Saturday, April 29, 2006

Well, that's alright!





What a terrific game by the Oil.

- hard to even point at a player for the Oil who had a poor game; what was encouraging and made for an great game is that so many of the Wings were flying too - Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Shanahan

- Roli played super - especially in the first when they needed him most

- still a bit of a lack of discipline in the first but the ticky tack ones kill me when Draper trips Peca and there's no call - anyhow, game five better then game four and hopefully game six will be better too

- Ales Hemsky - Sergei Samsonov - thanks for coming out - where have you guys been?

- Pronger. Smyth. Horcoff. Big time players.

- Fernando Pisani - no longer an unsung hero

- return of Tarnstrom today and addition of Moreau to the 4th line last game - two huge additions - suddenly the Oil can roll four lines and Tarnstrom gives them six d they can play - a big difference

- Legace is going to get a lot of heat but couldn't fault him on any of the goals and he made some nice saves

- Torres' play is getting stronger and stronger - jeez, he's playing well

- Dvorak has been terrific too

- a guy nobody has mentioned - MAB - sure he's an adventure at times but overall he's playing a lot of minutes and playing well I'd say - he really has acquitted himself well

- their best game of the series so far - lets hope they get better yet

- and after all of the abuse he's taken it has to be said - Rem Murray had a good game - atta boy Rem

Friday, April 28, 2006

Remember That Guy Eating Cheeseburgers




Remember him. Down below a few posts. Before this series started.

Remember one of the key to the series - discipline?

Because last night the Oilers did not have it.

No feed of the game here so I was stuck catching highlights, watching the ticker and getting a bit of the game in the Flames intermissions so I'll admit I am commenting on what I saw (not much) and read on the Net and on other blogs. So you can take what I am saying with a grain of salt if you wish.

Giving up 11 power plays to the Wings is not too bright - its as simple as that. Were some calls ticky tack? Sure. But the Wings had plenty of penalties too. MacT said that before the game he told his guys that because of who the refs were they had better play with a lot of discipline.

They did not. Why do I have pics of Pronger and Smyth posted? To make a point. Smyth had Chelios in his face all night. How many PIM did he take? Zero. How many PIM does Pronger have in this series despite the incredible amount of ice time he is logging? Zero. You could post pics of Horcoff (2 PIM for the series), Spacek (ditto), Smith (again 2 PIM) and even Torres (2 PIM despite a fairly robust series in terms of physical play). Pisani (who I love by the way) took a bad penalty. Staios' penalty was needless. Bergeron as well, again. And Hemsky's was absolutely terrible.

So all together now, who do the Oil have to blame?

The Lidstrom non-call? Probably should have been made. I saw a few Wings fans' comments that it was not a pick. I also saw a few claiming that Chelios' play on Hemsky in Game3 was a clean hit. I don't take fans like that, on both sides, seriously. You have to be able to look at the play objectively; what if it were two teams that you have no vested interest in. Now, I would say it was a pick but Stoll admitted to going down a little easy. Why would you do that, killing a 5 on 3? And why were they in a 5 on 3 situation anyhow? Hmmm. The Detroit Free Press says it was a definite interference call. The reporter also thinks there may have been a call for a dive. I can agree with that. Or as Abel to Yzerman put it:

Let’s be real clear. That was a pick. It was an illegal pick. It was interference and it had already been called once in the first period. Yes, Stoll dove. He admitted as much. But the fact remains that the refs had called everything all night, then swallowed that one. I’ll take the goal, take the win, take the tie. But that should have been called.



Other thoughts and I invite comment, for sure:

Rolo continues to outperform Legace although Manny made a few nice saves especially late in the 2nd. Should have had that Spacek goal though.

Torres made a really nice play on Pisani's goal and continues to make his presence felt physically. Too bad he lost that puck in his feet. He is doing pretty well in his first playoff action, I think.

With Tarnstrom out Greene was put into service and 3 penalties says it all. A tough spot for the kid to be put in. Ulanov may draw in next game and that will certainly make somebody happy.

Was Sammy a factor? I saw him have a chance in close? Or is he still on his way out of town? Talk about a quiet PPG impact. Expectations too high? Dennis at Irreverent Oil Fans has had some pretty funny descriptions of Samsonov in the past week or so.

Hemsky has been a big bag of suck. Sorry Ales because you're just a kid, yes, but when I see Stoll and Torres and Brad Winchester of all people having a bigger positive impact then you in their first playoff action, well, the excuse does not cut it anymore. Its one thing to get shut down. Its another to take lazy penalties and have no impact whatsoever. Meh!

So on to game five. Good news is that we'll get the game here in T.O. and the Oil are 2-0 in such circumstances. (Grasping at straws).

All kidding aside while last night was disappointing I think if before the series started someone would have said we would be tied at 2 at this point I would have been pretty happy. The games have been close. Before the series I said anything was possible including a sweep either way and a bounce or two either way would have made this happen. I think 2-2 is pretty accurate.

We'll see what happens tomorrow. Stay out of the box!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Tonight is the night


Biggest game of the year tonight. Until next game. I'm feeling a little off (some bad souvlaki last night coupled with sleep deprivation from Tuesday) so this will be as short and sweet as I can make it.

Questions for the Wings

- the biggest one - Yzerman - will he play? He may be the one guy the Wings can least afford to lose, except Lidstrom, imo, and even that .... he has been terrific in all facets of the game

- can Legace step it up? what's the old saying? He is playing well enough to lose. He's made some big saves but he doesn't look, well, comfortable. Is that the right word? A lot was made of MacT's comments re: the jig he danced - I think that was just a little gamesmanship. Detroit is hard on their goalies and Manny is likely feeling a little pressure. Oiler fans know what bad goaltending can do to a team's psyche and while Legace has not been Conkannen bad he needs to be a little better, I would say. In a series this close that one extra save ...

