Just a note here. The humour of this commentary will depend on just how material the broadcasters give me. On the downside the Canucks or Ducks aren't playing so that takes Jim Hughson and Brian Hayward out of the equation and that's really a shame. Hughson is one more Canucks road victory away from boiling a rabbit in Luongo's apartment and Ryan Getzlaf probably has a restraining order on Hayward. But we do have eight games to cover and here are some of the potential highlights:
1: We've got Fla/NJ which I wouldn't even watch except for the fact that Chico Resch usually throws out two or three dandies a night. That broadcasting team is an interesting combination. You've got one of the best play-by-play guys in the world in Mike Emrick and then you've got a total dummy, ie Resch, doing the colour. Plus Stan Fischler appears during intermissions. Devils hockey has been boring since, well maybe even since it was in Colorado, but their broadcasts have some of the best nimrods in the business. Sometimes you'll watch games with the sound turned off but with NJ bcasts it's almost better to listen to the game but just turn down the contrast on your TV so you don't have to watch it.
2: SJ/Nsh: This should be a good game plus CI usually goes with the home team bcast first so that means Terry Crisp doing the colour. Oh boy....this could be good.
3: TO/OTT: Part two of their series and this following McGratton's dismantling of Belak followed by Tucker's "dismantling" of Eaves followed by many comments from both sides. What will happen tonight? Well I mean besides the Sens most likely lighting up Raycroft again. Will we see Tucker trounce Spezza? Or maybe Hamel? Or perhaps the penalty box attendant.
4. Edm/Phx: This game should be a rout so that's not really a big deal unless you like watching Gretzky squirm..which I must admit I do. But the biggest highlight of this game could be that given it's a PPV PropagandaCast of the Oilers you might see some old footage that they've been holding onto. Footage of say Barrie Stafford dancing the last time the Oilers won the Cup. I first saw this in the '04 season and I'm still not over it. Hands down the funniest thing I've ever seen. Stafford is drunk and dancing like a sedated rubberband. I can't even think about it.
Finally I dropped a five spot on some Pro-Line action this eve..hey big spender!!, and I put the bones on Philly, Ott, Nsh, Bos and Edm. So just to let you know I'll probably be paying rapt attention to the aforementioned games.
And we're off...
- First stop Mtl/Bos with the boys from NESN providing the action. Habs wearing their third jerseys and I have to say that those are some nice threads. I hate everything about that org and I hate everyone that cheers for them but those are still some nice duds. I see Bergeron taking the opening draw with Murray/Kessel and it reminds me of one of the least reported stories of the new season: How Dave Lewis is trying to kill poolies everywhere by stealing Bergeron's counting stats mojo. I know that kid is good and you'll sometimes give your best players lesser linemates in an effort to find some balance but just think about it for a second: Having one line that can score all the time, ie Sturm-Boyes-Bergeron though I know Sturm is hurt right now, is better than having two that can score the occasional time. Young Kessel looks like he'll be good in the future but in the here and now he's not Malkin. Sigh..Ryder scores to make it 1-0 already. You know you'd think I'd be rooting for that guy but I just can't. Did I mention I hate everything about Les Scabitants? If my mother played with them I wouldn't even speak to her unless it was at Christmas. Oh wait...Andy Brickley, B's PBP guy, is beginning to ramble so let's flash over to Philly....
- Atl's visiting there tonight so you may be wondering why I took the Flyers. Well I don't have the specific numbers but teams do surprisingly well in their first games under a new coach. And here's Mike Knuble and Randy Robitaille on an odd man rush and it's 1-0 Philly already. I'm telling you this theory has some serious legs.
*** As a gift from the gambling gods Bob Hartley elected to play Johan Hedberg over Kari Lehtinen.
- Here's the start of the Leaves/Sens game and Neil/Tucker are lined up against each other...but Tucker's declines the invite. Hmmm I really do wonder who Tucker will fight. Maybe it will be John Muckler but would that be a wise move? I mean we all know that Muckler's a zombie, right? Has there been anyone else who looked 80 when he was just 55 but now it's 20 years later and he still just looks 80?
- Here are the five guys that were just on the ice for the B's: Demspey-Thompson-Stastny-Brookbank-Jurcina. Boston Bruins hockey!! Come out and watch a game if you're cable's out or your net connection is down or your public library is closed......
