Story of the game: the Oilers' Heterochromatic Number 1 Centre buries a hat trick en route to a relatively smooth Oilers victory.
Of course, when the Sportsnet keys of the game for Pittsburgh includes the stand-alone item "compete," you know this is a game the Oilers have to win.
Pittsburgh has probably the worst defence in the league, and tonight's game was the worst team defence I've seen of any game this year. Lead by the free-agent stinking egg previously known as Sergei Gonchar, the likes of Dick Tarnstorm, Josef Melichar, Robert Scuderi and four lines of floating forwards handed the Oilers their 24th win of the season. Pittsburgh's lack of competitiveness was vintage 93 Oilers, perhaps best seen in the replay for Horcoff's first shorthanded goal: a terrible giveaway on the point, followed by a wideshot of four players slowing down as the Oilers breakout on a 2 on 1.
The only road bump was the play of Marc-Andre Fleury, offering Oilers fans a rare glimpse of game-saving goaltending. He even overshadowed poor Sid Crosby, who had flashes (including a memorable dipsy-doodle on MA Bergeron, behind the back passes, etc) but ultimately was left with no one to play with. Horcoff had about two other beautiful chances to score early on, but he made up for it with a pair of EV and PP goals. He sure looked like a number one centre tonight, with the Oilers first hat trick in about three years.
The Oilers outchanced the Pens by about 3 to 1, with half of those chances coming from bizarre Pittsburgh defensive miscues. Not to harp on it, but it's actually quite weird to see that much open ice after so much interdivisional play in the Northwest. I suggest Pittsburgh packs up the moving vans for Kansas City or Winnipeg or whatever - just get them in the Western Conference for next year. Ottawa is dominant, but Eastern Conference defences are not nearly as good as they are out West: a handful of Eastern teams make the top 15 in GAA and Goals Against. My point? The Leafs will be snuffed out early and I hate them.
Game Notes (AKA "Ice Chips")
- Jani Rita sighting: the normally reclusive Rita is often only seen late in Oilers' blowouts, his natural habitat, but was witnessed sniffing around the net early in the first period
- The Oilers defence was really good, and I really liked Cory Cross and Matt "bigger than Syvret" Greene tonight. Cross played his usual simple, workmanlike game and his footspeed didn't hurt him because he was quick to make smart chips off of the boards. With his body positioning, Greene still got caught the odd time, but he held his own. Plus, he's a lot cheaper than Sergei Gonchar!
- The reason Oilers win most of the time: players like Moreau, Torres and Stoll (where did he suddenly learn how to skate in the offseason?)
- Sacamano mentioned Ray Ferraro's good commentary on the Battle of Alberta blog, and I was thinking the same watching the game. I'm often watching overly-neutral FSN or Comcast games from the States, with crews too worried about selling the game to ever be critical (Dallas' Darryl Reaugh being the exception). Sportsnet knows better of course, and Ferraro isn't worried about losing his audience when he points out a botched play, a team's Powerplay strategy or even how shitty Mellon Arena is to play in.
- Mike Peca's post game appraisal of Sidney Crosby: "too many behind the back passes"
- Like most hockey players, I'm assuming Horcoff's heterochromia is from an eye injury a la Dany Heatley last summer in Europe, but I've never had that confirmed
- Next up: big, overblown Messier retirement ceremony in which the Oilers dwell in past glories, likely triggering an Oilers losing streak if things go as per usual (the current Oilers are probably as sick of hearing about the 80s Oilers as I am)
GAME RATING: 7.5 Craig Simpsons out of 10 Moe Manthas
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Posted by mike w at 12:30 AM