Wednesday, May 31, 2006

He's a little greene


This picture of Matt Greene was taken a year ago. He is addressing fans at the University of North Dakota, thanking them for their support of their hockey team, which he captained.

I'll be the first to admit that I've given Greene some flak but its time to give him a little bit of praise too.

He had only 27 games of NHL experience this season and has been pressed into duty on our third pairing. On the road he and Bergeron have not been spared any tough matchups, although MacT has sheltered them at home.

It gets chaotic at times when they are out there and Greene has ended up in the box more often then I'm sure he would like.

But give him a little credit. He's doing his part. He's even on the plus/minus ledger despite having to face some pretty tough opposition at times.

Given that in a year he has gone from being a university student to contributing to this Oilers' run, well I'd say that's better then alright.

Good for him!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Why Not Us, Indeed?


- After the first period all doubts were quieted in my mind. Even down 1-0 you could see that Game 4 was an aberration and that even if we lost Game 5, we would take Game 6 or Game 7. After all that, it was the flu. The Ducks were not the second coming of the Ottawa Silver Seven. Sorry Teemu.

- They always say a break is bad but I have to think a few days off will be good for these guys. The top four D, especially Spacek, really looked gassed. Roloson was great tonight but a few days off won't hurt.

- Bergeron is dynamite on the PP - but at even strength? Yeeesh.

- And Matt Greene may be a good NHL D next year or in five years (or never) but he's hard to take sometimes. MacT must really hate Tarnstrom

- Don't look now but three straight games with a goal for the fourth line. And was that Rem the Gem killing penalties? He got hacked on a lot earlier these playoffs but he deserves credit now. He's playing well.

- Saw the good Dvorak and bad tonight - no hands in close but hard work all of the time and had a part in Moreau's goal

- Torres looked refreshed - nice hit on Penner, played under control, good for him

- ok, tons of penalties - at least get this too many men thing solved - had visions of Don Cherry's Bruins at the end. And then Pronger over the glass.

- Smytty, Horcoff, Pisani and Peca led the way up front, as always

- Stoll looked better tonight. Hemsky too.

- why dress LeGG if you're not going to play him. Seriously. Put in Peterson or Harvey. Or dress 7 D and use Bergeron exclusively on the PP.

- experience played a huge role in this series, just as it did against the Sharks, I think, and I do believe the Ducks were a little overconfident (why?). Hopefully our next opponent will be of the same mind.

- Ethan Moreau - what a beast

Finally, a bit of a break. For a few days we can relax. And then it will get going again.

Four more wins!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Eat Me Joffrey Lupol. You too Teemu.





Maybe next year, Ducks.

So ... why not us indeed?

Recap some time tomorrow.

So so sweet.

Friday, May 26, 2006

All Aboard!


Game 5, back to California.

I called this as Oil in Six but I'd take Oil in Five. Seriously, guys, hello??

- listening to the Ducks you'd think they were the 76 Canadiens; now, they are a good team but you know what - they're playing a team that is literally sick and exhausted and they have only won one game; it seems the Ducks have forgotten that in G3 they were down by four with twelve minutes left to play. I could see them winning game 5. But don't give me this "we've deserved better" BS. When you have guys who are willing to run their mouths off but not pay the price, when you have guys who move out of the way of a shooter, when you have guys who bail out when they are about to be hit, well, then you have guys who are not willing to do what it takes to win. And that is why you are down. Not because of luck.

- oh, by the way, the goaltender is part of the team; the one thing I agree with Pat Quinn was when he would get pissed off at people who said the only reason they won was because of their keeper. The goalie is part of the team. If he stops the puck more then your guy stops the puck then you lose. Right?

- interested to see what lineup MacT goes with tomorrow - who plays and with whom? Some guys look a little tired - Spacek, Pronger, Stoll - hopefully the whole team will come with some good energy right from the start

- I think we will see a business like effort from the Oil - aggressive, focussed, doing the little things again - game four was a wakeup call for a team that probably has begun to believe their press - they woke up yesterday thinking, man, we're a game away - still have to win that game

- watching les Sabres getting smoked - its a funny game - in G3 the Sabres were all over the Canes - tonight its the reverse; hopefully we will see the Oil pull this on the Ducks tomorrow

Laisse aller vous Sabres!


I used to live and work in Clearwater Florida. We still have an office there. When the Flames and Bolts were playing for the Cup in '04 I spoke to a coworker down there (a hockey fan, originally from Michigan) and asked him if there was any buzz surrounding the Lightning.

He said that if they won, probably 20,000 people would care.

Now, I don't believe in the whole "this team deserves to win etc etc" deal that some, especially embittered Canucks' fans, seem to raise. The Oil don't deserve to win because they have won five Cups. The Habs don't because they have their quota for the next 300 years. And so on.

But I have to say that if any team should get a shot from the East, the Sabres are as good a choice as any.

A small market team from a city that actually cares about the sport. A rich history with great players - the French Connection, Danny Gare, Barrasso, Lafontaine and Mogilny, Peca, Hasek. A blue collar team full of castoffs and youngsters that plays with heart and skill and speed.

And if you have never heard a Sabres' game on the radio it is FUN.

Last round some wag said that if the Sabres and Oilers met that they'd have to stock up on officials because there would be a lot of pulled quads as they tried to keep up.

The Oil aren't there yet.

And the Sabres are in a world of trouble, missing three of their top six D as well as Tim Connolly.

But if they win tonight they'll be a win away.

Be careful what you wish for, right? But at this point, everyone scares the hell out of me. The Sabres. The Canes. And yes, until they are dead and buried, the Ducks.

If the Oil finished off the Ducks and had to face Merv for the Cup I would soil myself.

But if you are sacrificing a goat at the base of a lifesize stone carving of Howie Morenz tonight to try and win favour for the Oil, perhaps put a kidney or a testicle or two aside for Les Sabres.

Staying Ahead of the Curve


Whenever the Oilers' season ends the postmortems will begin but already posts and the ensuing threads are beginning to ask what the face of this team will look like next year. A lot of this is due to the recent Brad Richards' signing and the resulting commentary on what this will mean to the NHL. I touched on that signing a couple of days ago.

Lain over at Lowetide has his usual - a great post - in which he talks about how this year's final four has no dynasties but four magic bullets.

We have seen the future. This is it, for better or for worse.

I like Richards but I didn't like the signing. Regardless of how much the cap increases for next season and beyond I think that Jay Feaster is going to have to be very good and very lucky to put the pieces of a contender together when he has three players signed to big longterm deals. Others disagree, saying that Feaster actually will get good value once the cap begins to rise. Of course, time will tell but if Richards has nobody to play with ...

