Sunday, December 12, 2010
Was supposed to post a little more this week as Jenn was supposed to work the past two nights but she's come down with laryngitis and the end result was two nights off for her and an unexpected Capsule game for me last night. A little bonus as I am missing next week's game and then Christmas is here and so it was looking like no hockey for a month for me.
Instead I got to play last night and it turned out to be the best game I have had in a while. I've had a pretty good year but we've had a real struggle the last month or so, just falling short in game after game. We lost two guys from our blue last year who were quite a bit of chaos as they were converted forwards but what they gave up they more than made up for with their offence. Their replacements are true defencemen and as a result we're pretty damn stingy but we've never been that high scoring a club anyways and we have had a hell of a time putting the puck in the net. Add to their loss the fact that one of our two best forwards has basically been a noshow (he scored a hattrick in one of the two games he has played) and its been a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 losses. A blown coverage here or there has been costing us. The disappointing thing is the league is wide open and we could very well take it all but its hard to say yet if we're just struggling or if we're just not that good.
The good thing is the last couple of games we have deserved better and that's a good sign and so last night we tried to break out of our slump and ended up doing so. I got to play centre for the first time in a while and despite it being on an Olympic size rink I was able to hang in there and as the game wore on I got stronger and in the space of two shifts ended up helping to tip the game in our favour with just under ten minutes left. We were up one to nothing and the game was still in the balance and one of the dmen on their team, well he's noticeably weak and so I just started going at him. Three times in a row I beat him and got in alone and while their goalie beat me the first two times, the third time I picked up my own rebound and snuck it in and that was it for them. We added another and that was it. End of the slump. A great way to end this calendar year and as I joked with the guys after one of these days I'm going to score, pick up the puck and go right to the dressing room and hang them up. I've had a nice go of it the last two years though so that day may still be a long time away.
Just to continue on the theme from earlier this past week, a further look at what has gone well for our Oilers. The loss of Hemsky and Horcoff will probably guarantee a lottery spot for the Oilers. They were lucky to get the win against Tampa and its to be expected when two thirds of your third line is basically two thirds of your top line in the AHL. The bottom six is a mess and you cannot play two lines all game and if you look at the scoring chances counted from Friday night you can see that things may get a bit ugly.
Never mind though because there is a lot to like here. For the first time in a few years there are plenty of players who are either exceeding expectations or, at the least, meeting them. And its been a long time since we can say that. So here are five more things I like.
1. Dubnyk. The big kid had a nice stretch to finish off last season and this year so far he has continued to impress. Still a long way to go and he may never be more thna a capable backup but I think at the least he will be that. He's got good technique and a nice calm about him and there is a lot to like there.
2. Magnus Paajarvi. I figured the young Swede to be the best of the rookies but Hall has blown him away and Eberle has shown better as well. Lately though the kid has gotten going. Some of that is getting a chance to play with some real linemates and from there I think it was a case of his confidence coming around and now it looks more and more that he too is going to be as advertised. A lucky get for the Oilers by the looks of it, he has certainly looked better than, say, Kadri, who was picked before him.
3. Sam Gagner. Gagner, I think it is safe to say, has turned the corner. He's not big and he never will be and he's quick rather than fast but he's contributing offensively despite bouncing around the lineup and the most impressive thing about his game is that he's winning puck battles and moving the puck the right way. He's coming into his own and its had to believe that he's just twenty one. He's been around forever.
4. Ryan Jones. Ryan Who? Guy looks like he forgot to take his skate guards off for all of the times he falls down but he sure has a nose for the net. An odd guy and not sure where he fits on this club. My guess is longterm he will be part of a fourth line in the Glencross/Brodziak/Stortini tradition, a line that can murder the other club's dregs, hang in there against tougher opposition when needed and provide guys who can step into the top nine now and then when needed. A nice surprise.
5. Omark. Sure its just one game but Linus' debut symbolizes a lot about what there is to like about this club. There is some swagger back in Edmonton and some excitement and while they're not close to being a winning club yet its nice to see something after a few years of drab losing hockey. Omark may or may not be an NHL player (although I suggest that if he were LW with Gagner and Hemsky that he would be just fine) but the way he drove the net on the PP shows that he is, unlike Robert Nilsson, a guy who is going to force the issue. As for the shootout goal, well the silliest thing I heard were the complaints about his showing a lack of respect with his spin move in that longstanding tradition of the shootout. While guys like Avery and Cooke run rampant with their cheapshots and guys drop the gloves whenever there is a clean hit of all things, I think that a lot of the critics are out to lunch. And Omark's answer to the critics, that he basically doesn't care what they say, was a terrific thing to hear. Hockey is a wonderful game and while I would never want to see the chest thumping and mememeism of, say, the NBA, in hockey, the fact is that the NHL tends to grind the personality out of its players. Good on Omark for having personality and bringing it to the Oilers.
Posted by Black Dog at 2:53 PM