Saturday, October 24, 2009
NHL network is having a free preview this month and so I've gotten the opportunity to watch a lot of Oilers' hockey. Its been a lot of fun and its also become quite clear that its a good thing that I'm not subscribing to CI. Oilers' hockey at my fingertips every night would be a hard pill for the wife to swallow and likely it would be a gateway drug; soon I'd be checking out the rest of the NW, the Pens, the Wings, the Hawks, the Caps ... I'd end up watching TV in a ravine somewhere inside my very large cardboard box. Me and Winters. In the winter.
I have to say that I haven't enjoyed an Oilers' game as much as Thursday's night game since June 17th 2006. What a terrific show they put on, rallying from three goals down against a seriously quality club in the BJs. Just fantastic stuff. After that game they were tied for first in goals per game in the league. Hard to believe.
Easier to believe that they give up goals pretty easily too.
Now I am generally a glass half full and then fill it up again please type guy but three years of losing and management follies had left me pretty sour come this season. I've said all along that I'll be happy to eat crow if I am wrong and while it is early and there are some underlying trends that are a little worrisome at the same time I think I'm probably a little more positive about the Oilers than a lot in the Sphere.
The two points that many are bringing up about the Oilers' start are that they are being outshot (outcorsi'd as it were) and that their shooting percentage is not going to hold up.
Now the latter point is correct of course but I think it is important to note that the Oilers are getting into the places where it is a lot easier to score. You can have your Jason Blakes of the world lofting thirty five foot wrist shots and then your percentage will drop as your shot totals rise but the Oilers for the most part are scoring their goals from right on the doorstep.
What am I arguing? Well, this % will likely drop but the way the Oilers go to the net I'm thinking that they are going to continue to score a lot of goals. Its not like Penner has been scoring Moreaus, caroming pucks in from sixty feet out. He's slamming them in from a few feet out.
As for the whole outshooting issue, well yes its been happening but by my eye only the Chicago game was one that the Oilers truly deserved to lose. More importantly they have been getting outchanced but for the most part the discrepancy has been pretty reasonable. Using Dennis' work we can see that in nine games so far the Oilers have outchanced the opposition at EVs three times, been outchanced five times and have been even once. And one of the games they were outchanced by one. Getting outchanced by small margins (once per period say) means that you are in the game.
Now Tyler has just argued that the shots are the thing and he may be right (I think that this week may be a tough one for sure) but he admits that he hasn't seen many games (he has been on trial in K/W and now has been deported apparently ;) ) and I think that being outshot is one thing but being outchanced and outplayed is another.
By my eye the Oilers have not been particularly lucky and actually had quite a bit of bad luck early on.
Now I am certainly not over the moon yet and I think come the spring it will be the usual battle for a playoff spot. There are still too many holes up front but ....
For all of the naysayers there should also be some consideration that this club has been pounded by injuries and illness. Pisani has not played yet. Souray and Staios have been out and Chorney and Strudwick playing in their place. Stone, who has proven a fairly useful role player has gone down. Flu has knocked Brule from the lineup and Hemsky too. Horcoff is clearly not 100%.
Now how different does this club look with a few more of those guys at one hundred percent?
Oh well we will see how things go. As I said I am thinking that this week might be a bad one and all of the enthusiasm from Thursday will degenerate into the usual stupidity where wholesale trades and demotions are demanded. The positives that I will be looking for this week are as follows:
Will the PK continue to provide pretty solid work?
Will the new first line, if not as dominant as Thursday, still prove to have some staying power?
Can Smid keep it up? (This is fairly straight forward - I say yes)
Can Stortini continue to contribute the solid quality that he has been providing? (Again I would say absolutely yes)
Will Khabibulin continue to provide good work in goal?
As for further questions.
Can the kids on the backend (Chorney/Peckham) hang in there or will they be exposed?
Can Horcoff and wingers X and Y provide opposition as a tough minutes line and provide some offence as well? Who will X and Y be?
Presently the lineup looks as follows:
X/10/Y (with X=O'Sullivan and Y=Pisani I guess?)
And then still a bit of a mess.
I gather that this year will have plenty of ups and downs and I think planning the parade at this point would be foolish but I also think that burying this club as a product of luck doesn't really jive with what I have seen so far.
Posted by Black Dog at 2:00 PM