There has been some gnashing of teeth as to what this contract means to a team like the Oilers as they try and build a team that will contend next year and in the years following. In the past Roloson, Pisani, Samsonov, Peca and Spacek would have all been goners. The Wings would have given Roloson and Pisani whatever it took to get them under contract. The Leafs would have signed Samsonov and Peca. The Avs, Spacek. All at prices that the Oilers could never hope to match. But this offseason is going to be a little different. AbeltoYzerman has an interesting take on the Wings and their own cap issues and whether or not they can/should sign Nick Lidstrom.

Times have changed. Now, there are no rules on building a winning team but I think that if we look at the four remaining teams this year we may see what the future holds. And it is different from the past. Some of these are common sense. Some of these have been touched on elsewhere.

1/ Goaltending. Easiest one, right? But even more so nowadays when there is little to choose between teams. I don't think we'll see a team so good that they can win a Cup with Chris Osgood in net. You have to have a guy who can outperform the other guy when the chips are down. Ask Ottawa. Or Dallas. Or any number of teams. And there is not a glut of good keepers out there. Roloson, Gerber and Huet are going to get some good coin. SJ is going to be able to trade Nabokov. Anaheim will get value for Giguere. Chicago may even be able to move Khabibulin. Why else is Muckler making noise about bringing Hasek back?

Roloson is going to get paid. He has to be priority #1 for Lowe. He has the cap room and the inside track to do it.

He has to make sure the Oilers have good goaltending. Suddenly, not a lot of teams have it. Kevin Lowe's job is to make sure the Edmonton Oilers are one of those teams. If he does this then if the Oilers make the playoffs they will always have a chance to do what they are doing this year.

2/ Value for cash at the bottom end of your roster. You can't pay Dvorak 1.5M to score 8 goals. LeGG can't get 1M. I like both but LeGG gets 500K max and Dvorak not much more. Both useful players but if Chad Kilger scores 19 and is a decent two way player for the Leafs and gets 900K per for 3 years then there's your benchmark. Its like Domi getting 1.5 per for the Leafs for two years. A waste of assets. If they won't take less then cut them loose. JF Jacques will work hard and score 8 goals for 450K.

3/ Young (cheap) players who contribute. Anaheim has Penner, Getzlaf, Bryzgalov, Lupol, Perry, Beauchemin. Carolina has Ward, Ladd and Staal. Buffalo has Roy, Connolly, Vanek, Khalinin. The Oilers have Stoll, Hemsky, Greene, Bergeron, Pisani, Horcoff (the latter two not all that young but still cheap). Some have said that the draft is not important because teams can pick up young UFAs.
Here's a newsflash. Teams can only spend so much money. 43M or 46M is not going to give a team an edge like 75M or 80M did. Teams are going to make mistakes - Domi, Rathje, Hatcher, Mogilny, McGillis - that eat up that cap room. If a team does not draft and develop cheap young players they are not going to get anywhere. You have to have young guys at the top and bottom of your roster.

4/ No big contracts or give them to the right guys. If teams throw stupid money at players, as some will, then they will be out of the bidding for others who have better value. Since the Richards' signing the names being bandied about as possibilities for like contracts include Elias, Lidstrom, Chara, Redden, Jovanoski, Selanne etc etc etc.

Let other teams sign these guys. Let Anaheim sign Selanne to 7M per so that they can't afford Freisen, O'Donnell and Salei. Let the Wings sign Lidstrom so they come back with Jamie Howard as their #1 goalie. The Canucks can give Jovo 7M - good luck signing the Sedins. Ottawa can blow the budget on Redden and then watch Schaefer leave and have to dump Chris Phillips.

Give the big contracts to the guys who play 30 minutes a night - the D men - or who play every minute - your number one goalie. Pronger and Niedermeyer. Luongo. Guys who will make a difference because they are always on the ice and because they are premier players.

This is my biggest issue with the Richards' deal. 7.8M buys the Oil Smyth, Horcoff, Hemsky, Torres, Stoll and Moreau (give or take 200K). I love Richards but who is getting better value for their money? Richards is a great offensive player. Tampa has three of these. Where did their season end? Who has a bigger impact game to game? Pronger, who plays 30+ minutes? Niedermeyer who does the same? Or Brad Richards?

5/ Learning when to say goodbye. The Oil have five major components of this team who are UFAs - Roloson, Pisani, Peca, Samsonov and Spacek. Lowe has to identify who he wants to keep and what their value is. If Pisani gets an offer of 2M per year from the Wings then he should, as Brian Burke once said, congratulate him, drive him to the airport and say goodbye.

Because that is 2M less out there to be spent and he can get a comparable player for less. I love Pisani. I hope the Oil resign him. He has been golden this playoffs. But Lowe can't pay him that money. He can use that money to resign Horcoff or pay a #4 Dman so Staios can drop to the third pair or ... well, you get the picture.

Peca is going to take a pay cut. What if he gets an offer for three years?

Is Samsonov worth 3.5 M a year because he's going to get that offer?

They have to go to the wall on Roloson. I think they can get Pisani done too. I'd love to see Peca back. Heck I'd love to see them all back.

But at my price, not someone else's.

Because there are going to be players out there to replace these guys. Either by signing them or trading for them, Lowe can replace them. Even Roloson although that is one gamble I would not take. Letting a guy like Pisani go would be a drag but if you look at the Sabres' roster you can see a lot of good cheap players. There are going to be players like that on the market every year.

If Pisani (I hate to pick on him because I love the guy) gets an offer for 2M, let him go. Use the 1.2M I think he is worth to sign another guy who will score 15 to 20 goals and take care of his own end. There are going to be a lot of guys like that when the music stops and teams have blown their wads on the big and sexy names.

Use that extra 800K to sweeten the deal for Horcoff and Smyth - 400K each. Or to pick up a 3M Dman (that's a good Dman) at the trade deadline.

A dynasty? Not going to happen. Every team has key UFAs. Being in position to be the magic bullet. That is what Kevin Lowe has to do for the Oil.

Seventeen Days


Just realized its been that long since the Oil lost.

That's a pretty damn good run.

Last night though, they finally really looked like a team that had fought the flu. They looked tired. All the PKS certainly didn't help. After the Staios delay of game that halted that furious onslaught in the second they just never found their legs again.

Good to see that Giguere is no answer in goal for the Ducks.

Good also to see some guys who have been quiet the last two games look like they are on the mend - Smyth and Moreau especially.

And the fourth line has two goals in the last two games.

Have to draw something positive from last night, right?

And I'm starting to get a serious dislike for the Ducks as well. How can that be? Their kids just have those cheese eating grins - Getzlaf and Lupul - and Perry looks like a rat. And Selanne - who I have always liked - I swear if the Oilers had come back last night he would be petitioning the NHL for a best of 9 or best of 11 because the Ducks are the better team, as he says.

A win Saturday would be nice. For my health. For the Oilers' health.

And to shut these guys up.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Home For a Rest


Going for the sweep. The Oil have been outchanced. They have been lucky.

