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.

Sam Gagner - A lot of chatter these days about Gagner being an expendable part in the Oilers lineup. He's probably deflated his value somewhat with a flat start to the '11 campaign, but his decent track record of mid-level offensive success will still fetch a pretty decent return if he was to be moved, especially if a bit of our plethora of junior talent is shipped out as well. What would we want in return? Probably a younger Dman with lots of upside, like a Luke Schenn perhaps. Regardless, it was another awful game by Gagner. He is playing softer than seafoam and losing more battles than Pearl Harbour in '42. There is just nothing to his game right now: no good puck movement, no sneaky off-the-wall plays, and most of all, a pitiful two-way presence. It seems like the last piece of the previous incarnation of the kid line is starting to fade out. About 12 minutes and 3 garbage angle shots. Ho-hum.

Jeff Petry - Is clearly a guy that can handle bigger minutes, and in general I'm fairly happy with his game. He shows a lot of all round skill. He played 18:44, which was behind only Smyth, Gilbert, and Smid, and shows clearly -- PAY ATTENTION LOWETIDE -- that he's the 3rd most relied upon defender on Renney's bench. This pattern of ice time has appeared at least in half the games he has played in, and I expect it will continue as he improves. Sometimes it's hard to fathom he's only played 44 NHL games total. Nowhere for the kid to go but up.

Magnus Pajaarvi - At this point, it's looking a little bleak for Pony. He got 7 minutes, and still managed to be -1. I think I can remember actually seeing him touching the puck about 4 times all game, and I didn't have to look to know he didn't have a shot on net. I want him badly to succeed... No one can really help him now except himself. He needs to get some greasy goals, and blow on whatever ember is burning in his heart right now. Conflagrate Pony, conflagrate!

Ryan Smyth - Perhaps his quietest game of the year. He has almost 20 minutes of ice and 3 shots, but really nothing too dangerous, and also finished in the red at -1. Cap'n Canada has been playing unreal (especially in a bang for your buck sense) so I will keep my criticism light tonight. Instead, I think everyone is waiting with bated breath for a big breakout from one of Smyth's linemates named...

Ales Hemsky - Guess what, Hemsky can still dangle. He can also still frustrate a bit when his juking and fancy hands leads to no real results. He can sometimes attempt to hit the homerun when all we really need is a well placed bunt. That is sort of Ales' game in a nutshell: he hits for power, not average. In other words, he tries a lot more high-risk, high-reward plays than just making the simple pass or shot. It's hard to say what the right mix is (if there is such a thing), but I think a little more simplicity and straight shooting from Hemsky would greatly benefit his own production as well as his linemates.

Andy Sutton - I have no love for this guy really. He doesn't do anything effective except club the odd guy, and generally speaking he's about as impressive with the puck on his stick as Steve MacIntyre. The Oilers would have been well served to completely replace his minutes with a guy like Montador (who I've been screaming for the Oilto get for the longest time), but unfortunately that ship has sailed. As little as I like 'zombie-face' Barker, he's still a far superior option to lunk-head Sutton.

Nikolai Khabibulin - Not his best game, not his worst. Recently we've seen a lot of his best, and it won't take much to remind us of the latter version of Khabibulin. Too many of those reminders would have either the Oilers out of the playoffs or Dubnyk our full-time keeper, or more likely both. Still it's no time to panic. That was his first regulation loss.

Taylor Hall - I mentioned the kid line had a couple buzzing-bee shifts, and a lot of that has to do with Hallsies great wheels. He can wheel around the ice like nobodies business. Unfortunately it's not manifesting specifically as added offence, and as Tencer points out in his tweet, there is a basic lack of offence from the trio that carried the team early:
Hall and Eberle have combined for 1 goal and 3 assists in the last 7 games. Gagner 1 assist in last 6. Horcoff with 1 assist in last 5.
The other players added for bonus badness.

Ryan Jones - Gee has he ever played a tenacious, defensively sound game -- a definite step up from last season. His dish to Belanger was badass (a guy who I'm going to start making derogatory nicknames for if he doesn't start improving), and I don't even mind his vicious chop of the Red Wheels stick that cost him a trip to the sin-bin. He was one of the few Oilers that had the fury in his eyes and the air in his hair from step 1. We need more of that, and especially from the rest of the bottom sixers. Every battle for the puck should be a grim, life-or-death battle. Only Jonesy seems to be playing with that intensity currently, at least amongst the bottom ranks. Full marks to the guy, and Renney played him for almost 16 minutes in the game, also indicating he was happy with Dr. FlowingLocks effort tonight.

Eric Belanger - Look, he's no Matt Stajan (yet), but for the love of god how many goalless games can this so-called mortal-lock-for-40-points go before actually starting to get a bit of offence. By game 16 of last season, Belanger already had 9 points. I don't know if it's the teams general lack of offence, or something about his linemates, but I have not been impressed by Belanger even once this year. Jack of all trades, master of none? The only thing he's jacking is (sick sick minds) is money out of Katz's big fat wallet.


The Oilers got beat by a better team, and didn't really show any physical engagement until Petrell dropped the hard-warmers (BTW stupid extra penalty for Petrell, amirite?). They needed to get that engagement from the start, and that actually might have been better served -- sigh, I hate myself -- by having Eager in instead.

Say it aint so Pony, say it aint so.


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