Friday, June 09, 2006

This is it - Part II

A month ago tomorrow the Oil played game 3 against the Sharks. Down 2-0 in the series, they had been outplayed in San Jose and it looked like we were looking at an end to the season.

In the first must win game of that series the Oil pulled it out in triple OT. They never looked back and strung together probably their best five game stretch of the post season, winning four straight against the Sharks and then dominating the Ducks (despite the score the game was not in doubt) in game one. After that the flu took hold and while they got by the Ducks it wasn't pretty.

Now they return to Rexall down two again. Make no mistake, they have to get back to Carolina square up. And it starts tomorrow night.

They can play with the Canes. Up until Brindamour's goal in G1 they were in control. If they get back into this but fall short they will rue the collapse in G1. The mistimed pinches, giving up odd man rushes, missing coverages, poor goaltending, first by Roloson, then Conklin. Up 3-0 they stopped playing the way they had to get where they were. They probably looked at the Canes barely squeaking by les Sabres, looked at the scoreboard and figured they were golden.

In G2 they were in the game until the 2-0 goal but even then we saw poor discipline, pinching at the wrong time, going for the big hit and ending up out of position as a result.

So it all comes back to tomorrow night. What has to be done? Can anything be done? Or is this beauty run over? IMO, here's what they have to do. None of this is earth shattering stuff - just basic common sense hockey.

1/ Tighten up defensively. What got the Oilers to where they are was excellent defensive hockey. While Roloson was a big part of that I agree with Pronger who said at one point that Roloson had just made the saves he had to make. That's the truth. Sure he had some beauties but this was not a run keyed by Roy circa 86 or 93 or Giguere a few years back. This was based on a team shutting down the opposition, filling passing and shooting lanes, clearing the front of the net, winning the draw in their own end, not giving up odd man rushes. They haven't played loosey goosey hockey all playoffs. They have to get back to basics. And as individuals Smith and Staios especially have to step it up as they have all post season.

2/ Discipline. You're going to take penalties. Can't be helped. The Canes will get four or five PPs and so will the Oilers. But after that discipline has to be a factor. In G1 Moreau crosschecks a Cane in front of their own net. PP goal. In G2, Greene does the same. Just a couple of examples. One other note though - Torres has taken a lot of flak for his penalty which resulted in the second goal. I was watching the game with a friend (objective at that) and he noted and I agreed, that both players leaned into each other. There should have been no call, in his opinion. Raffi got it for essentially being stronger then the other guy. He's taken his share of bad ones, to be sure, but he shouldn't get blasted for that one.

3/ Shoot the puck. Go to the net hard. Attack the defence. G1 showed the Oil how to do it and they scored four - in G2 suddenly they forgot how to shoot. Credit to the Canes for becoming shotblockers because that got into Edmonton's heads just as the Oilers have done to their opponents all postseason.

But you can't score if you don't shoot.

4/ Power play adjustments. Do something, anything. Its terrible. One PP goal and that was on a beautiful individual play. I'd say work the puck down low and have Hemsky or Samsonov take on a Dman one on one. Because this is so far beyond predictable its ridiculous. I don't even know why Samsonov and Smyth are out there. Smasonov stands in the corner. Smyth stands in front of the net. They watch Hemsky pass it to Pronger, then to Spacek, then to Pronger etc etc until someone shoots it and it gets blocked or goes wide and then they do it all over again. The second unit was called Horcoff and a bunch of monkeys by someone at IOF but those clowns potted the winner in G5 against Anaheim and have been as dangerous if not more so then the first unit. At least Horcoff tries to create and the Black Cat gets pucks on net.

If they don't change anything off this game I want Craig Simpson's head. I'll give it to the dog. He can bury it somewhere.

So there you go. Its straight forward shit. They may do all of this and more and still lose. Carolina's a good team for sure. But they're having a walk in the park here.

Play good team D.

Stay out of the box.

Shoot the puck.

Make something out of the PP.

I think, as happened with San Jose, that the Oil rebound and win tomorrow. I have faith that MacT has made the adjustments and that this team will do what they have done when they had to - come out desperate and take the victory.

Then we will see in G4 if we have a series or not.

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