The prospect of an Oilers win in Det on Friday didn’t exactly seem promising given a few factors like for starters how the Oilers had played the night before in Colu, leaning heavily on their top four D after young Gilbert was concussed and young and nasty Roy spent over a third of the game in the penalty box. Throw in the fact that the Wings were on a 13 game winning streak at the JLA and tonight against the Wings was pretty much the epitome of tough sledding.
Well Mush Mush Calgary. Here we come.
Overcoming an early display by the officials that made me remember once again why I hated Steve Yzerman, the Oilers won just their second shootout of the season, guess who the other once was against, and moved to within five points of an idle Flames squad with a 4-3 win in Motown.
As Grandaddy once sang, check out some of their stuff and thank me later, “Now it’s on.”
I have always bucked conventional wisdom and for all the years that everyone loved Yzerman I just couldn’t stand him. There seemed to be something so squeeky clean about him and if it’s one thing I can’t stand about anyone, no offense to you Jesus;) is when they’re considered to be above reproach. The better his Wings became and the more games of his I saw the more I saw Yzerman for what he truly was: a whiner. Was he a great player? Yes. Did he play hurt and in winning both an Oly gold medal and stanley cup in ’02 cement his status as one of the few people who seamlessly combined grit and talent? He damn well did. But did he ever shut his mouth when the Wings were on the wrong end of a penatly call? No he did not and neither did Shanahan and neither does Chelios and Draper and Maltby.
Which leads us to tonight, or at least the early portion.
Are you just like me and sometimes mentally prepare yourself for a loss all the while secretly hoping at night’s end to give your rational side the finger if the unthinkable becomes reality? That was me was as the puck dropped in Detriot.
I had my mental checklist of what I hoped to see and what might just placate me in lieu of an Oilers win. Things like hoping young Pouliot continued to make a good showing or that Jacques gave us a little reason to believe. Perhaps Thoresen’s work ethic’s on display again and maybe Smid builds on Thursday’s night offensive output. The Oilers had played other elite teams like Buf and Ott to virtual standstills in their buildings on the trip and both Pisani and Shaggy were making their returns to the lineup so maybe the Oilers could pull this one off. No. Let’s just hope the kids earn their allowance and we’ll go there there.
This all managed to sooth my potentially savage soul until 7:34 of the first period and then some suspect calls opened the dam and all the bad memories came flooding back: Yzerman and all his minions lobbying the refs whistle after whistle with the end result being a Shanahan PP goal and that stupid Irish jig blaring in the background.
I could handle tonight’s first penalty on Horcoff and the one on Reasoner just six scant seconds later was a bit frustrating to watch because you knew a goal would follow. It did and a couple of mintues later Smyth was mugged by Lidstrom but no call. Then you’re wondering when the same old shit will stop happening in Detroit. By the time Pouliot was fingered for playing paddycake on Cleary’s back I had flung off my shield of lowered expectations and I wanted blood sir.
Meanwhile the Oilers were less than squeamish at the sight of such an early hole and with under five mintues left in the first period notched a PP marker off a gorgeous passing play that ended with Thoresen, in Hemsky’s brief stead I might add, slipping a pass to wide open and crease comforted Smyth and 94 had his intial shot stopped by Hasek before slamming home the rebound.
Raffi Torres knotted the game a little after the midway point of the second after a Thoresen deflection bounded off Hasek’s pads and onto the left winger’s stick as he cruised by the right of the czech tender. But the tie was short-lived when Valtteri Flippula finshed a play that originally started when Toby Petersen failed to get the puck of out his zone. The Oilers remained undaunted and tied the score midway through third period when Marty Reasoner knocked off the result of a fine piece of stickhandling by young Pouliot. From then on the Oilers held the fort and weathered a couple of systems that were more flurries based then full on storm. Sorry but it’s winter here;)
Just as in Ottawa the road team carried the play in the SO and then the Oilers took the day powered by a cheeseball goal by Smyth, they should just send him to Iraq now because everything he touches turns to gold, and an early miss by Zetterberg that was followed by two fine saves by Roloson. It was as good of a shootout performance as Roloson has ever produced in Oiler silks.
