Washington (3-2-4) at Edmonton (6-4-0)
8 p.m. MT
CBC, 630 CHED
While the Edmonton-based Oilogosphere contingent will be bonding over a rousing and uncomfortably competitive round of street hockey this afternoon (and it will be uncomfortable; PM tells me he's been up all night, blasting Motley Crue's "Take a Walk on the Wild Side" over and over while guzzling protein shakes and practicing his groin spear on a stack of pillows with a printout of Grabia's face taped to the top one), those of us who "moved on up" to the big city have naught to do but sit around, listen to the rain and wait for tonight's game against the rarely glimpsed Washington Capitals.
HOW rarely glimpsed, you may ask, possibly (and erroneously) expecting some sort of joke as a payoff? Well, the last time the Oilers hosted the Caps was more than three and a half years ago, on March 22, 2003, a game that the Oilers won 5-3 on the strength of a stunning hat trick from a fresh-faced rookie named Fernando Pisani and a 29-save performance by a then-not-quite-so-maligned Tommy Salo.
Obviously, a lot has changed since. Though it may be hard to remember, Washington was actually considered a pretty good team back then, boasting such top-flight players as Robert Lang, Sergei Gonchar, Petr Bondra and a mopey, skate-dragging dink by the name of Jaromir Jagr, who still managed to score 36 goals and 77 points in 75 games, or roughly half what he was probably capable of. Sadly, that campaign would be Washington's last winning season (39-29-8-6) to date, and the beginning of the team's helpless tumble into the trenches of mediocrity they wallow in today. After having bowed out in six spiritless games to Tampa Bay in the first round of last year's playoffs and the post-season clearly out of site in 2003-04, the hapless Caps were chopped to pieces and scattered to the four winds — Lang was dealt to Detroit, Gonchar joined the Bruins, Bondra became a Senator and Jagr went to Broadway, leaving only an over-achieving Jeff Halpern and an under-achieving Dainus Zubrus holding up the scoring end of things and a remarkably dedicated Olaf Kolzig patrolling the crease.
That campaign, incidentally, also marks the last time the Oilers and Capitals faced off against one another, period (a thrilling 1-0 road loss), more than two years ago now, in January, 2004. That's a damn long time ago, and while the Capitals have gotten more woeful as a whole, Washington now comes marching into Edmonton a completely different team — still kind of shitty, but more unfamiliar, more unpredictable and, from time to time, more dangerous; ie. whenever Alexander Ovechkin touches the puck. Clearly, it's not a question of if this kid will embarrass our slipshod defence tonight, but how often. Hopefully, the Oilers can weather the storm defensively long enough to punch a few holes in Washington's Jamie Heward-employing blueline. Working in our favour is our as-yet-unbeaten home record and the fact that the Caps just played last night in a 3-2 OTL to Vancouver. There's also the footnote that the Oilers haven't lost to Washington at home since February 1996, when the NHL still had four divisions and I thought Goldfinger was an awesome band.
Still, I feel trepidatious. By all rights, Edmonton should be rested and champing at the bit to atone for their humiliating, pathetic loss to Phoenix and take advantage of a tired, one-dimensional road team with a good, old-fashioned goalfest, but after Thursday night's confidence-shattering performance, I don't know what I expect the Oilers to do tonight against an unfamiliar opponent. Since our predictions have been a little, uh, off of late, how about we try a little reverse psychology tonight and call a 12-2 Washington win, with Ovechkin and the unfortunately pronounced Alexander Semin scoring six apiece?*
OIL JAZZ: The Oilers recalled Toby Petersen today, which probably means he's getting the start tonight in lieu of Jacques and Traktor. Looks like our goal-scoring woes are finally over!
* Oh god please don't let this happen
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Washington (3-2-4) at Edmonton (6-4-0)
Posted by Chris! at 9:52 AM