Sunday, April 30, 2006

Pump and Dump

Brewer, Poti, Carter, Comrie, Marchant...............

What do all these guys have in common? Well in my opinion they are all examples of Kevin Lowe's "pump and dump" strategy as a GM. Pimp a guy with OK talent (but flaws as well) by giving him primo ES linemates or defensive partners, big special teams ice time and load up the numbers (that's the pump). The look to deal him when someone actually thinks these numbers mean something outside of the context they were created (that's the dump).

Brewer was the master stroke in this game and Lowe played this for all it was worth. Vic and I spent many a thread ranting about how Brewer was being pimped with insane amounts of PP time that he did squat with and his salary and Team Canada selections were not legit. The payoff for this effort........Mr. Chris Freaking Pronger - nuff said.

Carter is hopeless without linemates to leach off as has been shown numerous times. The Vancouver sisters breathed life into his sorry corpse the same way we did by giving him all that top line ice with Smyth, but any GM who gives this guy a raise and hopes he provides something on his own is delusional. Comrie and Poti were both talented but seriously flawed players that benefited from the Oilers system and lots of love - happy with the return and also happy they're gone. Marchant is the misfire - pimped this guy to a 60 point season but failed to pull the trigger - Colombus did get suckered into signing him for big bucks though so there actually is a sucker born every minute.

Which brings us to the current roster and we can ask ourselves who are the benefactors of "the pump" this season. Basically we can start with anyone playing with Pronger. Let's not kid outselves about MAB. He's an interesting little player (tiny is more like it) and has a world of try in him - but I could look adequate playing beside the beast. We have probably pumped MAB about as much as he going to be pumped and I could see him being dealt over the summer. The other guy is clearly Horcoff. Now I like his skill set, his guts, his ES play etc etc - but playing with Hemsky and Smyth is the reason for half of his points. He's become a darn fine 2nd line player who can jump up to the top line if necessary - but he's not driving the line - he's complimentary. If we can build a package around Horcoff and a serious prospect to pull Richards out of Tampa - then that's Brewer for Pronger all over again and obviously I would be delighted.

Don't get me wrong - I like Horcoff and MAB - but "the pump" has been active this year as well - it's just that we have better pump material than most years in the recent past.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Mission Impossible (or "I might as well whine and make a post")

This one is titled Mission Impossible because I'm going to mention the officiating in today's game and doing that without sounding like a homer will most certainly result in this message self destructing in ten seconds...

-The referees are struggling in this series and clearly overthinking things to my eye but it's pretty obvious that Chris Chelios is a dirty player. There's no question about that one, so the referees should at least be able to catch the stuff that happens around the puck. How Chelios manages to blatantly elbow Smyth in the face while Smyth has the puck in the corner and then draw a penalty after stepping on a stick just seconds after the foul is completely beyond me. It turned a 1:50 2-man Oiler advantage into a few harmless minutes of 4-on-4. That was atrocity #1.

-Atrocity #2 was Draper's lazy tripping penalty on Peca that ended up giving Shanahan a breakaway and the Wings a 3-1 deficit. The calls really don't get any easier than that. This afternoon's game is over after the second if the Oilers hit the break at 3-0.

-Samsonov must be on Vic's list of guys that are just happy to be here. To say that Sergei is not fully invested in this series is a significant euphemism. If Jarret Stoll can force the issue on the PP coming off the halfboards, then why the heck can't Samsonov?

-I was very impressed with Spacek's game today. Like Dennis mentioned earlier, he's winning a lot of battles in the corner right now and while maybe not as efficient as Pronger, he still ends up getting the puck and getting it up and out of the zone. Furthermore, he's also picked it up a notch in the physical play department. Granted, every Oiler seems to get a free shot at the Newfie as Cleary has been rattled around for a few games now, but Spacek finished him off and laid into a few other Red Wings as well. It's impressive stuff.

-You have to love Stoll's game right now. He's carrying the play on that line (which ain't saying much really, but nevertheless) and looks dangerous on most of his shifts. He has also been quite calm and collected in his own zone. One worrying thing is that the Oilers are still getting crunched in the faceoff circle as the Red Wings are doing to the Oilers what they did for the first half of the year - just owning the dot to the tune of 60+%. The good news is that Peca looked better today in the circle so perhaps his wrist/forearm injury is either improved or at least better stabilized.

-I completed a personal odyssey this past week through the American Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions with a couple of stopovers in Detroit. I bought a couple of Detroit Free Press editions to read the local takes before the series and after game one. The media there is more than a little crazy about Chris Pronger. I'm paraphrasing but I believe Helene St. James said Pronger was the goat of Game #1 because he was on the ice for all three goals against. Of course this was technically true, but he was also on the ice for every single goal by both teams and played 47% of the icetime in the entire game. I've also read a few times both in the media and on the Red Wings' blogs that Pronger has fallen apart against the Wings in the playoffs in the past. Maybe the Wings fans lurking about can fill us in, but when I made my Pronger regular season vs. playoff post earlier this year, his playoff numbers were nothing short of stellar. More minutes, higher %ES minutes, exactly the same ESP/hr and well into the plus side of the ledger (+19 in 43 games over the past 5 seasons) in the playoffs as compared to his regular season performance. I'm pretty sure this Pronger-is-tired-in-the playoffs-and-chokes-stuff is crap based on the numbers and I imagine the Red Wings' community's assertions are equally baseless and probably rooted in jealousy or just plain folksy storytelling.

Regardless, since Game 1, Pronger has left no doubt whatsoever.

Game Day Ramblings

I used to love Rexall Place in the playoffs. The mad energy and passion in the crowd, the reckless hedonism. Like the way I would imagine that the Coliseum in Rome was in the latter days of the empire.

Turns out that it's a fine line between "Last Days of Rome" and "First Days of Jerry Springer" ... and I think that line was crossed last game. Right from the walk up through the parking lot, the lineup outside, the number of girls dressed like they thought they had tickets to Motley Crue ... the trailer trash quality about that crowd ... it was just a bit too far for me.

I think the first sign was when a young woman was shown on the screen and some guy a long ways away yelled "I wanna fuck you!" at the top of his lungs, just screamed it, and you had to talk really loud just to be heard by the guy next to you, this guy wanted to be heard. It was the kind of line that just might have worked with the woman on the screen btw. Anyhow, I'm not offended by bad language, and I've heard people scream terrible obscenities and even threats at the referees during playoff games before and I was fine with that, but this is different.

More of a feeling than specific events really, but I'll offer up one more ditty ...

There was some sort of brouhaha up in the gallery later in the game, I looked up but couldn't really tell what was going on, couldn't hear the words either ... some woman in a tight white shirt was angry, frantic really, and pointing down several rows and yelling at somebody, I think a guy in a blue wig. Hard to see what was going on because so many people around were standing up and looking back in her direction.

Good Lord, felt like I could have closed my eyes for a moment and reopened them to find Jerry Springer at centre ice spewing out his thought of the day. :( The whole experience just left a bad feeling with me.

Hell, I didn't even listen to sports radio on the drive home. I listened to country music instead, and I never listen to country music. Haven't read a sports page since, just a quick skim through a few blogs and one or two posts on the fan forums. I feel like I'm losing my religion here. Surely I'm not the only one, I dunno?

Back to hockey ... a shame that the refs went whistle happy in this one. I think there was a really good hockey game in there wanting to show itself.

As Oiler fans we can't bitch at being 2-2 in the series. The Wings have outchanced the Oilers in every game so far this series. Granted it has gotten closer every game, this past one I think the Oilers were playing them to about evens whenever there was a stretch of 5on5 hockey. And from an Oiler POV ... improvement was made easier by being so gawd awful in the first game, that's the uber passive game of course, the Oilers coaching staff wears the dunce hat for that one.

What the hell was Peca thinking on the goal that made it 2-2? He went chasing the Detroit D for no reason at all. Net result is a 4 on2 the other way. I know we all make mistakes ... but man, that was brutal, and I can't remember Peca doing that all year. And who was the winger that supported him on the forecheck (Moreau?) ... I mean usually the first forward in makes the decision to pressure or sit back, and the F2 follows his lead ... but we saw Stoll leave Samsonov out ahead chasing shadows on his own in Game2 in a nearly identical play, so maybe the second forward makes his own call.

I was pumped about the Samsonov acquisition, and he has terrific stick skills and is fun to watch ... but if Lowe could have a do-over I think he'd keep Reasoner and the draft pick.

By my eyes Chelios is just relentless on Hemsky. Jawing nonstop whenever he's out against him.

Moreau probably shouldn't be playing, and sure as hell shouldn't be playing critical minutes.

By the Ruffian 'shots directed at net while you were on the ice' metric ... only Smyth and Horcoff are in the black at this in the playoffs at even strength. (i.e. the Oilers have outshot and sent more shots on net than DET when these guys are on the ice). In all other instances the Oilers are getting owned by this measure, and by eye as well, quite obviously I think. The worst by this metric: Murray, Bergeron, Harvey, Hemsky, Torres, Stoll.

Just a feeling, but I sense that there are a few Oiler players that wouldn't mind missing out on the second round of the playoffs as long as they are seen to have tried.

I have a good feeling about today's game. I sense a disasterous game by Legace coming, and the hockey gods, Roloson and Ryan Smyth doing the rest.

Delaying Dubnyk's Deal

I know LT had wondered on his blog what the hold up might be with regards to signing Dubnyk. Anyone else starting to wonder as well?

With Dubnyk's season over it can't be a matter of wanting to see more games. What can it be about other than money?

Interesting quote from Schremp on the matter:

Signing a three-year contract with Edmonton before his return to London also made another year of junior more palatable.

"It makes things a lot easier when they sign you because you could spend the whole year going 'Do they want you?"' Schremp said. "It's kind of a lot of pressure. Signing a contract was a relief. It lets you know you definitely have a spot in their organization."

Should be read anything into Schremp being signed, and Dubnyk still not signed a year later, a month and a day from the deadline before re-entry (should Dubnyk re-enter, the Oilers would receive 44 OV in the 2006 draft as compensation)?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Beasts of Burden

If you consider the Edmonton Oilers forwards corps as the The Rolling Stones then Hemsky and Samsanov are Keith and Mick, The Glimmer Twins. They're the guys with all the skills and therefore they should be the guys driving the fastest cars, bagging the hottest women and holding all the best drugs.

So far that's clearly not the case.

