Friday, November 18, 2011
Had a fantastic weekend this weekend past in Pat McLean land.
Woke up to an email from my aunt out west. Have had a bit of stress lately as my old man's youngest brother had a major health scare. He's as fit as can be and so of course when you get the news its even more upsetting because it comes as a shock. So Saturday morning I woke up and found a message that proclaimed that all is well for now and so we were off to the best start to a Saturday that one could have.
It was gorgeous here in the centre of the universe and so we had the kids out and about in the sunshine. Raked leaves, made a pot of chili, took the boy to skating, watched the game Saturday night with my father in law and a few Neustadt 10W30s. Went to the LCBO and found some winter ales (perhaps my favourite beer) appearing. Had a big ham supper Sunday night with butterscotch pie for dessert after picking up my dad at the airport on his return from Alberta. Had a couple of beers on Saturday evening with a neighbour as our kids roared around us in the gathering dusk.
Oh it was oh so good.
Highlight of it all was Saturday afternoon when I hit the ice with good old Capsule. The vagaries of beer league hockey giveth and taketh away and so news that we were adding two quality players this season was immediately countered by one of them bailing and then two solid players from last year also taking a walk and then an old friend who is quality signing back on. So in other words in the end basically a wash.
So going into Saturday's game we were two and four with one of the losses coming to a club that got promoted soon after so kind of a mediocre start. Pretty typical Capsule in fact in a lot of ways. Losses where we carry the play but don't cash and then the opposition capitalizes on a breakdown were pretty standard last season and so far this season we had seen more of the same.
I myself have had a nice start this season. The legs are long gone but I can get from point a to point b fairly quickly and I'm about a hundred times as smart as I once was. I've played some centre, which I enjoy quite a bit, and when I play the wing I'm just up and down that side. My man on the other side has had a nice start as well (he is the prototypical winger, up and down his side of the rink, chip it in and out, has his man, goes to the net, we're talking steady, its great playing with him because you know what you get every time out.) and so we're chugging along if the team itself has struggled. Of course if I had my druthers the team would be winning a little more. Its good to be doing well but without the wins its all a bit hollow.
So Saturday we're playing a club which always gives us fits. This is our third or fourth year in the same division as them and we haven't beaten them once. Every game is the same. We carry the play, we pepper their goalie, the odd time we jump in front (one game two years back I scored on each of my first two shifts to give us a quick lead, unfortunately it was the worst lead in hockey) but in the end the result is the same. They have a couple of guys who are deadly in close and they are quality with the man advantage and we always get burned on a stretch pass at least once a game and so every time the score ends 4-2 or 3-1 or 3-2 and we are left shaking our heads.
Saturday afternoon it was more of the same, we're carrying the play pretty well and its late in the first period (we only play two long periods, why I have no idea. Its definitely hurt us through the years as we're totally a third period team, especially with our fantastic conditioning) and we get a shot from the point, low and hard and the winger is there to flip in the rebound over the fallen keeper and we're on our way, right?
Except our next shift one of their dman fires the perfect headman to their best player who has snuck behind everyone and now its tied and then our next shift what starts as a simple two on two ends up with a bad bounce and then their man manages a changeup which floats in with seconds left in the period and its a case of dejavualloveragain.
And so we spent the remainder of the game attacking and they tired but nothing was happening. Shots were blocked and passes into the slot were lost in a morass of men as they collapsed around their goalie. Our best player, a burly young RW, was kept to the outside whenever he charged into their zone and they were content to let us throw long shots at the net all day. We were looking at little time left and as we sat on the bench we talked about how we had to get pucks to the net and create traffic (big league or small time its all the same eh?). And so next shift I took a perfect pass on my offwing and walked into their zone as their D collapsed around the other winger driving the net. And then I saw my centreman, my pal, fan of Les Sabres, suddenly roaring in down the right side, making a beeline to the net. Now I've known Higgs for nearly twenty five years now (terrifying) and we've been playing shinny or organized hockey together on and off for just as long and as we joked afterwards about once every six months you see that chemistry rear her lovely red head and so I sent the puck at the net, low and hard and he and that puck met about a foot in front of the goalie and he tipped it perfectly into the top corner.
Oh it was a thing of beauty.
And then after they almost snuck in a shorthanded chance we were swarming their zone with under a minute left and the dman fired one up the boards and they had a jailbreak. Problem is our man on the boards knocked it down, stood his ground when the dman crashed into him and walked off of the boards, suddenly three on one from the hashmarks in, making no mistake and with under thirty seconds left he fired it in.
Glory all around for me but for the Oilers its turning into an awful awful run. The promise of early days bought and paid for has disappeared into the ether. The old adage says you win a couple near the end of a win streak that you shouldn't and so it was that in a five game stretch the Oilers won three they probably should not have - Caps, Avs and Habs, were full value for their win over the Kings and were beaten soundly by Phoenix. Since then its been four games of suck with things getting progressively worse. Its one thing to get slapped around by the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Red Wings and the Hawks, likely the best team in the league right now, all on the road, but when you come home and get buried by Ottawa then you're at a different level.
The list of things going wrong is a long and varied one. Everyone is slumping except for Ryan Smyth pretty well at this point. Gilbert and Smid are starting to sag under the workload, Khabibulin has fallen back to earth, the injuries on an already thin D are mounting and nobody is scoring.
The number of players slumping offensively is mind boggling. There is nothing happening for so many guys.
What can they do? Its about to get uglier one would think with Chicago coming to town.
(Funny to read stuff about the Hawks. The feeling is that they are doing HORRIBLY and yet with Bolland hobbled, Keith and Seabrook both missing games, a PP that was ranked 30th until very recently, they are at the top of the league. Plus they have ~ 7 million in cap space and all of their key players locked up for years to come. Woe is them.)
And then they hit the road again.
They need Ryan Whitney in the worst way, its become quite clear and of course they need to find a healthy version of him if they ever want to start becoming a legitimate threat.
And they need to figure out something up front. When EVERYONE is in a funk then you need to do some things. One suspects Omark and Hartikainen and maybe Cornet (or some collection of these guys) will be on their way soon, never mind the D probably on the way.
No panic, the team is not as bad as they look right now just as they are not as good as they looked early on. Stay the course (no goofy trades like this Gagner/Pitlick for Franson one I saw floated early this week. I mean, seriously?) and ride it out.
Because it is going to get worse before it gets better.
Posted by Black Dog at 11:55 AM