It’s been a long time since any of us have had the good fortune of watching the Oilers comfortably win a game and those have been ever fewer and farther between when it comes to road games. Thursday night against the Jackets reminded everyone what it’s like to watch the Oilers win and spare your fingernails in the process.
It was the second consecutive Oilers game shown on PPV and for unintentional comedy’s sake I forgot just how much I missed it. The opening shot from the dressing room showed a guy bent over tying his skates in the stall next to Torres’ and he was sporting a fine solar panel, ie the bald patch on the crown of the head which is even funnier than horseshoe baldness because it’s just the one area that’s breft of hair. The guy in question turned out to be Reasoner which was a total shock because guys with boyish good looks and dimples, ok I’ll stop there, don’t usually have such brushes with baldness. Anyway I thought it was a great way to kick off another PPV cast and I considered it a good omen.
It turns out that was accurate. It was pretty much a perfect effort outside of their choice of postgame music and we’ll get to that at the end.
Shawn Horcoff has taken a beating from some fans this season and I think it’s because he just signed his first real money contract. To his defense he’s still had his chances this year even though he couldn’t buy a goal early on. I remember the first game in Cgy when he had an open net and promptly shot the puck into Lupul’s ass. That pretty much gave us two themes for the entire ’07 season:
1: Lupul fucking shit up
2: Horc having supremely bad luck.
On and on it went for 10 as shot after shot found posts and legs and or maybe just went wide of yawning cages. Then you fastforward to tonight and he scores the opening goal when a Smyth shot caromed off a Jackets dman and straight to the former Spartan. And so it went for the Oilers. Ryan Smyth made it 2-0 with a backhanded blind swipe into an open cage that was the culmination of some great man-advantaged puck movement and then the rough stuff began. Tom Gilbert became the latest concussed Oiler and the truth of the matter is that most of it was his fault. He swooped around the right side of the Oilers cage with Anson Carter already tight to his side and instead of attempted a headman pass Gilbert looked to rush. Jody Shelly rumbled in and destroyed him with a hit that carried just a touch of ill intent and Matt Roy jumped in to engage him and pick up the first 17 min of what would eventually be a 21 PIM night. Colu had a goal called off on the ensuring PP and it was pretty well over from there. Later on Thoresen ever so slighly extended his knee towards that same area of Rick Nash and from then on it was pretty much on.
Jan Hedja and Roy later took turns taking out Nash in the area of the Oilers net, Jacques bested Tolleffsen in a fight that saw the big Quebecois begin the bout with bodyshots and then eventually pound the hardnosed blueliner about the head and in the games final minutes Shelley busted in and bust open Stortini’s nose. I don’t really know where all the aggression came from but here’s a couple of ideas. The first time these teams met Tolleffsen squared off with Lupul and the truth of the matter is Ole-Kristian hits like a truck and I’d love to have him as an Oiler. He’s rough and ready to go at all times and his battle with JFJ begain after OK tried to corral MP into a bout. Jacques came off the bench for the next change and so it began again. Like I said this guy just doesn’t care. And let’s also not forget that the last time these teams squared off the BJ’s took out the Oilers at home with Roli exacting some measure of revenge by lifting his stick into a the nuts of a screening Rick Nash. Once again none of this was mentioned by the Oilers PPV crew but this is why Ty pays me the big bucks;)
Let’s break down the performance of the lines and D pairings shall we?
94-10-83: This line owned the ice. That’s not hubris, it’s fact. They scored at ES and they notched on the PP plus they had another couple of shifts where it looked like they were on the powerplay. Only other thing worth mentioning is as bad as the whole Hemsky circles the ScotiaBank Centre move was on Tuesday, he did something ever worse in this game. It came in the second period where he walked through everyone and was about seven feet away from the net but still looked to pass off.
