FINDING A WAY: OILERS GET IT DONE

If you believe finding ways to win instead of ways to lose is a sign of progress along the learning curve as opposed to a run of good luck or happenstance, the Edmonton Oilers are moving along rather nicely, thanks very much.

The Oilers won another game they might have found a way to lose just a season or two ago against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Center in the third stop of a six-game road swing on Tuesday, packing their bags for Boston with a 3-1 win in the books.

Tom Renney’s team was outshot 29-14, didn’t get anything done on a couple of power plays and didn’t manage much resembling a consistent attack, but head for Beantown with a 9-3-2 record thanks to 28 saves by Nikolai Khabibulin and a penalty kill that stiffed the Habs on six tries.

As the old saying goes, they don’t ask how, just how many, and the Oilers continue to pick up wins despite less-than-complete efforts. After back-to-back 30th-place finishes and some decent efforts ending in defeat along the way, I’m guessing Oilers fans won’t quibble.

PAINTING BY NUMBERS

As former coach Edmonton Craig MacTavish used to say, "They can’t all be Picassos," and the win over the Canadiens certainly qualified more as paint-by-numbers than a masterpiece. So it goes.

"I’m glad Khabby found the rink, at least, tonight because that’s good. It took the other guys a little while to get here," Renney told reporters after his goaltender pinched a pair. "He was very, very good when he needed to be, which was pretty much start to finish.

"Our penalty kill was good. It needed to be. We had a third period that showed a little bit more commitment to the little things, and it needed to be in order to win the hockey game.

"We spent too much time in the penalty box. Didn’t think the game very well. I guess it’s safe to say we stole one, but that happens now and then. The thing about our team is we find ways to do things and get points and that is a testimony to a team growing up."

ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL

Khabibulin continues to SIUTBOHC. The 38-year-old puckstopper is now 7-0-2 with a 0.98 goals-against average and a .964 saves percentage and has been a wall in the crease — the Oilers have allowed one goal or less in nine of their 14 games.

That said, Khabibulin probably should have squeezed the pads on the only goal he did allow, a backhand by Max Pacioretty. It’s the kind of goal that might have sent the Oilers into a flaming tailspin not long ago.

Right now, it’s goaltending and the penalty kill that’s getting it done for the Oilers. Ryan Jones opened the scoring shorthanded and the PK unit did the rest as Tom Gilbert beat Carey Price to make it 2-0 before Ryan Smyth hit an empty net.

You can find all kinds of numbers to show the Oilers are flirting with defeat if you’re so inclined, but so far they’re thumbing their noses at doubters on the scoreboard, where it matters most.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    You guys planning the parade route all ready? I will say this – everyone in the hockey world is shocked, including every analyst.

    Have you noticed how no analysts have asked “what is going on with this Edmonton team?” It’s because you’re playing at a level that is completely unsustainable.

    It’s a long way to the top, if you wanna rock and roll! However, it’s an awefully long fall from up there. The kind that could hurt some people…

    • shanetrain

      I guarantee you we are shocked as well. However, after the misery we fans have experienced the last few years, I think we are well within our right to celebrate a bit?.

      Curious though, how the hell would a calgaryfanboyz know what an “awefully long fall from up there” is like????

      The only thing that compares with the Oil winning is Calgary miserably failing.

      Signed,

      Loud and proud Oil fan living in Calgary

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Anyone have Jones SC against numbers so far this year?

    Lots were convinced that his SH% would drop (which it hasn’t) … (though it probably will by a bit) but that his SC against were a true reflection of his ability.

    I’d like to see his current SC against numbers.

    • melancholyculkin

      At EV Jones is -1 according to Dennis at mc79hockey. 40 for, 41 against. Considering his numbers last year and his zonestarts this year, that is a massive improvement.

      However, we have to remember than he has spent most of the year playing with the Oilers two best forwards who both eat nails for breakfast. So that is going to account for some of the improvement. By eye Jones does seem to do less running around this year.

      He is currently shooting 15% with a 1024 PDO, so those will most likely regress in the future.

