Thursday, November 6, 2014

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 13: Aulie, Aulie, Losing Streak

4 straight from our lovable? losers. Suicide hotline engage for Buffalo.
The Oilers had just retrieved the puck from their net for the fourth time on the night, and the camera guy - like he's trained - pointed the photon-catcher on the clean shaven, stern-faced Dallas Eakins. The collective hockey-soul of northern Alberta was desperate to see the pain they felt and the anger they radiated on the face of the man bequeathed with the task of returning supremacy back to the mecca of puck, the holy-land of hockey.

Our man, Mr. Dallas Eakins, was stone-faced. The pupils of his eyes where marbles of black iron, and the faintest whisper of wrath painted the hard line of his jaw. As if nothing had happened, he tapped forwards on their synthetic-clad shoulders and assembled a 5 man unit for a center-ice face-off. There was no fiery explosion, no tears, no yelling. The pragmatist in me assures that a "steady course" is best for the man who merely tells the O's where to go - he does not move them across the ice. The passionate Oilers fan in me wants to denounce him as a shitty coach, as a man who could not instill the warrior nature in the team that could claw their way through adversity and win a couple hockey games now and again.

Earlier in the night, hundreds of Eberle & Hopkins clad supporters had surrounded the local picture-box, clan-like in their camaraderie. Hoping their long journey through the gutters of NHL talk-shows, the relentless bashing by talent-less hacks in the ivory towers of the Toronto sports scene, and the abject humiliation meted out on a night-in-night-out basis by nearly every team in the league, was finally over.

Fifty minutes into the game, the flicker of hope was alive. They had played a Bruins team (injury depleted) well on the road, spanking the Bruins by shot attempts, and earning a lead deep into the game. Suddenly, like a Rube Goldberg machine triggered by Dallas Eakins the day before, the Oilers where hit with a bowling ball from above, self-destructing to the tune of 4 goals in the remaining 8:56 of the game. It was triggered, in this writer's humble opinion, by Eakins deciding to take Marincin out and place slow-footed-and-fisted Keith Aulie into the game.

At a critical moment in the game - moments after the Bruins had tied it up (was it offside?) - Aulie tripped over the goal line on the way to retrieving a routine reverse-rimmed puck. Players trip, sure, and it's hard to find fault in the random ruts on the ice the topple the odd defenceman. As Aulie breast stroked his way back to the puck behind the net, the Bruins forechecker clambered on top of the moose-like player. For whatever reason, Aulie didn't take the obvious play to manipulate the disc with his gloved digits, and instead relied on grabbing the Bruins players stick.

The resulting PP featured a donkey play by the donkey of the game, Nikitin, and the effective stamping-out of the spark of hope in the heart of many Hopkins lovers. As much as you hate the Aulie play at such a crucial moment of the game, the true goat, the true neudachnik of the game was Nikitin. His backpedal from his own blueline on the first goal was a wonderful example of Nikki's nasty gap-control, and was fine foreshadowing of future fuckery from our favorite free agent. On the winning goal, a clear mano-a-mano play of Nikki vs Bergeron, Bergeron ended up with Nikitin's stick sticking out of each side of him like a gag arrow moments before he dished to Soderberg for an easy tap in. Not only did Nikki have his jock strap incinerated instantly, he also took a penalty on the play that eventually allowed the insurance PP marker to throw the beating heart of the Oilers fan base into the trash compaction pit in Star Wars. Spoiler: it didn't get saved by a timely hack by R2D2.

More losers after the hop...

Nikki Nikitin is a donkey. He's had some mediocre games in the past, but this was a cluster-puck of failed passes and poor body positioning. For a guy who is supposed to be mobile, his lateral agility seems to be comparable to a Hippo in a tutu. His -2 was full marks, and he might be the worst defenceman in the league making 4.5 or more right now.

Oscar Klefbom had a distinctly lousy game. Oscar is a good news, bad news defencemen. First, he doesn't panic when receiving the puck in the defensive phone-booth, but then he tries some low-percentage play to maintain possession when a much simpler play was being screamed for in Edmonton living rooms everywhere. The escapes he attempts from his own zone might work if he's handing the puck off to Crosby, but too many times his passes require perfect execution from the receiver to escape the zone. He needs to learn to go backwards with the puck, and occaisionally just abandon the play.

Keith Aulie doesn't deserve to the headliner for our hate, but it's more the fact that with Aulie in the lineup, we started seeing a clear separation in ice time among the D core. Aulie played a hair under 16 minutes, which was easily the lowest total, and the extra minutes were placed on Schultz's shoulders. Aside from the massive and critical fuck up with the game hanging in the balance, he was mostly unnoticeable in the way you probably want your third pairing guy to be. But is he better than Marincin? No chance. Bad move Mr. Eakins, bad move. If you want to truly be a shit about it, you might even claim that with Marincin in we don't lose that game...

Benoit Pouliot played a brain-blasting 24:47 in the game, and while he occasionally looked like a man-beast of Penner proportions, he also finished with a tepid single shot. He also got just shy of 3 full powerplay minutes which makes the single shot and -2 extra suspect. I don't think he's the right guy for the first line, not by a Quebecois mile. Many times the cycle dies on his stick: he has little "stickiness". We've got him for 4 years, so lets hope he finds his stride soon, whatever that looks like.

Ben Scrivens played well enough until the fourth goal, one he really should have had. The first goal on first glance looked stoppable, but it was a hard, well-placed shot and was possibly a 1% saveable shot among the leagues goalies. I don't think he really hurt or helped the Oilers self-destruct in the third.

Nail Yakupov had another game with a solid shot total, and was rewarded by a juicy-fruit rebound off a russian wrister landing on Sporkabella's stick and the resulting roof job. If he keeps on moving his feet and generating 4,5,6 shot games, he's going to start seeing his scoring totals rise. He finished +1 in 17+ minutes, and it really looks like his game is starting to pick up speed.

Ted Purcell received 11 minutes of ice time, which means the boss is realizing his foot soldier isn't playing with enough fire. He's playing the kind of panty soft game that makes me wonder if we don't need to change that underwear with something a little less silky and smooth. Something that goes into the corners and gets dirty (hopefully you mentally abandoned the underwear analogy before the last sentence). He's also on a 4 game minus streak and has 18 shots in 13 games. Impressive numbers, especially considering the opposite part of his trade is on a two game scoring streak, younger, cheaper, and may actually still have some scoring left in him.

Jordan Eberle is a guy I hate to be rough on. He's likeable, loveable, and has a flair for the dramatic that reminds you of Bergeron in the offensive zone. Unfortunately, he's shorter, slower and less defensively responsible, and had another off night in a season filled with them for the gap-toothed goal scorer. He had 22 minutes, 5 of them on the PP, and managed a single shot. It is no the kind of game that gets you much when the secondary scoring took a vacation to Timbuktu. Jordan needs to think and play more like Yakupov. He's got a wicked wrister, so use it...


The flame is fading slowly, and the reality is that the Oilers need to go about 37 -23 - 9 to have a shot at the playoffs. From what we've seen, the Oilers are simply not that team. So with that in mind everyone needs to make up their mind: do you support the team through another season with almost assuredly no playoffs?


Post a Comment