Friday, March 31, 2006

A better chance will not present itself

Of course I'm talking about the Oilers' opportunity to stick it to the Flames on Saturday night. Home game. Hockey Night in Canada. Flames on the 2nd half of a back-to-back. The Oilers have a supreme chance to publicly shame the Flames on the People's Network as utterly impotent offensively. Any somewhat serious hockey fan can see that the Flames have a lot more floaters than swimmers in the offensive zone, but I don't think the entire nation is aware that the Flames aren't capable of getting it up.

The stars aligned nicely on Thursday night as the Kings rolled into town looking like a complete mess that the Oilers would run over. Sure enough, that's exactly how it turned out. The Flames could very well be the same thing after their Colorado game tonight. They're scoring as little as ever and their record since the deadline is poor at 4-5-1. The home ice advantage and the back-to-back games should be too much to overcome. Granted the Flames aren't nearly as hopeless as the Kings have been since Dave Taylor lost his cool, but their mojo has been waning all year and they haven't proven themselves as the superior team in Alberta this season by any stretch. A convincing Oiler win Saturday night speaks volumes and I'm ready for it.

As an aside... Vic will hopefully tell us what this is worth, but this site has some vegas odds: http://www.vegasinsider.com/nhl/odds/offshore/

The only site there with Saturday night odds has the Oilers as -410/+370 favourites. Whatever that means.

What Will The Oilers Look Like Next Season?


I heard Kevin Lowe interviewed on CHED about half an hour before the Minnesota game started. And we all know that any interview with CHED involves the Oilers issuing a list of questions to the interviewer (in this case Morley Scott I think) and Lowe replying to them with prepared answers.

He made an interesting comment, and this is just by my rusty memory here, please correct me if I got this wrong, but the gist of it was:

In previous years we moved out expensive star players in the off season because we had to. Now we're in a position where we'll be moving out these players because we want to. To make room for some terrific young players coming up.

Things that make you go hmmm.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Post Game Commentary ...

Starts here :-)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Since The Spacek Deal: An IOF Quiz

The first game with Spacek and Tarnstrom in the lineup was in Phoenix, the Oilers tied this game with Pronger's last second goal and went on to win it in the shootout when Dvorak, of all people, tallied the S.O. winner.

Anyhow, from this game forward things haven't gone as swimmingly as we'd all expected and hoped they would. And the Roloson and Samsonov deals may also yet pay dividends ... but we Oiler fans haven't seen any cheques yet. :-(

So a closer look at the team since then. I'll hit the 5on5 stuff here, all the questions pertain to that only. Because the goaltending has been beaten to death, the PK has been good and the PP has been only decent (though they've been hitting the ball hard, so it should get even better from the man advantage unit methinks).

So, I'll remind you that this WILL count towards your final grade. And I ask you not to cheat. :-) Gut feel, who do you think is the right answer to these questions:

1. I have been on the ice for the most Oiler goals, and have the best +/- at 5on5. Who am I?

2. I have been on the ice for a grand total of but ONE (1) Oiler goal in spite of getting a regular shift. Who am I?

3. I have the worst 5on5 +/- on the team. Who am I? (HINT: Dman)

4. I am the only Oiler Dman in the black at 5on5 +/-, who am I?

5. I have been on the ice for a staggering 19 goals against at 5on5, who am I?

6. I have been on the ice for only 4 goals against since these first trades. Who am I?

.

The prize is 50 VicDollarsTM. Redeemable at participating 7-11s. Best of luck!

Boring Hockey - And The Coaches That Preach It

Just thinking about the coaches that preach the "take no chances" style of game, the counterpunchers. Personally I think these guys get too much credit. I think we watch the games and see the nice geometric arrangements of players on the ice and the obvious sense of order, and admire the coach for removing the chaos from the game.

But is it more difficult to coach this way than to give the players decision making power on the ice?

I mean a young defenseman for Quenneville, Crawford, MacTavish, Tortorella, Quinn, etc ... these players have the chance to join the rush or pinch on the cycle, you hope they make good decisions, and that they learn from their mistakes. That they learn to assess the risk and reward in that fraction of a second and make the right choice, to do it almost instinctively in time.

A defencemen for Lemaire, Burns, Hitchcock, Babcock, etc ... these guys aren't going to roll the dice unless they already have a forward back and their team has an overwhelming chance of maintaining possession.

The same defenceman for Quenneville, in his own end, can charge the puck carrier and try to create a turnover ... he might get beat doing it, you hope he picks his spots wisely. For Lemaire his defenceman, in their own zone, they just seem to keep the opposition on the outside and take away passes from him through the middle, and you know that the 5th Wild skater is going to be inside the box. Christ, it's like the shift will never end, and probably nothing will happen, Minny are never going to get the puck back, and the other team is never going to get a good scoring chance. Not unless there is a madass carom or someone on the other team gets frustrated enough to try something rash.

And that's just the D, it's the same sort of thing with the forwards, arguably moreso.

I know that Lemaire is very sensitive about being accused of coaching a boring style, he basically implies that the reporter who asked the question must be a knob head for not seeing the beauty of sound positional hockey. But it IS boring, just is. And they keep selling out the building in the Twin Cities. Go figure.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

mudcrutch vs Sagarin

Serious hockey fans everywhere are checking out mudcrutch79's oddly riveting playoff odds predictor regularly. It's fascinating stuff, as mike w observes, it is a triumph of math over feelings. :D

Anyhow, I wrote a little script that generates the same table using Jeff Sagarin's Predictor Numbers. Partly because I wanted to check a few things myself, but mostly for the F of it.

Jeff Sagarin is a middle aged guy who has made a living churning out sports odds data for ages. He is an MIT grad (mathematics) and later earned his MBA from Indiana University. He has gotten a lot of notoriety in recent years for his work with college sports rankings, where history has shown his raw numbers stuff to kick the asses of the coach and media polls. He's since become involved in determining these rankings.

He also got a bit of press when it was learned that he has been doing some in depth data analysis work for Mark Cuban's (also an Indiana grad) Dallas Mavericks for several years.

Mudcrutch is a law student, Oiler fan, internet smartass, and, I think, has taken and passed at least one math course at the university level.

Sagarin's result in red below, mudcrutch's in blue.
I've used a simple algorithm with Sagarin's 'Predictor' numbers as the base. Using traditional numbers for home, road, 0, 1 and 2 days rest. Without the latter these numbers would be even closer.

My point, and I actually have one. It is startling how close these two systems are. And further it is surprising how much baseball analysis actually works with NHL hockey, assuming the right measure of common sense is added. A lot of mc's math on this, IMHO it seems to come out of nowhere. Much like most of Bill James' stuff that I have read ... and like James' stuff, it seems to work. Go figure.

.
Update to add: An Oiler win tonight, independent of other results ... gives the Oilers an 86% chance of making the playoffs by the Sagarin metric, and I'm sure a similar 8% improvement by the mudcrutch metric. If they get the 'W' tonight, even Dennis should start believin' :D

Monday, March 27, 2006

Interesting draft post on HF

Within the thread titled "McKeen's New Top 100, March edition" is some interesting information regarding how teams go about scouting and compiling their lists.

I'm speaking specifically about replies from steblick (#31, 87), Blackshad (#32), timlap (#33,35), Dr.Sens(e) (#34, 72), West(#36), Chief (#68, 110), Big Daddy (#82)

In particular responses 31-36,68,82,87, and 110.


I've been wondering how I can seemingly make a better draft list than NHL teams can. Or even if I can, if I haven't just got lucky due to sample size (if my list has been better at all). If I can beat/perform as well as actual NHL teams in preparing a draft list, without seeing many/any prospects play, I think it speaks to a systemic flaw in the scouting system - overvaluing the opinion of scouts who see a limited sample of games.

When you see a player only a few times (say, between 5 and 10) in his draft year how can you possibly expect to have a great read on him? Perhaps team A sees player X (on average) on better days than team B sees him, thus player X is higher on team A's ranking than on team B's? Maybe that is mainly what accounts for much of the variation among scouting rankings, and scouting staffs? In creating my list I don't have to worry about the bias of "saw a player on good days", that should average out among all the sources (to some extent).I guess this isn't really my theory, since it appears as well in "Moneyball" in some way as it releates to baseball.

*Note* if this looks familiar I'm stealing some of it from my old blog, which will be undergoing periodic updates to back up some draft materials, new and old, and some Oilers prospect information


To go further, I don't need to draft better than average for this way of scouting to make sense; by drafting at average I save the money spent on amateur scouting that can now either be spent on current player salaries or kept as profit.

we talked about this on the Oilers board in this thread, might be an interesting refresher to those interested in this, and those who haven't seen the thread before.


Of course, it's impossible to know how my list actually compares with the list of any team, since the list of a team isn't available. This leaves a problem. I can't know my list is better simply by looking at who I would have picked vs. who EDM (or any team) picked, for at least 2 reasons.

(1) When I pick someone different from who EDM actually picked it would have changed the entire direction of the draft in an unknowable way. At least, unknowable without the lists of all 30 teams, assuming they all have lists.

(2) sample size. To illustrate...

team X's top 10 draft list, they pick 4th overall

BUST
BUST
BUST
HOME RUN
BUST
BUST
BUST
BUST
BUST
BUST

team Y's top 10, they pick 5th

HOME RUN
HOME RUN
HOME RUN
HOME RUN
BUST
HOME RUN
HOME RUN
HOME RUN
HOME RUN
HOME RUN

Team X picks a great player, team Y picks a dog, but without having their lists we can't see that team Y is CLEARLY the superior scouting team.

Pretty "Made's" All In A Row?

Here's my story, and I'm sticking to it, but I don't think this team's gonna make the playoffs. That's without looking at the skeds of any team other than the Oilers. And I'll admit it's a strange stance given the fact that the Oilers last 10 game segment, and first and foremost their next four game homestand, isn't daunting by anybody's imagination.