- does Datsyuk get better - I think he was better in game 3 then in game 2 - I don't think he's "choking" (btw Zetterberg has shed that rep already) but trying to get into gameshape after a layoff

- can Draper and his teammates continue to neutralize the Oilers' PP - interesting to see if MacT has any adjustments there

questions for the Oil

- trap, no trap, hybrid? - sitting back got them into penalty trouble in the 3rd last game but its a fine line - look for MacT to pick his spots

- does MacT stick with the same lineup or draw someone in to replace Rem Murray - if you don't feel a guy can contribute minutes against the other team's 4th line then .... unfortunately MAP is out with mono so that's another option gone unless ...

- Moreau returns - if he does he could play with Harvey and Dvorak or Harvey and Pisani as the 4th line - end of problem - in any case there was a lot of talk about how the Wings seemed to get stronger as the game wore on - that they had extra jump - they were rolling 4 lines against 3 and 6 D against 5 - the Oil have to get some minutes from their backend guys

- can they get the PP going?

- can Hemsky get some offence going - he has played better as the series has worn on - he appears to "get it" but they need him to really go - he has the ability to influence a game for the better and if he can help win one - that's one more closer

- and while Sammy answered the apb to get a helper on the winner he too has to have an impact - every goal helps and he's a goal scorer, or so they say

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hmmm - now who?

Oiler depth took a hit with the news that Pouliot has mono of all things.

So I think we're going to see Rem the Gem for another game at least. Unless Brodziak draws in for him.

Or Jacques on the wing and Harvey to centre.

Where have you gone, Ethan Moreau?

Hurry back.

Ok, today I'm a little tired





Notes on last night's sweet sweet win. Bear with me. Played my first summer league game, came home and watched the Oil go up 2-1 and then was too jacked to go to bed so watched the Score for thoughts.

In bed at 3.

A little beat but so so worth it.

- 1 for 9 on the PP probably not going to cut it - send it back to the point and go to the net just like Torres did - D men hit the net - one or two are going to trickle through - KISS principle especially on the PP - especially when you're 1 for 9

- Horcoff and Stoll are some players - always think of Horc as a kid which he definitely is not but he had a whale of a game and Stoll is looking more and more like one of those Brent Sutter types (sorry but I can't think of a better reference) - an all round good player who plays even better the bigger the game gets - no surprise I guess based on his history coming up

- Torres played pretty well - 2 goals in 4 games going back to the last reg. season game - he might be heating up - but has been noted by Mike over at Covered In Oil as well as elsewhere he is out of gas in all of these OT games - maybe a little conditioning work this summer?

- The Oil D played well as a unit - Maltby suckered MAB into a bad penalty which led to the 3-2 goal but I thought he played a nice game; Pronger was, well, Pronger. Not much else can be said there.

- Hemsky looked a lot more engaged and he's not backing down from Chelios

- now really, if it came down to it, who would you sign - Smyth or Sammy - because that's probably what its going to come to in the end - Sammy did have a hand in the winner but to me was a nonfactor all night - Smyth was unbelieveable all night - nonstop - I like Sammy but to me its a nobrainer - without Smyth this team is down 3-0 I think - he's the engine and has been all the way down the stretch

- Dvorak was a real factor, especially in OT

- short bench is going to hurt them, it did in game 1 and almost again last night-if you can't play guys even when you have last change then they probably shouldn't be dressing - poor Rem Murray - they even showed his frigging folks, the pig farmers - as Lain over at Lowetide said in the game thread last night - he's a great guy but there's lots of great guys who don't get to play in the NHL and Rem needs to be one of them

- will be interested to see the extent of Yzerman's injury - he is something, frigging owned the draws all night and when he went down suddenly the Oil began to get a lot more puck possession - if this is his swansong he is going out in style

- Wings' young D are impressive and Schneider finally showed up - maybe his groin is better?

- frigging Chelios - the guy everyone loves to hate - he gets away with murder out there - he can still play though

- Zetterberg sure is something but Datsyuk's not 100% yet for sure

- Legace is both good and lucky in my opinion but the two go hand in hand for a tender - he's almost always in position those screen shots just hit him - which is good on him, a little weak on the wraparound though

- well, in the understatement of the year, being up 2-1 is certainly better then being down 2-1 - we'll see how things go tomorrow

Star Wars lunchpail



A while back Jarrett Stoll was called a lunchpail guy here or there.

Must be one of them fancy Star Wars lunchpails.

2:15 am here and even without double OT I'm beat - toddler and baby you know.

Jack woke up 15 ago for his nightly feed. My wife said about me still being up and I quote "Ass".

OK - time for bed. Details in the am.

2-1 up is better then 2-1 down. That's all I'll say. Long way to go still.

Interested to see Yzerman's status tomorrow.

Great game - ups and downs. Dennis is putting his dog down. WTF?

Long live Stan Weir!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Release the Hounds!


Or maybe not.

There has been a lot of talk about how the Oilers' "new defensive scheme where five guys line up along the red line and dare the Wings to skate it through them but its not a trap, oh boy, we'd never play a trap, that's not Oiler hockey", is the sixth sign of the Apocalypse.

There are three groups of complainers.

Those who say that the Oilers should never play the trap. They have to play Oiler hockey and if they lose doing it well that's better then a win playing it.

Red Wing fans who complain that the games are boring.

Oiler fans who think that playing the way the Oilers normally play would actually lead to better results.

The first two, well they can take a long hard suck, as far as I am concerned. The Oilers' job is to win. Period. If they have to come out dressed up like those Ice Capades chorus lines and skate in circles faster and faster with little MAB leading the way and Rem, poor Rem trying to grab on at the end just like the little runt kid in all those old movies, well so be it. If it means a win, break out the sequins. Would I prefer it if the Oil could run and gun their way back to glory. Of course I would. But I don't see Fuhr between the pipes to stop the ensuing breakaways. And I don't see Gretz, Mess, Kurri, Anderson, Coffey et al ready to hang a converted touchdown on the Early Bird special gang either.