Considering an Oilers first round victory being akin to the process of recording an album then you can imagine the producer sitting at the mixing board and putting all the pieces together. He brings up the drums and bass and there's Smyth and Horcoff chugging along and putting in some good work. So the rhythm section sounds solid. Cue up the rhythm guitar and he hears Stoll, Pisani, Peca and Torres doing a good job as well.

Rem Murray? Well he layed down a backing vocal but it was Yoko Ono-esque and it's never seeing the light of day.

Something's missing from the mix though because the lead vocals and lead guitar are coming in very faintly.

Here's where Samsonov and Hemsky should take over.

Heading into the series and assuming Datsyuk would be effective, which thus far hasn't been the case, it looked like the Samsonov-Stoll-Hemsky trio would draw the lesser of the three Wings line in the trio of Yzerman-Lang-Williams. It made sense that the Oilers could win that matchup but that hasn't been the case. It doesn't look like Yzerman will play tonight and that will only help the Oilers and thus the Samsanov/Hemsky combo but even if he does play there's another avenue where these guys can help the time.

The Oilers powerplay has gone 3/19 in the series thus far but they scored in two of their first three chances so it's currently in a 1/16 lull. That's not a by-product of bad luck either. Pronger isn't hitting the net on a consistent basis, Spacek is an adventure and the powerplay isn't scaring anyone. Game 3 was where the Wings decided to basically try and nullify Pronger on the PP and shadow him with Kris Draper. This doesn't leave a clear four-on-three advantage for the rest of the PP unit but it's pretty damn close. That leaves all kinds of ice down low for Samsonov, Hemsky and Smyth. It's time for Ales to try something other than passing to Spacek three times for an ill-advised one-timer and it's time for Samsonov to take the puck hard to the net and or a defender for a screen and zip a shot to the shelf.

I'm not saying the Wings can't come back from a 3-1 series hole but they were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs the last two season there were hockey. Let's just say a loss tonight wouldn't have just have doubt creeping into their minds. Doubt would infact beat the door down and raid the kitchen. So we should expect the Wings to come out with an inspired effort.

The Oilers have a counterpunch that has so far been mostly pulled and tonight would be a good time to see less Dead Flowers from the 12-83 combo and instead make this a Ruby Thursday.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Few Things About A Few Things

This is stolen from Speeds or RQ who stole it from Cam Cole. In any case it's a good idea so here we go.

- You see the picture that accompanies this post? That's the guy I think will decide how this series plays out at even strenght. Datsyuk looked better in Game 3 than Game 2 but here's just the latest example of how we shouldn't expect a guy to be at full productivity when he hasn't been practicing and/or playing down the stretch. Henrik Lundqvist with the Rangers is another example of this. Heading into the series I overrated how effective Datsyuk would be and I thought the Oilers would make their hay with the 12-16-83 line against Yzerman-Lang-Williams but the opposite has been true. Both Yzerman and Williams have been producing scoring chances and it's only for the indifference and malaise of Lang that the Oilers haven't payed. If Yzerman man can't play in Game 4 and a Mark Mowers type has to draw in then the Oilers might finally have a decided advantage in the line matchups.

- Stoll just doesn't seem to fit in with 12-83 as his wingers but they haven't played together a whole lot either. I don't know what will change first: their chemistry or their linemates. I thought Stoll played a defensive first game in G2 but last night he was looking to create chances and he found himself with a couple of chances to score. If Moreau comes back then the Oilers basically have three centres and 10 forwards overall who are useful. I don't know if MacT will continue to roll four full lines or if he'll go with 10 forwards and two other guys taking the odd double shift.

- It's time for Samsonov or Hemksy to do something, create something, make someone look foolish and make the twine bend. Overall I haven't been overly impressed with Samsanov as people can tell from my previous entries. I think he's good but I think he can be better. He's like that fat girl who needs to lose just 15 pounds and she's be smoking. What's 15 pounds? Probably 5 hard weeks of cardio and dieting. But she doesn't want it bad enough and neither does Sergei in my estimation. As for Ales I keep reminding myself how young he is and reminding myself there's only so much he can do by constantly taking people wide and by not improving his shot.

- The Red Wings are deadly on the powerplay. Deadly in terms of you're shocked when they don't finish a game with at least 20% effectiveness and deadly in terms of how my heart races when they throw the puck around the offensive zone. All this without Datsyuk being at his best.

- The fans pay the freight but they don't play the games. It's clear that the Oilers will have an excellent chance to complete the upset if they continue to trap. I'd bet more than a few dollars they'll play a hard trap once Game 5 comes around on Saturday afternoon at the JLA. But in the here and now the Oilers seem easily swayed by the Rexall fans impatience that's indicated by how nuts they become when someone throws a big bodycheck.

- Two things I can't stop thinking about and talking about: Why isn't Tarnstrom on the PP and when will Rem Murray be yanked from the lineup?

A Few Postgame Thoughts

Man is it ever a young crowd during the playoffs. When you're plowing your way through the congested concourse during the regular season there are whacks of middle aged folks to get past. Come playoffs and the average age must drop at least a decade, maybe more. Where did these kids get their tickets? Where did the oldies go?

I like Rem Murray, always have. I remember a televised game in Nashville back when he was still in his first run as an Oiler. The local broadcaster had the over-ice mics cranked up a bit too high and you could hear some players talking. Anyway, there's a battle for the puck, Murray is in there and some Predator (Aubin I think) goes down like a back of rocks, the ref raises his arm, Murray is going to get a penalty. Then you could hear Rem Murray's voice, this just by memory, but he said in an angry and animated way: "Aw fuck! Get the fuck up you fuckin' pussy!". Accompanied by an extra whack to the Pred on the ice. I mean how can you NOT like the guy? :-)

And I still like him. But he's done as an NHLer. And it pains me to say that.

Hemsky's attempted hit on Chelios was pure gold. Talking about the one where he missed the mark and drove himself into the end boards. It had a homocidal quality about it. Good to see. Besides that the Samsonov-Stoll-Hemsky line was a bag of suck. They were on the ice for a tonne of time in their own end of the rink, and a bunch of Detroit's best scoring chances by my eye.
Having said that; damn! Samsonov and Hemsky are fun to watch.

MacTavish must have had the same fear as Dennis about the kids being overzealous at the start of the game in front of the raucous home crowd. During the first few minutes of the game the Oilers forwards never forechecked a lick. Just fell back into a 2-2-1 even when it didn't really make sense. Then the Peca line broke that pattern and they rolled on.

Horcoff had a terrific game.

The music guy played "Cotton Eyed Joe" at the game last night. Whatever happened to the guy who did that crazy dance to that tune, up and down the stairs in that reckless way. He was great, but I haven't seen him in a few years. I miss him, he was good.

I like Chelios. Then again I also liked Behn Wilson. :-) Yesterday a friend of mine told me about a game vs Detroit at Rexall, DET won and Chelios was one of the game stars. Of course those guys usually don't come out for the 3-star call on the road, or if they do it's just for a 15 foot loop and a quick wave of the stick. Chelios came out all the way around centre ice, bowing and blowing kisses. :D Priceless. Also: if Hallmark made a "Sorry I Accidentally Speared You" card, this guy would be buying them in bulk, there's an Eddie Shore quality about the guy.
Having said that, Chelios needs to be burnt in effigy outside Rexall before game 4, just to show the hockey gods that we're serious.

WTF was Legace thinking on the OT winner. Seemed pretty lackadaisical turning around, did he not know where the puck was?

I heard Babcock on the 1260AM postgame radio show bitching about the officiating.

Some guys, like Stoll, look like they are living out a childhood dream with every shift. And some guys, like Lang, look like they are thinking about how beautiful Prague is this time of year.

Detroit played more aggressively in this one than we're used to seeing from them. Still sat back at times, but not as much as expected.

I heard on the radio that some of the Detroit fans in the crowd had a rough go of it. That's a shame, I mean if they are being assholes it's fair enough to torment them, in fact it's your duty to as an Oiler fan. But if they are being civil ... then it's just bad form to pick on them.

The throwing beef on the ice thing seems kind of lame to me. But the attempted getaway of the fat guy in the white shirt ... that was pure gold! :D

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Rifleman

Well not really. I don't ever want to belittle a playoff goal and especially when it's a guy's first NHL marker but there were guys who played a bigger role in Sat's win than Brad Winchester. To be fair though Winchester threw a couple of big hits on his first shift and he did make a nice tip on a Tarnstrom shot in the first period so it's not like he was Petr Klima flying off the bench and into our hearts that night in Boston. Before I forget though I should give some props to the guy in charge of finalizing the Oilers deadline day deal with St.Louis because young Brad was rumored to be on his way to the Show Me State for former Oilers and former playoff suckbot Dean McAmmond. But the deal didn't get done in time and Winchester had a second life with the Oil.

Today he made sure this series has a real set of legs.

But he wasn't alone.

I think there's always the temptation to break out the "this is why we got Peca" line for everytime the former Selke Winner plays a good game. For today though the numbers say he played the most minutes for a forward not named Horcoff or Smyth, he made a crafty and lightning quick move to set up the 2-2 goal and he on no less than two occasions tied up an otherwise open Wings forward when Roloson threw out a bigger rebound than Vince Vaughn. That's a Jennifer Aniston joke and I know it's lame and I love Vince Vaughn but under normal circumstances he isn't pulling tail like Aniston.

But back to the game and a little more on Peca.

He only scored 11 goals in '04 so maybe we shouldn't be surprised that he couldn't score in a whorehouse with A-Rod's plastic. I will say that he still gets his chances but it just doesn't go his way. That's the status of him in terms of closing. When it comes to setting up then 37 is starting to show a little chemistry with Pisani and it will be interesting to see how that works out. A guy like RiversQ will tell me that replacing Dvorak with Pisani won't lead to more offense but then again I have eyes so I know that RQ's wrong on this one.

You know I'm an Oilers fan living in St. John's so I don't really give two fucks about where Oilers players are from. If you're an Albertan and that bothers you well I don't really give two fucks about that either. All that being said I'm a big fan of this local product. I didn't see anything promising about him through his many visiting AHL games here and I remember that night in Anaheim when he made his debut and I wondered why he was there. But the guy is solid. Good skater, hard worker and smart as fuck. I was shocked when he let Jerk Maltby get by him on Friday night for the 2-2 goal but he bounced back today in a big way.