Well anybody's imagination but mine of course;)

In any case here's a look in an effort to discredit myself:) The rest of you can maybe compile the winning %'s of the other contenders remaining skeds and maybe we can make some sense of all this. At the end of the day I don't believe in our goaltending and I don't think Lowe does either. Ultimately I think it will be our undoing but I'd love to be wrong about that.

Note: if the Oilers grab six points and/or 3 W's from the next four games then even I'd have a tough time convincing myself they won't make the playoffs. Though I promise to try just for the sake of discussion.

The aforementioned first four at Rexall are against the Wild, Kings, Flames and Coyotes. That quartet is a collective 9 games under .500 when it comes to playing away from their home barns but the Wild really drags this group down as it's 5 games under the cut mark on the road.

Of course three of the Wild's 12 road victories have come at Rexall so at this point the only crew that feels more comfortable at Rexall are the Dallas Stars at springtime and no I didn't forget what Keane said back in '01;)

Remember the old days when two points against the Wild were nestled more safely in the bank than Jeremy Jacobs first dollar? Cue old timey voice, "Well back in my day the Wild were so bad that Josh Green could score two goals against them in the same game!! And there was this time they even won with Jaquoin Gage in net."

Those days have long since passed and now we have to ask nicely for Pierre Marc Bouchard to allow us to have the puck on a scattered shift.

I won't catch the first period of this game because I missed The Sopranos last night so I could watch the first period from Colorado so I'll catch the re-cast tomorrow night. But if I flip over to find Principe talking in the first intermission about a 2-0 Wild lead let's say I won't be the least bit surprised.

Note: After this game and after at least one soft goal allowed by Roloson I expect Lowe to enter deflection mode and not only threaten the families of his veteran players, in an effort to motivate them of course;) but to keep the players from procreating with new spouses he'll also bring about the promise of vasectomies if the malaise continues. Apprently there's another Lowe brother out there who's skilled in said art.

Dwayne Roloson declines to comment when asked about why he's exempt from Lowe's latest decree.

Thursday night brings a visit from the newly ruddered Los Angeles Kings. I will hereby shock the masses and predict an Oilers victory in this game and it will even happen in regulation. The Kings last visit to Edm coincided with the apex of the Oilers campaign. It was on Dec 23rd, or Tib's Eve as we call it here in Newfoundland and I don't know what you might ever do with that piece of information but I gave it to you anyway because I'm generous like that, and after an Oilers victory the club stood 10 games over .500 and we're in first place in the Northwest Divison. Kevin Lowe promptly streaked naked down Jasper Avenue and everyone congratulated him. Somewhere not in the inaudible distance a bell rang because everytime someone looks Lowe in the eye and doesn't mention his combover an angel gets it's wings.

Sat night will bring a HNIC visit and the Calgary Flames will also drop in. Kipper will predictably outplay Rolo and the Oilers will lose by no less than two goals. Jim Hughson and Darrly Sutter will be equally pleased though Sutter's face will indicate he's just won a lifetime's supply of used diapers. In a related note this will also bring about the return to Edm of former favorite son Jamie Lundmark who's AJHL scoring exploits were only matched by his propensity for puck bunnies. Never one to miss out on a oppurtunity Oilers president Patrick Laforge will announce a new promotion called "Which former conquest of Lundmark has had the most STD's."? The contestants will pay $50 apiece to have their medical records examined and in turn the winner will only have to pay $5 for the next Oilers PPV telecast.

Monday will bring about a hastily called news conference where Lowe will announce that kidnappings have been executed and all the vasectomies have indeed taken place including procedures on Reasoner and Cross. In a related story the Society For The Offspring Of People Resembling John Merrick announce they have made Detriot the permanent home of their yearly conference. Somewhere in the distance Darryl Sutter makes a mental note to make sure he's always in Det at least one time a year when the Flames aren't playing. Back to our fearless leader and when asked why the procedures didn't include other ex-Oilers and non goalies Rita and Semenov Lowe opines that he only hopes they will prolifically produce offspring so that when his son, Vish Percy-Lowe, runs an NHL team there's a few players he won't have to worry about scoring against his club.

To that end Lowe sends a crate of seal penis to both Pittsburgh and Florida.

Lowe ends the presser by saying family members will be returned and procedures reversed if the team just plays better in front of Roloson.

Tuesday night means it's Coyotes time and Phoenix has been far from an easy touch for the Oilers. Early in the season the Oilers lost to the Yotes in OT on a Derek Morris goal and both visits to Phoenix needed extra time before the score was settled, ie the Oilers blew a third period lead in the first game before losing in a shootout and the second game had Pronger scoring with less than a second remaining in regulation before Morrison lead us to a shootout W. A tender but defiant Oilers team will eek out a victory in the SO as Gretzky feels bad for holding onto CuJo at the deadline and thus throws us a bone in starting young pup David LeNeveu.

Ryan Smyth will be interviewed and as teams stream down his face he'll gently caress the pictures of his family and promise that to a man the team will continue to work until they learn to keep the shots on goal to 15 or less.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Horcoff vs Naslund

Horcoff has never gotten much love from Oiler fans, but he's been getting a lot of respect from opposing coaches for a while.

Crawford is at home last night, so he has last change. Top of the list is Naslund, he's the player most likely to win the game for Crawford, and he handily played the most 5on5 minutes last night.

The start of periods he's going to play the guy. That's just the way it is done with star players unless you are purposely trying to piss them off. Beyond that there is a matchup you want to avoid (if it's Modano, and it always is vs DAL btw, then the way around that is to get Naslund his shifts after Modo has left the ice.)

Hers is Naslund's icetime (green bars) vs Horcoff (dark red bars). The narrow red bands on the edge are Oiler PPs. This for about the last half of the game.




Spot the pattern?

Alert readers will also remember that both coaches ran damn short benches near the end, so it gets a little muddy, still, Crawford stuck with it. And that the two Oiler PPs were drawn when the Horcoff-Naslund matchup happened.

I never noticed that bit at the middle of the game while I was watching (In fairness I was drinking beer at the time) but that's pretty clearly bushsitting by MacT at the start of this shift strip, and then getting him out every second shift in the late second to try and break the pattern ... Crawford didn't bite.

Horcoff ended up playing about the same amount of icetime against Markus as Stoll or Peca. But the way that this icetime happened is far more interesting, to me anyways.


And just for the heckuvit, D-pairing icetime vs either the Naslund or Sedin lines:

Pronger: 11 of 16 minutes
Smith: 11 of 16 minutes
Greene: 3 of 11 minutes

A pretty typical road D split for this team of MacTavish's.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Brief Postgame Thoughts

Millen and Hughson are big Canuck fans. They should try harder to hide that.

And that's it, Mr Millen, no more telestrator for you. Because ya know what Greg ... after a dump in and a line change from both teams, every effer lines up 2-2-1. What's the alternative? Send two men in and have one chase him behind the net? That's not happening anywhere, hell it only happened rarely when Ron Low had a coaching gig in this league. If Millen can find one instance, ONE, of any team playing that situation differently, in any game in the league this year ... then he gets his telestrator back.

Nice to see Rem get a point. Love the Rem, but damn, it looks like he's skating in sand.

Another pretty solid effort by Peca I thought.

The Horcoff line played a solid game.

The Oilers PP looked really good I thought. And either the VAN PP is struggling or the Oilers PK is rockin' ... probably the former. Nice for a change in a game against VAN to be cheering for the squad with the feared PP. :-)

It's hard to argue with 2 goals against, or the result, but Roloson scared me tonight for some reason.

Naslund played really well. If he's getting back on track ... I suspect that the Canucks are going to win more than they lose the rest of the way.

Who starts tomorrow?

First Game, First Period

Dennis coined the term "MacTactics" on OilFans today. Too funny, the guy is on form.

Anyhow, kind of got me thinking about the shift, or drift, in philosophy that we've seen since opening day. That and a post on BofA has moved me to make an effort here. :-) I remember starting a spectacularly unpopular thread about a week before opening night, on both OilFans and HF, to discuss how MacTavish would run the bench on opening day. Turns out I guessed right, but I don't deserve a prize, because it was just MacTacish employing MacTactics, Scotty Bowman style. The shift of Dvorak up in Pisani's spot was maybe a good guess, but really the writing was on the wall for that too.

So, first game, first period, the icetime of Joe Sakic and Shawn Horcoff from the shift charts.




Horcoff is the green bar, Sakic is the deep red bar. the green bit on the edges is the Oiler powerplay (alert readers will note that the PP is created while the Horcoff line is out against the Sakic line, and that Sakic played the gravy shift after the Oilers PP had expired).

That little stutter step about half way through was when Q tried to short shift Sakic to get the Horcoff line off of the ice and then get him out against Torres-Peca-Hemsky half a shift later (wouldn't you try that too? This isn't rocket science)

The curious thing about that was that Peca was pulled and the wingers left on. Torres was closer, like 3 feet away, and Moreau was rested (and healthy then too). But he moves Horcoff in place of Peca instead. Hrmm.

Besides that a very MacTavish period. The same stuff as we saw in the latter 2/3rds of the season previous, with Horcoff and Smyth chewing up the tough minutes. And generally outplaying some pretty terrific hockey players. Sets the rest of the lines up nicely. Nothing new, surely a blind man could see MacTavish coming with this here. The lack of penalties in this period made the matchups clean too.

The shift after Sakic is interesting as well. Though I'll just trust my memory on this (I'm happy to be proven wrong BTW). Obviously this is the second thing the home bench coach controls ... these are the guys that the coach absolutely, positively doesn't want out there against Sakic and the like. On this night it was the Torres-Peca-Hemsky line and the Cross-Bergeron D pairing. Again ... good sense was ruling here. These are the cherry minutes usually, the guys you rely on to win you games sometimes ... and you sure as hell can't cope if they start losing you games. (I would guess that Turgeon has better home EV+/- numbers than Sakic for this reason ... it's not because he's better, or has 'home clutchness' ... it's because he's worse.) These 'shift after' guys are also the players that end up getting a shitload of love from casual hockey fans. And inspire the critics to question why they didn't get more ice. Which kind of gets on my tit, but whatever.

