Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Feb 8: Edmonton at Detroit, 5:30 PM, TSN

Game Day

Injury Voodoo Required:
The Oilers continue their remarkable streak stretching back early into last season for having not a single game with the entire line-up, top to bottom, healthy for at least one full game.

RNH, that rookie phenom, popped his shoulder and is now out for a week. He's likely to return against *gasp* Toronto next week. That's lol-worthy.

To add, not surprisingly, insult to injury, Tom Renney wasn't at last game because Ladislav Smid, obviously unhappy, made like Lee Harvey Oswald and smacked a puck off the coach's face. Both parties were incredibly apologetic, but we all know Smid was secretly angry. Don't we, Smid.

Detroit News
The Detroit Red Wings do not know how to lose at home. 20-2-1. That's incredibly ridiculous.

That being said, however, this team is only at .500 on the road. To make matters worse, they're on a two game losing streak, and we're part of that losing streak! HIGH FIVES ALL AROUND.

To compound matter on matter, they don't have all-star goalie Jimmy Howard, who's presence in net is really being felt in his absence. Ty Conklin has been out for precisely one period, where the Gagnertrain destroyed him. Guess who just entered the market for a decent backup goaltender?

Edmonton News
As with tradition with the fanbase, a 5 straight game point streak had many fans chanting Playoff Run before you could even think about one.

A very Oilersesque performance in Toronto resulted in a 6-3 loss, and those same fans are now chanting MURRAY MURRAY. Look, I understand you guys are temperamental, but I don't believe any of us* could have thought this team was going to go after the all-star break undefeated. Live on the win streak. It's a lot better to watch than the losing ones.

These Oilers are significantly different than the one before the break. The cautious, powerplay pouncing, neutral zone trapping RNH-style Oilers have been replaced by the quick, fast-paced talent-laden defense-forsaking Hall-led Oilers. Who knows why?

Doesn't matter that Eberle led both systems in points. The man is a machine and a stud and can play in any situation and get you goals. He just exists.

Whatever it is, this team is dynamic and a lot more fun to watch than the first half team. In fact, I would argue that they're a little bit better with the defensive gaffes than they were before. We're not losing 1-0 games anymore. I like it.



If anybody is going to profit from this run-and-gun offence, it's ... I'd really like to say Paajarvi, but I just don't think he is. He's much more defensively responsible than I'd like. 

To be quite honest, I'm hoping that Petrell gets sent down as soon as Omark gets two games under his belt in the AHL. That kid, there's someone who will flourish in this system. Doesn't know a thing about defensive hockey. Put him on a line with Lander and Paajarvi, and you have yourself two incredible lines.

By the way, these past few games, Hall-Gagner-Eberle have been the best line... in hockey. Move over, Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan. A team that can play defence as well as Detroit, as well as Toronto that gets ripped apart EVERY shift by these boys... they play hockey indeed.

Glorious Prediction - TY CONKLIN gets the start. Gagner has more fun than before, getting 4 points, but its Petry, the boy from Michigan State, that gets his first career hat trick after a career night in Toronto, who surprises all. Oilers take this one and restart the push for 8th in spectacular fashion, 6-1.
Realistic Prediction - I can see the Oilers salvaging a point out of this one, but I physically can't see any team beating Detroit at home. In fact, unless Howard gets injured, if these guys get home-ice advantage in the playoffs, they're going straight to the cup.
Oilers 3-4 Detroit (OT)
ELPH Prediction - Nobody's getting a shutout. We're too runandgun for that now. But they do lose big.
6-3 again, Hall and Ebs getting the goals, likely Ebs with significantly more frustration being stuck at 2.

*33-0-0. You did *not* see that here.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Feb 6: Edmonton at Toronto. 5:00 MT. RSW.

Game Day
No, the game is not featuring Lenny Kravitz. 
But he's stuck in my head.

Are you gonna go my way?
Injury bug? It hasn't.

The advancement of Dubnyk? It hasn't.

Khabibulin and consistency? Hasn't.

February? Totally has.

Toronto News
The Maple Leafs are coming off of two straight shut-out victories against high octane offenses - they shut out the best forward in the league (Evgeni "Who-needs-Crosby" Malkin) and then shut out the slickest passing defender this year (Erik Karlsson). 

Whenever you can do that away from home, you're in good shape.

Even better - Optimus Reim has finally got back into shape, coasting Toronto to those back to back shutouts. It's nice to see him back - Toronto might be off the market for a goalie if he plays like this. They are still looking for that number one centre. Jeff Carter, anyone?

Edmonton News
Hah. Hah. Hah.

