Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Release the Hounds!

Or maybe not.

There has been a lot of talk about how the Oilers' "new defensive scheme where five guys line up along the red line and dare the Wings to skate it through them but its not a trap, oh boy, we'd never play a trap, that's not Oiler hockey", is the sixth sign of the Apocalypse.

There are three groups of complainers.

Those who say that the Oilers should never play the trap. They have to play Oiler hockey and if they lose doing it well that's better then a win playing it.

Red Wing fans who complain that the games are boring.

Oiler fans who think that playing the way the Oilers normally play would actually lead to better results.

The first two, well they can take a long hard suck, as far as I am concerned. The Oilers' job is to win. Period. If they have to come out dressed up like those Ice Capades chorus lines and skate in circles faster and faster with little MAB leading the way and Rem, poor Rem trying to grab on at the end just like the little runt kid in all those old movies, well so be it. If it means a win, break out the sequins. Would I prefer it if the Oil could run and gun their way back to glory. Of course I would. But I don't see Fuhr between the pipes to stop the ensuing breakaways. And I don't see Gretz, Mess, Kurri, Anderson, Coffey et al ready to hang a converted touchdown on the Early Bird special gang either.

I sure didn't think Sunday's game was boring and when I drank my victory pint it certainly did not taste like it was poured from my local hobo's arse because we didn't send three deep on the forecheck.

However the legitimate question is whether or not its the right strategy. Would the Oil be up 2-0 or in the same position, worse case, if they played the way they played in the regular season. After all, it was good enough for a spilt then, right?

Well, my first answer to that is the same as the one that I used when I predicted the Oil would win this series. The regular season means nothing. To think the Wings would be willing to skate with us now when the stakes are higher would be naive, I think. In case people haven't noticed the Wings have played a counter game for years and if we were to open it up I think they would eat us alive. These guys know what they are doing.

A run and gun favours them personnel wise as well. We didn't outshoot them all year even playing that style. Its not like we'd be getting twice the scoring chances. And remember the Oil's struggles to put the pick in the net down the stretch. The Wings, I'm afraid, would have no such issues.

Finally the safe game minimizes one of the Oilers' biggest propensities - the big mistake. You can't eliminate mistakes - God knows we saw a few Sunday - but whether its youth, getting overexcited, trying to do too much or just making bad decisions, the Oil make their share. And to beat the Wings they have to minimize them, even if it looks ugly. I love watching MAB and Staios jump into the play or Hemsky dipsy doodle or Horcoff making his soft little passes but its all about winning.

My one complaint about the strategy is that the Wings' D aren't getting pounded enough. Schneider is hurting, Kronwall is scared and Chelios is waiting to be sent into retirement but they're not paying a big enough price. I think that MacT throws a little stiffer forecheck at them at times tonight.

I think MacT should be commended, I really do. He looked at his opponents, saw that they were beaten in the playoffs the last two times by teams that played a version of the trap, looked at his personnel and theirs and came up with a game plan. Replacing LeGG was a good move even before Winchester scored.

We'll see what adjustments the Wings make tonight.


namflashback said...

More than any evaluation of how each team would play if the game was played open (read irresponsible defensively -- which the Wings never do), it has Detroit thinking.

MacT has created a situation where the Wings must respond to the game the Oilers want them to play. BEAUTIFUL. More importantly, his young players can get accustomed to the tighter checking and get in their O-groove without it smacking them in the face.

Wing's dump and chase -- they have to send >= two forwards deep and the Oiler's now have some room to breakout with speed. Mmmm must smash Chelios.

Wing's continue to try and carry in -- turnovers continue and transition back.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

I think its ideal for some of the younger guys for sure - Torres in particular. Rather then running around trying to score eight goals in a shift the game has been simplified for him - here's your role - play it.

I think we see the Oil dial it up a little more tonight - as you said the Wings are being forced to play Edmonton's game - which is a good thing - but I think we see a heavier forecheck tonight especially now that MacT has last change. Muddy the waters even more.

mudcrutch79 said...