  • Talbot17

    Interesting fact on Bulin by LeBrun on ESPN:

    “There’s an interesting career pattern when it comes to Khabibulin. When he arrived in Tampa Bay in 2001, the team was a cellar-dweller and missed the playoffs again in his first full year. But it rose from the ashes and, of course, won the Cup in 2004. When he went to the Blackhawks in 2005-06, they were bottom-feeders. In his last season there, he helped backstop the young, rebuilding team to the Western Conference finals. Had he signed a five-year deal instead of a four-year deal, he likely, would have another Cup ring. And now in Edmonton, where the Oilers have been bottom-feeders for a few years, are on the rise with Khabibulin again in net. Just a coincidence? Or a goalie that thrives in that setting? “

  • It would be great to see Belanger find his offensive game for sure. The man hasn’t scored less than 35 pts in any season since the lockout I believe. Nevertheless, right now the value in Belanger is how much better he makes Horcoff. The captain isn’t run into the ground like a dog every night, having to be out there for every single important faceoff. It shows in his (Horcs) game. Belanger finding his scoring touch would be a bonus at this point. Hopefully it happens before our goaltender’s save % revert back to the mean (as it will in time).

    I am really pleased by our defence.

    *spits coffee over his screen upon realization at what he just typed*

    Seriously. They aren’t studs (struds?) out there by any means. They aren’t shutting teams down in any classic sense. They are making mistakes and turnovers and not getting the puck out perhaps when they should.

    Still, it is what they do in recovery which pleases me. They are diving all over the ice in front of the crease, blocking shots like men possessed. They are giving up chances, but they aren’t horribly disgusting OMFG HOW DID YOU JUST LET THAT GUY STAND WIDE OPEN AT THE SIDE OF THE NET FOR THAT LONG kind of chances.

    This is a far cry from what I have seen in the last few years. It’s ugly and dirty but it shows commitment and a willingness to do whatever it takes to minimize problems for our goalies. They are trying and they are buying in, and I like it.

    • Jerk Store

      I heard someone (would credit them if I remember who it was)suggest that the defensive system is strangely reminiscent of the Swiss National Team. This is a squad that have become significantly more competitive on the International Scene. There could be some merit to that observation. I realize Steve Smith is D coach, not Krueger, but I wonder if there is not some of King Ralph’s “do more with less” D-zone strategy coming into play.

      Plus right now Khabby is making saves, which may make Oil D look better than they really are. Any quality shots are for the most part being handled. But to credit the D, there is way less “panic” in our own end and secondary scoring chances are way down (they are doing a better job “blocking out” and clearing rebounds). Whatever the reason, the changes are welcome and overdue.

  • magisterrex

    Every time I see someone pull out the advanced stats to tell me how bad Jones is, the crazy-haired one pulls out something like last night’s shorty in response. When the stats you’re using don’t match the results on the ice, it’s time to review how the stats are being measured.

  • A-Mc

    First game back, i almost feel bad for knit picking but: Did anyone notice Hemsky sitting back watching the puck when it was an oilers defensive situation?

    The Oilers have made it very clear that the entire team is needed to play the defensive hockey that has been winning us hockey games. I caught glimpses of Hemsky sitting back, watching instead of helping out when he should be.

    I’ve got my eye on you Hemsky! *does the llllaaaaaaaaaazy Eyeeeee*

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Jack Michael’s followed a legend. There probably was not a better goal caller in the history of hockey except the Rick May Day Jeanerette. I’ve grown to accept him, and he’ll be here awhile.

    His two biggest faults are his biographies of players when the plays going on. His actual description of the game is pretty good, as long as he’s not telling you where they went to college.

    His WWF emphasis is the one thing that (frank)ing sucks.

    I get the joy of streaming most of my games and trust me when I say he’s pretty good in comparison to most of the guys stateside right now. He’s doing a decent job. Tencer however should be traded to the fan 660 or whatever that radio station of the evil red team is called.

  • Hemmertime

    I do like Gilbert but he did get pushed off the puck with regularity the first two periods. I’m surprised he wasn’t getting burned more on ON today.

    Lander, Petrell – excellent.
    Potter – great pick up.
    Horoff, in spite of his problems in the offensive zone, it’s sure nice to see him get control of the puck in the defensive end. . . nice play of the empty netter.

    Gagner is a frustration to watch. I don’t think any Oiler gets checked as often.

    I hear that he works hard to improve yet he continues to struggle with face-offs whereas Nuge continues to show improvement.
    Hard work should show results.

    I enjoyed the Ray Whitney interview on Saturday. Brought back the memory of the frustration I had when Ron Lowe & co let him go.
    I don’t know what he was like before he came to the Oiler camp, but he surely was more adept at creating scoring chances than any other Oiler in that training camp.