As a big driving-finger to the league, the Oilers have proceeded to defy all expectations of "rolling-over-and-letting-the-playoff-race-be-interesting" by getting 9 out of a possible 10 points in their past 5, including wins against Colorado, San Jose, Detroit and a hillarious win against Chicago.

To be quite honest, they look like a cup contender - any team that beats Detroit looks like that. They simply lost too many men and thus games in November, December and January to make a difference. But you never know... 33-0-0 is still in reach...

The way Wayne Gagner is playing, they might have a shot at meaningful games in March.

What did they feed Gagner?
Likely 6 of those pucks. Every morning.
Here's the thing:
It's not entirely unexpected.

Before you say "whaaaaaat" and accuse me of the lottery ticket formula syndrome, hear me out.

No, I didn't expect Gagner to have 8 points all in one night. If I did, I would quit blogging and probably become a professional fortune teller. 

He's returning from an injury. He had incredible linemates, and Hall's unreal CorsiRel stat (22.4 = superhuman) and Eberle's knack of scoring goals was going to catch up with him sometime.

His own CorsiRel stat is third best on the team, better than Eberle and His Highness Nugester.

Offence was going to start. No plebian, however, could have predicted that.

That being said, the next player I see having a big night? Ales Trade-Me Hemsky, who sits second on the CorsiRel docket. I believe in him, but moreover, I believe in Hall's ability to make anybody look good.

Logically, you'd think that they wouldn't separate Hall-Gagner-Eberle, but even Renney knows RNH needs linemates that can shoot. This is what you'll likely see...


The Oilers are probably shopping either Peckham or Sutton. Whoever they're shopping, he's in. You give him time to shine, then they'll trade you. 8 d-men is great for depth and all, but I just don't see this team carrying three people as baggage (Hordichuk, Potter, Peckham). You never know though...

And that's right. No injuries to report. For the fist time this season. WOOOOOOOO.

Gilbert draws back, most likely. That's a decent top four, lads and ladies. 

Glorious Prediction - Optimus Reim meets MeGagnerTron. And, unlike the comics, guess who destroys who? Gagner gets another multipoint night, but it's Hemsky who dazzles with a 4 point night. Oilers take this one in GLORY 6-1. Kessel scores on Dubnyk.
Realistic Prediction - Understanding Dubnyk's "one-bad-goal" policy and the potency of these Maple Leafs, I see another high-flying, exciting game. I'm loving these Oilers, but against a tough, hard-hitting, Phaneuf-featuring defence? I don't like their chances... until overtime. Oilers pull this one through, a crazy 5-4 win, with the final goal scored by *legasp* Eric Belanger Taylor Hall.
ELPH Prediction - These Oilers are way too much fun to watch... against sub-par goaltending. Let's face it - would the Oilers have burst for 3 goals against Jimmy Howard? Maybe one. Corey Crawford has anti-Nicklas Backstrom disorder against the Oilers, he always seems to suck. Against Luongo? We actually lost. Oilers can't handle a decent goalie, but they do end Reimer's shutout bid. Oilers 2-5 Leafs

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Feb 4: Detroit at Edmonton, 8:00 PM, HNIC

Game Day

Yeah. If you're wondering why I didn't post a WOOOOO post after, I thought silence after that kind of night was the best kind of reverence.

If you live under a rock, or not in a hockey city, you wouldn't know that Sam Gagner, that guy who was on Trading Day as well as various numerous hate lists, scored 8 points... on 8 goals.

Finishing the night with 4 goals and 4 assists, he paced the Oilers to a 8-4 win, as well as a place in the Oilers record books beside Paul Coffey and some guy named Gretzky.

Both of whom called to let him know that he's awesome. Nuff said.

Detroit = Killjoy?
If you want to look for a team that would possibly equal a killjoy after that kind of a game, it's these guys. Or the Flames. But mostly these guys.

Detroit News
Detroit beats us like they beat the rest of the league - soundly and with little difficulty. They're the best team in the Western Conference, and have been so since around 1992. They're so freaking efficient, Lidstrom only needs to replace his batteries every few weeks instead of every day.

A good thing for Oilers fans is the lack of All-Star goaltender Jimmy Howard, who has broken his finger - he'll be out for likely the next two meetings against the Oilers, which could be, well, a savoir if you want wins.

Detroit looks to be starting 2006 Oilers second-string goaltender and likely the second-most hated Oiler in a generation Ty Conklin. Let the battle begin!

Oiler News
Some guy named Gagner did something that was big and it looks like the league hasn't shut up about it. 