The 94-10-20 trio was dominant over the Sakic line and over the NasBert line in the next one, that was the game in which Smytty blew out his knee. Comments from Quenneville and Crawford after the game acknowledged that. Decent I thought.

After Smyth goes down. They drift for a bit, Pisani (healthy then) gets shifted to the port side in place of Rita in L.A when Murray was running at that line with Demitra, and doing it well (I'd like to pretend that the brief Rita-on-the-top-line idiocy never happened ... turns out it was foreshadowing, but I digress).

Then they are back on track. Until Horcoff goes down in the DAL game (looked to me like at one point Tippet was long shifting Modano to keep the Horcoff line off the ice, Michael F. N. Modano Esq., seriously).

.

And then the losing streak, and things went madass. IMHO.

I've got an idea of the thought process and why and where. And ultimately it's their job, they spend the dozens of man hours reviewing every game tape, they have to deal with the personalities on the squad, they're likely smarter than me ... still, I just don't get a lot of what has happened since. Just don't.

I'm not sure if there is interest in this sort of topic. But I thought I would throw this up here as a starting point, just in case.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Peca Was A Tough Little Bugger Back In The Day

Stumbled across this yesterday, here, while I was googling for Peca's comments in the Vancouver Province. Thought it was kind of interesting.

Nov 27, 1996
2pd 10:04

Buffalo Sabres - Michael Peca
Tampa Bay Lightning - Igor Ulanov

Comments: Peca hits Bannister behind the net and Ulanov makes a bee-line for him, knocking him down. They get up and drop the gloves. Ulanov lands three before Peca gets his first one in and it's bombs city. Peca lands a good shot and Ulanov lands one that stuns Peca and knocks his helmet off. They trade some rights and then switch. Peca lands three lefts, and one more while Ulanov's helmet and visor are to the side. Ulanov lands a glancing left. Ulanov looks tired at this point. Peca lands a big right to the side of Ulanov's head. Ulanov throws a left to the back of Peca's head. They grapple, turn around and then the linesmen come in.
Other Penalties: Peca received an instigator and misconduct.

Voted winner: Draw (56.5%) - Voted rating: 8.3

Peca has taken a fair amount of criticism from Oiler fans, and fairly I think, though he had a helluva game last night.

Sounds like a helluva scrap here. Ulanov isn't a noted fighter, but he's a tough hombre, and a guy who stands up for his teammates.

Ulanov is still the same guy, just slower. Peca ... not so much, but a helluva player back then.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Better to be lucky than good?

Ever seen a team get 3 lucky goals like that in period? It's been a while for me, anyways.

(1) Torres whifs on a slapshot, but it finds a hole

(2) Torres Johnny on the spot after Carney runs into the linesman creating a break

(3) Carter flubs a pass, Pisani tucks her home.

Some other 2nd period thoughts...

I'd like to see another replay of the 2nd VAN goal, especially from overhead to see what went wrong there. On the one hand it was kind of a bad break, the way it went off Pronger, but he didn't react fast There was some sort of strange switch there as well, kind of a weird goal.

I also had a chuckle when Stoll went out for Spacek on the PP, who said it's hard to be an NHL coach? Won the faceoff and another nice Hemsky setup was squandered. that wasn't an easy play for Samsonov, but still, you'd have to think he should have cashed at least one of his 3 good chances tonight.

Peca had an neat sequence about 3 minutes into the 2nd, he made a bad telegraphed pass in the offensive zone but hustled back to make the defensive save at the other end. Kind of fun to watch.

With regards to the Spacek high stick, I didn't know that was the correct ruling. I know that you are allowed to follow through on a shot, I didn't know you could follow thru like that clearing the defensive zone. I'm not saying I have a problem with that rule (though I can understand the argument that any high stick should be called a high stick), but I wasn't aware it applied anywhere but after a shot. Learn something new every day.

Some quick first period thoughts...

(1) I'm not one to overstate the importance of faceoffs, but this no center on the 1st PP unit doesn't seem to be working particularly well; they are just throwing away valuable PP time with all those lost draws. In particular when Stoll or Horcoff would probably be better options than Spacek anyways.

(2) Nice hit by Peca, hope to see more of that.

(3) Disappointed to not see Pouliot draw in, but it doesn't look like they plan on using Murray much in any case. He made a pass on his first shift in the defensive zone that looked kind of dangerous to me. I think I could have passed him on that rush during his second shift, though his pass to a streaking Moreau did result in a penalty drawn.

Overall I thought it was a pretty even period, and if Samsonov had finished and Roloson saved the Bertuzzi shot it could easily have been 1 or 2 nothing Oilers thru one.

The Filth and The Fury

No, I'm not a huge Sex Pistols fan but that phrase summed up how I felt about Tuesday night's effort against the Canucks and what it might come come tonight's rematch. I was disgusted with the Oilers first period lack of urgency and I'm expecting a balls to the wall effort from that same crew tonight.

Overall I wasn't too impressed with the Canucks. Yes they showed a whole lot of jam in the first period but after that they showed a whole lot of nothing. Bertuzzi centered a line that wasn't much of a factor and the Naslund/Morrison combo looked as invisible as I gather they've been lo these past 20 games or so. The Sedins are a load to handle so let's hope MacT somehow manges to get a decent matchup against these guys for the majority of their shifts.

Speaking of matchups...Dvorak will miss this entire three game roadtrip so I'm really looking forward to seeing tonight's line construction. I'd guess the safe money lies on Peca sliding into Pisani's spot with Moreau-Pisani on his wings and a fourth line that will see little to no time.

What I'm not looking forward to is that as a CI Sub out of market I'll always receive the hometown feed when two Canadian clubs clash. That would normally mean Hughson and Garrett on SN Pacific but tonight brings about something even worst: a Canucks PPV telecast. This means excessive use of nicknames and numerous appearences by Garry Valk and Kirk McLean.

Note: could you guys in Alberta, like Vic for instance, keep an ear out for the SN West telecast to see if there's any Peca fallout?

Back to the game and in looking at the ten teams vying for the eight spots in the WC I'd peg the Canucks and Kings as the best candidates for the Oilers to topple. SJ's been money since they picked up Thornton, they have two games in hand and don't look now but all of a sudden they've got a second line in Bernier-Marleau-Michalak. As of today I'm picking them to make the show. In the opposite direction in Calif we've discovered that the Ducks just don't lose anymore. They erased a three goal lead against the Avs on Wed night and on Mon they somehow managed to beat the Stars even though they trailed after 40 in Dallas. This scnario usually happens as often Don Cherry properly pronouncing a name.

The Oilers with a win on Tues against the Canucks could've just about shut their whale emblazoned coffin by just splitting the last two games of the series in Van. They would've been three points up with a game in hand after the dust cleared on Sat night. But that's not the way we do things here to it's gut check time once again.

So what do we expect in the way of Oilers effort? Over on OF today there was a post that caught me by surprise. Apparently the Oilers have won only eight times in their last 33 games in regulation. That's a real jaw dropper isn't it? It leads me to wonder just how much faith this team deserves. Despite that I still think this team can conceivably impose their will on this Canucks team and thus outchance and ultimately outscore them. Then again maybe Rolo gives up a bad goal and we're back to square one. But he did play well on Tues night and it was the best time he's ever controlled his rebounds so maybe the rust's just about off.

I'm calling an Oilers win built on the back of their PP. I don't think you can keep those guys down for long.

In the meantime and inbetween time...we call all use this thread a few hours from now to discuss how the Oilers can hang with the Wings or how many of them will join Ryan Smyth at the World Hockey Championships.

Vic's Guide To BlogLand

We've had this blog for nearly 3 weeks now, and I've been reading blogs for a couple of months. So I'm a bit of an expert on the subject. ;)

Turns out that BlogLand beats the hell out of hockey board talk in most ways. Personally, I haven't enjoyed talking about hockey on the internet this much in ages.

I also think that almost everyone who reads us here also reads the other Oiler blogs. In fact I doubt many would even know about us yet if not for mudcrutch and sacamano. Still, if you aren't familiar with BlogLand yet, I thought I'd throw up some pointers, and in terms you can all appreciate:

Good Oiler Blogs

The Battle Of Alberta
If this were a porn site it would feature rough video clips of a guy sitting in a hardback chair, and looking agitated, while the other guy shagged his girlfriend. Which is why it's probably the best hockey blog on the internet.

mc79hockey
If this were a porn site it would start with a video clip of beautiful woman in business clothing doing a strip tease ... and by the end even the gynecologists that were viewing would be cringing and turning their head to the side. Good stuff.

Lowetide
Porn parallel: Extreme hardcore, even Wilt Chamberlain could learn something. Best production values on the net with good 70s style story lines. Curious mix of models (barely 18s and middle aged women). My personal fave blog.

Covered In Oil
Mike W is one funny guy. Well worth a daily read methinks.


Other kinda Oiler blogs


Colby Cosh

He's smarter than you, and he knows it. :-) And I don't think anybody really captures the mood of the Oiler fan better, when he's talking about hockey.

Loxy's blog
Reader's of OilFans OT Forum watched Loxy grow up on the internet. Which isn't quite as disturbing as it sounds. Good photos, though frankly I feel like a 14 year old pervert on occasions when I read the text. This is the step into BlogLand that requires the longest stride. You'll be in the heart of the beast here. :-) It is a stalker situation wiating to happen, bless her heart. mudcrutch is a regular reader BTW (not to worry, I've already alerted interpol, they're keeping tabs on him).

