Friday, February 09, 2007
I know I know. The goddamned Leafs.
Like the Oilers, a mediocre team this season. Were crushed by the Penguins 8 to 2 right before that foolishness in Dallas a while back.
Two of their top six forwards out of the lineup longterm as well as Mike Peca, a guy whose play has resembled his playoff work last spring, not his poor regular campaign. Five game road trip coming out of the break. Struggling with a whack of teams to stay in the playoff hunt. Inconsistent goaltending. Recipe for disaster, right?
Instead, four straight wins, including three against teams ahead of them. They lost the fifth game but barely, to the Preds, one of the top teams in the league. The result - they don't have that spot yet but they have jumped ahead of a lot of teams they are fighting with for that spot. The reason - the guys who have jumped into the lineup in the place of Tucker, Wellwood and Peca have provided energy and production. Guys who have gotten more icetime have done the same. Alexei Ponikarovsky has 15 goals. John Pohl and Bates Battaglia have 8 each. So does Matt Stajan. Alex Steen whose first half of the season was dreadful suddenly has 11. A guy who looked washed up - Jeff O'Neill - has 18. Chad Kilger has 9.
I can't stand the Leafs but I will admit that they have showed some moxy this past week or so.
Now the Oilers play the Hawks and Thrashers before heading on the road for seven. Shaggy is still out but it may be Stoll's injury that will kill this team in the end. Who knew? For those who are thinking he may be back soon read the paper today where he talks about the other day being the first where he could have a conversation without suddenly dozing off or getting woozy.
He could be back tonight. He could be back next September. Given the choice between the two I would pick the latter.
I presume we will see Reasoner between Pisani and Torres and hopefully we will see young Pouliot between Sykora and Lupul. Lets see what the kid can do with some real icetime and some real linemates. Put it this way - I can't see him doing a worse job then Petr Nedved.
And eight points behind Wild on Jack Lemaire the Oilers have little to give them comfort. They only have the Avs between them and that spot and that's good and historically they have done their best work when their backs are against the wall.
But this is a different team. I suspect in two weeks the playoffs may be a memory and that will be the first time in a while that this team has not been involved in a race, however futile it may have seemed. They always have made a run at it. But something has been missing, besides the one or two vets on the backend. Call it urgency, grit, cohesion, call it what you will.
If that happens then we will likely see a big role for Pouliot in those last twenty games as the Oilers see what he can do.
And that might be all that keeps our attention those last six weeks. What a disappointment.
Posted by Black Dog at 8:05 PM