Another win, fancy that.
Like most fans, I often dwell on team weakness. And like all HF/Oilfan weboard jackals, you might find me sifting amongst the scattered remains of Mike Peca's reputation, looking for a bone to pick and maybe gnaw on behind a tree. Perhaps I too am guilty of surveying for the next available ice flow, looking for somewhere to dump an Ulanov, maybe a Cory Cross. And our goaltending situation? I've been guilty of bracing myself for the worst, brave face and all.
But sometimes you just have to wake up and smell the gardenias. Anytime the Oilers have five more wins than losses (kind of my loose intuitive marker stone for making the playoffs), it's worth savouring. In the 2000s there haven't been many of them, and often they've been followed by a letdown, whether it be a 10-game losing skid or simply not making the playoffs. I can understand the meek, insecure Oilers fan need to protect himself from pain, but winning must be savoured, like a sunny afternoon spent with strawberries and a half bottle of Chateau La Fitte. This win puts at 16-11-2 and in seventh place in a tight Western Conference and I'm thinking this is actually a good team.
Now let's get to the Game:
This relates to what's written above, but the biggest difference between this group and the 03-04 Oilers is that this team never seems outmatched. Sure, there was the blowout to Colorado, but I'm almost glad it happened. Since that skid the team has smoothed out their overall effort and look pretty good against skilled teams like Vancouver and Philadelphia. They also seem to handle loser teams pretty well, too.
Of course, this was a hobbled Philly team. You might even say that with Eric Desjardins and Joni Pitkanen on the point not coughing up two shorthanded goals, the Flyers may have won the game. But again the Oilers controlled much of the play, even spending the entire first 5 minutes of the third period cycling deep in the Flyers zone. Both team's first lines looked dangerous, but sweet lord do I like Ryan Smyth around the net on the Power Play. I hope Gretzky was watching long and hard at Smyth running around on the ice, getting the beautiful deflect for a PP goal (you can even hear a distinctly Symthian high-pitched "Yeeahaa!" on the goal in the highlights). When he reties I suggest we bronze his mullet and name a street after him. Hemsky's contributions are immense, since unlike any Oiler we've seen recently he brings at least 3-4 minutes of pure dangerous to every game. A real quibble would be the dumb obstruction penalties by backchecking forwards, notably Horcoff and Hemsky, which almost cost us the game.
Mike Morrison played another strong if not spectacular game. He's a completely different breed of goaltender compared to the by-the-angle style of Markkanen: very agile, good on the first save, making all sorts of Tetris shapes in reading and staying square to the puck. His rebound control is the one thing make or break his stay in the NHL, however. But hell, you could say that about Markkanen. Ray Ferraro made a good point: Philly's crash-the-net downlow play was matched well by MacT in having Morrison in net.
* I hate to even bother: but did Peca ever miss an easy pass by fifteen feet in the 1999 Cup run with the Sabres? (I think I answered my own question when I typed "1999" but the answer is "probably not") Full credit for the Moreau shorthanded setup, though.
* Always nice to outhit Philly at the Spectrum--uh, Wachovia Centre?
* What can you say about Jani Rita? Once again he shows just enough to not be dismissed completely (like the stories of how he's always the hardest working player in practice), and yet with 7 minutes of playing time he doesn't get much done, no big surprise.
* Moreau, you old dog. I'm just crossing my fingers: with his conditioning I'm hoping he has another late-season surge and pads his stat tally.
* Georges Laraque's 3-game point streak is snapped!
Game Rating: 8 Martin Gelinases out of 10 Steve Valiquettes
Friday, December 9, 2005
Posted by mike w at 12:20 AM