I’ve decided to take a page from Mike Babcock and let my three-year-old son Sam dress up as Jimmy Howard on Halloween so he can pretend to be an NHL goaltender.
The Edmonton Oilers should be thankful Babcock is so willing to entertain fantasy — he did the same thing with Manny Legace — because the way I saw Thursday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings at Rexall Place, Little Jimmy is the main reason fans are dissecting a 6-5 shootout win instead of a fourth straight loss.
If Howard didn’t look like an overwhelmed Senior B goaltender in the first period and allow three goals on 12 shots, the Oilers wouldn’t have had 4-0 and 5-1 leads to blow before packing for Boston with two points thanks to Patrick O’Sullivan’s shootout winner.
That’s not to discount the importance of the deuce, especially given the Oilers had a three-game losing streak on the go and had seen their hands turn to wood in seven previous periods, but beating what’s left of the Red Wings should be taken in context.
Howard pooped his costume early and the Oilers followed suit in the third period so badly I feared that Pat Quinn might take a twister at any moment before Nikolai Khabibulin locked it down in the shootout.
Thanks, Jimmy. Move along.
Here’s your answer, smart guy
— Fans and notepads questioned Quinn’s decision to move Horcoff to the top line between Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky — a decision prompted by Mike Comrie taking ill again — but I had no real issue with it.
The idea of the exercise, contrary to the opinions of some, isn’t to bust Horcoff down to the third line as punishment for how inept he’d been, it’s to try to get him going. The move worked.
I’m not for a second going to try to say Horcoff is the guy who made the threesome tick against the Red Wings, because Penner was the catalyst, or that he turned things around with a goal and two assists, but it’s a start.
Still, Horcoff’s performance was something of a STFU to some of the over-the-top criticism he’s been taking.
— Speaking of STFU, Penner’s been doing a pretty good job of sticking it up the backsides of knuckleheads like me who never thought he’d bounce back from two so-so seasons the way he has.
With a goal and three assists, Penner was the difference-maker again. You look at his numbers and you’d swear it’s late December based on his last two campaigns.
In case you missed it, without much fanfare, Penner dedicated the game to his grandfather, who passed away this week.
— While Quinn’s line-up moves up front had the desired effect with Penner, Horcoff and Hemsky, the reunion of the Kid Line of Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Robert Nilsson fizzled. They got nothing done. I’d be surprised if Quinn re-visits that trio again any time soon.
— Like Jason Gregor, I suspected right up until game time that Quinn might sneak Fernando Pisani back into the line-up. Don’t be a bit surprised to see him back against the Bruins. That’ll be cause for a roster move or two.
— The Red Wings, even allowing for injuries, are a shadow of themselves. As Jim Devallano said recently after being jabbed in the ass with truth serum, Detroit is going to have to go some just to make the playoffs. I’ll eat crow big-time after saying there’s no chance Chicago passes them by this season.
— Speaking of brutal prognostications, it’s obvious nobody at ON had half-a-clue about Colorado in our pre-season picks. Jonathan Willis, Wanye, Amber McCormick, Gregor and I had the Avs picked 15th. Bingofuel had them 12th.
It goes to show what many people think — we don’t know shat and you can’t just look at names and numbers and get it right. The Avs will come back to earth, but it’s looking like they’ll be a playoff team.
— While Laddy Smid is busting out and becoming the shutdown-type defenceman this team needs, there’s no way the Oilers can go much longer without Sheldon Souray, Steve Staios and, now, Lubomir Visnovsky. Yes, that’s Captain Obvious material, but the question is: what is (and what can) GM Steve Tambellini going to do about it?
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.