The 29th place Oilers host the red-hot 28th place New York Islanders this evening, and while a battle of cellar-dwellars is nothing to get excited about, there is one battle/comparison that is intriguing.
While I’m sure many of you are still sharing your ideas with office workers, co-workers, spouses, friends, blog buddies, Timmy’s drive through attendants, neighbours and fellow Nationers on what caused the juniors to surrender five goals in the third period last night, the good news is that the hockey world doesn’t have time to mourn and the games must go on.
Tonight two former members of Canada’s world junior team, and the two most recent first overall NHL pick,s will faceoff for the first time in the NHL as Taylor Hall and John Tavares headline tonight’s Basement Battle.
These two former OHL superstars have followed the same paths and have played against one another for years. Both were projected as the first pick well before hearing their name called, and both of them had some people wondering if Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene or Tyler Seguin should go first overall leading up to the draft, but in the end both of them went first.
Tavares had a solid rookie campaign with 24 goals and 54 points, while Hall is on pace for 26 goals and 48 points. Despite being only one year his junior, Hall looks up to Tavares.
“Before his draft, I thought he did a great job of handling himself and really portraying a mature individual and that is what he is. He is a good guy and did well handling all the scrutiny last year as a rookie and I`m tyring to do the same.
“He is someone I`ve played again for a long time, and I remember last year everyone thought we were best friends kind of, but we do talk once in awhile, and it is interesting to talk to him because he knows what I`m going through, just as recently, and he`s been through the same type of pressure.“
Tavares has 13 goals and 27 points in 34 games, but he is heating up lately with five goals and 13 points in his last nine games. According to former Islander Butch Goring, Tavares is playing the best of hockey of his brief career and he is really starting to dominate games. It is rare you get to see two first overall picks go head-to-head and it should be entertaining to watch these two tonight.
FOSTER TO PRESSBOX
Kurtis Foster will take a seat in the pressbox tonight along with Zack Stortini and JF Jacques. It`s no surprise Jacques is moving upstairs, and Stortini seems to be in Renney`s doghouse, but Renney is just trying to send Foster a subtle message that he needs to play better.
Renney, like he normally does, didn`t rip Foster when asked why he was taking a seat, he just said, “He won`t play tonight, and it should be a one off at the end of the day. He has some things to work on, as we all do, and we`ll work with him on those things.“ Renney didn`t want to go into detail on what those things were, but better body position and winning more one-on-one battles might be a good guess.
With Foster out the D pairings will be:
Devan Dubnyk will get his 13th start of the season tonight, and it seems like Renney is doesn’t want him to sit for too long anymore. Dubnyk has been solid with a 0.915 SV% this year, but he only has one win in regulation, and he is 1-5 in OT/SO. He needs to get a win to build his confidence I would think.
Look for Trevor Gillies and MacIntyre to dance tonight. MacIntyre is raring to go, and Gillies is an up-and-comer in the heavyweight division. We haven’t seen a good tilt at Rexall in awhile, so hopefully we get one tonight.
Much of the water cooler talk this morning was about the timing of Dave Cameron’s decision to call a timeout last night in the third period v. Russia. Many wondered why he didn’t do it right after Russia scored twice in eleven seconds. Some wondered if Cameron was too animated when he did call the timeout after the Russians tied it at three.
Hindsight and what ifs are a wonderful thing and we will never know if calling a timeout after the 2nd Russia goal would have changed anything. You can say it would have, but there is no concrete proof. Renney was asked what he thought of Cameron’s actions during the timeout.
"I don’t know what he said. You have to appreciate that those buildings are really noisy, and even in your home rink you’d like to turn the music down to five instead of keep it at ten, you have to yell for each side of your bench to hear you quite honestly. The blood vessels seem to grow, and it is an oxymoron to yell CALM DOWN, but they have to hear you.
"I’ve laughed at myself saying ‘Guys we’ve got to relax’ and I’m blowing a gasket while telling them to relax. (laughs) It’s tough, and we all know that is a tough situation. I thought Dave did a super job preparing his team and playing right to the letter of how they had to, but it is a strange game."’
It was a tough loss for our country, and one that will be talked about for years to come, but you have to give the Russians credit. They didn’t quit, and for the third straight game they came from behind to win. In the third they looked really confident, they made some great plays, and it wasn’t like they got lucky bounces. they get full marks for their comeback as painful as it was to watch.
It sucked for those kids and the country, but that’s why I love sports. It is unpredictable, exciting and devastating all at the same time.
DO YOU SEE EIGHT?
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Islanders are 7-2-1 in their last ten and they’ve beaten top teams like Detroit, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay during this stretch. The Oilers meanwhile have lost seven straight, and with 29th place on the line the Oilers help Stu MacGregor and suffer another tough loss 4-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Dubnyk has went to OT in six of his ten starts, and that trend will continue tonight. The Oilers will fall behind early, mount a great comeback in the third that ignites Rexall, but Tavares will feed Matt Moulson for the winner in OT.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Tonight is the 5th of ten Rod’s Classics, as Mr. Phillips steps behind the mic once again in his season-long goodbye. Midway through the 2nd period Rod will regale us with a great tale of the dynasty days when the Islanders and Oilers were the top dogs. In the middle of his story, he sees a scoring chance coming, and jumps right into the play and calls an Islander goal, but then he goes right back to telling his story.
Normally listeners can’t stand it when a PBP guys rambles on about a story, but not tonight. Oiler fans will want to hear the stories, because then they can go to bed dreaming that in a few years they might actually get to watch somethings similar unfold before their eyes. The best part of the story will be when Rod finishes it off with a punch line and his infectious laugh.
In the 3rd Rod will berate the officials for an obvious missed call, and when Hall ties the game in the Rod will have one his classic goal calls that will send chills down your spine, just like he did in the dynasty days.
Enjoy listening to one of the all-time greats tonight.