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And probably a couple of others that I've forgotten, and a few others that I don't know about yet.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Micheal Rode The Boat Aground or Will The Circle Be Unbroken

Don't worry folks, I haven't gone Christian on you guys. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I think it's great when people can ward off vice all their life in the belief they'll be granted enternal life. For myself I'll just repent before the last breath and hopefully I'm genuine enough that God gives me the thumbs up and I'll meet up with everyone at the 5pm buffet:)

I think this Peca story receives perhaps a more detailed treatment and probably a collaboration between me and one of the numbers guys, ie Vic or RQ, where I write the copy of his progression and regression through the Oilers forward crops and the boys step in with the accompanying numbers. That being said as I write this the temptation to extrapolate on this topic and what it has meant and is currently meaning to our playoff chances has become too great to resist.

To get started here I'll pontificate on what is the Oilers endless summer or in this case endless winter as the stretch drive hasn't proven to be exactly enjoyable for the Oilers in the last three years. And afterall who really likes winter besides retards who drive snowmobiles?

As fans we're staring straight in the face the possibility of missing the playoffs for the third time in the last year seasons that there was NHL hockey. Hopefully heads will roll if we miss the dance this time but who goes to the gulliotine? First off I'd say it's Lowe because no matter the roster he assembled he still takes the axe for gambling on Ty/Jussi and ultimately waiting so long to replace them when it became clear to everyone that it wasn't working. I'm not going to be a hypocrite here, at least not a total one;) but it didn't take 62 games to realize we needed a change in net. I originally thought the Ty/Jussi gamble was a decent enough bet but by the time we vaulted into first place on Dec 23 after a home win vs the Kings I remember thinking just how far ahead we'd be of the rest of our NW cohorts had we even received decent tending. And the numbers will show we weren't getting close to getting decent tending relative to league average.

This situation screams of Larry Pleau in Stl. Granted we never had the reg season success of the Blues but Pleau would move heaven and earth and trade a prospect like Nagy to acquire Tkachuk and he'd give up tonnes of money to sign Weight but he never made the right move: to acquire a tender. Their lack of netminding always hampered their lack of ultimate success but you never saw Pleau overpay to try and improve that position.

By the time the deadline came Kevein Lowe had backed himself into a corner netminding wise and he'd tell you he liked this team enough from the defense out that he didn't think he had to give up one of those pieces in order to acquire a goalie that could get us out of the first round. Maybe he was right about that but he put his can on the line by picking up a goalie who hadn't played for most of the season and the early returns on Roloson have not been favourable by any stretch. He's played seven games and I'd say he's been good enough in about three of them. A safer bet would've been to give up a Staios or Bergeron for a goalie that didn't need a re-adjustment period and that especially holds true when you consider Lowe would eventually construct a roster with enough impending UFA's that it looks like it's a one shot chance.

Now we've got a guy shaking the rust off while trying to become familair with a new defensive corps and he's doing both in the heat of a stretch run.

If we miss the playoffs I'll remember this season for a lot of reasons but one of them will be how were were in 8th place or higher in the Conf for the vast majority of the season even though we were in last place in the league in Sv Pct. If Lowe had addressed this earlier our latest funk wouldn't be so alarming. At least not in the sense of here we go again it's April and Ryan Smyth can't wait to get to Vienna or wherever the WHC is being held this year.

The fact that the Oilers fared so well with awful goaltending is a feather in Craig MacTavish's cap to be sure and I think even the most ardent Mactavish basher would admit that if you gave him sodium pentathol.

Does this absolve MacTavish from the majority of the blame or at least give him enough rope for another reason? Somewhere along the line of this season there's been a rift between Peca and the coaching staff and that's apparent in how they're currently using #37. The EIG don't pinch their pennies like they use to but you can't convince me for a second that they picked up a guy making $3.9 million and at any time had Lowe and Co pitching to them that there was a possibility this fellow would play on the 4th line and take the third most faceoffs on the team behind Stoll and Horcoff. This is a team and group that played Salo, and subsequently the whole team, into the bloody ground because they weren't prepared to admit his contract was a mistake or at the very least an albatros. So the way Peca's floated down through the lines is a real tell that something's gone amiss.

I'd imagine the Oilers envisioned Peca as he always was and that was an outscorer who impressively performed this task whilst matching up against the other team's absolute best lines. The Oilers line of Smyth-Horcoff-Dvorak had done a great job of outscoring the other team's top lines so I think the Oilers thought they'd struck gold with Peca. They'd leave the first line intact and pair Peca with Torres and Hemsky and with Hemsky's scoring and Peca's two way acumen they'd take Torres along for the ride and now all of a sudden you've got two lines who'll come out ahead at even strenght. Considering the team's calling card had always been better than average even strenght play this seems like a plausable theory on why they decided to spend so much money on Peca. Put that top six together with a PK most likely improved by Peca's addition and a PP most likely improved by the addition of Pronger and the '05 Czech League maturation of Hemsky and the outlook was promising.

But something happened on the way to the President's Trophy or at least in terms of our outscoring potential at even strenght.

Mike Peca had lost his hands.

Never a guy that could be classified as skilled Peca had always somehow gotten the job done but now he looked positively terrified and inept with the puck in the offensive end. He was bottlenecking the potential of both Hemsky and Torres and that line was broken up and Hemsky moved up to the first and Dvorak into this slot on the second line, Stoll slid into Peca's spot and Peca formed a shutdown line with Moreau and Pisani. Now MacT began to match that line against the other team's top units and the Oilers became a team that relied on it's PP because the Horcoff and Stoll lines were yielding as much as they gained and while Peca could almost nearly keep his opposing line in check he wasn't contributing much to the plus side because any line that features #37 was pure poison.

But the team was still winning.

Peca had intially welcomed the role of being a second line centre who was expected to contribute offense but he would eventually admit he was more comfortable in a checking role. Later on he would complain about wanting powerplay time and opined it was hard to find his offensive side when he couldn't get the chance to be creative. This was around the time the Oilers went to MSG for the Mess tribute game and lo and behold Peca wound up playing the PP point against the Rangers and later on the Pens. Peca whines and gets what he wants but the team is still winning.

The experiment would eventually be tossed to the wayside, though, and Peca's primary functions would be on the PK and third line.

Later on Peca became injured and a story leaked on Edm talk radio that the Oilers were less than enamoured with how long it took Peca to return to the lineup. This is basically where the wheels came off because since then MacT has decided to match the Horcoff line against the other team's top lines and it hasn't gone swimmingly. It's at this point that Vic postulates MacT's current approach as an effort to turn Horcoff and Hemsky into offensive producers who can outscore the other team's top lines ala Forsberg. But it looks like 10-94 were good at ES because Dvorak was driving the bus and Hemsky hasn't been a suitable replacement.

Peca would go on to rip the coaching staff for being panicky after a loss in Minnesota and it appears now that it was the last straw for macT. By the next game he'd inserted new fangled centre Fernando Pisani on Peca's old shutdown line and now #37 plies his trade with Harvey and Laraque on the 4th line and the only prominent role he plays with this team is on the first PK unit along with Moreau when Ethan isn't busy trying to tie Dave Schultz's single season penalty minutes record.

Peca has groused all along the way and hasn't enamoured himself to most Oilers fans but the head coach should be beyond that and should use Peca in the best possible role. Right now the head coach sees fit to essentially waste $3.9 mill and is thus sending a costly message while a guy like Moreau can run around and hurt his team with stupid penalties but it doesn't even bother MacT enough to sit him down for a period

The questions beckons is Peca so bad as to warrent his latest assignment? Is he the latest in a suddeningly lenghtening line of centres who just can't fit into Edmonton's scheme or just Edmonton, ie Oates and Dopita? Or is it a case of MacT putting his pride ahead of his team? I don't think there's any question this team would be much better served with slotting Moreau-Peca-Dvorak against the other team's top lines and thus letting Smyth-Horc and Hemsky or Pisani work against lesser lines, at least in terms of offensive explosiveness. In fact I'd suggest the Peca line get the tough matchups, they use Pisani with Smyth-Horc to firm up that line's own zone play and then MacT creates a Samsonov-Stoll-Hemsky line that gets all the easy minutes. That shouldn't be too hard to pull off on home ice. Where does that leave the fourth line you ask? I don't really care and neither should most people at this point.

Seriously though I think the above plan would be the most suitable even strenght measures MacTavish could employ. And I think any coach or organization with an axe to grind would use said plan or at least something that resembles it more closely than MacT's current approach to roll four lines and only adhere to matchups as it pertains to playing Pronger and Spacek against the other team's top lines.

At the end of the day MacTavish's future is tied to Lowe's and Lowe made the jump and spent the EIG's money on Peca so I'd have a hard time believing Peca could be banished to MacT's doghouse without Lowe first building that structure.

And if he didn't build the structure then he defintely doled out the permit.

I just want this team to make the playoffs and for all the drama to be over. The fact that Peca won't return to Edm is as clear as the fact that MacTavish can't see the overall forest for the prideful trees.

As Oilers fans we can't exactly indentiy with Gob, not that Gob could say indentify with Leaves or Blackhawk fans;) but we've suffered enough that we shouldn't be missing out on the excitement of the playoffs because of the possibility that MacT and Lowe are trying to teach Peca some kind of lesson.

That's the only way to explain how the Oilers currently use #37 and how they match lines in general.

Back To Back Games

It has a huge impact on expected results, and consequently on the betting lines. It just does. A team or two is bound to have a good record in B2B's this season, and a couple of others a remarkably poor one, but that's just shit happening. There is no repeatability in it from season to season for any team in particular. Or at least there is no evidence to support that notion as far as I know.

For games in which the home team and the visitor have equal amounts of rest (551 games so far):
The home team outscores the visitors by .27 goals on average. That means that they have about a 55% chance of winning if both teams are dead equal.

In games where one, and only one, of the teams is playing the second of back to back games (a staggering 334 games so far):
The more rested team outscores them by an average of .35 goals.
A rested road team facing a home squad playing with no rest ... they outscore home teams by .31 goals, on average, so far this season.