There are a lot of guys on the Oilers who should get better. Guys like Bergeron, Hemsky, Stoll and Torres in particular. Matt Greene too obviously but he's not all that visible this time of year. A guy like Horcoff isn't going to get a helluva lot better IMO but that's also fine with me. He played his guts out today. Not a great skater and doesn't have a shot to speak of but he just gets things done. He did make a dumb play by not getting the puck deep late in regulation when he'd gained the Wings blueline but he doesn't even have 20 playoff games on his resume and he isn't playing on a team that wins a lot past mid-April. So while he won't get that much better he will get smarter. Smyth has a lot of try right now and he's putting up some screens in front of Legace but he's gotta jam the net a couple of times and make sure he gets to the rebounds. He's lagging a little offensively as far as I'm concerned.

Bergeron's a guy who didn't have a good game and he'll probably have a seat on Monday night. MacT has the last change so he can bring in Ulanov and make sure that Igor plays primarily against the Wings fourth line. Igor at least to my eye is also a pretty good penalty killer. It seems he only makes the big gaffes when he has time to think and the PK is mostly reactionary work. This team winds up walking on eggshells if either 21-24-6-44 winds up in the box. Igor can help out in this regard and he's also dirty and won't mind throwing an elbow in the face of Zetterberg or Datsyuk.

If we're talking defense we're talking Pronger. I'm dead serious here when I say I would forever hate Pronger if Yzerman had beaten the post along with Roloson on that dash down the left wing early in the final frame. First things first and that means he shouldn't be able to take Pronger to the outside. Yzerman's just turned 68 last Saturday and he has about a half of a knee left. I would also suggest that in the future Pronger haul down a Wing in that position and take the chance the Oilers can kill the penalty. But it all ended well and I can instead focus on Pronger finishing +4, picking up another couple of points and putting the fear of God into all my fellow poolies. Quick story here. I did a draft pool on Thursday night and it was just $20 so I decided I'd take a few Oilers and if they make it to the second round then I'll have a great chance of winning. BTW I took Smyth and Hemsky as well which may explain while I'm being a bit coarse with Smyth.

I think most fans believe Sergei Samsonov to be better than he actually is and I don't think you find it out until he's on your squad. He's like that hot girl your buddy picked up at the bar and he tells you that she sucks in bed. You don't believe it so you pick her up and you're damned if he's not right. You tell the same story but you have another friend who tries to pick her up. I'm not saying Samsonov has to make an impact every night but when you look at what he can do then I think he should be better.

Ron McLean seemed awfully impressed with Hemsky but for the life of me I can't figure out why. I don't think he turned the puck over a whole bunch but he didn't make much happen either. Though I'd change my tune if that set-up with Samsonov had worked late in the third period. Ales should eventually get to the point where he's worth at least one golden scoring chance a game. He's not there yet though so we'll take what we can get.

LT says Stoll's a 3 and not a 2 and that means he doesn't think he has the offensive to score like a second line centre. Jarrett's second half stats do nothing to contradict Lain's theory. Stoll was a magnet for pucks today but he stood in there and was as hard on the puck as any forward. His bosom buddy Torres looked like a total tit late in the final frame when he tried a cutesy backwards tip about five feet from his own blueline. It was a play that illustrated how some of our kids don't understand situational precedure and it was such a stupid idea that I cursed loud enough to have actually hurt my soul. On the positive side Torres had a wicked shift in the first period when he layed Shanahan, Chelios and then went into the crowd and found Ted Lindsay and punched him in the face for good measure.

I can't wait for game three in Edmonton for a number of reasons but the main one is I don't think there's any question the Oilers will win at least one of the games. MacTavish has the matchups on his side and this means the Oilers fourth line against the Wings fourth line and it means Zetterberg won't see a whole lot of room. If Datsyuk doesn't get his legs and lungs up to speed then I think we'll be just fine. The Oilers fourth line du jour did grow on me today. I'd be shocked if MacT doesn't give Laraque a mercy start and Moreau will be in there if at all possible. As good as Winchester played I don't think he'll stay on the top line but I also don't think he'll get the gate. It looks like Rem Murray's latest Oilers career will mercifully come to an end.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Babcock On Home Ice vs The Big 3

Three teams in the west are pretty clearly reliant on one line/player. These are San Jose, Colorado and Anaheim. Unless you are a diehard fan of one of those teams, I think that's pretty obvious.

Detroit played these three teams once each on home ice in the last third of the season, between February 12th and March 23rd. They won all three games.

This is who Babcock chose to play against Sakic, Selanne and Thornton in these games:

A few of my thoughts:

* THIS is the year that Draper should get Selke consideration. He's back to tough minutes this season, from the get go by the looks of it.

* The "Yzerman vs the other team's best players" experiment that we saw early in the season was well and truly over by February. In fact by these splits he must have been getting the shifts immediately after Thornton et al, in a conscious effort to avoid them.

* Babcock doesn't trust Lang against good players. We won't see scenes like Iginla dominating Lang at the JLA this playoff season, because it looks damn unlikely that he'll be out against that quality of player. (I miss Lewis :-( (

* Lidstrom really does do it all, doesn't he? I mean in order to see this much of guys like Thornton, he must be getting most of the shifts after a DET PP as well as playing the first half of the PP itself. Plus huge PP and 5on5 points totals ... just give the man the Norris.

* Zetterburg only played one game with tough minutes. He was plus 1 and Thornton was -1 iirc, though I don't know how the flow of play or scoring chances went head to head there. He can do it all, this one, victimize the checkers or go toe to toe with the best. A lot like Alfredsson.

* The starboard side seems pretty fluid. Drifting away from Maltby by the looks of this. A weakness I think.

* Carlyle is a bit of a slippery bugger with spotting in the Selanne line on the road. We saw that at Rexall recently as well. The guy probably deserves more props than he gets.

So, any thoughts?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Special teams battle

Yes, DET has splendid special teams. But the Oilers aren't all bad either.

On the year DET was 1st on the PP at 22.1%, and 3rd on the PK at 85.5%. They were SH and on the PP 461 times each.

EDM was 14th on the PP at 18.1% with 485 PP opps, and 8th in PK at 84.1% with 478 SH opps.

DET's net special teams were:

(PPGF - SHG allowed) - (PKGA - SHG for)
= (102-10) - (67-7)
= + 32

EDM's net special teams were:

= (88-5) - (76-15)
= + 22

When netting the sh goals against PP and PK I notice the following:

(1) EDM's PK was better than DET's on a net basis, over the course of the season.

(2) EDM's PP gains ground on DET's PP, but is still far worse, when netted.

NET PP and PK numbers:


DET: 86.98%
EDM: 87.24%


DET: 19.96%
EDM: 17.11%

Additionally, since the Oilers have acquired Samsonov their PP went 18 for 90, exactly 20% (not sure how many SHG were allowed in that time frame). Noticeably better, but of course there are sample size issues. In any event, by my eye the Oilers were kind of unlucky on the PP since they acquired Samsonov; their stats could easily have been better. That could just be faulty memory (ie. remember the big saves, forget the lucky goals), but thought it worth mentioning in any case.

Numbers since March (not netted for SHG):

DETPP: 18.38% - 136 opp
EDMPP: 18.80% - 117 opp

DETPK: 85.83% - 127 opp
EDMPK: 86.67% - 120 opp

Admittedly the sample sizes are small here, are they too small to make conclusions?

All this to say that I think the special teams battle, while likely tilted in DET's favor, isn't as tilted as one might be led to believe. Of course the series is such a small run anything could happen, but based on expected value (assuming 50 PP and PK opps per team, and using the season long net numbers) one would expect EDM to be 0.127 goals better than DET on the PK, and DET to be 1.422 goals better than EDM on the PP (open question, am I doing this right by subtracting the DETPK% from EDM's PK%, and multipling by 50? Opposite for PP?) for a net differential of ~ 1.3 goals in DET's favor. And as mentioned above I think that's a bit closer due to Samsonov's addition.

This Series Needs Better Quotes

Good Lord, NHL players are so conscious of "giving them something to post on their dressing room wall" that they tiptoe around questions about the opposition, gracious and respectful. i.e. Player and coach interviews before a playoff series are as boring as church.

This is where boxing beats the pants off of hockey. Soccer in the southern half of Europe as well. Much bravado and controversy before a match there, always. Much more fun.

And since the players won't say it themselves, I'll look into their eyes and tell you what they are thinking:

Craig MacTavish: "How well would Detroit have done in the Northwest Division?! Good question [pause] Hmm, I dunno, how well would Martina Navritalova have done if she'd played against the men at Wimbledon? Not very well I think. I don't think the Wings would be a playoff team."

Raffi Torres: "I'm going to make Legace my personal bitch in Game 1. I'm going high blocker side for the first goal, five-hole for the second goal and a tricky little offspeed nine-hole goal to complete the hat trick in embarrassing fashion."

Chris Pronger: "I'm going to hurt Datsyuk and Lang. Seriously, if I can catch the little chickenshits I'm going to hammer them through the boards. That's all I care about. I want to be sure I get a piece of those little pricks early, because this series won't last long, we can beat that team in 4 or 5 games without trying."

Jason Smith: "The journey to the Stanley Cup is a long one. This series with Detroit should be a good warmup for us. Get us into the zone for the rest of the playoffs."

Georges Laraque: "I'm going to score 20 goals in this series! Oh, and Chelios is ugly, stupid and physically afraid of me."

There ya go. That's much better, isn't it?

Feel free to add more. :-)

Oilers vs Detroit In The Regular Season: Game 1.

I know that very few Oiler fans give a damn about this sort of detailed analysis, but the handful that do all seem to read and/or post here. So here goes:

The first game against the Wings, in Detroit, early November. Markkanen vs Osgood (the former was clearly the goalie in this game). The Oilers on a bit of a winning streak before this one, 3 games with Ws I think, and Peca was out with a concussion served up by Rick Nash a couple or a few nights before. Wings were healthy.

The Oilers won on a Torres OT winner, a 2 on 1 with Staios(?), Raffi had hovered while Dvorak hustled back and got the puck in the Oiler zone, deep along the left wall, he moved it forward to Torres then hustled back to the bench quickly enough to not get a + . Looked like Raffi just tried to get it off his stick in a hurry on ther return feed, to get it on net and airborne quickly (Mike Bossy style) but he misfired and it still went in low. (There is a lot to be said for a quick release methinks, but I digress.)

The team wearing copper and blue won the game and there was much joy in Oilerville. Except for Dennis who was pissed that they were outchanced in the game (he was both right and ridiculed :D ).