Now on to the lines and the defense:
94-10-83: The boys finished a collective even but how does a combined 15 shots grab you? Or the fact that all three played over 15 min at ES with Horc topping the 17 min mark. This is most certainly one of the top lines in the league.
19-78-34: Pisani stepped in and if he missed a beat, and I didn’t see it mind you, it was one that wouldn’t require much post-production to edit. Reasoner looked useful again and just when I thought Pouilot was having an off night he’s a catalyst for the game’s tying goal and now all of a sudden he’s the Oilers number one option for faceoffs from the right-handed circle. He also played the third most min of any forward at ES. Welcome aboard kid. What took you so long?;)
14-71-28: Lupul was concussed tonight which means we won’t see him for at least a week and this turned the lines a little upside down. Here’s what kind of a night Torres had. Lupul gets high up high by Kronwall: Torres hunts him down and punches him in the face. Raffi scores the 2-2 goal. Later on he hipchecks Cleary like it’s 1957. Late in the game Maltby makes one of his Maltby plays where he takes a poke at you after the whistle but this time he gets called for it. Torres gets up and seeks out the chickenshit former Oiler and, you guessed it, punches him in the face. It damn sure ain’t pretty but it’s effective and please let’s not remove the burr from his kid’s saddle. 71′s game was pretty opaque and he was only really noticeable when he broke up a possible open net chance for the Wings in the second period with the score still 2-1 in favour of Det. Thoresen did some good work on the boards and pound for pound is pretty hard to move from the boards. He reminds me of Brendan Morrow in this regard and tonight he hit the scoresheet like the Dallas pepperpot with two assists
22-20-15: Lupul really didn’t do too much of anything before he got hurt. That’s the story of his season. Petersen was clipping along doing his usual nothing until he failed to chip the puck out before the 3-2 goal and then MacT went with three lines even though the team had played the night before. Petersen didn’t make that cut and I’d imagine he’ll be cut back to PP duty unless MacT decides to replace him there with Shaggy which might not be too much of a stretch given that Daniel played the point when the Oilers enjoyed a brief four-on-three adv. Jacques balance, or lackthereof, was really a focal point tonight I thought. He had a chance to drill the much smaller Flippula and the finnish kid promptly stood him up and later on he rushed to the puck with Chelios just a step ahead the curmudgeonly vet pushed him aside. I’m sure leverage came into play there but I’m worried for Jacques. We’re nine periods into his latest shot and he’s giving no one a reason not to send him down again. Now with Lupul out I can’t see Stortini having a long stay in Hamilton and it will soon be time for the Oilers to call up Kyle Brodziak. BTW I just checked the box for tonight’s BPens game and Kyle didn’t play. I’m not sure if he re-injured his wrist in Wed’s game or not.
Smith/Hejda: what an education for Jan and what a possible springboard to an early payday. He’s UFA come July 1st and tonight he chewed up another 24:52 and came out even. YOu’d have to think that somewhere a scout’s watching the Oil for reasons other than Jan but just happens to notice that an NHL greenhorn is being asked to sink or swim in his first year in the NHL but yet still somehow manages to survive in the deep end of the pool. Smith’s playing more than he ever has or should and he’s doing a fine job as well. He absolutely needs to be with a guy that’s capable of making the first pass and hopefully that’s one of Lowe’s plans going forward.
Smid/Staios: It was another night where Laddy expects Staios to do all of the puck-carrying heavy lifting and 24 looked a tad burned out tonight. Cleary pulled a stop and start move on him that usually on works on the fat guys in the beer league and he also turned the puck over. I’m gonna give him a free pass though because he’s been carrying the kid all year and we know he’d come up much better on the numbers side if that wasn’t the case. Smid played 23:14 and ever so slightly has begun to look to rush the puck. He doesn’t know what to do when he gets there, and tonight the Oilers escaped danger after Smid took the blue and went deep behind the Wings net only to have Sykora forget that as the centre he has to drop back to cover his point, but his confidence is growing with every Oilers win
Roy/Shaggy: I can’t say enough about the job these guys did tonight. I know they played the softer min, kudos to Huddy for seeing to that BTW, and that one of the things no one bothers to talk about with the Wings is despite their large number of wins these guys really don’t blow the doors off you in terms of goals for, but these fellows did a great job of making sure that the soft minutes were handled with care. After the early hit on Lupul I thought Roy might wind up in a Wayne County jail but he kept his cool and moved the puck confidently all evening. Shaggy played just 13:57 so on the one hand fitness shouldn’t have been an issue given he normally plays 20 min plus but this was his first game back and he looked great and very calm. There was also some nice chemistry between the pair.