Agreed on the props to MacT so far. I was just so impressed by the adjustment on Sunday. We'll see how things change tonight but I've got high hopes. I think MacT takes a lot of unfair shots from people and it's nice to see him have some success.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

mc79 - great stuff today by the way -
what's funny is I've always wondered why the Oil have not played this style in the past - I understand and appreciate the idea of Oilers Hockey but I always thought in the lean years that they would have been an ideal team to employ this style - they can skate and the Wild, among others (Panthers, Ducks, Canes, etc etc in various years) have shown that you don't need a plethora of talent to make it work - I wonder if it was just such a mismatch on paper, the past two Wing playoff failures against similar tactics or ???? that forced MacT into employing this trap, I mean, press.

Very interested to see if they mix it up a little more tonight, throw a harder forecheck when they get the proper matchups etc. I still think Schneider is hurting and can be had with a little bit more hitting

iwocpo said...

I agree. I think Schneider's hurting as well. I'm hoping Edmonton does ratchet up the forecheck. The Wings have grown used to that the last two months with a heavy dose of Bubba (nashville), Calgary, Anaheim and San Jose. They'd probably welcome it as a means to open up the center of the ice.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

iwocpo - what is the status of Schneider's groin - has it been a problem for a while now? They're a bugger to heal. TSN has him down as March 31 - lower body injury, April 15 - missed 7 games lower body injury, April 17 - groin day to day, April 18 - missed one game groin

He looks like he's struggling to me.

I think when the Oil will be a little more aggressive but just selectively depending on the matchups - a lot of people are thinking they're going to open it up at hime but I can't see it

iwocpo said...

He went down with a "lower body injury" that was eventually described as a groin. He's looked slow since then, and has been like a statue on the PP. You'll notice that if our power play's working it's usually because of the shots from the point from him or Lidstrom. When they're out there together, they're usually both moving laterally, waiting for a lane to open up for either one.

Lately, Schneider hasn't been moving at all and so the Oil has been able to shut down both lanes.

Typically, that's not a problem as the puck then ends up on Datsyuk's stick who can penetrate. Of course, that hasn't happened either.

Three years ago, our best ploy man up was to get the puck to Yzerman off to either side down low and let him wait for a cutter. We'll see if they go to that tonite.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Obviously tonight's a big one - I think the Wings will make some adjustments and I am very interested to see what those are. I also think the Oilers are going to see some better individual efforts from some of the Wings who have struggled.

Its been a fun couple of games - imo either team could run off the next three - the games have been so tight and they could be decided by a bounce just as the first two were. I think we'll probably go back to Detroit even up all things considered though.

Another wild card - Legace - iwcpo what are your thoughts? My impression (and I will be completely honest I know very little about him although I like him) is that he may be a little rattled. Just based on his comments after game 2. What do you think?

iwocpo said...

He always sounds rattled and he talks way too frigging much. From the lockout through the season he hasn't been able to keep a lock on that mouth. He spent most of the year in Babcock's doghouse for that reason.

Is he rattled? I doubt it. Will he steal a game for us? No.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

hmmm, whatever happened to all of the good tenders, anyhow?

if things were turn ugly would Babcock ever turn to Osgood? His numbers are pretty good but it seems like everyone on the Wings has good numbers. Is he a legitimate option?

iwocpo said...

The idea of Babcock having to turn to Ozzie to save the series makes me want to throw up in my mouth. But, IF the Wings lose and lose badly tonite, I'd be surprised if he didn't start Osgood Thursday.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

How do you really feel about Ozzie though? Seriously, no more beating around the bush.

I think tonight can go either way but while I dream of an Oilers' blowout that's all that is - a dream.

I'm thinking another 3-2 game unless the Wings pop a couple early - then I think we may really see some scoring. Or if someone's PP really catches fire.

In reality though you can probably rest easy - unless the Wings turn into the Kings or Yotes Legace might get beat but he's not going to get filled.