I sure didn't think Sunday's game was boring and when I drank my victory pint it certainly did not taste like it was poured from my local hobo's arse because we didn't send three deep on the forecheck.

However the legitimate question is whether or not its the right strategy. Would the Oil be up 2-0 or in the same position, worse case, if they played the way they played in the regular season. After all, it was good enough for a spilt then, right?

Well, my first answer to that is the same as the one that I used when I predicted the Oil would win this series. The regular season means nothing. To think the Wings would be willing to skate with us now when the stakes are higher would be naive, I think. In case people haven't noticed the Wings have played a counter game for years and if we were to open it up I think they would eat us alive. These guys know what they are doing.

A run and gun favours them personnel wise as well. We didn't outshoot them all year even playing that style. Its not like we'd be getting twice the scoring chances. And remember the Oil's struggles to put the pick in the net down the stretch. The Wings, I'm afraid, would have no such issues.

Finally the safe game minimizes one of the Oilers' biggest propensities - the big mistake. You can't eliminate mistakes - God knows we saw a few Sunday - but whether its youth, getting overexcited, trying to do too much or just making bad decisions, the Oil make their share. And to beat the Wings they have to minimize them, even if it looks ugly. I love watching MAB and Staios jump into the play or Hemsky dipsy doodle or Horcoff making his soft little passes but its all about winning.

My one complaint about the strategy is that the Wings' D aren't getting pounded enough. Schneider is hurting, Kronwall is scared and Chelios is waiting to be sent into retirement but they're not paying a big enough price. I think that MacT throws a little stiffer forecheck at them at times tonight.

I think MacT should be commended, I really do. He looked at his opponents, saw that they were beaten in the playoffs the last two times by teams that played a version of the trap, looked at his personnel and theirs and came up with a game plan. Replacing LeGG was a good move even before Winchester scored.

We'll see what adjustments the Wings make tonight.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sweet


Even up now.

And if Pisani and Peca cash in its not even close.

Unbelieveable game by the Oil. Unlike game 1 Roloson not really called upon to do a lot. MacT managed a nice game, rolling four lines, having Dvo on the 4th gave them that safety valve, Winchester did a nice job, obviously, but even besides the goal ... well done.

Pisani, Peca and Torres did a really nice job - Peca especially noticeable in both zones. Torres set a nice tone early and overall had a terrific game I thought.

Stoll is a warrior.

Hemsky really needs to get engaged out there - until that shotblock he really did very little - just was soft. If they could get more out of him things could get a whole lot better.

Pronger and Smith were fantastic - two minutes or so left Smith went into the corner off the draw with two Wings and came out with the puck. Pronger - plus four, another goal, beautiful pinch on Winchester's goal.

Staios and Spacek did fine - a mistake or two but overall they did well, no soft touches at any time facing the Wings. Tarnstrom and Bergeron also did quite well. Bergeron coming back on the Zetterberg chance, Tarnstrom playing nice and simple.

Rolo - skate against the post, eh? But they picked him up. It was a fluke sure but still a softie.

Back to Edmonton - a nice win but another in game three might began to plant those seeds of doubt in the Wings' heads.

Now for a celebratory pint.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

uhhh, stupid moral victory? maybe?

Living in T.O. and being overrun by a toddler and baby I only managed to see the OT.

It was a strange one.

The Oil looked slow but to me they played well. Is that a contradiction? They just seemed intent on not coughing up that big mistake and for the most part they played good positional hockey. The Wings had chances and, of course, a lot of shots, but Rolo (who obviously played terrific) was not called upon to make many all world saves. Very few defensive breakdowns and coverage was excellent.

Flip side is that the Wings had a blanket thrown over them - every Oiler rush was completely neutralized. When Harvey's shot from the boards off a draw has the commentators gushing you know you're not getting a lot of chances.

Poor Rem Murray, not only the bad break on the winner but too slow to get away from his check earlier when the puck was laying there with a decent shot at an open net.

Not sure why LeGG - I like him but if you're not going to play the 4th line that much and then spread them around later would it not be better to have someone with a little more speed/offence playing with Smyth and Horcoff - put Harvey on the right wing on the 4th line and let Jacques draw in on the left side or maybe have Winchester on the right?? Anyhow that's a quibble but it looks like goals are going to be hard to come by and a big guy with speed might be handy.

I have never seen anyone look as tight as Raffi in OT - every puck that came near him bounced off his stick - relax.

Rolo did his job. And then some. And the D cleared those rebounds nicely.

So ... to sum up. Outplayed - yes. Outshot - yes. Dominated - not really. The Oil were outplayed but I never had the feeling that the result was inevitable. A game they could have won - yes.

They may rue losing this one - not often you get outplayed like that and still have a chance for the win.

Friday, April 21, 2006

What would Smytty do?


Just over at CinO and realized that I'm not going to see the game tonight because we're going to get the Senators' game here in T.O.

My wife is going out to get loaded and I was figuring I'd get the kids to bed, crack open a Guinness and celebrate the beginning of the Oilers' six game series victory over the Wings.

Maybe the Sens will pump seven or eight past Burke or whoever the Lightning are starting in net and they'll switch to the Oilers' game.

Or maybe, just maybe, I'll pack the kids up and find a pub.

Goddamn!

It could always be worse



Regardless of what happens with the Oil in this year's playoffs remember that things could always be worse. William Houston at the Globe has a nice story about how this team has been run.

Let it be said that Leaf fans get what they deserve (that being nearly 40 years without a Cup). When players are introduced before a game who gets the biggest cheer? Not their long suffering classy captain who gets 4th liners as wingers and still produces. Not smooth D man Tomas Kaberle. Not reason for hope Alexander Steen.