Point being: The number of back to back games in your schedule, especially on home ice, is a huge factor in your schedule difficulty level, and therefore your expected results. Equally important is the number of times you face opposition that has played the night before.

NHL FunFact: Of the 334 games so far in which one of the teams is on the back end of a B2B ... on 260 occasions it was the road team. Think Wee Gary Bettman doesn't know a thing or two about marketing and the value of home Ws? ;) The odds of that split being coincidence are several million to one.

Sidenote: The effect of the B2B game is more profound on the home team, presumably because they lose some of the advantage of home ice (more rested, didn't travel).

Oiler FunFact: With this in mind, as well as the opposition ... the Oilers have a relatively soft road home this season.

Sagarin FunFact: He is giving the home teams way too much of an edge here, .37 goals. And now you know why his spread does not mesh with the oddswriter's numbers. Just how much is Mark Cuban paying this cat anyways?

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I could ramble on this subject for quite a while, but I won't right now. :-) Any thoughts?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Canucks Were Hungrier

... than MacTavish's squad. And there were some pretty dubious decisions on matchups in the first period too.

Staios had just about as poor a game as an NHL defenceman can have. Though that gets kind of lost in the mix with the effort and execution on the whole for the team on this night.

Just rest Moreau for a few games for Christmas sakes.

I thought that the Samsonov line was the lone bright spot.

I googled for an image that could capture my mood after this game. Couldn't find anything right. Nothing's working now. :(

That's all I've got. If you are an Oiler fan, this game sucked on every level.

Game Day Ramblings

The Oilers have an extra day of rest here, and the next two are in VAN ... this first game is just huge for both teams. I'm looking forward to this game a bunch, it should be a belter. :-)

The playoff odds: As calculated by mudcrutch using a sensible simulation shows the picture really well. It's updated to current.
* L.A looks to be drifting down, and with Demitra not fully fit, it's hard to like their chances.
* The Canucks have dropped a shade below the '50% chance to make the playoffs' line. And if the Oilers can take four or five points from Vancouver in this three game series ... they'll have a helluva steep hill to climb in order to make the playoffs methinks. Killer instinct boys, let's see some.

The oddsmakers are liking the Oilers here. A 60% chance of winning from The Greek, Bet On Sports and EZSportsbook. A 59% chance of winning from Bowmans. Which is a significant favourite in a hockey game between two teams so close in the standings.

Who does MacTavish march out against Naslund's line tonight? Does Moreau play? and if he doesn't does Pisani stay at centre or do they need him to shore up the wings?

Personally, I'd like to see Moreau rested, and Pisani moved to his offwing on that line, with Peca slotted in the middle on that unit. And this is one of the teams where going power vs power makes sense to my mind. Naslund line-vs-Smyth line. And give Pouliot a regular shift as the 4th line centre, so long as neither the Sedins nor Naslund are going to be the opposition. Maybe some 2nd unit PP time for the kid too.
So that's almost a guarantee that none of those things will happen :-)

They've had a couple of days to practice. I hope that time gave Samsonov a chance to get a better feel for the system and the teammates. He needs to start getting better at 5on5 methinks. And soon.

The Oilers need a good game from Roloson. No Keystone Cops routines trying to handle the puck. And no pucks that go through him.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

After The Facts

Before I began contributing to Vic's blog I was thinking just what I could do for this site and at what times and Vic suggested that maybe I could do write some pregames or postgame stuff and here's my first of the latter.

Overall I think the Oilers can be moderately pleased with their latest point. Yes it was a home game and the Oilers have gassed points at Rexall all season so you never want to let another one and a W slip away. But even though I don't hold a tonne of respect for the Wings because of the fact they've racked up their point total in the Comedy Central division they're obviously still a formidable foe. But that's not what my postgames are about. I'm not here to be another Terry Jones, even though I did eat like him today because I was super hungover, and I'll call it the way I see it and I'll add some levity along the way.

That being said any humor I attempt will pale alongside the spectacle that is Dwayne Roloson trying to play the puck. I mean sweet shag...if there was one thing Salo did right was he didn't play the puck because he knew he was terrible at it. Either Roloson has short term memory loss or he's just plain daft because time after time he's turning normal plays into scoring chances for the opposition and he still won't quit trying to be Marty, we will accept Brodeur or Turco;)

So let's start with that guy and here are some reasons why Dwayne Roloson is..wait for it..worse than garbage. He's WTG because we gave up a 1st rounder to acquire and yes the '06 draft class impresses people less than Napolean in a porno, ie the guy had a micro-penis but maybe just maybe we could've used that pick to acquire someone who isn't simply awful. He's WTG because the deadline day has passed and as Huey Lewis once crooned, along with help from The News of course, "This is it." Unless we go back to Jussi or Ty even visit John Muckler's crypt long enough to convince him to put Morrisson back on waivers..Dwayne Roloson is the guy who might lead us to the playoffs and almost assuredly will break our backs if we get there.

Note: the Muckler joke becomes way funnier when you allow yourself to come to the realization that he's been dead for the last 10 years. And if you want me to even further blow your mind I'll tell you that Muckler hates Ted Nolan because Nolan once caught Muckler eating Rob Ray's brain. Which of course explains the things that come out of Ray's mouth during the intermissions of Sabres games.

It would take awhile before the Roloson Suckfest: Volume 4 kicked into high gear and I guess our first hint that this game would be a bit off was when we found out that Mark Lee was the play-by-play guy and we had dueling hairdos in the colour department with Ron Tugnutt and Kelly Hrudey. Mark Lee is a big fan of figure skating and his mojo followed him from Torino as most of the night resembled one of those Night Of Champions deals where the male skaters really really flame it up. Which is to say that this game didn't even match the intensity of regular figure skating.

You guys can see the highlights and read the summaries elsewhere so I won't waste too much of your time on that. And I mentioned the absence of physicality because this is an area where you can best the Wings. There are some older guys who quite simply wouldn't be able to withstand a heavy forecheck and then there are guys like say Datsyuk who would go to any lenghts to avoid it. I'm sure MacTavish and Co knew this yet it was never present in the Oilers gameplan. I'd hoped that would be rectified in the intermission but it just didn't happen.

In fact there were times when the game was so painstakingly boring that I expected Tugnutt to blurt out..."Can you believe my last time is Tugnutt."" And of course that would lead to some blue musings with Lee eventually waxing nostalgic about his Olys experience and how everyone was disappointed Brian Williams was working from a studio in Toronto because "no one likes foreign poun like BDubya."

Something else shocking:) that really happened was the the sudden prolifieration of the Oilers second PP unit. I never thought it mattered much and the scoresheet won't show that either of the first two goals were scored on the PP. But to wit the first goal clocked in a mere three seconds after the Wings penalty had elapsed and the second one happened 15 seconds after but it was one of those times where the Wings never really got their bearings so it was essentially another man advantaged marker. Shawn Horcoff really stood out on the second unit and didn't seem to mind the pressure of leading this group.

So now that brings us to Roloson. The 2-2 marker by Chelios came after the Oilers squandered a chance to go up 3-1 when they frittered away a two man advantage of over 90 seconds. Especially frustrating in this sequence was Pronger missing the net from about 20 feet as the Wings PK unit closed ranks around Legace. At the other end the Oilers netminder was just rank and Chelios came out of the box and got behind a falling Pronger before nearly losing his stick and still scoring a five hole shot that held a speed capable of being measure with an egg timer.

So it's on to the third and Roloson turns a harmless "get me off the ice everyone else is changing" shot by Cleary into an open net shot for Holmstrom. You could watch that play 20 times and you'd never figure out why Dwayne kicked that shot where he did and with such velocity. It was like when the producers of Three's Company and Dallas thought Jenilee Harrison was sexy. It's nearly 20 years later and most people still don't know why it happened

At this point DR's controlling his rebounds like James Gandolfini controls his appetite.

Fernando Pisani works like a dog and we all know that and it was nice to see him rewarded and maybe it would've been nice if the refs had been inspired to punch the clock with such earnest because some of the calls tonight were out of left field. I like to think I'm impartial, at least about everything besides netminders but Salo sucked the life out of me for half a decade so deal with it, but the last few games have me wondering if MacTavish is so hated around the league as to inspire bias. The officials thought nothing of calling back to back penalties in the last three minutes of the game against the Oilers yet Samsonov's hauled down in the slot in overtime 10 feet from the net and there's a silence more deafening then the time we all saw Axl Rose make his return on the MTV Music Awards.

And could we please start making up the posters and besieging our local Governor, yes I know we live in Canada but roll with me here, for Stoll-Torres line clemency for Samsanov? At the end of the day do you think Ryan Smyth would really balk at being asked to give up his 1st line LW spot and thus move to his off-wing with numbers 14 and 16? Here's a guy that would go to Singapore to participate in a throwing a paper ball into a basket competition if Lowe told him he would be repersenting Canada. So you don't think he tolerate a move to the second line? Please, the only thing easier would be convincing Flavor Flav to smoke crack. Let's make this move and practice the new lines on Monday and try and wring some offense out of the old B in situations other than the PP or four on four.

The extra frame featured Mike Peca somehow garnering two shifts in overtime and while sane people questioned why we were trying to keep the score status quo in the overtime MacT waited until the extra frame's end before breaking out a shocker that would be akin to picking up a movie called "The Brown Bunny" and assuming it's a children's film.

*** Note if you're a Chole Sevingy fan and you haven't seen this movie then I really don't know why you get out of bed anymore. You're clearly depressed.

The shootout list is announced and Fernando Pisani is leading off followed by Samsonov and Stoll. The absences of Hemksy and Smyth brought about the biggest omissions since Martin Lawrence wasn't nominated for the Best Leading Actor in Big Momma's House. I mean the guy has to wear a fat suit and keep from jumping Nia Long and you don't think that shows range? By comparison rolling around on a mountain and kissing a guy seems weak when you consider the obvious payoff that such a foray to the sensitive side will guarentee a life supply of tang to more than just a lucky astronaut.

