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.

Tom Gilbert - Is it just me, or is Tom Gilbert playing out of his mind right now? I'm not even talking about his 4 points on the night, I'm more referring to his utter solidness in all three zones. Granted he is an early season -7 -- never a great number -- but he is getting tough competition by the shipping container and starting out deep in the defensive zone more often than the '11 Colts. By eye, he's not only been the best defender, he's also been playing way tougher and meaner then at any other time in his career. Tammy Twinkletoes seems to be no more. He played 25 minutes, and 7 of them short-handed, and played air-tight versus one of the leagues hottest lines.

Jordan Eberle - His pass to Smytty was an all-world play from the kid, and when asked later about it, all he said was:
"I just knew where he was going to be." - Jordan Eberle
Ebs can pass,  that's for sure. His goal was nice, and generally it was just a nice night for the gap-toothed sniper. 4 points in 12 minutes shows just how efficient he was.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Once again showed flashes of his high end offensive game, and generally was a giant pulsating brain out there in terms of his decisions with the puck. On Hall's first goal, for instance, The Nuge sifted a floaty wrister into goal that was tipped by the captain, and the resulting rebound was cashed by Hall. A lot of players might have tried to crank it, and when he made his quick, easy-to-tip wrist shot, it just showed how The Nuge can easily change gears mentally -- something I have hoped to see a bit more from Hallsie.

Taylor Chorney - This was not an especially impressive game for the lil' guy, even though he played almost 19 minutes. Plenty of shifts where he was getting rag dolled by bigger Chicago forwards, and a couple of flubbed clears and passes in the defensive zone. Granted he hasn't had a lot of NHL game time this season (or at all), so there is some room for expansion after the rust is chipped off. Still, Chorney as a long term top 6 solution scares the bejeebus out of me, and I pray Tambo saddles up and recruits some firmly NHL-caliber D help.

Taylor Hall - It was a beautiful thing to see Hallsie snap out of his goalless-funk in a big way, and he put his personal exclamation point on the night by potting the trick with a top-cheese comet through Montador's legs. It was a dirty snipe, and for a guy with such a heavy shot, I think we are all hoping (or perhaps expecting) to see more goals scored with pure shooting prowess than what we've seen so far. Let's hope this helps the kid get rolling for real, as he still has some work to exceed last years pace. Renney also had a beauty quote re: Hall's reckless style after the game:
"If I held my breath every time Hall goes flying into the net, I'd have brain problems." - Tom Renney

Sam Gagner - Honestly, I thought Sam played an OK game. He made at least one bone-headed pass that had me groaning but he managed 5 shots, and generally penetrated the O zone with some skill and delivered decent dishes to his linemates. He should be a big part of the secondary offence if he can ever get the box cars rolling a bit. He played a predictably bigger night in terms of ice, and at 18:11, it was his second highest total of the season.


It was a cathartic night for a fanbase and a team that had shadows of past doom creeping back into the picture. It was just one of those nights and as a fan sometimes you gotta shrug, smile, and oil up your body and run naked through the halls of your building yodeling.

I leave you with another gem of a quote from the annointed one:
"I think all 5." - RNH on how many of his points can be credited to his moustache.

Good night... and good luck.


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