Anyhow, a closer look at how Babcock and MacTavish ran the bench. I have a pretty good memory for this sort of thing from a forwards POV, especially Oiler forwards, and rely entirely on the shift chart reader for the icetime/pairings/matchups of the D for both squads.

Oiler lines:



Detroit lines:




MacTavish stuck with these forward lines pretty consistently. The obvious exceptions being that Dvorak was subbed in for Hemsky for defensive zone draws or unfavourable matchups (both Shanahan and Lidstrom on the ice, etc). And in similar situations, the same with Torres being subbed for Smyth, or more often Horcoff with Stoll bumped to the wing. Smith in for Bergeron when it was tight late and Babcock loaded up for some shifts.

BTW: How DID those three Oiler youngsters NOT end up with the best 5on5 numbers on this squad on the year? Talk about being gifted easy minutes and/or quality linemates. Criminy. I like them all and suspect that they will all be Oilers for a long time, still ... 8-|


A few bits and pieces for now, I'll come back to this if there is enough interest and people have things to add, but some tidbits for now, the most important things I think:

* Babcock liked the Yzerman/Draper pairing for tough minutes. A blind man could see that their counting numbers and EV+/- were going to take a shitkicking, even at that early point in the season. You don't win a Selke playing tough minutes, you just don't. I heard Farber on the radio yesterday talking about how Yzerman has really been looking better since January ... I'd assume this coincides with Babcock's shift in philosophy to Z and Shanny (sensibly so imho ... and i haven't followed DET closely enough to know, just a guess at this point, but more on that another day).

* Lidstrom (vs Smyth) and Pronger (vs Shanahan) easily logged the toughest minutes for their team's D. And Babcock was loose with the D pairings, seemed to be trying to keep at least one of Lidstrom, Schneider or Chelios on the ice at all times though.

* Babcock was short shifting to run Shanahan/Lang out against the Oilers 4th line ... forcing MacTavish to shorten the bench early.

* MacTavish was trying to run the Reasoner line against Datsyuk.

* Babcock was running Yzerman vs Smyth.

* Babcock had the extra card to play with the Shanahan/Lang line, and they owned the Stoll and Brodziak lines but couldn't score on this night. Ended up a minus 1 on the evening (vs the Smyth line in a rare shift, I can't remember Horcoff's goal from Smyth and Pronger though, anybody?)


That's all for now.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Oilers Given An 18% Chance Of Winning The Series

This from offshore oddsmakers, I know at least a few Oiler fans take their opinion seriously. This is the early line, won't change much. That's -550/425.

Meaning that if you were wagering on Detroit --> in order to win $100 profit you'd need to bet $550.
And if you are wagering on Edmonton --> a $100 bet fetches a $425 profit.

With a low theoretical hold of course (3.5%). There is no room for these guys to move if they get heavy action on one side of the bet, the margins are too small. Only thing they can do is move one end of the line out a bit ... say move DET to -570 if they get too much on that side, just to encourage the heavy bettors to find a better deal elsewhere.

Not really surprising, but a lower chance for the Oilers than I had thought. :-( I suspect that most bookies will be needing the Oilers to win to make money with this one.


The positive, and there is ALWAYS a positive, just a matter of finding it :-) ... if they get the split in Detroit then things look brighter (up to about 25%).

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Optimism Abounds In Oilerville

Before the season started, then moreso after the acquisitions of Tarnstrom and Spacek, and especially after the trade deadline deals ... Oiler fans everywhere were optimistic I think. Certainly myself. Hell, even Dennis.

When the results didn't roll in as expected there was much consternation from long suffering Oiler fans. The boys at BofA, CinO and Cosh expressed the anxiety pretty well I think, you don't have to go back very far on those sites to find gnashing of teeth. They captured the recent feeling of the Oiler faithful pretty well. Hell, the normally unflappable Lowetide was on the brink of actually stepping in to interview coaches on behalf of the Oilers.

The fan boards were in a state of utter hysteria. Yet when the Oilers won a game or two the optimism was madass.

Mudcrutch remained a slave to reason, but I suspect that his heart and head were on different sides of the argument. Dennis predicted doom, but I think that's at least partly a defense mechanism, a "make yourself believe the worst will happen, then be pleasantly surprised if it doesn't" kind of thing. He was an Expos fan, this way of thinking was a survival mechanism for those cats. :-)

So we talk about how hard it is to be an Oiler fan in this era, and I can't disagree. The emotional rollercoaster and all that. And now the Oilers finish in eighth and are poised to play a team that has been on a season long tear ... with an Oiler roster featuring some young players whose impressive points totals would be league best if the NHL also counted assists for goals-against.

I remind everyone of this because clearly people have forgotten. Check out this poll on HFboards. At the time I write this 80% of Oiler fans are predicting victory for our beloved home team ... and the madass optimism is back, baby!
Unbiased third party sez: Good Lord, pass the ether!

Personally I think that MacTavish's restructuring of the lineup offers some hope, and the hockey gods are yet to have their say, and what they say matters a lot in a best of seven series. Still, let's plan ahead. What should we do if it goes for a shit? I mean Detroit is a damn good hockey team, they just are. It really could happen, the Oil really could lose, hell it's even likely.

So this time, let's not get caught unaware and unprepared, do like me and plan ahead. You can go one of three routes:

1. Prepare your list of players and other people in the Oilers organization that you demand are fired. Do it now, be ready.

2. Convince yourself that the Oilers are a giant back of suck with less than a one in billion chance of beating Detroit. (N.B. Be sure to say "I told you so, dumbasses!" if you're right, and say "I've never been more glad to be wrong!" if the Oilers win.)

3. Kick reason to the curb and find a way to blame it all on Bettman! (Unrelated tidbit: Schadenfreude is my favourite kind of strudel, great with coffee!)

BTW: Preseason over/under for the Oilers was 94.5 points.

As for my own gut feel on the playoffs this year, I cannot find the words so I'll use a picture. Of course here, as always, the Oilers are being represented by angry ice cream sandwiches and the Wings are being depicted by a kitten.

Reason be damned. Ya gotta believe!

Go Oilers!!!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Let's Do A Few Lines Shall We?

That may be a thinly veiled reference towards former Wings forward Bob Probert's coke habit but hey why the heck not?

It's playoff season and it seems like Proby did some of his best playoff carousing in the city of Edmonton.

If you're a fan of a MacT coached team and if you're paying attention then you know he's a big fan of matchups. There's no debating matchups could have a lot to do with whether the Oilers give the Wings a push in the first round.

So from today's Edmonton Journal we learn that MacTavish has once again thrown the names into a hat, well not really;) and here's what he's come up with.


I would imagine this means MacT will tackle the Wings top offensive line with a power versus power approach and he's inserted Dvorak onto this top line to lend some defensive conscience to the tandem of Horc and Smyth. There's no reason to believe this won't work as those guys posted decent +/- numbers when he used them in the same role in '04 albeit with Pisani in Hemsky's stead. Their numbers have sagged this year but with Hemsky turning pucks over at the other team's blueline and not exactly being hard on the backcheck I don't know if Bob Gainey and Mike Peca The Good could've posted above average +/- numbers while saddled with this guy. So we'll look at Dvorak replacing Pisani as a barometer of how this line should fare and Dvorak's probably a little better defensively than Fernando but he's not as good offensively. So over a long stretch this change would probably mean less goals for but also less goals against. Of course anything could happen in a short series but here's one really good guess: if Dvorak's playing with skilled guys like Horc and Smyth we can expect him to blow at least two golden scoring chances. So just buy some extra furniture right now.


A few of us, OK it's just been me;), have been openly clamouring for the construction of this unit. BTW, did anyone else notice who Ales's linemates were when he scored the winner against the Ducks?:)

To me this line makes perfect sense especially during home games when MacT has last change. You go power vs power with the newly revamped Horcoff line, you throw out your Peca line to keep things even and then you come with this line against the other team's third best line and you should be pretty confident they can outscore said opposition. 12 and 83 have shown good chemistry during their powerplay time together and I think Stoll's offensively capable enough to at least keep up with these guys. Truth be told we might be pleasently surprised at how well Stoll fares. He's played this season mostly with Torres and Dvorak on his wings so his latest assigment gives him just a little bit of an upgrade;)


The old line on IOF is that you can go get a coffee when Peca's on the ice because nothing happens at either end of the ice. I think that might change just a little with Pisani subbing in for Dvorak because one guy has hands and the other doesn't. Plus this may lead to a small increase in scoring chances allowed. Overall I love the new lines from MacT but I will caution about one thing. Normally fans of the Oilers would be thinking these lines would hold the fort and we'd win on special teams but if the Oilers are to beat the Wings it's probably gonna be because their PP turned red hot or they outscored the Wings at a significant margain at even strenght. The Wings will get the benefit of every call and their PP is deadly so it's hard to imagine the Oilers being able to match them in PP goals scored. The old way, say the season of '04 for instance, was the Oilers would win by killing you at 5-on-5 and then trying to minimize the inevitable loss on special teams. This season they've subbed in Pronger for Brewer yet their advantage at even strenght has lessened considerably. I'd argue that has a heckuva lot to do with Hemsky in a power vs power role but that's for another time. But to follow up the skinny on this line I'd say it's not enough for these guys to play even and we'll need some scoring from this line.


Is this gonna be a series where you could use the headline "Detriot Laraque City"? Or maybe I just concocted that scenario so I could use that line. I haven't felt this dirty since I was perusing LT''s blog and used a MAP thread to break out my "Wasting Away In JaniRita Ville" line. We know BG can make a difference in the playoffs and we know he whips the Rexall crowd into a frenzy not since since George Fox did a 10 minute version of "The Night The Barn Burned Down." In any case I have a hard time believe MacT's gonna replace Harvey with Murray so maybe tonight's just an occasion to shake the rust off Rem. Or maybe MacT believes in dependability and battle tested veterans TM. The biggest news is Torres as essentially the 10th forward. I'm not surprised with this move. If Raffi starts scoring then he'll be moved into the top nine and rightfully so. If he doesn't get any chances then BG will pass him in the depth chart. Torres is all or nothing at this point and these latest lines confirms that. The earlies draft of the sked has these teams playing every other night so unless there are some significant injuries I just can't see this line getting a whole lot of icetime anyway. If we're down by a goal heading into the third I wouldn't be shocked to see BG subbing in for Dvorak and especially on a faceoff in the offensive end. I really don't know how or where Raffi might spell in but maybe for Samsonov. That sounds like a stretch I know but did anyone else notice Sergei wasn't exactly drawing a regular shift in the last game versus the Ducks?

