Thursday, January 04, 2007

Stars/Oilers: Some Assembly Required, Batteries Included

The above seems like a Christmas reference because it is a Christmas reference. I don't know how the rest of you guys roll but here in this house we obey the laws of Thermodynamics!, ie that's a Simpsons reference from the old ep where the teachers went on strike, or in this case we honour the tradition of O Christmas Day and that means it's the holiday season until this coming Sunday when the GF will be take down the decorations while I try and watch some playoff football.

Of course it's also a reference to the guys the Stars currently employ and can you name the guy in the picture above? Of course you can't yet the Stars are still firmly in a playoff position and that's my point. I checked out the last two periods of the Stars/Dys game last night because I wanted to see how Tippett was arranging the deckchairs of a ship that was missing all of Modano, Morrow and Lindros. What I'd forgotten was that vessel might have a few new faces but the deckhands are working in a familiar fashion.

There's two things you can count on when you play Dallas and this is true no matter what names are emblazoned above their numbers: 1: you won't outwork them and 2: You'll make more mistakes than they do. The Devils get a lot of credit for bringing up their AHL kids in the exact same system that the big club employs and lately I've been reading that the Leaves are doing the same. Of course this doesn't happen with the Oilers because Edmonton seemingingly has affiliations with nearly 80% of all AHL clubs;) and I'm not saying the Dallas/NJ approach is tantamount to success but I do believe there's something to be said for a team that can move guys in and out of the lineup without distrupting the gameplan or work ethic.

Just to finish up on this point, there's a lot of similarities between the Stars and Devils. They can make a few alterations here or there and the song remains the same and in terms of league wide scope both are teams you hate to face in the regular season but it looks like they've lost their playoff fastball. They're doing a better job of holding back the years than say the Avs but no one expects either of those team to hoist the Cup in the near future. I give the Devils the edge though because in guys like Parise and now Zajac they're bringing in kids that can add some offense.

So to bring it back to Dallas it's nice to have guys that can fill in but the bad news is that there's no one coming from Iowa that's any real threat to dent the twine and of course that includes our very own Toby Petersen but as always, that's a topic for another time;). So while the Stars can outskate and outsmart you all night, which they did for the last 45 min in Vancouver last eve, they need some breaks to score more than two goals a night. Or at least they do in their current form.

This shouldn't make Oilers fans overconfident though because the Oilers defense can be downright terrible and you put enough of a forecheck on guys like Greene, Smid and Bergeron and eventually the puck will find it's way onto a Stars stick.

One last note about Dallas. If there's a reason I glossed over why this team can keep outchancing it's opp even while missing some big parts, it's probably because of their defense and their ability to make an excellent first pass. They've suffered no big injuries on their backend and that corps is loaded with guys that can move the puck. My GF's cousin was over the other night to watch the first period of the game against the Panthers and he's a big Oilers fan but he hasn't seen many games this year because he's working offshore. In any case him and I were laughing at a couple of times where Bergeron had open lanes and still threw it into his teammate's skates and let me remind you this is a guy who lists among his attributes the ability to make a first pass. BTW, I don't know if anyone else caught this but in one of yesterday's dailies Pisani talked about how the Oilers D was finally did a good job of getting them the puck without the forwards having to deaccelerate. We've all touched on this but I think it's the closest any of the forwards have to saying that the D in it's current form simply isn't good enough. Just thought I'd mention that.

The Oilers "should" be able to win this game but then again I've been saying that all year and especially when the Oilers are at home. Right now the Stars PP consists of "Give it to Boucher and get out of the way" and that's only been a little more successful than the Oilers approach of "It doesn't make any "Sens"ky unless you give it to Hemsky" so there's nothing superlative to see here on either side.

