In terms of the current trading atmosphere the sellers are trying to turn the market setting to bull when it comes to the price of acquiring rental players. I have to agree with Brian Burke, actually I agree with him a lot but I still can’t get over the fact that he was the GM for the Dys and everytime he gets too high and mighty I’d like to remind him that he once put way too many eggs in the basket of one Mr. Daniel Cloutier;) teams are asking way too much for guys that are gonna play 24 games or less. First round picks aren’t what they used to be given the amount of servicetime now needed to accrue unrestricted free agency but as much as I like guys like Guerin and Brewer I really can’t advocate giving up a first rounder plus a top prospect for them. Well unless you’re talking about a team that’s well under the cap, has an extra first rounder kicking around and likes to jack up ticket prices and then cry poor everytime someone shoves a microphone in their face;) I’m not totally sold on the idea that the Bergeron trade cemented the Oilers as sellers, though it’s hard to argue that it didn’t make an already poor powerplay into a homeless one, but if the Oilers keep on not winning it’s hard to imagine Lowe not shuttling guys like 71 and 29 out of town while giving long auditions to kids like Jacques, Schremp and Gilbert. I don’t think there’s longer any need to throw Pouliot into that mix. He’s getting lots of time now, he’s taking lots of faceoffs and in the last two games MacT included him in the group of forwards being asked to scoring the tying goal.
The time for their Oilers to make their trading pitch came during the whole stretch where both 83 and 94 were out of the lineup or when both 24 and 29 were absent from an already suspect D corps. Once Lowe didn’t jump during those occasions we all knew that we saw was what we’d get and that the ’07 season was a bonafide rebuild. Of course we all kept keeping on and hoping that the Wild would fall apart and that didn’t happen and likely won’t happen so now we still keep an eye on the Oilers and hope a magical run is afoot all the while knowing that Minnesota keeps showing up at Cinderella’s ball and stays past 12am so they can collect an extra point in the shootout;) That’s not really fair to the Wild mind you. Their goal differential certainly paints them as a playoff team but I was just looking for a clever analogy to go with “afoot.”
So we keep trudging on and Tuesday night the Oilers death march made a stop in Ottawa and considering how I didn’t have the time to jimmy up a pre-game, that stuff happens when your city’s rocked with 50 cm of snow and winds in excess of 100 MPH, I figured I’d go old school and come up with a postgame.
Centre Ice always gives me the home feed anytime two Can teams play off against each other so on Tues that meant I listened to Dean Brown and Garry Galley call the action. A change isn’t so bad once in awhile. I hate the prospect of listening to Jim Hughson call Canucks games from Van and it pisses me off to the point that I consider hacking sattelite just for the night;) but the Ott guys aren’t too bad. Though at the end of the night comments from Galley like, “the Oilers have Torres on the PP now because he’s effective at going to the net and staying there” and “Edmonton’s defense is getting pushed around tonight and that’s strange because they are usually very physical” had me convinced I could make a living by being a guest colour guy for the opposition whenever the Oilers play.
The first period was mostly a gong show and surprise surpise it had a lot to do with the Roy/Gilbert tandem. Shaggy’s apparently on the mend and Greene was a HS so we should have enough alternatives at the ready that Matthieu Roy doesn’t see the ice again for the next five games. That might seem out of line considering MacT played him in OT but he did the same thing in Van once upon a time too and eventually Roy was in Bill Huard’s old seat in the pressbox. You knew this tandem would get owned and they did but that was made even easier early on with the fact that Roy was pinching like crazy. I called this during the first game that Gilbert played as an Oiler, Ty can back me up on this as we chatted on MSN during the intermissions of that 3-2 win in SJ, but the return from Tommy just has a knack of knowing when to jump into the play. He understands where the seams are going to be and he’s a fine enough skater to get there. The problem with Gilbert, as it is most young D, is that it’s gonna take him a long time before the positives outweigh the negatives. Maybe a year being babysat on the third pairing by the responsible, he won’t eat everything in your fridge even though you did give him that privilege, Jan Hejda could begin to round him into form but please god let Smid be the one being babysit next year and let young Denis G from Russia, I’m a terrible speller;) be competent enough to at least somewhat handle top four mintues. Early on though, Roy took the gauntlet of pinching and that didn’t bode well for the metric of scoring chances for/against. Jussi got the start, a showcase more than likely and this guy screams playoff insurance given the solid to spectacular job he did last June, and was magnificent early on as the Oilers were being predictably throttled. But of course the reason why back-up’s are just that is because they can look amazing one second and then the next shift they give up goals that could’ve been stopped if they’d only had their stick covering the five-hole. That was just a lazy move by Jussi that spoke to a lack of focus. At the other end I was pretty interested to see how young Jacques would do though I wasn’t optimistic he could make any waves given his linemates were Winchester and the ghost of Marty Reasoner. Jacques though did impress at least in the first period anyway. He handled the puck more in the first frame then he had during entire games during his last stint as an Oiler and he had a cold hard scoring chance in the waining seconds of the stanz. I haven’t heard any confirmation on this but there’s also a good chance he concussed Redden with a wicked hit behind the Sens net. As the game wore on both announcers speculated that Redden didn’t look quite right and they pointed towards the early collision as the reason why. Funny thing about the JFJ scoring chance was that it came while he enjoyed a shift with Pouliot. We’re trying to bring Marc along right now so it’s not really sensible to expect him to progress while carrying another kid but those guys are linemates might be something happens as quickly as next year. To finish off on Jacques, he really wasn’t all that noticeable or effective in the last 40 minutes.
The second period saw things even out quite a bit more and I thought it was like the Buffalo game in reverse. The Oilers owned the first 30 minutes against the Sabres but were holding on for dear life by the time it ended while in Ottawa they were lucky to make it out of the first period alive but as the game wore on the Oilers carried the play and eventually the dam broke.
