897 effort by Dubie definitely wasn't his best, but it was probably good enough for a W if the Oilers offensive generated a little more.

Sam Gagner - Continues to make a plethora of puke-inducing plays every game, which includes and is not limited to: passing pucks directly into defenders feet, passing pucks blindly, trying an extra fancy move that never seems to work, and getting physically man-handled on virtually every shift. I've never been to high or low on Gaggers but recently my opinion of him has dipped considerably. He is not a guy with a V8 engine, and he has chemistry with his linemates like baking powder in vinegar (a bunch of fizz and bubbles). In other words I'm not sure how he - and by extension his linemates - are going to contribute effectively to future Oilers success. 1 shot in 15 minutes of ice.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Was his usual slippery eel self, and also displayed some surprising strength in making that play off the boards to give Hallsie his glorious late-game chance. He really is constantly making things happen on the ice, and one of the things that has impressed me constantly is his zone entry. When he's carrying the puck, he almost always dekes his way onto his forehand in the high slot and then finds somebody with a sexual-chocolate pass. Defensively he was still beasting in in his own zone, and I don't think he's made more than a handful of bad plays defensively the whole season. Yea, that's right, he's like Datsyuk, except with more vowel power:
"Not having a center iceman is like playing Scrabble without vowels. And this kid is a vowel. A good one" - Tom Renney on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
And he's our vowel. How's that for creepy, weird, and non-sensical. Atta boy Renney.

Magnus Pajaarvi - His ice time is now down to 10:08 in this one. Anton Lander played more (11:29), and even though he got an apple tonight (about fucking time he pinged the score-sheet), it's still mopey grey-face time for PRV. There was a shot of the kid on the bench near the end of the game, and you can just see the frustration in Pony's face. The kid definitely cares, but something has got to give. His linemates might be playing like mobile colostomy bags but Pony needs to make shit happen in the sense that he needs to be generating positive play if he's not getting results. He had two shots, but really was he noticeable? I didn't really think so. Right now he's sort of like the forward version of Joni Pitkanen: all the right tools in a good toolbox, but a mystifying lack of oomph to his game. Get dirty, Pony. Get some garbage off your ass and let's get the P out of the toilet (yea I went there).

Taylor Hall - Got run around a couple times on the ice, but based on the way the CBC color monkeys were making it out, he was getting Rocky Balboa'd by the man-eater Schlemko. Fortunately I live in the realm of reality, and Hall was taking his lumps just the same as any 19 year old, budding star would get, especially with Hall's North-South kind of game. One good thing about Hall that I've highlighted before is the fact that Hall will continuously go back to the same well to draw water; if he gets beat up a bit trying to squeeze around a defender, you might just see him do the exact same thing the very next shift. He isn't cowed by momentary failure, and nor should he be. You have to keep on challenging because eventually everyone makes a mistake. He had two shots, and about 3 minutes less ice-time than the Nuge, so clearly Renney wasn't at his warmest and fuzziest when it came to his game tonight (or perhaps recently). I have no fear for a player who plays the game basically the same every time he hits the ice. Hallsie will be finesie.

Jeff Petry - His game operates on a sine-wave seemingly; he can oscillate from quite amazingly awesome to leaving something to be desired. I have often highlighted his 'mistake a game' consistency - his mistake count sometimes creeps into higher prime numbers - but he's also quite offensively consistent. He looks good with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, and I really have a feeling that he can put up some big O zone numbers if he can round his defensive game into absorbing bigger minutes. He tailed only Potter and Gilbert for icetime, and finished even. A nice night overall.

Colten Tuebert - He quickly shot up the charts of ugliest Oiler players, but aside from his 1442-medieval-peasant looks, he played a pretty simple and effective game without the puck tonight. When it was on his stick, he didn't do anything I remembered of note, but freed of that responsibility, he was using his size to plaster people and represented a difficult corner for the 'Yotes offence to get around. I'm not sure he will ever have anything more than third pairing upside, but as of now he's showing he can at least play at a replacement level in the big leagues. His tipped point shot was a good look, and there has been whisper of talk about some untapped offensive potential with Tuebert. That shot was a tiny glimmer of it I guess. 12:21 with an apple and was +1.


I'll let Renney put this one to bed:
"At the end of the day they were a little more precise team then we were, we flurried with the puck and that cost us the game." - Renney


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