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.

Sam Gagner - His apple on the Horcoff goal was nice, a classic sort of junior hotdog dangle that ended up working out OK - only jeebus knows if he knew Horcoff was swooping into the high slot with his winchester cocked. Otherwise he had a fairly quiet night, and while this normally wouldn't be a travesty, when a player has 3 assists total in 14 gp, it is a mounting cause for concern. This is a guy who has never scored less then 40 points in a season who is on pace for 23. Where is the Hobbit we know and love? Oh yea, he had a fight. Maybe that knocked some sense back into him, I'm not sure.

Taylor Hall - I have actually figured out much of Hall's effectiveness is in his ability to create chaos on the ice. Eberle got a goal just based on Hall flying at mach 3 into the opposition zone and drawing a bee's nest of angry yellow defenders (those jerseys are seriously ugly). That is a huge component to his game: crashing around the ice, and having a penchant for high-speed havoc. Now he just has to combine it with a bit more shooting and passing.

Alex Plante - Well I have already voiced my displeasure about his game in general, but I really want to reiterate: he is not suitable NHL caliber depth. Not yet, and perhaps not ever. There was a lot of fizzle to his movement out of the zone, and he took a stupid penalty to boot. He played about 14 at evens, with zip for PK time, and I'll be happy to see his demotion to be honest. The whole draft year looks pretty lousy, but this middle of the first rounder is doing nothing but continuing that tradition (Riley Nash isn't exactly burning it up either).

Jordan Eberle - The stats speak for themselves: 2-1-3, +2, 4 SOG, 17:39 TOI. Sick score line, sick goals from Jebbers, and once again he was total money. He's also 19th in league scoring.
"I feel more mature this year ... I'm learning what it takes to play on the road and win on the road." - Jordan Eberle
Jeff Petry - I can't be the only Oilers fan who knows that Petry can fire screamers off the composite banana bottom, can I? He clocked over 100 Ehm-Pee-Aich in a hardest shot competition in college?AHL? Anyways, wherever it was, the kid can punch some vulcanized rubber if he gets the room. I guess the coaching staff knows this -- hence why Petry is manning the point on the second PP sometimes. His goal was a boom-goes-the-dynamite through a Smyth screen (unofficial assist to goldilocks), and represents something we might see a bit more of in the future. It was only the second NHL goal of his career, but lets not forget, he's only played 49 games total. He's pretty much exactly how you expect a future stud defender to look as a bumbling NHL rookie -- a mix of great and mediocre.

Devan Dubnyk - Played a solid, if unspectacular game. He finished with 30 stops on 32 shots (.938), and his season save percentage bumped up to .907 -- not great (25th league wide) -- but certainly respectable. He had to make a couple of tougher stops, but generally the big easy makes everything look pretty easy and his rebound control has been excellent. If he keeps this up, we may see that true dual rotation come into play in the near future, with Dubes and Khabi splitting games more evenly.

Ladislav Smid - Has not really wavered at all from his more or less excellent form that he began the season with. At this point, I'm sold on him being an official top 4 defender with top 2 defensive upside™. If this keeps up, he will make the Pronger trade look like a steal for Burkie -- as opposed to rape by a man in a monkey suit. He had his first point of the year (I'm not kidding), and finished a sparkling +3 in about 25 minutes of ice. Guy is such a beauty.

Shawn Horcoff - He's on pace for a solid 55 points, and if he continues on this path, most of the Horcoff haters will probably clam up -- as well they should for being retards. Horcoff has always been a valuable Oiler, even when he's not scoring, as he actually can play responsible two-way hockey. Unfortunately he's still overpaid, but damn it, he's our overpaid. 2 goals in about 19 of ice, and was +2 with 3 shots. A great showing for the Cap'n, and he's also a got a pretty slick wardrobe off the ice.


The Oilers were simply the better team on the night. Our goaltender was better, our special teams were better, and we buried them in a steep hole with a dominant first. I'm still trying to figure out the team identity -- defence first? slick offensive explosions? -- but for now I will take the two points from a usually tough Nashville building, and move on.

Up next, the league leading Minnesota Wild. What?


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