EDMONTON 2 (or was it 4?)
LOS ANGELES 1
From sad display of futility to an utterly epic adventure ending in triumph. All in two days. These are your Edmonton Oilers.
It took forever. There was every emotion you could imagine at a hockey game, right down to the stupid drunk girl attempting to underhand lob a full, lidless beer from the second deck onto the ice and doing nothing but soaking everyone in sight. Everyone except her stayed. We all hoped. And it happened.
I've seen a lot of games over the years now. A lot of things have happened. Never so many utterly strange and baffling occurrences in one game. I believe that was the worst refereed game I've seen live. Possibly not by a little bit either. The only game live or on TV I can compare it to was a playoff game in Dallas years ago where one of our arch-nemesis refs sent us to the box for no reason all damn night. Even that probably wasn't so bad. There are always games with utterly unbelievable calls, sometimes even ones that violate the rules of the league (there was at least one of those tonight and possibly another). This is never accompanied by two teams being completely stymied on the PP. It is never a group of young guns taking on the Stanley Cup champs after getting absolutely waxed two days earlier. You never see a game where both coaches could have legitimately charged into the refs' room and laid down a beating and had it make sense.
Well, until tonight.
A word on Johnny Quick - What a goalie. There was absolutely no chance you were beating him clean tonight. He was on his game, focused as hell and that made the victory all the sweeter.
Los Angeles also made it very very difficult to get to him. Our top six threw pretty much everything they had right at them all night long and the Kings blocked shot after shot, pass after pass and lane after lane. It was clinical. It was beautiful frankly. The thing was, they needed to put forth that effort.
Our top six had trouble getting things done tonight. Make no mistake, they were far from perfect. The thing is, they never quit. The coach kept throwing them over the boards and they charged, and charged and charged. Whatever else happened tonight, we may have proven that even a Stanley Cup D and top end goalie cannot stop this top six from getting the 'W' when they put their mind to it. If we bring this effort against a lesser squad, we're going to blow them out big time. Whatever else they did tonight including mistakes with the puck and missed chances, I am so proud of the effort they put forth. It won us the game more than anything else. Add in the adversity the striped team we were also playing against provided and that was nearly impossible. Yet we did it.
Greg Kimmerly has been an embarassment to this league for some time now. I don't know much of anything about the other guy but assuming their old rookie-vet system, it would be appropriate that the rook get fired/fined. You cannot allow that type of officiating to taint your game the way tonight's embarrassment did. It was bad enough that they made a bunch of ticky-tack calls. It was bad enough when they gave Smid an instigator period...much less two of them (can anyone actually find whether that is legal?). Then they blew the whistle early three times (two on the Oilers and one on the Kings). Then breaking the rules of the game on Hopkins' goal. I swear I thought they were going upstairs on Yakupov's goal...
On a sad note I've just discovered that my PVR cut the game short...of all the games to run really long...anyone know if there's a re-run?
Please share your stories from tonight's game...whether you were there or watching on TV. This is one of those we'll remember. A regular season game yes, but just like the Atlanta game for instance...but with high drama. Beautiful. On to the players...
- After some early help from his best friends, #40 settled in and got back to doing what he does best. He made some really excellent saves; especially in the second and third periods. It took a nasty turnover and a great move from an excellent player to beat him tonight. That will get him a 'W' on most occasions. Well done and a huge bounce-back. I hope he takes this one to heart.
- Fistric played a very solid first game as an Oiler. He chased one hit and got out of position which nearly caused a goal, and also played a puck into the slot but was otherwise excellent. Good PKing, laid a number of very solid hits and drew a couple penalties with his aggressiveness. That's exactly why he was acquired and exactly what the team needs. What was rather unbelievable was watching him having to cover for Ryan Whitney. While #6 was better later in the game, he spent much of it once again crusing around in no man's land, mishandling the puck, needlessly skating behind the net and generally making mistakes. It looked at times tonight like he couldn't make it from the faceoff do to the corner...that's really really bad.