Nope, its washed up thug Tie Domi - doesn't hit, score, check or even fight anymore and wonders in public why he doesn't get the icetime he deserves.

And he gets the big cheers.

Domi said before the deadline that if he was traded he would retire.

JFJ, what are you waiting for?

Discipline


This guy doesn't have it.

The Oil have to have it.

With the exception of the first game they played this season when the Wings outshot the Oil 38-25 the remaining games were even in shots, 28-27 in favour of the Wings, 29-27 in favour of the Wings.

But PP stats:

Game 1 - Wings 2-6 Oil 1-4
Game 2 - Wings 2-6 Oil 3-8
Game 3 - Wings 2-5 Oil 0-6
Game 4 - Wings 1-6 Oil 0-5

The Wings had 23 PP and scored on 7 of them. The Oil had 23 PP and scored on 4 of them.

So they better start by controlling what they can by staying out of the box. There will be calls obviously but they can't give the Wings any gifts. No lazy hooks. No tripping Yzerman behind his own net - he's not Bobby Orr. He's not going end to end. He can barely beat the rush to the buffet at the Early Bird Special without Chelly running a little interference and Shanny helping him along.

Discipline boys! If they have it then their chances of winning this series are going up up up. The Wings only scored 6 even strength goals on them in 4 games.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Process Part Two


Facing the Detroit Red Wings, Presidents Trophy Winners, elite club and perennial Stanley Cup contenders, the Oil are looking to see where they are. Among the questions that need answering:

Is Roloson a legitimate #1 goaltender or does Lowe go shopping in the offseason?

Can MacT get this club to play to its potential once and for all?

Is Sergei Samsonov the real deal, worth the big bucks he'll be looking for this summer? How about Jaro Spacek?

Were Steve Staios' frequent mistakes near the end of the season a sign that maybe his role should be lessened (or that he should be moved) or can he play at a higher level once again?

Where are the young players in their development - can Stoll, Hemsky and Torres contribute meaningful and in Hemsky's case, elite, minutes?

Can Pisani, Moreau and Dvorak provide some secondary scoring?

Are Laraque, Murray and Harvey able to contribute meaningful minutes or should these vets be supplanted by youngsters?

Win or lose all of these situations bear watching.

Johnny says Oil in 6


This is Johnny Gottselig, captain of the 1937-1938 Chicago Blackhawks. They had a record of 14 wins, 25 losses and 9 ties in their 48 game season for a total of 37 points, 30 behind the first place Boston Bruins.

And they won the Cup.

Why I'm picking the Oil:

1/The regular season means nothing. I could go on (and probably already have in past posts) with example after example of high flying regular season teams that met their ends quickly in the playoffs. Minnesota over Chicago in 1991 when the Hawks had 38 more points in the regular season. The failures of the Wings the past two playoffs when they were the top seed in the West etc etc.

2/ The Wings are just not that good. 44 out of 48 points from the three weak sisters in their division. Did they earn those points fair and square? Sure they did. But can you honestly look at a Wings team with Manny Legace and Chris Osgood between the pipes and a 44 year old pulling down major minutes on the blue line, not to mention Cory Cross and Jason Woolley patrolling the defensive zone, and tell me that this team is unbeatable. They are flawed. The Oil were a far weaker team in years past and the Stars stronger then this Wings' team and the Oil still almost pulled off upsets, even with Salo in net. The gap between these two teams is not that big.

3/ The Oil match up well with this team. The Oil can skate and both teams that beat the Wings out the last two playoffs were strong skating teams as well. The Oil are deep.. They can roll four decent lines. Chicago, Columbus and St. Louis can barely roll four between them. They split the season series and for good reason.

4/ The vet factor is overrated. Sure Yzerman, Shanny, Chelly etc etc have been through the wars. Hasn't helped them the last two playoffs against a couple of pretty green teams. Nor did it help Team Canada at the Olympics.

5/ It always comes down to goaltending and while I really do like Manny Legace he has never had to do this before. Roloson has and has done well and that counts for something. Legace might be alright but the edge in net goes to the Oil and nothing is bigger.

6/ The injury factor - Datsyuk is hurting and Schneider is nursing a sore groin. That's a couple of pretty big hits to take. Groin injuries don't just go away.

7/ The age factor - when game five rolls around how are Lidstrom (35), Schneider (37), Chelios (44), Woolley (36) and Cross (35) going to be holding up? Not to mention Yzerman, Lang and Shanahan. The Oil are going to play physical and while they are not a bunch of youngsters their key guys are all a lot younger then the Wings' guys with a few exceptions - Zetterberg etc.

The Oil have to play disciplined and they have to play their game. If they do and I think they will ...

Oil in 6

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Picks


Tomorrow night I'm either going to have my two year old or my dog make a set of picks. I'm sure they will likely have more success then I.

As usual all of the geniuses in the media are going with the top seeds in every series with the exception of one or two picks of Anaheim over Calgary and nearly everyone picking San Jose over Nashville. As usual probably half of the top seeds will be gone after the first round as they choke, run into a hot goaltender or just get beaten. Anything can happen and usually does.

So here goes nothing.

Ottawa over Tampa in 5 - Emery may or may not be good enough to backstop Ottawa to the Cup but he's good enough to beat a Tampa team that has lousy goaltending (Sean Burke?) and has had a strangely disjointed season. They have a few big guns but don't have the horses to stop a deep Sens team.

Habs over Canes in 7 - The Habs have done this before and I think we'll see it again. Better goaltending and the biggest gamebreaker in the series in Kovalev trumps an admittedly deep Canes team. I'm sure not sold on Gerber and Staal has slumped. Next year maybe but not this year.

Rangers over Devils in 6 - with the caveat that this happens if Lundquist is healthy. If not, Devils in 7. The Devils have won 11 straight sure but while this has some people talking Cup there's no way this team wins any Cups without Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermeyer and I don't see them anywhere near this team these days. Smoke and mirrors.