But they have also been good. Pundits may talk about luck but when one team is constantly in the shooting lanes and passing lanes that's not luck. That's good hockey. When one goalie makes the saves and the second doesn't. Good hockey.

Not sure how having your team ravaged by the flu fits in under the lucky column either.

I think the Ducks, like the Sharks, have a little too much youth. Like Lupul talking about all they had to do was run Pronger seven or eight times a game.

Whatever, kid.

Tied with the Wings at one. Oil won G3. Tied at two - won G5. Chance to close it out. They did.

Tied with the Sharks at two. Won G5. Chance to close it out. Done.

As they get closer to the finals they are becoming better and better at putting teams away.

Desperation. Not just with 12 minutes left when you're down 2-0 in a series and 4-0 in a game.

Every game.

I think tonight the Oil finish them off. They don't want to go back to Anaheim. They need to heal their wounded and get over this flu and rest rest rest.

I think tonight I'll be posting four pint glasses.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Richards Effect


I like Brad Richards. A lot. He's a terrific hockey player.

And now his new contract has effectively killed his team's chances at winning the Cup for the next few years unless Jay Feaster can work a miracle.

Richards, Lecavalier and St.Louis take up almost 20M in cap room for the Bolts now and even if the cap bumps up to 46M, likely more like 43M apparently, they are top heavy in salary now. If Feaster plays it like Kevin Lowe did this year and leaves himself some room under the cap at the beginning of the season then he has @ 18-20 M left to spend. If he gets right against the cap then he has another 3 M to spend and better pray then everybody stays healthy and plays up to snuff.

Maybe he looks at the Oil and sees that after Pronger, Peca and Smyth (13.5 total) Lowe spent @ 23 M and look where they are.

Me, I look at the fact that Tampa is paying Richards what the Oil paid Smyth, Horcoff, Hemsky, Torres, Stoll and Pisani this year.

Who got the better value?

Look, I love Richards but has Feaster not looked around the league and seen who will be available next year. The year after?

Some guys are going to cash in big because of this contract. Let other teams give guys huge long term contracts. Hopefully Lowe will pick up the pieces.

Lowe played it the way it has to be played this year.

Leave yourself room under the cap, plenty of it, so you can augment your lineup cheaply as the year progresses. The Bolts could have used a goalie, defensive depth and secondary scoring but they had no money to go out and get the reinforcements Lowe did.

Leave yourself flexibility with contracts from year to year. Do you think Bob Clarke is happy to have Hatcher and Rathje signed for the longterm after seeing them get burned time and time again by les Sabres? Do you think that if the Leafs give Bryan McCabe 5M to go along with Kaberle's 4.5M that in 5 years they will be happy with those investments? Is McCabe worth 1M less a year then Chris Pronger? Is he worth more then Smith, Staios, Greene and Bergeron combined? Especially considering Smith and Staios' contracts expire soon?

Guys are still going to get their big contracts. The Oil are going to lose guys from this terrific team this summer. But you know what? If Lowe knows what he's doing then he will get the right guys under contract and if their agents ask for the moon he will drive them to the airport and say good luck and move on. And he will find guys to replace them.

Because Tampa and a lot of other teams won't have the room to sign a lot of useful players.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Jesus Murphy!





But in a good way.

One more win.

4-0 - said to the wife "Nice to have a laugher for once."

Ass.

One more win!

Putting the Squeeze On


Waiting for medical updates while wondering what Bob Cole will do when he retires. And whether that retirement will be in the next week.

Once again, Bob, Horcoff is #10. Just a little fyi.

I think this team has gotten MacT's message loud and clear. While the regular season Oilers tended to win when they had to they also passed up opportunities to put teams down when they had the chance.

This team wins the must win games - G3, G4, G5 vs San Jose, G5 vs Detroit and also put the hammer down when the chance presents itself. They can close.

Game 2 against the Ducks, despite looking fluridden and tired, they did what they had to do.

Tonight they can, with a win, put themselves in an almost unassailable position.

With home ice matchups and a sense of purpose, led by the guy who was brought here to lead, Mike Peca, I think tonight they put Anaheim in a huge hole.

One they can't get out of.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

T.K.O.'s



One TV.

Game 2.

Desperate Housewives finale.

My wonderful wife offered to tape D.H. but I've been pushing it with the six week TV takeover, so ...

Oh boy. And living in the east end of T.O. (Coxwell and Danforth) a veritable wasteland for good pubs. Certainly any place to watch the game. There are a dozen places to buy a drink in my neighbourhood and I wouldn't be able to tell you what the inside of one looks like. We're talking stabbings and shootings, people.

My local, hidden away on a nearby sidestreet, full of F.O.B. Irishmen, including the owners. Safe but no T.V.

So tonight I ventured to the one place that looks reasonable on our little strip - T.K.O.s. And you know what, it was alright.

Great place to watch a game. Little place. Three TVS right over the bar. Good sound. No shootings. No stabbings. Guinness on tap.

Missed the beginning. Bergeron out. Torres out. I was surpised that MacT would change the lineups - oh wait, the flu. Jesus. Tarnstorm has been healthy all of this time. MacT must hate the guy. Funny thing is I was on board before I heard there was a flu. Good moves.

Way more relaxed with Tarnstrom instead of MAB. Greene, solid, not terrible. And this Peterson. Two good shots on net, set up another, he can skate. Can he play centre? Way better vibe for the fourth line.

So, I guess this is a typical Ducks' home game then. Bad ice. Quiet crowd. No shooters. And dull dull dull.

So the Oil looked better then G1 but really the same. Workmanlike. Samsonov had a nice game. Hemsky too, I'd say he's starting to get it.

Pisani is Claude Lemieux. Not as ugly. Not a dirty prick like him. But Christ. Clutch.

And Bob. Bob Cole. Shawn Horcoff is left handed and he wears # 10. Jarret Stoll. Right handed. #16. Nice work.

Opportunity Knocks


For the first time these playoffs the Oil took a Game 1. And now, the chance to go up 2-0. No guarantees if this happens but their chances of advancing go up greatly if they do.

The Ducks will be desperate. I think the Oilers match it. They have shown that killer instinct already and I think MacT has them prepared. Its a huge opportunity for them to take that next step. I think they will recognize this and shut the Ducks down.

But good.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Good Start


Up one after one. Good to see. All the pressure on the Ducks for G2. The Oil can really put themselves in a good position with a win on Sunday. The Ducks will be desperate.

A different game of course with the Ducks. A strange one. Not a lot of flow at times, it seemed. Oilers looked tired.

Peca continues to get better. He has really become what they expected him to be. Solid, if not spectacular effort from most of the forwards. Christ, someone has to sit Torres down though. Running around without a clue. I'd rather have Hemsky out there then him. Put Rem on the wing. At least he'll get the puck out. Ah, forget that.

Spacek and Staios had a terrific game, I thought. Especially a nice job on the last PK.

And Roloson was Roloson.

