Sunday, October 12, 2014

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 2: The Tale of Two Flippers

79.1 Hand Pass - A player shall be permitted to stop or “bat” a puck in the air with his open hand, or push it along the ice with his hand, and the play shall not be stopped unless, in the opinion of the Referee, he has directed the puck to a teammate.
It's one of those moments in a game where there's a glitch in the matrix: everyone stops moving, and the outcome you expect (a hand pass stopping play), the outcome you've seen hundreds of times, suddenly doesn't materialize. Moments later the turning point of the game was deposited behind Viktor Fasth, and the blank faced zebras merely pointed to the goal as if they hadn't seen the black cat pass by twice. A blown call on the hand pass, and once missed was not reviewable, even if the mother ship in Toronto realized the mistake.

The game teetered off the rails thenceforth, as a cacophony of dumb penalties, bad defensive decisions, and a generally disjointed Oilers attack kept the oil drops anchored in their own end. Ultimately they got a Bettman point, and were a carnival ride away from another, but there is no way Eakins can be happy with the overall game the Oilers played tonight. No matter which team you are playing, taking 14 straight PP minutes from 4:48 in the 2nd to 6:20 in the 3rd isn't going to lend itself to a lot of success. Aside from obviously helping the Nux pot 2 PPGs, it also nullifies the attack and kills hustle and flow.

The second flipper in the title I'm alluding to is the flippers that dropped off Mr. Hopkins hand-model hands, and the knuckle exchange that materialized afterwards (Nugers first). It was a surprisingly feisty tilt with Hamhuis, and the scene showed, I think, three things:

  1. Hamhuis is a wussy: listed at 6'1" 210, he averages 0.66 PIMs per game, and you probably didn't need me to tell you that he spends more time in the cologne aisle than inside a boxing ring. It makes his posturing with a skinny skill forward a decade his junior look somewhat comical. At least he can puck.
  2. Hopkins is growing up. He said to Dan "Puff Pastry" Hamhuis that he could see right through Hamhuis' tough-guy posturing. I like Hopkins standing up for himself, and the cross-eyed crazy inside me kind of liked Benoit burying Matthias into the boards moments later (see point 3).
  3. Team toughness is up a peg this year: The kids are meaner, the wings are bigger, and let's hope this stops the hopeless Edmonton scribes screaming for Nuclear option goons. Which reminds me, Gazdic is set to draw back into the roster...

The final thing I want to touch on is our fucking rotten defencemen. One half of every pair is looking inept to start the year. Nikitin, Hunt, and Ference are all various degrees of charming - you've got a Russian with a name like a bond villain, a gap tooth smurf/J15 missile system hybrid, and Captain Oilers himself. They also are remarkably similar in terms of the amount of time they tend to spend in their own zone. They were the bottom 3 Dmen on the night for the CorsiFor% and by the eye test, a different Oilers Defenceman ghost of the past.

  • Nikita Nikitin = Ryan Whitney: Both big, smooth skaters, and supposedly puck movers. Both overpaid for most of their careers. He's been positively terrible almost from the start. Oh, and lucky us, was 9 seconds short of the most Oiler icetime on the night (J.Schultz had 22:29).
  • Andrew Ference = Late Stage Steve Staios: No, it's not a cancer, but it might as well be since Andrew has infiltrated Oilers hearts everywhere (including the coach and management). He doesn't pass that well, doesn't defend that well, isn't fast. What exactly does Andrew Ference do well? Oh yea, take selfies of working out. He does look incredibly fit. Side note: Steve Staios was an excellent defender for the Oilers until his flesh bag began to inevitably decay.

Martin Marincin is in the minors, in case you missed that.

Conclusion after the hop.

The Good:

David Perron - I suspected we might see a bit of drop off in his game, mostly driven by disbelief that we traded him for Magnus Pony (whom I think is a cool cat, but he hasn't cracked the lineup for the first two in St Lou). Instead, the Perron from last year is right back in action. Every time he dangles I half expect him to pause and twist the corner of a waxed moustachio, but he's got hands, he's got "stickiness" and most of all defensively responsible.

The Fourth Line - They averaged an 2% zone start at even strength (seriously, Boyd had one, the rest had no Ozone starts), and averaged a corsi of -4. Considering they saw some of the top line, that's solid numbers. Doesn't hurt when Jonesuu chips in a pretty breakaway shortie too. Makes you wonder how Gazdic will get a sniff. Hopefully he doesn't.

Mark Arcobello - The Sporkabella had 1+1=2 in 15 minutes of ice (0 on the PP), and he made smart plays most of the night. If his early returns mean anything, it is that the Oilers probably will be OK up the middle, at least short term.

Viktor Fasth - I thought he was good. Not great, but good. There were plenty of blue butts in his grill all night, and I thought he battled well and made the big saves when he should. He certainly gave the Oilers a chance to win.

The Bad:

The Top Line - Spent too much time in their own end 5v5, and while they had 11 shots between the 3 of them, there was little to no offensive pressure from the HEN trio. I'm setting their standards high, which is the only reason they are being placed in the bad column. Really they were only bad in comparison to how good I think they can be.

Nikita Nikitin - I could have picked any of the three stooges listed above, but this Bond nemesis was particularly villainous on the night. He made poor decisions all over the ice, especially on the tying goal where he was hanging idly off the left post and stood there dumbly while Vey streaked into the slot. I ain't even mad that Nikitin is swindling Daryl "Deep Pockets" Katz out of 4-point-too-many millions a year. I *am* mad that his big league paycheque will probably keep him on the roster for 900% more games than he should be. There's a chance he will shake off the rust and become a solid top 4 guy. There's also a chance that the Oilers will make the playoffs this year. The question is, how closely tied are those chances?

The Ugly:

The Missed Call - Bad call, bad goal, and who knows how the night would have unfolded without that missed call. Maybe no difference, but when you have 4 on ice officials making over half a million combined between them, you simply can't miss crucial, critical calls like that.

Conclusion Haiku (not a Haiku):

Take the point, 
make less mistakes, 
and for god sakes: Marincin


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