Sabres over Flyers in 6 - better goaltending and a team that just matches up well with the Flyers I think. If Forsberg is healthy then maybe the Flyers pull it off in 7 but he's not and without him they're done.

Stars over Avs in 5 - better goaltending (see a trend here?) and more depth. Avs are not just that good - another week and I think they were dropping out of the playoffs altogether - Sakic willed them in, I think, but Turgeon and Brisebois are no Forsberg and Foote. The Stars, much as it pains me, are likely the best in the West at this moment

Flames over Ducks in 7 - this could go either way - Giguere is on top of his game and Lord knows the Flames can't score. But Kipper ... The Flames will grind one out, winning in the 7th game when Simon deflects a Ference shot in off his gigantic melon.

Sharks over Preds in 5 - with Vokoun gone so are the Preds' chances and they don't have the horses to stop Thornton, Cheechoo, Marleau et al. I don't buy into the Sharks or Ducks as favourites but the San Josers are going to pound on the Preds, methinks.

Tomorrow - Oil versus Wings - my reasons why the Oil win in 6 - one hint - its going to start with better goaltending - seriously

The Process


In past comments I have referred to what I call The Process in reference to the steps a team takes from being a babe in the NHL woods to a Stanley Cup contender. The Oilers are going to have a great opportunity to see where they are in this journey starting on Friday when they play a team that is a perennial contender.

There has been a lot of gnashing of teeth as the Oil, on paper a far more talented team then in years past, were life and death to get to the playoffs again this year. I for one feel pretty good about this year and am of the mind that it has been a successful year and a step forward for the organization already, regardless of what happens next. Here's why:

1/ They made the playoffs this year. Last season they did not. As simple as that. That's a step forward.

2/ There will be no ripping apart of this team this summer, as there was when they traded Doug Weight. Players will leave. Samsonov and Spacek may not resign. Peca will be gone. But going into next season there will be a talent pool similar or stronger then at the beginning of this season. Pronger will be here. Hemsky will be here. Smyth will be here. If there are trades made it will be to strengthen the team not to dump salary. Now this is not the Oils' doing as much as it is the reality of the new CBA but it still counts.

3/ This is the biggie. While in years past this team had to max out just to get to the playoffs the truth of the matter is that with good goaltending this team probably is around ten points better which means they are in the top half of this conference and likely division champions. In other words a true contender. And this is the difference between last season and this season. Lowe knows what has to be done to take the next step and CAN address it. Can Vancouver point at one issue as the solution to their problems? Can LA? No. Does it mean that next year will automatically lead to what I am projecting? Of course not. But when is the last time that the Oilers could say 'ok here's our flaw - lets fix it' and that would potentially mean contender status.

4/ Improvement of youth. Hemsky and Stoll both posted impressive numbers. Torres, despite his slumps, scored 27 goals. Bergeron and Greene made some strides. Pouliot, Winchester and Jacques made appearances and we'll likely see Pouliot and Jacques fulltime next year would be my guess. In a league where having good young players will be needed to have success there are some nice signs in Edmonton.

The Big Mo


I was going to post a pic of Mo Vaughn here but who better to represent momentum then the biggest Mo of them all. Plus its fitting that when I am talking about a team that includes Chelios and Maltby that we use the word Dick.

A few pundits have opined that the Oil have no chance against the Wings because the Wings have been red hot over the past few months (last night's loss was their first regulation loss since March 7th, I believe) while the Oil stumbled down the stretch. Hot versus cold. Mudcrutch had a couple of posts on April 7th and April 9th where he looked at the "hot team" and what that meant going into the playoffs.

What he concluded is that in many cases the hot team was simply the good team. James Mirtle used Tampa as an example of a hot team. Mudcrutch's point was that while Tampa may have been indeed hot going into the playoffs they were just a really good team. When they entered the playoffs that year many did see them as favourites because they were good.

Detroit fits that model as well. Nobody has been hotter over a longer period of time then the Wings but the fact is that they are a very good team that also benefits from a soft schedule.

Finally there are other factors that come into play as well. You have teams that are playing callups in order to evaluate young players for next year. You have teams that are resting players for the playoffs. There are teams that have nothing to play for because they have clinched their spot and are essentially trying not to get hurt. You have others (hello LA) who are playing out the string. Its always difficult to read that last month. In the past years teams have been red hot and have been swept out in the first round. Others have gone in cold and gotten hot.

Which leads us to the big Mo. The baseball adage is that momentum is as strong as your starting pitcher next game (or soemthing like that). Going into Friday who has momentum? Well, Detroit has been on a roll but they are playing a hungry team which has nothing to lose and knows they can play with them. If the Oil win Game One on a bounce and then Roloson stands on his head in game two, then what? Or if Lidstrom fires a bomb from centre that eludes Roloson in game 3 then what?

Its an elusive thing. I think these teams start at even on Friday and in game six ir seven that big penalty kill or save or individual effort will mark that final swing. Between the two you will have injuries, controversial calls, big goals and big saves on both sides.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A grain of salt

Regarding the Wings' Presidents Cup winning record, Damien Cox over at the Toronto Star has an interesting breakdown.

In their 24 games against Chicago, St. Louis and Columbus the Wings went 21-1-1-1 for a total of 44 out of a possible 48 points.

Now, I don't think the Wings are paper tigers.

And they had to win those games - its not like they were given the points. If the Oil had picked up points against those teams at that rate they would have won their division, I think. Or close to it anyhow. I don't have the numbers in front of me.

But playing these teams gave the Wings an advantage. Not only in terms of having a weak opposition for 24 games but also not having the mental and physical wear and tear of playing the Flames, Canucks, Avs and Wild over and over again.

Are the Wings a better team then the Oil? Yes, I would say so. Are they that much better? So much so that an Oil series win would be the huge upset that everyone is predicting it would be?