When will Tarnstrom be back? I asked Stan for peace and quiet when MAB and Greene are out there. Instead I get fear and riot.

Jesus.

Still, one up. The Ducks looked rested, not rusty. Its a nice win - lets get another on Sunday, shall we?

As a quick postscript I just saw Carlyle's post game presser. What a breath of fresh air that was after listening to Ron Wilson for two weeks. No whining. No ego. Just a nice smart assessment of what happened and what his team has to do to get better.

Get out the Brooms!


That's what you call a little false hubris, there. No way this ends in four unless one team gets absolutely every break possible.

I have seen everything from Ducks in five to Oil in five.

Some guy at SI, Scott Wraight, picks the Ducks in six although he likes the Spacek/Pronger pairing for the Oil as well as their scoring, led by Peca, Smyth and Torres.

Jeez, why do they even bother. Nice work, pal.

Anyhow, as has been my wont I'm picking the Oil in six. I'll leave the number crunching to others but here's the why.

The matchup - Man, past numbers favour the Oil but they mean nothing now. However they do tell us one thing and that is that the Oil match up well with the Ducks. The Ducks are fast. So are the Oil, unlike the Avs. The Ducks have balanced scoring. So do the Oil. These teams are almost mirror images in a lot of ways. I think that the advantages the Ducks had over their last two opponents are nullified here.

Goaltending - I know the Ducks' youngster has put up dandy numbers but so had Toskela. I'll take Roloson over the kid anyhow. I'm thinking the Oil get to him.

The Devils Principle - I think the Ducks are a really good team and they could take the Oil. I also think they've had an easier ride then the Oil so far. Beating a team with one guy who can score (and it still took them 7 games) and a one line team with shaky goaltending and Patrice Breezeby eating up significant minutes does not a juggernaut make. We'll see how the Ducks do against a fast, tough, experienced squad with depth up front and on the blueline.

The Oil are rolling and I think get to a better start then they did in the last series. Good thing too because if they spot the Ducks two games I don't think they come back.

The Ducks don't have the top end offensive talent that the Wings and Sharks do, except for Selanne and MacDonald. They'll see a lot of Pronger and Smith, I'd think.

The Ducks do have, like the Oil, a lot of guys who can get that big goal - Jeff Friesen being one. The Oil did do well shutting down the secondary scoring from the Sharks. Guys like Niemenen, Mark Smith and Scott Thornton counted one goal between them so hopefully the Oilers can do the same to Friesen, Marchant, Lupol and Getzlaf.

In a lot of ways its experience against youth - we'll see how the Ducks hold up playing some veteran guys who are going to battle tooth and nail for that shot at the Cup.

In the end, I see the Oil taking it in six. I don't know if the eight days off will hurt the Ducks tonight but I don't think it will help. (see Jersey/Avs) I think the Oilers have a little more juice offensively and that experience and plain old guts will carry the day in the end. Intangibles sometimes mean a whole lot of nothing but the Oil are playing together and they've got it going on.

Play hard. Play smart. Stay out of the box as much as possible.

Oil in 6.

Prince of Wales


Well, I'm 6 and 6 for predictions so far so if you want accuracy go to mudcrutch who is 9-3. I have picked the Oilers twice and both times in 6, so I'll take that.

Took the Stars - who knew?
Took the Habs in an upset special and they were looking good until Saku went down.
Took the Sens - never again.

Anyhow, Eastern Conference final. Les Sabres versus the Canes.

I'm applying what I call the "Devils' Principle" to this one. I just made that up but what it refers to is how everybody and their brother picked the Devils to go all the way after a nice stretch run in the regular season and a sweep of the Rangers. The Rangers were missing Jagr. They were missing Lundquist. But you'd have thought the Devils had beaten the Ottawa Silver Seven. (This principle can also be applied to San Jose's beatdown of Nashville.) Big deal.

And now this principle is applicable to the Canes. They beat the Habs but if Saku didn't go down I think they would have been done. They beat the Devils - not the Devils of old, but a one line team with a hodgepodge of defence (no Stevens, no Niedermeyer) and a off form Brodeur.

Are the Canes a good team? Sure they are. They are deep up front. They are solid on the back end.

And I think Buffalo eats them alive. Too fast. Too deep. Too much skill. Its a good matchup for the Sabres. And Ward, while very good, is a step below Miller, I think.

The Canes, like the Sharks, will probably be back.

But this is not their year.

Les Sabres in 6.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Moving On Up



Some last thoughts on our victory over the Sharks.

I think a lot of the Sharks were hurting - Michalek was never a factor after the Torres hit. Bernier seemed to disappear. Mark Smith. Cheechoo. Thornton. At various points during the series these players were all sent off the ice in rough shape after being punished by the Oilers. I know the Oil probably have their share of bumps and bruises too but it seemed as the series wore on the Sharks competed less and less.

In a similar vein I think the hitting wore down their D. Hannan in particular seemed to make a lot more errors as the series moved along.

How many Shark players overachieved or played up to their capabilities - Ehrloff, maybe? Toskela did all he could as well. But anyone else? How many underachieved?

What about if you apply that test to the Oilers? How many performed far better then you would think? Horcoff. Smyth. Peca. Moreau. Smith. Staios. Bergeron. Harvey in his one game. Maybe Stoll. How many underachieved or did not contribute? Greene is in over his head. We could always use more from Hemsky. Raffi is a little undisciplined.

But these are minor quibbles compared to what the Sharks were looking at. In the must win games - G5 and G6 - they did not get it done. They became unglued, failed to compete, failed to rise to the occasion.

Wonder what Ron Wilson has to say now.

Right now the Oil are a team firing on all cylinders. While anything can happen the fact is that in the last four games they put themselves in a position to win each game and deserved each victory. That's all you can hope for. And they are getting better as the playoffs have progressed. Their experience and the leadership in the room and on the ice is telling. MacT is also doing a great job of keeping them focussed and aware of the opportunity that they have.

And lets not forget Roloson.

On to the next challenge. Another big one. But another one that can be handled as well. Play hard. Play smart.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

On to the Final Four!






Horc - over 25 minutes of icetime. Outplayed the MVP over the series. Another huge goal. LT, move over, time to share in your mancrush 'cause I'm moving in.

A sweet sweet win. That's what you call grinding one out. Christ, I'm tired from watching.

Next, the Ducks!

Cheers!

Topless College Girls


Now now. If I had a collection of pictures of naked women I wouldn't be sharing them. Hell, I wouldn't even be typing this right now.

I'd be looking at my collection of pictures of naked women.

You're a dirty old man, Vic.

Of course, so am I.

Closing Time


One of the traditional saws in hockey is that the fourth game in a series is the hardest to win.

Before G6 against the Wings I had my doubts about the Oilers' killer instinct but their third period that night showed us that they know to put their hands on the throat of their opponent and give it that final squeeze.

