Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 9: Block Québécois

Marriage made in Canada. This is also block shaped.
The Oilers extended their win streak to 4 games and hit the 50% points per game mark, largely in thanks to the hockey gods, gritty play, and another solid effort by the professor. The Habs are nowhere as good as their record indicates. Phrases like "class of the East" are nothing but smoke and mirrors statements from analysts with no business analyzing. They mostly outplayed the Oilers in the possession game but it was mostly an even game until the Oilers went up by 2, and some desperation entered the Hab's game.

That's when the Oilers hounds took over, spearheading a 21 block effort by the blue guys. They hacked and chopped and swore their way out of Montreal pressure shift after shift. Some of the play was downright oogly in the Oilers zone, however they never really gave that puck-on-a-platter chance that they seemed to earlier in the year. Montreal had chances - mostly the kind of bouncing, bunched, and half-baked chances that had legs in the way or a square goaltender. You don't want to take away from Scrivens effort at all - he played a wonderfully composed game - but you'd be hard pressed to remember a single outrageous stop Scrivens made.

Aside from that, it was the German Gretzky's boundary game, and on the other side lies at least a 40 game audition (the UFA-year-burned-barrier). Even though at the time of this writing we haven't heard anything, I would guess there is zero suspense in this regard. LD is here to stay, and while his game wasn't flashy, I honestly think Leon has skated better the last 3 games. He's reached a level that gives you some comfort that he will be able to keep his German designed engine driving results.

In terms of the Oilers offence, Pouliot and Yak were the goal scorers. Pouliot's effort was a sweet little dash, deke, and deposit from a Canadiens fall and a nice Arco pass. Yak jammed the biscuit in off a missed shot and a shovel pass. A little glitz, a little garbage, but most importantly the "third" line got off the snide and provided some incredibly welcome secondary scoring. We know we can count on the 6 million dollar kids most nights, so any contributions from forwards 4 through 9 is going to give the Oilers more double v's than we've seen in the last half decade.

Finally, let's all remember this key point: the Oilers are 19th in the league overall, and 9th in the west. Unless everyone is happy with the 13th overall pick and an extra two months to contemplate the draft, there is a lot of work to still be done. The proud blue you can celebrate when we actually rise above the dregs of the league.

Some individuals after the hop.

Nail Yakupov - Only played 12:36, but most importantly had 4 shots, which is exactly what we need out of our muslim musketeer. He's going to live and die by his ability to generate shots, and he almost had half of his previous season total in one game (came in with 9 shots). I think Nail plays best when he has a shoot first mentality, and that was on display tonight. His draft mate Galchenyuk had a similar night: time on ice, shots, and a not so similar -3. Regardless, Gally looked good, and just goes to show, even when you play well, you sometimes get a lousy stat line. Guys like Mark Spector -whom I loathe - should keep that in mind when trying to assassinate someone with a lousy piece of journalism.

Mark Fayne - The color guys mentioned that Fayne was mostly invisible on the night, but the CH boys would probably disagree. He played 18+ minutes, and had a half dozen blocked shots: the Canadiens saw a lot of rubber bounce of his copper and blue gear on the night, and he was in good position to make the plays he needed to. This version of Fayne is the one the Oilers need on a night to night basis.

Benoit Pouliot - Maybe there was a bit of french fire in his legs on the night, but he was skating well, and the goal was a perfect example of the kind of offensive ability Pouliot has always had. He also is a chippy warrior, and while he may not have the best defensive decision making the world, the heavy, hard chaos he inflicts has almost the same result.

Martin Marincin - The slender slovak was efficient all night, and you constantly see him make plays where he uses his improved strength to reduce the opposing forwards options to "skate into the boards without the puck". I still think there is some offensive ceiling we haven't quite reached, but he hasn't even played a full NHL season worth of games yet. A key piece for the Oilers moving forward.

Ben Scrivens - Like mentioned above, Ben continues to roll, and fresh off a second star of the week honor, he decided to really punctuate the reward with a winning goose egg performance. There was a lot of moustachioed latte-drinking Hab-rats skating through Scrivens' blue, and he kept his composure through it all. Also important was his general lack of having to make more than one save in a sequence. His save percentage is up to .898, and a couple more nice efforts should see it move into a respectable range.

Boyd Gordon - Played 14 minute, had 4 blocks, and was 60% in the dot. It was the quintessential Boyd "The Defensive Droid" game. He made a ton of good defensive plays, and while his line didn't have as much offensive zone time as we've seen in the past, it was probably due to the Oilers being up by 2 for most of the game. As usual, a key cog in the Oilers machine powering to a fourth straight victory.


Grind it, score it, save it, win it. It was a bit of hand painting on canvas for much of the game, but it got the job done, and hopefully the confidence and belief level is rising inside that dressing room.


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