I don't buy it.

This series could end in 4, 5, 6 or 7 games and in favour of either team and I would not be greatly surprised in any case. If the Oil get going in game 1 and Rolo gives them the goaltending they could run the Wings out of the rink. Conversely if the Wings shut the Oil completely down in games one and two we could see a sweep the other way. Its probably going to go six or seven but every playoff season has unexpected results. We'll see what happens this year.

It Just Doesn't Matter


For everyone who says the Oil have no chance.





2002/2003

Detroit Red Wings
48 Wins, 20 Losses, 10 Ties, 4 OTL, 269 GF, 203 GA, 110 Points

Anaheim Ducks
40 Wins, 27 Losses, 9 Ties, 6 OTL, 203 GF, 193 GA, 95 Points

Its a new season.
Now, who's going to be the Oilers' Rudy?

Market Value Set

A signing here in T.O. that may have set the value for two UFAs who I think the Oil will be looking to resign this summer.

Chad Kilger had found a home here in T.O. finally and had a decent season. He was one of few Leafs who played well from start to finish this season and he was rewarded with a three year deal worth 2.7 M yesterday.

Kilger is 29 years old. He scored 17 goals and 11 assists, was a minus 6 on the season and was durable, playing 79 games this season. While he generally played on the 3rd or 4th line he saw spot duty on the top two lines when needed. He killed penalties and saw a little bit of time on the power play as well. Despite the minus he definitely was a postive force in his own end.

Remind you of anyone?

Fernando Pisani is 29 years old. Entering action last night he had scored 18 goals and 17 assists, was a plus 4 on the season and had played 80 games. Other then their pedigrees I'd say these guys are like players.

I'm thinking Fernando's looking at @ 3 years @ 900K a year.

And I think Radek Dvorak (29 years old, 8 goals and 19 assists, minus 4, 64 games played) is looking at less then that.

I'm not a believer in pigeonholing players but I think these three are birds of a feather. Hard to believe based on Kilger's past but he has finally found his niche this year.

Friday, April 14, 2006

And they're in.

Sweet.

Off to Sudbury but a few thoughts.

A week to heal is going to make a difference.

A big time goal by Hemsky - and remember, as many have forgotten, he's still just a pup.

A new season but get prepared for predictions of sweeps and five game series.

I say, if Rolo plays well and its possible, then the Oilers have more then a chance.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Do You Like Apples?

Oh yeah? How do you like them apples?

Watching the Spin and its 1-1 Oilers/Ducks with a minute left and the red light flashes - figured it was the Flames' 2-0 goal.

But it was Hemsky.

Young fella, thanks for coming out.

Apparently the Sharks are all over the Caucks but Alex Bald is saving bacon right now.

I'm off to bed, up early to go up to Sudbury to see the folks for Easter.

Worse case - Oilers control their own destiny still. Even better, I get up to a Sharks' regulation win.

Could it be?

See below for last post after Canucks' loss


Except now each team only has 2 games left.

It could be all over tonight with an Oilers' win and a Canucks' regulation loss. I'm sure that won't happen but it would be nice - a little less stress this weekend.

I'm thinking the Oil win - except for the stinker against the Blues they have played reasonably well. The Ducks seem to have cooled off slightly now that they have made the playoffs. And the Canucks, after last night, eh ...

Whatever happened to Brendan Morrison by the way? Does he still play in this league?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Copy and paste last story after Oiler loss


So with an Oil loss now a Canuck win tonight against the Sharks means the Oil are on the outside looking in but a Canuck loss means - well, go back to yesterday's post.

I'll see if I can find a picture of a turtle for my next post because this is turning into the mother of all turtle derbies. Its a good thing for the Oilers and Canucks that the Kings have fallen apart even worse.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dear Oil Fans


REMAIN CALM! ALL IS WELL!

Quieting the Unquiet Mulletude


After 24 hours of wailing and gnashing of teeth after the Oil turned in a stinker against the Blues in their latest BGOTY the Canucks lost again last night. Which means going into tonight we are exactly where we were Sunday afternoon, only there are two less days on the schedule. Which means the Canucks are in deep.

An Oiler win tonight puts them up four points with the Canucks having 3 left to play. The nucks have two against the redhot Sharks who have charged into 6th place (the Flames are probably not too happy about that) and then their last game is against the Avs who are also still fighting for a spot and also have given Vancouver a lot of problems this year.

The Oil have been up and down lately and Rolo sealed his fate with the worst goal allowed ever against Chicago on Friday night. The kids are hurt, slumping, freaked out etc etc. but I think tonight is going to be a good night. The Oil are going to come out flying as they always do after a stinker. The Wings have nothing to play for. I'm thinking its going to be a good night.

And Smytty will lead the way.

Monday, April 10, 2006

40,72,34,72,21,65,20,26

Although nobody's in the mood after a crap weekend for the Oil, some reasons to feels good about the future if not the present:

40 - Shawn Horcoff's total points in 2003/2004
72 - Horc's point total this year before Friday night
34 - Alex Hemsky's total points in 2003/2004
72 - Hemsky's points this year before Friday night
21 - Jarret Stoll's Total points in 2003/2004
65 - Stoll;s points this year before Friday night
20 - Raffi Torres' goals in 2003/2004
26 - Torres' goal total this year

I'm as tired of hearing about potential as anyone but its obvious the Oil have some pretty good young talent that is coming along alright (and I know Horc is no youngster but I have included him in the list). These guys have all tailed off a bit but, big picture, they've done alright.

Crappy thing is if you had posted these numbers at the first of the year nobody could have seen how they'd be life and death to get in with these contributions, no?

