Saturday, May 13, 2006

On A Clear Day...

With the honking subsided, the victory drinks a blurred memory, I guess now we can step back and actually look at the game beyond WOOOOOOOO!

The first period made me think we were playing Dallas again. Big, emotional, hard-fought win followed up by the other team's skill level half-stealing one for them. There wasn't much that could have been done about the first two goals, which made them hurt a bit more, especially as Toskala kept slamming the door. There was hope in how we played, but I was still expecting to see a post-game Joe Thornton telling Scott Oake how sore they were going to be for the next series--that's just the way the second round goes for the Oilers, isn't it?

We built, though. In what probably was Pronger's most mediocre game of the postseason, the rest of the defence stepped up. Honestly, besides the giveaway that led to Cheechoo's goal, I'm hard-pressed to remember any good 5-on-5 chances for the Sharks in the second and third. We didn't really dominate until the middle part of the third, but I don't think San Jose has looked less dangerous. Most of the quotes I've seen are implying that the Sharks took the night off once they got up 3-1, which might be partially true, but just as well might be an excuse for sound defensive hockey on our part.

Then the goals. I think Peca was actually quite overdue for a goal these playoffs. He actually did fairly well for himself in games one and two (relatively speaking, of course), but moreso his play against Detroit made me think he was going to step up and start scoring like the 60-point guy we so naïvely thought we were getting when we traded for him. Maybe the ricochet off the left pad from behind the net opens his floodgates a little. As for Samsonov's goal, after seeing the replay, I'm even more baffled by Toskala. I originally thought the play happened a lot further out, but he met Samsonov at a little past the hash marks--why don't you just dive on that puck? I think what ended up happening was that Toskala seriously misjudged Samsonov's speed, and made up his mind he was going to pass it out before he realized that Samsonov was on top of him. Pretty forgivable mistake, though definitely a huge boost for us, and the Sharks defence started playing like there were snipers in the crowd immediately after.

And now goaltending becomes the most interesting part of this series. As I mentioned way back in my first-round preview, one of the big reasons the Sharks weren't significantly better than fifth was their goaltending, which can be great, but has been incredibly inconsistent all year. Any faith they have in Evgeny Nabokov was bought two seasons ago--he played like a second-rate back-up the entire year. As I mentioned before, I didn't think Toskala showed any big confidence issues after the goal--Hemsky and Smith both scored because the Sharks defence fell apart, not Toskala, as evidenced perfectly by Stoll's goal, which was telegraphed a good ten seconds before he actually snapped his stick with the shot. But pulling a guy after only five goals doesn't really inspire confidence, and Toskala certainly isn't a world-beater who will bounce right back--hell, he's arguably a back-up playing over his head this season. I don't think the Sharks turn to Nabokov for Game 5, but what happens if the Oilers score early on, or get a soft one? Do Hannan and Ehrloff get paranoid about letting anything through again? Either way, if I'm an Oilers shooter, I have a lot more confidence now than I did after the triple OT.

I guess the other big thing is what caused the turn around in play from San Jose to Edmonton. I don't think Michalek and the last change are the difference between utter dominance and utterly dominated and I'm sure the Oilers got a boost from the fans, but again, probably not enough to completely reverse the shot count. If Game 5 looks anything like 1 or 2, a shaky goalie won't matter a whiff. If it looks like 3 or 4, I don't know if San Jose will have it in them to come back here for Game 6 and remind us that we're upstarts. If it's something in between, we'll probably be back for Game 7, and I'll probably be six months closer to a liver transplant.

I think it's safe to say the old confidence sine wave is back towards cresting, and while I'll probably still be shrieking like a little girl come the first goal-mouth scramble of Game 5, at least I can enjoy a sunny Saturday, safe in the knowledge that every Flames fan I know refuses to answer their phone when I call. Bliss it is to be alive today, but to be an Edmontonian is very heaven.

Two quick thoughts before I go:

Pinching in from the point. That's all I've been saying.

I think we probably would have seen Rob Schremp on line four tomorrow if we hadn't just pumped in six goals, and I'd lay fair money that he'll be in the lineup for Game Six if the door gets closed again. What's it hurt to give Brad Winchester's or Rem Murray's five minutes a game to a goal-a-game player, at least if we're not scoring?


Chris! said...