- Kessel ties the game at 1-1. Mock and ye shall be exposed!! Seriously, though, the puck went off his skate on a pass from Bergeron. Excellent play by Kommisarek there. Somewhere Dick Irvin Jr is making a voodoo doll. Just a note here. Can anyone else list Dick Irvin Jr as the first person they seriously hated? And did other 12 year olds get so frustrated with Irvin's love for Patrick Roy that they swore out loud and had their father chew them out for it? Me neither.
- Back to Philly where Bobby Holik's taking all the big draws against Forsberg which brings me to my next point. How awesome would it be if you were Bobby Holik? You're making all kinds of coin, there's not really a whole lot expected of you anymore and you're playing in a city that couldn't care less about hockey so they never mention the fact that you're more overpaid than the lady who does Jessica Alba's nails. Speaking of Atlanta..I really like watching these guys play and I think they're one more good ES forward away from giving the Sabres or Sens a serious battle in the E-Conf semi-finals. Their D isn't sexy but they have some damn solid guys back there, their PP is money and Lethinen is the next big goaltending superstar.
- Still nothing happening in TO but I see Kilger on the ice which reminds me that, at least among the hardcore guys or the guys who had him on their team, was there a least publicized story than the fact that Kilger's actually useful now?? Sure it took him roughly 27 seasons to do so but down the stretch last year I actually lobbied for this guy when the Oil were talking about picking up one more forward.
- Here's our first trip to the Island where NY's hosting the Sabres. And as soon as I flip over we see Afinigenov to Spacek to Kotalik and there's another PP goal for Buf. The Isles colour guy says that's a pizza goal and Howie Rose, Isles PBP, calls him on it and the colour guy says that means it was a special delivery. I'm not buying it though. I think it was a thinly veiled reference to Spacek's triple chin. In other news I'm so highly suggestable that I just decided to order a pizza.
- One last note on this game before we flip: Anytime Buf plays the Isles shouldn't it always be called The Pat Lafontaine Bowl? Just think about it for a second. He came into the league in '84 and in the last 22 years weren't these respective teams the most fun to watch when he wore their silks? So why doesn't Empire and Fox Sports New York, the respective stations, just agree that henceforth these games will always feature Lafontaine highlights plus his picture is superimposed upon the telecast. That seems reasonable to me and when people tire of it they can just change it to The Randy Wood Bowl.
- One last note..seriously..on this game. Poti just made an outlet pass to Kozlov. Pound for pound and inch for inch is that the most apathetic pass and receive in NHL history? I'm serious...just try and beat me on that one. Here's a hint to get you started though. Look at all Isbister's former teams and try and find a teammate of his that was just as big and cared as little.
- Flashing to the Cats/Devils where Resch says that what makes Gionta good is his love for the game. Now if this were true than Todd Marchant would break all scoring records known to man and it would be him who Kent Forsberg would underrate.
- Literally every other game is on commerical break so I begrudingly tune in to the Car/TB game. I used to love watching TB but I turned on them quickly once they let me down last year. I'm fickle like that when it comes to secondary teams I must admit. For the record though is thre anyone that does less with more than Lecavalier? Here's a guy who excelled in the World Cup in '04 and some people, myself included, thought he was ready to turn the corner. But there's just something missing with that guy and I can't figure it out. BTW...is it just me or does Martin St. Louis still go way too early in draft pools?
- Neil just crushed Ondrus..and the doorbell rings and it's the pizza guy. And honestly this just happened. So Neil crushes Ondrus and that reminds me of former Leaves 4th liners. The guy who delivered my pizza is now the boyfriend of a super hot girl that was once tagged by a former Leaves 4th liner while he toiled for the Baby Buds here in TO. I'm laughing out loud right now.
- Off to Nashville and I just missed a Bell/Weber scrap. Dammit!!! Watching Preds games always reminds me of how much I like Hartnell. Yes I know he's a GAB, Good Albertan Boy, but I still like him. I feel like I'm losing my soul here so save me Crispy!!!. On a somewhat serious note: I see the Kariya-Arnott-Erat line taking on the Joe Thornton line. Looks like Trotz is going power vs power early on. I'll keep an eye on this.