A bad hockey weekend

1/ Oil lose to Blues, a team that has not won in 13 games. They no longer control their own destiny.
2/ Canucks win Saturday. A win tonight and the Oil are on the outside looking in.
3/ 2 wins by the Sharks, tied with the Oil with two games in hand
4/ Despite the win on Friday (barely) Rloson allows the worst no-excuses goal at the worst possible time meaning that any possible playoff run can only be short and sad and they once again have to address the goaltending situation - sorry Rolo - I no longer believe
5/ Capsule, after a pretty good year, fell in the semis in the deciding game - 4-3 - at leat this pain was eased by postgame pints at the Only

Weekend could have put them in the catbird seat - instead it could have hardly been worse.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Almost home

Before the first three games of this trip I felt that five out of a possible six points were necessary considering the opposition and the timing. With three out of four the Oil head into St.Louis where a win would put them at 93 points with three to play, two points from the magic 95 that James Mirtle predicted a while back would be needed to get into the playoffs into the West. At 93 points the Canucks will need to go 3 and 2 to catch the Oil. At this point I don't think that's happening. Things may change but right now things look ugly in Vancouver.

Taking Miss P to the park so a few quick hits about last night. Plans to tape the game went by the wayside, drowned in pints of Guinness at the Only so a few basic observations.

The tying goal effectively killed Roloson's chances of resigning here. He has been playing better as of late and I for one felt that if this continued to the end of the season and through the playoffs that our best bet would be to resign him and pick up use Markannen as a backup or pick up Esche or Raycroft to share duties. Giving up THAT goal in this game - sorry Rolo - unless you win a series for us you are gone.

Smyth and Pisani prove their value once again. Smyth is tenth in the league in goals presently and has points in the last eight games. Pronger may be the team MVP but Smyth is a close second in my book. Forget trading this guy - sign him to an extension. He cannot be replaced. And Pisani is another guy they need to resign. Key goals at key moment.

Two big game players.

Canucks loss tonight and Oilers win tomorrow and they're home.

Friday, April 07, 2006

40,72,34,72,21,65,20,26 - What do these numbers mean??

These are not the numbers that they punch into the computer in Lost.

These are the numbers that, if you are an Oilers' fan, have to make you smile, just a little bit, if not a lot.

Any ideas?

Anyone?

Glass Half Full, right?

Ok, well a point in not as good as two but its better then one. And its the Wild.

From reading the papers apparently the Oil were all over the Wild at times but just could not finish. I did see highlights of Fernandez turning away Hemsky twice in one sequence. Good news:

Oilers generated a lot of chances against a stingy Wild team.
Oilers played with a lot of energy against a team that generally sucks all life out of a game
Oilers did not get down after brutal video replay - why have video replay if you don't have the proper equipment. To quote the Grand Poobah of All Things Ulanov:

"Its called an overhead camera. Jerks."

Peca, Moreau and Dvorak continued their strong play although I find it hard to believe Dvorak once scored 30 goals in this league. Nedved must have been bouncing them off of him or something that year.

Beauty goal by Smytty. Sign the Smytty! Oiler for Life, if just for the insight in the post game interviews.

Sounds like Rolo had a good game - could not be faulted on the goal, made some nice saves and thats good enough for me.

Musings about tonight and around the league stuff:

Tonight is the big one - the Oil have to pick up 5 of 6 points in the first three games of this trip, I think. They have 1. A win tonight makes it three and gives them a four point cushion over the Canucks, adding to the pressure for their tilt tomorrow night. A loss tonight and a Canuck win tomorrow and we're on the outside looking in. The Oil have played well, even in their losses since the first Canuck game, I think, so I'm banking on a win.

Finally Dallas wins one over one of our rivals - where were those wins over the past two to three weeks when they were playing SJ and Anaheim? And if Modano is out for any length of time you can scratch the Stars from your list of heavyweight contenders. If such a thing exists.

Wow, did LA ever shit the bed last night. Their BGOTY, a must win, against a team they have to pass to make the playoffs. And they get smoked. 5-0. So they're done.

Tonight is a quiet night in the West. Calgary hosts the Wild and will likely crush them, almost guaranteeing the Smythe crown and allowing them to rest a few guys. Tomorrow and Sunday - a lot more going on.

And of course on one of the few non-HNIC nights where I could watch the Oil, my own squad, Capsule Music, is in the rubber match of our best of three semifinal in the Downtown T.O. men's league. We won game one and then blew game two in true Oil fashion - we didn't have to win so we chose not to. Actually that's a little hard on the Oil. So I'll be taping the Oil victory and when I come home from victory pints at the Dora I'll be ready for a nice denouement to a great hockey day.

Right?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Homestretch

After a couple of relatively quiet days the playoff chase really gets revved up tonight and with less then two weeks left in the season its a bloody mess. The Oil are in decent position with six games left; they control their own destiny. If everyone were to win out, which cannot happen anyway, they would be in. A better place to be in then Vancouver or the Kings, for sure and a game in hand on each.

Tonight they play Jack Lemaire and Team Excitement. As always I'll be only able to follow this sucker on the ticker but seeing as the Wild are about as exciting as Ken Dryden talking about, well, anything, I'm not to choked up about it. Two points sure would be sweet. The Wild just have the Oil's number this year, every year someone has someone's, hopefully the Oil can come out strong and put a few up on the board before they get lulled to sleep.

And around the rest of the West.

It looks like the Flames have wrapped up the division pretty well, five points up with six to play, I think a win or two more and some guys will get some rest. They'll be happy to have home ice and I hate to say it but even with that "offence" they're the team to beat in my mind. Yep.

Nashville is lucky that they play in a joke division (memories of the 80s Norris) and that there aren't 3 weeks left in the seaon. As it is Anaheim's got them.

Here's where the schedule pays dividends for the Oil too, assuming they uphold their part of the bargain. Tonight SJ is in LA - they play the Kings once more as well as the Canucks twice and the Ducks once. Even with the odd three point game in there likely the Oil are going to gain on someone when these teams are doing each other in.