Hopefully tonight they can do it again.

I like their chances. The Sharks are going to be desperate obviously but as many have noted over the past weeks the Oilers have experience on their side. I think it has been telling in this series especially. The Oilers have a lot of veterans who have won at the international and junior level but none have won the Cup. I'm sure guys are saying that this is their moment and they had better seize it because it may not come again. I think the Sharks may not have that type of urgency. They are young and last season they were in the Final Four - they may be of the mind (and they may be right) that this is where they are going to be for the next while - contending. While Ryan Smyth can say that in all of his years in the league this is the farthest he has come so they'd better get it done because it might be another ten years (I'd hope not) before they have this opportunity.

Other keys:

Fast start at Rexall - in both games at Rexall the ice has been tilted in their favour. They deserved to win both games. A fast start and some pucks in the net early for the Oil and the Sharks may be done.

Toskela's space - I wouldn't say the Oil are in his head but he is definitely no longer in theirs. In the last two games Smyth, Horcoff, Pisani and Stoll each have two goals - Peca, Samsonov and Hemsky have also counted from the forwards. Goals breed confidence and I think the Oil feel good right now

special teams - its important to stay out of the box - I think the Sharks are going to simplify the PP - back to the point and blast away - I think with the edge in matchups we'll see fewer Oil penalties as we'll see fewer mismatches down low (eg/ Greene vs Thornton)

home ice advantage - with last change I think MacT gets the right matchups - add to that that some of the younger Sharks have seemed to disappear in the Rexall games and I think its a definite advantage for the Oil

Sharks' composure - at the end of G5 some of the Sharks seemed to lose their heads - hopefully this will carry over and they will crack under Oiler pressure

Pinching D - Torres, Hemsky and Samsonov among others would be well advised to look at the tape of Pisani's second goal and see how Smyth handled Hannan's pinch. The Sharks are pinching all of the time and the wingers aren't getting that puck out as quickly as they should in many cases. They're going to pinch - chip it by them, take the hit and hope for some oddman rushes the other way. Worse case the puck is out of the zone.

Pregame jitters have started but feeling pretty good - if the Oil play their game I think they're wrapping it up.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Better then alright




Back to Rexall up one.

Weird game - Rem and LeGG are on the PP now. Things are good.

OIl in serious penalty trouble in the first two periods - some ticky tack shit but most of it by the book - both of Peca's were a little iffy but no other arguments here. Torres going to Pronger's defence - what the hell?

After SJ evened it up it didn't look so good. And then Horc sets up Pisani and next thing, another half dozen hung on Toskela.

Smytty with two - finally rewarded.

And Horcoff completely outplaying Thornton.

Talking to my wife (she has returned and I more then survived btw with my Dad's long weekend w/ the kids) and said to her that last game was the first since, what Phoenix in April or March was it, where I could actually relax in the last few minutes of the game. And now another.

Sweet.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

pressure


Despite Ron Wilson's assertions that it was a couple of lucky bounces that led to his team's defeat in G4, one wonders if the inventor of the game might be a little stunned at the recent turn of events. Wilson never lets anyone see him sweat, which is good, but his rookie laden team has gotten worse as the series has progressed while the Oil have improved in each game. The Oilers have to win one on the road - will G5 be it?

Keys

- does the Tank lead to that much better matchups for the Sharks? Someone somewhere is charting this. We know one thing for sure - Wilson is going to be trying to keep Thornton away from Smith

- will home ice once again get the Sharks rooks playing like they're ten feet tall? Haven't heard Bernier's name mentioned much lately.

- Will Michalek return? Without him Marleau's line has been far less effective.

- Does Toskela start or do they go with Nabokov? I have to think Toskela. But what is he thinking after getting filled in G4?

- Can the Oilers outskate the Sharks again and pressure their D as they did in G4? The Oil forwards really exposed their D in G4. Can they keep up the momentum?

- Are the Oilers forwards finally getting going? There is a long list of guys who look to be getting stronger and stronger. Will Samsonov continue to be as big a factor? Will Horcoff? Can Smyth pot one or two?

I'm thinking the Oil come home with a chance to put SJ away.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Whoo whoo - all aboard the karma train!



Before last game I posted a pic of Moreau beating on someone and he had a great game as the Oil got on the board in this series. Before tonight I found one of Smith assaulting someone and he led the team to a sweet sweet comeback.

Does anyone have a pic of Roloson giving someone the business?

Beat after a day of chasing the kids around so not much to say. They looked tired to start and there seemed to be some issues with wingers getting the puck out of the zone but a lot of guys sure looked good. Pisani/Peca/Torres sure got the momentum going. Hemsky, for all of the grief he gets, had a nice game. Be nice if he shows up Sunday. At least he is shooting. I thought Samsonov might pass when he had that open net. Luckily he did not. But actually he played pretty well also.

Smytty and Horc were Smytty and Horc.

Christ - a 6-3 win. And they punished the Sharks. Punished them.

Having said that I'll bet the Sharks come out flying on Sunday. Their youngsters play much better at home. A lot of them looked intimidated at Rexall. But if the Oil play their game I think we're coming back up 3-2.

The big one


Inlaws are gone. Wife is gone. Kids are here but they'll be in bed when the game starts. So I'm up for the duration.

Apparently Michalek will be back but they said the same for game 3. When a guy get his bell rung you never know what may happen.

Game plan - same as game 3. I don't know if the Oil win this series if they win tonight but if they lose ...

Need to come out and get to Toskela (some insight, huh). He's really terrific but if they could convert a good first period into three goals, say, maybe they can shake him up a little.

Moreau has been terrific - he will set the tone again I think.

I think Torres will be a real factor again as well.

I have my hands full - toddler and baby all weekend - maybe Hemsky can channel my daughter. Nothing as angry and focussed as a two and a half year old who does not want to nap.

Lets even it up.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

True Grit


From the Hat in today's Globe:

On the winning goal at the 2:24 mark of triple overtime, Oilers forward Ryan Smyth centred the puck in front to Horcoff, who jammed it in from the top of the crease where he got inside of defenceman Jose Gorges. Smyth missed the second half of the second period of regulation when an errant Chris Pronger clearing pass hit him in the mouth, knocking out three teeth and cutting him for eight stitches. Smyth returned for the start of the third period and made a Herculean effort on the winning goal.

"It was a huge lift," said Horcoff, of the example that Smyth set for his team. "He lost three teeth. We were picking them up, off the ice. I'm saying, 'is that his tooth?' Yup, that's his tooth. So we went over and picked them up and he's got stitches. Talking on the bench, I could barely hear him because his mouth is numb. I mean, what do you say about Smitty? He's done that his whole career. I realized that about Smitty along time ago. He's established himself as that type of player, so it didn't surprise us at all."

Smyth was scheduled for a pair of dental appointments — one right after the game, then another first thing Thursday morning. The hope is that his teeth can be saved.