- Back to Boston where I catch a graphic illustrating 10 years in the NHL for Mike Johnson. Wow..has it been that long since he broke in with the Leaves and I was at the local sports bar waiting for the TO games to finish so they'd show the Oilers? The last time I felt this old was when I realized the release date of Nevermind. Note: remind me sometime to tell you about the Leaves fan from the local sports bar with an unhealthy crush on Danny Markov and who also happened to be a Jehovah Witness who also happened to canvas my neighbourhood?
- Back to Nsh and once again it's Arnott vs Thornton and then Trotz comes out with Legwand/Hartnell/Dumont versus the Marleau line. Good stuff all around here. But in bad news Crispy starts talking about how the Oilers light up SJ last spring and he's getting all hot and bothered about the great run Edm had. The guy's killing me here. Why won't he give me something? If he doesn't I'll just make stuff up but I'll let you know immeadiately afterwards:)
- OK I'm just gonna stay with this Sharks/Preds game because it's the runaway best matchup of the night and I just know Crispy's gonna mess up here now and a second. I have a feeling that Nashville really doesn't know how good it can be and it might take awhile before some of the new guys and lines mesh. Oh wait Crispy just called Vokun "Evil Kneivel". That's better Terry!! Don't let me down here. They're going to commerical with a Best Damn Sports Show Promo. "Coming up this week on The Best Damn Sports Show...Who can gain more weight..Rodney Peete or Rob Dibble? Don't miss it.!!""
- That was made up but it fits nonetheless.
- 1-1 after 40 in Philly and I'm surprised at that low score. Hedberg's in net for Atl and at the other end the Thrash should have at least a couple of goals at this point.
- I missed a goal in Bos because Chara just tied the score at 2-2. Great camera angle from behind Huet's net just before the big guy scored. You could tell that Murray's screen had Huet more confused than Darryl Sutter during Trivial Pursuit.
- 2-1 Preds now and 3-1 in Ottawa and 2-0 in NJ after an Elias goal. Let's stay awhile shall we? Ok Emrick just described Ruslan Salei rushing the puck for the Cats thusly, "Ruslan "'One Horse" Salei carries the puck up the ice." I wish I was making that up but I'm not and it just shows that after all these years Resch's idicocy is finally rubbing off on Doc. I knew this day would come but I didn't want to think about it too much. Not to be outdone though Resch opines that the only reason Elias contracted Hepatitis last year was because Gionta knew he was about to master the NHL and he wanted to try his hand in the field of medicine. That I made up but Resch probably wants to say something like that.
- 4-0 in TB now. It was 2-0 but as soon as I flipped over we saw St. Louis score two goals in a very rapid fashion. So it seems like my reverse jinx is alive and well tonight. Hmmm let's try this one shall we? You know who'd never score a goal? That Matt Greene. And I bet Jason Smith couldn't get one either. Ok that's pushing it too far but no guts no glory right?
- 2-0 after 40 on the Island and yet another point for the poor man's Bure: Maxim Afingengov. Of course we can't feel too badly for Pavel though. Last I read all the important guys in Russia were lining up to have Pavel deflower their daughters. For all the gambles though here's something to consider. From what I've seen and heard this is the second game in a row where Buf's been outchanced so their "luck" will soon be running out.
- NESN scoreboard says it's 2-1 Flyers so my Pro Line ticket is hanging in there. I've got the B's in a tie game, Philly's leading, Ott and Nsh are up and the Oilers should be a slamdunk.
- And so much for that because I head to Philly and Slava Kozlov has just knotted the score. I'm in a draft pool with 13 other guys and I have both Kozlov and Hossa. I also picked up Sykora in the 10th round. Needless to say I'm winning despite the fact that Henrik Zetterberg has decided to take the year off and Colby Armstrong has somehow found a way not to pick up points while always playing with Crosby and lately while playing with both Crosby AND Malkin.
- Over to Nashville where it's Marleau vs Legwand and Crispy offers his first real gem of the night when talking about how to bother the Sharks #2 centre. The former Flames coach opines that you've really got to get into his kitchen and do whatever you can. And if you can somehow manage to work up some really bad breath then all the better. He honestly said this.
- 2-2 with less than 5 min to go in Boston and Marc Savard's out there working his ass off. I know..I can't believe it either. I've got him in my pool as well so I've been keeping an eye on the B's and right now Savard and the situation with his linemates, ie where once was Murray now stands Axellsson, reminds me of a fat man at an all you can eat salad buffet. He's got the tools to impress but he's just not in the right environs.