Of course the big sidebar for tonight's game is the return of Nedved. The last time he plied his trade in Edmonton he did a good job capitalizing on the soft minutes and helping the PP hum and as much as one can see Lowe's latest move as the grasping of straws I think it's important to acknowledge that the explotation of soft minutes is something we can all get behind. Today's scrum produced the news that Lowe is indeed putting all the Czech's together but he didn't mention what will happen to the other three lines. 34 has meshed well with 94-10 in the past and that's a troika that can go head to head with any line in the league. But if you removed 34 from the 14-16 combo then I guess it means Lupul gets another chance on a scoring line and it would mean that the Nedved line would be playing the second toughest min behind the 10 line. That really shouldn't matter against the Stars because they don't have a lot of firepower in the first place but I don't know if I like them playing any kind of tough minutes whatsoever. Call me crazy but this is a time I'd leave the Stoll line intact and move Thoresen onto the first line and put Lupul on the 4th with Pouliot and whomever else.

Of course that can't happen because Thoresen is in the A and I doubt the Oilers are ready to effectively wash their hands of Lupul which would pretty much be the case if he landed on the 4th line.

To say the least this should be an interesting night and it will be an interesting few games as we find out whether Nedved still has any jam. The extent of his remaining abilities, if he has any left at all, will determine who gets moved and just how quickly that happens.

18 Comments:

Blogger SweatyO said...

You want answers?

This from EdmontonOilers.com via freeborn at Oilfans:

LINEUP UPDATE (11:54 AM): Nedved will be playing on a line with Petr Sykora and Ales Hemsky. As a result, Ryan Smyth will play with Horcoff and Joffrey Lupul. The Stoll-Pisani-Torres line remains in tact with the fourth line being Reasoner, Jacques and Pouliot.

Lupul getting another shot on the big line. Considering Dallas is, in principle, missing its best three forwards (or so we assume), this might not be the worst place to give this another spin.

But damn, right now is a time where I'd rather have Radek Dvorak than Joffrey Lupul around, oddly enough.

The other question I have is, given they're going back-to-back, do we see Jussi tonight or tomorrow night in Vancouver?

1/04/2007 1:34 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

The Oilers have a couple of back to back's before the break so I'll guess and say Jussi next plays next Fri vs Min with Roli resting up for the next trip to Cgy.

Regarding the rest of the lines, I didn't think MacT would take 34 off the 16 line but then again I didn't think he'd put Lupul in a PVP matchup either. In fact I was wondering whether he'd keep the 15-19 combo together and maybe shove 78 up with 94-10. But the Oilers are committed to going down with the ship when it comes to a few guys and most of them play defense and the other one is named Lupul.

Speaking of matchups...could we get back to one of those games where people track the scoring chances for and against and list the opposing centres? It's not like we're playing a team with three lines that can score but I wanna see who macT's gonna trust in tonight and who's gonna get the soft time.

I'd rather not do a period;) but I'll take one if some other guys will do the other two.

1/04/2007 1:48 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

I predicted doom for the D corps back in the preseason, when it became apparent that Smid would be in the lineup and so would Greene. But really it could have been a helluva lot worse, even though those two are the EV+/- sinkholes.

The EV+/- of the D so far:

5 -9
2 -4
21 -3
24 -2
25 -2
29 0
47 6

Which feels about right, all things considered.

Thing is, why spend prospects and draft picks to address a badly leaking basement (D) when the water is pouring through the freaking roof (F) anyways.

MacTavish is giving these "talented" forwards a shitload of rope, and they're hanging him with it. It's appalling. From what I can see the Oilers are like every other team in the league, the weak side winger in the D zone has the zone radiating out from the point between the hashmarks. And in the next week more Oiler wingers will flagrantly bail on that responsibility than the Flames wingers will all year. Prove me wrong.

We can use the Bure defense until the cows come home "How can it be Pav's fault? He was 30 feet away and skating in the opther direction!". And it will make just as much sense the first time it is said as the last.

1/04/2007 2:02 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

MacTavish is giving these "talented" forwards a shitload of rope, and they're hanging him with it. It's appalling. From what I can see the Oilers are like every other team in the league, the weak side winger in the D zone has the zone radiating out from the point between the hashmarks. And in the next week more Oiler wingers will flagrantly bail on that responsibility than the Flames wingers will all year. Prove me wrong.