I appreciate your leniency, but I don't think it's fair to say that there was nothing we could have done about the first two goals, considering they were both the result of obvious Oilers defensive errors — Spacek shooting directly into a defender's pads at the blue line, scrambling back and flopping around on the ice as Ekman waited for Thornton to get some space at the side of the net; Moreau just watching the puck slowly slide between his legs off the faceoff to a streaking Ekman who probably thought plays like that only worked in junior B and NHL 2006. There was plenty we could have done about that. Still, everything worked out fine.

One thing that I forgot to mention in my Creemore-addled ramblings last night: I still cannot believe that Don VanMassenhoven can be right there and watch Horcoff's face get plowed into the boards from behind and not at least call a minor. Why did he let it go? Was he "letting them play"? Ridiculous. I hate that it's such a cliche these days to complain about the reffing in a game, because sometimes, I just can't understand why they're calling/not calling what they are/aren't. And as someone who's been watching/playing hockey his entire life, it's an incredibly frustrating thing.

Anyhow, blah blah blah, Oilers are great. Carry on!

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Toskela said after the game that he hesitated before racing out. My guess is when he reached the puck he was in panic mode. If you hesitate then don't go because you probably just lost the race.

Chris - horrible noncall on Horcoff hit - Beyak on the Score said - "well he turned when he saw MacLaren coming - so no call" - so the ref read Horcoff's mind and then decided not to enforce the rule.

Coluch said...

"The Sharks' bench boss Wilson didn't seem fazed by the screaming hometown fans at Rexall Place nor the three-goal loss. 'I think our crowd's louder than theirs anyway,' he scoffed."

Ron Wilson is right, the crowd in San Jose IS louder than in Edmonton... for wrestling matches. WHo is he kidding with that statement? Maybe Sharks fans.

Coluch said...

Also, why the fuck is it called the Blue Mile? Is this a Labatt commercial?

As a lifetime Oil fan, (and consequently, anti-Flames) I can't help but feel that copying the Red Mile name and changing it to Blue is WAY TOO MUCH of a nod in calgary's direction. Can't we have something more original, something our own? The Oil Field maybe? The Heartland Highway? Something, anything that more reflects the awesomeness of the Oilers and/or Edmonton besides a damn colour that, newsflash, isn't exclusive to our team...

I know, there are many other things in this world to get angry about, but I mean come on. Now we're stuck with this rediculous name forever? Dang.

Retard said...

Have you ever been to a wrestling match in Edmonton? I actually had to have a doctor look at my ears afterward. I'm sure that Edmonton would be San Jose even at something as lame as wrestling cheering.

Anonymous said...

This is a now old email that I believe is valid enough to merit a ctrlc + ctrlv:

Oilers. Yes. How about that? Five straight goals and some Finnish goalie mind destruction. I couldn't want more (excepting aimed lightening bolts, but only Staios has the power to call them up). I pity myself that I couldn't go to Whyte and act(?) like an un-hinged lottery winner with no clothes on. But it appears that I may have more oppurtunities to do so.
I'm gonna build me a Roloson shrine and offer up someone/things blood to it. Manoman, statistics aside, He is the reason we are what we areright now): Ruling. Did you "hear" the dbl level for the 3xOT game? 114: louder by ten than those pussy airplanes. And Jason Smith? A new category needs to created for his play: a triple-seventuple-quadruple? Haw.
Interestings quotes from both coaches after the game. Ron(nettes) Wilson:
"I think our crowd's louder than theirs anyway ".
A Big Scoff to that.
"I think the first team that wins one in the opposition's building is probably going to win the series."
A double-entendre maybe, but mostly challenging his players. To Win Away. And call it six.

Dennis said...

It seems like the cool thing to do to pick on Winchester and maybe it's because it's fresh in everyone's mind that he starts off the game with 94-10. But at the end of the day Winchester has been doing a lot of good things in his limited time. He's really taking the body and focusing on getting pucks out and getting them deep. And he's really hustling back in his own end too. On the first goal the other night him and 94-10 were all caught behind the goal line and Winchester was the guy who hustled back and almost broke it up. Later on he did get back into a play quick enough to thwart a Cheechoo chance.

So that's my opinion on RS in for 26. Regarding RS in for Rem...I don't think RS is gonna play centre for the Oilers. I think he ends up as a right wing. So if you're looking for him to replace anyone it will be 27.

Spacek tried the old windshield wiper on that 1st SJ goal in G4 and that's a move the Oilers have had their dmen using for a long time now. The whole falling down and spinning around thing was Jaro's own personal touch IMO but the wiper tactic is something that I think's being taugh by Huddy.