But it's back to the game and you're telling me you don't select Hemsky for this showdown? The guy's shooting at nearly 40% and he's more talented than anyone else at the game besides the fat guy in the denim shirt who broke out some serious moves after Pisani tied the game. And Ryan Smyth shoots because he's Ryan Smyth dammit. He's pulled out some nice moves before and this team's been involved in enough of these spectacles that we know even finding a third guy is a chore so now all of a sudden we not only go back to the drawing board but we kick it down in a fit of rage? Did anyone else forget that marathon shootout against the Jackets when Jason Chimera made Shawn Horcoff look like Sean Cronin? We don't have a whole lot of options here.

So all three Wings go to Roloson's glove and two of them beat him and Pisani and Samsonov don't get a sniff against Frodo Legace. I guess a few people went home happy but every game that passes shows Roloson to be less than what we need to make it out of the first round of the playoffs. I think he'll get us there because this team can score three goals a game and we've got some weaker competition left on our docket. Also there's the sudden developement where we can actually grab some points at home these days. Overall I believe in this team enough that I'm saying they'll win two games no matter who they face. But despite the fact that Roloson makes the odd great first save he quite simply can turn nothing into something when it comes to the other team and it looks like Lowe bought another bag of magic beans.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Brief Postgame Thoughts

Mark Lee isn't just a walkin'-round dumbass. He is an exquisite moron.

The Andy van Hellemond rule is still in effect ... no penalties for you Mr Yzerman! And two minutes to the guy you slashed for not saying thankyou!

A very bad game by Roloson. And it pains me to say that.

The other day my 3 year old yelled winuffKinbattol at the hockey game on TV. My wife didn't understand what she'd said, and I pretended that I didn't. In fact it's Peca's nickname. WinuffKinbattol Peca.

Samsonov is still struggling badly methinks. He'll need some time.

A fun game to watch. :-)

AHL Performance As A Predictor (Updated)

Last season oilswell sent me a CSV file with every goal scored in the AHL. Listing who has on the ice for very goal, for both teams as well. The other day he sent me the stuff for this AHL season so far. And on this snowy afternoon I've been farting around with it, in lieu of shovelling the driveway.

Anyhow, just kicking at tires right now, but it really lloks like even strength results are the best predictor. And even moreso the old Ron Wilson thing: even-strength-points minus even-strength-goals-against.

IF this works, then the top all -around forward from last year in the AHL, by a mile:

Staal: 41 points ---> EV- 23
(Kobasew and Forbes, an AHL journeyman, put up nearly identical numbers, they played almost exclusively with Staal, common sense and past histories tells us who was driving the bus here)

Others in the plus category here:
Spezza: 57 ---> -51
Stoll: 22 ---> -22
Torres: 28 ---> -26

Some notables that came close:
Boyes: 30 ---> -33
Salmelainen 31 ---> -34
P. Bergeron: 24 ---> -28

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This year, some good guys, because this seems to be a very difficult thing to accomplish:

O'Sullivan: 36 ---> -35
Perry: 19 ---> -17
Getzlaf: 19 ---> -16

And Oiler funfacts:
The Good ... and the ONLY Oiler prospect in the black at this: Stastny 18---> -15
The Terrible ... and on a very good team: Rem Murray 21 ---> -28

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As Marge Simpson would say ... hrrrmm. :-(

Updated to add:

Okay, thought I'd come back to this. Took the top 60 rookies from the AHL website and wrote a script to run their numbers. Now I assume that these guys are all 20 year olds, but any input from people who follow the prospects would be appreciated. Here ya go:

This year's Eric Staal, in a class by himself:
Jeff Tabellini: 39 ---> -24
Damn good. And the closer you look the better it gets. His team is +22 at 5on5 when he is on the ice and -1 when he isn't. He's had a mix of linemates and appears to have made a lot of others on that team look good on the stats page. Anyone seen him play or know anything about him? Is this Steve Tambellini's boy?

Other notables:
Ryan Shannon: 38 ---> -31
Played with some good linemates by the looks of things. And the team is +13 when he isn't on the ice, the same as when he's on it. So he's the beneficiary of a good team I'd guess. Still, results be results.

And a few guys who managed to register as many or more points than EV-. And who clearly make their team better when they are on the ice.
T.Redenbach: +15 when he's on the ice, -1 when he isn't
P.Pelletier
B.Tallackson
N.Dawes

Some guys around the breakeven point or a shade better, but appear to be benefitting from good teams:
C.Genoway
C.James
R.Peverley

And the guys who have somehow managed good results at this in spite of terrible teams:
F.Lemieux
M.Mancari

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This is missing a lot of detail (linemates, quality of goaltending behind them, physical size, etc) but it's saying something I think. Alfredsson's line, Forsberg, Modano and Selanne (of all people!) are currently leading the NHL by this metric right now.

A starting point at least I hope.

Should the Oilers worry about Pronger's minutes?

Do NHLers wear down with too many minutes and does this hurt playoff performance in particular?

This is a tough question and perhaps a hockey myth that Chris Pronger has found himself associated with as much as any player in recent memory. He has been closely associated with the question due to his prominent presence with the St. Louis Blues teams of the late '90's and early this decade. While on these teams, Pronger had massive amounts of icetime on very successful regular season clubs that seemed to disappoint in the playoffs. The story that many hockey fans have heard (probably disseminated by St. Louis sports writers desparate for an angle) is that the Blues wore Pronger down with crazy minutes in the regular season and he couldn't get it done in the playoffs.

Some Oiler fans online were begging for a competent NHL defenseman around Christmas time for two reasons: 1) Ulanov and Cross were hopeless and 2) Pronger was getting too many minutes and he wouldn't be effective come playoff time. Well, is it worth worrying about? I don't think so.

Make no mistake, Big #44 and his Orbs of Power are playing heavy minutes. 1857 total minutes and counting including an astonishing 459 minutes on the powerplay. The numbers are definitely getting higher as he plays his 28:08 per night. First of all, one should compare Pronger's minutes to those he had in St. Louis.

This year (projected) in Edmonton:

81 games, 2279 total minutes with a %ES/%PP/%SH breakdown of 56%/25%/19%.

In his last five seasons in St. Louis, Pronger posted a cumulative %ES/%PP/%SH breakdown of 64%/19%/17%. In two of those seasons he played greater than 2279 total minutes. As a result of his minutes breakdown, he obviously played considerably more ES minutes in each of those seasons (including a third season of 2196 total minutes) than he is projected to play this year. While I don't imagine that the extra SH minutes are helping Pronger's vitality that much, I'm quite certain that the trade-off of fewer ES minutes for more PP minutes likely helps him.

So we've got two reasons not to worry at the moment. The first is that Pronger has played more total minutes in two of the past five seasons and he's played roughly equivalent minutes in three of the last five. The second reason not to worry, is that it's a pretty safe assumption that PP minutes are easier on the big man than at ES and he's on pace to play roughly 200 min (or nearly 11 games worth) fewer at ES than he has in recent full seasons.

Next up: Pronger's playoff performance vs. regular season. Does his play even drop off in the playoffs?

Regular season: 1.03 ESP/hr, 4.29 PPP/hr, 28.79 min ATOI and +93 in 292 GP.

Playoffs: 0.98 ESP/hr, 3.60 PPP/hr, 29.80 min ATOI and +19 in 43 GP.

OK, so Pronger's ES production is basically the same and while his PP production seems to drop, he has actually played significantly better in the playoffs in terms of accumulating +/-. (As an aside: is anyone really familiar with St. Louis' recent playoff failings? Any chance that their special teams just failed them? In addition to the usual things related to luck.) Additionally, in his two biggest regular seasons TOI-wise, he posted his best playoff production rates. I have to conclude that Pronger has not really been affected by heavier minutes and that the common belief is just one of many hockey myths.

So, with regard to Chris Pronger - Don't worry be happy Oiler fans. He's not in uncharted territory and regardless, it sure doesn't appear that the workload makes him any less effective in the playoffs.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Naslund And Bertuzzi

... were terrific at 5 on5 last hockey year, though they had a bit of an off year on the powerplay. At this point in the 03/04 season the Canucks were EV+57 EV-34 when one or both of these guys were on the ice at 5on5, that's +23 if you do the arithmetic. And if Naslund hadn't hurt himself in February that season this number would surely be better. Dominant players to be sure, not guys you want out against Forsberg or anything, but players that can trade chances with most NHL lines and end up outscoring them.

This season so far, when either Naslund or Bertuzzi are on the ice for the Canucks:
EV+44, EV-54. That's -10 overall at 5on5.

+23 to -10 ... that's a helluva swing, no?

So, if you were wondering why the Canucks aren't as good this year ... then maybe, just maybe, this has something to do with it. ;)

Sweet Sixteen No Longer Sufficent

Well here we are firmly entrenched in March Madness' ample bosom and for me things kick off in a little while when Georgetown takes on Northern Iowa in a 7/10 matchup in the Minneapolis bracket. I got home yesterday just in time to catch the end of the Pacific/BC game which was a 12/5 showdown in said bracket so it held my attention with an upset perhaps making a longer Hoyas run a little more realistic.

The last couple of minutes of regulation showcased all that's chaotic, sometimes non-sensical but ultimately exciting about the tourney. The underdog Pacific had the favored Eagles on the ropes but as can happen so many times Pacific got caught up in the moment and started launching three's at an alarming rate even when they were on a fast break and an extra pass meant a virtually uncontested layup. With players's range extending seemingly every recruiting class the three point line isn't as daunting or intimidating as it used to be. But to the purist or the pragmatic the three point shot is still a weapon best used in comback efforts or as a complimentry tool. So this game became just another example of the young upstarts and/or underdogs going for the throat and not taking the longview. Of course when nothing's expected of you then there's nothing to lose and sometimes you're just loose enough that you don't realize the magnitude of the contest or the situation.