    Cliff Ronning was another small player that made an impact. He rarely got hit and managed to make good plays with the puck. I think he was a prime example of what a small player needs to do to make it in this league.

    All in all I hope Gags can come around and contribute as much as these guys have over the years. He is still young. I’m sure it took these guys a few years to get it.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Ronning and Gagners only similarity has to be in their vertical height only. Cliff had the wheels to seperate himself from troubled spots, Sam doesn’t. Ronning could stir the pot and get some off their game. I don’t see 89’s best days being in an Oiler jersey.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Good news: Hordichuk practiced today with the team. The bruins found out last night and tomorrows game almost got cancelled because have the team couldn’t get any sleep knowing that they might be playing against the Demolition man

    Bad news: Hordichuk just texted me saying coach renney made him wear a no contact jersey aka he wont be playing tomorrow. Bruins found out about this this morning and all was able to sleep and game is on tomorrow.

    Yours truly

  • Little Buttcheeks

    In years past there was always that feeling of “OK, how are we going to screw this one up?” when watching Oilers games. After the consecutive blown 3rd period leads to Calgary and Minnesota, I figured here we go again but since then, we have really found a way to squeeze out comeback attempts and we seem to be learning from our mistakes and correcting them. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have the BULIN WALL! GO OILERS GO!!

  • Is anyone else besides me worried about the lack of production from the youngsters in the last few games? Nuge has a goal, but that’s it for the trio…this road trip is turning into a good test for these kids, but I wouldn’t say they’re passing with stellar marks…they’ve gotten some good chances, and they’ve allowed the Smytty line to have better chances, so there are some real positives.

      • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

        Yeah I’ve noticed that with Hall too. He seems to fall a lot and seem to try to do too much by himself at times. Nice to see him throw that check on Gionta though. Hopefully that’s his way of trying to get himself out of the funk. NOt hating on Hall, just an observation.

          • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

            Yup the Tyler vs Taylor is closer this year, though it’s early. I’ve always thought they have very similar skills set, Hall just has that “will not be denied” swagger to his game. I guess when he gets denied is what I’m noticing lately with his game. I’d still take him over Seguin.

            Anyone have any thoughts on swapping Smyth and Hall? I know, I know, if it aint broke. Some wanna be hockey expert part of me thinks that RNH and Hall should be on two different lines.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        I didn’t watch the game last night, but I thought against Phoenix that he was actually one of the hardest working Oilers. He was maybe trying too hard. There is a balance between working hard and trying to force things. He has an abundance of skill and should let the game come to him a bit more.

  • I figured that I could tell that this was going to be a good team through pre-season (I know, I know) but it was the attention to details stuff and the defensive/goaltender success that made me into a believer.

    The losses, other than in Phoenix, were all just a bounce away from victory.

    I definitely think that all the D men are much more consistent and confident in their own zone, but we have too many issues, especially with the bottom two lines, getting it out of our own half of the ice. (Yes I said our).

    I am afraid for this team in their lack of scoring depth, only two lines are producing at all, and the kids are barely producing on the road. We need more contributors and I will say it again, the only glimpse of that possibility this season has been the Tre Kronor.

    In the meantime I am loving this season.

  • OilFan

    @ pucker – you said: “I do like Gilbert but he did get pushed off the puck with regularity the first two periods. I’m surprised he wasn’t getting burned more on ON today.”

    The Gilbert haters annoy me. Its like some people just watch the games and wait for a mistake to start bagging on the guy and blaming him for everything. This guy has been a rock back there this year. His composure in his own end, smooth outlet passes and overall play have been superb basically every single game. The guy plays 25+ minutes and is bound to make a few plays per game that aren’t perfect. But the Gilbert haters over the past few years just can’t let it go and admit he has evolved into that pillar on D we needed. His deft breakout passes and transitional play is what we need more of to get from retrieving dump and chase back to attack. The fact we aren’t stuck in our own end for half the game chasing a cycle is largely in part to the ability of our dmen to move the puck up smartly and quickly, and I’d suggest that Gilbert leads the pack in that department.

  • A-Mc

    Not really sure why all the chatter about Jones – he gets moved to the 3rd line, scores a shorty – heh let’s give the kid a pat on the back and say keep it up.

    the bigger issue is the SOG – 11!!! Renney is right this was an absolute theft of a game.

    If I was him I would be thinking about tinkering the line-up and system to start generating some more shots and quick!! (no statsguys help required)