Or as Sacamano puts it:

If he wasn't already there, Ryan Smyth has just joined the pantheon of athletes that should only play for one team. Losing his chicklets and then coming back to play the way he did in the third and OTs? Unbelievable.

Smytty's been a favourite of mine for years and after the Samsonov deal there was some talk of the possibility of him moving along. Now I like Sammy, I really do, but the reality of it is that they're probably going to have to decide one or the other and spend that 4M elsewhere - goaltending, RW, top 4 D etc etc - one place the Oil are loaded at is LW. I can't see them dropping 7-8M on two LW.

Down the stretch Smytty was there. First round he was there. Last night ...

I like Sammy. I do. But its a no brainer.

I was abed



Oh yeah. End of the second here in T.O., inlaws staring at me as I sat on their bed (couch) watching our only TV.

Don't think I would have made it to the end even if I'd stayed up although I did watch all of the Stoll game.

After G1 against Detroit someone posted that the Wings had taken the Oilers' best punch and survived. This was followed by a flurry of accurate comments - that that was definitely not the Oilers' best punch.

Period 1 last night may have been. And SJ withstood it. Man they are a tough team.

But the Oil prevailed - what a sweet way to wake up.

And as of Friday I have the TV back so we're golden the rest of the way, however long that may be.

Anyhow I'll have thoughts on P1 and P2 later. Now for the hard part.

Finally, how apropos that Horcoff scored the goal, set up by Smyth.

And how weird that Torres set up the first with a nice play and then scored to tie it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Fan: Ardent devotee, enthusiast; short for fanatic


fanatic

adj : marked by excessive enthusiasm for and intense devotion to a cause or idea; "rabid isolationist" [syn: fanatical, overzealous, rabid] n : a person motivated by irrational enthusiasm (as for a cause); "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject"--Winston Churchill [syn: fiend]


Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University

After G2 Mike over at CoveredinOil channelled Nick Hornby:

My point? Being a fan makes me feel bad. Even when a game involving the Oilers is by all objective standards a great hockey matchup, I cannot enjoy it. Instead, I pace around the room, scream expletives, nervously finger a guitar, and more often than not you can find me in the crash position, face buried in my hands. Tonight I was two feet in front of my TV, just standing there for the entire second period. The only good game is one in which we win (about 50/50), and even at that, victory's reward is that of sated relief, a belly full of glory that only lasts until the next game. SO I ask, with rended heart: Why am I fan?

Ineffable fandom is certainly something to ponder, but it's also a completely serious zero sum game of emotions: at no point can I watch a game with any detachment, and, say, marvel at Chrisitan Erhoff's development as a top 4 defenceman. He might even be a nice guy who collects butterflies and writes Philip Larkin-inspired poems in his spare time, but at the end of the game I'll still want his head on pike. On the other hand, absent-mindedly watching Anaheim school Colorado with very little personal stake is a summer breeze. The Oilers are my terrible, masochistic weakness.


If you're a sports fan, of the Oilers or otherwise, I'd say take a look at Hornby's brilliant book Fever Pitch. (Don't bother with the Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore Red Sox interpretation or even with the original English movie version). Hornby talks about his love/hate relationship with the English football club Arsenal. You don't have to know a lick about the English Premier League. I didn't when I first picked it up. (I catch the odd game now).

Put it this way - imagine being able to see every game the Oilers play. Every single game. In person. Home and away. If you're a fan of a team in the EPL (or any European league I would think - its geography taht makes it possible) you can do that. Now imagine how that would screw with your emotions.

A great great book.

Ok, this is it


Alright, tonight is the first of two at Rexall and this is it - season on the line. My feeling is the Oil win tonight, carried by simple desperation, and that game 4 is where the series will be decided - and by decided I mean whether or not the Oil go back to California down two or even up.

While the Sharks are the 5th seed I think coming into these playoffs a pretty strong argument could be made that they, the Ducks and the Wings were the strongest teams coming down the stretch in the West. They're a damn good team. They are big and fast. They are physical. They have arguably the best 1-2 centre combination in the league (Tampa fans might argue that) and the league's leading goalscorer in Cheechoo. And Toskela is at the very least, a good keeper. He's not going to let in a softie or so it seems.

Having said all that the Oil aren't dead yet but they are definitely up against it. I don't think that beating the Wings was their Cup or that they are satisfied but I think playing against a big, fast, confident team that takes away all of your space can make it look like you have nothing going on. I didn't see game 2 but in game 1 Smyth and Horcoff looked like they had nothing. I don't think its that they are satisfied, not those two, but that they are getting shut down. I won't pretend to be a player of any note but even in my beer league you can have all of the heart in the world but if you are playing a team that is "on", has terrific puck support and can skate, you can have all of the heart in the world but you're going anywhere. You get the puck deep in their zone and its back out before you know it. You're worn out by constant pressure in your end. You're on your heels and can't generate anything.

So, what can the Oil do tonight to buck this trend? Because its not over yet.

1/ Play with desperation. Play with emotion. Ride the roar of the crowd. The Sharks have seven rookies. I don't know if the atmosphere will intimidate them; it likely will not. But maybe one or two crack just enough to let a little light through.

2/ Switch up the lines. Lain over at Lowetide is stumping for Samsonov to play with Smyth and Horcoff and I can get on board with that. The Sharks are barely playing their fourth line and with Dvorak going down we don't really have a viable fourth line now. Problem is with Winchester we don't have a viable first line either. Its a roll of the dice but we're not generating any offence. Hell we're barely generating any pressure. Samsonov, Stoll and Hemsky have been getting the easy minutes as has been pointed out at Irreverent Oil Fans a number of times and they haven't done much with it. So move Sammy up to play with Smyth and Horcoff. and figure out who they're going to play against. Take Peca Pisani and Moreau and have them take on Thornton or Marleau. And then take Torres, Stoll and Hemsky (I know I know - switch up Moreau with Torres maybe) and figure out a spot for them. Plug in the fourth for energy at the appropriate times.

3/ Home ice advantage - hand in hand with # 2 and damned if I know what MacT will do but he's got to figure out favourable matchups so we can get in on those D and get some sustained pressure in their zone.

4/ Puck support puck support puck support - in every zone. When you don't have puck support you get nothing done. Anywhere.

5/ I'd pick on Hemsky but he's not alone. The forwards have to get going.

Its been frustrating but as Vic says over at IOF I'm a positive bugger. I think we get a win tonight. If not, well we'll begin the post mortems soon and there'll be much gnashing of teeth. But I think I'm posting a pint after tonight.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Oh boy



Unfortunately was unable to catch the game last night so I'll leave the recaps to others. Sharks outshot the Oil but apparently a far better game from the boys in blue and copper.

Close but not good enough.

So, back to Rexall. The good news is obvious - the Oil have been in both games, even the first when they were badly outplayed. The bad news - they better get that win tomorrow or they'll be dusting off the golf clubs.