Well what happens when you're on the other side? Isn't it easier to be Pacific than Boston College? I certainly think so from a mental standpoint and here's where things have all of a sudden changed for the Edmonton Oilers.

Despite being in the throes of trading day shock and excitement over the Samsonov acquistion I still couldn't help but be nagged by the idea that there's a sea change when it comes to the Oilers and the NHL's second season. And by the time Lowe had finished speaking about raised expectations from all of the fans, players and management I couldn't help but be bludgeoned by it.

A four year consecutive absence from the playoffs had Oilers fans and players alike wound up by the time they made in back '97. Two years and subsequently two playoff round wins later and some of the faithful we're even convinced they had a chance to beat a '99 Stars team that would go on to the win that year's Cup and then make it to the finals the following year as well. Though as much as the fans wanted to believe there were never expectations. The NHL was smack dab in the middle of the salary explosion and when you added up the dollar signs then everyone was happy that the Oilers just lost by one goal.

This trend continued and reached it's zenith for the Oilers in '01 when the Edmonton club was painfully close to knocking off the Stars but lost it's biggest piece that summer when they were forced to deal Doug Weight as he entered his last year before unrestricted free agency. Weight further tied management's hands by limiting his new destination to either Detriot or St. Louis. It was the worst of times for the fans and the best of times for the apologists. Edmonton missed the playoffs in two of the next three seasons and there was always a wink and a nod that the ultimate reason for failure was the valley between the payrolls of the rich and the poorer.

Most times it was hard to fashion a formidable argument.

Flash forward to '05 and the new NHL and though teams had some kind of a device to retain players given the rollback it was still true for the most part that the talent had begun to scatter somewhat more evenly throughout the league. So here sat the Oilers in 8th place in their conference and with a team that looked as good from the defense out as any in the conference. Lowe plugs the hole in net with the acquistion of Roloson and then on the last day bolsters what some already considered a formidable offense by adding the engimatic Samsanov. Now finally the rabbit has the gun but can it pull a trigger weighed down and greased with newfound yet familiar and resolutely passioned expectations?

It's a new reality for the Edmonton Oilers heading into the playoffs and no I'm not under the impression that's even a lock. But if they do get there, even as say an 8th seed, now you're facing a Detriot team with a comparitively bloated points total but payroll

So while the Oilers aren't exactly entering the NHL's big tournament resembling a #1 seed returning five seniors and boasting a nine man rotation they can also no longer cling to the identity of a small conference at large bid where success is attained by just sticking around for the first 35 minutes.

No more one goal losses as a baromoter of acheivement and it's certainly no longer enough to just to make the dance. At this point you gotta take someone home.

Playing The Minutes Against Iginla

Well, a boatload of powerplay time for Iginla in this one, so not too much 5on5 time by his standards. Just 10.5 minutes.

Here is how the 5on5 icetime stacked up against Jarome:

Player 5 on 5 Minutes vs Iggy
Horcoff 2.5
Stoll
3.1
Pisani
2.3
Peca
4.5


Pronger
8.1
Smith
1.1
Greene
1.0

My thoughts on this:

* Somebody must have forgotten to tell MacTavish he had last change on the forwards. :-) He just rolled 'em for the most part, got gunshy with the Stoll line in the third, by my eye, but besides that.

* Pronger is a MONSTER!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Never Criticize A Win

That's MacTavish's rule, not mine. :-) Some quick and random thoughts on the game.

Today's hockey math:
(Torres + Stoll + Samsonov) x 5on5 shift= Bag of Suck

If Bergeron went for a crap the crows would get him. And it's gotten between his ears. He'll come around though.

Moreau is starting to look like a bit like his old self.

Still liking Pisani at centre.

Georges is making us remember.

The hockey Gods threw the Oilers a bone with the quick whistle on the Flames disallowed goal. Better to be lucky than good sometimes.

The powerplay dazzled, could have easily had more. Hemsky and Samsonov on the same side of the ice ... scary good.

Good jebus are Smyth and Horcoff ever free with their sticks. Penalties waiting to happen sometimes.

Pronger is too good for school.

Now I know why Horcoff isn't in the shootout lineup. :-)

Farm team next year?

I'm wary of passing this on, as it is second-hand, but it's an interesting topic. Apparently LaForge spoke at the Student Business Conference at GMCC earlier this week. One of the attendees posted some notes at HF here: http://www.hfboards.com/showthread.php?t=231257

What stood out for me was this paraphrased bit:
Farm team: Only if it makes sense business wise. They only need about 8-12 spaces for bodies to play. Are looking at the possibility of sharing Iowa with Dallas because of geographical issues.

So the Oilers are going to try this again? I'm not sure I like that very much as I think we've seen some logistical problems especially with regard to goaltending and I'm not convinced the Oilers' prospects got the icetime they needed this season either. Is this an appropriate area to cut costs I wonder? Given what we've seen this year, is it fair to consider an AHL franchise a luxury?

I know this was beaten to death on HF after the death of the RoadRunners, but the topic deserves to be revisited I think.

The Flames D vs Joe Sakic

For your consumption and commentary, this is how the icetime at 5 on 5 shook out in the last game, only as accurate as the NHL shift chart.

PLAYER 5 on 5 Minutes vs Sakic
Leopold 8.3
Regehr 7.9
Ference 5.3
Hulse 5.3
Phaneuf 2.0
Marchment 1.7

I didn't see the game, just stripped the info off the shiftchart. Looks like these must have been the pairings for most of the night.

Not much to see on the forwards, other than it looks like Sutter rolled four lines, and he really avoided a Lundmark-Sakic head to head.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Trukhno Equal To Schremp In Terms Of Skill?

I think that's what I heard Oilers development coach Jeff Ward say on the radio yesterday. He was raving about the kid. Apparently he creates the offense on his own, not much support at all on his junior club. I hope that some of his comments fill in some of the blanks for the people that analyze the prospects more than me.

This was on The Team 1260, just as the Oiler game was starting, so I missed bits of it. Hopefully Gregor redid the interview on his late night show (he was covering for Stauffer last night and conducted the interview with Spector IIRC).

PP Tidbit #1

The NHL power play and ways of measuring PP performance is a little pet project of mine. I imagine this will be the first of a few statistical morsels I'll throw out here...

Last week I did a quick survey of 2005-2006 NHL teams' top 5 players by PP ATOI and position and here's what I came up with (after excluding players with 15 GP or less and some recent trades):

Number of teams with 2 defensemen in their top 5: 19

Number of teams with 1 defenseman in their top 5: 8

Number of teams with 0 defensemen in their top 5: 2

Number of teams with >2 defensemen in their top 5: 1

This should give a rough idea of leaguewide PP personnel decisions regarding forwards on the 1st PP unit. Basically, the majority of teams still use a traditional 2 dmen in their first unit. As might be expected, the tradtionally inept New Jersey Devils had 3 dmen in their 1st Power(less) Play unit. Carolina and the NYR were the two teams that had no dmen in their top 5 by PP ATOI.

Now if you expand it to the top 10 players on each team by PP ATOI, you get:

Number of teams with "=4" defensemen in their top 10: 10

Number of teams with "<4" defensemen in their top 10: 18

Number of teams with ">4" defensemen in their top 10: 2

This shows that even more NHL teams probably use four forwards on the PP, when both units are considered. This is important to note because it has become increasingly obvious to me that forwards are generally better able to generate offense on the PP than defensemen are as measured by PPP/hr.

The Oilers?
Ignoring Spacek and Tarnstrom for the time being, they are at 2/5 and 4/10 which is more than a little disappointing considering the early success of Stoll in the four forward unit.

In 2003-2004, the reigning PP-Minute Sinkhole was none other than Steve Staios. In 2005, he lost his title almost without contest to the new, undisputed PP Minute Sinkhole - Marc-Andre Bergeron. Now that Spacek is in the mix, he is sure to threaten MAB's ability to waste PP minutes in an Oiler uniform in 2006 and maybe even beyond as the braintrust insists on throwing another unproductive dman out there next to Pronger. The past career performance of Spacek, Staios and Bergeron suggests that they are not able to generate offense in terms of PPP/hr.

The two wild cards are Tarnstrom and Samsonov. Tarnstrom has done nothing but put up excellent PP numbers for a defenseman until this year. If you have to play 2 defensemen on your first unit, then the numbers suggest that Tarnstrom and Pronger are light years ahead of the rest. Also, Samsonov's presence provides a glimmer of hope for a new, more progressive Oilers' PP as they now have another accomplished PP producing forward, but it remains to be seen whether or not the coaching staff will change their ways.

Playing The Minutes Against Gaborik

Obviously a road game, and a game in which MacTavish had four credible lines to roll (for the first time in a while). Still, thought I'd throw this up here, as Gaborik is clearly the main threat on the Wild squad at 5 on 5 hockey.

This just for 5 on 5, just grabbed the centres and the representative guys for each D pairing:



PLAYER MINUTES vs GABORIK


Horcoff 5.8
Pisani 4.2
Stoll 2.0
Peca 1.1


Pronger 6.4
Smith 5.3
Greene 1.0


Samsonov 1.0

.

So, my thoughts:

* Nothing too surprising. Though pretty clearly Pronger and Smith are eating up the tough minutes still. This split is pretty representative of road games for the year I think.
* Pisani takes a lot of responsibility in his first game as a centre in ages.
* Peca is in the doghouse.
* Other teams seem to try and run their stars out against the Horcoff line ... and MacTavish doesn't seem to mind too much in a lot of games, hell he even goes for that matchup on home ice sometimes. I don't get that.

