Ah, the morning after: it's not just the name of a pill or kick-ass song off the first cassette tape I ever bought with my own money — it's also a chance to bask in the post-coital glow of Saturday's low-scoring thriller against Vancouver and share a few disjointed thoughts:
• After last night, the Oilers are now an incredible 10-1 in the shootout round (and indeed, have won their last three straight games by SO: crazy), which means they've now collected nearly a third of their points this season — 10 of 34 — from an extra-time feature that doesn't exist at all past the regular season. Some are saying (including a few bitter Canucks fans in last night's thread) that the Oilers are depending too heavily on a new-fangled gimmick round to get their Ws and this will spell trouble come playoff time. And sure, while all those SO wins will admittedly put a pretty big asterisk next to the Oilers' record this year, focusing too much on the shootouts themselves is to detract from the fact that the club is playing some pretty solid hockey to get to that point in the first place. Granted, they've blown more a few third-period leads in those 10 wins, but they've also shown some remarkable offensive prowess and gutsy tenacity (I thinking in particular of Dec. 11's 5-4 SO win over St. Louis, in which the Oilers erased four Blues leads to force extra time) to stay alive in those games.
As rickety as the Oilers may look on paper, there have been what — two, three games this year where they've been totally out of the running? Fact is this team has put together some strong efforts over the last 14 games or so and while SO wins may look cheap, the Oilers aren't doing anything that any other team in the league couldn't do themselves.
That said, I certainly wouldn't complain if the Oilers wanted to try winning a game in regulation time one of these days — something they've only managed to do five times so far this year, most recently in their other kind of SO win over Anaheim back on Dec. 2.
• While Scorcoff had his point streak broken in Thursday's match against Detroit, the dude has still put up an scoff-worthy seven goals and 14 points in his last 10 games, good enough to rank him 21st in league scoring. He's been the best player on the ice for either team more often than not these days.
• I noted last night during his second intermission interview that San Fernando looks like he's lost a lot weight, but my god is he playing well with Robert Nilsson and Sam Gagner. An inspired line concoction by MacT that really brings out the best of all three players' abilities; Pisani's defensive conscience covers up for the young'uns' mistakes while his speed and grit open up room and provide a triggerman for Gagner and Nilsson's ridiculous passing skills. Nilsson in particular has looked like a completely different player since Fernando's return, and if you squint real good you can almost — almost — see why some considered him a solid return for Ryan Smyth.
• It's almost Christmas and the Oilers are a .500 hockey team sitting in eighth place in the Western Conference and only four points out of the NW division lead. I can't believe I just wrote that sentence.
• Mathieu Garon is a force in net. As much as I love Roloson, Lowe has got to hop to it and trade him to the Penguins before they go out and do something crazy like sign Curtis Joseph. Rollie's value is still fairly high and he's a great fit for a Pittsburgh team looking to go deep before their window of opportunity closes in two years when the veterans start retiring and the kids go RFA. Garon is ready to take the reins on this club, I think.
• And speaking of Roloson, Vancouver's Curtis Sanford looks like a real nutbar-in-training. Anyone else notice his little post-buzzer pipe-tapping dance at the end of each period? His highly technical style and competitive fire really reminded me of a young Roloson, too.
• Some Vancouver fans were going off here and elsewhere on the Oilers for icing a borderline AHL team, but how about those Canucks? Outside of the Sedins, Naslund, Ryan Kesler and Trevor Linden, there's not much going on up front in terms of proven NHL talent. Mason Raymond? Jason Jaffray? Kevin Brown? Who are these people?
Bonus 'Fun' Fact: The above photo was taken for the Canadian Press by none other than one Mr. Jimmy Jeong, who, like all three contributors to this here hockey blog, is a former editor of The Gateway, the official student newspaper of the University of Alberta! WOW! If I knew the U of A's motto off-hand, I'd whip it out here. But yeah. Cough.
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