Sunday, March 07, 2010
Had our first playoff game last night with good old Capsule, emphasis on old.
Actually a tale of two seasons this winter. Two thirds of the way through we were languishing a couple of games under .500. We'd missed one of our top players who was out with ankle surgery for the first part of the season and we had attendance issues with a couple of other quality guys and on top of that our leading scorer from last season had been in a season long funk which saw him way down the scoring list on our team, this from a guy who had been near the top of the league last season. In every game we lost we seemed to just come up a little short and while we had been writing it off to puck luck it was becoming a little scary and we began to think that it might just be us not being very good.
And then suddenly things turned around. We began to score and we tightened up on the back end and we began to win. Game after game ended up in the right column for the good guys and we began to climb the standings. Part of it was that our aforementioned missing in action go to guy got a couple of bounces and suddenly he started to score again but then again when he went down with a broken hand we didn't miss a beat and so we won seven games in a row, jumping over three clubs to end up third, four points out of top spot.
Our reward? A first round series against a club that had our number all year, a big fast group of kids who push the rulebook as far as they can. And so last night it began and as happens in beer league hockey we were short a couple of guys who bring a lot of quality to the equation. The great equalizer for us - their goaltending is questionable. So halfway through the game we were up one on an awful goal and we were doing alright. There was plenty of contact and quite a bit of stickwork as they did everything they could to keep us away from their Achilles heel and while the refs didn't put the whistles away entirely tempers were starting to fray with all of the rough stuff. We didn't back down though, we kept at it.
They had a heavy push and they equalled things and then they went ahead and for a while we were on our heels and things weren't looking good. They had a big rangy kid centre who gave us fits, one of these guys who can stickhandle in a phonebooth, he kept coming with speed and we were just hanging on, old legs tiring.
And then it happened. We used to be a team that folded, a team that didn't push back, a team that could be cowed. This changed a few years back and the new Capsule has showed up a few times this season. And last night they showed up again. We began to get the puck deep and suddenly they were reeling from the pressure and then it was even.
And then their star, their cocky young hero, picked up a puck deep in their zone as they changed. He came from behind the net and instead of chipping it out he tried to beat our forechecker. The puck skittered into the corner and he retrieved it and reversed it around the net, as he began to charge out of his zone he was cut off again and this time instead of chipping it out he chose to turn again and rag the puck back into his own zone, swerving this way and that, the picture of youthful arrogance.
I was at the blueline watching this display, seething, staying high, waiting for the inevitable turn up ice or the breakout pass, when suddenly a white jersey rushed by me and into the zone. We have a feisty wiry little winger, the oldest guy on our team, a guy who gets into the dirty places in every game, a kamikase of a player. He had been pressed into service on the blue tonight and yet here he was tearing by me in a tie game as our bench went mental, screaming at him to get back. I dropped back to cover and watched as he hurled himself at the kid stickhandler who turned and went behind his own net, chased by our terrier forechecker.
And then one last time he reversed, fancy dan, right into our man, who plucked the puck from him, whipped out front and stuffed it by their startled goalie. As we roared the other club was stunned and your kid bravado cursed and whipped his stick across the ice into the boards.
Their next rush died in the corner of our zone and we charged up ice and they fished the puck out of their net again and minutes later our line went down to shut the door and we cleared our zone and forced them in their end and sealed it with an empty netter.
Ugliness would follow. The game ending, their goat ran into our goalie and it all erupted. Our man between the pipes is a terrific guy, finest kind, a cancer survivor, one of those guys of whom a bad word has never been even whispered. We came in to exact our pound of flesh and amongst the pushing and shoving and cursing our opponent, tough guy, brought his stick down over a helmet and then it really went crazy. My stick shattered on someone (it was dying anyway with that twangy echo) when I moved in to crosscheck the object of my rage and as the refs and convenor tried to separate guys I found myself with arms pinned in a scrum, thrusting at my opponent's groin with what was left of my stick.
Luckily for him and especially for me I was essentially immobilized. My jabs were nothing more than feeble waves, amounting to nothing.
And just as suddenly they were off of the ice and we were shaking hands with the two players on their team who lined up at centre. Pats on the back and best wishes.
Next week we play them again. This could get awful. Stupidity reigns.
The Oilers are playing out the string, six points back of Toronto with eighteen games left to play. Even without the head start I'm thinking the Leafs are in good shape to leave the Oilers in their dust. They've been gutted up front but with Giguere in net and a pretty solid D they're in a situation where they don't need to score too much anyways.
The Edmontons on the other hand have traded three of their top six D and have two more out for the season with injury. Its Gilbert and Whitney and then Strudwick on the depth chart on the back end and a popgun offence and crappy goaltending to boot. It would take a collapse of immense proportions by the Leafs to come back to the Oilers.
And as an aside I will actually be at the ACC next Saturday to witness the two worst teams in the league. A full report will follow the game and for the first time I may actually be cheering for the Leafs. I'm hoping that they pick up a few more points on Edmonton this week so I don't have to be a Judas. I don't know if I can bring myself to it.
Its been an awful year for the Oilers and really a pretty poor four years for the club. I've railed about management long enough and I'm quite simply tired of it. I can't believe that Katz is going to trust the guys who fucked this up to fix their mess. It reminds me of these guys in the banks and investment firms getting their huge bonuses after bringing their companies and the American economy to their knees. A better move would be tailor made hamburger suits and a pit full of wolverines but hey, who am I to say?
In any case it should be Hall or Seguin this June (let me just say that either would be fine but all things being equal if I had a choice I would take the centre) and that's a start. I'm sure we'll see another wave of kids next season, which may not be such a wise move, but they're going to try and sell hope after all.
And it will likely be another long and awful year.
So what am I asking for? Something that we've barely seen since that beauty run in 2006, something that used to be a trait of the Edmonton Oilers, something that has disappeared in these past few seasons.
Some passion. Some heart. Some anger. Some rage if need be. None of this passive losing, this rolling over as teams push them around.
Do something! Anything! Just show that you care. The only thing worse than being bad is being bad and boring and heartless.
End of rant.
Posted by Black Dog at 5:05 PM