We can use the Bure defense until the cows come home "How can it be Pav's fault? He was 30 feet away and skating in the opther direction!". And it will make just as much sense the first time it is said as the last.


Interesting synopsis Vic. I haven't thought about it too much, but upon some reflection, here's my take on it.

On one hand I see the Oilers' forwards sagging down far too much - ie. if one of the pointmen gets the puck he always has two passing options and possibly a shot as well. However, when the Oilers do recover the puck behind their goalline, the F-D gap is almost instantly huge - there might be one forward within a metre of the blueline but that's as close as they ever get. Therefore, there must be a jailbreak by the forwards whenever the Oilers either turn the puck over or come close to it. Combine this with the fact that the Oiler wingers are horrible at getting the puck out along the boards and this is a recipe for disaster.

1/04/2007 3:02 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

On the topic of Oiler wingers...

Has Ryan Smyth cherry picked the way he is now since 1997?

Given that he's a UFA and demanding big dollars, it's something that's really starting to get under my skin.

1/04/2007 3:16 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Smyth isn't cherry picking to my eye.

I was about to ask Vic who he has his sights trained on.

My guess is Sykora, Hemsky, Horcoff and Lupul.

The Stoll line certainly had phenomenal ES numbers two weeks ago and I imagine they're still pretty good (in fact I bet all three have positive Wilson numbers). Smyth's numbers were incredible pre-injury and he's played well since coming back, and yeah, he does backcheck. I'm assuming the 4th liners get a pass for the most part, which leaves us with the aforementioned four horsemen.

1/04/2007 3:21 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

RQ:

It just strikes me as strange that the D are getting blamed for all the chances in the high slot. That's not their job, they're either the man on the puck carrier or the man back in the crease, with the centre in support of the former (unless positions have been shuffled through the cycle, but you know what I mean). Weak side winger has the high slot. Watch Torres, the man you love to hate, he's like a fucking robot, that's why I'm sure that the responisibility is for the weak side winger to head for an imaginary X on the ice right in the middle of the high slot, just between the hashmarks. Of course getting there is just half the battle, you need to take away the man that enters there too, but Rome wasn't built in a day.

But when VAN only has two scoring chances at 5on5 through 2 periods (the last Oilers hockey I was able to watch BTW) one of them with Sedin beating Pisani in transition (no shame there on Fernando, good players make good plays), and the other was the goal that left Greene not winning the puck on the boards, and given the way it unfolded you can't fault the guy, you CAN fault the wildly optimistic Hemsky for busting up through the middle at the time. Christ, if he'd been back where he was supposed to be at least the Canuck goal scorer would have had to skate around him, if nothing else. Then Bergeron can't stop the 2on1 low on a deft deflection pass by Naslund ... and it was Bergeron's fault that he didn't make the pass to Hemsky earlier (he was a mile away on the far boards, Jesus, we need a single word that defines the exact opposite of puck support)

1/04/2007 4:09 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Yeah, the F-D gap is truly amazing right now. I typically focus on wingers on the boards in your own end when it comes to puck support, but I'm really seeing the value of it on breakouts watching these Oilers right now.

Honestly, if you're worried about the first pass from dmen, how come your breakouts all demand a 40+ foot pass? Does that make any fucking sense? I watched Calgary break out against the Oilers all night by using three guys in their own zone with short passes. That's in stark contrast to what the Oilers currently do.

There are three forwards I see actively helping the puck get up the ice from the dmen - Pisani, Smyth, and surprisingly, Pouliot. That kid comes all the way down to the half boards to get a pass and get the puck out. On top of that he'll take a hit to make a play, helps out along the boards in his own end, and he's shown some patience with the looked like He's seriously playing smarter than probably 8 veterans right now. I'm not sure he's going to win them any games right now, but I'm pleased with his development and he's certainly the best Oilers' rookie forward right now.

1/04/2007 4:51 pm  
Blogger Slipper said...