Ken Hitchcock's Playoff PK Theory

Several years ago I remember hearing Ken Hitchcock talk about special teams in the playoffs. He said that familiarity benefited the defender. That the penalty kill would grow stronger as a playoff series progressed. This also because the PKers would have more time to practice and prepare to face the same players, and that practice time for the PP didn't make much difference.

I believed him. It just all makes sense. :-) In fact it gave me reason to believe that the Oilers might have more of a chance against the Red Wings powerplay in the playoffs.

Turns out there isn't much to support it at all. I went out to prove him right just now (albeit in a quick and easy way) and it didn't work out so well.

I wrote a script to grab the goals data from the gamesheets for the last four NHL playoff years (that is as far back as they go).

Here are the results for the last 60 NHL playoff series -->

Obviously there are more game 1s (15 per season) than there are game 7s (about 6 per season). Still, we should be able to spot a trend if there is one. And there just isn't. Unless I've made a glaring mistake somewhere ... there is nothing in it. :-(

Saturday, April 15, 2006

My Heart Wants Detroit In The Playoffs

And my head wants Dallas.

I'm sick of watching our beloved Oilers get rolled by the Stars in the playoffs. But really, there aren't that many familiar faces on either team from the days when they really owned the Oilers. And in the spring of 2003 the Oilers outchanced, outshot, outplayed and outscored the Stars at 5on5 ... an anemic powerplay and a few weak goals let them down. But it wasn't the David vs Goliath show like in years previous, not to my mind anyways.

Anyhow, I've been reading some stuff around the internet, and I've been trying to convince myself that Detroit is the better choice. But I cannot quite do it.

Just ran the numbers, and I have EDM at 4.16, DET at 5.04 and DAL at 4.52. That means that with both teams relatively healthy, and played in a neutral site, DET would be favoured over the Oilers by 0.88 goals (5.04 minus 4.16).

Parlay that through for a best of seven series with EDM as the road team:

A 22% chance of the Oilers beating Detroit in a series.
A 35% chance of the Oilers beating Dallas in a series.

Those are the odds that you'll probably see from your bookie, or damn close to it, assuming that Shawn Horcoff and Chris Pronger don't get hit by a bus this weekend. :-) . And skinny margins to boot (likely practical holds of under 4% for this type of thing ... that's less than a slot machine). My recommendation would be to NOT bet on the Oilers with these lines, they'd have to be squeezed down a few percent in both cases before it's a good wager.

For any Western Conference playoff bound team ... it is obviously best to avoid both of these guys in the first round, but that ship has already sailed for the Oilers. It's down to choosing the lesser of the evils.

My vote goes to Dallas. And I doubt that I can convince any other Oiler fans to agree with me, but that's okay :-)

Step 1: Go Canucks!

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Icetime vs Selanne

Selanne is clearly the principal threat on the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. They rely on this guy to win them games heavily, on the PP as well, but especially at 5on5.

So, since I know you all love charts :-) the Oilers icetime vs Selanne at 5on5, expressed as a percentage of Selannes 5on5 minutes.

First the D:

So, by way of example: 65% of Selanne's 5on5 icetime came against Pronger, and about 1% of it against Bergeron.

And the forwards:

That is all.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Parlaying The Odds: The Oilers Playoff Chances

Well, the bookmakers are listing the Oilers as having a 54% chance of winning tonight, and the Canucks a 37% chance of winning. The Avs a 40% chance of winning.

No early lines posted yet for the remaining games, but if they are still meaningful for all teams involved; then VAN will be given about a 50% chance of winning at home vs COL and EDM a 53% chance of winning against COL at home. Or within 1% of that anyways. Steady pegging for OTL point chances these teams.

Parlay that through and the Oilers have about a 72% chance of making the playoffs in 8th place or better, and a 5% of making them ahead of the Avalanche (which would mean ALSO finishing ahead of the Nucks, and get them 7th spot).

Disagree with the bookies? Sure you're right? Then bet against them! They're only running at 3.5% margins (holds) here. :-)


BTW: What happens with baseball? The offshore houses that drive the lines are running with 2.5% holds. That's nuts, it means that not only do they know the probabities of wins REALLY well, but they also know the mistakes that the bettors will make, and in what measure. Crazy stuff.

Editted to correct for stupitidy.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Have You Seen Junior's Grades?

Maybe the hockey gods are being nice to the Oilers simply because they enjoy the misery known as an Edmonton/Dallas playoff series. You know the one. It's that series where the Oilers lose four games-to-two with three of the losses being by one goal. Then the Oilers hit their summer cottages content with the fact they're just one goal a game away from getting to the second round.


Something has to be happening somewhere because as many chances as the Oilers give the Canucks to grab onto the final playoff spot Vancouver just keeps on handing it back to them.

I won't say tonight's Canucks OT loss to San Jose transpired in spectacular fashion because the Sharks have been otherworldly since the time O'Connell, Jacobs and Sinden dropped E and traded Thornton to Northern California. But when you consider the Canucks had a lead on home ice with less than five minutes to go and managed to blow it then it's hard not to wonder if faith might not just be on the Oilers side.

Tonight's win for San Jose assured them a playoff spot but for those that think that means they might mail it in on Thurs night against Vancouver consider a couple of things. Well three actually. SJ is 19-5-5 at home since Joe T arrived, the Canucks are 3-8 in the back end of back-to-back games and right now the Sharks have a clear path to 5th place and thus a matchup with the Chris Mason lead Nashville Predators.

So would anyone else be stunned if the Canucks even haul a point out of The Tank come Thursday night in SJ?

But what will the Oilers will do if presented with a chance to salvage this season and who'll be leading them next year if they don't.

If you think that as an Oilers fan you're burnt out by watching this team go up and down then how do you think Craig MacTavish feels? Of course you don't have to think how he feels because you already know it.

He's basically one stick foul away from throttling Ales Hemsky.

Never one to leave any doubt how he's feeling and always being a good quote MacT has gotten to the point where he's downright negative in the press. He's like a pre 2004 Red Sox fan who's just had his third wife leave him. MacT has always been known to use the press to motivate his players but he's never been one to verbally throw his hands in the air and expect the worst.

But in this morning's dailies the guy was John Torterella like.

So what needs to happen for him to come back and just what's lead to his total lack of patience? There's no question there's never been more pressure on Oilers management. For years they promised things would be different on the ice once they were different off the ice and the latter climate has indeed changed but the former hasn't. Just to turn up the heat a little more Lowe went out and picked up some nice baubles at the trade deadline and before that as well and all of a sudden even rational fans thought this Oilers team was formidable. It simply hasn't happened and MacT's demeanour has gone from one of cautious optimism to decidedly defeatist.

I don't think anything less than a second round appearance will satiate a legion of fans that's long been loyal in the face of financially insurmountable odds. And when a "poor" team like the Ducks or Flames made a charge late into spring Lowe would pop out of his hole to assure everyone this was the exception and certainly not the rule. Well here we are in the new NHL and both of the aforementioned teams are good bets to make the second round.

Where are the Oilers again?

As expectations have changed so has the head coach's profile. If Lowe's bringing in all these pieces and the team still isn't rolling then eyes will all of a sudden be cast upon the one manning the melting pot. Is he stirring the mix in the wrong manner?

It's no longer fun and games for MacTavish. When making the playoffs is considered celebration enough then there's nothing to lose. But when you're talking about the second round being the target and the team can't even get it together enough to guarantee entry into the first round then times have changed. And it seems like MacTavish is changing with them.

I'd say we're watching his last game leading this franchise barring a second round appearance or a number of injuries or bad luck that provides the Oilers with a legitimate excuse for not making the second round.

There might even be a little piece of him that thinks he's being tuned out or that he can't quite simply can't wring everything out of this club and I think he's smart enough to head to different pastures before another stink has a chance to permanently attach itself to him.

The Hockey Nomad Goes To Russia

Dave Bidini is a guitarist in the Rheostatics. It turns out that he is also one damn good documentary film maker.

His brief documentary "The Hockey Nomad Goes To Russia" was filmed during the 04/05 lockout season, and It's terrific stuff, I highly recommend it. It is being replayed tonight on CBC Newsworld at 10 PM ET/PT.

I remember seeing this film during the lockout. The last stop, in the city of Omsk, was terrific. The clips from the crowd during the game there was great stuff, it reminded me why I was a hockey fan. If my memory is right, they were playing AK Bars Kazan, who had loaded up on expensive NHLers. And it was a hell of a game.

Jaromir Jagr, of all people, chose to play in Omsk. It was a rejuvenating year for the enigmatic Czech in this smallish Siberian city. There are some great stories from that season with Jagr if you ever google for them. Jaromir had apparently seriously considered staying there instead of coming back to the New York Rangers, and sometime around Halloween he mentioned to a reporter that he was still considering moving back to play their in the 06/07 season.

I notice in Matheson's weekend blurb in the Edmonton Journal that Jagr is saying he plans to spend his summer in Omsk.

I think that this is also the town where they followed a young kid, just 13 or 14 years old, who is supposed to be a big thing in the future. You see the pressure on the kid, how much the family is relying on him to make it. Fascinating stuff, something outside of what we could really experience here.

I think that I've been to Omsk myself, or more properly "through" it on the Trans-Siberian railway, but I don't remember it. I took that journey just after the wall fell, about '91 I think. At the time the former Soviet Union was in a state of flux, and I really wasn't sure if it would be open to tourists from the west for much longer. Inspired by a book I read, and arranged by the world's most incompetent travel agent (Gary in London: "I can't get you the tickets to you in England, just get to Moscow, go to the big white building behind the Bolshoi, up the stairs, through the arch to your right, it's about two or three doors down, just ask for Uri" what a fuckwad old Gary was, but I digress) I remember that area though, just east of the Urals, geographically a lot like Wyoming, a beautiful place. The word 'Siberia' conjures up all sorts of unpleasant images, but I thought that most of it looked like a relatively good, albeit isolated, place to live.

And something about the place or the experience has resonated with Jagr. Good for him.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Items that might one day grow into a blog post

I think I'm stealing this one from Cam Cole, but I can't really remember who used to do this for the Journal back in the day...

(It's mostly being done because I don't really want to write coherent paragraphs.)

First, my game review:

- I watched the game tonight and it was more than a little depressing. The Oilers came out in the first period and forechecked like absolute demons and had the Red Wings looking very flustered. It reminded me very much of recent Oiler playoff games. Very impressive work from Smyth, Peca, Dvorak and Horcoff but all it really yielded was a handful of minor penalties by the forecheckers deep in the zone, one of which was converted by some schmuck named MacLean.