And Dallas, how about a little help. They've been losing to Anaheim and SJ regularly it seems, I know they have nothing to play for but cripes how about a little help here.

Thats all we're asking.

Oil win tonight puts them either 3 up on everyone or 3 up on Canucks and 5 on the Kings unless there's a 3 pointer in which case, carry the 1, oh Christ just win the damn game.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Kingdom for A Keeper

Once again, with the Oil out of action until tomorrow, a look at next year's squad.

And this one, more then anything will be entirely decided on the next six games and when the Oil get into the playoffs, what follows. (Glass half full.)

If Roloson gets his act together and does his job (ie/ is not the reason the Oilers fail to advance at some point) then I think they bring him back. His performance has been up and down and he has cost or helped cost the Oilers, I think five points was an estimate I read somewhere, but before he came to Edmonton he had played three games or something ridiculous in 2006. So, if he pulls it together then why not? But if he doesn't ...

The problem, as I see it, is there is a serious dearth of quality keepers out there and, even worse, not a lot of them available. There are only a couple of UFAs worth looking at - Gerber and Huet - I can't see giving a pile of money to Huet, who had had, what, one good half season. So you're bidding against the Leafs, Tampa, Carolina and probably a few other teams for Gerber.

In terms of guys who are or may be available there are some gambles - Raycroft and Dan Cloutier come to mind - but I can't see Lowe gambling on another season. Likewise forget guys like Cujo.

So, here are some possibilities and what they might cost:

Giguere - I think he has 1 year left on his contract at @ 4M so they could squeeze him in, I think but what would he cost if Burke wanted to dump his salary. Apparently his backup is an up and comer. My guess is Burke would want someone young and cheap, someone like Torres. Was kicking around Smyth as logical tradebait earlier but looking at Burke's earlier moves this year I'm thinking he wants young and cheap

Denis - good numbers this year though I have not seen him play but would Doug McLean move his #1 goalie in a year where he has to at least make a run at the playoffs?

Biron - I think this may be the guy - one year left on his contract and he is an RFA so probably a reasonable cap number I would think - for MAB or a prospect?

Esche - I keep coming back to him for two reasons - he's cheap and while he's having an off year his numbers are still decent - not sure if he is a gamble or not and haven't seen enough of him to be able to say honestly - he's a nut though and might not handle the first time he hears the boobirds

Any other suggestions? This is the problem. For all of the people who got on Lowe at the deadline for getting Roloson there are not a lot of good keepers out there.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Left Wing and I don't mean the NDP!

Left Wing is the strongest position the Oilers have, so much so that with Smyth and Torres set on the top two lines they had to move Samsonov around to find him a spot. Throw in Ethan Moreau and its an embarrassment of riches. But what do the Oil do moving forward?
Samsonov definitely adds a lot to the Oil and if they can resign him for a reasonable amount I think they have to. What's reasonable? I'd say 3 years at 10 million although if I can get him for less ... Its hard to see where the market is going this summer. There are a lot of free agents but the general feeling is that the majority of them will follow the lead of Iginla, Thornton, LeCavalier, Theodore, Fernandez, Jokinen, etc etc and take themselves off the market by resigning with their present teams. If this is the case Sammy might get a stupid offer from someone like the Leafs or Islanders - there is always someone out there with more money then brains. The other possibility is with next year supposed to be the big year for free agents that Sammy may be left wanting as teams look to dive in in a big way in 2007.

If they can't sign him this is all moot but if they do then what do you do? Do you want to have either him or Smyth playing out of position on the right? If you're spending the money then they should be in their preferred positions I'd think although Smyth could and would probably make the move.

If you sign him he has one spot and Moreau has the third line spot. Moreau sets the tone for this team and with it being a young team they need him I would say. Plus he has that role sewn up. You're not going to pay Smyth 3.5 to play on the third line.

So do you trade Smyth for Giguere - contracts are both up in a year and are close in value. Young Anaheim team gets a leader and Oilers get their goalie. Don't know about that - you only have to watch Smyth's play over the last couple of weeks - going after Simon etc - to know that on a young team he plays that leadership role along with Moreau, Smith and Staios. Plus he's good for 35 goals.

Or do you trade Torres? 26 goals already in only his second full season. And he comes cheap. He probably has the most value but man, to give him up ...

For Lowe, its a nice spot to be in.

I love Smythy (nice objectivity I know) and would like to see the Oil resign him and then slip him into Moreau's role down the road in a perfect world but ... is his value going to be any higher?

The question is what could they get for Torres? Who out there has a young stud goalie who is cheap and who can help them win now? Because if you're trading this guy that's what you better get in return. And how many of those are there? Not many.

Its all moot if they don't resign Sammy but if they do Lowe has a nice bargaining chip. Or they can move Smyth to the right side, keep all four of them and trade a prospect or another youngster for that goaler.

A laugher

Another one and the Oil still have their fate in their own hands with time running out on the teams (Canucks, Sharks, Kings) behind them. With Vancouver and San Jose playing each other twice next week and a lot of the teams in the chase playing each other down the stretch I think they're looking alright.

Peca has woken up, I see. A disappointing year (although I never bought casting him as a first line centre) he appears to have finally gotten going. He could be a huge factor in the weeks upcoming.

With Peca's "return", Dvorak and Moreau both apparently recovered from lingering injuries, the arrival of Pouliot and the sudden improved play of Brad Winchester the Oil suddenly have four lines flying again, a huge part of their early season success.

Moreau and Smyth lead the way for this team. They need a goalie next year (unless Roloson gets on a, say, 3 month hot streak I don't think he's the answer) and it would be nice to sign Spacek and Sammy but I think trading either of these guys - a big mistake.

Anyhow, the boys head back on the road for four - and once again - could we have a week to breathe, guys? Go four for four, heck three of four, so that last week is not must win?

What do you say?