Monday, November 10, 2014

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 15: Turbo Mode

The Oilers had blue shiny stuff coming out of their butts in this one.



When I first purchased my Conair head shaver, the chrome was shiny, the blades were razor sharp, and the motor purred with hair honing power. Over the years, after multiple money-saving head-shaves, the chrome dulled to a murky luster, the plastic became scratched and scuffed, and the engine driving the interweaving razors slowed. In some inexplicable design decision, they also included a "Turbo" button on the side. You might ask the question why not have it work in "Turbo" mode all the time - I can't answer that - but upon pressing it the old Conair beast roared back to life, and cut hair like a little electronic scissorhands. Fast forward to the game in Madison Square last night, and we see an iteration of the young rebuilding Oilers where the chrome has definitely faded. After a yawn-inspiring 5-8-1 start, someone decided to finally hit the Turbo button.

From the NHL recap: Edmonton held the Rangers without a shot on goal from 16:56 of the second period until 10:55 of the third period, a span of 13:59. If you want to know what dominant hockey looks like, that is it, put it in the manual, draw it up on the telestrator. It was from furious forechecking and a blueline that wasn't willing to let songbird pucks out of the zone. As Drew Remenda said, every line was contributing something every shift, whether it be a trench battle to break the biscuit out of their own end, or a cycle shift spinning the suck-toothed Nash line into submission, every line followed the last with the same intensity and purpose. The Corsi chart is also impressive, showing the Oilers begin to completely take over the game and making the Rangers wish they didn't have to play Hunwick for almost 20 minutes a night.

It was without a doubt one of the most complete, dynamic, and dominant games the Edmonton faithful has seen in several orbits of the sun. Nugent-Hopkins was brilliant and quicksilver in the middle of the bright performance. He looked like a superstar center-man for possibly the first time in his entire career, That's not to say he hasn't looked star caliber, or sublime, or huggable, but on the night he looked like the best player on the ice for either team. Hopkins finished 1-1-2 +2 in 20:42, and the puck seemed to be iron ore to his magnetic stick blade. Even more apparent was his raw quickness, the kind of speed skating that almost confused your mind: who was that forward? We saw it on his sublime Philly goal; it simply didn't resemble the wispy faced teenager we had seen in the past.

Also stepping up the plate with his first big game in Oilers silks was Benoit Pouliot, who had an identical stat line to Nugent-Hopkins, and looked finally like the big, smooth-skating wrecking ball the MacT brain trust had hired. His modus hockerandi seems to be blasting into corners and bodies like a virus into a cell, and he was doing this relentlessly all night, barely giving his former blueshirt teammates space to breathe. The virus seemed to infect others as well, and the Oilers #GRITCHART was getting contributions from A-rcobello (71% in the dot with 4 hits) to Z-uccarello (-2, two giveaways).

Ultimately, the question posed in the beginning of my shitty Conair razor rant is the same one we pose now: why don't the Oilers play in "Turbo" mode all the time? This team we saw last night was quicker, grittier, more combative, and more competent than any of the elmers-pasted-together hack-job-teams the Tambellini regime sent to the slaughter. 

Individuals after the hop.

Viktor Fasth was asleep for long stretches of the game. Oh in a strange move, Eakins has replaced Fasth with a bag of groceries. The thought of a bag of groceries being able to replace Fasth for a stretch of 13:59 is an awesome one. When he was called upon to make saves - several of the tricky but stoppable sort - he was unflappable and nimble. I don't know if his .952 was the best of this season, but he was solid, and may finally set up a true numero uno goalie battle for the near future.

Nail Yakupov was overshadowed by Nugent-Hopkins in this one, but he managed 5 shots in 17:32, and in general is looking like an Apple stock chart in the 90s: some early promise, looks ready to explode. He was determined all night, and like the rest of the team seemed to have extra pep in his step. I envision a bit of puck luck supporting a few scores in the near future.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was a wizard with the puck all night, and along Eberle and Pouliot, they finally looked like a top line in the absence of Taylor Hall. I think Ryan plays exactly the kind of game that can boost compatriots. If you look at Benoit's goal, it simply couldn't happen without some nice skating and puck movement from Nugey-poo. For a kid who is 21 and has some frame to fill in, we might finally see a version that will establish himself as a night-in-night-out NHL star.

Jeff Petry was wheeling out there, and also had an egregious giveaway late in the third. It's pretty much par for the course with Petry: part zoom, part snappy passing, part sublime stick-checking, and part what the fuck with the puck. If he could ever curb in that one brain barf a game, he would convince even the red-neckiest stat-hating supporters that he was an incredibly important part of the Oilers success story and a great defenceman otherwise.

Benoit Pouliot finally showed up in a big way, and one hopes this isn't derived from wanting to show his broadway buddies his bam-bams. His deke-to-annihilate-the-blueshirt-jockstrap and then the pass to Jultz (and the highlight reeler by Henrik) was a spectacular moment of skill, one we were hoping to see more of in the first dozen games. I'd rather that Benoit played with that intensity every game, and became the human wrecking ball that will help the small-skill-weasels on our team get some space. The verdict is still out on his day in and day out intensity, but it can't hurt playing beside a red-hot Nugey.

Jordan Eberle made a great pass on the first dagger the Oilers stuck into the Rangers, and in general looked as energized as any Eberle encountered earlier. In one play, he absolutely man-handled Marc Staal to the ground before generating a dangerous scoring chance. Marc Staal is no spring chicken, and whatever was in the Oilers Gatorade was giving Jebbers some Popeye flex.


We need to see this more than once to believe it is anything other than an aberrant game. In related news, the Oilers 5v5 Corsi close crept over 50%, and are sporting the third worst PDO in the league 5v5 (.972). All indications point to a team that actually can play like what we saw last night. Now it's time to make the numbers a reality.


Post a Comment