This isn’t a traditonal postgame so I’ll just spitball on a few players and a few plays and try and eventually wrap it up in a neat little package;) Smid was hammered in this game like Madonna at an NBA all star weekend. He was just being pinballed all over the ice and it started right off the bat when Chris Neil literally filled him in behind the Oilers net. To his credit though the kid never backed down and I’m happy to report that he actually got off a wrist shot in the third period that might’ve broken an egg. He might come up a plus on the third pairing next season if they pair him with Hejda but it’s still going to be a learning process and he’s far from a can’t miss if you consider can’t miss to indicate a guy who can make an actual difference. Raffi Torres had a very good night in terms of physicality. I don’t care what the Sens scorer says about how many hits he had but he had some that made an actual difference. In the third period for instance he went and drilled Redden off the puck and turned around and set up 15 for a true scoring chance. The kid does make some seriously weird decisions with the puck though. In the second frame he once again seperated a Sens player from the disc and then busted over the blue with 15-78 on an odd man rush. Pouliot was on his offwing and floated to the high slot with the stick cocked for the one-timer while Lupul went down the right wing but curiously almost net-level. Who do you think Raffi passed the puck too? Exactly. Torres wasn’t alone in curious decision-making though as later in the same period Hemsky lead a four on three and had Horcoff primed for a one-timer but instead sent it across the ice to Smid for a backhand try.
Hemsky deserves his own book, he truly does. The Sens announcers were both in love and hate with Hemsky, comparing his playmaking to Spezza’s but also simutaniously damning him for not shooting the puck enough. I think Ales is coming along in this regard and I think one of these days he’s gonna show up and grab at least 90 points but even though he’s just a kid Hemsky’s now played enough mintues that as soon as next year I’d put him in a position where he’s asked to drive the results of his own line. Maybe a 14-78-83 line would be a good start with 34 moving up with 94-10. It may seem crazy but I can seriously see more ES scoring potential in 78 then 16 and 16 and 83 have never clicked be it during the regular season, because there have been prolonged stretches of 14-16-83 playing together, or during last season with those guys teamed with Samsonov and received soft minutes for basically the entire playoffs. So that’s what I expect of Hemsky and though he picked up two assists last night he also played the second Sens goal very soft and he made a stupid turnover on Alfie’s marker to make it 3-1. I know the kid’s good and he’s still young but he’s the future and in the future it won’t be enough for him to come out even. He’s gonna have to be a difference maker.
His old buddy Sykora showed up on the scoresheet last night and it’s funny what a goal can do for someone’s confidence even if he’s old enough to know better;) One of the Sens forwards broke their stick on 71′s PP marker and Hemsky thusly played keepaway for about 45 seconds. Eventually he found 71 in the middle of the blue and Petr strode down and into a blast that made it’s way through because of the stickless defender. But after he scored the 3-2 goal you could see confidence driving his body language and in overtime he was determined to finish the game. I’ve been down on this guy since I realized he can’t score with Hemsky but really there’s no where else to put him. I don’t think he’s played more than 10 shifts with Horcoff all season so what else can we do for him? Petersen is an offensive joke and Lupul’s about as effective as Johnny Depp in Rosie O’Donnell’s bedroom so in a lot of ways Sykora’s a lost soul at ES. I can’t wait to see if last night jumpstarts him and then Lowe can start getting in on this robbery that Brian Burke’s talking about.
Disappointing night for Thoresen I thought. He was killing penalties and going forward I hope that’s a trend and he did work like a dog once again but didn’t get a whole lot done. Pouliot is a guy I can’t stop raving about. He knows where to go in terms of the high slot, he’s a fine passer, he’s winning faceoffs and he has incredible balance when it comes to holding on to the puck on the sideboards. Last night it routinely took two Sens to seperate him from the disc and he does a great job of holding off defenders while he’s looking for his next move. Something else I love about this guy is he knows how to get in the right position and I’ll be damned if he also didn’t score again in the last minute last night and he’s also very aware and calm in his own end. There’s always a honeymoon period with young players and one of these days the gloves will be off with Marc like theya are right now with Hemsky, but if we’re going to keep 71, or if there’s a real reason to keep him I should say;) I’d shove 78 up with 94-10 and put together a 14-71-83 line just to try and acheive some balance. I think the kid can hang with those two and he can certainly cycle with them and they’d make for a trio that could keep the puck behind the other team’s blueline.
As for the rest of the game? The Oilers certainly earned their single and in pointing in both Buf and Ott show there’s at least something redeeming about this team. The outlook and prognosis remain just as it did when I started writing about the roadtrip last Tues: it’s about goaltending and the forwards and specfically secondary scoring for the latter. Roli was great in Buffalo and we picked up a point. 71 scores two goals in Ott and we get a point. On the other hand the defense just isn’t going to get any better and it will be a damn sight worse unless Shaggy is truly healthy and can play the remainder of the games. We can hope that 71 stays hot and that young Pouliot keeps giving us the offense, and offensive chances, that a guy like Lupul should be doing and that’s all we really have to hang our hats on. Roli was starting a new little run before he blipped in TO so let’s hope he finds it again as well. The Oilers sit nine points back of Minny with the GIH and five HTH remaining and don’t look now but the Oilers are eight points back of Cgy with two HTH left and also trailing them by just three wins which is important because even IF the Oilers win those two remaining HTH the Flames would likely carry the second tiebreak of HTH overall in terms of goal differential, ie right now the Oilers are 2-4 vs the Flames and -6. But most wins overall is the first tiebreaker so the Oilers have to best them in the regard first and foremost.
But of course if the Oilers could win divisional games they wouldn’t be in this spot in the first place;)