Edmonton Oilers: 2
Phoenix Coyotes: 3 (SO)
After hanging in there with one of the Western Conference’s best clubs for most of the game, the Oilers committed a rash of transgressions in what was apparently an attempt to giftwrap two points for the Coyotes. Two things conspired against those efforts: a fluke goal against Ilya Bryzgalov (Dustin Penner, congratulations on goal number 29) and an outstanding performance in net by Jeff Deslauriers. The Oilers extended things to a shootout, where once again they did their best to lose, with nobody scoring and the coach opting for some strange choices in the shootout (this message brought to you by Fernando Pisani’s six-for-14 career shootout record), but once again Jeff Deslauriers just kept stopping shot after shot until he was finally beat on the Coyotes’ eighth attempt, as Matthew Lombardi reminded us all again what a great draft pick he was.
Oilers Three Stars, According To Me
1. Jeff Deslauriers. After that introduction, this probably comes as a major shock. Deslauriers was the only reason this game wasn’t another embarrassing loss in a season full of embarrassing losses. 42 saves in regulation and another seven in the shootout represented a fine effort on his part, and as much as some of this season’s losses can be put on him this was one night where he showed up while the rest of the team slumbered. Best player on the ice.
2. Zack Stortini. Stortini did the lion’s share of the work on the Oilers only legitimate goal (Bryzgalov should have had that weird Penner shot from behind the goal line), Ryan Jones’ first with the team, but he did more than that. In his half-dozen minutes of ice-time he was consistently physical, he back-checked (memo to other forwards on the team: yeah, you’re allowed to do that) and he always seemed to be doing something positive not only without the puck but with it as well.
3. Ryan Whitney. Rumour had it that Whitney was as soft as pre-Subway Jared, but he’s been a different animal in his time with Edmonton and while it’s early I’ll admit I’ve been impressed with the results. He and Gilbert once again were the team’s best defence pairing, both finishing plus-two (with Gilbert picking up two of those second assists Brownlee so loves) while Whitney showed some snarl (although that cross-checking penalty was, shall we say, ill-advised).
The Penalty Parade
I get that the call on Dustin Penner was marginal. I also get that the referees missed a high-stick on Jason Strudwick. I also understand that on the penalty kill sometimes defencemen like Ryan Whitney figure they can get away with a little bit of cross-checking. That said, what in the name of all the infernos of Dante was Andrew Cogliano doing slashing the midsection of an opposition player? I know he’s young but he’s been a hockey player long enough now to know that’s just stupid. The same applies to Jason Strudwick’s idiotic slash. Just because the captain’s nickname is “Chopper” doesn’t mean emulation is the order of the day (although apparently it doesn’t get a guy healthy-scratched).
It was an ugly loss of discipline, and for all of Steve Tambellini’s high-minded talk about the order that Pat Quinn was going to bring to the team, it’s difficult to see any semblance of discipline out there. Sure they lost (less) under MacTavish but at least there was recognizable system.
Kevin Weekes’ Redeeming Quality
I finally get what CBC sees in Kevin Weekes. At times, he can be a hell of an analyst – especially when he’s breaking down goaltending performances. I’ve been highly critical of Weekes (and I wasn’t overly fond of him tonight) but the guy can think, he just needs to get better at expressing it for HNIC (not an easy job). So I understand why the network is enduring this bumpy patch as Weekes learns on the job.
That said, cutting back on the cliché might help. Saying that Martin Hanzal just ‘wanted the puck more’ than Jason Strudwick as the latter set up another two-on-one (he and Chorney took turns last night) is idiotic: Strudwick obviously wanted the puck, and just as obviously he has the get up and go of a junkyard Pinto. That was a failing of foot-speed, not character, and as much as we like to think that good guys with a lot of drive win every time sometimes winning hockey games does come down to actual talent. It’s a disservice to Strudwick to imply that he has the latter while suggesting he’s missing the former when it’s clear that the opposite is really the case.
Speaking of cliché, the notion that the Oilers just need to be free offensively right after Phoenix scores a goal because three forwards and a defenceman got caught out of position makes no sense. Yeah, I get that they need goals; I also understand that this ‘must get a goal’ mentality is what leaves Taylor Chorney all alone like a deer in headlights.
This, That And The Other Thing
Aside from making hilariously dated pop culture references and injecting a little life into the Oilers’ post-game, what does Pat Quinn actually do? Thinking back, I can recall lots of images of him cursing after a goal, but every time the camera flashes to the bench during a time out, or after a player makes a bad play, it’s Renney or Buchberger doing the talking. We hear a lot about their responsibilities, and about those of Wayne Fleming, but I’m wondering if Quinn’s role has become more of a caretaking job, because he looks (again this is from some distance so it may be wrong; it is only conjecture) like a pretty hands-off head coach.
I’m still trying to figure out why Zack Stortini was tagged for a defensive zone faceoff on the penalty kill for the last few seconds of the Patrick O’Sullivan penalty. That felt like an odd choice.
If you missed it, Steve Tambellini will not be making the decision on Hall vs. Seguin vs. Fowler, as that duty will fall to head scout Stu MacGregor. That of course is the right call; the whole point of having a scouting staff is that they get to see these players a lot more than Steve Tambellini does.
Lee Stempniak was a marked man all night, but I hope someone had a quiet word with Dean Arsene about how it isn’t cool to elbow the opposition in the head.