After going 26 games without a goal, Linus Omark has scored in two straight games and in a 4-1 victory over the first place Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, Omark was at his electrifying best. When he is on his game the fourth round pick in 2007 is highly creative, tenacious and dogged on the puck, surprisingly hard to knock off his skates and a risk taker. If Omark plays tonight like he did on Saturday, win or lose, Oiler fans will leave Rexall Place entertained.
"I’m not sure you win without that element of risk in your game, quite honestly," said Tom Renney. "But you have to make sure you attack as five people and don’t leave it up to one guy, but more importantly you have to be sound defensively, and as long as Linus continues to pay attention to that, and recognize the value of five in the picture and being very much a part of the primary checker when it is there for him or picking up the right people away from that, then I have no problem with
"The bottom line is, he is going to have figure out soon rather than later that he has that skill and that invites some heavy checking, and that can be an advantage too, if he moves the puck the right way."
Yesterday Renney compared Omark to Pavel Bure in terms of excitiment and creativity. Omark doesn’t skate like the Russian Rocket, but as long as he keeps his feet moving he is dangerous. Omark is incredibly confident with the puck, and he isn’t afraid to try things or make the tough play. Even his teammates recognize there is some risk in his game.
"He is that type of player, he wants to try stuff. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but when he does it it is fantastic. He just has to choose his moments a bit better, but I think he has done that pretty well this year. I love it when someone tries to do something extraordinary, and especially when he succeeds. I think it is great for the game and when he tries stuff he gets all of us excited," said Magnus Paajarvi.
Not only does Omark excite his teammates, his creatitivity gets fans and the media talking. I found it interesting that no one from CBC was ripping Omark after his first star performance against Vancouver, yet a few weeks earlier Glenn Healy and Kelly Hrudey both ripped him for his lack of respect and being a "hot-dog". I guess as long as the cocky moves pay off then CBC won’t critique his moves.
Devan Dubnyk will try and sweep this mini two-game series v. the Canucks, but the rest of the lineup is up in the air. Gilbert Brule and Colin Fraser won’t dress. Taylor Chorney has been skating for a few weeks and says he is ready to play, but he’ll be a game time decision.
The Oilers didn’t run any lines in practice today, and so the best guess is based on yesterday’s combos.
Ladislav Smid skated again and says he feels fine and wants to play. If he does, then the D pairings will be the same as Saturday. There is a chance you will see Reddox and Hartikainen switch spots, and I’m sure Renney will have the blender out at times, because I can’t see him throwing that fourth line over the boards very often.
- It is interesting how we view players differently. Over the weekend Jarome Iginla notched his 1,000 career point in his 1103rd game,and many said he should be a guaranteed HOFamer. Iginla has had five 80+ points seasons and won three playoffs series; all of them during the Flames Cup run in 2004. Joe Thornton, meanwhile, has 999 points and will most likely reach 1,000 points in his 993rd game tomorrow night. Thornton has had six 80+ points seasons, including three of 100 or more. He has won seven playoff series, but has only made it to the 3rd round once. Thornton has yet to be a dominant playoff performer, and I wonder if the Flames wouldn’t have made their great run in 2004 if people would say the same about Iginla? Do you think playoff success should mean that much when comparing HOFamers?
- Speaking of the San Jose Sharks, I hate to admit it, but a small part of me is wondering if this is the year they finally get out of the Western conference. The Sharks have swam under the radar all season, and with the Canucks and Red Wings getting most of the attention, I wonder if having no expectations will help the Sharks? I vowed last year that I would never pick them to win the Cup again, and I won’t, but I’ve found myself fighting the urge to believe in them again.
- The PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers Association) met earlier this week and discussed whether or not they would boycott voting for the NHL players awards, in response to the childish and immature reaction of Garth Snow and the Islanders. Snow banned writer/blogger Chris Botta back in November because he felt Botta was being too critical and was trying to make the "story about him and not the team." The PHWA decided that it was too close to the voting to boycott them, however, the chapters of the NYR, NYI, NJ and CBJ have said they won’t vote. If the PHWA wanted to make a statement they should have elected not to vote. Having four of 30 chapters walk away doesn’t do anything. The NHL needs to realize they can’t ban a reporter just because an
overzealousoversensitive GM can’t handle a little criticism. The PHWA’s decision seems eerily similar to when the NHL hands out a suspension; meaningless.
- If the Oklahoma City Barons can win two of three this weekend they should make the playoffs, and if they do, Omark, Jeff Petry, Ryan O’Marra, Teemu Hartikainen and Chris Vande Velde could help them go a long way in the playoffs. OKC plays in San Antonio on Friday, then in Texas on Saturday and in Houston on Sunday. The Oilers are praying they can win at least two and get to the postseason. All five of the eligible Oilers admit they’ve been watching the standings and are all hoping they will get a shot at the Calder Cup once they are done in Edmonton. I’m curious to see how much playing time Martin Marincin will get this weekend, considering OKC has six decent AHL D-man right now. If they play him one of Richard Petiot, Alex Plante, Colten Teubert, Bryan Helmer, Jake Taylor or Kevin Montgomery will take a seat.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: I’m sure it is rare that the 30th and 1st place teams play back-to-back, and I can’t imagine the 30th place team ever sweeping a two-game series. The Oilers deserved their 4-1 victory on Saturday, but the Canucks were a bit snarly this morning after their coach stopped practice yesterday due to a lack of focus and work ethic. The Oilers are fired up for tonight’s game, but so are the Canucks so I’ll go with the President Trophy winners to win 4-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After holding the Sedin’s to only one point (Henrik) on Saturday, the Oilers will be over-powered by the Swedes tonight. The Sedins will combine for four points and Daniel will surpass 100 points, but won’t match Henrik’s 112 point season from last year.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: While many have forgotten about Alex Burrows’ comment earlier this year about how he doesn’t like Ladislav Smid and was happy when Sean Avery one-punched him in New York, Smid hasn’t. Early in the 2nd period, Smid will go into the corner with Burrows. They will collide along the boards, and Smid won’t ask for an invitation like he did with Avery, but instead he will drop the gloves, grab Burrows and start chucking. Referees Mike Leggo and Kyle Rehman will recall Burrow’s accusation of Mr. Auger last year and give both players fighting majors despite Burrows only throwing one punch, with his gloves on. After the game Smid mentions how he learned from his mistake v. Avery, and knew that Burrows would never fight unless he was forced to. Burrows will credit the refs for making the right call, with the hope he’ll get a call go his way during the playoffs.