- I move back to Nasville and once again it's Arnott/Thornton so that's a hard matchup for sure. Very fun to watch. Speaking of hard..Crispy talks about what he'd do when he'd really want to rank up the collective breath of the Flames checking unit back in the late 80's. OK...that didn't really happen. But didn't you believe it for a second?
- Andrei Markov scores a PP goal for the Habs with 1.2 seconds left in the third period so there goes my PL. It was an interesting turn of events that lead to the winner though. At one end of the ice Kessel turns Kommisarek inside out and the big Habs D takes his free hand off the stick and spins the kid around but no call. At the other end the corpse of Radek Bonk goes down the left wing on a one on two mission and young B's dman Matt Lashoff draws a penalty. The exact same infraction occurred except for the fact that Kessel was in the open ice and about to bust in alone on Huet. This is the kind of stuff that drives coaches nuts and Lewis is losing it and the fans are littering the ice. The B's commentators are being really sensible though which pleases and disappoints me all at the same time. Sorta like Meg Ryan's nude scene from "In The Cut" where I was happy she'd relent to nudity but disappointed at the result. Oh yeah back to hockey and let's close the book on this game with a couple of musings. I don't know how a guy can be underrated in Mtl but I think that's the case with Markov. He always gets his points, he's good in his own end and makes a beautiful breakout pass. On the other side Kessel might be good if his hands catch up to his brain and his feet. He's super fast and is often in the right place butlacks the finish right now.
- We're going to OT in Philly and it's a beauty. The teams are going back and forth with defenseman jumping into the rush like it's an exhibition game. Hossa nearly scores the goal of the decade off a rush down the right wing with an inside out inside move and then finishing off with a one handed shovel. The man is awesome. Nothing decided here though so it's off to the SO where yes the Thrash wear their helmets backwards. Damian Cox thinks he's so smart because he started talking about that this week but I've been all over that since they started doing it last year. Then again I actually watch games from all over the league so..
- Philly wins the SO and here are the highlights. Kozlov scored on a "Forsberg in the '94 Olys" move and Forsberg was up next and he just went high gloveside. I guess he's too old for those moves now. Biggest stories to close out are that A: Hartley removed Hedberg and went to noted SO specialist Lehtinen. It didn't work out but it's nice to see someone try it and it was also nice to see Hedberg smiling about it and being a team guy B: Here we have another team that wins their first game under a new coach. I'm telling you that this thing has serious serious legs.
- Ok all that's left is the end of the SJ/Nsh game and I flip to the Oil PPV cast to see if it's on yet and here's Laraque in a Yotes jersey and black tights. Uhh,,..yeah..I don't know who's more disappointed: BG speaking about Phx's fortunes or me that I had to see that interview. It's too bad that he makes so much money though. It would be nice to pick him up down the stretch in '08 and bring him home so that he can beat a face ON Phaneuf.
- Mark Schulz made the trek with the PPV crew. This guy's been haunting me since HS when he was on BT in Halifax and one of my classmates thought his comedy was the most inventive since Lenny Bruce's. Why are we flying this dolt down to Phx when we could be filling time just by showing Stafford dancing???
- Sharks just tied the game at 3-3. SJ PP is now 2/3 on the night.
- Jussi vs LeNeveu..how can this get any better for the Oil? Oh wait it just did because Lupul blocked a shot on the first shift;)
- I'll go on a limb here and say that both Pisani and Reasoner score their first goals of the season. I think I was being too ambitious before with my requests for Greene and Smith. And I'll say that the Oilers PP keeps rolling.
- 1-0 Phx on a PP goal. Smyth was really soft in the left corner and Comrie took the puck and fed it to Michalek. Bad bad start. On a funny note the bcasters are talking about how Wayne said he would step down if he thought it was help the team and how he was always team first. Yeah except for back in the summer of '88 but who remembers that anyway. Or maybe they should've said he's team first unless it's team second and Janet first.