- The Oilers just struggled in the second by my eye - they toned down the heavy forecheck but were still unable to get the puck into dangerous areas for much of the period. They lost a ton of battles along the boards all game, but in this period in particular. The Oilers routinely sent two men into the corner with one Red Wing and sure enough lost almost every battle. Even Pronger lost a fair number tonight.

- In the third they come out like gangbusters on the forecheck for the first shift, the Detroit dman makes a total blunder ( a blind prayer of a pass up the right wing) that Horcoff fails to handle while Spacek makes a bizarre pseudo-pinch near the players' bench. The end result is Draper leading a 2-on-Pronger that gets buried behind Roloson. Wonderful. The Oilers mostly struggle to generate pressure in the offensive zone with the puck for the rest of the period.

- Other random observations:
  • Dvorak had a brilliant chance on that onetimer (in the 2nd I believe).
  • Torres went all-out on an offensive zone faceoff that was lost by Stoll leading to a nice chance for Samsonov.
  • Moreau had a brilliant chance on a cross-crease pass from Dvorak, but was tied up and drew the penalty.
  • Horcoff was flying tonight and had a clearcut breakaway opportunity that he couldn't slide between Legace's pads.
  • Smyth had probably the only other quality chance of the game, but Legace came across the net well and got his pad down.
  • Samsonov and Hemsky were mostly ineffective. Lots of flash and dash, but no substance.
  • Roloson played fine.
  • The PP struggled all night generating real scoring opportunities. While the puck possession is not something I've ever seen an Oiler PP capable of, they really seem stuck on a handful of set plays - the Hemsky-to-Spacek onetimer and the Pronger point shot and neither player can hit the net consistently. It lacks imagination and looks like it might be over-coached again.

Other things...

- Pouliot continues to play rather well. I'm looking forward to seeing more from him. He barely touched the ice tonight and that's probably a good idea, but when he's out there he just seems like a decent pro.

- Horcoff vs. Jokinen. I'll post about this at some point, but that is a really interesting comparison given the completely ridiculous contract that Jokinen just snagged. Before this year, Jokinen has been outperformed by Horcoff in terms of ESP/hr, PPP/hr, +/- and I imagine EV+/- as well. In addition, by looking at the 03/04 shift charts, I found that Horcoff appeared to have considerably more difficult strength of opposition. This year, even though Jokinen appears to be breaking out again they have almost identical scoring rates. So if Jokinen is worth 4yrs - $21MM, what is Horcoff going to get? Of course, Horcoff isn't a pending UFA, but I'm having trouble finding a single piece of data that suggests that Jokinen is a better player than Shawn Horcoff, so he's got some serious leverage in my opinion.

- Jaroslav Spacek probably isn't coming back. He's having a career year by every measure and he's coming off a post-lockout $2.25MM/yr contract. What hurts more is that Morris ($3.9MM/yr), Norstrom ($4.25MM/yr) and Gauthier ($2.1MM/yr) were all signed to extensions. I'm pretty convinced that Norstrom is an elite dman in this league so his number doesn't mean much. However, I'm quite certain Spacek's a better player than Gauthier and I could be convinced that he's in the same ballpark as Morris. I can't see the Oilers making a strong enough pitch to keep this guy.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Unstoppable Shots

At the risk of sounding like a goalie apologist, some shots are just unstoppable. Just are. If the shooter is in close and makes his shot, or if there is a deflection of a point shot from within 20 feet of the goal, the goaltender literally doesn't have a chance.

There is a time delay between seeing something and reacting to it, the time it takes to hit a red button whenever a light goes on, for example. The average for a healthy person is .19 seconds. Reacting to sound is a bit quicker, at .16 seconds.

In track and field, if you start out of the blocks less than .10 seconds AFTER the starting gun has fired, it counts as a false start. Some interesting stuff on that here. Anything less than that is not considered humanly possible, it is assumed that the sprinter jumped the gun and got lucky that the trigger was pulled just slightly beforehand, so it's a false start.

Anyhow, through the power of arithmetic, I bring you the graph below, which shows how much time the goalie has from the time the puck is shot until it is at him. Depends on how hard it is shot of course, which is why there are four lines here. :-)

Bottom line: If you are in close and have a good NHL shot, and with the new sticks a bunch of guys can snap them at 90 miles per hour, and slap them in the high 90s, then the goalie had better be in good position because he doesn't have a hope in hell of making a reaction save.

Of course he could guess and make a save that looks almost inhuman (because it is) SEE Cujo save on Stoll in October. Of course he could also end up looking like a tit if the puck goes to the other side of the net SEE Cujo embarrassed by Smyth Slapshot in January.

The little graphic on the right basically shows the point at which the goalie is pretty much at the mercy of the shooter, or deflector of the puck, assuming that the goalie is about mid-crease, and it's a 90 mph shot. Anything inside the black semi-circle and the goalie is in full blown Allaire mode, at least he is if he is smart.

If tape games or if you have Tivo or PVR or simlar, check it out. Go 1/15th speed on the slo-mo replay. At that speed you see that the goalie hasn't actually even moved in the direction of the puck until it is already past him. Even though at game speed it looked like he just about had it.

Sometimes the shooter just makes the shot, and there is nothing more to tell. Simple as that.

Upon Further Review: The First 40 Min Against Calgary

I taped this game because I usually record games against the higher calibre teams. It pains me to refer to the Horses With Gay Moustaches in this light but such is life.

It really helps to tape the games if you're looking for tendancies and possible future trends. If you're like me you're too caught up in the moment to catch everything as it happens. A lot of the little things things elude me so for specific regular season games I'll tape a game and watch it while I'm on the treadmill and try and keep a mental note. And I do this for all playoff games obviously.

Anyway....just a few things about the first 40 min against Cgy on Saturday night, ie I did tape the last 20 but I recorded over it as the Oilers basically quit after Kipper made that big save on Torres. So that's the overwhelming lesson from the third period;)

We'll start off with the defense and I'm happy to report that Bergeron played a helluva game. I was really starting to worry about this kid as it looked like he'd lost all his puckhandling confience and i that happened to him then obviously he wouldn't have a lot of value. He'd fallen into this habit where he was hesitating with the first pass and would constantly skate backwards in his own zone. In this game though he was making the first pass without any hesitancy and they were on the tape. He also had the little stickcheck going again where he pokes the puck away from the forechecker. It doesn't seem like it would work on a regular basis but he gets a lot of mileage out of that tactic. His partner Staios played well too. An excellent night for that tandem. And in the whole looking for trends department it's no surprise that Bergy looked like a new man once Tues night game against the Yotes.

Spacek played absolutely terrible. This is a game where if he wasn't with Pronger he could've easily been a -3. On the 2-0 goal, which was mostly Smyth's fault BTW, Spacek has a chance to make things better by just following his forward to the net. He instead floated over to stand alongside Smith and while Smith did his job of taking the shooter the other guy bounded in to knock in the rebound. I wonder if all the minutes aren't starting to catch up a little to Jaroslav. That's something to look for down the stretch. Maybe it was just a blip though. Pronger was Pronger, BTW. Steady to a fault. I didn't think he'd had a good game but when I watched it again I don't know what I was seeing the first time. He ever took a little run at Iginla but Jarome got out of the way. I'm still waiting for Pronger to crosscheck someone in the face but maybe those days are over.

A good enough effort by the Smith/Tarnstrom tandem but built mainly on the back of the former. Dick didn't have a overtly bad game and he didn't run crying to the bench once the hitting picked up. But Smith was out there just begging guys to hit him. It's funny that the Leaves traded him because they go nuts over their players and there would be statues built to this guy outside the AC. Think of those playoff battles they've had with the Flyers. You're telling me he wouldn't have made an impact?

On to the forwards. Very disappointed in the Horcoff line. They saw a lot of time against some combination of Simon-German-Ritchie-Lombardi, read "soft" minutes. Not to mention that a lot of times they were facing the defensive tandem of Marchment and Hulse. They scored their goal against the Hamrlik/Phaneuf tandem but they should've been piling up chances all night on the aforemention five man unit. Another thing I noticed about this line is that Hemsky was brutal in his own end. I'm talking Comrie bad. Remember that big leg save Rolo made when the score was 3-1? Well the chance started because Rolo threw out a huge rebound on a nothing shot. Donovan was able to get the rebound on net because Hemsky simply waived at him. The puck wound up back to the point and Bergeron went out of his way to try and block it leaving Hemsky down low with Staios and facing all of the Flames forwards. So in that respect 47 was panicking. But then Hemsky rushes out as well leaving Staios one-on-three. Rolo stops the point shot and then Staios blocks the attempted tap-in. We're all thinking that MacT will go back to power vs power with the Horcoff line next season and I think that would give Lowe an easier job in filling out the other nine forward positions. Hemsky's got a long way to go if we're gonna depend on him to even be able to post a plus in such a position

The Peca line was out for blood all night especially #'s 37 and 18. Peca flattened Langkow the second shift after Laraque proved that Simon can't build a time machine and he threw another couple of beauty hits as well. He even made a couple of nice passes and of course got in behind the Flames D for the breakaway that would be thwarted by Kiprusoff. And in a move that would foreshadow a goal in his next game Peca almost scored a shorthanded beauty in the last minute of the second period. He went inside out on Phaneuf and had Kipper hauled out of the net before Iginla came out of nowhere to stickcheck him. Moreau was an absolute beast, carrying the puck and skating with vigor and a nice hint that he's finally healed. Dvorak made that one bad pass in his own end but he also set up Stoll for an open net shot that Stoll muffed.

Allow me to interject for a second and comment on a couple of Flames players. Iginla kills the Oilers and he sucked in Torino so that gave me another reason to hate him. That being said I can't remember the last time I saw an offensive player also to make such a difference defensively. Maybe Yzerman when Stevie still had his fastball. Or Federov. Or Modano or Sakic. Or Forsberg. OK it seems like I've seen a lot of those guys but this guy is special no doubt. On Phaneuf...tough as nails with a shot harder than than Clay Aiken in an NBA lockerroom but right now the guy isn't all that great defensively. Or at least not to me eye. You can see the Marchment influence where he'll go out of his way to make the big check and that's fine as long as he doesn't have to play the tough minutes. Right now he's a lot more Hootie than he is Mick Jagger.