14-78-15: Lupul showed some real jam in this game and had one spectacular rush in the second period. Him and Torres also had some nice moments and became so comfortable at some points that they sort of forgot about Pouliot like the 78-83 combo once did with whomever rounded out their line. Torres made a beautiful deke and subsquent pass to set up Smid for his first career goal and he also did some fine work on the boards. The goals aren’t coming for 14 but his effort hasn’t lagged now for some time. Pouliot had a rough night in the dot, 7/18, and he wasn’t as visible offensively as he usually is but he still managed to nearly score while shorthanded and just after that play he did one of those deals where he jammed the puck between his skate and the boards and worked 15 seconds off the Jackets PP while their attacks tried to furiously free the disc. He did make a couple of solid plays down low in his own end and if this is what constitues a poor Pouliot game then I think we’re in good hands
28-71-20: Sykora did what he could with what he had and 28 and 20 were at least hard workers
22-19-46: Jacques was back to mostly playing without the puck and not getting a whole lot down. The dexterity he showed while puckhandling on Tues in Ott was but a memory and he was basically jetting up and down the wing hitting people. He’s been back for six periods now and in just one of them has he shown any kind of potential. I’m willing to stick with him though and we won’t know what he can really do unless he has some linemates that have actual skill. Reasoner’s had a rough year to be sure. If he’s proving to be a guy that can’t really contribute unless he’s playing with Moreau or Pisani then it might be time to move him for a pick and bring up Brodziak. Would the Oilers be willing to go with a Horc-Stoll-Pouliot-Brodziak pivot foursome next year? I can’t say for sure but it would save the Oil ~ 400K and if that could be put towards getting a real top four dman then I’d be all for it. Stortini was back to being a real menace but the good kind. An early first period shot caught him swearing his head off at Shelley and he was out to pound people all night. But he did it without taking stupid penalties and we can all agree that there’s value in such a skill
Smith/Hejda: Logged 21:05 and 23:07 respectively. Once Gilbert was concussed and Roy was sentanced to 17 min there was a huge workload for the top four and all the guys came through with flying colours. Hejda looks to be an absolute find for the Oilers.
Staios/Smid: 23:16 and 25:26 of worktime clocked for this tandem. Staios played pretty much mistake free hockey though I did enjoy one occasion where he was on the PP and kept setting up on the left point begging for a one-timer like he was the show:D Smid had a rough couple of shifts in the first period but I have to say he is showing a bit of a liking for the rough stuff and yes he scored his first goal tonight. It’s always a lot of fun to see guy’s first goals and Smid immeadiately looked to the ref to make sure the goal was in and then he looked around like he was saying, “hey I scored.”!! He was interviewed in the second intermission and really seems like an extremely likeable kid. The Oilers bench was pretty much beside itself with glee when he came back to get congratulations and it reminded me of that guy in your peer group who was a really great friend but was the last to get laid. Once everyone heard about it it was pretty much a great day for everyone;)
Gilbert/Roy: Gilbert didn’t last all that long and Roy came to his defense and because of that him time was cut short as well. One thing I liked about Roy’s game tonight was that he stayed at home and the other thing I liked was his penchant for the rough stuff. I was all over him on Tues for his frequent forays into the Sens zone but I forgot to mention the part where he punched Heatley in the face in the middle of a scrum. You need guys like this and one thing that’s pissed me off about the Oilers much penalized ’07 season is just how many of those infractions are of the bruise-less variety. I’m not saying you have to go out head-hunting but too many of the Oilers fouls are ticky-tack and it’s nice to see a few whistles brought about by charging and roughing rather than hooking a guy 180 feet from your end. Roy brings a certified meanstreak and you could tell how much he genuinely loves the tough going by the smirk on his face when Stortini joined him in the penalty box in the third period. I really like him as a seventh dman and someone to dress when you know you might have a bit of a fight on your hands.
All in all this was a very sold all-around effort by the Oilers. Roli only let out about two bad rebounds and he was a dummy a couple of times handling the puck but overall no complaints. His forward corps kept the puck in the other end and his defense kept the rebounds away and it was a pretty stress-free game. Three of the Oilers lines created a decent to outstanding forecheck, the PP clicked twice and looked super-confident in doing so and I don’t believe in jinxes so I’ll say that no matter who the Oilers lose off the unit, ie Pronger-Peca-Stoll-Pisani, the PK keeps humming along. Everything was basically golden until the PPV crew ventured into the Oilers dressing room and we heard the strains of “Promiscuous Boy” and not a cool stripped down accoustical mocking version either. I was disappointed by that and though the Oilers didn’t know this at the time a Flames OTL loss in Phx leaves the Oilers seven points back with two HTH games remaining and maybe Maximo Park’s “Apply Some Pressure” would’ve been a better choice.
Then again we can always thank our stars that Matt Greene was a HS and didn’t score the winner or else we might’ve been listening to some Scissor Sisters