Also, the MASH corps has finally gotten almost everybody back. We might be healthy for the first time this season. Heard of Nugent-Hopkins? He was so far ahead of the other rookies that he's still in the lead for rookie points 13 games later. He's back. And he wants blood.



Dubnyk will get his fourth straight start. He was overshadowed by Gagner's magical night - he had 43 freaking saves. As you know, that's kind of ridiculous. The Fuhr, if you will, to the Gretzky.

Gilbert is likely still a game away - but if he takes the drop-off test in the morning, like Cam Barker did, he could very well be ready to go for the game. Potter should come out.

If the D-Corps stays healthy, I believe Peckham's days in an Oilers uniform are numbered. He'll bring possibly more return than Andy Sutton - a young defencemen with a nasty edge. And we like Sutton's leadership and will likely tender a contract to the man after the season.

NB: Barker, if you remember, comically fell over in the first period, which gave Oilers fans either epic giggles or a minor heart attack. He ended the night +3 and with a goal that 29/30 goaltenders should have stopped - continuing the belief that a "bad" defenceman is contributing to more and more wins. 

Glorious Prediction - I was simply not glorious enough last night. But I don't expect anything close to that with Nicklas Lidstrom, Nicklas Kronwall, Jakub Kindl and such on the ice tonight. But with the Nuge back - anything is possible. Four point night for Mr. Hopkins, 2 on the powerplay as the Oilers take this one 5-2. Eberle with two goals.
Realistic Prediction - Oilers fans are really excited about watching a game for the first time in a really long time. And really, this is a game we have no business being in. Dubnyk will let in a soft one in the third, and this one will head to overtime... where Gagner puts away a Hall rebound. Oilers 2 - 1 Detroit (OT)
ELPH Prediction (the E is back as long as we're tied for not-second-last) - We ditch all semblance of defensive hockey. This comes to bite us in the rear as Dubnyk/Deities cannot stop the thunder of Datsyuk. 5-3 Detroit, but we sure as hell make this game exciting.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Feb 2: Chicago at Edmonton, 7:30 PM, TSN

Game Day
The City of Champs at night, apparently

Can we do it again?
Throughout the season of inconsistency, there has been one little blip in the logic train.

The Oilers can beat the Blackhawks.

Doesn't matter if we play Detroit the next game. Doesn't matter if it's the October of wonder or the December of blunder.

The Oilers know how to beat the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks now sit in 6th place in the Western Conference. The Oilers (hah) try to make a playoff push (sniff hah) from 14th spot, red hot* in their last three games, picking up 5 of 6 points. Let's face it, they're spoilers. And they play very well against playoff teams. Let's see what happens - they might just pull an upset.

Hall - Horcoff - Hemsky
Cornet - Gagner - Eberle
Smyth - Belanger - Jones
Eager - Lander - Petrell

Whitney - Potter
Smid - Sutton
Peckham - Petry

Dubnyk gets the start tonight - he's been red-hot, although he has not changed one bit (still lets in 1 bad goal/game. It's incredibly consistent.)

The injured corps is returning VERY soon, in fact, you might even see the one they call "Nuge" show up tonight. If he is, expect Gagner to suit up on the top line, RNH to slip in with Eberle and Cornet, Horcoff and Belanger in some combination to the third and fourth lines, and Lander in the press box.

Gilbert and Barker remain 3-4 games away, although Barker says he could be in against Detroit.

With a healthy D-corps, I see no reason why this team couldn't go 33-0-0 with the rest of their games**.

Glorious Prediction - OILERS GOOOOAL. The return of Nugent-Hopkins is deadly, as someone tells him that he has been eclipsed in the rookie scoring race (which, ridiculously, he hasn't been). Not to be outdone, Nuge chalks up an incredulous 5 points, a goal and 4 assists, as the Oilers take this one 5-1. Chicago, Edmonton, and the collective universe scratch their heads as Belanger gets a goal on the powerplay again.

Realistic Prediction - Nuge doesn't make the line-up, but the M.A.S.H. corps somehow ekes out a hard-fought, talent laden, sweet victory. Hall and Eberle score again, as well as Andy Sutton, who gets a dandy feed from two Ryans.

LPH Prediction - Toews and Kane on the top line? Don't even bother.
We play defence for three periods and lose this one 2-0 in the third. Dubnyk's fault on the second as it just goes past his glove hand off a juicy rebound.

*Red-hot in Pittsburgh or Nashville is winning 8 in a row.
Red-hot in Edmonton is not losing miserably every game.

**Denial. It's one of those steps in admitting you have a problem or something.