- Piani just tied it on a terrible goal. I think Gretzky just lost his bowels on the Phx bench. Seriously..that was way weak. And I like to give it to the other team's broadcasters so I have to call it down the middle with the Oilers as well. Their guys acted really poorly when Pisani scored. One guy said "that's one for the baby" referencing Pisani's newborn daughter and the other guy said, "he scored a bunch in the playoffs last year and he has a knack for putting those home." Just call it like it is, boys. That was an AHL goal let in by a guy that plays in the AHL.
- One shift in the first 10 minutes for the Oilers 4th line. That's odd because everyone seems to think that the 4th line did a good job last night and we're playing the second half of a BTB so wouldn't it make sense to go with them early? At last until we see what kind of a game this is going to be. Then again maybe MacT senses some lethargy in his charges and wants to keep a short bench.
- Phx back on the PP and it's 2-1. Phx 2/2 on the PP and this PK performance reminds me of some of the Dallas games over the years.
- Horc's line gets a shift against Laraque's line and how does that happen? Phx gets pressure in the Oilers end though and BG starts running around a little and mashes both Smyth and Bergy.
- 4-3 win by Preds and that's back to back losses for the Sharks. Their first blip. Let's see how long it lasts.
- Here we have a feature on the Oilers ladyfriends and their charitable works. Nice work by Smytty in regards to his ladyfriend but Moreau's partner is going downhill in a hurry and I'm not talking about Steve Staios either;) If the PPV crew insists on these features then Lowe and Co must move heaven and earth to acquire both Darcy Tucker and Brenden Morrow. Just trust me on this one.
- 3-1 Yotes and this one has the potential to get ugly fast. Horcoff lost the draw clean on that one and Jussi gave up a huge rebound. That's the end of the first and I'm pretty happy about that.
- Did anyone else notice all the empty seats? The last time Wayne saw so many empty aisles he was at one of Janet's movie premieres.
- The first ten minutes of this period should let us know if we have a game and I've seen this team come back against the Sharks and the Yotes do have a kid tender minding the store. A couple of good shifts by the Oilers to start the second and it's just a matter of time before they start to draw some penalties and get back into this but wait..Laraque has just scored to make it 4-1. On one hand I'm happy for the big guy but on the rest of my hands I can see that this could be a terrible loss, Smith looked very weak in coughing up the puck in the corner and how does Jussi not pokecheck the big guy? It took him forever to get there so why not just snake out the stick and break up the play That's it for Jussi and probably the Oil as well.
- Boynton takes a penalty and the Oilers break out the five forward formation but Pisani has replaced Smyth and is hanging out in the slot. Is MacT playing a hunch here or is he really gonna use a slot play? I don't know the awnser to the first question but "no" is the awnser for the second one and the PP doesn't click. Horcoff takes a penalty and the Yotes are back on the PP.
- Roli just looked super lazy on an Enver Lisin wraparound attempt. I know the kid is fast but Roli didn't even follow him across the net. So here we've got Roli fighting the puck on Mon, looking like Salo on Wed and now tonight looking quite apathetic? Plus Jussi got a start tonight and looked about as prepared as Darren McCarthy before a Chemistry final. The netminding has been brutal the last two games.
- MacT has the lines in a blender and I'm just warning you that I'm calling this off if the Oilers don't pull to within two goals before the period scores.
- Nolan makes it 5-1 and that's it for me.
Just one last note. I'm not panicking yet or anything but I'll be close to it if the Oilers don't lay a beating a on the Caps come Saturday night. They are still 6-4 but there are some troubling signs. The fact that the Oilers are 1-4 on the road should be a concern to anyone. And just from memory alone I'll say they've been outchanced in three of those for sure so it's not like they're losing because of bad bounces. The last two games are pretty easy to pin on netminding though. In this game alone LeNeveu made some damn fine stops on the Oilers PP while at the other end Jussi couldn't stop a beachball and Roli acted like he was at the beach. You won't win every game just scoring two goals but you should be able to win a few and though the Oilers have been turning the puck over there are still some chances being converted that should be saves.
The last note is for Shawn Horcoff. Always one of my favorites and a tireless worker and overall an easy guy to root for. But he's -5 the last two games and he's taking bad penalties and it's up to him to drive that top line. Someone has to keep 94 going and feed Lupul as well. Plus #10's gonna log the most TOI for the pivots and he'll really be expected to carry the mail at even strenght and on the PK Once Horcoff starts going and the netminding straightens up then the Oilers should be just fine.