- I know there will be some criticism of Smid tonight, likely relating to his penalties mostly. For one, it was abundantly clear that he asked and was answered rather than jumping his opponent which is not taking an instigator. Then the weird visor thing...and that new "smothering" rule is just terrible. The thing was, he came out of all of that really pissed off and fired up. For the rest of the game, he hit, moved the puck, defended like crazy on the PK and was a big part of this win. You have to love a guy who gives that kind of effort and finds a way even when things go squirrely. As for Petry, for much of the night he was the picture of poise. He skated the puck confidently and cleared the zone. He could have made slightly better passes (though I'm starting to wonder if the ice is even worse than last year) but was really really solid.
- The "brothers" had some pretty iffy moments tonight. In addition to Nick's misplay at the blue line and Justin's failure to cover up on that play, they got their signals crossed on which check belonged to which Schultz on several occasions. Justin was also a little shaky at times at the point on the powerplay. You certainly couldn't argue with the results at the end, even if his shot got blocked on the Yakupov goal. These two can be better than they were tonight.
- Belanger had a weird game. In the end he won an important faceoff. Earlier he had a couple great chances to score but didn't happen to think the black rubber thing bouncing around had much to do with the game being played. It was baffling. He also had a shift in the second where he took some abuse and got really annoyed. He probably should have gotten a penalty on this shift. Still absolutely no extra effort from him. He was clearly good along with Petrell on the PK though. Lennart was mostly invisible, missing a good scoring chance and not laying hits when he could have. This is unfortunate but he also didn't hurt us. Hartikainen did what he could in limited ice time, including a couple really nice drives to the net from the corner.
- It is not a good sign when once again the non-vet was the best player on the line. Magnus made some mistakes including either bobbling the puck or turning it over on a couple of occasions, but generally travelled with a lot of speed and got back defensively. Let's put Horcoff and Smyth's PKing aside for a moment. These guys should be able to compete 5-on-5. They are not. Smyth got roughed up early and then decided he was going to be a grumpy old man for the rest of the night. This meant a bad penalty, being way out of position, losing battles in the corners and giving the puck away on numerous occasions. He was not good at all. Horcoff was okay (but just okay) 5-on-5 and lost a ton of important faceoffs on the powerplay. Both Smyth and Horcoff were ineffective at tipping the puck and screening the goalie. These guys need to put in some extra work to catch up with the rest of the squad.
- These guys really struggled to get going at times. Partially this was due to being pulled off the ice at inopportune times, but also each of them made mistakes with the puck. Hemsky was taking too much time on a line that is now a timing line. Yakupov was chasing too hard and getting out of position. Gagner was trailing too far behind the play. On the PP, at first they got too locked into having Yakupov down low where the Kings could lock out the pass. They adjusted later but did not come through. I still maintain they are the #1 unit and should be played first...but I'm not the coach yet. What I said at the beginning of the post applies big time to these guys though. They kept going. They kept pushing. They did not quit or try to do it alone or anything of that sort. They attacked the zone all night and finally broke through. Very proud of the way they kept going. What a goal by Yakupov. The most dangerous player I've seen in an Oilers uniform live. This guy is going to score 50 goals in a season. And soon. Krueger has to get him more PP chances. He will score a ton.
- No line was asked for more by their coach tonight. At any point when there was a question, these guys were Krueger's answer (even when maybe they shouldn't have been). They were having a hell of a time getting to the center of the Kings zone. This is where they do their real damage and taking it away can shut them down for the evening. It is true that Eberle had at least 3 pucks go right through his stick tonight and again should have had at least two goals. This reminds me in some ways of the beginning of last season in that he struggled a little bit while still putting out a solid effort. Hopkins was, as he has been in the first two games, just barely missing on absolutely everything. You know he's going to bust out very shortly. I loved the way that he made sure he would make a difference in this one via his backchecking. You can really tell it is something he prides himself in and it resulted in shutting down a couple dangerous Kings chances. Hall did the same by asserting himself physically and I think his speed up the wing did eventually wear down the Kings to some extent. His desperation play to set up Yakupov's massive goal game after a night when everything he threw at the net got blocked or tipped wide. You could see how frustrated he was when the goal was disallowed...then violently signalling that the Yakupov goal had to count when the officials were looking like they were going to have another "conference". What an effort by these three.
Does anyone have this recorded? Keep it. Wow. I still feel great. What...A...WIN!