BTW: This comes from a little Excel macro that I wrote that downloads the gif shiftcharts from NHL.com and reads them. This shift chart reader is downloadable in a few places around the internet I think.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Diary of a nearly madman

You know I like dairies...I really do. Every year I resolve to log my thoughts each and every week but I always come to the realization that I'm such a creature of habit that my musings would be more repetitive than Jeff Probst at a tribal council.

In any case my patience is failing with the Oil so as a theraputic measure I decided to give the diary treatment to the Oil/Wild game from Tuesday.

Here goes...

Ist Period:

-...Hmm...MacT throws out Pisani between Moreau-Dvorak thus eliminating the need for Murray, putting off MAP's debut and bringing back Todd Harvey into the lineup. We also have Torres taking the bullet and moving to this right wing allowing Samsonov to play on his left side with Stoll centring of course. BTW, Harvey lands with Laraque and Peca. So take that #37..

- We have some new D pairings to pick apart as well. Greene stays in the lineup but is paired with Staios meaning the flammable Staios-Bergy tandem has been mercifully broken up. I just cut 25% off my swearing and I didn't even need to use Geico!! Note: Bergy moves to Smith's left side and this leaves the Pronger/Spacek duo intact.

- Oilers are nailed for a Too Many Men penalty with 44 being the guy caught jumping over the bench. Man does he ever look tense. The last time I saw someone that tight was my old HS GF on Good Friday.

- Micheal "Mess" Peca's especially soft on the puck in his own end and it leads to a scoring chance for the Wild. On the ensuing scrum Matt Greene throws 'em with Alex Henry. You know I like Hank...I really do. I saw a lot of him and Hajt when the both of them blazed a snail's trail with the Bulldogs in the mid '90's.

- Here's the game's first goal for the Wild but oh wait there's a review. Judging by the look on MacT's face I'd say he's on a steady diet of bananas and cheese these days just to avoid voiding his bowels on an hourly basis...Huzzah...the goal has been disallowed.

- Pronger opens the scoring on a shot that simply goes through Fernandez. Here's a great omen for the Oilers as far as I'm concerned. I can't remember us getting outpointed too many times this season when the opposing goal has handed us a gift.

- Sportsnet play-by-play guy Peter Loubardias tells an interesting story about how Lowe talked to Gretz about Hemsky and compared the young Czech to Guy Lafleur. Hmm...interesting. Let's count down the ways they're similar...ok here's what I've got. Both have had near death experiences...Hemsky with the slash in the neck during the lockout season and Guy with the telephone pole through the windshield of his car. Now all Ales has to do is start smoking and taking Viagra and he's pretty much Guy's doppleganger. Oh yes and there's the matter of scoring 50 goals for a few seasons as well

- Here's TV timeout so I jam over to the Canucks telecast where I learn Dan Hamhuis has given the Preds an early 1-0 lead. Well things are off to a fine start tonight

- A mention of how some Oilers employees are at a local BP taking in tonight's game. I hope former Oilers PR man Bill Tuele is there..albeit cleaning toilets for that fine eatery.

- Nice job by the 4th line as big #27 draws a penalty. Hemsky makes that cross ice pass to Spacek but Fernandez follows the play well. The other highlight is that MacT sends out a second PP unit that features a forward on the PP!!. Of course it's Stoll but the unit gives up two rushes and MacT storms off the bench muttering "Dammit I knew I was right never to do that."

It's intermission time and I'm just flipping around but I go back to the Oilers game long enough to hear MacT talking about how Fernie has the smarts to play centre. I wonder if these are the same kind of smarts that Ryan Smyth supposedly possessed lo those couple of years ago? On a positive note Reasoner has scored on the PP for the B's in TO. Note: Reasoner finished with a goal and an assist but went just 7/22 on the dot but I'd still take him back as a 3rd line pivot in '07 and I have a funny feeling that the position will be open.

2nd period:

- 37 turns the puck over just past the Wild blueline and winds up taking a penalty. Way to go Mess.

- Oilers kill it off but only after Pronger takes his obligitory penalty to put us down two men. Is there anything more helpeless as a fan than watching your team trying to kill off a 5-on-3? I mean other than being a baseball fan and having Barry Jones as your closer. That one was for you LT and maybe even you Cosh if you're reading.

*** This denotes a special note people. Do you think Chris Pronger might've considering retiring if he knew things were gonna be called this close? I remember the day we traded for him and I had all these visions of him gooning Iginla and Bertuzzi and now the guy can't even be mean or savvy when his team is down by a man. Please, NHL, bring back the old way of thinking for just weekend. Let's make it a home and home weekend with the Flames shall we;)?

- Back to the game and the Wild are assuming positional advantage right now as the Oilers ice the puck heading into the timeout so..

- I boogie over to the Canucks game and find that it's now 2-0 for Nashville. At this point calling Jim Hughson's tone morose would be an insult to depressed people everywhere.

- Oilers grab a PP out of the break and 94 pots his 31st goal of the season. The Oilers PP was damn good before Samsonov's arrival but with the addition of #12 it now can classified as downright evil. So let's recap shall we? Oilers up 2-0 and Canucks down 2-0. What's next I wonder? Will Wayne get off the phone with Vegas long enough to motivate his Dogs into actually giving the Kings a game later on this evening? BTW Wayne throw all your money on Duke for the first round there buddy;)

- Boogaard's running around as the whistle blows but there clearly isn't gonna be a fight so I flash over to the Canucks game where Alex Burrows is bearing down on a breakaway and Vokun falls down and gives up the top of the net but Burrows shots it wide. John Garrett throws up in his mouth

- The BoogieMan picks up two min while Moreau and Smith grab two apiece but the Oilers kill if off just before the next TV timeout. So it's back to Nashville where Hughson says that the Canucks are down 2-0 to a team that has only lost six times at home all season. Garrett chimes in that Van's next game in Columbus won't be a walk either as the Jackets are much improved. Wow, at this point Claude from Degrassi High had a sunnier disposition. Let's just say I wouldn't be following either of these guys into a bathroom anytime soon.

- Boogaard actually challenges 27 and Georges is feeling frisky so he grants him his wish and gives him a couple of shots to the ear and an occasional forearm to the head. Derek lands fewer shots than Bruce Strauss versus Jack Johnson.

- Did the Excel Energy Centre's music guy just play "One Vision" by Queen? Good lord even Freddie himself would consider that a gay song selection for a hockey game. Why not just spin 'She Moves Me" for gawdsakes.

*** Yes it's that time again for a special interlude. Listen, I hate Dallas as much as the next guy but nothing beats the guys at their rink breaking out Sabbath's "The Wizard."

- Oilers back to controlling the play right now and here we have another timeout so yes kids back to Nashville where the screen says it's 3-0 Preds but there isn't any sound. I check my receiver remote to see if it's working and then we see some footage of Hughson walking into the restroom to find Garrett lying prone in his stall and no...in related news Mr. Raditch has given the Canucks the next two days off and there will be a grief counsellor available for them on Friday.

- Ahh sweet redemption for the EEC music guy as he breaks out a little known by great straight out rock song from the '80's. It's "Gonna have a good time tonight" By INXS featuring Jimmy Barnes. Ahh the days of Video Hits and a rather fetching Ms. Samantha Taylor

-Lemaire gets the Gaborik line out against our top offensive line and Horcoff takes a penalty. Oilers kill it off and 40 minutes is over with the Oilers up by 2-0. Normally this would be in the bag but the Wild are on life support here so I say they'll really bring it in the first 5 min of the last frame. If we surivive that then we're golden Pony Boy

3rd Period:

- As I predicted the Wild are buzzing opening the period and Walz draws 34 into a penalty. Wild 0/6 on the PP heading into this chance and...wait for it...now they're 1/7 as Foster cracks Roloson's seal. Yep, you're right, I'll never use that phrase again. So, 17 times shorthanded in the last two games. Who are we here, the Blackhawks. I guess we were paying Peca Martin Lapointe money and we do live in the past when it comes to the organization's glories. I all of a sudden have a bad feeling about this but maybe that has more to do with the fact I just ate egg whites for the third time today. Three times in one day..who do I think I am, Julio Franco? I need some good news here so it's back to Nashville..

- Ahh that's the ticket..4-0 Preds and all of a sudden my dream is alive again. We can lose to the Wings in five games dammit!!!

- Peter Loubardias boldly exclaims, "the Oilers trying to recover from holding onto the two goal lead...arguably the toughest lead in hockey." Yeah you know what's worst though? A one-goal lead dummy.

- Another great shift by the 4th line as 37-27 seem to have some real chemistry. All we need now is someone to take Harvey's place. Oilers taking control after the Wild goal and now there's just 10:25 left and all Min can do is ice the puck

- Roloson makes arguably his most important save as an Oilers given a few of the following factors: the shot was tipped and our goalies hardly ever stop those, it's a one-goal game and lastly this team needs a one goal victory like Madonna needs a Botox tree.

- Out of another timeout Lemaire gets Gaborik out against the Horcoff line again and this time MacT puts Greene out there as well

- Burns throws it up the middle for the Wild and #37 Mess picks it off and hammers a shot into Fernandez's crest. That's the way to lead!!

- Another foray to Music City where it's 5-0 now for Nashville. Yes I know I'm enjoying this way too much but I stick around juuust long enough to hear Hughson lament that Morrison has just one goal in his last 18 games. I wonder if Lou would deal Mogilny for him now?

- Gaborik versus Horcoff: Round 37 ends with Horcoff taking a penalty and it's PP advantage #8 for Minnesota. I wouldn't even say Lemaire affords them this much PP time in practice..

- Edm kills if off and the only tense moments were eased first by Spacek clearing the puck from harm's way and then 94 shovelling a nice backhand off the glass and into the neutral zone.

- As the seconds tick down we'll bring in Bob Cole's voice, "And the Edmonton Oilers...have won...the Stanley Cup." That was brought to mind by Horcoff's reaction when the horn blew but I guess I'd overreact too if I was taking more dumb penalties than Sean Brown.