When they break down on the fly it essentially becomes a short handed situation for a very small window of time, as in for one chance at an opportunity for the opposing team. Reall burns you in a game like the one versus LA, where the Kings were acutely aware of the Oilers breakdowns and exploited the hell out of them. I mean c'mon, Blake pinching? It make me wonder if the Kings sniffed that out during the game or were prepared for it.

1/04/2007 5:04 pm  
Blogger Slipper said...

Oh and Rivers, if Smyth isn't cherry picking, he definitely has his eyes trained up the ice. But alot of Oiler forwards seem to be going on the rush prematurely, atleast for this group of D, and Smyth seems to be one of the very few executing at a high rate on the other end, so maybe it all works out.

1/04/2007 5:14 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

By my eye Smyth is cheating a lot more than he used to. Compared to a lot of guys he is coming back, and I think he picks his spots a lot better than most of the guys... but he's definitely playing higher than usual, and as much as he's picking his spots well...

... do we really need Ryan Smyth up high, ever, when we all know he's just going to wind up and take a useless slapshot?

Anyway, I like the guy, and I really should stop ripping on him, those slapshots just drive me insane.

Who's in goal tonight for either team? Turco played a long one last night in Vancouver and the Oilers have a big game tomorrow against Vancouver, so I'm hoping/expecting Smith and Markkanen? Roloson gets the start tomorrow night?

Roloson is looking fresh for the first time in months, and I'd rather Jussi be playing one of every four down the stretch here to make sure we don't burn Roli out.

'cause if he gets burnt out again and plays like he did a few weeks ago, it's going to be a short spring, if there even is one.

I also like starting Roli against Vancouver because he's a Canuck killer and Markkanen got lit up the last time we played Vancouver and the last thing we need to do is let their players believe they have the talent to score. Naslund in the SO last night summed up where almost every player is offensively on that team right now.

- PDO

1/04/2007 5:28 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

slipper:

I thought this subject would move you to comment. :) namflashback would be all over this as well, but he's awol right now.

Dennis:

I'll volunteer for the 3rd period on the scoring chance thing. To my mind no obvious targets up front for the Stars with the big guns out though. Maybe Lehtinen and Barnes. Still, probably Zubov is the guy that MacTavish should avoid. The guy may be as old as dirt, but he keeps putting up points and good EV+/- while playing very tough opposition, something he gets very little credit for doing, at least from what I've read.

1/04/2007 5:43 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

OK...all we need now is for someone to take the second frame.

Riv...I'm glad that some of the smarter guys see something to like in MAP. I've been giving him credit that he doesn't mind taking the body and that he'll take a hit but I just don't see enough from him offensively. And just as I type that I see Parise score another goal;)

I gotta try and keep track of the cheating as well in these next couple of games.

1/04/2007 6:13 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

I got the 2nd period.

1/04/2007 7:09 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

There's my boy Horc.

So..

The Oilers are up 1-0 early. Defensive zone faceoff. NEDVED, SYKORA, GREENE AND SMID ARE ALL ON THE ICE?

I know Pisani was on as well..

But if that's not absolute insanity, I don't know what is. Amazing that didn't end up in the back of our net or with a Grade A Dallas chance.

1/04/2007 7:16 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

Well..

Oilers out-chanced the Stars 5-4 at ES by my count. With or without traffic, I don't consider a point shot a scoring chance unless it's tipped, so I didn't give Dallas anything in the last minute. Outside of that, the first Oiler chance I'm not sure if it was Halpern or Riberio - I think Halpern had a real quick shift during the exact time the Oilers had their chance, and it looks like the SC agrees...

Oiler chances:

93-11 (12:30)
16-27 (10:40)
10-63 (7:34) - Goal
10-27 (3:48)
10-27 (3:27)

Dallas chances:

19-27 (16:55) - Goal
10-63 (8:10)
93-63 (4:38)
93-63 (4:34) - Goal

I counted the end there as two seperate chances as the puck went behind the net after the initial chance, then came back out in front for the second chance.

Riberio is just a high event guy as far as I can tell, nice looking period for Horcoff. The only chance the 16 line generated was the Pisani turnover.