Netminding: An odd game by Roloson and allow me to explain. It was 2-0 before you could bat both eyelashes and though both goals were on the PP the second one just found a hole that should not have been there. At this point you’re thinking there’s no way he doesn’t give up at least four markers. But then he settled down large and made a couple of huge stops to close out the second period and spent the third period just totally denying any chance of rebounds. DR’s also not know for his shootout prowess but he looked flat out unbeatable in stopping first Datsyuk and then Williams and the former made a nice little rock-a-bye move before trying to go forehand over DR’s blocker. This is a game where he battled through some early struggles and I love that
PP: Notched again and moved the puck well. Once again MacT’s falling in love with trying to use two units and that’s fine when you have two units that can score. But the Oilers don’t. And it’s feb 23th and if I know that by now then why doesn’t he and why doesn’t he act accordingly?
PK: Gave up two goals tonight and they’ve been scuffling just a little on this trip or should I say they didn’t look good in Bos, TO or Det. Hard to stop the Wings PP though and I can’t believe they sit 19th in the league. Something’s wrong with that. They did nail two posts tonight during PP time so maybe that’s the hint I’m looking for
Combovers and Do-Overs: Allow me to interrupt the game dissection for a little blurb on what the next two days could mean for Kevin Lowe and his formally best laid plans. I’m a little bit caught up in the race now to get into why Lowe built the team the way he did and why he didn’t make a trade before now. Right now though this team sits five points and one win behind the Flames with Cgy’s GIH happening tomorrow night on HNIC vs SJ. If that’s too much brevity for you then I aplogize. Well, not really;) A regulation loss by the Flames and a win of any kind by the Oilers on Sunday in Minny puts the Oilers three points back, Flames still having a GIH of course, heading into Tuesday’s deadline. What should Lowe do? I’ll wait until the end of the Min game on Sun before I throw out my opinion but with Lupul to miss the next four games, don’t get me wrong I don’t think he was gonna help us much anyway but it’s the opinion of the less informed and paying fan that makes the difference;) how does Lowe not go out and show the fans he’s doing what he can to make the playoffs? Greene looks like a goner anyway so do you pitch him and a 2nd rounder to Stl for Brewer? The Oilers win tonight and the now increased importance on the next BOA game next Sat in Edm almost screams for a trade of the buying nature. Let’s see how he plays this.
Back at George Fox’s place: It didn’t exactly burn the barn down but winning in JLA during the second half of a back-to-back with a team that looks more and more like a bunch that’s too young to remember a time when Petr Nedved wasn’t crap is a pretty big win. I don’t think the Oilers make the playoffs but with the games they played in Buf, Ott and Det it isn’t a stretch to say they can make about 80 of this season’s 82 games worth watching. They’ll go home now full of confidence and the thing about young teams is they’re sometimes too stupid to realize when they should lose. Unless of course they run into a team that takes them out in five games and wins three in their barn. Oh we weren’t talking about the Ducks of ’06?;) All I want from this crew is to stick around long enough to make just about all of the games have playoff implications. As for what ultimately happens it will be determined by their performance in the divisional games or A: whether or not Gaborik gets hurt or B: if the Flames manage to implode under the weight of playoff favorite expectations that they haven’t been able to deal with since that terrible ’04 postseason. The smart money still belongs somewhere other than the oil drop but I’ve got a good feeling that we’ll whiten the knuncles of some gamblers before they make their paper.