To the Stoll line...I tried to figure out why 16 was benched in the 3rd period and I thought I found a hint early on when I noticed Reghr knocked him down in front of the net and Stoll didn't go back at him and didn't even look at him. Right then I was thinking that maybe he was one of the guys who MacT was talking about when he said some fellows wouldn't pay the price. But Stoll went on to throw some checks. But I have a theory as to why he was benched and I think it was because he took yet another Oilers Penalty Special: the stick foul. Samsonov had a couple of moments and couldn't corral a loose puck to the right of Kipper which would've given 12 an open net. I was really disappointed in Torres because this kind of game should've been one where he could've made some noise with a hit or two.

The MAP line did some solid work no question about. MacT sent them on twice as the first shift after a goal and they always did the job. Pisani was Pisani and BG was out there even thinking the game a little more than usual and trying to set up 34 in the slot. MAP looked ready for the rough stuff and showed some playmaking ability.

PP: They blew a big chance with a 53 second two man advantage and it happened when Stoll elected to try for a pass instead of a shot. Pronger was pressured on the left point but quickly made the pass to Stoll. Now 16 finds himself in a four on two situation. Stoll tried for a tap in pass to Horcoff for the left side when he could've waited for 94 to create some traffic in front before he used the hammer and hoped the screen worked or the Oilers used their man advantage to knock home a rebound.

PK. Good job all night by the PK. Not an overly good job of clearing traffic on the Ference goal but if you watch the replay you'll see Rolo was turned side on before that shot was taken. I don't know why. The 3-0 goal was poor netminding plain and simple.

Netminding: The 1-0 goal wasn't as bad as I thought. Rolo made the decision to try and stop the pass with his stick instead of committing all the way and making the save. So not the best decision mind you but at least he was thinking of his feet and reacting. That's a good sign the rust might be coming off. The 2-0 goal came when he lost sight of the rebounding. The 3-0 goal was brutal though. Huseslis took the pass off his skate and put it to his stick before shooting it. Rolo had loads of time to get over but when he got there he was falling over and it went off his shoulder and into the net. The 4-1 goal wasn't pretty either. Overall the Flames didn't have a whole lot of chances. There's one that came off a turnover that I can't totally remember and then there was Iginla come down the left wing and snapping one off Rolo's glove and then the bar.

At the end of the game the Oilers did indeed deserve a better fate. Horc dribbled one through Kipper's side and just past the net and Smith hit the crossbar when it was 3-1. Stoll and Samsonov blew chances on empty nets, Peca had a breakaway and Smyth threw up two or three screens on Kipper that the bastard ultimately fought through. MacT referenced suicide hockey when talking about the own zone turnovers but it's always damage control time in Edmonton in terms of protecting the netminding. A little more finish and a little less all world tending at the other end and the Oilers could've easily scored at least four goals in this one.

So I guess what I'm getting around to is this team's due. If you're hitting the ball hard your average is gonna climb. And the Oilers are starting to score runs right now but there's also some diving catches in the infield and some sliding catches in the outfield going against them. Not to mention that if you equate netminding with pitching we'll see that our pitches are walking a few too many batters as well;)

I think a few of us have been waiting for a big streak. After withstanding an early seven game losing streak this team went on a hellish tear puncuated by the 5-3 win over the Kings on Dec 23rd. That was the high point of the season and we were doing it with below average netminding. There's a lot to be said about how good your team has to be from the defense out to rack up that many points while having to look over your shoulder every time the puck goes into your own end. But somewhere along the way things went awry and here we are.

In looking at the Flames game it was no surprise that the Oilers smoked the Kings two nights earlier and that they would do the same three nights later to the Yotes. And for those of us that have been waiting for a streak I'd say this team's been playing very well since the first game in Vancover. They're just 4-2-1 in that streak but they're back to outchancing teams and by a wide margain on most nights. Go back three mores games, ie vs Van, Det and Cgy and we're 5-3-1 and I'd say outchanced the other teams in nine of those games.

Six games to go and right now the batters are seeing the ball well and the fielders are making just about all of their plays.

Now about that pitching...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Spring Fever

Well here we's diary time again. I can't say this is the perfect time for another installment of non-sensical ramblings but on the other hand there is a lot going on and it's put me in a helluva mood.

First of all today is MLB's real opening day and not some ESPN fake opening day like last night's 40 hours of rain game between the Tribe and the Pale Hose. My Nationals season opened earlier today in Shea with a one run loss with Jose Vidro continuing to believe he's a good baserunner so everything seems in order on that front. Tonight also brings us the championship game of the NCAA tourney and let's hope Florida gets their comeuppance for that flukey shot that beat the Hoyas. Don't worry..I'm getting over it. And in about a couple of hours my birthday rolls around again. It's 28 and holding for all you ladies that are out there though I'll admit that somewhere on the web you can find my personal info. But by somewhere I don't mean AdultFriendFinder. What would your name be if you joined the horny legions on AFF? I think I'd choose Mr. Clamtastic.

Of course let us not forget the reason I'm here as the Oilers are hosting the Yotes on a PPV cast that will hopefully spawn some material ripe for the mocking. Anything they do or say at this point may be moot though as it will be hard to top the footage of Barrie Stafford dancing that the Oilers brass unleashed upon us back in the '04 season. Does anyone else remember that? It was a game from LA and the crew promised us some never before seen footage from the Oilers Cup celebrations. I yawned and cursed them openly for their longing for the past but I wound up watching the intermissions because there was nothing else on TV. And then it happened...there's a cut to some old footage and here we have Barrie Stafford juking and jiving like a drunk rubber band while sporting an expression that floated somewhere between orgasmic bliss and pedal to the medal determination to appear on Soul Train. It's been over two years since I saw that clip and I'm still not over it.

Along with the Oilers there's another 10 or so games to watch and some with Oilers playoff implications like the Sharks in Dallas, the Wings visiting Calgary, the Avholes hosting the Hawks and later on the Canucks take their death march to the sunny climes of LA. The Leaves are also hosting the Sabres and I mention this because I have some money on that game along with a couple of others;)

Note: even the CBC seems to be co-operating with my plans for hockey leisure as today's Simpson's re-run chronicles that hockey game between Bart and Lisa's teams. Let's hope the Oilers win this one for Mr. Honey Bunny.

Ok...the "Let's Go" song blares from the TV screen so it must be time for propoganda at it's finest. What do we have here? Buchy is in the booth along with Karius and Principe. Oh my god this might be too good!! But appearently the best laid mocking plans are of mice and bitter men as Buchberger stickhandles past the platitudes and starts throwing out stats. Truth be told I didn't really want to mock Buchy in the first place. I'm still feeling bad over feeling good the night Anson Carter throttled him in LA. Buchy's on fire early on and is actually telegenic. I haven't been this pleasently surprised since I picked up a copy of the Broken Flowers DVD. If you're a fan of the ABC show "Invasion" then you know of what I speak.

The action has started and MacT brings out the Peca line against the Yotes #1 line of Doan-Reinprecht-Sjostrom. Peca nearly kills Ballard on one of those sneaky hits where he gets you when you're putting your weight on one foot. Gretz goes away from that matchup immeadiately but sneaks the line back on after the Horcoff line ices the puck. Seems like this Gretzky guy has been doing his homework. Principe chimes in that Jason Smith held a players only meeting this morning at the far end of the rink. I'm just throwing that out there.

Marc-Antoine Pouliot, forever to be known as MAP in this space, scores his first career goal. So we've got a team meeting and MAP breaking his red light cherry. Have the Oilers been reading Lowetide's blog? I can imagine that guy is on fire right now. Let's hope the missus doesn't have a headache tonight;) Oh wait...the goal is under review...albeit for just 10 seconds. The last time someone looked at a TV for that little time was the episode of Family Feud where Louie Anderson wore a silk shirt.

At this point the kid is doing it all. He's winning faceoffs, he's backchecking and now he's scoring goals. And in a less publicized though no less important gesture he returned BG's Roch Voisine CD's which had been in storage in Hamilton for the last 9 years.

Here's another goal as Cujo lets out a big rebound on a Bergeron shot and Horc knocks it in. It's early on but Bergeron is rushing with aplomb thus far. I think back to that end to end rush he made against the Preds late in the '04 season and I wonder why the Oilers just don't give him the green light on more than the odd occasion. Of course it's hard for him to exert his offensive accumen when paired with a guy like Staios who sometimes jumps into the play like he's Bryan Fogarty in the OHL.

Ok here's a timeout and let's get to the good stuff shall we? Nothing to see here really though as Mark Schultz is hawking playoff tickets. It's nice to see this guy go from being a no-talent on BTV in Halifax to being a schill for the Oilers. I swing a sledge four days a week but at least I have my dignity.

OK I just switched over to the Wings/Flames game because I thought it was odd that game was starting a half hour earlier. The game isn't going but there is the Wings pre-game show. WTF? I'm not saying this shouldn't be an all the time thing because I think CI should do things like that but it seems to me certain teams get preferential treatment. I used to work MCR here at a local TV station, ie glorified switcher, so I know it's just a matter of swapping in one feed or another. But here's the Wings pre-game and on the Oilers casts they hit the button as soon as the credits roll. Even more disappointing is that I won't get to mock Ro-get Millions because obviously the feed is from Detriot. Mickey Redmond shall feel my wrath tonight people. As will Ken Daniels. Which reminds me..remember when Ken Daniels was Canadian? Yeah, neither does he.

We're back and Buchy's talking about his first goal. Says he scored it in Quebec but he didn't see it because he was knocked on his ass behind the net. Damn right!! The other part of the story is Buchy was named the game's third star but couldn't do the skate because he busy shovelling coal into the train's furnace for the ride to Montreal and the Oilers next game. Later on Buchy punched Doug Harvey in the face and plowed 10 strippers.

Karius takes over the PBP commentary and I'll be damned if he doesn't start pointing out the matchups on every shift. I don't like this guy because I thought he was a massive dick on SportsNight but the guy's winning me over here. I mean why can't more guys do this? Doesn't anyone else besides Pat Quinn think that line-matching makes a real difference?

Note: meant to post this earlier but almost forgot. The Oilers had a PP and 12 was on fire. I'm gonna say it right now...if he had the same icetime and the same linemates then 12 would outscore 83. Yes I know he's about 5 years older and he has lots more games under his belt but Samsonov has the talent and the vision of Hemsky with maybe a little more smarts.

Oilers 2nd PP chance is pretty non-descript and Gretzky's first ES shift brings about the Doan line and here comes Peca's troika. Definite sea change with the way MacT's matching lines. I couldn't be happier at this point.