Looks like Horcoff/Halpern is a hard match by my eye.

Also, is it just me or is Pouliot seeing a few random (short) shifts with 94-10 at RW? Always on the fly, but at least twice he was out there for ~20 seconds.

- PDO

1/04/2007 8:46 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

I taped the first period and I was going through it and logging the SC's during the first and second intermissions and I was gonna finish it up after the game. But after that 3rd period I just balled up the paper and threw it away.

With the game 4-2 Ribero comes in on a harmless one on one deal and Greene takes a penalty. He was up to his old penalty taking ways tonight. Then 16 takes a stupid hooking penalty. Then Roloson can't stop anything. Then 21 winds up behind the Dallas net and one of the Stars Finns makes it 5-4.

Brutal all around.

There was a point last year where someone started a thread on OF asking if we all thought the Oilers would make the playoffs. I said no because I just didn't think they'd be consistent enough to break into the top 8 and honestly I never really believed in that team again until they won G5 in Det. Yes I thought they could make some noise if Roli shook the rust off in time but I never let myself buy in until they won G5 in Det.

Well I have to say that the '07 Oilers lost me tonight. The team is all of a sudden able to create chances and the goal scoring is coming along but the defense is beyond bad and don't look now but Roli isn't getting on that two goals or less allowed per game roll that we need to see.

I gotta see this team play good in about 8 games of a 10 game stretch before I have any more faith in them.

1/04/2007 10:41 pm  
Blogger SweatyO said...

What a fucking bizzare, bizzare hockey game.

First off, I've got to give props to MacT for the strategy in the OT. Already down to 5D and knowing that the Oil had probably no shot in the shootout against those assholes Turco, Zubov, and J.Jokinen, he was dispatching 3 forwards on a few occasions. I liked to see that.

The sequence leading up to the Hemsky goal might have been the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen in the history of the professional sports. Methinks the hockey gods threw the Oilers a bone tonight and made up for the point that McGeough fucked them out of back on November 3rd.

That being said: THEY SHOULD HAVE HAD TWO FUCKING POINTS TONIGHT. Blowing a 4-1 lead against a Stars team sans Modano/Lindros/Morrow, playing their 2nd game in two nights? Completely fucking inexcusable. Disgusting. Vomit-inducing.

The defense was just attrocious tonight when it came to trying to make clearing attempts out of the zone, passes, plays in the corners. All around a bad night from Smith/Staios/Greene, Bergeron was his usual inconsistent self (some great rushes and some total bonehead plays right next to each other), which leaves Jan Hejda. What's that, about a dozen NHL games for him now? Folks, he was probably the Oilers best d-man on this night.

On a related topic, something that's funny in a sick way: Bergeron cost us this game by knocking Mike Smith out of the Dallas net. The third period after Turco went in...well, there's something about that guy. Call it mystique or aura, but the Oilers couldn't buy a bounce in the third, Dallas had a seeing eye-shot go in to tie the game, from where I sat whomever got the fifth Dallas goal was offside, the refs completely put their whistles away...it was fucking pathetic. I guess the Oilers got ALL their puck-luck rolled into one ten-second sequence to end the 3rd period.

Bottom line, I'll toss that piece of shit result in with the December 19th game against Colorado and the December 28th game against LA. That's 5 unquestionable blown points now. And when you add in one loss to each of Phoenix/Chicago/St. Louis/Columbus, this team SHOULD be going into Vancouver for their 41st game of the season looking to hit the 50 point barrier (conservative estimate). Instead, the best they can hope for is 43 points. Make no mistake, the Oilers NEED a win tomorrow night.

Oh, and Roloson just looked a bit off tonight, but the only goal where I can lay clear blame on him was the 2nd goal. Man, he sucks at shootouts though...no question about that.

And count me as someone who does not like the all-Czech line. Lupul looked pretty damn decent tonight though, although I'm still concerned he doesn't seem to be getting into the spots where a "sniper" will usually get their shots (and, as such, goals) from.

1/04/2007 11:03 pm  

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