I think after tomorrow the Oil are a win away from tying the series. Desperation will push them to the win and game four will be the pivotal one which either ties it up or sends the Oil back in deep.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Trivia


This is a tough one that I picked up while watching TSN a few years back. I was reminded of it while seeing how well Crosby was doing over in Riga.

No cheating on this - don't look it up on the web. I have a lot of puckhead buddies and not one has ever gotten this question right, even with multiple mulligans on the guesses.

Gretzky did it.

Now Crosby and Ovechkin have joined the club.

Name the five other players in NHL history who posted 100 points or more in their rookie season.

Oh oh


Well, that wasn't very good. After a first period which was pretty even the Sharks really took it to the Oil in the second. Lucky to escape down but one goal they never really got a sniff in the third leading us to ask whether the Sharks are that good, the Oil didn't play well or whether it was a combination of both. I opt for option three. After the burst of adrenaline to begin the game it looked like the Oil lost their legs and combine that with a Sharks' team that is big and fast and there you go. Full marks to San Jose though - they're damn good.

What was good - not a whole lot. The PK did shut down San Jose pretty well. The Oilers did play pretty disciplined as a whole but that heavy Sharks' forecheck wears down the D and leads to PP time for them for sure. Bergeron and Tarnstrom played well as did Pronger as the game wore on. He'll have to play better but he kept things calm when they were under pressure which was a lot. Staios was particularly brutal while Smith and Spacek have had better games.

Up front there was a lot of try but not a lot going on. Moreau played terrific and a case could be made that Stoll had a decent game. He at least generated a couple of chances. As mentioned earlier, good job on the PK - Peca and Pisani as well as Moreau and Stoll. But overall a whole lot of nothing.

Winchester looked lost - one shift he had three chances to get it out of the zone and failed each time. Horcoff gave Marleau too much room on the first goal and I'm not sure who it was (Dvorak) who left Ehrloff open on the second. There were a lot more missed assignments as the Oil played hard but not all that smart.

Dvorak's loss hurts too - the one slight edge the Oil had was depth up front and the fourth line was no worse then everyone else. I'm not sure who draws in - LeGG? I can't see him keeping up but we'll see, I guess. Maybe they'll run three lines with Moreau playing with Smyth and Horcoff and just spot the fourth where they can.

No time to think on it - back at it tonight and the good news is despite a pretty lousy game for the Oil is Stoll taps in that last minute chance they're going to OT. Just have to find those legs.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Oil Sweep!


Yeah, right. I'm a positive guy but I'm not stupid.

The Sharks are an interesting team. I've seen very little of them but remember 03/04 when they had a nice run to the conference final. Patty Marleau emerged as a big game player that year and the Sharks looked to be an up and coming team. I was surprised at their early struggles this year but they shed a lot of veteran guys and also lost Rathje who was a key on their blueline. Another key guy, Scott Hannan, really struggled with the new standard of officiating but figured it out.

Picking up Joe Thornton turned their season around. Jonathan Cheechoo, who is from my neck of the woods (northern Ontario is where I was born and raised), had 7 goals when Thornton was acquired. And now look at him.

If anything the Sharks took a short step back and now look to be a contender for the next few years. Why they would sign Nabokov to @5M a year is beyond me but there is a dearth of quality keepers out there and my guess is they will be able to unload him, assuming they go with Toskula as their starter. They have a good young team and they scare me, moreso then the Wings did, if you can believe it.

Up front the Sharks tend to go with three lines. Alyn McCauley missed the last game with Nashville and is probably going to have offseason surgery - not sure if he is going to suit up. If he does not or is not 100% that is a bonus for the Oil. He's a nice two way player.

The Sharks have a terrific PP and two pretty strong lines up front, Thornton and Cheechoo along with Ekman and then Marleau with two kids, Bernier and Michalek. They sure can skate and they have some size.

On D they have two bangers in MacLaren and Hannan and two nice offensive guys in Ehrhoff and Tom Preissing. Preissing is a little smaller so watch for the Oil to take the body.

I know nothing about Toskula but what I have read. If I came downstairs and he was sitting on my couch I'd have no idea who he was. I would say "hey you strange Finnish looking guy. I don't know who you are but get out of my house or the big fellow will turn you into a pudding while we cheer him on" I might say something like that. But that goes for most of this team. He's a good keeper though from what I understand.

Mike Smith provides some secondary scoring from the third line. He has a terrible Junior A playoff dye job.

Ville Nieminen took 20 minutes in penalties against Nashville. I would guess that his usual stupidity will likely cost his team at least one game. He's always good for that.

Keys to an Oiler win and, yes, I think they are going to take this one too. Some of these are stating the obvious but if you want rocket science go to Joey Juneau's blog.

- stay out of the box - Sharks have a terrific PP - they're going to get their chances but no dummy penalties - no freebies - Oil did pretty well in this regard against the Wings

- win the matchups - the way I see it Horcoff's line and Pronger/Smith take on Pronger, Peca faces Marleau, we can win these matchups I believe - Nashville did a good job on Thornton/Cheechoo but could not stop Marleau, Peca may be the key guy in this series

- secondary scoring - Moreau, Dvorak, Torres, Peca, Pisani - all need to chip in (in Pisani's case continue to chip in) some offence

- roll those lines - the Oil have the advantage in depth this series and have to take advantage - I think there will be times they go to three lines but when they can use four use four - it will pay off

- forecheck forecheck forecheck - Sharks D has some inexperience

- Hemsky and Samsonov - how about a couple of big games - Hemsky showed what he can do in G6 - need to see more out of both of these guys, I think they will see some easy minutes - they better take advantage

The mantra last series was play hard and smart and have Roloson play well and things will work out and I think we have more of the same here. The Sharks are a good team but they can be had. The Oilers have more depth up front and on the blueline, imo, and they also have a little more experience. Intangibles can count for shit sometimes but if Pronger can shut down Thornton and Peca can do a job on Marleau then the Oil go through in 6. Hopefully Sunday night I'll be posting a pint.

Round 2 Predictions

4 and 4 in the first round. Perfectly mediocre.

Round two - excluding the Oil. Later for them.

Canes/Devils

This is one of two oddball series. I'm not really sure of what to think of either of these teams. I couldn't care less then NJ swept the Rangers but the way things are going they'll be the "unbeaten in 97 games defending Cup champs before I concede anything to them. Are they a good club? Sure are. Might they beat the Canes? They may. I would bet on Brodeur before I would bet on Ward, that's for sure. But, the Canes are deeper up front with Brindamour playing incredible hockey. Ward is not Kevin Weekes. The Canes stopped Kovalev and I say they do the same for Elias. I don't like Laviolette as a coach though. Jesus, flip a coin. I say Canes in 7.