I drop in on the TO game and it's 2-0 Sabres. is good sometimes. Neale's openly talking about the teams that will make the playoffs and Bowen's grumbling something into the mike about Lonny Bohonos and the marvels of previous springs. And I'll let you in on my betting: I dropped $20 on Pro-Line on the Oilers, Sabres and Stars. Wins by all three and I''ll take back a little over $110.

Back to Edm where Comrie scores to make it 2-1 and it was interesting how it shook down. Gretzky had Comrie's line against the Horcoff line but MacT tried to change on the fly to get the Stoll line out. 12-16 swapped in for 94-10 but guess which guy from the first line stayed on the ice and was hung with another goal against? I don't think it's a coincidence at this point.

The first intermission rolls around and I need something to cheer me up so I head to Calgary and what's this? Larry Murphy is the colour man supplanting Mickey Redmond. Someone's trying to cut into my fun here. I'm holding out for a hero at this point....

Sweet Bonnie Tyler here it comes!! Joining Principe in the booth is one Mr. Glenn Anderson. Andy talks about what it means to be back in this building and his eyes light up when he talks about giving guys hugs. Gene finishes by saying Andy's in town on a corperate junket. Corperate Junket? I didn't know that was the name of the Pet Shop Boys latest tour

The second period begins with Buchy talking about how Horc always gives 110%. You're losing me here Buchy....

The Stoll line matches up against the Doan line and does pretty good. The only blackmark was a bad pinch by Smith that lead to an odd man rush. MAP's unit ices the puck so Gretz gets out the Comrie line and Comrie beats MAP on the draw and basically goes unchecked for the rest of the shift. Watching Growing Pains hasn't been this hard since Ben had that hot girlfriend.

Smith gets caught again and Tarnstrom saves him. Shouldn't this be the other way around? Was making stupid decisions in the offensive zone one of the talking points of Smith's on-ice meeting?

Here comes the 37 line again and watching these guys trying to create offense is like watching a man trying to eat mashed potatoes with his bare hands. Just as I type this Moreau scores his first goal in 234 games.

I'm feeling frisky at this point so I flash to Calgary where I see that John Merrick, you may know him as Dion Phaneuf, has given the Flames a 1-0 lead. Daniels says this is the best young dman he's seen since Jeff Sharples plied his trade at the JLA.

Comrie throws it over the glass so an Oilers PP's coming up and in Dallas it's 1-1 with seven minutes left to go in the second stanza.

3-1 on a PP goal by Bergy. A drunken Hideo Nomo wouldn't take that long to wind up. But at least 47 didn't fall down after he shot the puck. It's all about the little things

Winchester demolishes a Yotes dman. Good lord this kid is doing it all right now. The rumor mill says he was dealt to the Blues for McAmmond but the paperwork didn't go through so maybe it smartened him up a little. All I can say for sure is he only seemed interested in floating around in his previous tours of duty with then Oilers but now he's out there with renewed interest.

Mike Peca actually does know how to smile and I know this because he just gave his best grin after scoring the 4-1 goal for the Oilers. Rough night for Cujo to say the least. Two goals from our checking line while keeping the other team's top line firmly in check? Reminds me of the good old MGM days when Moreau-Marchant-Grier could hold it down.

It's back to TO and WTF? It's 2-2 in OT and I'll only win if the Sabres pull this out before the SO. But something does take the edge off my loss of 20 bucks and it's the fact that Aki Berg is on the ice. OK let me check a few things here. They are playing just four aside? Check. My heartrate isn't accelerated so I didn't inadvertantly take any drugs? It's in the 60's so I'm good. I wonder did two Leaves defenseman die during this game? I check and it doesn't appear that they did. Bu why is Berg on the ice in a 4-on-4 situation? Bowen addresses it very gently and gets all excited because the Panthers have lost in Tampa Bay. Neale quickly adds that means TB's picking up points though and the gravity of the situation hits Bowen and he quietly sobs. Harry Neale is being a real bastard at this point. He's like a guy who's broken up with his girlfriend and now he's texting you all the slutty pictures she let him take.

After the Peca goal Karius mentions that today in practice MacT took that line aside for a long chat. I would imagine it's to tell them that from now on their line's a good bet to draw the most even strenght minutes and that it's all about the shutdown. At least that's where I hope the MacTactics are headed.

The Sabres win in TO but it's a SO so my ticket is shagged. Damn it.

Another PP goal by the Oilers as Samsonov ends up on the other wing and shuffles a step to improve the angle before ripping one stickside on CuJo. Just a wicked shot that could even beat the likes of Kiprusoff. With every multi-point game he racks up Samsonov gets closer and closer to being offered huge money by someone else. Oh's like when you dated that cute girl with glasses in high school. At least you could say you had her on the way up.

Tarnstrom and Comrie tussle after the whistle and I only mention this because it's the third time it's happened. What's going on here? Did Comrie skate by the Oilers bench and hear Tarnstrom telling Samsonov how much fun it was to play in Edmonton?

1-1 in Colorado with 14 minutes left in the 2nd and the Hawks are still hanging around.

The Oilers are rolling over the Yotes but Buchy says the Yotes will continue to be game because they're good professionals. As opposed to bad professionals? That's it just lost me.

Ok we're in the last minute of the 2nd and Principe says the PPV channel is being used for two casts tonight if you live outside of BC so hold on and they'll go to the game in LA as soon as this one's over. It's a big game for the Canucks he says because they're one point ahead of the Oilers and if the Oilers win this one the Canucks will need a win to stay ahead of them. So Principe follows this team for a living and he doesn't know that the Oilers would lose the first tiebreaker of wins and thus even a win tonight means the Canucks would need just a single point to stay ahead of Edm?

Just before the third starts in Edm I head to Dal where it's 1-1 after 40 with their final frame about to start and they're talking to assistant coach Mark Lamb. At this point Lamb looks like someone let off a stink bomb in the Stars dressing room. He says Dal only had three shots in the second period and are just standing around out there. After seeing the Stars blow two third period leads, the only times they've did that all season, to Ana in the last two weeks I'm beginning to think it's probably not smart to look for them for help. They're in second place in the Conf and they won't grab 1st so what do they have to play for at this point? In fact if you saw that LA bested them 1-0 on Sat you might also want to know that in that game Dal rested Modano, Zubov and Turco.

The period starts with SJ on a two man adv for over 1:20 but the Stars kill it without the Sharks getting a shot. Maybe there is life in Dallas.

I'm going to get away a little now from the Oilers game because that one's basically a foregone conclusion.

2-1 Hawks with 10 min left in the second period and this shaping up to be the biggest gag job in Denver not involving Kobe Bryant? Interesting to note that Pierre McGuire is doing the colour for OLN in this game and in bringing up the Oilers trouncing of the Yotes he says the Oilers were feared around the league for awhile but not so much now because of the fact their netminding still hasn't been shored up. Hey I agree with the guy but this is also the same fellow who said Roloson would be the perfect fit for the Oilers because of his rebound control. Hold on here...if Pierre had been alive in the 30's he'd have told Mussolini to hitch his star to Hitler's wagon and then when it all fell apart he'd be doing PR work for the Allied Powers. You know whenever I see Chicago playing in Colorado it reminds me that's where Bo Mironov played his first game as Hawk. I'm funny like that. It's the same as whenever the Oilers play at MSG it reminds me of the time Bo and Kovalenko went mad in Brighton Beach.

2-2 in Col now. This team scores when Sakic's on the ice and when he isn't well why would you watch?

Cujo's on the bench now and look at that hairdo. He looks like a member of Weezer...if a guy from Weezer was going bald and refused to accept it.

In Edm we're firmly in gar-bage time as Marv Albert so aptly put it. Hemsky's been passing better tonight so hopefully that means his back's improving. If it isn't then there's no reason for him to be playing in this third period.

I haven't really noticed the music at Skyreach and that's a good thing but now I'm awakened from my slumber from the docile tones of Kenny Loggins and his dancing anthem, "Footloose." There's been some talks of a new arena in Edm and for the Oilers and if that happens and they blow up Rexall let me suggest they do the same to the music guy.

Not much happening here but a nice glove save by Roloson. This is the best time I've seen him control his rebounds since the 2-1 game in Minnesota. Phx is really piling on the shots now and I for one welcome it. Lord knows Rolo needs all the practice he can get.

In Dallas the Sharks have gone ahead 2-1 on a shorthanded goal by that stupid looking Ville Neminen. Dallas is 10-1-1 when tied after 40 but once again this appears to mean nothing at this point in the season.

Oilers PPV crew in total filler mode as they bring up a grapic detailing all the local guys that are playing for the Yotes. The title of the graphic is Alberta Beef. Upon hearing this Anderson pops his head back into the booth.

Play continues and Karius says Smyth's putting the moves on Morris and once again Anderson appears

Arnott has tied the game at 2-2 for the Stars. Apparenlty he felt like it

Florida up a shocking 22 points against UCLA in the NCAA Finals with 14 min to go, 47-25. I guess I sorta forgot about that. Just like the Gators forgot that heading into this game the Bruins had only allowed three opponents to score more than 60 points.

Yet another battle by Tarnstrom and Comrie and Buchy says 23's gonna have a huge impact down the stretch because of his ability to win battles in front of the net and in the corners. Either Buchy's gone mad or is he's making stuff up to see if anyone's listening

This is how much of an offensive cataylist Samsonov has become for the Oil. He's basically the go to man on the 4-on-4. In fact now they've even got him paired with Dvorak. And Bergy makes a nice pass and I'll be damned if Dvorak doesn't score a goal. So that's three points for Samsonov. I wonder if Yawney will have him on the first line with Ruutuu next season?;)

It's in OT in Dallas and the Sharks are on the PP to close out the game. Thornton, the good, scores to rack up two points for the Sharks...which reminds me that I haven't checked on the Canucks/Kings game. It's scoreless with six min left in the first period and the Canucks PPV games are on more pins and needles than Pinhead's mother during birth.

2-2 in Colorado and I languish there for a second to see if McGuire is telling the story of how he warned Craig Patrick not to trade Naslund for Stojanov.

The horn blows in Edm and it's a 7-1 final. The kid scored his first goal and Samsanov edged himself closer to a huge payday and the Oilers "Trying To Impress Your Parents line", Look Ma No Hands, of Moreau-Peca-Dvorak all managed to score a goal.

I head back to Colorado for one last look and McGuire's talking about how he tried to talk the Sens into drafting Pronger...