Friday, October 17, 2014

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 5: No Rest for the Wicked

The playoff rock grows larger...
Hockey can be a cruel mistress, and perhaps none is crueler than the one draped in an orange and blue Oilers jersey. She's teased us with wishes upon shooting stars, and yet this same temptress has poured puck-black bile down faithful throats for 8 long, dreary, awful years. It's been hundreds of numbing losses, thousands of soul wrenching goals, like some kind of morbid sacrifice on the altar of first round draft picks. Which leads to today, the fruition of fan pain: it seemed like here, now, surely there would be results. Unfortunately, the exact total opposite has manifested. We've been the worst defensive team off the line, and our vaunted scoring power has fizzled like a power grid managed by Enron. That's young-gun-offence is now at 2.2 goals per game, good for 24th in the league - not a worthy spot for a team with talent like ours.

Tonight's game was about as bittersweet as a loss could be. The played the Canucks very evenly through the entirety of the game (28-30 on the puck ticker), and one missed assignment (was it Purcell, was it Fayne?) led to a second period goal by Vrbata that ultimately sunk the Oilers. Scrivens had a stand-out bounce-back game, and Marincin stepped into the blue line like all the statletes knew he could. I said bitter too: the top line barely cycled, forwards missed obvious chances, and the PP only offered up a mediocre 6 shots in 4 full opportunities. Overall, the commitment to team defence, and the Oilers assembling a healthy - and in this writers opinion - correct lineup is a small first step to exorcising the nasty-bad losers JuJu. At which point maybe the brownie points earned tonight can be exchanged for real points, arithmetic the Oilers are becoming desperate to realize.

There are 6 games left of this lazer crucial home stand (adding a lazer to anything makes it important), and we already need to start crunching the numbers here. Last year Dallas squeaked into the big show with 91 points, and a point percentage of 55.5%. The Oilers are currently at a point percentage of 10%. To reach a point percentage of 55.5 (or higher) at the end of the home stand, we would need 0.555 * 11 (games) * 2 (points per game) = ~12 points at the end of it. Subtract the point we've already gained (launch the fireworks), and that means 11 points in 6 games. It doesn't take a degree in brick science to figure out that there are only 12 points available over the rest of the home stand. Which means, ultimately, that everyone should start contemplating the real possibility that the #Oilers will miss the playoffs once again.

Let me be clear: virtually every news outlet, guide, and "expert" placed the Oilers on the outside looking in, and any who throw a coin in the wishing oil-well are likely to be burned once again. I can deal with missing the playoffs. It's an incredibly tough division, in a tough conference, with a still incredibly young team. What I can't stand, what we won't stand is the Oilers being a bad team. If they play more games like tonight, I think we will sample just as much success as failure.

And god it will be sweet if this team can ever realize it's potential. It would like being tortured by al-Qaeda for 8 years, only to finally be rescued by loyal sex-robot slaves made of pure gold. Or something.

Some players and a conclusion after the hop.

Ben Scrivens - Played an all around superb game, with a single impossible-to-save goal against, and a lot of solid, high quality, sure work. There was one puck adventure moment that almost cost him at the end of the first (I would have ate my HAND if he did that again), but it didn't and the result was resounding step towards solid #1 goaltending.

Martin Marincin - I don't want to say "told yu so" because that's incorrect spelling. I will however point out, however, that I've been screaming for his presence since the season start (follow my screaming at @mindmasher), and breathed a sigh of relief when the AHL recall materialized. He played a shade under 16 minutes but that number is going to crack 3x7 if he keeps playing like that. Some might point to his CF% of 37 but he also had an 18% zone start (started his shift most of the time in the D zone).

The Fourth Line - Hendricks, Gordon, and Jonesuu played an absolutely amazing game. They made the Sedin frogs eat snow all night, and outshot the opposition at evens better than any other Oilers. Clearly the return of Hopkins that allowed the reformation of the heavy, defensive trio was an absolute blessing, and if they keep it up, it's going to pay big dividends by giving our free-wheelers I can't believe it's not butter minutes.

Jeff Petry - I think he had a bounce back game, and he managed an excellent CF% of 54 while getting 43% zone starts. He only played ~17 minutes (to Schultz's 23+), but as the "rust" breaks free, he should gain some of Nikitin's minutes. Speaking of which...

Nikita Nikitin - I've been a vocal naysayer for the bond villain, but at least in this game he didn't look terrible. Eakins gave him 23:37, and a mixture of PP and PK, and he looked - briefly, fleetingly - like a top pairing defenceman for moments, with his winged sandals fleety, and his Russian body beefy. Now, for some consistency.

The Top Line - I need more! The Oilers need more!

A solid effort to open the home stand, and now, crucially we need to keep moving forward. Or not, and in which case this season will devolve into the absolute worst Oilers season of all time.

The worst season. Of all time.


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