Sens/Sabres

This one is going to be fun but I think the Sabres are a year away. Unless Miller stands on his head the Sabres don't have a chance and there were a few games this year that he did and they still lost to the Sens. A great matchup for a deep deep Sens team - I love the Sabres but Sens in 6, maybe even 5.

Ducks/Avs

The other oddball. The Ducks have had a great run and they deserve a lot of credit for grinding out a win over the Flames but part of me wonders why it took them so long to beat a team with one player who can score and a goalie who played well but wasn't brilliant.

For the Avs to beat the Stars - that is impressive to me - and while they lived on the edge doing it, they still did it. Theodore hasn't been amazing but he has been good and I don't think the Ducks generate a lot of offence. I think Sakic (who had been brilliant) leads the way and the Avs move on in 6.

Later today - read it here first - Oil in 6!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Round Two


So its the Sharks. Well, I think it was a case of pick your poison and to be honest I'd prefer the Sharks to the Flames, despite the popgun offence. The Sharks' keepers are no slouches but I'd rather face them then Kipper any day.

Some thoughts on both the Oil/Sharks and general stuff as well. I'll have predictions either later today or tomorrow.

- a week off helps both teams of course; not sure of what injuries the Sharks are nursing but hopefully Moreau, Tarnstrom and Peca (the guys we know are nursing things) have gotten healthy or as healthy as they can
- I have to admit I know very little about the Sharks except that they are very good, their GM is a lot smarter then Mike O'Connell and they scare me more then the Wings did - how about that?
- apparently Fernando Pisani is a chronic masturbator

"I'm sure Fernando wakes up in the middle of the night and high-fives himself," joked MacTavish. "I would if I was him and I was having that type of playoff"

- I think Joe Thornton is going to see a lot of Chris Pronger over the next two weeks
- having said that, stopping Marleau may be the key - the guy is a big game player, has proven that the last two playoff years - 7 goals last series alone
- Peca may be the guy to do the job on Marleau

Other series

- looked like the Flames just ran out of gas; Phaneuf and Hamrlik were particularly brutal; I watched some of the game last night and the Flames looked worse then the Oil did in P2 of G6
- poor Saku - without him the Habs were doomed - the Canes didn't really look that impressive though
- I think the Devils win another round but just because they waxed the Rangers don't go handing them the Cup just yet - without Jagr and Lundquist the Rangers were likely the worst team in the playoffs
- good on Bobby Clarke and the Flyers
- Marty Turco too
- my buddy is a huge Sabres fan but I'm not sure if I see them getting past the Sens - its a good matchup for Ottawa just as the Flyers were for Buffalo

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Calm before the Storm


Awaiting tonight's Game 7 to see whether it will be the Flames or the Sharks who we face next round.

Might just be the booze talking but I'm feeling pretty good right now.

Anyhow, a quick runthrough of ratings for the Oilers for the series just gone by. Straight As for everyone! Nah. Anyhow, totally subjective based on what I saw (games 2,3,5,6) and heard/read (games 1,4). So some might quibble because I didn't see the two losses. Whatever. Also - no spreadsheets! Finally these are also based on expectations - obviously Samsonov is a better player then Dvorak but imo Dvorak gets a better grade - he performed up to expectations while Sammy did not.

A+

Roloson - wasn't spectacular, just really really good; big saves when needed; only one softie - the pinball goal; without him Smytty is captaining Team Canada again

Pisani - round 1 hero - 5 goals including 2 in the 3rd in game 6, as always terrific in his own end, 1 bad penalty, now a "sung hero"

Pronger - dominant skater of this series, 0 PIM in first five games, tied for team lead in scoring, played shutdown D, calming influence

A

Smyth - led way for teammates with intense dogged performance especially on the forecheck, 2 big goals, set up first goal of comeback in game 5, no dummy penalties, threat to score on many shifts

Horcoff - established himself as team leader with constant undying effort, signature moment diving in front of shot at end of Game 5, only 1 goal but a big one, created a lot of chances, only 2 PIM, still problems finishing, only quibble - doesn't get the puck deep enough at times

Stoll - big OT goal, overall gritty performance, maybe miscast centring Sammy and Hemsky, bad decision on "pick play" but great performance for a kid

A-

Staios - heart and soul guy had terrific series, especially considering the opposition, he got no soft shifts, had a lot of fire, a little too aggressive jumping into rush and with his stick a few times but really cut down on errors that plagued him late in the year

Smith - just really really solid playing major minutes - signature moment was at the end of game two - went into the corner with two Wings and came out with the puck - also only 2PIM


B

Spacek - solid performance except for awful game 6 and Jaro hit the net eh!

Torres - nice all round performance for the teenager - oh, he's not 18 ... anyhow, a goal and a couple of assists, including a beaut on the PP, ran over a lot of Wings, took care of his own end of the rink, was a factor and they needed him to not be a big bag of suck - instead had a real nice series for himself

B-

Bergeron - confidence grew as series wore on - few easy touches even for third pair of D - a couple of bad penalties, bad giveaways but grew stronger and simplified game in later games

Dvorak - skated hard, made the 4th line a viable option for MacT (more important then many think), some offence, any offence would be nice though but Dvo did his job

Moreau - only played last 3 games but not a coincidence that last two games, the Oilers' best (except G6, P2) he was a part of - see Dvo for 4th line impact, good effort on PK, big blocked shot at end says it all, 1 bad penalty in G6, P3 not great, I think he'll contribute offence in round 2

C+

Tarnstrom - like Bergeron got stronger in game 5 and 6 - importance shown when he could not play game 4 - kept his game simple, contained opponents - like Dennis over at Irreverent Oil Fans would like to see him on PP - he ran one did he not? give Spacek some rest

Peca - maybe he should be rated a little higher - not sure - he had a good series and I think he probably is contributing a lot in the room - a little more offence would be nice but he may have a bad wrist - its certainly effecting him in the dot

Winchester - one big game - other then that he did some nice work down low and he didn't hurt the team - that's all they could ask really - the goal was gravy

C-

Samsonov - a quiet point per game - games 5 and 6 were better - needs to have a bigger impact up front, even if just on the PP - big plays on game winners in G3 and G6 - more big plays needed

D

Hemsky - would have been an F - I said many times in posts then Ales has the talent to impact a game - he could win one on his own - well, he showed it in G6 but 4 minutes do not a good series make - he was pretty awful the rest of the time - here's hoping he has learned

Harvey - 4th liner got hurt but saw little ice and had little impact

Murray - poor Rem - he's got try at least and Moreau and Dvo are watching his back - if he's slow he's slow but a few mistakes on top of that ... with MAP out he's in for the duration I think

D-

Greene - only because the kid only has 27 games under his belt - that's a tough spot to throw him into, otherwise an F - he'll be alright though

F

Laraque - can't keep up anymore and Georges, no boasting in the playoffs, ever, esp. when you're sitting in the pressbox

Inc./Did not play

Ulanov
Conkannen
Pouliot